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EMOTIONAL LABOR PART 1 - FOR THE PINKIES

#1
Awhile back someone sent me a very intresting read I want to share with you ladies, its long so I will be posting a chapter a day for your reading pleasure. Its from a discussion on my favorite group on the net,people posted replies and a member condensed it into a book. Here goes Part 1.
The original post first then come the relevant replies compilation.

“Where’s My Cut?”: On Unpaid Emotional Labor
July 15, 2015 2:38 PM


Housework is not work. Sex work is not work. Emotional work is not work. Why? Because they don’t take effort? No, because women are supposed to provide them uncompensated, out of the goodness of our hearts.


posted by sciatrix (2113 comments total) 1019 users marked this as a favorite


I . D E F I N I N G EL


A. The overhead of caring


I often talk about emotional labor as being the work of caring. And it’s not just being caring, it’s that thing where someone says “I’ll clean if you just tell me what to clean!” because they don’t want to do the mental work of figuring it out. Caring about all the moving parts required to feed the occupants at dinnertime, caring about social management. Caring about noticing that something has changed - like, it’s not there anymore, or it’s on fire, or it’s broken.


It’s a substantial amount of overhead, having to care about everything. It ought to be a shared burden, but half the planet is socialized to trick other people into doing more of the work.


posted by Lyn Never at 4:33 PM on July 15


B. The full weight of a double-standard


...[This thread] also made me think about my Dad, and how he is good at emotional labour, and when he and my Mum split up when we were small he visited us every week and took us all weekend every weekend without fail and took us on holidays every year with no other adults. I’ve always been really proud of him for that, especially as he is from an older generation and would have been brought up in a very traditional role. But I remember how people would say how good he was - and he was, he learned to cook for us for example - but I don’t remember anyone saying that about my Mum, who had us the rest of the time. Because, hey, that was her job. I’m still grateful to my Dad because he’s probably why I’ve only ever been in relationships with good guys who can really listen (he’s a great listener) and don’t have some idea about what constitutes “women’s work”, but again it brings into relief the difference between what is expected of women and why men get cookies for doing the same thing.


posted by billiebee at 7:18 AM on July 22


C. There are no gnomes!


To quote the late great Douglas Adams: “An SEP [Somebody Else’s Problem field] is something we can’t see, or don’t see, or our brain doesn’t let us see, because we think that it’s somebody else’s problem.... The brain just edits it out, it’s like a blind spot. If you look at it directly you won’t see it unless you know precisely what it is. Your only hope is to catch it by surprise out of the corner of your eye... it relies on people’s natural disposition not to see anything they don’t want to, weren’t expecting, or can’t explain.” You see that you just used the last of the toilet paper (you’re not dumb). Your brain registers that this is a problem. But it’s not an immediate problem, and it’s a problem for the hypothetical next person, not for you. So you file it away into a SEP, probably with half your brain saying “yeah, I’ll grab another roll and put it on when I finish,” and part of your brain going “and if I forget to do it, the next person will get it, what’s the big deal, it’s just grabbing a roll of toilet paper.” Now obviously, I actually do change the damn toilet paper - even if I’m only in there to use the sink and wasn’t the one who used the last of the paper - because the next person in my house on that toilet will not be a hypothetical person, it will be a real person and most likely a person I love. And I do it at work because I dunno, Kant’s Categorical Imperative plus it’s the right thing to do -- even though some

weeks it seems I am the only woman at my workplace who ever does so (WTF - but it’s more proof, I think, that this really isn’t a cut-and-dried men vs. women thing).


I think the thinking really is as simple as “I am bad at X, other people are good at X, therefore I will leave X to them.” Which often is accompanied by the assumption that people who are good at X actually enjoy it. Which is possibly true for some people, and some variations of X. But when I ask my son to help empty the dishwasher or some other chore and he responds “I don’t want to,” or “I don’t feel like it,” my response is always, ALWAYS, “Nobody likes it. But it has to get done.” To me that is the insidious thinking that has to be overcome -- that somewhere out there is the Helping Fairy who enjoys washing dishes and cleaning up pee and making sure there’s always milk in the fridge, and who rushes in to do so because it’s fun for her.


