SUZANNE HARRINGTON: In praise of women’s resilience

So Hillary, you have pneumonia. Me too. 

I got mine after too much surgery, whereas you got yours trying to win a contest to make you boss of the world. Mine has taken a while to clear up, even though all I had to do was lie on the sofa sipping mango and antibiotic smoothies, rather than zig-zagging the nation to attend rallies where I would have to come across as super-articulate, super-informed, and totally in charge. When I had pneumonia the only thing I was in charge of was the remote control.

Plus I could tell people. Hey, I’d tell anyone within earshot, guess what, I have pneumonia. Chest pain, fever, wheezing, coughing. Terrible. Zero energy. Come and see me, bring me some grapes. Bathe me in your sympathy. Tell me how amazing I am to be lying here with a partially collapsed lung, bravely watching Netflix, turning the pages of my book unaided. What a trooper.

I’m several decades younger than Hillary too. To carry on campaigning when your lungs are like Fukushima takes grit; it’s the opposite of man flu. She’s been accused of dishonesty for not revealing her illness, but women always powered through illness. That’s what we do. We work through sickness, propped up by pills and caffeine (apart from me, I’m afraid. I prefer being propped up by pillows and cushions).

So the idea that Hillary, who appears to work a 20-hour day even with lungs full of filth, is too weak to be president is frankly insane and reeks of gender bias. When it comes to stamina, Hillary is badass. Don’t get me wrong, I’d have voted for Bernie over Hillary any day, but not because of her pneumonia; that she showed up for work, in body armour under a formal suit in 27 degree heat at the 9/11 memorial, suggests a strength not found even in Donald Trump’s hairspray.

Think of all the other leaders — the ones with penises — who have bumbled along being in charge of entire nations, when they have had conditions far beyond the reach of antibiotics. Reagan had Alzheimers while in office, while Churchill had long bouts of depression self-medicated with vats of brandy. Iran’s Ahmadinejad reportedly had bipolar disorder, while Francois Mitterand was secretly dying of cancer while running France.

Boris Yeltsin was found outside the White House in his pants, trying to hail a cab because he wanted some pizza. He didn’t have pnuemonia, he was just a massive drunk with access to the nuclear button. Chernenko was already terminally ill when he took over Russia in 1984, but that didn’t stop him; nor his predecessor, Andropov, whose kidneys were already failing when he became boss. Gordon Brown was half blind, and Tony Blair turned out to be an actual cyborg, but nobody suggested they were unfit for power.

Not medically anyway. That only happens to women.


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