Karen Fratti
November 27, 2016 4:42 pm
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

When it comes to work, sometimes it’s hard to unplug and actually take care of yourself. That’s why Lena Dunham’s Instagram post about not taking sick days is so important and something every woman (or just human being) should take to heart. Dunham cancelled an appearance because she was sick over the weekend one. In response, one “fan” wrote, “no offense, but you’re too sick to sit and sign books? I was back at work 6 days after a c-section.” Dunham took a screenshot of the tweet and had the perfect response.

The Girls creator wrote,

Can we get a round of applause here? Here’s the thing: it’s great that some women feel great after a C-section or whatever health obstacle stood in their way. But there’s no need to ever feel like you have to throw yourself back into the ring if you’re not in top shape. Dunham cancelled appropriately because she was sick. It’s not just about being in good form for fans, it’s about taking care of one’s health.

Yes, it’s also a privilege — hey, as a freelance writer and sometimes bartender, if I don’t work, I don’t eat. I get it. But it shouldn’t be that way. And Dunham’s response got right to the heart of the issue.

Maybe it was Dunham’s endometriosis that she’s written extensively about that had her in bed. Maybe she had a cold. Maybe she just felt that weird “not good” feeling everyone gets sometimes and needed to not be in public. It’s actually none of our business. Because either way, canceling work to take care of yourself is what the doctor would order.

Whether it’s rushing parents back to work after having a baby (a baby! like a new human being on the planet Earth to take care of) or making a woman feel nervous about calling out for a common cold because she doesn’t want to seem less “hardcore” than her male peers, society doesn’t often give our bodies and brains a break.

We need those breaks. Human beings need those breaks. If you have the kind of body and brain that can bounce back from anything and work is good for you — that’s awesome and applaudable. But it’s not a free pass to shame someone else for their needs. But “being too busy” is not something to be proud of. It’s not cool and it’s not healthy.

It’s OK to to take a sick day, if you can. Or even a mental health day, if you can. In fact, the more people who can take sick days should, if only in the name of advocating for people who aren’t in industries that are sympathetic to the physical and emotional needs of a human body.

The more women power through and stay silent about, say, how quickly they rebound after pregnancy or a scary biopsy after a weird PAP smear or whatever it is, the more other women think that they have to do the same. It’s a vicious cycle. That’s exactly what Dunham was saying in this Instagram post. Solidarity, my friends.

Companies and healthcare programs should make room for those recovery days. As a society, we should make it normal to need 24 hours to get over a stomach bug or take a few days off for a surgery you need. Because “having to work” shouldn’t have to get in the way of being healthy. If everyone is healthy and well rested and in top form, everyone wins. Pressuring someone to work when they can’t (or almost can’t) is bad for everyone.

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