On Emotional Labor

I read, with interest, this list of 50 ways people expect constant emotional labor from women and femmes.

50 is a lot. And this list is comprehensive, but it’s not complete. And I think the author is a little shortsighted in saying “We can’t fight for gender equality when we have no energy to devote to it.”

While I agree, that the emotional labor we’re expected to expel in every aspect of our lives (personal, private and professional) is exhausting… I don’t view equality as the goal.

To put it simply, the only reason I believe that we’re expected to do this work is because men are incapable of it.  Women naturally care how the people around them are doing, and what starts off as well-intentioned “people pleasing” grows toxic in a patriarchal world where greed is rewarded and men are entitled.

In a patriarchy, everyone on the planet must bend to the will of the men. Men create wars and famine, then women (believing that it’s their duty to cooperate) watch their children be murdered in those wars. Men have created ridiculously complicated systems of currency exchange, chastising those who “want a handout” all the while telling women that it’s their job to protect us and provide for us. Their financial systems harm more families than benefit, but since it’s a man’s world, most women don’t complain.

Men create religions with male gods. Their stories are written by men. Women suffer in silence. The emotional labor that’s expected of women exists to maintain the male’s rights to be idiots, bumbling mindlessly through life not giving a crap about the experiences other people are having.

Thích Nhất Hạnh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist. He’s currently 90 years old and lives in the south of France and has an excellent quote about the value of the attention. When the rest of the world understands that our honest, authentic attention has value, then the world will be a better place. Forcing false emotions from women robs us of our inherent freedom to exist in an honest emotional state. We have been robbed of our “most precious gift” and we’re running out of patience.

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