Emotions are Work
December 3, 2016 12:32 PM   Subscribe

Men Dump Their Anger Into Women "Women are expected to regulate the emotions of men as well as themselves. They have to sharpen their emotional regulation skillz because they’ll be regulating for two even when they’re not pregnant. [...] This takes many forms, and at its most benign looks like listening, support and empathy. However, as it becomes more noxious, women are expected to read the emotions [of] men and proactively protect them from their own negative emotions.

Anyhow — men who don’t understand their entire emotional range are prone to anger because they can’t meet their own needs. So, their needs go unmet, and a natural response to an unmet need is anger. [...] If you are tired, and want to go bed, but something stops you from going to bed (say, work) you might get angry. However, for a lot of men, I think, this anger comes from their own inability to understand what they need. So, it will be like, they’re tired, but don’t understand that they’re tired, so don’t go to sleep. Then, in an emotionally depleted state, they’re highly prone to small triggers (like, the phone rings and they get pissed off.)"
posted by stoneweaver (271 comments total) 163 users marked this as a favorite
 
[A few comments deleted. saulgoodman, we've asked you before to please stop bringing every thread around to your divorce. Other folks, if you're not interested, please just pass the thread by.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:49 PM on December 3, 2016 [26 favorites]


I agree with all of this, but that postscript kind of blew me away.

Like, when Emma and her friend talked, did he spend three paragraphs twisting himself into knots explaining about how he totally understood where she was coming from, and it was absolutely possible that he was missing something, but he was completely ready to hear the other side and even think of some counterpoints for it, and he hoped no one's feelings were hurt; he knew they were just trying to work their way through a complicated subject, and he hoped that they could keep talking about it more?

Or was he just like, "Eh, it's fine, but I think I do most of the emotional regulation in my relationships"?

Because if so, CASE IN FUCKING POINT.

fwiw, one of the main takeaways of the emotional labor thread was that men are often willing to do some emotional labor during the courting stage (anticipating needs, proactively making plans, engaging in long conversations about feelings) which usually does not carry over to the day-to-day experience of a long term relationship. "I manage my girlfriends' emotions more than they manage mine" is the classic dude response before they learn what emotional labor is, because they interpret "talking about feelings" as a favor they're doing for their needy, emotional women, as opposed to something that's necessary to keep them from going and shooting up a grocery store.

I also wonder if that guy wonders if his girlfriends ever had to hire sex workers to manage their emotional needs before they met him.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 12:52 PM on December 3, 2016 [96 favorites]


And, women will manage this. But, it sucks. It fucking suckkks.
posted by ChuraChura at 12:52 PM on December 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


I just had the never-attempted experience of imagining actually having this externalizing power. Having my existential needs anticipated and mostly met by some kind of Emotional and Life Hackery PA. It was amazing, of course it'd be amazing! Who wouldn't give that up, except under duress?
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:57 PM on December 3, 2016 [41 favorites]


Ugh, this is really timely for me. I just had a super-unpleasant argument yesterday with a coworker that was basically him turning his stress into anger and making me deal with it. The situation at my workplace is super-stressful right now so I've been trying to make excuses for him, but the thing is, I am also really stressed, but I'm not picking fights with my coworkers as a way to deal with it.

And for the last day I have been pre-occupied with thoughts about how I am going to address this with him. Because we do have to talk about this - it's the second time it's happened in the last week and it's not acceptable. So I've been thinking about how I will approach it, so that he has the greatest chance of hearing what I'm saying and not getting defensive, and I've been worrying that maybe I'll "make it worse" by even bringing it up and ... ugh. This is exhausting. I should just be able to say "hey, Coworker, you were taking your frustrations out on me and that's not ok, don't do it again." I don't know, maybe I will say just that. I'm really tired of teaching men how to be adults.
posted by lunasol at 12:58 PM on December 3, 2016 [64 favorites]


It was amazing, of course it'd be amazing! Who wouldn't give that up, except under duress?

I actually wouldn't, because losing my own empathy wouldn't be worth it to me, but it does sound intoxicating for short periods.
posted by lazuli at 12:59 PM on December 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


I actually wouldn't, because losing my own empathy wouldn't be worth it to me, but it does sound intoxicating for short periods.

I know, and yeah - just saying it must be pretty sweet to have everything just - taken care of. To not have others foremost in mind, always. If it's as great as I'm imagining, how do you convince someone (or a class of people) to give some of that up? Yoga classes are fine and all, but.
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:04 PM on December 3, 2016 [9 favorites]


Perhaps it's the difference between never having others in mind vs. knowing you never prioritize others, but if it's the latter IME it's decidedly not sweet.
posted by rhizome at 1:09 PM on December 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


did he spend three paragraphs twisting himself into knots explaining about how he totally understood where she was coming from

Well, he was talking about his relationships, so I'd lean towards trusting his view of them moreso than a non-clinical outsider.

And this:
they interpret "talking about feelings" as a favor they're doing for their needy, emotional women, as opposed to something that's necessary to keep them from going and shooting up a grocery store.

Is such a maddening point of view. If you "need" to talk about feelings, you are "needy, emotional" person, regardless of gender. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's certainly a valid thing to want to avoid in a partner. And to the extent that someone who isn't a feelings-talker performs the emotional labor to participate in the feelings talk of the needier individual, they do deserve credit for that, because it sucks. It fucking suckkks.

It's obviously fine to expect to get your needs met in a relationship, so if feelings talk is a need, you deserve to get it. But it's not something anyone is owed from any particular individual.
posted by sparklemotion at 1:11 PM on December 3, 2016 [10 favorites]


About a month ago, I was thinking about a male friend who is having a rough time, and sent him a quick "Hi, thinking about you" note. Not five minutes later, he called and talked for an hour about How He Was Really Doing. It was breathtaking: he was clear about his emotional state, candid about his difficulties, and vulnerable but hopeful about family dynamics. He told me about the thing his little girl said that made him cry. The amazing thing--even amid the circumstantial wreckage--was how clear-eyed he is about the external situations and about his internal state, and how willing he was to just lay it out. It wasn't even a matter of compartmentalization. More like he was able to stand apart and assess himself and what's going on, and report back--all without asking me to do any emotional work beyond listening and asking a question or two. He is a man's man, at least to look at. But what an empathetic, self-regulating, self-understanding man he is inside. So I have hope that men can learn and grow and change (all the same, I walked away from that conversation and thought, God, that was just like a good conversation with my best female friend, where that level of awareness is a baseline expectation.).
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:29 PM on December 3, 2016 [76 favorites]


It's obviously fine to expect to get your needs met in a relationship, so if feelings talk is a need, you deserve to get it. But it's not something anyone is owed from any particular individual.

What? How do you think relationships are made, navigated, and grown?
posted by schadenfrau at 1:31 PM on December 3, 2016 [56 favorites]


Anecdotal, but this exact thing not only ended my last relationship, but that was 7 years ago, and I'm still not ready for another. It literally broke me. He had no method to handle his emotions and I took everything on myself. Every day was spent navigating his emotional minefield. We're still friends to this day, and it took a lot of work, but I'm finally at the point where I no longer take responsibility for his emotional state. This article really hit home.
posted by greermahoney at 1:37 PM on December 3, 2016 [29 favorites]


What? How do you think relationships are made, navigated, and grown?

The healthy relationships I've been in: through mutual respect and affection, the combination of which leads to voluntary and balanced sacrificing of the self for the benefit of the other party.

"talking about feelings" so that the other partner doesn't commit a violent act -- not so healthy. It's not really any better, imho, than having to walk on eggshells around a violent/abusive person.

On the other hand -- I know plenty of folks who aren't happy in relationships if they feel like their partner isn't sufficiently emotionally communicative in the way they need. And there is nothing wrong with being emotionally needy in that way, it just makes me shudder at that thought of being in a relationship with that sort of person. It's a compatibility/preference thing.

What happens, sometimes, I think, is that having enhanced emotional needs gets stigmatized to an extent that some people try to tamp down that part of themselves (as necessary) in the early stages of a relationship and end up in a situation where when the needs do get expressed it comes as a surprise to a partner who expected to be getting a different bargain.

There's also, I think, a phenomenon (which TFA makes seem more universal than it has been in my personal experience but is obviously a thing) in which, because of the stigma, men with enhanced emotional needs try to live their entire lives without dealing with them which ends up causing the anger geysers to everyone's detriment.
posted by sparklemotion at 1:56 PM on December 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


I don't think it's just that men don't develop emotional self-regulation because they aren't required to, I think that in lots of settings men are actively discouraged from improving their emotional self-regulation. Even acknowledging the existence of most strong emotions is a profoundly dangerous act in lots of male-dominated spaces. (I'm reminded of the time my [loving, thoughtful, kind] father's reaction to the fact that I cried in response to losing the Little League championships was to angrily yell at me that I didn't have anything to cry about). In these male homo-social spaces, righteous anger is literally the only strong emotion that it is acceptable to express, so it's little wonder that men who spend much of their formative years in these spaces express all their negative emotions as self-aggrandizing anger. It's hard to develop emotional self-knowledge when displaying any evidence of emotion is literally and figuratively going to get you beaten up on the playground.
posted by firechicago at 1:58 PM on December 3, 2016 [88 favorites]


through mutual respect and affection, the combination of which leads to voluntary and balanced sacrificing of the self for the benefit of the other party

And this doesn't happen without communication. Most needs don't get met unless they are communicated. The article posits that culturally masculine people, meaning most men, do not know how to identify, attribute, or regulate those exact emotional needs, much less communicate them. They can't talk about feelings, even to themselves.

Did you read the article?
posted by schadenfrau at 2:03 PM on December 3, 2016 [10 favorites]


I've been in the emotional-regulator role, but as a woman in a relationship with another woman... and to be fair, she did a LOT of identifying needs I didn't know I had too (and then exhausted herself trying to manage them whether or not that was something she needed to do, because she is an overachiever type).

Now I am dating a dude and he is the best dude ever because HE was in the emotional-regulator role for his angry dad, so he knows exactly how much it sucks and works every day to never put anyone else in his life in that position.

And we do a lot of talking about feelings, but not every day, you know? Just as needed. I luffs him so much....
posted by subdee at 2:18 PM on December 3, 2016 [21 favorites]


Now I am dating a dude and he is the best dude ever because HE was in the emotional-regulator role for his angry dad, so he knows exactly how much it sucks and works every day to never put me or anyone else in his life in that position.

I'd just come in to post how gendering the ideas in the post seems really odd to me, because I was absolutely the emotional sink in the last two relationships I was in, and feel like that's been my role in every relationship where there needed to be one.

And then thought about my often angry Dad, and read this. Maybe that's what happened to me.
posted by wildblueyonder at 2:28 PM on December 3, 2016 [21 favorites]


Weirdly, the thing that has made me reflect most on the emotional work of my earlier relationships has been parenting a toddler. I don't mean that in some "lolz those men were basically toddlers amirite" way. I mean, a huge amount of my time at the moment is spent helping someone else learn to manage their emotions. Small children have a lot of very strong emotions, because everything's so new to them and they lack the brain development or the life experience to process what they're feeling, and so you have to do a ton of work to walk them through it. Here is a language for how you are feeling; here is what is and is not acceptable to do about what you are feeling; yes, I see that you are angry about not having the blue cup, but no, you can't deal with this by headbutting the fridge.

So it's partly this that reminds me of several early relationships, the "ah, I see you are doing XYZ! Let's help you find out what you are really feeling in order to do that" conversations. But more than that, it's the distance you have to create from your own feelings in order to work through someone else's for them. Because if my toddler yells "NO YOU GO AWAY RIGHT NOW!" at me and kicks the TV, I can't reasonably respond the way I would if one of my peers said that.

And I feel like I've already done a lot of this in my earlier life. Ah, you seem to be acting in [manner]! Perhaps you are feeling [emotion]? No, I'm not accusing you of [thing], I'm on your side, let me prove this by [gesture]. Are you feeling [emotion] because of [causes]? Maybe you are! But perhaps underneath [emotion] you feel [other emotion]? Can I help you with [other emotion]? Perhaps you need a hug? All the time stamping down on how I was feeling about any of this. And so on and so on and so on.

And honestly, it is psychologically exhausting to do this now with a toddler. I have no idea how I found the energy to do this with a series of emotionally illiterate men in my youth. What else could I have done with all that energy?
posted by Catseye at 2:30 PM on December 3, 2016 [157 favorites]


This is really fucking timely to me right now.

So I was socialized in a way where I'm used to taking on and bleeding away a lot of the anger from men such that they waltz through life in this sort of perfect wonderland. But right now with the political situation, I find myself with a lot less tolerance for it. And so I notice it. I notice the places where ordinarily I would smooth over tiny difficulties that now I sometimes let ride. And I notice how often men's anger is derailing, but they don't realize they're hungry or tired or lonely or what have you.
posted by corb at 2:49 PM on December 3, 2016 [76 favorites]


Did you read the article?

I suspect that we may be speaking at cross purposes.

You, I, and the article, agree that when people do not know how to identify, attribute, or regulate [their] emotional needs, it is a problem.

I was pushing back against the idea that "talking about feelings" is a necessity in all relationships (or at least the idea that talking about feelings is never a "favor" that one partner does for another, for which the giving partner deserves no credit).

I would posit that it is quite a bit healthier to be able to identify, attribute, or regulate own's emotional needs without having to dump any of that work onto a partner. Therefore, I do think that needing to discuss emotions with your partner (at least to the extent that that isn't in balance with your partner's needs/wants) means that your emotional needs might be enhanced beyond the point that that particular relationship is healthy for either of you.

As far as the gendered/patriarchy-based aspect of all of this, I think that men are expected to act in a way that projects an emotional self-sufficiency that is present in some men (and some women), but obviously #notallmen. So, when you have someone who was trained all his life to act in an emotionally self-sufficient manner, and they aren't actually that person, and they haven't learned what they actually need to help regulate their emotions, you get the anger geysers and/or relationships with women who feel that it is their role to act as the regulator. And that sucks.

But what sucks even more is to be someone who doesn't have the talent or energy to be a regulator in a relationship with someone who needs excessive external regulation. Which, I think, is what the author is washing her hands of, which is to her credit.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:49 PM on December 3, 2016 [10 favorites]


Not having to guess someone else's feelings, expectations, internal reactions to life events should not be a favor. This is a thing people should not make each other do. It is not healthy to not know these things.

Talking about feelings takes care of this problem. It is not needy. It is words-using.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:59 PM on December 3, 2016 [82 favorites]


Ugh, this article was very familiar and my husband's unwillingness to manage his increasing anger was the primary cause of our divorce. I was raised as if I were female so I'm sure he saw me as a prime dumping ground. It only took him a couple of months after I left to find another dumping ground so I guess he couldn't handle being single.

I have no interest in dating because even though everyone perceives me as male, I'm afraid I'd slip right back into the emotional dumping ground without thinking about it. I don't really know how gay relationships work though. The author alludes to this ("However, if you give [men] a partner, especially if you give them a female partner, this anger will be managed") but obviously she feels there is a difference between two male partners and a hetero partnership.
posted by AFABulous at 3:02 PM on December 3, 2016 [9 favorites]


I had a boyfriend once who literally said of his ex "she woyld see I was getting upset and calm me down. You don't do that". He was dead serious while I literally laughed in his face because really? Blew mind someone should think that was my role. Then I told him "maybe she was afraid your hit her" and that blew his mind. He stressed he'd never hit a woman and I pointed out that he couldn't control his own emotions so that wasn't probably a bet most people would take, that she was likely afraid of him and trying to deflect his anger. We broke up a week later, obviously, but I still marvel over someone who would actually think I'd do that or that he wasn't responsible for his own emotions. Ridiculous.
posted by fshgrl at 3:11 PM on December 3, 2016 [117 favorites]


I know, and yeah - just saying it must be pretty sweet to have everything just - taken care of. To not have others foremost in mind, always. If it's as great as I'm imagining, how do you convince someone (or a class of people) to give some of that up? Yoga classes are fine and all, but.

@cotton dress sock, your comments reminded me of the famous Ms. Magazine article Why I Want a Wife. Wives have lost some of draconian cultural expectations since 1971, but the article is still sadly relevant. (It would be *awesome* to have a traditional wife, if it weren't so shockingly unfair...)
posted by surlyben at 3:51 PM on December 3, 2016 [22 favorites]


As long as I live, I'll never forget being told that if I had smiled more and been friendlier to the gang of older boys who attacked me, then it might never have happened.

And I'll always remember that after Dad's explosions, whether there was physical violence that particular time or not, a little while later he would usually sit me down and calmly list all the things I had done to force him into that course of action.

(I think a lot of women in a lot of different religious establishments would be very surprised to find out that they dominate their churches, LOL.)
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:54 PM on December 3, 2016 [37 favorites]


I’ve noticed that when I am forced to endure male culture too long (say, working as a programmer) I also start having trouble identifying my own emotions.

As someone who spent a lot of time in STEM, this is 100% true, yet 100% false at the same time. Not just because it's mutual anecdata or lived experience, but the way this argument is constructed.

So it's possible, and necessary, to critique this sort of article. Regular people aren't informed that "self-regulation theory" has caught on as part of program of neoliberal psychology; this is discussed and criticized by critical theorists as well as other psychologists.

So it's important to have this public discussion, but when an author tries to wield this terminology without recognizing its original academic context, that's the sort of reduction that serves to make this kind of writing viral, controversial, etc.

The most concise critique is that it is hypocritical to posit "more self-regulation" as a solution. Because that goes against its very principle; to want others to improve their "self-regulation skills" is a problematic intellectual move, on its own terms. So where's that examination? As usual, neoliberal ideology is always subtly cheating itself in this way. Why is that?
posted by polymodus at 4:38 PM on December 3, 2016 [6 favorites]


I have been working very hard over these past few weeks to help my boyfriend understand that I am not equipped to manage his emotions for him, and that is why they have people WHOSE JOB IS TO HELP PEOPLE MANAGE THEIR OWN EMOTIONS, and going to them for help is actually a much better option than just throwing your feelings around loudly in proximity of your girlfriend, and it does not mean that you are a person who is sick or weak or mentally ill, it just means that you are seeking out experts with degrees and training to help you power through your feelings.
posted by ChuraChura at 4:43 PM on December 3, 2016 [61 favorites]


> Regular people aren't informed that "self-regulation theory" has caught on as part of program of neoliberal psychology; this is discussed and criticized by critical theorists as well as other psychologists.

Yeah, this - that there is something that is "neoliberal psychology" and that there is something called "self-regulation theory" - is unfamiliar to me. Could you drop some links? Memail is fine if it seems derail-y. Thanks.
posted by rtha at 4:57 PM on December 3, 2016 [11 favorites]


Unbalanced relationships in any sense are terrible, but IMO one of the very worst forms is when communication is not equally prioritized. So many things trace back to communication. It's the root of everything. This article timed itself well and helped push me the rest of the way to a place where I've basically decided, I'm going cold turkey on unbalanced, zero-return relationships. i'm just done being the dumping ground, even for people I love deeply.

At work, we frequently use the strategy of "shut it down and see who complains" to decide how many resources we'll devote to a particular system issue. I'm going to try that for a while. I'm going to stop pushing the swing. I wonder if anyone will notice.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:20 PM on December 3, 2016 [19 favorites]


Sure rtha. In The Psychology and Politics of Privilege, the author applies the usual critique of capitalist fundamentalism in the setting of psychotherapy. She names four ways in which therapists can be more politically ethical/responsible in how they interact with subjects. The author is a psychoanalytic feminist and her writings revolve around that area of thought.

In "Personal Debt, Cognitive Delinquency and Techniques of Governmentality: Neoliberal Constructions of Financial Inadequacy in the UK", there's scathing criticism of UK policy propaganda of "responsibilization", and "self-regulation", on the grounds that it ignores both behavioral research on modal rationality (how socioeconomic disadvantaged classes engage in rational behavior) and social science research (for example, the tension between the individual and the collective social narratives/constructions).

So all this is ongoing problematics that so-called "experts" are still duking out. BTW as an ex-grad student I'm especially allergic when appeals to expertise are made.

Those are just two from my notes, but really there are many authors coming at this issue from many different angles. Sometimes bits are discussed in mainstream media, even in the NYTimes (and once it came up in my local paper over how schools are incorporating "self-regulation" in K-12 education, you can imagine how un/critical that article was), but the best way I've found is to just use google scholar and trace through the references and original papers and books. But oh hey, that's labor too.
posted by polymodus at 5:32 PM on December 3, 2016 [27 favorites]


The most concise critique is that it is hypocritical to posit "more self-regulation" as a solution. Because that goes against its very principle; to want others to improve their "self-regulation skills" is a problematic intellectual move, on its own terms. So where's that examination? As usual, neoliberal ideology is always subtly cheating itself in this way. Why is that?

