A few weeks ago I saw a meme on social media, an Uber-type taxi service had proudly posted a picture of one of its drivers. The driver was lauded because she accepted a trip after she had gone into labour. She picked up and drove a passenger to the airport before she drove herself to hospital. Now I obviously do not know the circumstances that led to this woman pushing herself so hard, to continue working even after she went into labour. She probably needed all the extra money she could make. What bothered me is how the company glorified her behaviour as if it is something to aspire to.
For decades now women have been conditioned to aspire to superhuman commitment to productivity and sacrifice. You cannot watch an awards ceremony like the Grammys or Oscars without hearing a string of winners, high-achievers by definition, telling you how proud they are of the sacrifices their mothers have made to make sure they ended up on that stage with the coveted accolade. These women, we are told held multiple jobs to ensure the best opportunities and living standards for their children. Often over-compensating for absent or incapable fathers. A friend of mine, once shared, through tears of frustration, that during a women’s day session at her church men were encouraged to get up and share the qualities they most admired in their wives. My friend’s husband got up, and shared with the congregation that what he admired most about his wife was that she was a hard-working, never say die, strong black woman. I happen to know that my friend is constantly exhausted, is the primary breadwinner for her young family, and suffers from PCOS – polycystic ovary syndrome, a hormonal condition. What she really wants to do is get off the rat race, and get more emotional and financial support from her husband.
Some time ago I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue. This is a condition where your adrenal glands stop functioning due to chronic overstimulation, basically it is fancy for saying you are sick and tired from being sick and tired for a prolonged period of time. My treatment included getting a cocktail of vitamins and minerals injected into my system twice a month via a drip, for several months. I noticed something interesting during these visits. The majority of fellow patients were women. Women are stressed. We are sick, and we are tired. However not all of us are tired of being sick. Many still wear this exhaustion as a badge of honour. There’d be women in the doctor’s office taking pictures of their drips and posting them on social media. Of course, we all know that we only post to social media that which we are proud of. And seemingly one of the things we are proud of, is being over-extended to the point that we need to be hooked up to an IV for 45 minutes! These women would be the same ones who instead of using that 45 minutes to rest, opt to have long and might I add, loud conversations on the phone conducting business. They always make it a point to mention to whomever they are talking to that they are hooked to an IV. They will be texting with their free hand or even typing on their computers.
When did productivity become the holy grail for which we are happy to sacrifice everything, including our wellbeing? We use catchphrases such as “while they sleep we grind” followed by en vouge hashtags #grinding #hustling #beastmode. For millennia now, this has been an appalling planet to be female. The women’s movement fought hard to ensure that women have equal rights to men. We have come a long way, but there is some way to go still. We all know that it is not yet uhuru for women – from gender violence to unequal pay. However, in our quest to prove that women are equal to men, we started confusing equality with sameness. We went out to prove that anything a man can do, we can do better in stilettos, while holding a baby, and more recently hooked to a drip. Men and women are equal and we deserve the same rights, however we are not the same. Apparently the vast majority of people who suffer from adrenal fatigue and chronic stress are women. We have pushed ourselves too hard and we are now suffering the consequences. Having suffered from adrenal fatigue, and educated myself on the symptoms, I notice how many women have symptoms of over-exertion. Adrenal Fatigue leads to imbalanced levels of a various hormones and neurotransmitters, and of course hormones and neurotransmitters affect every single part of our body. For example, often fatigued adrenals are an underlying cause of PCOS. Women who suffer from PCOS have elevated levels of testosterone, the hormone known as the male sex hormone. Some of the symptoms of elevated testosterone levels in women include frontal balding, deepening voices, increased muscles and irregular ovulation. Does that not sound like turning into a man from the inside out?
We may have secured our place in the boardrooms, but we are still tasked with the majority of childrearing and household managing. Even if we can delegate and outsource some of these tasks, we are still ultimately viewed as responsible for these duties. We are doing too much, and not all of it is necessary considering the cost. Health is the greatest form of wealth. We need to stop playing games with our health, because we’ve fallen for the trap of #hustling #grinding and being in #beastmode. It is us women, who are paying the price.
This article was originally written for Passion Magazine.