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Emotional Labor: GO READ THIS [Jul. 31st, 2015|08:28 am]

So there's a really, REALLY interesting thread over on Metafilter about emotional labor and the fact that our culture says that it's a female thing that doesn't have value but that all women should do it for free and men shouldn't do it at all.

I would say it's not just interesting, it's also important if you care even remotely about things like fairness, equality, interacting with humans who have gender, and not having relationships unexpectedly implode after a couple decades.

Go read it. I implore you. Seriously. Please read this. This is something that everybody should know and understand about how the world works. (You don't have to read the whole thing; it's mammoth. I've been reading for days and am only about 2/3 of the way through. But read enough to understand what's going on. (Maybe skip over the bits about birthday cards near the beginning, which are mostly an attempted derail.))

Two important offshoots:
Here's a checklist to evaluate your emotional labor skills:

And this comment:
Protip for the guys asking how to start picking up the emotional labour in your heterosexual relationships: talk to your gay male friends. We simply don't have the privilege of offloading our emotional labour onto women, so we have to figure it out for ourselves. So, ask your gay friends how they do it. This has the double effect of 1) learning, and 2) not making it a woman's job to tell you how to contribute your fair share.

So this is me officially volunteering: we're pretty good at valuing and splitting the emotional labor in our relationship. If anybody has questions about how we manage various issues, I will be happy to answer them.

(Hat-tip to siderea, whose post about it has a bunch of highlights quoted in the comments.)

[User Picture]From: nehrlich
2015-07-31 08:26 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing! I'm actually kind of shocked to find that I do pretty well on the emotional labor checklist (at least for friend groups and third parties) - I'm regularly the organizer of social events, and the one reaching out to people I haven't talked to in a while to say hi.

The whole thread is interesting - definitely something I will want to read more of when I have a bit more time.
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2015-07-31 08:29 pm (UTC)
I suspect that actually most of the people I know are doing pretty well. But hey, sharing is good.
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[User Picture]From: geometrician
2015-08-01 12:07 pm (UTC)
I liked the checklist as a way to increase mindfulness about contributing the things that make a relationship and a home happen, for everyone involved. It is a good starting point. The "ask your gay friends" comment was a little strange. It assumed that somehow we have magically solved the issue of one person in the household picking up all or most of what is termed emotional work. We haven't. It is common in gay relationships for one partner to do these things. And why wouldn't it? If a key source of this lopsidedness is men, putting two men into a relationship is certainly not going to change that. Steven Covey was talking about this issue 30 years ago, and right up until he passed. He used the term emotional bank account to teach the idea that we contribute (make deposits) to emotional connections and we call on those connections for forgiveness and support (make withdrawals). He made the point that deposits tend to increase the value of the emotional bank account in small amounts, while any withdrawal depletes it quickly. It isn't possible to rapidly increase the value; it requires a continual, meaningful effort.

I do agree that this is an issue that anyone in a relationship, who wishes for that relationship to succeed, should be aware of this concept regardless of the descriptors used, and make a conscious effort to contribute. It requires awareness, recognition, and understanding. All parties must wish to make the effort, or as long as the emotional worker is willing to carry the load, their partner will let them.
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2015-08-02 02:29 pm (UTC)
Really? My sense from the folks I know is that it's more common than not for gay couples to have divided up the emotional labor. It may not be a perfectly equitable split, but I feel like everybody I can think of is doing at least some of the lifting. *shrug* I dunno. Maybe there's some generational or geographic cultural factor at play, too.

Regardless, the important thing is that however evenly or unevenly we split the emotional labor, it's not possible for us to do it by defaulting to gender norms. Even if it's totally lopsided, that had to be a more conscious choice than both parties assuming it's the woman's job. So I feel there ought to be some useful insight to be gleaned through comparison in just about every case...
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2015-08-14 10:52 pm (UTC)
I'm still only about 2/3 through. Glad you found it useful!
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