I have no exciting race or training news to share because this weekend I was sick. I’ve been sick before. And I’ll be sick again.
This time was diarrhea, nausea and sweat-soaked chills. But rather than complain about it, I visited briefly with my fiance on Saturday night and let her go home. If I was contagious in some way, I did not want her to get sick as well. Then I hunkered down for the miserable night to come.
We’ve all been there. No one gets through life without a touch of flu, a bad cold or something worse. Some of us tolerate it better than others. But there’s also a line of thought out there that men are terrible at being sick. And for many men, that may be true. It’s certainly not true for all men, but it’s true enough to become a social meme of some sort.
What we also know is that some men have a sickness of another sort. Many can be highly critical of women for shallow reasons. There are a few terrible jokes out there about women and their menstrual cycle, for example:
“What’s the difference between a woman with her period and a terrorist? You can negotiate with a terrorist.”
Now there are likely some women who might actually find that joke funny. They genuinely might feel like terrorizing people during their period, or even hold a few people hostage to find some peace in this world when cramps and malaise take over.
But to their infinite credit, most of the women I know suffer their monthly period with largely silent grace. You don’t usually hear about it. They simply gather their purse, head to the ladies room and take care of business. Then they get back to their desks and back to work before the average man has time to conduct their latest Fantasy Football trade.
Yet the legend of women’s bitchiness during menstruation persists.
Having your period is not the same thing as being sick. In fact, it’s a more persistent kind of illness, if you want to call it that. Because you only get sick by chance, but a monthly period comes around according to the natural schedule. It happens from the time a woman is 11-13 years old and continues often into the 50s.
Now I’m obviously a man, and I have never experienced a single menstruation cycle in life. But I have lived with women who do, and seen the products of that experience, and it’s no easy thing. The cycle alone comes around at least 444 times in life, except during times of pregnancy or through stress conditions such as cessation of menstruation from too much exercise. That condition is rather ironically called amenorrhea. Can we hear an “amen” about that?
But I once dated a serious runner whose period stopped during periods of intense training. She also developed a stress fracture below her knee. The two conditions were likely related. And I was present at the track workout when the bone in her leg actually cracked and broke. You could hear the sound when it happened. She was an intense women, to say the least, perseverant to a flaw, you might say. I’d warned her a number of times to back off and give the leg a rest. She would have none of that, and had set a PR of 36:00 for the 10K as a result. Yet she reached her breaking point sooner rather than later.
She is not the only woman that I have known to push herself to the breaking point. These are not weak creatures we are talking about. Not by any stretch of the imagination.
Another type of suffering
After 40 or so years of bleeding out the vagina once a month, women experience menopause. Take note of the root word “men” in the words amenorrhea and menopause. Both have to do with women’s menstrual cycles and yet men are women into the mix. How interesting.
Menopause screws with a woman’s body in all new ways. A woman’s body can experience shifts in weight, hormone distribution, and form. For female athletes, going through menopause and beyond may require more work to achieve or maintain what just a few years before was relatively easy. All when fatigue tends to nag and come on sooner. It’s not an easy journey, by all reports. And yet women find a way to persevere through that too.
We can only imagine what the world would be like if it were men who had a monthly menstruation cycle. Would their ability to tolerate other forms of pain and illness be any better? Yes, it happens that the prostate gland in men can expand, and our nut sack sags as we get older. Our once proud pectorals get soft around the edges and hair can recede. Testosterone can give out and with it sexual prowess. But for that the male-driven Pharmacological industry has invented erection pills such as Viagra or Cialis to prop men up until they’re either too old to care or too tired to copulate.
As a test of the ability for men to endure some of the same pain that women go through life, someone tested made a device that gives men the same sort of pain that women experience in childbirth. These devices were affixed to the abdomen of men to simulate labor pain. Most of the men tapped out after a cycle or two. The lesson learned in that experiment? Being a woman is not nearly as easy at it looks.
I stood by the side of my wife during the birth of my two children. We had enrolled in a child birthing class called Lamaze, which taught us nothing more than to have her blow on my finger through each round of contractions. This we did that every three minutes for fifteen and a half hours of her labor. The finger-blowing thing kept us in contact but I don’t think it did one damn thing to help her through the pain. Our 9 lb son son was locked in there until mention was made of going in through Cesaerean section. Then my wife pushed him out after some meds and a desperation to have that baby. Now.