Not that psychology shouldn't be criticized, but I think you're maybe overcomplicating things a bit. What's under discussion is just the golden rule, applied to emotions, in the context of relationships between culturally male and culturally female people. It's just about fairness.
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:35 PM on December 3, 2016 [23 favorites]


Yeah, I think it's reasonable to criticize the idea that everyone should be able to manage their lives completely independently, but it's also reasonable to criticize the reality that one gender has been designated responsible for managing another gender's emotions for them so that they don't have to.
posted by lazuli at 5:38 PM on December 3, 2016 [56 favorites]


I think it is absolutely valid to point out the thesis that there are people who cannot seem to manage their emotions and that there are those who do help those people deal.

The man/woman divide and designation bothers me.

Because in my anecdata, it seems that it's something both sexes do.

And it amuses me that where there is all this 'men shouldn't bottle up their emotions', sharing them is now considered this. Or, something to be done behind the scenes. To be 'managed'.

Let me clue you in on a secret: it's not women managing men exclusively. It's the emotionally adult dealing with those who haven't yet learned to do so. OR are doing so badly at that moment. Or just people helping people deal.

Or is it that people do not like to be the ones who end up doing the work.

@corb: "And I notice how often men's anger is derailing, but they don't realize they're hungry or tired or lonely or what have you."

Wow. Just ... wow. THATS PEOPLE! Women have THE EXACT SAME PROBLEM.
posted by MacD at 5:54 PM on December 3, 2016 [12 favorites]


I really don't think I have a problem "self-regulating" my emotions, particularly anger, which I very rarely feel, at least past the level of mild annoyance. My first wife really got a **lot** of her life entertainment and stimulation from expressing strong feelings, wanted to spend endless time in D&M aftermath forensics, and absolutely refused to believe I honestly preferred peace, to avoid such dramatics. She gaslighted me for years that I was an unhealthy/incomplete human, rather than simply accept that we were just incompatible as life partners.

Sometimes I still imagine I'm missing out on "important stuff" by mostly engaging in transactional relationships to get my "romantic" needs met, but I just can't deal with people who are bored with their life, and expect me to spend time and energy entertaining them by torturing myself.

I accept that most potential partners don't perceive enough value to bother trying to engage with me, and have found it best to live with people very passionate about their life and work outside the home.
posted by goinWhereTheClimateSuitsMyClothes at 6:02 PM on December 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


A lot more Cymbalta and a lot less thinking about things would do a lot of men good.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 6:03 PM on December 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


Wow. Just ... wow. THATS PEOPLE! Women have THE EXACT SAME PROBLEM.

No one is saying that women don't. What we are saying is that women are disproportionately expected to managed the emotions of men. This phenomenon is worth examining more fully.
posted by Excommunicated Cardinal at 6:04 PM on December 3, 2016 [97 favorites]


This might sound sarcastic, but it isn't meant to. I am thrilled that my boyfriend is comfortable expressing his emotions around me! I have seen him cry, I have seen him giggle uncontrollably, I have seen him in righteous anger, and unrighteous anger, and we have talked about all of those feelings and it's been great. That's not the problem. The problem is when there are Too Many Things happening Too Fast and I - by virtue of being a loving, kind, patient girlfriend - am supposed to be there with infinite kindness and infinite patience and infinite wisdom and listen, tamp down my own emotional reponse to whatever situation might be going on, and then offer words of advice or comfort or reframe the situation to help him examine what else might be going on. I can do that, to an extent. But that's not the only thing I have going on in my life, and I have my own emotional responses to things like deaths in the family, or the election results, or family conflict, and I have my own set of emotional challenges to deal with as well.

The problem is far from men having and expressing emotions. The problem, for me, is the expectation that I will be the person to help process, explore, probe, explain, and solve the emotions and whatever larger forces are causing them. And, part of the problem is that because so few men are very good or comfortable expressing emotions, they get bottled up until they explode and so sadness gets mixed up with anger gets mixed up with frustration gets mixed up with so many other things that it all comes out in a very loud and mixed up torrent that I, despite my love and patience and kindness and devotion, can't help sort out. But I'm expected to, and if I suggest that this is a situation when a professional might be better equipped to handle, I am told that I'm stifling his emotions when he's trying to be open and honest about his feelings.

The feelings aren't the problem. The delivery, and the entitlement to my emotional labor to listen and be there and solve, are the problem. And the inability to understand that sometimes I just can't do it and then seek out other resources, those are also problems.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:27 PM on December 3, 2016 [76 favorites]


Now I am dating a dude and he is the best dude ever because HE was in the emotional-regulator role for his angry dad, so he knows exactly how much it sucks and works every day to never put me or anyone else in his life in that position.

I've had several partners say things along the lines of "you seem really emotionally intelligent and aware, whats up with that?", and I did not have a particularly good answer until after a fair bit of therapy, and, yup, dealing with an angry and emotionally volatile dad as a kid seems to be the consensus with my therapist. I'm still profoundly grateful for the kinds of coping skills I ended up with, but a lot of them started off along the lines of "how can I subsume/deny my own emotions and handle the emotions of others so that nothing EXPLODES", which isn't always the healthiest approach, either.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 6:28 PM on December 3, 2016 [21 favorites]


I was going to respond, but ChuraChura said it better.

The article, which I'm guessing many people have not read in its entirety, is talking about the extreme convolutions women are expected to go through so that men never have to feel negative emotions, and the weirdness that so much self-help about emotional regulation is aimed at women rather than men, given that reality.
posted by lazuli at 6:32 PM on December 3, 2016 [31 favorites]


which I'm guessing many people have not read in its entirety

most of the time i assume that the last time anyone here read a written word it was the magna fucking carta
posted by poffin boffin at 6:34 PM on December 3, 2016 [48 favorites]


The man/woman divide and designation bothers me.

Because in my anecdata, it seems that it's something both sexes do.


The article acknowledges that.

However, whenever I see someone dismiss this phenomenon because "it's not a gender thing", it immediately indicates to me that the person saying it is 1) likely a man, and 2) one of those men who believes they're somehow being clever by pointing out that both sexes do it (and in the process, delegitimizing what women are saying).

Because I'll tell you that in my experience living my whole life as a woman, I have always had to act more carefully around with men so as to avoid upsetting/angering/hurting/offending them in a way I rarely have to do with women to the same degree*; and that I rarely see (and I've spent my whole life watching) men doing this with each other to the same degree that I see women doing it towards men. And I guarantee you most men aren't acting that way towards me or any women I know either.

I mean, the article talks about this pretty extensively (emphasis mine):

Even now, with a continued disparity in earning potential, women will often manage male emotions so that a woman can be assured of material support by providing emotional value to her partner. Often, this goes beyond the conscious recognition of the men who receive it...

I associate dating men with being forced to do a lot more menial tasks than I do when I date women. And, I see flashes of this when I go on dates with men. They’ll start bitching about work, say, and I’ll be expected to reflect back their emotions and process this with them. Women do this less frequently, and if they do, they tend to be appreciative of the effort I’ve put into listening to them. Men often won’t even acknowledge that I’ve done anything. They’re probably unaware that I even did.


*I say this as a person who has a lot of male friends who are pretty exceptional in the areas of empathy and sensitivity. I mean, they are genuinely great, and they continue to give me hope in a world that can seem pretty shitty towards women sometimes. But even so, I still have some degree - even if it's comparatively small - of smoothing things over and managing their emotions in a way that I generally do not have to do with women.
posted by triggerfinger at 6:46 PM on December 3, 2016 [85 favorites]


Now if only men could contain their emotional urge to run into a thread and #notallmen it to death, that would be something.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 6:48 PM on December 3, 2016 [156 favorites]


Let me clue you in on a secret: it's not women managing men exclusively. It's the emotionally adult dealing with those who haven't yet learned to do so. OR are doing so badly at that moment. Or just people helping people deal.
posted by MacD at 5:54 PM on December 3


Certainly seems that way after 25 years of observing relationships in action day in, day out in medical practice. Hard to make a compelling essay out of that I guess.
posted by docpops at 6:59 PM on December 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


Maybe it would help to keep in mind that this article was about and touched on a lot of things. The author herself backtracked in her own followup, admitting there's some key stuff she didn't touch on in the original.

The author believed the piece went viral because it resonated. But from a media/communications perspective, pieces go viral precisely because they leave stuff out; that's yet another example of ideological gesture that galvanizes or polarizes. So as much as this piece was an important step in mainstream discussion and awareness, there remains a lot to figure out in terms of theory, politics, and justice. Feminist scholarship is part of this.

The delivery, and the entitlement to my emotional labor to listen and be there and solve, are the problem. And the inability to understand that sometimes I just can't do it and then seek out other resources, those are also problems.

The author posits affective labor in opposite-sex relationships as a site of inequity. The real ("real" !) problem is the presuppositions, assumptions, and problem formulation that go into that narrative, when the article is read as a text. There's a lot of research in the humanities and social sciences (including psychotherapy itself) that tries to tease this apart and draw those connections.
posted by polymodus at 7:03 PM on December 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


most of the time i assume that the last time anyone here read a written word it was the magna fucking carta

OK I haven't read the whole thing but I feel like these charters always make it sound like it's only kings who demand unfair feudal payments from barons -- you know, plenty of kings have the same problem with the barons in their lives
posted by escabeche at 7:06 PM on December 3, 2016 [118 favorites]


There's an entire industry devoted to telling women, from about age 11 on, that our job is to please and appease men. Every time I go to the supermarket, I'm exposed to magazines telling me it's my job to change myself to please men, and filled with advice about how to hide my own needs in order to not upset men. I'm seriously confused by anyone claiming this is an equal issue among genders.
posted by lazuli at 7:06 PM on December 3, 2016 [108 favorites]


Because right now we seem to be arguing about whether the patriarchy exists.
posted by lazuli at 7:09 PM on December 3, 2016 [70 favorites]


Because right now we seem to be arguing about whether the patriarchy exists.
posted by lazuli at 7:09 PM on December 3


I thought we were talking about the skewed dynamic of relationships that places women in the role of having to constantly police their feelings and act as a reservoir of support for the male.

Anyway, I'm raising a couple of daughters, and when we talk about their social circles, or having observed their few close relationships with other men, what I am struck by is the lengths these young men go to be genuinely demonstrative and creative in the ways they show they care, without ever seeming creepy or possessive. I don't know if this is relevant here, but it feels like it should be. I certainly also hear of the opposite, but perhaps like many things it is generational and evolutionary. Maybe it is a benefit of social media. I am hopeful. I will never tell my daughters it is ok to be tethered to someone who needs to be coddled.
posted by docpops at 7:13 PM on December 3, 2016 [5 favorites]


And if things are super-hard for men in dealing with their own emotions and those of their female partners (which I absolutely believe could be super-hard, having lived it on the female side), then maybe men should be taking advantage of things like therapy, and yoga classes, and all those other activities that women are encouraged/pressured/shamed into doing, so that they can manage better, and yet don't seem to be pursuing at all. As pointed out in the article.

Yes, people can be shitty on all side of the gender spectrum. That does not mean there's somehow automatically equal societal pressure on everyone in terms of how they're allowed to respond.
posted by lazuli at 7:17 PM on December 3, 2016 [35 favorites]


Women are expected to regulate the emotions of men as well as themselves.

I thought a lot about that concept of "expectations" after the last EL thread-- it's interesting, because our expectations (+ attendant judgments) are obviously determined partly by culture and ideology, but partly also by the sum of our past experiences. So I have certain roads around my house that I expect to be trafficky, and certain ones that I expect to be very quick, based on my past experiences. If I encounter traffic on a trafficky road, it's not fun, but I don't feel irritated-- it's just what I expected. But traffic on a normally-clear road does feel like a sort of cosmic injustice, not because I have a refined philosophy of transportation that dictates this, but just because I didn't expect it to be that way. Ditto, say, pets-- I expect cats to be standoffish and careful and dogs to be slobbery and a bit aggressive in their interactions. This is entirely based on my experiences, not on any ideology of cat-vs.-dog personalities. If I bought a puppy expecting some rowdy good times and it consistently shrank away from me to go groom itself fastidiously on the sunny windowsill, I guess I'd be a bit disappointed. I don't consciously see myself as "entitled" to a non-catlike dog, but I'd feel that there was something wrong about the situation, because my empirically-based expectations had not been met.

I wondered at the time how far that phenomenon of experiences setting expectations will inevitably frustrate progress toward strict EL justice (at least, in the sense of everyone putting in exactly equal work towards managing the other partner's emotions). I can work hard to take each individual dog and cat on their own terms, but I also don't know how to entirely prevent the cognitive phenomenon where I kind of average out all my dog experiences to "this is what dogs are like" and my cat experiences to "this is what cats are like," and thus form expectations of what new cats and dogs will be like when I meet them. Likewise, even if we could wave a magic wand and completely, instantaneously dismantle all the doubtless-substantial patriarchal dimension of the EL disparity, I still wonder what we'd do about the fact that on average, women seem cognitively predisposed (presumably, with some sort of hormonal/developmental basis) to attend and react somewhat more to other people's emotional states. If you have two populations that, on average, have even slightly different mean levels of emotional competency and reactivity, then how do you keep the rough schema from forming that X are "the ones who handle the feelings" and Y are "the ones who are not so great at that, so don't expect that much of them"? And with that accomplished, how do you prevent intra-group competition from moving those natural means farther and farther apart in a race to overachieve at meeting people's expectations about X or Yness?

(I feel like I can clear myself pretty confidently of gender essentialism in this because I'm a woman whose natural level of emotional engagement is well below the mean, and I've definitely experienced both net-contributing emotional labor to selected men and being a net consumer of emotional labor in my interactions with other, more-compassionate women. I have no particular illusions about what "real" women should be like, only a painful sense that many women are sort of like something I am not. As I think I said in the earlier mega-thread, I can feel the genderwide average pulling uncomfortably and exhaustingly against my puny 25th percentile, and to the extent that it's mediated by expectations, those seem set just as much by other women's voluntary EL performance as by the demands of the dudes. If justice in this context means "everybody steps up their emotional labor to match the current female average," then ugh, I think I'll pass.)

My working solution would be to fix an *absolute* level of social expectations for appropriate emotional labor in relationships, to set it bang in the middle of the two current gender norms, to demand that of both partners, and to equally censure deviations in either direction (i.e., the friend who gets me that extra thoughtful little gift just to cheer me up because they sensed I was having a bad day is just as out-of-line as the partner who never asked me how I was feeling after my pet died). It seems to me like a fair way around the whole expectations arms race, and the only way to avoid the suboptimal outcome where one group's preferred level of overall emotional engagement gets forcibly set as the norm for everyone. So yeah, I guess... #notallwomen? #yuckfeelings?
posted by Bardolph at 7:19 PM on December 3, 2016 [15 favorites]


An issue is that "cognitively predisposed" is not really a thing that can be measured right now, given the existence of patriarchal structures that start telling girls to be cute and pleasing while they're still in the womb.
posted by lazuli at 7:23 PM on December 3, 2016 [31 favorites]


An issue is that "cognitively predisposed" is not really a thing that can be measured right now, given the existence of patriarchal structures that start telling girls to be cute and pleasing while they're still in the womb.

Yes, obviously a big part of this is patriarchy/socialization as well! Was just questioning whether there's also some sort of essential personality factor at play, again, based on the experience of a bog-standard feminine socialization that nonetheless produced surprisingly unimpressive levels of inclination toward emotional labor. And regardless of the balance of fault between nature and nurture, I'd argue that there remains the problem that for folks not well-matched in this dimension, the merely relative ideal of "equal contribution" doesn't help much to determine where the absolute level of mutual emotional management should be set in a relationship.
posted by Bardolph at 7:41 PM on December 3, 2016


"I still wonder what we'd do about the fact that on average, women seem cognitively predisposed (presumably, with some sort of hormonal/developmental basis) to attend and react somewhat more to other people's emotional states....

....I feel like I can clear myself pretty confidently of gender essentialism in this ..."


You might want to check the definition of gender essentialism before you go making that claim, there.
posted by FirstMateKate at 7:49 PM on December 3, 2016 [52 favorites]


I have no idea how I found the energy to do this with a series of emotionally illiterate men in my youth. What else could I have done with all that energy?

Oh, tell me about it. As a feminist, it's especially painful for me to think about this when I consider the trajectory of my creative life in my youth. Progress on my creative projects was derailed or stalled, time and again, by setting aside my own needs to please men sufficiently enough to ensure continued material support. It haunts me when I think about how many more articles I could have written, or how many more dance pieces I could have choreographed in the days when my body was more resilient, if only I hadn't spent so much of my youth carrying men's share of the emotional labor burden as well as my own. Looking back, I still feel that I made the best choices available to me in a patriarchal culture, so there's no self-flagellation going on here. Nonetheless, I grieve for all the opportunities I missed, especially the books I didn't finish writing.

Every romantic relationship I've ever been in with a man - every single one, and we're talking two long-term marriages plus many shorter-term "feminist" boyfriends - took much more from me than it gave back to me in return, and left me drained, exhausted, and disillusioned. No wonder I've completely lost interest in dating at 49. It isn't worth the effort, plain and simple.

Seriously, I am done. No online dating, no offline dating, no nothing. As much as possible, my life is being consciously and deliberately structured to avoid taking on more unpaid and un-reciprocated emotional labor. I've paid my "dues." As I wrote in the emotional labor thread, I've done more than my share already. The rest of my life is going to be all about my creative work and deepening my spiritual life as a Pagan nun and hermit. Those things, plus the house cleaning business I started to support myself after my divorce, take all I have to give. Every request for my unpaid time, effort, and emotional labor - from marketing surveys to the lonely man on the bus who interrupts my reading time because he wants someone to lend an ear - is evaluated in the context of my newly strengthened commitment to minimizing unpaid emotional labor. Most are ignored, or otherwise given the cold shoulder.

I'm happier than ever.
posted by velvet winter at 7:51 PM on December 3, 2016 [77 favorites]


> Because right now we seem to be arguing about whether the patriarchy exists.

> I thought we were talking about the skewed dynamic of relationships that places women in the role of having to constantly police their feelings and act as a reservoir of support for the male.

That is also the patriarchy.
posted by rtha at 7:51 PM on December 3, 2016 [65 favorites]


And regardless of the balance of fault between nature and nurture, I'd argue that there remains the problem that for folks not well-matched in this dimension, the merely relative ideal of "equal contribution" doesn't help much to determine where the absolute level of mutual emotional management should be set in a relationship.

How to Be an Adult in Relationships actually pretty much lays out what would be a reasonable adult way of participating in a romantic relationship in a responsible manner. Even if that's not the best model, it seems to me there are oodles of manuals and guides and advice columns and seminars and therapy aimed at women to help us figure this out, and very few aimed at men. As mentioned in the article.
posted by lazuli at 7:53 PM on December 3, 2016 [8 favorites]


For no reason at all - a couple of previouslies some might find interesting:

shame, anger, alienation, and other hallmarks of the masculine psyche
- Teaching Men to Be Emotionally Honest [NYT]

aspiring to a world in which personality is unchained from gender

Unrelated - just realized there was a "not" missing in my comment way above, thanks to those who filled in the blank :/
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:58 PM on December 3, 2016 [7 favorites]


My working solution would be to fix an *absolute* level of social expectations for appropriate emotional labor in relationships

Wow, uh, no. It's not that hard to just treat emotional baggage with the same expectations we have for normal baggage: you carry your own, unless for some reason you don't.

I mean, literal luggage. There's a pretty well-defined social norm, with group trips, that everyone carries their own stuff, with a lot of exceptions built into that rule like -

1) you are physically unable to carry it (possibly because it's just too much) and must arrange help
2) you are a very small child and can't be trusted to be responsible for all your stuff
3) you can pay someone to carry your luggage (possibly as part of another service like a hotel room or cab fare)
4) your family or friendgroup has its own division of labor which is fair and can be renegotiated
6) you are a caretaker for someone else (like a child) and must carry their luggage
7) you are being paid to carry someone else's luggage
8) you spontaneously decide to help someone out because you want to

And there are scenarios that are totally not acceptable, like:
1) You don't want to carry your luggage because you're used to your parents doing it for you. Still gotta carry it now that you're old enough.
2) Your family's division of labor is unfair and no one likes it. Shouldn't be that way. Strangers will look at you disapprovingly.
3) If someone's minding their own business, you shouldn't ask them for help unless you absolutely need it.

There's a perfectly good social norm available here that is flexible, not too prescriptive. It would just require thinking of emotional baggage as a real weight that must be dealt with.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 7:59 PM on December 3, 2016 [74 favorites]


I'm pretty tired that every time I read an article that brings up a societal gender disparity, it's going to be notallmenned right away. Go watch a couple hours of tv and see if a female character isn't talking down or otherwise emotion-managing a male character. Our society is rife with the angry bf / appeasing gf trope. Just because it sometimes happens the other way, or you personally know people who don't fit this, in no way invalidates the prevalence of this.

Now, we can also talk about how men are socialized to show few emotions, and anger is one of the few they're allowed, and how that effects this dynamic. It's not it has to be some man-bashing, one gender is to blame, situation.
posted by greermahoney at 8:22 PM on December 3, 2016 [53 favorites]


And thank you, escabeche. I didn't know I needed a notallkings hashtag in my life, but clearly, I do!
posted by greermahoney at 8:30 PM on December 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


I still wonder what we'd do about the fact that on average, women seem cognitively predisposed (presumably, with some sort of hormonal/developmental basis) to attend and react somewhat more to other people's emotional states.