posted by Mchelly at 3:23 PM on July 21


I. DE F I N I N G EL



D. Getting the meal and the calm is male privilege


At some point I realized I was being a huge nag about dinner, because I cooked dinner every night, because when my boyfriend cooked dinner it took forever (see: not cooking for himself his whole life) and we were dieting and I didn’t want to eat snacks all evening waiting for dinner to be done at 9:00 o’clock. Then I realized hey-- I can just let go. I can ask him to make dinner, and I can eat a peanut butter sandwich or something, and save my leftovers for lunch the next day. It was a great revelation in terms of my personal mental health-- I got fed, I didn’t have to always be the cook, and I didn’t have to be mad at my boyfriend. But even in that situation I was just saying, “hey, if I completely let go and eat like a kindergartener, I don’t have to be mad at my boyfriend!” It’s just so sad that that’s the solution. I don’t get a warm, homecooked meal at a regular dinner time. That’s not how heterosexual reciprocity works. I get a peanut butter sandwich and “peace of mind” (i.e., freedom from domestic/emotional labor). Getting the homecooked meal and the

freedom from emotional labor is male privilege.


I love him very much, but I don’t think he bought Christmas or birthday presents for his family until he met me and realized that I (and all my sisters) did that. So he’s actually a really good guy in the sense that he wants to do that labor and be helpful and kind. But even the best kind of guy didn’t have it beaten into him since he was a kid and I feel like we’re lightyears apart in that sense.


Anyway, this thread is sooooo excellent.


posted by easter queen at 10:09 AM on July 16


E. Even many good men don’t understand: they don’t have to


...But I think the point I wanted to make (and which other women in this thread have made much more eloquently and less rantily than me) is that my partner is in almost every other area a legitimately fantastic feminist ally. He gets it. He takes action in many ways, large and small, to make the world a more humane and equitable place for women. He is wonderful, and I love him. But he does not understand the value of emotional labour, because he has never had to do it except when by choice, and he does not understand the consequences of neglecting that labour, because he is not the one who suffers them. He is not a monster. He is not a boor. He is insightful and proactive about many feminist issues.


But he is deeply and willfully blind in this area. He (like many men) is convinced that engaging in an emotional economy is voluntary, because for him it always has been.


posted by [username] at 8:16 AM on July 16


F. When will we have earned a turn?


How much of this labor has a woman got to pay out before dudes will do anything in return? Seriously, what’s the price? Because we’ve been doing this shit all our lives, yet we’ve never saved up enough goodwill to have our needs acknowledged. We’ve asked politely and waited patiently, but we’re made out to be the bad guys

for even bringing it up.


posted by gueneverey at 10:29 AM on July 20




G. My heart just falls


Count me in as someone who loves doing emotional labor if it’s acknowledged. But omg, maybe one of the saddest things ever for me in relationships is when I do something and put a lot of effort into it and am so excited to do so because I just know it will make my partner feel so happy and loved - to do all that and then have the recipient literally not even notice or not say one word about it - omg. My heart just falls. I mean, it’s like I can almost feel it falling. It makes me SO sad. This is also a big trope in movies. The wife who goes out of her way to make herself look nice or make a nice dinner and set the table or whatever, and she’s so excited at the expectation of his reaction, and the husband just sweeps in and doesn’t even see it and you see the wife’s face fall. That never, ever fails to make me tear up. I’m tearing up just thinking about it. I don’t know why this thing in particular makes me so sad, but it really, really does. It’s just so hurtful.


posted by triggerfinger at 1:51 PM on July 21
 
#2
And oh for those who dont know Kant's Categorical Imperative is The Golden Rule and for those who dont know The Golden Rule is Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
 
#4
The post was originally inspired by this article in The Toast online Mag By Jess Zimmerman

I am not a big fan of psychic charlatanry, which often preys on people who are in genuine grief. So when I read about psychic fraud Priscilla Kelly Delmaro, arrested in May for second-degree grand larceny, I should have felt smug about her downfall. Delmaro had induced a male client to give her over $700,000 worth of payment and gifts, including a diamond ring and a Rolex – all in exchange for her mystic advice on how to woo a woman, Michelle, who’d made her lack of interest very clear. Technically the diamond was to “protect his energy,” the Rolex was to “go back and cleanse his past,” and some of the money was to build an 80-mile solid gold bridge into the spirit world, but that was the general formula: woman has no interest, man needs to feel hope, Delmaro is willing to provide that hope for a price.

Psychics in New York are supposed to clarify that their services are “for entertainment purposes only,” but Delmaro was clearly advertising concrete results, even if some of them (like the bridge) were also intangible. It was obviously a con, and thus probably a more justified arrest than two-thirds of the ones NYPD made that day.

But that wasn’t my first thought when I read this story. My first thought was “how do I get in on this game?”