Could I have done the same thing? I don’t know one way or the other. I’m pretty tough as an athlete and know how to endure many kinds of pain and discomfort. I can largely handle illness even if left alone to deal with it. That doesn’t account for the afternoon that I got food poisoning at a party and wound up with vertigo so bad that I veered off course on the way to the car and ran head-on into a tree. I could have used some help at that moment. But that wasn’t a “guy thing.” That was a poisoned gut. It has happened at several times in life, and in several ways.
So I have no opinion about whether men could tolerate labor pains or not. But given that I consider men and women as equals on most counts, I supposed men could if they had to. Give birth. Seahorses do it.
A different kind of endurance
But I still give women credit for having a different kind of endurance. And most women clearly have it. I think some men are threatened by that type of strength. Jokes about women are a defensive response to that fear.
In fact, we see that secretly held fear in the denigration of women in all categories of life. Along with accusations of bitchiness, we hear claims that women are “too emotional” to hold positions of leadership or public office. We even hear women blamed for sole responsibility in unwanted pregnancies when a man was clearly complicit in the act of conception. We see women ostracized by society and even accused of causing their own rape, as if that were possible or desirable.
We see women denied roles in some sects of the church or synagogue, or at mosques. These prejudices are largely based on long-held gender fears. In these cases, we depend on patriarchal old rules that have nothing to do with how modern society operates. The Catholic Church is much the worse for it, yet even the scandals coming to light about priests and sexual abuse have wrought no real change in that organization. The church remains stuck in its ways in its attitude towards women.
But many women of the church choose to ignore patriarchal dictums about birth control and other nonsensical rules made by men. Women are tough enough to put up with the falsehoods perpetrated on them by men and still have a remarkable influence on society. Healthcare laws have shifted toward the needs of women in some ways, with Family Leave acts giving women protections to give birth and be with their children while still remaining employed.
Stop and consider the fact that women did not even have the right to vote until 1920. But as the Internet reveals, there were obvious prejudices still at work in the intervening years. “Although women were granted the right to vote in 1920, women did not turn out to the polls in the same numbers as men until 1980.”
The history of women’s rights in America is full of contradictions. On one hand, the nation tries to celebrate women, but too often it is through an entirely sexualized lens. We flaunt bare-breasted photos of women while forcing nursing mothers to cover their very useful breasts while nursing infants. We legislate against women’s access to birth control while lamenting children born out of wedlock or subject to abortion. Yet both of these social patterns are the culmination of a layered set of social disadvantages imposed on women. These include contradictory attitudes about gender, sexuality and social equality, a fact publicly demonstrated in the sexual harassment claims filed against former Fox News leader Roger Ailes. It’s quite obvious that the man’s notion of “fair and balanced” toward female employees and associates was Missing In Action if not Dead On Arrival in the hiring and firing practices of America’s most bigoted and biased news outlet.
The dichotomies of “playing the game” to advance the roles of women in the work and political world while maintaining principles in the face of corrupt attitudes toward women exacts a heavy price. If women go along with sexual harassment to “get along,” then they wind up complicit in the act. But if they resist unwanted advances of discrimination they can be branded insubordinate or labeled a bitch.
I once helped a female associate find a lawyer to file who could file a claim on her behalf to fight the most egregious forms of sexual harassment experienced from her male boss. In fact, the practice of harassing women was rampant throughout the firm, but it could only be tackled one person at a time. She won her claim, took the money and left the company to better circumstances. But there were many other claims that would be filed as well. It took ages for the company to change, along with changes in ownership and management style to fix the problem.
But these types of circumstances still have an isolating effect on women, particularly those placed in crisis by marital, cultural or social circumstances. Women are too often made to feel ashamed for seeking the very help and assistance they need most to prevent unwanted pregnancies or domestic abuse. Even the Christian church has been known to tell women to go crawling back to abusive husbands, or to avoid birth control at any cost. These problems are as common among the wealthy as the poor. The domestic abuse patterns among NFL players and UFC fighters, to name a few, is clear evidence that women are often the targets for the redirected aggression among men in competitive occupations. But isn’t all of society competitive? It surely is.
So it’s no wonder that women might choose to fight back with a little humor about how their husbands or boyfriends act like babies when they’re sick. Probably many do, because men can be spoiled brats in how they think, or push for attention and domination even when they are in positions of power or advantage. Even holy scriptures such as the Bible and the Quran canonize wrongheaded beliefs about women. These range in subtlety from laws about women being “unclean” during menstruation to the cynical tale of the temptation of Adam by Eve that led to Original Sin.