1. This is not a thing. Because:
2. There is nothing biologically essential about gender.

The solution to the cognitive problem that you posit is to stop mentally categorizing people by gender. You won't make mistaken assumptions based on the mean of the behavior you observe if you don't lump people into these arbitrary mental buckets in the first place.


[None of which is to say that I disagree with the article or the assertion that women are pressured into doing this kind of emotional labor for men. It is to say that our current assignment of social roles is based on a categorization schema that is not biologically-based and in a better world shouldn't be used to assess, predict, or assign social behavior.]
posted by CtrlAltDelete at 9:15 PM on December 3, 2016 [12 favorites]


I want to note that this isn't just about romantic relationships. I have literally never had a single job where part of my unspoken job description did not include "manage emotional lives of men in the workplace".

I had an annual review where I was told I needed to stop working, look up, and smile, when a certain man in our org was visiting our suite of offices. HE WANTED ME TO STOP PROCESSING FINANCIAL STATEMENTS TO SMILE AT HIM AND MAKE HIM FEEL IMPORTANT AND BENEVOLENT.

My job now has an unbelievable amount of "maybe if we say it like this he won't take it the wrong way" and interpreting sighs and slammed down phones in the hopes that work can happen. We have a certain gentleman who will lodge formal complaints whenever women are too honest with him (like, "this is past the deadline" level of honest). We have staff meetings where we try to figure out how to manage the innumerable number of wounded egos that are preventing us from doing our jobs. Men are in these meetings, so yes, men have to do a lot of managing of emotions, when their jobs depend on it.

I am describing men I respect, many of whom I love. And yet men's emotions are often frightening because almost every emotion/sensation is transmuted into anger. For so, so many of them, fear=anger. Embarrassment=anger. Exhaustion=anger. Self-doubt=anger. Annoyance=anger.

There is nothing like mentioning a man's anger to that man, and hearing him scream "I'M NOT ANGRY", his voice vibrating with rage.

Whenever a man is angry around me, even if he is kind and gentle, even if I know he loves me, even if it has never happened before, I immediately begin to adjust/freeze/shrink, my affect altered by that familiar frisson of "maybe this time is when he'll hurt me."

oh, but, lest I forget to do my culturally mandated job, allow me to mention #notallmen
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:23 PM on December 3, 2016 [135 favorites]


I'm a woman whose natural level of emotional engagement is well below the mean

I would say "me too!" except I can't because you and I have no idea whether women who do this shit do it because it is natural to them. in some cases I know for sure it is not; in others I can only suspect. in still other cases I repress my suspicions because it is not polite to accuse people of lying.

sprezzatura is the feminine ideal in the emotional realm and always has been, and it demeans the art to treat it as a natural instinct. it is an unpleasant art to be forced to perfect as it is, without being further devalued. the final punishment for being good at this crap is nobody believes you ever had to work at it, much less still do.
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:25 PM on December 3, 2016 [38 favorites]


Go watch a couple hours of tv and see if a female character isn't talking down or otherwise emotion-managing a male character

Not to derail too much or spoiler, but this comment reminds me that Dirk Gently is doing SUCH an unusually good job with this specific thing right now that I lunged for the pause button so that I could ask my husband if there was a two-presumed-straight-dudes-talking-about-their-feelings-about-feelings equivalent of the Bechdel Test and he was all "I don't think so, but this scene is like Metafilter wrote a TV show."
posted by deludingmyself at 10:27 PM on December 3, 2016 [16 favorites]


I have never had these expectations placed on me, or if I did, I didn't notice. I think I only even attempt to do this sort of emotional regulation for other women, because I care what they think of me. but that bit of autobiographical trivia doesn't mean I don't recognize the phenomenon and see it happening every day and everywhere I go.

in order to avoid it I think it must help to have issues that draw you inexorably towards men who were precociously caretaking children of deeply depressed mothers. this plus the thing above about men who had the bad example of angry dads to warn them away from entitlement makes me feel bound to say that I am completely positive there are many recipes to produce nice men that do not rely on early application of dysfunctional and neglectful parenting. the depressing thing is I think those better recipes heavily rely on good emotional caretaking role-modeling by fathers, and how that is going to start happening on a large scale I do not know.
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:38 PM on December 3, 2016 [8 favorites]


lots to process here. I was taught from an early age - not so much from my family, but from my peers - that to show any emotion - including anger - was weakness. To show a reaction was to give someone a lever arm against you. Usually of course that means prevent the showcasing of anger/fear/sadness as well as overt pride, to prevent/reduce possible pathways of manipulation. I remember my second grade PE teacher telling my mom that I needed to be less sensitive to be accepted by the boys. (I think she meant well)

Of course it wasn't just about leverage - it was about keeping an even keel for everyone. When my dad died when I was 8, my granddad told me I needed to stop crying because I was the man of the family and had to keep things going. (Really, he was trying to lighten my mom's load)

Interestingly, I never turned all the turmoil outward - it always went in. It wasn't until being with my wife that I could understand that I wasn't always "just even". But even towards her and her high maintenance tendencies, I've always run more into the curtain of frustration that Im not able to meet everyone's needs, including hers when she wants to rant about the day.

I've grown in my current relationship, no doubt. I've become more emotionally aware - even if it rarely has an external component. But man, I hate some of this programming and I love it too. I couldn't admit to my wife when I was feeling anxious until after we'd been together for something like 9 years. Im not sure I like that I feel like I need to recognize it now.
posted by drewbage1847 at 11:00 PM on December 3, 2016 [5 favorites]


...this isn't just about romantic relationships. I have literally never had a single job where part of my unspoken job description did not include "manage emotional lives of men in the workplace".

Good point. Me neither. Most jobs demand at least as much emotional labor from women as romantic relationships do, and often more.

In my ongoing effort to minimize the demands made on me for unpaid and un-reciprocated emotional labor, and preserve as much energy as I can for my creative pursuits and spiritual life, the best combination I've been able to come up with is: self-employment as a house cleaner and home organizer (I am my own boss, it's mostly women who hire me, I set my own rates, and I work alone in empty homes much of the time) + not dating at all + not being a parent + living alone. I am grateful to my feminist foremothers for fighting so hard to make choices like this available to me.
posted by velvet winter at 11:23 PM on December 3, 2016 [29 favorites]


"Interestingly, I never turned all the turmoil outward - it always went in."

This is never as true as men think it is. These emotions don't just disappear. They get processed in a million externalized ways that are exactly the translating that women are expected to do. When a man won't just say "I am sad/angry/excited" we are left to gather clues and regulate that. Exactly as described in the article. Because that turmoil impacts us and our lives. As well described in the article and thread.

I think men are often frustrated by not being able to meet everyone's emotional needs. That is a sentiment I have heard basically every male acquaintance, friend and family member express. Literally every single man at a certain level of intimacy has said it to me.

That's not an indication that you are doing the emotional regulating. I think it's an indication of the exact opposite. A lack of emotional vocabulary and knowledge that makes emotions inscrutable and meeting basic emotional needs feel like a herculean task. The less emotionally aware someone is, the more likely they are to make this complaint.
posted by stoneweaver at 11:55 PM on December 3, 2016 [56 favorites]


[One deleted. Let's step back from making this personal / accusatory about people in the thread, please.]
posted by taz at 2:27 AM on December 4, 2016


As someone trans who was raised male, the crippling of men's emotional intelligence and ability to express starts long before we have language. Sure, it varies individually, but i saw it in myself and in plenty of peers, and I struggle with it to this day. The default is to not feel.

To take a single emotion to illustrate the point, I literally find myself upset to the point of wanting to cry (and finding it nearly impossible) over events I am years removed from and during which I was essentially numb.

To never be hurt, to never be sad, to never feel weak or vulnerable, to never give but to assert primacy through anger.

I never really succeeded in that, so I essentially just withdrew.

Big parts of me are still numb and I don't know what to make of them. Trying not to repress everything seems weird as well and burdensome on anyone close to me.

It's a slow process.
posted by allium cepa at 5:49 AM on December 4, 2016 [20 favorites]


Just want to point out that I'm a lesbian who hasn't had emotionally intimate relationships with men in a number of years, and yet I have to manage the emotions of men I don't even know so as to not get fucking murdered.

And when I last worked for a company and not myself, I had to manage their emotions there, too, so as not to get fucking fired. Because yes, the expectations were totally sexist.

We're not just talking about intimate relationships. We're talking about everything. And I gotta be honest, my ability to care about what you have to say on this subject is pretty much inversely proportional to your propensity to barge into a discussion about a societal injustice with your notallmen personal anecdata.
posted by schadenfrau at 6:01 AM on December 4, 2016 [64 favorites]


Anyway. It all goes into what I call the woman tax. There's just a large chunk of our lives -- emotional, cognitive, physical -- that we're expected to give up for men. Even if we never want to sleep with them, be with them, or marry them. It's everywhere, like a poisonous, enervating cloud.
posted by schadenfrau at 6:05 AM on December 4, 2016 [73 favorites]


As I read the article, I kept remembering a scene from Gosford Park, and I'm a little surprised that neither the article nor the comments here mention the one word that leaps to my mind: 'servant.'
Mrs. Wilson: What gift do you think a good servant has that separates them from the others? It's the gift of anticipation. And I'm a good servant; I'm better than good, I'm the best; I'm the perfect servant. I know when they'll be hungry, and the food is ready. I know when they'll be tired, and the bed is turned down. I know it before they know it themselves.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 6:05 AM on December 4, 2016 [64 favorites]


our current assignment of social roles is based on a categorization schema that is not biologically-based and in a better world

I believe that, in other contexts, this is known as "not seeing race."

It doesn't work.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 6:45 AM on December 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


Certainly seems that way after 25 years of observing relationships in action day in, day out in medical practice. Hard to make a compelling essay out of that I guess.

This is breathtakingly man-splainy.

PSA: if you are inclined to make comments in this vein and:

1) don't bother to explain that you've at least attempted to understand what the author is saying and

2) do not understand why in a thread discussing the very invisibility of emotional labor it would be important to do so;

you should probably reflect a little more on whether the author may in fact have a point before dismissing her (likely more than 25) years of observing relationships in action day in, day out in LIFE.
posted by AV at 7:14 AM on December 4, 2016 [27 favorites]


ahhh the emotional labor explaining emotional labor, it's so meta this thread might rip a hole in the space-time continuum
posted by AV at 7:19 AM on December 4, 2016 [59 favorites]


As I read the article, I kept remembering a scene from Gosford Park, and I'm a little surprised that neither the article nor the comments here mention the one word that leaps to my mind: 'servant.'

Man this is killing me, because yep. That's it. Servitude or subservience, depending on the order of the day. And it is so so so fucking costly.
posted by schadenfrau at 7:25 AM on December 4, 2016 [12 favorites]


This is breathtakingly man-splainy.

PSA: if you are inclined to make comments in this vein and:

1) don't bother to explain that you've at least attempted to understand what the author is saying and

2) do not understand why in a thread discussing the very invisibility of emotional labor it would be important to do so;

you should probably reflect a little more on whether the author may in fact have a point before dismissing her (likely more than 25) years of observing relationships in action day in, day out in LIFE.
posted by AV at 7:14 AM on December 4 [1 favorite +] [!]


ahhh the emotional labor explaining emotional labor, it's so meta this thread might rip a hole in the space-time continuum
posted by AV at 7:19 AM on December 4 [1 favorite +] [!
]


So, I just posted a reply that was deleted, and I guess it was bordering on critical or sarcastic or simply unhelpful, so I will try again. First, the term man-splainy is offensive, and by all means go ahead and use it as shorthand for whatever it is you are trying to get across, but understand that it has the effect of shutting down dialogue. I have attempted to understand what the author is trying to say. I'm perplexed that, this being Metafilter, the level of navel-gazing and chat-filter-ishness of the thread is even allowed to stand. I think she is lazy for trying to create an influential tome out of a weak thesis - that women carry the emotional baggage in relationships and then tries to tie this to the Patriarchy. I completely agree that in many cases this is true, but her writing and logic is so tenuous and full of holes that it's frustrating to read. Worse still is that she buries a very important point about domestic female-on-male violence in her post script. It's frustrating that we cannot have an open dialogue about the root causes of this dynamic because that would involve men giving their opinions and well, man-splainy again, so I guess we're stuck. Relationships, gender, human beings, are incredibly complicated. Generalizations are lazy and make for good copy but not much else.
posted by docpops at 7:50 AM on December 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


The solution to the cognitive problem that you posit is to stop mentally categorizing people by gender.

This is a worthy goal, but I agree with steady state strawberry that

It doesn't work.

Because you can't just skip over the overdetermined and self-reproducing ideologies and their effects without understanding and somehow addressing them.

(I think some form of categorization is unavoidable because of the limitations of our cognitive architecture; categorization is an efficient process, an inherent part of how we parse the world to make it maneuverable and manipulable. It's just that it ends up hijacked by a system that preserves certain power differentials. I think we can aim to fill those categories with less noxious content. But not without addressing what's there now.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:51 AM on December 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


First, the term man-splainy is offensive

Your contention, in a thread about the social phenomenon in which women are expected to shield men from the realities of their own lives and experiences so as not to hurt men's feelings, is that the term "mansplain," which describes a real social phenomena, is offensive because it hurts your feelings?

I swear to God I can't tell if this is performance art
posted by schadenfrau at 7:55 AM on December 4, 2016 [136 favorites]


It's offensive because it's lazy and a pointedly abrupt means of stopping a dialogue. How you assume it hurts my feelings is unclear, since the two aren't connected. Plenty of feminist writers also feel that the term is unhelpful.
posted by docpops at 8:01 AM on December 4, 2016


(and I imagine that it's possible for the rules of who we implicitly agree ought to fall into this or that category to change. but probably not in a wholly top-down way, not without first or simultaneously addressing material conditions.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:03 AM on December 4, 2016


If by "lazy" you mean "a shorthand to describe a complex but common and previously unnamed social phenomena that does real damage in an unequal way," sure, but a) I'm actually ok with that kind of laziness, because that's literally how language and naming things works, and b) I sort of wonder why you don't apply that definition to, say, "privilege."

And it "shuts down" conversation specifically because people get their feelings hurt. But sometimes the truth hurts! This entire discussion is about who should bear the brunt of that truthy burden -- the people inflicting the damage, or the people suffering it.

We seem to disagree on that.
posted by schadenfrau at 8:04 AM on December 4, 2016 [61 favorites]


It shuts down conversation because it telegraphs the fact that one person in the conversation is more focussed on silencing dialogue than in understanding another person's views. It's a term that has been in heavy use since 2008 and is lazy.
posted by docpops at 8:17 AM on December 4, 2016


You seem to be unable to consider the possibility that you were actually doing the thing. You were.

I think you may want to re-read TFA.
posted by schadenfrau at 8:20 AM on December 4, 2016 [37 favorites]


docpops, your response is effectively a tone argument, which isn't responsive to the substance of the points being made.

The issue is not that men giving their opinions is not accepted. The issue is when men give their opinions as though they are unassailable fact, and without giving due consideration to the subject at hand. It's also problematic to then double down and react defensively to anyone raising a contrary viewpoint.

For greater clarity, by "defensively" I mean responding without addressing the contrary points themselves. (For example, saying well she didn't talk about female on male domestic violence enough and that's totally a problem too so her whole premise is flawed is not responsive; the article is not about domestic violence.)

And again, I'll point out that the fact that we are having to spell this out here when these concepts have been discussed many times in this space is a demonstration of the point the author and others here are trying to make.
posted by AV at 8:20 AM on December 4, 2016 [60 favorites]


It's also a term that's been discussed a lot, here and elsewhere, in the ensuing years, without any kind of clear consensus that it shouldn't be used. It's okay to be annoyed at it but maybe just be annoyed at it and move on with your day and let the thread do likewise; dragging the conversation off to the side to repeatedly insist that its use shuts down conversation is, at the very least, counter-productive.
posted by cortex at 8:21 AM on December 4, 2016 [43 favorites]


I'll also mention that I am checking out of this thread now; I have things to do. I had hoped that by pointing out an example of what the author was talking about others might think twice before derailing the thread but I'm concerned that it has itself become a derail. Thanks schadenfrau for helping to shoulder the burden of explaining.
posted by AV at 8:24 AM on December 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


Thank-you, AV and Cortex, for offering some clarification. I appreciate it.
posted by docpops at 8:24 AM on December 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


lazy


Efficient
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:25 AM on December 4, 2016 [66 favorites]


It's frustrating that we cannot have an open dialogue about the root causes of this dynamic because that would involve men giving their opinions and well, man-splainy again, so I guess we're stuck.

I've participated in tons of these threads and I think we absolutely can have an open dialogue. What usually prevents this is when men make it into some sort of a zero sum game by failing to see that the ways we raise boys and girls and the expectations society places on both are both a result of patriarchy. This is a good conversation to have because once you get into it, you realize that the same things that are hurting women so much are also hurting men, just in different ways.

But what usually happens is men get defensive and come in with a "both sides do it!" mentality, which ends up being a perfect illustration of what women are actually discussing, that is, that we need to hold back, gloss over or modify our feelings or opinions so that men don't feel bad or uncomfortable. I mean, this is literally the exact thing we're talking about. It is a very, very subtle way to try to silence and put women back in the place that men want them to be.
posted by triggerfinger at 8:29 AM on December 4, 2016 [83 favorites]


I can't tell choose the best example of the phenomenon described in the article from this thread: the all-caps rant about how EVERYONE DOES THIS #NOTALLMEN (we do all know that all-caps is yelling and yelling is the voice of anger, right?) or the "lazy, doesn't use her logic and words in a tone that makes me feel good, therefore her points are invalid" back-and-forth. It's almost as if men thought that they should create more examples of the very phenomenon being discussed in the article for... Reasons?

If something like this makes you mad, maybe you should ask yourself why it hits so close to home, and maybe that's a good time for listening and not for talking. Maybe. But in my long and varied experience in earth, I believe that many men will never be convinced that it's not my job to do their emotional work.
posted by sockermom at 8:43 AM on December 4, 2016 [76 favorites]


I'm a security analyst. Of the past three directors of security we've had, I've had to emotionally manage all of them. They'd slam doors, not bother compromising, raise their voices, then complain to me about whoever they were arguing with, as though my job were to go smooth things over. I very nearly left the field (not just this workplace) because fuck, I don't want to have to do all that all damn day.

The thing is, I've had to go to years of therapy to get to expressing my own emotions in any healthy way at all. Work I derived value from for my own life, and then had to use on dudes because god help me if I suggested maybe they learn some of this shit themselves. I've been tired of men for many, many years for this very reason.
posted by XtinaS at 8:47 AM on December 4, 2016 [24 favorites]


Continuing: I have met women who have all the empathy of a nail. However, they don't seem to expect me to do anything about it like men do.
posted by XtinaS at 8:50 AM on December 4, 2016 [47 favorites]


our current assignment of social roles is based on a categorization schema that is not biologically-based and in a better world
I believe that, in other contexts, this is known as "not seeing race."

It doesn't work.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 9:45 AM on December 4 [1 favorite +] [!]


No. It is not at all the same. What CtrlAltDelete was offering was a potential solution to the oppression that gender causes. "I don't see color" is used to dismiss the oppression that POC face and erases identity, culture, heritage, and adversity. Gender is a system purposefully held in place by men in order to gain advantages and exploit women. there is nothing inherently good about gender, whereas there are many inherently beautiful things about race.

As a non-cis person, it is imperative that we work towards the destruction of the system that bases our actions, beliefs, personalities, social roles, etc by what our perceived gender is.
posted by FirstMateKate at 8:50 AM on December 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


Continuing: I have met women who have all the empathy of a nail. However, they don't seem to expect me to do anything about it like men do.
posted by XtinaS at 8:50 AM on December 4 [+] [!]


When/how/where do you think this feeling comes from, ie that you are expected to manage their feelings? I ask sincerely. I have discovered, in the last few years, that if I mention my work has been difficult or unusually stressful in the context of discussing the day's details, that my spouse has confessed she feels like she has to make me feel better. So I don't mention work stress, ever, because that's the last thing I want to do to her. I know for her it was a result of having a man-baby asshole for a father. And perhaps it's the case that we can extinguish some of this dynamic by simply raising better men and trying to teach women that they aren't on earth to make men feel better.
posted by docpops at 8:55 AM on December 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


I've been really fortunate to be involved in a preschool that focuses exclusively on social/emotional development, and proudly publicizes the fact. It tends to attract parents who also care deeply about emotional intelligence, so over the years I've encountered around 100 2-4 year olds who have been taught about the importance of learning how to manage their own feelings. It's fascinating because, at least in my experience, there isn't a gender skew in terms of innate ability to do this. Some boys struggle, but so do some girls. Holding both groups equally accountable has led to kids who are, in general, pretty well-regulated by kindergarten. It's really neat to see.