Here’s the part that made me thoughtfully stroke my imaginary beard:

Ms. Delmaro told him the trouble had come from a spirit that was stalking him. She needed $28,000, then $28,000 more. Michelle had grown cold so suddenly, he thought, that the spirit explanation sounded right, and so he paid.

Recall that this was a woman who’d made it explicitly clear that she had no romantic feelings for this fellow. A reasonable person might note Michelle’s complete lack of interest and come up with a few more plausible explanations for her coldness than “evil spirits.” But for this guy to follow that thread, he’d have to give up on an article of deeply-held faith: that any woman he wants is rightfully his and just needs to be collected. Much easier to believe in poltergeists, and pay to have them removed.

Believe it or not, I’m not unsympathetic to the man, who must be very lonely. But when I see how desperate he was to have his delusion of entitlement confirmed, when I read that he found “Michelle is influenced by evil spirits” easier to swallow than “Michelle is a human being with preferences and agency,” I find it harder to feel too sorry that someone took him for what he was willing to pay. “Men gonna men,” as the New Yorker’s Caitlin Kelly tweeted; they often ignore women’s explicit stated opinions, and it’s always annoying, so why not get a Rolex out of the deal? The real travesty is that Michelle didn’t get a cut. The other travesty is that I didn’t think of it first.


Of course, I don’t really want to make a living giving men false hope. But what if I wanted to make a living yelling at them about why their false hope is dumb?

This is a thing I do frequently now for free. Somehow, despite increasingly noisy misandry, I have amassed a small cadre of men who think I’m a good person to confide in. These are friends and partners, so it goes without saying that they are generally not confiding fucked-up attitudes about women, but they’re also straight men with feelings; consequently, I’ve seen my share of “how do I make her fall back in love with me,” “how do I make her regret rejecting me,” “how do I change her mind.”

The answers are “you can’t,” “you can’t,” and “you can’t,” respectively, but I’ve come up with enough different ways of saying this that occasionally one gets through. It’s something I’m happy to do for the people I care about, but it is not effortless. I’ve fielded hundreds of late-night texts, balanced reassurance with tough love, hammered away at stubborn beliefs, sometimes even taken (shudder) phone calls. I’ve actually been on agony aunt duty for male friends since high school, so if it’s true that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at something, counseling bereft dudes may in fact be my only expert skill.

And yet, it is basically impossible to monetize, short of demanding funds to build a gold bridge. Not that I’d charge my friends – but I don’t charge to edit stuff for them either, nor do usually they charge me when they knit me something or draw me a picture or feed my dog. Yet that work is still considered to have value. I’ve offered to pay for dogsitting, they’ve offered to pay for editing; often we arrange some kind of barter in lieu of payment. If we wanted to charge someone else money for these services, it would not be considered absurd. But emotional labor? Offering advice, listening to woes, dispensing care and attention? That’s not supposed to be transactional. People are disturbed by the very notion that someone would charge, or pay, for friendly support. It’s supposed to come free.

Why?

*

In May, Lauren Chief Elk (@ChiefElk) started the Twitter hashtag #GiveYourMoneyToWomen, based on a conversation with @cheuya and Bardot Elle Smith (@BardotSmith). The basic idea behind the hashtag is that a woman’s time and regard has value – it cannot be had for nothing. Men like to act as if commanding women’s attention is their birthright, their natural due, and they are rarely contradicted. It’s a radical act to refuse them that attention. It’s even more radical to propose that if they want it so fucking much, they can buy it.

The originators and adherents of #GiveYourMoneyToWomen didn’t just suggest that women should get paid for existing, although yeah that too if you’re buying. Rather, women should get paid for all the work they typically do for free – all the affirmation, forbearance, consultation, pacifying, guidance, tutorial, and weathering abuse that we spend energy on every single day. Imagine a menu of emotional labor: Acknowledge your thirsty posturing, $50. Pretend to find you fascinating, $100. Soothe your ego so you don’t get angry, $150. Smile hollowly while you make a worse version of their joke, $200. It was beautiful to watch #GiveYourMoneyToWomen unfold. Men got angry, and then women explained to them that to have their anger acknowledged, they would have to pay. This made them angrier, of course, but without a donation, who was listening? Even now, when you Google the hashtag, nearly the whole first results page consists of furious MRAs. (I didn’t click through, though. Who exactly was going to make it worth my while?)



