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If You’ve Never Heard of Emotional Labour, You Need to Read This

December 15, 2017

I’m angry.

No, furious. I’m furious.

That this is my conditioning. That this is a weight I carry. That until recently, I didn’t realize it existed. Didn’t know it was a problem. That until recently, I took this as a given. The way things are. Duty. My place in the world. My unique strength as a woman.  

To not only have an innate sense of what others need but to give it to them without them having to ask, regardless of what it cost me. The pride that gave me, the sense of self. The feeling of importance, of value.

But now, sitting here, the weight of it sinking in, I feel sick. It’s everyone’s MeToo stories. It’s the memory of my own MeToo stories. It’s the fiction pieces like Cat Person that don’t read like fiction at all, actually.

It’s this 49 page MetaFilter thread on Emotional Labour.

It’s the conditioning that, “let me manage your expectations gracefully and carefully, I am a woman.”

It’s the fact that, “Women efface their own needs to satisfy those of men.”

It’s the reality that, “No woman is born knowing how to listen or be emotionally supportive all the time. We’re not born with an innate desire to put ourselves last. We all learn it.”

It’s the idea that, “I’m bad at X (remembering people’s birthdays, buying gifts, taking care of sick parents, scheduling playdates, replacing the toilet paper) and other people are good at X, therefore I will leave it to them. Which often is accompanied by the assumption that people who are good at X actually enjoy it.”

It’s the cultural dynamic that, “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.”

It’s the story we’ve all experienced or heard, “Then, when I finally did leave we had multiple long arguments about why I was leaving because as he said, he was a good husband! He never hit me, he never messed around with other women, he helped around the house, etc. I was like—that is BASELINE behaviour. You don’t get awards for things you are or are not supposed to be doing to begin with!”

It’s the submission we’ve taken as a given, “Women have flattened out their own sexuality in service of male sexual dominance (they have been objectified within an inch of their own feelings).”

It’s being told that this is an unrealistic expectation, “Women consider emotional labour to be the backbone of relationships, not the entry fee.”

It’s the truth we’re taught to bury, “BEING SOFT AND COMFORTING AND NURTURING IS REALLY FUCKING HARD WORK. IT IS NOT SOMETHING THAT COMES NATURALLY JUST BECAUSE I IDENTITY AS FEMALE. IT TAKES EFFORT AND TIME AND IS EXHAUSTING AND DRAINING. So, to be effectively told that you want to reap the benefits of someone else’s hard work and then not reciprocate at all, because it’s hard work for you (no fucking kidding) is… well, it can be devastating.”

It’s too much, is what it is.

It’s too much.

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