But then I take them to the playground, and I hear "boys don't cry" and toddler girls being forced to apologize before they're even old enough to understand what they're apologizing for, or for just taking up space that someone else wants to occupy, and it's so disheartening. Kids are experts and figuring out incentives.
posted by snickerdoodle at 9:00 AM on December 4, 2016 [29 favorites]


It's not just a matter of "teaching" women that. If you read the article again, do so with an eye towards the consequences she outlines for not doing this work. Until it's not a threat to our job, security, safety and lives - it *is* our job to make men feel better. I can't just opt out of that if my other option is potentially being assaulted or killed.

And yes, you would be right that I don't run that risk every time. But I really can't know which times I do. So, I have to do at least some of it all the time. So, no, you don't need to "teach" me that I don't need to. You need to make it reality.

And that starts with listening to women. Like right now.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:03 AM on December 4, 2016 [60 favorites]


Some of the negative reactions in this discussion remind me of my own reactions to learning about racism--denial, dismissal, minimization--and then eventually acceptance that racism is structural, that I, as a white person are complicit, and that my ancestors actively benefited from the enslavement and oppression of other humans. It's not fun to contemplate these issues, but I learned that it was more important to end these systems because real people are still suffering physically, socially, and emotionally.

The same applies to this situation. Part of this process is learning to sit with unpleasant emotions, then not spilling them out on to other so they can deal with them on your behalf.

This thread has been very validating. Thank you fellow overworked emotional laborers.
posted by Excommunicated Cardinal at 9:05 AM on December 4, 2016 [35 favorites]


When/how/where do you think this feeling comes from, ie that you are expected to manage their feelings?
From the breathtaking volume of horrible things that occur when I don't manage a man's feelings. 99/100 times a Bad Thing happens when I don't perform their emotional work for them. From being belittled to being stonewalled to losing projects at work to being dumped on the spot out of an otherwise good long-term relationship to being hit across the face. To having my hair ripped out by the roots. To being told I will never be loved. To being raped. My experiences are not outliers. Pay attention.
posted by sockermom at 9:15 AM on December 4, 2016 [101 favorites]


It's not just a matter of "teaching" women that. If you read the article again, do so with an eye towards the consequences she outlines for not doing this work. Until it's not a threat to our job, security, safety and lives - it *is* our job to make men feel better. I can't just opt out of that if my other option is potentially being assaulted or killed.

There was a guest post on Mumsnet about how Christmas is a nightmare if your partner is abusive recently which explains exactly this:

All of this adds up to a nightmare scenario for the survivor who is trying to keep everything together to make sure he doesn't lose his temper.

"Keep it all running smoothly": that used to be my mantra. Try to anticipate any problem before it arose. But that's impossible because he wants to lose his temper; you're fighting a losing battle. And at Christmas, you're even more under the microscope – because he's there all the time.


There's no opt-out for this stuff.
posted by threetwentytwo at 9:24 AM on December 4, 2016 [15 favorites]


When/how/where do you think this feeling comes from, ie that you are expected to manage their feelings? I ask sincerely. I have discovered, in the last few years, that if I mention my work has been difficult or unusually stressful in the context of discussing the day's details, that my spouse has confessed she feels like she has to make me feel better. So I don't mention work stress, ever, because that's the last thing I want to do to her. I know for her it was a result of having a man-baby asshole for a father.

docpops, I hope you don't mind my speculating on your personal life, but since you've offered it - your wife and most women have been raised with the socially derived expectation that they (we) be responsible for other people's feelings, in general. It is systematically trained into us (as a rule, some women escape it or don't take to it for flukey reasons), at home, at school, everywhere.

Most men have been raised with the expectation that they be self-contained, and avoid expression of feelings other than those within a very narrow range (on punishment of being accused of being "girlish", or gay, which are seen as very bad things to be - things that threaten acceptance by parents and peers, and their sense of worth as people who are members of the "male" class. Or they're punished, and the punishment is associated with those values. I'd guess most men probably remember at least hearing playground insults along these lines, or admonishments from parents, coaches, teachers, etc. I don't know what you'd think of the imo excellent posts I linked to above, which go into all this, but I think they might be worth a gander.)

Except as stoneweaver (and many, many others, including the author of the article, have) said, it's impossible to avoid having some kind of response to stressors and challenges. In many men (no idea about you personally), consciously or not, it ends up being expressed as anger (or frustration, or irritation, if you like. Discontent, say).

And many women feel responsible to reduce that anger/frustration/irritation, first because they think it's their job, because they've been socialized to think this, and second because they sometimes feel threatened - if not by the hint of actual violence or other censure (e.g. if the context is a work setting), though that happens, just by the lack of peace and hostile atmosphere that can result if the irritation/frustration/anger is left unaddressed. And by the corrosive effects unaddressed anger/irritation/frustration/discontent can have on a relationship.

And perhaps it's the case that we can extinguish some of this dynamic by simply raising better men and trying to teach women that they aren't on earth to make men feel better.

I think this would go a long way towards helping, too.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:24 AM on December 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


I really can't know which times I do.

And of course, there is a whole range of potential consequences, which other women have mentioned in this thread. A woman who doesn't successfully manage the emotions of her boss might be fired, or simply have her advancement stalled. She might be labeled a "bitch" by her coworkers, making her daily life at work less pleasant. A woman who doesn't successfully manage the emotions of her partner might lose someone that she genuinely loves, or just have to deal with an unpleasant evening of sulking.

I think that's actually an important point. These discussions aren't just about men who are somehow monsters, or men who we would choose not to interact with if we could. They're also about your best friend, the husband that you love, the coworker you usually get along with, etc.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:24 AM on December 4, 2016 [37 favorites]


And also, here we all are managing your emotions because otherwise we don't get to talk without you being deraily and rude. That's a consequence. We're all placating you because otherwise you won't listen and get out of the way. Because your emotions are ruffled, and you think it's owed to you that we cater to your miffedness rather than move on.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:33 AM on December 4, 2016 [99 favorites]


I've been rewatching LOST as a form of escapism since the election, and wow is that series a case study in women managing men's emotions. This is most clearly illustrated in Kate's relationships with Jack and Sawyer, but all the dudes are frustrated and angry at some point, and it's almost never another man who steps in to take on the emotional labor at his own expense. I can't think of one single example. Maybe Hugo and someone.

Rose is about the only woman I can remember who refuses to take the traditional role; she just rolls her eyes and lets Bernard be mad. I suppose Ana Lucia and Shannon are the most selfish, but up until their demises, we're supposed to see them as an angry bitch and shallow manipulator, respectively, not Strong Independent Women.

Anyway, this is "only" a TV series, but this is part of how girls and boys learn to act in relationships. Whatever inclinations "naturally" exist, this just reinforces those roles. I'm sure we can think of many, many other fictional examples.
posted by AFABulous at 9:37 AM on December 4, 2016 [6 favorites]



And also, here we all are managing your emotions because otherwise we don't get to talk without you being deraily and rude. That's a consequence. We're all placating you because otherwise you won't listen and get out of the way. Because your emotions are ruffled, and you think it's owed to you that we cater to your miffedness rather than move on.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:33 AM on December 4 [+] [!]


This is Metafilter, not a feminist forum website. I'm allowed to be a part of the dialogue, and have been civil. If you think you are managing my emotions because you would rather be more direct, or think I'm supposed to 'get out of the way' then you aren't on the right website. I'm trying to understand a different viewpoint, and in fact understand it better than I ever did, just not in a way I would have hoped. If civil discussion with the male gender feels like you are managing their emotions then that says more about your own biases then the male gender.
posted by docpops at 9:40 AM on December 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think I'm probably one of "those guys," but for a different reason. I wound up regulating the emotions for most of my immediate family: angry dad, and both mom and sister's reactions to angry dad. I wound up being the listener, placator, and peacemaker for every single argument in the family. And as the article says, it sucks, it fucking suckkks.

And in my job, there's a certain amount of emotional regulation that my students expect me to do. I probably do less than I should, because "I'm a man" and I can get away with that, but also because it sucks, it fucking suckkks.

So I wouldn't be surprised at all if someone told me that they don't feel like I pull my emotional weight in a relationship. It's a job to me. I don't like taking my work home with me. It's real nice to have someone take care of me for a change, and "I'm a man," so I can get away with it.

That's not fair to a partner, though. Other people weren't built to be compatible with my experiences.

I like this article, because I think it falls under constructive criticism for me. It points out something I hadn't necessarily thought of that I can be aware of and work to improve in the future.

/IPad post. sorry for typos.
posted by yeolcoatl at 9:52 AM on December 4, 2016 [23 favorites]


If civil discussion with the male gender feels like you are managing their emotions then that says more about your own biases then the male gender.

I mean, as a dude with pretty poor feminist bona fides who actually runs the place and is having to manage this discussion, my feeling a lot of the time is that there's a disconnect between "I'm just trying to have a civil discussion" as a statement of intent and "people shouldn't get annoyed at my behavior or expect me to change it" as an expectation, and that doesn't actually track very well.

Like: of course you're allowed to be a part of the dialogue, but you're in turn expected to be self-aware about the footprint your participation is having on that dialogue. And when that ends up taking the form of basically dragging the discussion in the direction of complaints about the article not using the vocab you want or addressing the subjects you'd prefer it did or so on and then complaining when other people take exception to that, your footprint is a big one. Recognizing the difference between "I should be technically permitted to do this" and "I'm improving the conversation by doing this" is a pretty important thing for good dialogue in general, and it honestly feels like you're kinda falling onto the former as a defense without acknowledging the latter.

In the interest of not having this wander into a deep trench that prevents the thread from moving on, I need you to just let it be at this point regardless of whether you agree with any of that.
posted by cortex at 9:53 AM on December 4, 2016 [112 favorites]


docpops, as a physician (and as such, privy to situations of deep emotional and physical vulnerability), can you talk in general terms about emotional fluency among patients and those who accompany them? Do you see an imbalance in who's doing the work of being an adult in a tense situation, and whether you see that more in men or women, and whether there's any age difference there? Do you see older men needing to be cajoled into further tests/diet changes/etc. by their female partners? Lots of questions, I know; I'm interested in hearing about this from the perspective of someone who observes these dynamics without being of them in those situations. Sub-question: Can you talk a little bit about the alignment between physicians' ability to compartmentalize and the older idea of "real men" being strong and silent?
posted by MonkeyToes at 9:54 AM on December 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


docpops, I really don't think you realize how bristly your tone is, and how common that tone is amongst dudes who are just on the verge of becoming uncivil.
posted by AFABulous at 9:55 AM on December 4, 2016 [66 favorites]


Some of the negative reactions in this discussion remind me of my own reactions to learning about racism--denial, dismissal, minimization--and then eventually acceptance that racism is structural, that I, as a white person are complicit, and that my ancestors actively benefited from the enslavement and oppression of other humans. It's not fun to contemplate these issues, but I learned that it was more important to end these systems because real people are still suffering physically, socially, and emotionally.

I'm a white woman. I can vividly remember the point in college where one of my instructors pointed out to me some of the unconscious racist beliefs I had. I remember being super stunned at the time. It wasn't presented in an angry fashion, but it wasn't sugar coated either. I do look back on that specific moment as the start of me becoming an intersectional feminist as opposed to a white feminist. I know I screw up on this and I keep on working to become better about examining my unconscious biases and improving my behavior in the world.

Other white people I know can also point to those "a-ha!" moments. I also know men who have had "a-ha!" moments about sexism in society -- the original emotional labor thread here had quite a few of them. I also know white people or men who when faced with those same truths will instead dig in their heels and not change. I'd love to know what accounts for that difference. Self-awareness? Empathy? A sense that one is constantly evolving?

My immediate thought here is that if it was some sort of emotional labor I could perform in order to get people to leave Plato's Patriarchal Cave, then I would. Which probably says more about the omnipresent nature of my expectation that I regulate the emotions of everyone around me than anything else.
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 9:57 AM on December 4, 2016 [17 favorites]


This is Metafilter, not a feminist forum website.

So when people touch on something you disagree with, they're violating the entire premise of Metafilter? No wonder it's so hard to process women's issues here and that people like me dread even coming into these (extremely illuminating and full of wisdom and experience) threads for fear of being told we're just complainy feminists.
posted by mynameisluka at 10:02 AM on December 4, 2016 [63 favorites]


And in the interests of contributing to the thread:

I've been thinking about this article for days. As a woman who survived abuse in a household where our lives literally depended on placating my angry father, and as a woman who has spent years of her life anticipating the desires and emotions of her beloved men and helping them name them, it's hard to even fathom how much time and energy I've spent on this. If I were to do so, I think I'd go insane and have to be institutionalized, or something. But discussions like this make me realize that we can do better, and be better, if we shed light on this.
posted by mynameisluka at 10:04 AM on December 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


This is Metafilter, not a feminist forum website. etc

i see y'all got this whole... thing covered so i'll just share one of my favorite little tumblr posts that i see come up from time to time:
>>> the knowing eye contact women make when men are talking is the purest human connection possible

>> What the fuck does that even mean?

> 30 thousand women* seem to get it

we’re doing it right now
*presumably a reference to the number of notes it had at time of that addition.
posted by twist my arm at 10:30 AM on December 4, 2016 [64 favorites]


This is Metafilter, not a feminist forum website. etc

Why can't it be both?
posted by aclevername at 10:43 AM on December 4, 2016 [13 favorites]


This is Metafilter, not a feminist forum website. etc

It's telling that you think feminist websites would be okay with shutting down a civil conversation where opposing viewpoints are trying to understand eachother*.

*I'll let you in on something: this is not that
posted by FirstMateKate at 11:13 AM on December 4, 2016 [28 favorites]


mynameisluka: Your name is so appropriate for this thread. Read those lyrics with the idea of consequences for women who don't do enough emotional labor in mind. Those consequences are real.
posted by Excommunicated Cardinal at 12:26 PM on December 4, 2016 [8 favorites]


This is Metafilter, not a feminist forum website.

ha, so true. there's the reason it's so hard to take, so much of the time. or were you not complaining?

I have always hated the way in discussions like this, some number of women with very specific sets of life circumstances and experiences gradually slide into saying "we" for all women present and "listen to women" for "listen to those women who agree with me." but just because I hate it doesn't mean I can't see clearly why it happens. and it isn't because feminists love nodding and agreeing with each other, and it isn't because women hate dissenting opinions. it is because when you are attacked and boxed into corners continually, you paper over small differences for the sake of having the strongest alliances you can. It's a defensive strategy and it is not going to go away until there is no longer a constant threat to defend against. trying to get it to go away by being that threat is intensely counterproductive.

it would be really super great if it seemed like it would be productive to express reasonable disagreements with some of the semi-demi-quasi feminist sentiment here, and on metafilter generally. because you're goddamn right, it's not much of a feminist website, even/especially when it thinks it is. but there is an atmosphere of constant siege, where I and (I am only guessing, and I bet) some other women consider engaging intellectually and having serious feminist conversations that involve respectful disagreement and argument and not just sloganeering and parallel recitations of personal experience, with which no one can disagree and which are therefore the safest way to engage when in public (i.e. when men are there with their grumple faces on).

(Ha! There is my little joke, do you like it? the idea that a truthful recounting of a woman's personal experience, as it is not an argument, merely a series of facts, cannot be disagreed with? I think it is hilarious.)

But when you know there are a whole lot of men reading intently along, getting mad and confused and hesitating over their keyboards for the right time to march in and say some goddamn thing that will require everyone to turn as one and fight the real enemy, there doesn't seem like much point. the risk of being construed as agreeing with them is too great and the chance of subtle distinctions surviving the period where everyone "explains" everything to each other over and over again is too low.

p.s. the veneer of objectivity with which you assert that "mansplaining" is an offensive term, rather than saying that you subjectively take offense at it, is exactly what you are complaining about re: that very term. You clearly can see the appeal of pulling some glib rhetoric out of your pocket rather than tediously whisking up a fresh batch of arguments every time a new occasion arises. I prefer to only use idioms I coin myself, which is why I am trying to make "grumpled" happen, but the shortcut through reasoned argument is one you are taking as hard as anyone.
posted by queenofbithynia at 1:03 PM on December 4, 2016 [52 favorites]


The discomfort with distress, and its expression as anger (or as some have been saying here, non-expression, withdrawal and numbness), brought an oldish Ask to mind, in which some men talked about responses to the sight of a woman crying. Another thing that can inspire anger (and distress, withdrawal). Some guys see their woman partner cry, and it just freaks them out. Some will do anything to make it stop. I think some of them feel disgusted by the sight of it. Why - in part (from memory of those answers, and just what I've seen and experienced, over a bunch of years etc), because it's not believed that women's tears could reflect an authentic state of sadness or upset. It's concluded that they're manipulative. Why, maybe because it's incredibly difficult for (some, many) men to access that kind of expression themselves. It just seems implausible to them that it could be sincere. It must be, they conclude, that their partner is trying to get one over on them, with their "feminine wiles" etc. It also seems "out of control" (so, threatening, since the optimal state is being in control, contained). Maybe it reminds them of the kind of "weakness" they were taught to despise in themselves. Net result, crying people are left unbelieved and denied comfort, and both crying and angry (or withdrawn) people end up feeling more alone, confused, mistrustful of each other. No winning for anyone there.
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:17 PM on December 4, 2016 [22 favorites]


(Ah sorry for digression, queenofbithynia, was writing and walking around while you were posting)
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:19 PM on December 4, 2016


Why, maybe because it's incredibly difficult for (some, many) men to access that kind of expression themselves.

I've heard/read this a lot, although it's very contrary to my own personal/familial experience (wherein women expect self-control/self-command of themselves, and practice it, and men do not.) What I see in sentimental male-authored art, especially, but in real life too, is an absolute respect for, bordering on worship of, male emotions and male weeping in particular. Attention must be paid!! as they say in the play. A woman cries, and maybe she broke a nail, maybe it's hormones (which are different from real emotions, mysteriously yet obviously?), maybe she's trying to get something out of you or make you feel guilty. A man cries, and it's the first time since his youth -- it's always the first time, every time! and you know it's really serious. because if it weren't serious, a man wouldn't be crying, because men only cry for serious things.

but anyhow it's the same thing as what you said, inverted: women's tears are cheap and plentiful, therefore worthless; men's are costly and rare, therefore valuable. The alternative would be to believe one of two things: that women, like men, generally cry for reasons, and if they cry a lot, perhaps they are angry or suffering a lot; or: that men cry actually pretty frequently, and our carefully conditioned responses to save their dignity and minister to their wounds at all costs, whether that means pretending it isn't happening or tending to them like children, masks the frequency with which it does happen. because it sure does happen. but then who am I going to believe, masculine cultural mythology or my own eyes
posted by queenofbithynia at 1:29 PM on December 4, 2016 [35 favorites]


Because I'll tell you that in my experience living my whole life as a woman, I have always had to act more carefully around with men so as to avoid upsetting/angering/hurting/offending them in a way I rarely have to do with women to the same degree.

And I, living my entire life as man, have *always* had to act more carefully around women so as to avoid upsetting/angering/hurting/offending them in a way I rarely do with men to the same degree.

Now where does that get us?
posted by tunewell at 1:35 PM on December 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Can you provide some examples, tunewell? I mean, I can make assumptions about what kind of behavior might fly around men but not women, like using gendered slurs or sexual innuendo at work, but I'd hate to tar you with the brush of chauvinism if that's not what you're referring to.
posted by palomar at 1:37 PM on December 4, 2016 [14 favorites]


A lot of it is the "you should just know" syndrome that so many women I know have trotted out. I've been expected to anticipate their emotions and getting it half wrong ends in anger or derision. And no matter how hard one tries, they're not always going to get it right.

Often, not always, what I've experienced is the mirror opposite of some of the points the writer makes in this article- that I should be always acclimating myself to the woman's emotional point of view and almost never vice versa.
posted by tunewell at 1:46 PM on December 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


And I, living my entire life as man, have *always* had to act more carefully around women so as to avoid upsetting/angering/hurting/offending them in a way I rarely do with men to the same degree.

posted by tunewell at 4:35 PM on December 4 [+] [!]


palomar has an excellent question - please do tell what sorts of behaviors you've had to modify in order to placate women. I'm interested to see if it's similar to the ways as outlined in the article - managing emotions due to lack of their self awareness, anticipating their emotions as to be able to fix it before they are triggered, offer up time, space, and emotional work to complete strangers on a daily basis, etc. Because its not just about "being careful", I have to be careful when I'm at work-its natural to have different facets of yourself that fit into certain dynamics. We're talking about very specific, traumatic, and intensive labor here being done by women for men, because of men's lack of emotional intelligence.

And, beyond that, answer another question- When you find yourself that you aren't "careful" around women, what are the ramifications? Have you been fired? Have you faced physical or sexual violence? Exiled from family members? Sabotaged financially? Did you lose an otherwise very close friend? Passed up for a job opportunity? Divorced? Obviously you haven't been murdered. But has the woman you upset then go on to commit a mass shooting?

I believe i'm right when I say that yes, you might have to "be careful", but the work you do is nothing compared to the work expected of women, and the consequences are never as high for men.
posted by FirstMateKate at 1:54 PM on December 4, 2016 [36 favorites]


I can't say this is going on for you personally, tunewell, but in my experience when men reach the "women amirite? they expect us to be mind-readers" point of conflict, it means they've already neglected to do the earlier emotional labor of paying attention and actively sympathizing with the woman in question.