Talk about shirking the blame! Clearly, there are fears of power and sexuality written all over scripture, and the Muslim faith and most other forms of organized religion are no exception. To the supposed victors go the spoils, and most of religious literature has been written by and for the benefit of men.
There are noble exceptions. The Bible shows the independence and intelligence of women in many respects. Yet information about the role of women in discipleship to Jesus may well have been suppressed. The world has been slow to consider the notion that Jesus may even have been married or to have known the company of women. The insistence that his mother Mary was a “virgin” is a sick little product of the same patriarchal society that defined women as property of their husbands.So the tale of the Virgin Mary was as much an economic as a moral breach in the social order. That pattern continues to this day.
We no longer believe that in the United States, yet our churches preach it every Sunday in the creeds recited during services. This is a conflict of interest and an insult to women. It amounts to approval of discrimination against women in all fashions of society.
War against women
These ancient patriarchal tendencies are taking center stage as America’s leading misogynist, Donald Trump, proves time and again that he is a man possessed of a sick mind toward women who also likes to whine about the pain of his mistreatment. He acts just like a spoiled husband who can’t take care of himself when he gets sick. Only he’s always sick.
And he’s using this platform of whining and complaining about his mistreatment to appeal to a similarly selfish and whiny audience of people trapped in their own versions of shallowness and self-pity.
So it is no coincidence that Donald Trump represents the worst in attitudes about women. There is evidence he has long been associated with a serial sexual abuser and had this to say about him: “I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it — Jeffrey enjoys his social life.”
He’s also traded in several wives, one who says she felt violated during sex, and openly brands women a “piece of ass.” But only if he considers them pretty, because he ridicules those whose looks he finds wanting.
He is thus following the flow of the War Against Women waged for years by the Republican Party, a coalition of single interest lobbies mashed together in a Conservative Alliance that freely mixes hatred,money, politics and religion. It’s a sickness of mind, but all the Republican Party has found to do is whine about the very afflictions it has caused the nation and blame Democrats for making them sick in the first place.
And why do I write about all this in a blog about running and riding? Because I train with many women that I respect and care about. We talk about their lives and their goals. And I cannot imagine that electing Donald Trump to be President of the United States will maintain even the achievements of women in society to this point. In fact, I am sadly confident that America will regress to a time when it was more acceptable to discriminate against women, minorities, gays and virtually anything else the haters of society choose to target in their selfish dissatisfaction. And if you agree, you should share this blog with others. Because not enough people are pointing out the gross fact that this election is indeed about morality. And there is no moral equivalence between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. This is not a choice between two evils. This is a choice between evil and a woman that has proven herself capable and trustworthy in her public and private life.
Into the maw
Into this massive maw of hatred for women and the considerations that have long suffered to claim, walks a woman who has endured much pain in her life. Granted, it has included the difficulty in forgiving a husband adulterer. But what women on earth has not been forced at some point to forgive a man? That’s what Christian women are technically supposed to do, at least first out of the box. Yes, she responded vengefully in some respects, but that’s a woman’s right as well. When attacked, we all have a right to fight back. Just remember, she turned the other cheek first.
She has put up with the long-term conservative campaign to dishonor her politically. Yet she remains standing for women’s rights and a real voice for the first time in the nation’s history. If elected, she will be forced to suffer even more. Just as President Obama suffered manifest racial prejudice, Hillary Clinton will be required to fend off misogynistic, gender-baiting commentary from the fearful cabal who resents everything she stands for. Because they have no real character and honor, they must attack those that have suffered to achieve the values they do have. This is the same pattern as domestic abusers who in their insecurity project their rage onto the ones that reveal the truth about them. Hence we find the popularity and methodology of Donald Trump.
Real women. Real purpose
I run and ride and with all manner of women athletes. Some of them beat me at the exact same activities that I enjoy doing. That does not make them better people than me any more than it makes me a better person than the women I can outrun, or ride, or outswim.
What it does prove is that women the exact same power to endure, to think and to persevere. In some ways, that ability may exceed even that of men.
Men of honor know this is true. But men and women with conflicted notions about their religion, politics and personal role in the world cannot come to grips with the idea that women are equal to men.
It’s a form of sickness you see, and a great many men have a tendency to whine about that.