But women – purportedly feminist women – also expressed confusion and affront. Huffington Post UK blogger Katy Horwood, who has boasted in print about getting out of a £50 traffic ticket by flirting, suddenly came over all high-and-mighty when it was suggested that female attention might have direct monetary value. “You want money? Cut out the bitching and moaning and go the f**k out and earn it,” she wrote. Because affirmation, forbearance, consultation, pacifying, guidance, tutorial, weathering abuse: these earn nothing. These have no worth.

*

It’s not just emotional work that’s supposed to come free of charge. Feminist scholar Silvia Federici wrote in 1975:

[N]ot only has housework been imposed on women, but it has been transformed into a natural attribute of our female physique and personality, an internal need, an aspiration, supposedly coming from the depth of our female character. Housework had to be transformed into a natural attribute rather than be recognised as a social contract because from the beginning of capital’s scheme for women this work was destined to be unwaged. Capital had to convince us that it is a natural, unavoidable and even fulfilling activity to make us accept our unwaged work. In its turn, the unwaged condition of housework has been the most powerful weapon in reinforcing the common assumption that housework is not work, thus preventing women from struggling against it, except in the privatized kitchen-bedroom quarrel that all society agrees to ridicule, thereby further reducing the protagonist of a struggle. We are seen as nagging bitches, not workers in struggle.

Emotional labor has followed the same path. We are told frequently that women are more intuitive, more empathetic, more innately willing and able to offer succor and advice. How convenient that this cultural construct gives men an excuse to be emotionally lazy. How convenient that it casts feelings-based work as “an internal need, an aspiration, supposedly coming from the depths of our female character.”

It’s also hard not to draw a connection between #GiveYourMoneyToWomen and sex work. Sex workers are selling something that’s legal to have, that belongs to them, and that people are willing to pay for – and yet the sale is subject to both moral and legal censure, unlike almost any other transaction of that kind. For all the rhetoric about protecting workers, a lot of opposition to sex work comes down to “this should not be sold, for reasons.” That moralizing, paternalistic viewpoint – “please ignore the fact that there’s a market for this, because we think it shouldn’t have monetary value” – has roots in common with Horwood’s call to “get a job.” It has roots in common with people who look down on domestic workers, or judge their employers for apparent failure to keep up their own homes.

Housework is not work. Sex work is not work. Emotional work is not work. Why? Because they don’t take effort? No, because women are supposed to provide them uncompensated, out of the goodness of our hearts.

*

All that said, I’m not sure how I would monetize the emotional labor I do, how I would turn my hard-earned expertise into something that puts capitalism to work for me. Maybe I have to become a therapist – once your feelings work is ratified by a Sainted Old White Man like Jung or Erickson or a college dean, it does seem to magically turn into a job skill. Maybe I should advertise “friend services” on Etsy, an agreed-upon number of carefully customized supportive texts just when you need them, like Joaquin Phoenix’s job in “Her” but less twee. Maybe I really should hang out a psychic shingle, and tell men I can give them insight into the minds of the women who spurned them. Sure, all the tarot cards come up as the Queen of Brass Knuckles, representing a woman who already goddamn told you she wasn’t interested, but each time I read it directly from her mind! Also, if you believe that, I’ve got an 80-mile gold bridge to sell you.

The “how” isn’t really important, which is lucky because these are all probably bad ideas. What I’m trying to do, for now, is just recognize that this work has value. It’s very easy for me, and maybe for you, to wind up in a friendship or relationship or passing acquaintanceship, especially one with a man, where our labor is never rewarded, never returned, never even acknowledged. We let this happen because patriarchy is so good at training women as its proxies; we’ve internalized the idea that our effort is men’s birthright.

Enough of that. We don’t necessarily need to insist that men just give us their money – though you should, if that works for you, and write down what they say because I bet it’ll be funny. But we absolutely get to recognize that the constant labor of placating men and navigating patriarchal expectations is exhausting because it’s work. (Incidentally, women of color should probably be getting recompense from men and white women; emotionally pampering white people while living within white supremacist culture is just as much of an effort if not more, and they’re doing both.) It’s counterintuitive, but it’s worth trying to think of emotional labor as a service – one that’s provided in response to constant demand. Whatever your opinion of capitalism, we’re soaking in it, and by its own rules we should get some kind of remuneration for work that’s highly sought.

I don’t expect to get $700,000, now that I’m trying to remember that emotional labor has value. I don’t expect to get anything, really. But at least now I know that when I get nothing, I’m being cheated. That’s a start.
 

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