I myself often weigh the relative price of "confront my husband with this thing I'm unhappy about directly" against "keep my feelings to myself and hope they don't build up to some weird resentment." I think it's better and more mature to do the former, but I definitely understand doing the latter. In fact I'm weighing the pros and cons of writing and posting this comment right now, on the off-chance that my husband (also a Mefite) might read it and have his feelings hurt. Is that fair to him? Maybe it isn't, but that's where I'm at: constantly weighing the value of speaking vs. holding it in. It might be common for both genders, but I'll be damned if it isn't nearly universal to women.
posted by daisystomper at 1:59 PM on December 4, 2016 [58 favorites]


Thanks for posting this, this was really illuminating and interesting, especially in light of all the emotional labor chat of the past year and a half or so.

But God Damn it if this thread isn't frustrating. Come on dudes, I'm absolutely sure it's #notallmen, but steering the conversation that way, and dragging in the "women do it to" is not useful here. Why the hell can't we talk about how this is a real phenomenon, it's a great example of how our patriarchal society damages men, and how we can help the dudes that are self aware enough to realize it? (While also acknowledging the damage this does to women, of course)

My own anecdote: I'm a man, and I've been in relationships where I've been the major driver of emotional regulation, and relationships where I've not been. But, I've definitely noticed that any emotional dysregulation I might experience tends to manifest as anger first (and that terrifies me). And I've worked hard to understand that, deconstruct it, and become better. This year, I got myself into therapy, and pretty much immediately noticed that process speed up. And I've noticed that my relationships with men and women who are important to me have gained new emotional depth.

We'd all be better off if every #notallmen post were instead men supporting each other in deconstructing, understanding, and healing this bullshit, or sharing anecdotes related to that.
posted by Zuph at 2:06 PM on December 4, 2016 [48 favorites]


The phrasing of the post is what's interesting to me. Just "making women mad" is the bad thing, without clauses elaborating why. "Making women mad" is just bad and scary, but not for any real reason. Whereas women have reasons like "I didn't want to get beaten or murdered." Maybe it's because making women mad involves more of that painful emotional labor, like having to make those crazy ladies un-mad, am i right fellas???
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 2:07 PM on December 4, 2016 [19 favorites]


A lot of it is the "you should just know" syndrome that so many women I know have trotted out. I've been expected to anticipate their emotions and getting it half wrong ends in anger or derision. And no matter how hard one tries, they're not always going to get it right.

As a man myself, I've found that whenever a man complains about the women in his life doing this - if you bother to just dig a just a teeny bit deeper, you suddenly realize how incredibly unreliable of a narrator the complainee is, because 99% of the time the man has done something plainly out-of-the-norm oblivious that is apparent to everyone around him but somehow not to him. It might be social - like, a family friend is dying of cancer, and he doesn't even bother to make a single call until the late stages. It could be financial - the dude decides to invest the mortgage money in a gaming rig. It could be emotional - the woman is telling a story about how she was harassed at work, and he suggests that he buys her longer skirts. It could be with housework - she takes a week off to visit her parents, and he doesn't bother to do any of the dishes so she comes back to a rotting pile of food on the sink.

Like, the cause for the resentment is rarely ever as mystifying as the man makes it out, and there's this implied layer of learned helplessness and blame on it - this is something the woman is traditionally responsible for! How could he have known? How could he ever get these basic, basic things right? How unreasonable is the woman for expecting that he be able to shoulder a thousandth of the emotional labor she does on a daily basis?
posted by Conspire at 2:28 PM on December 4, 2016 [96 favorites]


I believe i'm right when I say that yes, you might have to "be careful", but the work you do is nothing compared to the work expected of women, and the consequences are never as high for men.

I agree with you. But we're never going to make progress on these issues if the strategy is critiquing men writ large.

Yes, there are certainly more insensitive, emotionally stunted, and violent men in the world. Absolutely. And I support calling those people out. I support doing the work to better connect and communicate openly and honestly with the opposite sex. I'm firmly on the side of figuring out a way to be equally sensitive and equally in tune. I've been in relationships where we put in the work to do just that- whether it's as simple as talking things through or going to therapy or finding an activity in which we feel truly connected.

But I don't respond well to painting men with such a wide brush. Telling us "this is how men ARE." doesn't fly. Because it's the same thing that men do to women unfairly. No this is not "how men are". This is how some men are. I've seen women do some of the most cruel and unusual things to other women- emotionally, even physically. This isn't how woman are. This is how some women are. How would you respond to an article entitled, "Women are Over Sensitive"? That would be a terrible and inaccurate thing to say. And we'd hear about it.

And yes, I know we're not talking about that. But we're also not talking about the monolith *MEN*. But time and again I read these articles and the term "men" is thrown around as if we are all one mind. And it needs to be said (yes- EVERY TIME) that this isn't all men. Because you know what- you aren't convincing me to be on your side when you paint us in those terms.

And you can call me overly sensitive and whatever you like, but I guarantee you that progress is made by winning the hearts and minds of those we wish to change, not by pointing out what dick's men are in general.

With that I'll leave it alone. Thanks for letting me share my thoughts.
posted by tunewell at 2:28 PM on December 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


And it needs to be said (yes- EVERY TIME) that this isn't all men.

No. It really, really doesn't.
posted by triggerfinger at 2:37 PM on December 4, 2016 [79 favorites]


Fine. This is how SOME MEN are.

For instance, one way that I, a woman, am forced to cater to the delicacy of men's feelings is by never, ever, ever forgetting for one damn second that if I just say "men", and don't carefully couch my language in gentler terms by adding "some" or "not all" as a modifier, I'll inevitably be corrected by a man with hurt feelings because he assumes the word "men" means all men everywhere all the time forever.
posted by palomar at 2:39 PM on December 4, 2016 [138 favorites]


Not that this thread needed another example of exactly what the article was talking about, but...
posted by palomar at 2:41 PM on December 4, 2016 [40 favorites]


What strategy for changing your heart and mind personally would you like to see, tunewell? You've effectively tried to make this thread all about managing YOUR emotions in order to get you to believe women when we say "men [in general, NOT universally, no one ever claimed that in this thread] tend to push emotional labor onto women, often to the detriment of women's physical and emotional health". You've demonstrated the very thing we're talking about: requiring a burden of sympathy from a bunch of women, in order to make you an ally instead of an opponent.
posted by daisystomper at 2:47 PM on December 4, 2016 [40 favorites]


I can describe every part of the labour that goes into a conversation with the most difficult man in my life, my father, in painstaking detail. The labour starts before we're even face to face. It's the barometer of everyone around him, too.

I sometimes wonder if men who describe themselves as unworthy of being painted in descriptive terms ever do the same thing.
posted by E. Whitehall at 2:48 PM on December 4, 2016 [9 favorites]


tried to make this thread all about managing YOUR emotions

Nope. This isn't about managing my emotions. This is a comment I've made among a wealth of other, very intelligent and worthwhile comments, to say that generalities are a bad idea. That's all.

I know you might want to make it into an act of derailment but it's simply not. I agree with much of what the writer and the commenters say on the subject of insensitive men. I'm adding my .02.

I see people critiquing the wording or specific parts of articles on here -all- the time. How is this different?

One may get weary of being called on using generalities, but just because it refers to men and not African American or Muslims or any number of groups, does not mean it should not be addressed when it occurs.
posted by tunewell at 2:53 PM on December 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's different because the "be nicer to me or I won't be your ally" tactic is gross and generally not a good look on anyone.
posted by palomar at 2:55 PM on December 4, 2016 [63 favorites]


I see people critiquing the wording or specific parts of articles on here -all- the time. How is this different?

Because it's reinforcing patriarchal norms that say only men's feelings are important and valid, and women have to cater to them, which is also the exact thing the article was protesting.
posted by lazuli at 2:56 PM on December 4, 2016 [16 favorites]


Never said be nicer to me, Palomar, I said please stop generalizing because I believe it does little for the cause.

I respectfully say we move on and go back to the actual struggle women have with emotionally difficult men instead of continuing this debate.
posted by tunewell at 2:57 PM on December 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


So the "progress is made by winning hearts and minds, not pointing out what dicks men are" was meant to communicate what, exactly? Was that not a way to say be nicer to me?
posted by palomar at 3:00 PM on December 4, 2016 [19 favorites]


You literally said

Because you know what- you aren't convincing me to be on your side when you paint us in those terms

How is that not centering your feelings? How is that not an implicit declaration that you don't actually give much of a shit? How is that not trying to use the withdrawal of your vaunted approval as a cudgel to perform emotional labour?

Dude, we can read.
posted by E. Whitehall at 3:00 PM on December 4, 2016 [73 favorites]


Dude? You're kind of being an emotionally difficult man right here in-thread.
posted by palomar at 3:00 PM on December 4, 2016 [44 favorites]


If you care about women only inasmuch as they are nice to you and not hurting your feelings you do not care about women at all.
posted by jeather at 3:01 PM on December 4, 2016 [57 favorites]


E. Whitehall- I'll msg directly my answer so we can stop this thread of discussion on here and get back to other thoughts on the article.
posted by tunewell at 3:01 PM on December 4, 2016


And if you, specific male-identified person, read that you above as a specific and not a general, you should consider what about it felt so personal.
posted by jeather at 3:02 PM on December 4, 2016 [10 favorites]


[A couple comments removed. tunewell, whatever you are aiming to do, what you're actually achieving here is basically making a mess by insisting on re-arguing something that's gone around a whole bunch of times in past discussions and at least a couple times in this thread. Give this thread a rest now.]
posted by cortex at 3:06 PM on December 4, 2016 [9 favorites]


This is how some men are.
But we don't have any idea which ones of you are like this and the stakes are (obviously) very high.

Like, here's an example for you. My friend had this random ex-boyfriend type, a guy who wouldn't tell anyone they were dating when they were dating, contact her on LinkedIn of all places recently. "Hey, so sorry our relationship turned out to be such a garbage fire," he said. They had "dated" six years ago. Six years ago.

And she asked me, "Should I tell him to go to hell? What do I do with this?" And the only logical response is to do nothing. "I'd love to ask him if he's kidding, or what this is about," she said. "But he'd take that as an opening to give a bit of an explanation. And then if I didn't reply, or I didn't say the right thing back, he'd be like 'Well why are you being such a bitch?' And I don't need to be called a bitch again today." Earlier in the day, some guy called her a bitch in public. He was angry that she held him up at the gas station for approximately 45 seconds because he was behind her in line when the clerk gave her the wrong change.

This LinkedIn guy? What might he do? Keep messaging her, maybe? Find her phone number and start calling? Start showing up where she lives or works? More likely than not he won't do a thing at all. We all hope he won't do a thing at all. But my friend is walking with her keys held between her fingers just in case. Not like this is new; she always does this. Many women do.

I remember a conversation I had once with a guy I was dating. "Why don't you like being in parking garages at night?" he asked. "Because I am afraid of being assaulted," I explained. "You have a lot of anxiety, don't you," he said. "You can't live your life in fear of that kind of stuff." And I just looked at him and thought to myself, "Oh, to be a man." He doesn't have to think about those things. He just does not have to think about them. Many women, and I'll venture to say most women, at least most women that I've spoken to about this type of thing, most of them have to think about this, we do think about it. It's part of being a woman in this society. Just like managing the emotions of men is part of being a woman in this society.

Not all men, not all men, just some men. Some women, too, sure. I'll grant that. But more often it is men, more often the threat of physical violence is much more present in these interactions, more often are we told we owe something, that we must pay out in emotion or apology or time. Much more often. Just the other day someone here on this site said certain women were entitled if they didn't want to wear makeup. Thousands and thousands and thousands of micro and macro aggressions. Thousands. Thousands. And it's never going to stop, because "not all men" and because "watch your tone" and because "women too."
posted by sockermom at 3:10 PM on December 4, 2016 [77 favorites]


" And it needs to be said (yes- EVERY TIME) that this isn't all men."

The original article is pretty clear that it isn't about all men but rather "men who don’t understand their entire emotional range" who are "prone to anger because they can’t meet their own needs" not men as a whole, while expressing concern about the apparent prevalence of the problem.

So since this article is saying Not All Men, what exactly are you asking for? Surely not every comment in this discussion needs to contain a Not All Men postscript?
posted by Secret Sparrow at 3:12 PM on December 4, 2016 [28 favorites]


re: the contention that women expect men to be mindreaders, I have often observed two very serious roots of this phenomenon, and they are the reason I do not consider jokes about this concept to be particularly funny.

One: An experience I seem to share with every woman I have ever known is this: when asked, I state my preference over a fairly insignificant issue. For the next FIVE YEARS, I restate that preference multiple times in the hearing of the man who originally, and repeatedly, asked my preference.

The hurtfulness of the ongoing question is cumulative. The tenth time, I can still shrug it off. By five years (maybe longer), getting asked the question makes me want to leave the room and cry. He has asked, and I have answered, over and over and over. And yet he has never listened to my answer in a way that allows him to remember it the next time the issue arises. The 673rd time the question is asked, if I am having a bad day, or I have felt disrespected in other ways, I will probably blow up. How many times will it take for him to hear me? How many times will it take for him to pay attention? Why is this adult person who is capable of driving a car and managing a complicated career incapable of remembering a minor fact that we have discussed over and over and over because he can’t ever retain my answer? This is not unique to men who have memory problems. It is often painful precisely because the question itself is so incredibly meaningless— I despise myself for caring about something so small, but if this tiny thing is a reminder that he cannot seem to hear a word I say, then it has the power to crush me.

Two: Women and girls are taught from an EXTREMELY young age that asking for what we want is a violation of social boundaries. Girls who want to play in the wrong ways (loud, energetic) are told they are being unladylike. Girls who want to be alone are not allowed to make that choice as often as boys.

Women are frequently killed for expressing their preferences regarding the men they want to spend time with (#youoksis). Women who speak about sexual pleasure are treated as “edgy” and “raunchy”. Women are scolded for not asking for raises, but when they do ask for raises, their success rate is dramatically lower than for men. Women bosses who directly tell men what to do are driven out of organizations, while women bosses who cajole work out of their employees are more well-liked.

Do you see what I’m getting at? I have very clear memories, from preschool on, of being taught that I was not allowed to talk about what I wanted without facing very real repercussions. This was even true for things like “what snack do you want”, let alone much much larger issues like “how do I want my loved ones to interact with me and make me feel valued”. What many women learn is how to ask for things without having to ask for those things, because Asking Is Wrong. Asking Is Rude. Asking Is Violence. (I am not exaggerating. An enormous amount of men react to women stating their preferences as if they are under attack. Ever read an advice column where a woman has told her partner about the type of sex she preferred, and as a result the relationship has ended, or he is no longer speaking to her, or he is refusing to share a bedroom any longer?)

So women drop hints. Women, who have typically suffered for being direct, try to communicate indirectly.

This intersects with the subject of the FPP, because most women are so attuned to men and their emotions and their moods (out of necessity) that they assume there must be a little bit of reciprocity. Not a lot! But some. If I can hear the tone of his voice and decide tonight just isn’t the night to mention [X], if I can hear the genuine interest in his voice when he sees something on tv and says “huh”, if I can sense his reluctance to end a conversation and ask if anything else is on his mind until he feels safe enough to talk about something he would never bring up on his own, then is it so crazy to think that he might have noticed things I care about? Requests I’ve made? Conversations I’ve tried to have?

In my experience: usually. I’ve known men who say “she just blew up out of nowhere!” about topics that I have explicitly heard their wives/partners mention more than once in public, topics that I know they have discussed in private as well.

Don’t like being asked to be a mindreader? Hey, me neither! But when women do obfuscate their preferences, the mysterious secret code that the woman in question is using is probably her equivalent of shouting and extreme forthrightness, after a lifetime of being told (explicitly and implicitly) that she has no right to ask for what she wants.

(That said, I have a friend who is stuck in this awful pattern with her husband, where he does the same hurtful thing like a compulsion, and her explicit openness is no help at all—

[he does the thing]
Friend: Please don’t do this. It hurts me.
Friend’s Husband: What thing? I didn’t do that thing.

[he does the thing]
Friend: Please stop doing this thing. It hurts me.
FH: I was exhausted from work, cut me some slack.

[he does the thing]
Friend: Please stop doing this thing. It hurts me.
FH: You take everything the wrong way.

[he does the thing]
Friend: Please don’t do this. It hurts me.
FH: I think you’re exaggerating.

[he does the thing]
Friend: Please don’t do this. It hurts me.
FH: You never used to be such a negative person.

[he does the thing]
Friend: Please don’t do this. It hurts me.
FH: I’m sorry.

[he does the thing]
Friend: FOR FUCK’S SAKE, HOW MANY TIMES HAVE WE TALKED ABOUT THIS? STOP DOING THE THING! YOU KNOW IT HURTS ME!
FH: Women just blow up out of nowhere!!!!!!!!!!!)
posted by a fiendish thingy at 3:18 PM on December 4, 2016 [147 favorites]


say that generalities are a bad idea.

Which is a generality. And therefore saying that is logically inconsistent if we're being pedantic.

Generalities are damned useful otherwise people would have to spend their time qualifying every single statement with often redundant information that everyone was assuming anyway.

In conversation, impossible never really means 0.00000000000% of the time, all never means 100.00000000% of things.

Humans deal with this intuitively, even if they don't explicitly say they do.

Now, if we are being pedantic, saying "men" here does not mean every single male identified human on the planet, but it most certainly means "a large quantity of men, including and especially those who feel the need to demand that someone explicitly say that there might be some men who do not fit that generality." I think the majority of people understand this, at least implicitly. I do not think it is an unreasonable thing to expect someone to be able to pick up on this.

If you know that the other party does not mean 100.000000% of all men and yet you insist they explicitly say so every time, then you should stop and think exactly why you are demanding people give you unnecessary and redundant information.

I've been socialized as a man and I know the reason. It's a dominance game. It's not helping the conversation. If people judge you harshly for it, it is not stereotyping you, it is judging for your actions. And rightly so: it's a shitty thing to do.
posted by Zalzidrax at 3:20 PM on December 4, 2016 [54 favorites]


If you know that the other party does not mean 100.000000% of all men and yet you insist they explicitly say so every time, then you should stop and think exactly why you are demanding people give you unnecessary and redundant information.

Seriously. Imagine if every discussion of cats in scanners had ongoing litigation of this kind.

Mefite: Cats are so graceful!
Other Mefite: Not all cats! I have a cat who is clumsy, are you telling me that cat doesn't exist? I saw a show where a cat fell in a garbage can. Are you saying that was impossible? It is really hard to respect your perspective when you are passing around these trite stereotypes about cats. I knew a cat ten years ago who tripped over his own tail. Here's a link to a story about that cat. Are you saying that cat wasn't a true cat? It's really disappointing to see what passes for feline discussion these days. Don't you feel ashamed when you meet cats who don't fit into your binary worldview? I can't believe the mods are letting this stand. This open avowal of cat prejudice is frankly embarrassing.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 3:27 PM on December 4, 2016 [36 favorites]


I'd like to state for the record that while I'm keeping my inbox open, any abusive memail will be passed right onto the mods.
posted by E. Whitehall at 3:30 PM on December 4, 2016 [10 favorites]


Jesus Christ. Dudes just keep running into this thread determined to prove the point of the article, ignoring the previous piles of shit where the last guy did the same thing. Like a herd of deranged patriarchal Wile E. Coyotes, past every goddamn warning sign and right over the cliff, every time.

Except the effect is, of course, that women don't get to have the conversation they need to.

Ladies: I have designed my life so I don't have to deal with this shit. I would love to get tips from other women who have done the same. Memail me. (With the same caveat as E. Whitehalls; man I wish I'd done that the last couple of times angry men needed to message me because of a MeFi thread.)
posted by schadenfrau at 3:39 PM on December 4, 2016 [44 favorites]


[tunewell, take a day off.]
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:44 PM on December 4, 2016 [15 favorites]


I would be so sad if anyone managed to run this to memail instead of the thread. Because I really don't want to believe that it's just not possible to have these discussions without men forcing them to silence. I would be so sad if I didn't get to read the collective brilliance and wisdom of the women who have learned so much. I would be so sad if I didn't get to hold space for and affirm the women who just need to be told they're enough and seen and heard.
posted by stoneweaver at 3:58 PM on December 4, 2016 [33 favorites]


Friend: FOR FUCK’S SAKE, HOW MANY TIMES HAVE WE TALKED ABOUT THIS? STOP DOING THE THING! YOU KNOW IT HURTS ME!

Yeah. Like: okay, I'm a domestic abuse survivor. Common triggers of domestic abuse - questions, for example, that domestic abusers ask on the regular - trigger me pretty badly. Stuff like "where are you going? What were you doing? Why didn't you pick up my phone call? Why are you wearing that? Who will be there? Who was that on the phone? What did he say?"

I have yet to have a relationship where any man took me seriously about those and just stopped asking those questions, due to my clearly expressed issues with the above. Not even one. I have had a lot of relationships with guys who were like "But I'm not an abuser! You should just let me do that because you KNOW I'm not an abuser! Just get over it!"

Meanwhile, those VERY SAME GUYS were the same ones I had to allude to any problems with in the most oblique, I'm-not-criticizing-you language - DESPITE THE FACT that they never gave me any clear guidance around having trauma around criticism or anything, they just blew up about it and would make life shitty for a while and then need me to make them feel better about it.
posted by corb at 3:59 PM on December 4, 2016 [34 favorites]


schadenfrau: Ladies: I have designed my life so I don't have to deal with this shit. I would love to get tips from other women who have done the same. Memail me.

I've done the same thing - designed my life to minimize emotional labor, as much as possible - and would love to hear how other women do it. I'd like to see those tips show up right here in this thread, where they will benefit as many women as possible. Maybe it will help discourage the #notallmen derails, too.

Women, how do you minimize emotional labor in your life, in a world that expects you to do it everywhere you go, and in which you face consequences when you don't? What has worked best for you? Please share your stories and tips here, so the rest of us can learn!
posted by velvet winter at 4:03 PM on December 4, 2016 [11 favorites]


Looking nerdy and extremely non-femme helps. I wish I were joking.
posted by tchemgrrl at 4:07 PM on December 4, 2016 [22 favorites]


I just read stoneweaver's incredibly thoughtful recent comment, and felt moved to add my support both to everyone who has spoken up, and to the many women who, like me, have been reading this thread and taking things to heart and maybe feeling a little too intimidated to say anything. Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of the brilliant and wise women in this thread who have persisted in sharing their thoughts, experiences, and emotions despite the attempts of a vocal few to derail the conversation. Your contributions are acknowledged and appreciated, more than you may ever know.
posted by the thought-fox at 4:09 PM on December 4, 2016 [23 favorites]


Yeah honestly, some of my strategies / tactics may not be applicable to everyone.

- be a lesbian
- be self employed or own a business where you don't have to deal with anyone you don't want to. Took me a couple of tries and some luck to find something that ticked off these boxes.
- eventually draw a hard line in the sand about the amount of labor you're willing to do and boundary violations you're willing to tolerate from the men still in your life and then stick to it. This might end up with no more men in your life.
- avoid the public pursuit of interests and hobbies that are dominated by men or male culture. This one still REALLY pisses me off, but I simply do not have the spoons for it, so there are some things that are just way out of my spoon price range.

Sometime in the future I'm going to have to deal with male dominated spaces again, and I'm honestly curious to see how I react to bullshit now, in real time. I know how I used to deal with it -- all the different ways I had of laughing something off, or making myself heard, or whatever -- but I don't think I'll be able to do those things anymore, and I won't want to. And I genuinely a little worried about the result.

So, yeah...my tips don't seem all that helpful. I kind of want to hear from women who haven't been able to or didn't want to go so thoroughly no-significant-contact.
posted by schadenfrau at 4:16 PM on December 4, 2016 [16 favorites]


Oh, I forgot:

- get yourself a boyish haircut and only wear boob-intensive clothing in lady spaces.
- don't wear make up
- have the lesbian gait
- basically don't telegraph yourself to men as a woman in any way, shape, or form

This would kind of suck if it wasn't pretty consistent with your natural expression though--in its own way, it's a way of managing men's emotions for them.

Lolsob
posted by schadenfrau at 4:19 PM on December 4, 2016 [22 favorites]


Tall and athletic (read: somewhat jacked) helps too. I don't know quite how that translates to someone with a smaller frame, although this previous post makes me think it can be done.

I make a point of making friends and knowing the names of the staff of restaurants, bars and other social spaces I frequent. This gives me someone to turn to in an emergency.

I walk purposefully everywhere.

I no longer fear the term bitch. If that's the label a woman gets for speaking her mind and enforcing her boundaries, then I embrace it as accurate.

I have also embraced crone-hood. My goal is a completely fulfilling life while single. I am absolutely upfront with men I do date about who and what I am.
posted by susiswimmer at 4:29 PM on December 4, 2016 [15 favorites]


Women, how do you minimize emotional labor

With my family, it's by expecting them to be direct in their requests and not to make me guess.

My 9-y.-o. will issue a wistful statement in my general direction--like "You know what would be good? Pancakes."--and I tell her to be direct, and just ask for what she wants. I tell her that she might get "no" as an answer, but that asking is more effective than implying something at me.

My husband's thing is "Do you want to [do a chore/help with his project/come see whatever article or video he wants to show me]?" And I have taken to saying, "No, I do not want to [do a chore, etc.], I want to do what I am doing right now. If I wanted to be doing that other thing, I'd be doing it right now." What's amazing to me is that my literal response takes him by surprise every time. Then he figures it out and says "I need help with [chore]. Can you take a break and help me?"

When I ask my son a question and he responds by saying "Maybe," I tell him that's not helpful, and that I'd actually like his opinion so I can make my plans accordingly.

Small steps.

But that dinner thing? I never want dinner. If you ask me what I want for dinner, I am going to say "A chocolate milkshake." Because you asked me what I want and that is what I want. What I do NOT want is to be responsible for guessing what everyone is in the mood for, and will eat, and then for taking charge of getting it done, because nobody else knows what they want for dinner, and screw it, milkshakes for all forever.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:33 PM on December 4, 2016 [99 favorites]


Schadenfrau, is the lesbian gait where a lady person actually takes up space while she walks? If so, I check that box too.

And certainly no intent to offend- I just had never heard the term before.
posted by susiswimmer at 4:34 PM on December 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


Oh man, that might be a good way of describing it. It's swinging your shoulders rather than your hips, I think. Ellen Page in the opening credits of Juno is the only example I can think of off the top of my head.
posted by schadenfrau at 5:04 PM on December 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


eventually draw a hard line in the sand about the amount of labor you're willing to do and boundary violations you're willing to tolerate from the men still in your life and then stick to it. This might end up with no more men in your life.

Yes, this. I don't feel I have to deal with this kind of shit as much in my personal life anymore because I just don't tolerate it. I still have male friends in my life because I know lots of good guys and while I still have to put in some small degree of emotional labor with them, it's an amount that is acceptable to me, given that I like them and want them in my life. And if I ever need to draw the line with them or be blunt for whatever reason, I know they can take it. Some of my comfort with this has come from getting older and not really giving a shit anymore. I mean, I'm fairly certain that there are plenty of guys who meet me who think I'm a super-bitch because I'm not overly smiley, chatty and indulgent towards them, but I really don't care anymore.

The main place I still have to deal with this stuff is at work, which is why when we discuss these things, I focus on my job so much. I have to deal with it there because I don't have much of a choice, which sucks. I'm doing it less than I used to, but I still pay dearly if I'm not sufficiently [whatever they feel women should be]. So I still have to walk on eggshells there because I work with some petulant, childish men who fucking melt down if I should so much as suggest they might be wrong about something (without first spending five minutes sugarcoating it every which way and gently leading them to the conclusion that they're wrong in such a way that they thing they figured it out on their own). I'm not kidding when I say I deal with this kind of thing on a weekly basis.

So, I'm still trying to deal with this at work and it's really frustrating and upsetting and disheartening to me. But it makes me that much more happy that I've learned to set these boundaries in my personal life in such a way that I filter out the shitty guys pretty much immediately and the men that are left are affirming and good and bring a lot of joy to my life.
posted by triggerfinger at 5:15 PM on December 4, 2016 [9 favorites]


Pretty much everything triggerfinger just said. It's gotten better for me at work, my most recent direct boss appears to have at least enough emotional intelligence to not get into shouting matches at work, but it's still everpresent.
posted by XtinaS at 5:19 PM on December 4, 2016


MonkeyToes I think you might secretly be me. OMG. I wish I could give you all of today's favorites.
posted by Andrhia at 5:24 PM on December 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


I saw upthread there were some requests for examples in a medical context, but I've seen these in the last few weeks: Guy needs surgery but doesn't feel like staying in hospital, leaves. Doctors call his mum to convince him to come back in. Older guy living alone is very unwell and his family doctor calls his ex wife, who was subject to domestic violence, to return to take care of him, which she does.
posted by quercus23 at 5:48 PM on December 4, 2016 [23 favorites]


I've got a day off work and want to write. And I want to hear more how-I-minimize-EL tips and stories, too. So here's one of my own.

Even as a teenager it was obvious to me that I was expected to do much more emotional labor than men were, and I resented it. My feminist consciousness was not yet raised enough to name this problem accurately, but still, I knew the game was stacked against my kind, and I resisted this unfair burden in whatever ways were available to me. Back then, my main strategy was to skip classes whenever I could get away with it, so that I could spend less time dealing with people, and more time at home alone. I always spent the playing-hooky days doing what I really wanted to do: reading, drawing, writing, dancing, and listening to music. I loved those days of creative solitude. Fortunately, home was a relatively safe space for me, and a space where I could be alone if I skipped classes, since my folks were at work all day and my brother was at school.

I wish we lived in a world where everyone who wanted this kind of creative solitude could have it. It saved my sanity, especially in the days when I was being mercilessly bullied at school for being a bookish nerd girl who didn't care about things like makeup and fashion. (Later I switched schools, fortunately, and then the bullying ended.)

When I graduated from high school and was expected to get out in the "real world" and support myself, I was terrified. I had never wanted a job. I hated the fast-food jobs I'd had while I was a student. I hated the way I was expected to suffer with a smile while I was being paid shit wages and harassed by men. I hated how drained I was, physically and emotionally, when I finished my shifts. I wanted a life devoted to home, hearth, and the arts. I wanted to write. I loved keeping house. And I wanted to do these things on my own terms, not those of an employer. What to do?

My boyfriend at the time (this was the 1980s) was planning to join the Air Force. He wanted to marry me, and was willing to support me. And I was in love. So I got married, and negotiated a plan with my then-husband wherein I would work part-time, go to college eventually, and hopefully expand the options available to me in the future.

Unpaid labor within marriage seemed like the least oppressive of the choices available to me at the time. I mean, on some level I knew I'd be expected to handle all the household stuff and keep on pleasing him in order to stay married, and therefore ensure that I would continue to have access to things I needed, such as access to decent health care. And I didn't like the way health insurance was tied to marriage or employers. Marriage still seemed better than most of the alternatives, though, because it was the only option that seemed to offer some room for developing my creative life on my own terms. Because while he was at work, I could spend some of the day writing, guilt-free! Or so I thought. Better than a wage labor job I hate that leaves me too exhausted to be creative at all, right?

But of course, as Emma Lindsay wrote in her article:
If you need to rely on a male income for your livelihood, you have to make sure your presence improves the lived experience of your husband. Otherwise, he might kick you to the curb and you’d be fucked. Even now, with a continued disparity in earning potential, women will often manage male emotions so that a woman can be assured of material support by providing emotional value to her partner. Often, this goes beyond the conscious recognition of the men who receive it.
Indeed. But I was good at that emotion-managing stuff; I'd had a lifetime of training in it, and was also intellectually curious enough about intimate relationship dynamics that I did a lot of self-driven reading about it, too. So surely I'd be able to handle this marriage thing well enough, right?

Two divorces and thirty years later, I'm amused at my youthful naivete. But things haven't changed much, because the work of artists and homemakers is still trivialized and poorly paid (if paid at all), and every able-bodied adult is expected to support themselves somehow, lest they become a financial burden to others. Which systemically coercive patriarchal economic arrangement would you like, women? You can "choose" to be economically bound by marriage (if that option is even available to you), or you can "choose" to be economically bound by employment. Neither of those things available to you? Well, then, your third "choice" is poverty. True self-determination is not on the menu for women, unless you can join a lesbian separatist permaculture community or something. And good luck with that, especially if you don't happen to be a lesbian.

As Laurie Penny has written, a person desperate for cash cannot meaningfully consent to work. She cannot meaningfully consent to marriage, either, for that matter.

So. Yeah. I do the best I can as a feminist writer and Pagan artist stuck in a patriarchal, white supremacist, ecocidal, genocidal, homophobic, classist, ableist, Christian-centric culture that expects emotional labor from women everywhere, all the time. I try to preserve as much agency, free time, and self-determination as possible, and to help other women do the same. Self-employment, singlehood, living alone, and being a gothy Pagan hermit nun has worked best for me so far.
posted by velvet winter at 6:10 PM on December 4, 2016 [36 favorites]


I tried to list out some "lower emotional labor tricks" but they involved things like "hiding in the bathroom and claiming you're taking a bath" and "make a bunch of medical appointments where you have the relaxation of only having to care about your own shit" and suddenly it was far too depressing to go on.
posted by corb at 6:13 PM on December 4, 2016 [39 favorites]


Work: I've mostly worked with women, and that's mostly been great (as far as work relationships go, at least). Friends: My closest friends are women and gay men; I don't notice myself doing an inordinate or imbalanced amount of EL. The male partners of female friends I currently hang out with are all fairly emotionally deft, no issues at this point. I've known most of them forever. (Though there's been some awkwardness in the past, with a different group... A single woman in group of couples isn't always welcome, depending on different variables, I guess I'll just say that. I discovered it was most effective (least awkward) to focus my attention exclusively on women in the group, and be aloof, barely cordial with the men. I still found myself invited out less and less often, and basically never see them anymore. Which in a way, is a shame, in that I would have liked the company; in another way, good riddance. I do think social exclusion is a cost that other single women can find themselves paying, just because some men [it is just some, I think] don't know how to behave in mixed company when there's alcohol around.) I haven't had an emotionally intimate relationship with a man in a few years. Partly because I just haven't wanted to, exactly because of the EL involved; partly because I got burned pretty badly in my last relationship, and like the author, am cagey AF about it happening again. I'm open to a relationship at this point, but I'd be fine croning it for life if I don't meet someone suitably compatible and EL-equipped.

Family of origin, tons of EL. Tons. It's necessary, though. (I've got brothers and an older parent with some major needs, and we have to work together. Or, I'm unwilling for anyone to pay the cost of it not working out.) Masculinity is at the heart of the pain my brothers feel in relationship to this parent, and tbh, they're not super well-poised to deal with it on their own. There's EL with them (talking them down, talking them up, just listening), and most of the EL with parent. Anger comes up a lot, with my brothers. Little of it's directed at me, though, and I sympathize with what's driving it. I suppose I've become fairly skilled at defusing it and calming them down, helping to reframe things etc., and they definitely give me explicit credit for that, so... I don't know. Even when there are issues between us, and that anger is redirected at me, the drive behind it is so crystal clear to me that I just don't feel baited or threatened, or even really engaged. I mostly feel sad for everyone involved (parent most of all), and I do find that hard. I guess my MO here is detachment and compartmentalization.
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:36 PM on December 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


My no 1 trick is being deaf as fuck, to be honest. A few rounds of "what? What? Whaaaat?" and most give up, get to the point, or launch into invective. Polite conversation is rude at volume. Bids for emotional labour are ridiculous at volume.
posted by E. Whitehall at 6:47 PM on December 4, 2016 [20 favorites]


My reducing-emotional-labor trick, now that I'm a mom, is that I talk to adults acting like children as if they are children. "Use your words." "If you can't calm down, you're going to have to leave the room until you can control yourself." "I understand you're disappointed, but your behavior right now is ruining everyone's day." "Nobody is going to talk to you while you're shouting."

It reduces emotional labor because they either stop behaving like a jerk or stop hanging out with me and look, either way ...

It's not exactly on purpose, it's just that when you spend so much time reflexively coaching small children on appropriate emotional expressions, it tends to jump out before you catch yourself, and after I did it once or twice I realized it was a lot less stressful to just TELL someone that their behavior was unacceptable than to try to jolly them out of it and soothe and calm them. So now I just let the reflex-momming fly.

(This is people who are overreacting or acting out inappropriately, of course, not people who are, like, falling apart from stress or just had their dog die or are correctly furious about something terrible, I save my soothing and support for people who are in actual distress and not just behaving like gigantic toddlers in public because nobody ever told them not to.)

I had a college roommate who used to interrupt to announce to men who were obliviously monologuing, "I'm bored of this topic now. Let's talk about something else." People are so shocked that they usually laugh nervously and comply. Let me tell you, college bars are a lot more amusing when someone keeps non-chalantly telling self-important dudes that they're boring.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:57 PM on December 4, 2016 [77 favorites]


Also I'm not a pleasant person. Most of the time I'm an empathy of a nail person, and it really, really helps to be so empathy-shallow that reactions like I'm being cruel and heartless are as fun as they're upsetting.

But it's terrible general advice!
posted by E. Whitehall at 7:03 PM on December 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've been contemplating the question, and it's not really anything I would actually advise. The last five years have been full of so much death and grief and pain that I just don't have the energy for managing anyone's emotions. I am completely out of fucks about basically everything. I am the All The Time No Bullshit Zone. I don't have the energy for prevarication and masks anymore. The authenticity of deep mourning is almost magical. Because it's not that the repercussions don't come, I just don't care. Because, what can you do to me that I haven't already survived?

So, uh, maybe the tip is a foolhardiness boarding on suicidal? That's depressing.
posted by stoneweaver at 7:21 PM on December 4, 2016 [30 favorites]


"make a bunch of medical appointments where you have the relaxation of only having to care about your own shit"

When I did newborn hearing screenings, the nurses told me that first time moms wanted to get home ASAP, and moms with more kids at home "enjoyed the vacation."

Women, how do you minimize emotional labor

My family provided a bulwark against a lot of external BS. Then I had a crappy year when we moved, I got boobs overnight (before anyone else in class), and I'm weird...it was unpleasant. After that I just naturally took the path of not giving a fuck because I realized that it doesn't matter what you do, sometimes you just can't win. So I just don't do unreciprocated (or uncompensated rather, I do what I need to do to stay employed) emotional labor. If I can't win, I'm not going to play the game.

People who don't want to expend effort and also don't expect any stay pleasant acquaintances. That's fine with me, and can be fun. People who expect me to perform emotional labour without reciprocating* don't get very far, and eventually go away when they realize I won't cooperate.

* Unreciprocated doesn't mean the books are always perfectly balanced. If someone is going through a tough time I do what I can to be there for them. But if shit hits the fan for me and they can't be bothered to even try? They move back to acquaintances and generally wonder away.
posted by ghost phoneme at 7:24 PM on December 4, 2016 [11 favorites]


And just to be clear, I'm lucky that I've been able to be a bit merceny about emotional labor. Healthy loving family growing up that didn't reinforce gender norms or unhealthy boundaries, my personality can be caustic, no abusive partners, no unusually toxic work places where I had to stay for an extended period or starve.
posted by ghost phoneme at 7:40 PM on December 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


One of my biggest reducing-EL tactics at the moment is to challenge my own thought processes around it. Quite often, I find myself metaphorically halfway to the door carrying someone else's heavy baggage before thinking, wait, why exactly did I agree that this was mine to pick up in the first place? So it's an early-stage intervention that won't help much if you're already aware of the emotional labour you're doing, but for me it's proving a very useful exercise indeed.

Scenario 1: On bus, with my child who is talking with me about something at a normal volume for human conversation. Man sat behind us is making a point of sighing increasingly loudly.
Default reaction: Translate 'sighing' to 'annoyed/upset', feel responsibility to ameliorate that, consider apologising to man and/or telling child to stop talking.
More considered reaction: Eh, no. If you want me to do something, ask me. (And in this case I still won't.)

Scenario 2: In crowded pub waiting to get served at bar. Man standing next to me with his back to me, steps backwards without looking, barges me off balance. Does not look around. Thirty seconds later, does the same thing again.
Default reaction: Okay, clearly I should get out of his way. He is twice my size and wants to be where I am standing.
More considered reaction: Stay standing, brace self, lean slightly towards him. Next time he steps backwards he rebounds off my shoulder. Turns around, starts gesturing with look of shock and saying "Why did you do that? Why did you DO that?"
Default reaction to that: apologetic explanation
More considered reaction to that: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I can't stop (A CERTAIN PERCENTAGE OF, #NOTALL) men feeling like they're entitled to the space I'm occupying, but I can definitely do more to question my own complicity in backing them up.
posted by Catseye at 2:59 AM on December 5, 2016 [37 favorites]


I am really, really glad this thread turned around -- thank you, stoneweaver.

I'm getting the sense that workplaces might be the most intractable problem. I have no idea what to do about this. Someone else said above that you can't opt out of the consequences of not doing this stuff, and that's the problem--the consequences need to be addressed, at the root.

Good Christ, it shouldn't be so rare to see workplaces that actually abide by a professional code of conduct.
posted by schadenfrau at 6:13 AM on December 5, 2016 [18 favorites]


Default reaction: Translate 'sighing' to 'annoyed/upset', feel responsibility to ameliorate that, consider apologising to man and/or telling child to stop talking.

Yes, exactly this: Decoupling translation (this is a valuable skill!) and the feeling of being responsible for action when the person who actually has the problem won't address it directly and expects you to handle it. Won't work in all situations, but this dynamic is worth being aware of.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:12 AM on December 5, 2016 [15 favorites]


It's swinging your shoulders rather than your hips, I think.

I don't know (or care!) what this looks like on me but it is probably something like this. What it feels like is broadening my shoulders from the sternum outward, taking long strides, and literally thinking: This is the space I take up and I don't need to make it any smaller for you.
posted by clavicle at 7:22 AM on December 5, 2016 [9 favorites]


What it feels like is broadening my shoulders from the sternum outward, taking long strides, and literally thinking: This is the space I take up and I don't need to make it any smaller for you.

Yes! Heart up, shoulders back, chest broad. It also looks like confidence. Plus, there's lots of indications that posture and physical movement is a precursor to mood, so if you do this...eventually you start to feel it, too.

Maybe not coincidentally, it can sometimes attract male attention of the "you're breaking the rules" variety, but hey, I'm a woman skilled at altering my presentation and presence so as to maximize my physical safety, so I just do that when the spidey sense goes off. But the default of walking around in the world like you deserve to be there is pretty awesome.
posted by schadenfrau at 7:35 AM on December 5, 2016 [6 favorites]


Catching up on the thread a bit late...

Women, how do you minimize emotional labor in your life, in a world that expects you to do it everywhere you go, and in which you face consequences when you don't? What has worked best for you? Please share your stories and tips here, so the rest of us can learn!

As with other women, looking pretty butch, being queer/dating exclusively non-men, and deliberately filtering my social networks to skew as non-male as possible are all strategies I explicitly use. In my field, it's possible and even encouraged to choose job positions based on the temperament of your immediate supervisor, so while in undergraduate I had an excellent female supervisor and mentor, when I came to grad school I gambled on a male supervisor who showed many signs of being an effective ally and support. I've since put up with a lot of emotional management I wasn't expecting to have to do, and while he tries and is a significantly better supervisor than many of my friends deal with, I would put much more effort into working under a female supervisor if at all possible next time. I'm very tired about the tiny thoughtless microaggressions and expectations about my emotional presentation that my (feminist, extremely well-meaning) male boss unconsciously expects out of me.

I invest all my energy into making friendships with other women first, men a very distant second. I have one close male friend right now who I can absolutely trust to manage his own emotional responses, and I've had others in the past, but he put a lot of effort into making friends with me right off the bat when we were both TAs together as first years. There's one other male colleague right now who I'm eyeing up and thinking of cultivating; I'm pretty sure he's sitting back and thinking about how much of himself to share with the rest of the lab, too. (Neither of these men are white.) I haven't stopped doing emotional labor at all--I just have gotten very careful about only investing it in people who are willing to pay the labor back.

I choose my expressions of open anger and irritation very carefully at work. I make sure to have very strong relationships with other women and, if possible, the backup of senior men at least in theory before I make my stand, and then I wait for a case when a dude tries to make me do something that is clearly ridiculous before I make an open expression of blunt irritation. This usually startles the unreasonable dude and makes him wary of trying to walk all over me in the future, sometimes makes other unreasonable dudes wary of trying to walk all over me, and sends a pretty clear message to everyone in the room to not fuck with me. Because I usually have by this point made it clear to multiple people at work that I am happy to respond well to criticism that is reasonable, as well as volunteering to help other women and reasonable dudes as much as I can, I usually have the social support I need to make sure I don't lose too much status as a result of being openly angry.

When I need to maneuver someone into doing their job, I find a way to get the rules clarified ahead of time in public, and then I publicly ask whether the rules apply to the shirker (invariably male) and feign confusion. That usually protects me from too much blowback and gets the work done. It's not a way of avoiding emotional labor, but it is a way of not doing extra work and also giving very few fucks.

When I'm out in public, I cultivate a confident resting bitchface, and as schadenfrau points out I make a point of swaggering and taking up space. When dudes try to walk into me on the street, I sometimes make a point of tightening my shoulder and quickening my stride to say I'm not getting out of your way.

Family of origin is also my Achilles heel, though.
posted by sciatrix at 7:54 AM on December 5, 2016 [20 favorites]


This thread is enlightening because it gives me a hypothesis about a thing I've started to observe. Specifically, I've started to notice that when I'm in in-person professional settings where fewer than 20% of the people there are women, I leave those settings feeling incredibly drained. I'm pretty experienced, poised, and respected, but this happens even when I'm nominally one of the people in charge of the setting. Now that I think about this issue, I wonder if the problem is that I tend to be unconsciously playing the emotional heatsink in these environments. Smoothing over ruffled feathers, making sure to give room for everyone to express themselves, laughing at the dumb jokes as a way to move conversation along. Online, or on the phone, this is not that bad, but in-person it is just exhausting.

What makes this more difficult is that I'm a woman who works in technical fields, and the more senior I become, the fewer female peers I find, the more likely I am to be stuck in this hellish heatsink position. Do I turn down these opportunities because they are draining, or suck it up to further my career, and potentially use that to open the door for more women? At this point I'm just trying to be selective about who I work with and where I work, to get in environments with better representation of women. When women complain about a lack of women in their field or their workplace, I can tell you that even for people like myself who have experienced fortunately little harassment or outright issues, there's still this enervating experience. And it really, really sucks.
posted by ch1x0r at 8:05 AM on December 5, 2016 [21 favorites]


Here is a thing that occurs to me in the context of the several women here saying "yeah, I minimize this shit by not dating/marrying dudes ever, sorry if this isn't accessible to you, straight women!"

Well. I'm... *makes irritable faces* why should straight women only have the option to build families around men? What is stopping any given woman regardless of her actual sexuality deciding to build a family unit primarily with other women, and (if she wants to) decouple sex from family? Like, this may be a totally naive question, coming from someone who IDs as asexual anyway and prefers the company of other women, but--why does sexual orientation have to dictate who you build your lives with, given the costs that women in relationships with men keep going over here? It blows being queer and not having access to male privilege even by proxy in some ways--notably the salary stuff and the economic insecurity--but the emotional labor equity and the ability to rely on your partner to have your back on the same level that you can expect from other women in general* makes it absolutely worth it for me. As with everything, sometimes it can be useful to weigh trade-offs between a number of options.

Political lesbianism has a long and complicated history, and honestly a pretty distasteful one. Primarily, though, that's from straight (or, anyway, women who are exclusively sexually interested in men) women muddying the waters for women who are interested in a sexual/romantic relationship rather than a more general desire to form a family unit. (Also, having read the writing of a bunch of political lesbians, they get pretty gross about what it means to want particular things.) It might be more useful to revive the concept instead of Boston marriages, with women who may or may not actually have been in a sexual/romantic relationship nevertheless dedicating their lives to each other and forming a family unit.

Hell, I don't know. Straight women, is this something that strikes you as completely out to lunch? I just, I keep listening to straight friends of mine bemoaning their fates and thinking "you know, there's got to be a better way to find household options for you guys..."

*obv NotAllWomen, here, there are totally queer women who will exploit other women, abusive queer women, etc etc etc. But jesus, for me is it so much easier to identify potential partners or people to build households with who will back me up among women than it is to identify them among men, and I keep seeing all you straight women complaining about this...
posted by sciatrix at 8:56 AM on December 5, 2016 [13 favorites]


I'm getting the sense that workplaces might be the most intractable problem. I have no idea what to do about this. Someone else said above that you can't opt out of the consequences of not doing this stuff, and that's the problem--the consequences need to be addressed, at the root.

One possibility is unconditional basic income for everyone - something I've been advocating for 20+ years, and which is now finally gaining ground. This would make it easier for women (and everyone else) to opt out of employment entirely, and also give us greater power to choose which employers we will work for.
posted by velvet winter at 8:57 AM on December 5, 2016 [17 favorites]


why should straight women only have the option to build families around men? What is stopping any given woman regardless of her actual sexuality deciding to build a family unit primarily with other women, and (if she wants to) decouple sex from family

Because, essentially, the culture and legal structure just isn't there yet.

So like - let me say if there was a way to enter straight family only effectively-marriage with another woman, with full legal benefits and me being able to get my sexual-romantic urges tended at like, random encounters, I would have done it. And I say this as a married woman. I love my husband, but having a husband is effectively like having another kid, with less emotional awareness.

But entering into it feels kind of like it has all the dangers of just living with a guy without being married to him. Let's say you have kids - well whose kids are they if you split up? Ultimately yours, with no child support or assistance. What happens if she falls in love with someone and wants to start a for-real relationship with them? You're out in the cold. What if you bought a house together? What if you are depending on that income? What if you moved for this?

And even assuming you live together as intended for forty years. What happens when your partner dies? Who inherits the interest in that house?
posted by corb at 9:14 AM on December 5, 2016 [14 favorites]


To that, I'd point out that they generally don't ask you if you're fucking if you turn up at city Hall and ask for a marriage license, and that there are legally married people who are totally happy to negotiate sleeping with people outside that marriage in an above board way. These aren't really new problems, corb; there's lots of us dealing with them already.

I know these things from personal experience. The cost to doing something like that is that you then have to throw your lot in with queer people, with everything that entails, because realistically that's how you'd be perceived. But whether that cost outweighs that benefit... That's a personal decision.
posted by sciatrix at 9:20 AM on December 5, 2016 [10 favorites]


It might be more useful to revive the concept instead of Boston marriages, with women who may or may not actually have been in a sexual/romantic relationship nevertheless dedicating their lives to each other and forming a family unit.

I'd be interested in this if I could find a way to make it work. (I identify as bi/queer, but there are some complicated spiritual reasons why I am abstaining from dating anyone of any gender right now, so in my case at least, there's more to the story than avoidance of un-reciprocated emotional labor by avoiding dating men, important though that is.)

But it isn't easy to find someone who is compatible in this way, and also interested in that kind of commitment. It might even be more difficult than finding a compatible romantic partner. Especially if you happen to be a Pagan nun and hermit.

But there's hope! I happen to know two women who are platonic life partners. Both identify as queer Pagan nuns who are married to their respective deities, and after years of living together they've recently decided to marry so that one of them will be covered by the other's employer-based health insurance (an option only available to spouses, not domestic partners.) Much as I enjoy living alone, I admit I sometimes envy them.
posted by velvet winter at 9:28 AM on December 5, 2016 [11 favorites]


(I totally have a scifi-setting in my head where all the wives and widows unionize the job of mothering, and demand wages from their semi-colonial-frontier government. But. Whenever you say "idk why women don't just" I guarantee you there is a reason.)

I wanna note that talking about the article and early-thread is about a specific kind of emotional labor, which is regulating emotions. We seem to be sliding a bit.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 9:47 AM on December 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


What happens when your partner dies? Who inherits the interest in that house?

The person/people in the will? This is a solved problem. There are not homeless children and partners of gay/unmarried people roaming the streets in packs because someone died and the house evaporated. (Yes, occasionally there are problems, they are generally caused by not having a will. It's approximately as easy to do as a courthouse marriage.)
posted by Lyn Never at 9:56 AM on December 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


I found this very interesting piece a couple of months ago about an author visiting an convent of Roman Catholic* consecrated women religious (i.e. women whom most people term nuns). One of the points she and her participants examined is the notion of living community away from the male gaze.

*Don't get me wrong--I have a whole bunch of issues with the RCC, and these women aren't completely free of men making decisions about their lives; however, convents are one of a few places in our society where large groups of women live their day-to-day lives together and being supportive of one another, as a family and putting in equitable emotional labor to make that feasible.

Married To God: An Intimate Interview With A Catholic Nun
As an adult and a feminist, my nun fascination has shifted—somewhat. I now find myself wondering what it’s like to live without men, without their physical and emotional presence taking up space and dominating conversations. I’m attracted to the self-sufficiency of convent life, where women carry out even the most difficult and physically demanding jobs on their own. And, finally, the idea of rejecting the male gaze—by which I mean living in a community where women do not dress or behave in a way that’s intended to entice or appease men—seems equally foreign, impossible, and exciting to me.[...]

There’s something almost radical about refusing to follow the current model we have of what a relationship or family should look like. Is it possible that convents could teach women something about how to be with each other? [...]

I sat there and thought about what Sister Bernadette had said about the joy of convent life. It was joyful, not so much because of what the sisters did, but in how they felt about each other. They treated community as if it was a verb; they acted community, if that makes sense. They had an ease and lightness in their interactions that I’m not sure I’d ever seen in a group of women before.
I--a fairly set-in-my-ways atheist--recently visited a convent and found it extremely interesting how the Sisters seemed to relate to one another: They seemed very pleased and joyful to be sharing their lives together in a common purpose. I think it is a radical choice to forego society's typical expression of womanhood--whether that be living in a convent, dressing/acting in a way that is soley for pleasing one's self, not being married, not being a parent, parenting in a specific way, or whatever other path one chooses.

As my contact in the convent expressed: We can be fruitful outside the roles of wife, mother, or unpaid emotional laborer.
posted by Excommunicated Cardinal at 9:56 AM on December 5, 2016 [21 favorites]


To that, I'd point out that they generally don't ask you if you're fucking if you turn up at city Hall and ask for a marriage license, and that there are legally married people who are totally happy to negotiate sleeping with people outside that marriage in an above board way. These aren't really new problems, corb; there's lots of us dealing with them already.

You're totally, totally right, and I meant in no way to dismiss people who are making that work in their own lives. But part of my I guess skeptical concern about the idea is from seeing how that kind of stuff has tended to work out in my greater friend group - specifically, with my poly friends who are having a really, really hard time making those legal frameworks work for them. I'm just not sure that the current legal structures and protections really support this kind of living, because it's not always supporting people right now.
posted by corb at 10:02 AM on December 5, 2016 [7 favorites]


Women, how do you minimize emotional labor in your life, in a world that expects you to do it everywhere you go, and in which you face consequences when you don't? What has worked best for you? Please share your stories and tips here, so the rest of us can learn!

Straight woman in a hetero marriage of 22 years.

I grew up with a father who was/is/will always be the prime example of the type of man the article was about. Plus he was emotionally and psychologically abusive! I learned, from a very young age, to walk on eggshells and modulate every single part of my existence in order to escape his wrath. That, in turn, primed me to be in relationships with men just like my dad. Not nearly as bad, but still. So I dated a lot of assholes before I met my husband.

His parents were...unusual for their time. His mom worked full-time and his dad would *gasp* cook and clean when he got home from work before his wife. My mother-in-law is probably on the spectrum and so never really learned any tact; she basically says whatever she's thinking and feeling and it was a revelation to me when I met her. You mean, you can tell your husband that you're angry at him because XYZ, and he's not going to throw things at you and rage around the house for HOURS?? It was incredible, really.

So my husband grew up expecting people to say what they mean and to express their needs and desires outright. I didn't. I grew up expecting to never really know what people needed or wanted, and I grew up thinking that if you disagreed with your partner, you were in for hell. I was inconsolable after our first disagreement (not even a fight!) because I thought that was it, we were breaking up. He was like, "Dude. We're fine. We disagreed, we talked about it, we're fine. We're not breaking up."

Once I was able to break out of my childhood conditioning, it didn't take long for me to just stop giving any fucks at all about What Men Want. Including my dad. I have been fortunate to work mostly with women; I've never had a male boss, and the women I have worked with have been, on the whole, lovely and mature and we Get Shit Done.

I expect my children to be honest and forthright with me, as I am with them. We've raised our children (son and daughter) to be self-sufficient in the emotional labor department. For example, at about age 8/9, I started expecting them to make their own playdates. They were to ask me when I was free to give them a ride but then they had to make the phone call and arrange everything. They started making their own doctor's appointments when they were teenagers.

My husband and I rely on each other for emotional support. But either of us is free, at any time for any reason, to say, "I can't take anything else on right now. Unless this is an emergency, I need you to find someone else to talk about this with, or you can bring it to me in a couple days." We also "allow" each other to retreat to solitude when it's needed. This weekend I had a really big work event (the one thing I'm totally 100% in charge of) and I was super stressed out. So on Saturday morning before the evening event, I told him, "I'm checking out mentally so I can preserve my sanity for the event," and he was like, "Okay! Here's a cup of tea, go do whatever," and I did.

I really think I need to tell my mother-in-law thank you. Again.

As for other situations, I don't know, maybe I'm just oblivious? I don't really recall any times when I've had to face consequences for not doing emotional labor for strangers. I have been incredibly lucky that I've only experienced mild sexual assault (a guy slapped my ass once; I punched him and walked away). I do know that I am more aware of my surroundings than the men in my life are.
posted by cooker girl at 10:59 AM on December 5, 2016 [39 favorites]


Whenever I read about men and emotions, I wonder how much of it is due to the fact that, until relatively recently, men were sometimes expected or even required to serve as soldiers. Being a supportive, nurturing partner who does his share of emotional labour is an entirely different skill set from being an effective member of an army.

(I am a 56 year old male, and I am grateful that I have never been asked to fight in a war. I would have been a lousy soldier.)
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 11:02 AM on December 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Reading this, and all of these comments made me so sad and angry for people that have been forced to deal with this. Myself included. My ex had so many expectations for me in regards making up for his lack of basic emotional intelligence.

If he got upset, I was expected to drop everything and calm him down, whether I was the 'cause' or not. I was also expected to know what would set him off, and avoid that, but if I couldn't, go back to dropping everything and calming him down. Also I was blamed for not knowing what would make him mad. Apparently being asked if he liked his Christmas presents was a criminal offense. I walked on eggshells, all the time, every day, just waiting to be yelled at or lashed out at or called names or have things thrown at me.

I tried, and I don't know why I did. I tried to have basic conversations with him on talking about how he was feeling and what was in his head when the anger boiled up. I tried really hard, even though it wasn't something I was equipped to do, and couldn't have ever really gotten anywhere with.

I got so tired of the constant blame and being told I was a bad person and I wasn't patient enough and I was a bad partner for not being able to read his mind and head off his outbursts.

I got so tired of it that one day I called him up and said, "I can't be with you anymore," and then suddenly he was all about emotions and begging me to reconsider but I was done, with all of it. And I felt so free.
posted by rachaelfaith at 11:31 AM on December 5, 2016 [15 favorites]


I'm really thankful for the women in this thread having this conversation on the blue rather than memail, despite all the dudes dead set on proving Lewis' Law.

I've been thinking about cotton dress sock's question upthread about how to convince men to give up the privilege of having women do our emotional work for us. I can't speak for anyone else, but for me it comes in part from being Latino and having some sense of how exhausting it must be for women to deal with men because having to deal with white people is fucking exhausting, too. Your comments are helping me recognize that every woman I encounter, by default, puts in a truly staggering amount of labor towards dealing with my emotions. Like, I'm sitting here full-on mind-blown tripping out about the fact that everyone doesn't walk swinging their shoulders, and that seems like relatively minor thing compared to some of the other issues brought up here. Your comments strengthen my resolve to do better. Thank you.
posted by joedan at 11:44 AM on December 5, 2016 [24 favorites]


I have been developing skills for Not Taking On Emotional Labor. I have a stable marriage of 15 years (with an attached daughter who recently turned 18) and a daughter from a prior 6+ year relationship (that I've recently realized I walked out of because of EL issues--as in, he was happy with the relationship as it was; I was not; we discussed this and he said "No, I'm good here." A few months later, I left.).

Husband has some disabilities that are gradually getting worse - he played hard in his 20s and has the scars to prove it, and the ancillary costs are catching up to him. (When you're 25 and have metal pins in your hips and knees, it's a minor thing--more, it's a setback you have conquered. When you're in your late 50s, it means an extra half-hour of ouchiness every morning. And there's arthritis and a few other complications.)

EL avoidance:
* I try not to respond to statements. If he asks my opinion, I answer; if he opens a "conversation" with "hey, I saw this thing on the news," I say "hm" and that's it. I avoid anything resembling, "please tell me more" unless I'm in a good headspace to listen to half an hour of mansplaining. (Sometimes I am. I like his lectures; they're part of why I married him. But I've stopped telling myself that they're conversations.)

* MonkeyToes' milkshakes comment is spot on. I have a set of about 3 go-to responses for "what should we do for dinner," and they are all based on "what involves the least effort for me." This is my one unshakeable refuge, hard-won after over a decade of arguments about meals: I do not fucking care what we are having for dinner. If I'm preparing it, it'll be what's easy for me; usually grilled cheese & frozen veggies all around. If someone else is cooking (much more common; husband likes cooking and elder daughter is picking it up), my preference is not-spicy; if it's too spicy for me, I'll make myself a grilled cheese sandwich instead. (This attitude dismays my husband to no end.)

* I'm the one with the full-time job; he's stay-at-home childcare. This gives me a solid wedge for saying "nope, can't deal with that kid-thing right now; exhausted." Not everyone is going to have that leverage, though.

* MOST IMPORTANT: I tell myself when something is emotional labor. If I'm having to smile and nod to avoid making an argument worse; if I have to make soothing noises because he's upset at what That Asshole did; if I have to figure out what housework needs to be done first so that it doesn't bother him... I repeat in my head, this is not fair. This is me shouldering a burden that should be his. I do this because [I love him/ it's easier than arguing/ we can't afford a maid and he has injuries/ I know he won't eat if I don't bring him dinner and then he'll be in a worse mood later/ smiling and saying 'of course' gets this over with in twenty seconds instead of twenty minutes/ etc.].

I try not to gaslight myself. I sometimes reevaluate the whole "why am I putting up with this?" question, and so far, the benefits are worth it. That evaluation includes several harsh and practical realizations, but so far, it has indeed been worth it. But I tell myself, over and over, when I am doing EL for him that I wouldn't expect to do for a female friend.

I have tried, as I'm sure many other women have, using his conversational gambits on him: interrupting the same way he does, forgetting details I'm not interested in, raising my voice for emphasis the way he does, and so on. As most other women discover, those don't work - at least, they don't result in either better discussions nor him realizing, "hey, that's a shitty thing to do." So instead, I opt out of a lot of the conversations: Don't respond with interest; avoid responding to statements at all; answer questions flatly without lead-ins to more.

Oh, and sometimes I hate myself for doing these things, and consider whether I'm a failure as a wife and mother. I put that in the "more EL I shouldn't have to do" column.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:51 AM on December 5, 2016 [14 favorites]


I "simply" refuse to take on more than my fair share of emotional labor. I draw a line in the sand and I do not cross it. If someone tries to be passive aggressive, I will physically remove myself from the situation and/or ignore them (e.g. on the bus). I have been told I'm unfeminine (despite being petite and femme) and combative and it has not always made me friends. I don't really care, since I don't care for friendships/relationships where I have to do an unfair amount of work.

And I do believe that emotional intelligence is rare in men. In fact, it's so rare that when I found one with emotional intelligence, I married him.

But we STILL had arguments like:

Me: I'm really upset about X!
Him: Why didn't you bring up X sooner?
Me: I did, previously at this time, this time, and this time.
Him: Oh. I didn't think you were serious/really upset.

We seem to not have these arguments anymore. I'm not sure if it's because I've been saying those things in a way that is more obvious or if he's been taking me at my word more. I suspect it's a combination of both.

Due to personal history, I am quite sensitive to the moods of people around me, but I make a conscious choice to let them be upset rather than preemptively placating them. This means if my husband seems upset, I will ask, "Is everything okay?" If he says yes, I go on as normal, even if he seems "off" to me. If he says no, I'll ask him if there's anything I can do. If it's something reasonable (for a partner to do), then I'll do it. But I assume my husband is an adult, who is able to use his words, and who is honest with me about what he needs. I'm not going to second-guess what he says, trying to figure out if there's something he may or may not want me to do, that he decided he didn't want to tell me. That's a waste of my time and effort and I feel is quite disrespectful to him.

(In fact, I treat all adults this way, which has ruffled some feathers. But again, I feel that's on them, not me.)

Also, I'm the main/sole breadwinner. It's something we discussed and agreed to do, that my contribution to the family enterprise is financial and his is EL/housework. We both put in effort to be good partners (and soon, parents), but if I'm emotionally done, I get to ask him to coddle me, because that's our explicit agreement. (Which, yes, we're open to re-negotiating if/when things change. But in the meanwhile, it works for us.)

Oh, and like MonkeyToes, if someone asks me a question, I assume I'm allowed to answer freely. "Would you like to mow the lawn?" "No, I'd prefer to take a nap." On the other hand, I also still need practice to stop saying things like, "Pancakes sound good for dinner." (If that doesn't get me a response, I do usually ask my husband, "What do you think about pancakes for dinner?" To which he's allowed to say yes, no, or offer some other suggestion.)
posted by ethidda at 12:28 PM on December 5, 2016 [15 favorites]


I missed this discussion as it was unfolding, so my apologies if I'm veering things back into derail-y territory, but this:

And it needs to be said (yes- EVERY TIME) that this isn't all men.

is a terrible, terrible thing to leave dangling there midthread, so I'ma address this from a different male perspective.

Every time you, as a hypothetical dude, barge into a conversation like this and #notallmen it, what you're doing is twofold. First, you're trying to divert attention from the underlying gender dynamics of the problem being described, in a way that's likely to let you dig in your heels and stubbornly refuse to acknowledge that the problem exists. Secondly, and even more awfully, you're asking for a dispensation from the rest of the people who were talking when you barged in. "Yes MOST men are terrible," you say, "but not ALL of them, and certainly not ME." Except you've sad it with that casual up-tone at the end of the sentence? That makes it sound like an question? Because you're actually fishing for someone to reassure you that no, of course YOU'RE not one of those Bad Men, you're doing great work and we're all proud of you.

Which is exactly the kind of emotional regulation that the original article is talking about. Dropping a #notallmen into the conversation is literally you demonstrating that you not only don't understand the premise of the article, but that you're tone-deaf enough to expect women to manage your emotions for you, in a thread about how shitty it is that women have to do that.

Sometimes people are allowed to paint with a broad brush. If they're punching up, who cares? If you know you're not one of the responsible parties, then great! Maybe you're one of the men who's quietly trying to make the world a better place. If your first reaction is "well it can't be ALL men who do that, or else I'd be lumped in, and that can't be right," then well, maybe you need to ruminate on that for a bit.
posted by Mayor West at 12:29 PM on December 5, 2016 [63 favorites]


EL at work-wise, I have been told that I can be a little "blunt" with people when leading meetings. In other words, I fail to hold hands. I don't smile a lot. (and that's really not fair, I make jokes, I am polite, I have never yelled at anyone in a meeting and would never. What they mean is I don't kiss asses).

What's funny to me is that this is not a conscious thing, it's age. I used to want to be thought of as cute and helpful and sweet but my face is no longer capable of doing that stuff without tremendous effort. Because my younger face looked more cute and helpful and sweet than I actually was. Also I wanted to please people more then than I do now.

My face is more reflective of who I am now, so people pick up on my frustration a little sooner. And it sometimes bothers them. I'm pretty sure that without a personality transplant, there's not a damn thing I can do about that, though.

I have a sneaking suspicion that what bothers some men about women getting older is not our wrinkles or gray hair but our being too tired/done to pander to them.
posted by emjaybee at 12:42 PM on December 5, 2016 [58 favorites]


Is this the place where I tell everyone that I just bought bostonmarriages.com
posted by schadenfrau at 12:51 PM on December 5, 2016 [41 favorites]


I have a sneaking suspicion that what bothers some men about women getting older is not our wrinkles or gray hair but our being too tired/done to pander to them.

Oh holy shit yes. I have actually heard men say -- and look at it each other with knowing eye contact as they say it! -- that younger women are just "nicer."

No, they just haven't figured out they don't have to put up with your shit yet. But don't worry, we're getting to them.
posted by schadenfrau at 12:52 PM on December 5, 2016 [65 favorites]


(ALSO also, I don't mean to be universally negative. I actually really appreciate all the men who have shown up in this thread to be supportive and generally just good dudes. It does give one hope.)
posted by schadenfrau at 12:53 PM on December 5, 2016 [18 favorites]


Revelation! My best friend used to get alot of shit at her job because she didn't bother with EL. She's in medical records and if she needs a doctor to sign something or she needs information from another department, she will ask professionally and politely. And she constantly got complaints to her boss that she was rude. Luckily, her boss was awesome and knew that she wasn't (friend thinks it's because her boss is the same way and gets the same feedback).

My friend even recognized it too. That she would be called rude just because she wasn't extra nice.
posted by LizBoBiz at 1:20 PM on December 5, 2016 [12 favorites]


Me: I'm really upset about X!
Him: Why didn't you bring up X sooner?
Me: I did, previously at this time, this time, and this time.
Him: Oh. I didn't think you were serious/really upset.


This is the thing that makes me want to claw my own face off.

-Oh, I didn't think you were serious.
-Oh, you haven't talked about it since so I decided you didn't really mean it.
-Oh, I assumed you were just having a bad day.
-Oh, come on, you know I don't really mean it.
-Oh, please, you know I like to joke around.
-Oh, I was just really distracted.
-Oh, you know I never pay attention when I'm eating/[other verb]-ing.
-Oh, I thought you were exaggerating for effect.

What amazing is that, for allegedly not actually paying attention, the alibis for not considering X thing to matter are always so specific, and always indicate that he was paying extremely close attention! AND YET STILL WILL NOT CHANGE BEHAVIOR SURROUNDING X.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 1:31 PM on December 5, 2016 [25 favorites]


The hurtfulness of the ongoing question is cumulative. The tenth time, I can still shrug it off. By five years (maybe longer), getting asked the question makes me want to leave the room and cry. He has asked, and I have answered, over and over and over. And yet he has never listened to my answer in a way that allows him to remember it the next time the issue arises. The 673rd time the question is asked, if I am having a bad day, or I have felt disrespected in other ways, I will probably blow up. How many times will it take for him to hear me? How many times will it take for him to pay attention? Why is this adult person who is capable of driving a car and managing a complicated career incapable of remembering a minor fact that we have discussed over and over and over because he can’t ever retain my answer? This is not unique to men who have memory problems. It is often painful precisely because the question itself is so incredibly meaningless— I despise myself for caring about something so small, but if this tiny thing is a reminder that he cannot seem to hear a word I say, then it has the power to crush me.

Holy shit, yes. My ex was surprised every time - EVERY TIME - when we talked about what we liked in bed. I had to beg him, every time, to do what I wanted, and he was always super shocked about it. We literally had the same conversation 5 times.

We only didn't have it more because I just went along with whatever he wanted most of the time because it was less irritating.
posted by chainsofreedom at 2:56 PM on December 5, 2016 [11 favorites]


And I do believe that emotional intelligence is rare in men.

Yup. That's why I don't have any male friends. I got spoiled when I was young and didn't realize just how lucky I was to be part of a group of guys who really talked to each other, didn't say shitty things about women, didn't watch sports on tv and treated their girlfriends well. I had that from the time I was 13 until we were all about 30 and scattered away from DC.

I have no hope of ever having that again and I will not conform to fit in. If it's not that I don't want it.

I don't hit on women. Never did and at this point I think it would upset my son if I were to start dating. Women pick up on that and I think that has a lot to do with why I'm living platonically with two single moms now. It started as an emergency when the company all of us worked for went under owing us and they were freaking out. They'd known me since they were teenagers. We've added some space since then and they don't feel like they are squatting at my place.

I got severely injured in September and they were willing to wipe my ass and I realized how fucked they'd be if I'd died. Gotta fix that. I'd want them to administer the trust and take care of my son.

I don't think I do more than my share of the EL but that my share is larger because I'm 23 years older than they are if that makes any sense? I'm definitely not the boss and I like not having to be. The kids are within 4 years of each other and get along. It's pretty cool.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 3:19 PM on December 5, 2016 [9 favorites]


Whenever I read about men and emotions, I wonder how much of it is due to the fact that, until relatively recently, men were sometimes expected or even required to serve as soldiers. Being a supportive, nurturing partner who does his share of emotional labour is an entirely different skill set from being an effective member of an army.


That's kind of feeble buddy. The army didn't turn me into an asshole. There were two platoons of women in my basic training company. Combat didn't turn me into somebody who couldn't manage their own feelings. Most of those guys were terribly undereducated. I got promoted faster than they did and let me tell you, a good chunk of being an NCO is EL. The parents call you because their son stopped writing home and you have to talk to them and they tell you why they are not going home for xmas and you wind up taking them home with you cause what they told you is so fucked.

I left when I got married because a dead dad is not a dad. Corb might have something to add.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 5:41 PM on December 5, 2016 [36 favorites]


I just got back from being talked over by my father, again, so it's pretty fresh, and watching the conversation happen while I participated in it was sort of interesting, bearing this thread in mind, because the angles of emotional intersects were so clear. I don't think he had any idea how carefully and closely I was managing him. I don't think he'd recognise any of it as something someone did even if I did bring it up, because for him that just happens. It just happens that he gets his favourite chair in his favourite spot. It just happens that he had his plates and cutlery arranged exactly how he likes them best. It just happens that he always, always gets to talk at length about himself first for a good half-hour before he asks me anything about what I think or what I've done or where I've been.

It just happens that I know the likely ways to disagree with him and when, which cadences to use, which careful phrases, that are most likely to earn me interruptions and mansplaining instead of outright table-banging temper or sulking, and it just happens that if I prime him by telling him I love him, butter him up in several different ways -- "oh, I love that!" to a boring idea, or "I love the garden!", or "I love you, Daddy", praising him over the course of an hour, naturally and smoothly, I might have earned enough emotional flexibility from him to put an arm around my shoulders for a few seconds when I leave.

Fuck, that's depressing.

I don't see him very often. When I do, I always wish that I could be honest, just once, and ask him what I did this weekend. Ask him to unbend enough to see me as a person outside of his sphere and just ... take a guess. But I don't, because I know he doesn't know and pointing it out would make me not a nice girl, and as far as he is concerned that is the worst. I am so preemptively tired just thinking about how much work I'd have to do to butter him back up again after that, how much anger I would have to absorb and regurgitate in pretty little sanitised pieces of self-esteem wrapped in apologies until I've been nice enough to matter again.

I don't know where I'm going with this. I'm just sad.
posted by E. Whitehall at 5:57 PM on December 5, 2016 [30 favorites]


one part about this essay that struck me was the author's emphasis on the importance of regular activities for emotional balance. I grew up as a cis-straight male in a religious family with an abusive father, and I inherited a lot of dysfunctional patterns around suppressing and channeling emotions in toxic ways. As I grew older, it fell to my friends to have to point out that I needed to work on myself and learn to talk about my feelings, and that was good, but I never got into the habit of going to a therapist or engaging in something like yoga. It just wasn't something that I felt like I had to do.

I've had four major relationships where, in retrospect, I realized that each of my partners had done some work to carry my emotional baton a little further and help me breakdown my martyrdom complexes, my suppression tendencies, and my emotional obliviousness. I also had to go through different years of being consciously, specifically, single so that I could sit with my own shit and learn to self-regulate. Now, I feel like I am better and healthier, and my wife regularly expresses her appreciation for me as a genuine ally and as a source of real two-way emotional support.

But then we also had this moment last weekend where I put on The Incredibles for her, because she had not yet seen it. While watching it was a fun experience, in talking about afterwards, she made this comment about how she thought it was surprisingly violent for a children's cartoon. For some reason, this made me upset, like, how could she accuse this film of being violent when there are so many more cartoons that have been far worse. Surely she's just being naive. Surely, she doesn't know what she's talking about. Surely ... oh shit, I'm doing it again.

And, yeah, I'm chiming in here to point out that a lot of us guys who've had our little feminist awakenings might feel like patting ourselves on the back for getting the importance of emotional labor. We feel good when we're able to be vulnerable and talk about our needs, but it's not like some form of levelling up where once you get to the next level you can just bask in the glory of your wokenness -- you can't do it because the toxic programming is still kind of embedded and it can still emerge when you get complacent. The work doesn't stop. The work might get a little easier, but it has to be constant and it has to be regular, and you always have to be paying attention to yourself.
posted by bl1nk at 8:21 PM on December 5, 2016 [37 favorites]


Stuff that's working-ish: in the wake of the EL thread, and particularly in the past 6 months, I started initiating more frank, matter of fact conversations with my husband and my parents about emotions/communication. The EL of interacting with my (loving, feminist) parents is off the charts because everyone in my family of origin is stupid anxious and introverted and bad at communicating by phone without a clear sense of the perfect, ideal time to call, so time between last phone call drifts longer and longer until I feel guilty and weird, or my dad messages me by email or text or FB and obliquely asks about when I'm working (spoiler: I am a science grad student, I work many and unpredictable hours, I have told them this repeatedly). This last time I talked to my folks I flat-out told them I could not be the only one in the family to initiate phone calls, and that even though my life is more hectic than theirs they should just try to call and see what happens instead of waiting and hoping for the exact perfect time. Which, y'know, is what I do. Imperfectly and at increasing emotional cost, because these people raised me to think this is a big deal, but fuck that, I love them dearly but I refuse to get suckered into this guess culture bullshit in perpetuity for the rest of our shared time on this earth.

So we'll see how well that works. I have higher hopes on other fronts, tbh. In my marriage I've continued to tap out earlier on conversations that feel like shifting the emotional burden to me, and to point out why I'm doing it. That's mostly gone well. And then perhaps most surprisingly, I've gotten some real support on not taking on EL from my straight cis dude of a boss, who is... politic, in a junior academic way, but an earnest ally and a pretty decent mentor and human being. He's a strong advocate for his (mostly female) students getting more in the habit of saying no to things - whether those are commitments we feel obligated to take on but that really don't align with our career/scientific goals, or his own suggestions on how we should be approaching our projects. So I've been doing a lot of thinking on the value of saying no to things, and feeling appreciative that I can count on that support, professionally. Overall, I count myself pretty lucky, though I know I've also been very thoughtful about the people I choose to surround myself with when it comes to minimizing EL, and that probably makes the biggest difference of all.
posted by deludingmyself at 10:36 PM on December 5, 2016 [8 favorites]


From the Married To God piece quoted above (thank you, Excommunicated Cardinal!):
I now find myself wondering what it’s like to live without men, without their physical and emotional presence taking up space and dominating conversations. I’m attracted to the self-sufficiency of convent life, where women carry out even the most difficult and physically demanding jobs on their own. And, finally, the idea of rejecting the male gaze—by which I mean living in a community where women do not dress or behave in a way that’s intended to entice or appease men—seems equally foreign, impossible, and exciting to me.
Oh gods yes. Yes please! Sign me up! I want to experience as much of this kind of life as possible, for the remainder of the time I have left on this earth. All of that sounds SO attractive to me, especially the part about living in a space where men's physical and emotional presence does not take up space or dominate conversations. And since I consider myself an amateur Pagan nun, in recent years I've been experimenting with modest clothing in ways that are all about nurturing my spiritual life (head coverings/veils, robes, makeshift habits, wearing prayer beads) and have nothing to do with attracting or pleasing men. Honestly, after half a lifetime of contorting and mentally measuring myself in various ways to maintain an appearance that conformed to the male gaze, it feels so liberating and wonderful and fulfilling to me to dress this way that I can barely contain my joy.

I wonder if the writer of this piece knows about the Beguines? There's a fascinating piece that was just posted on the Sisters of the Valley site about them.

I love the Sisters of the Valley, by the way. They are inspirations to me. They're essentially Pagan nuns. I don't share all of their philosophical and theological views, but I love what they are doing, and I hope their work inspires many more such endeavors.

Here's a taste:
If no-one objects to the rather bizarre notion that nuns wear their wedding dresses daily, to re-live their marriage to God, then certainly people can wrap their heads around the concept of a Sisterhood of women who work with cannabis plants, make home-made tonics and tinctures, and support themselves through their own labors and without need of alms?

...we wear the gowns to honor our ancient Beguine fore-mothers...we put them on to show respect for the plant and Mother Earth...we put them on to remind ourselves to make our sacred ancestors proud...we wear them to announce our presence to the people, as regalia, to honor them, whenever we are among them. [...]

We are Beguine revivalists. The Beguines pre-dated Christianity and though they lived together, dressed alike, and prayed together, their mission was not to spread any kind of dogma. Their mission was to rescue women from poverty and give them independence and property (wealth). They were very good at it.

The Beguines thrived during the dark and middle ages...They built housing and many devoted their lives to the enclaves and when they died, left their wealth to the enclave so more unfortunates could be brought in, taught a trade, put to work, given honorable lives. They didn’t live in the same house, but clustered their homes. They owned businesses and houses, grew their own food and hemp and made clothing for themselves and to sell.
The vision I have for my own future monastic endeavors is similar, although more tailored toward the needs of women who seek solitude for spiritual reasons. I want to develop a physical space into a nunnery and bequeath my share in it for the use of other Pagan nuns when I pass on. I would love to live in a cluster of homes - a sort of co-housing community - of Beguine revivalists.

In the original emotional labor thread on MeFi, there was a comment from Miko about the appeal of monastic life in reducing emotional labor. She wrote: "Convents, monasteries. We think of these things as big sacrifices, but in fact, they are places designed to dial the emotional labor burden way, way down."

Yes! That is one of the many appeals of this kind of life for me.
posted by velvet winter at 12:17 AM on December 6, 2016 [17 favorites]


This last time I talked to my folks I flat-out told them I could not be the only one in the family to initiate phone calls, and that even though my life is more hectic than theirs they should just try to call and see what happens instead of waiting and hoping for the exact perfect time.

oh God the number of times I have had this conversation with my family. And if I leave it long enough before calling, I get a snipey text message from one of my siblings telling me I should put a bit more effort in, don't I realise Mum might like to speak to me. ("Okay, I think the last time any of you called me was some time in 2014." "Well, you're busy." And yet, I have enough free time to psychically determine when someone might want to speak to me and pre-emptively call them first?)

I am continuing to trudge away at this with my family, although I find family the hardest place to make any ground with reducing EL. Work environments are tough too for all the reasons outlined above, but it is very very hard to shift family (or at least mine) out of defending and reinforcing the assigned roles everyone's had since childhood.
posted by Catseye at 3:00 AM on December 6, 2016 [6 favorites]


velvet winter: I can't find the right words for this, but, that life sounds incredibly attractive and peaceful, and I almost wish I could go. How relaxing it would be!
posted by XtinaS at 6:31 AM on December 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yeah I just fell down the Beguine googling rabbit hole
posted by schadenfrau at 6:45 AM on December 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


Me: I'm really upset about X!
Him: Why didn't you bring up X sooner?
Me: I did, previously at this time, this time, and this time.
Him: Oh. I didn't think you were serious/really upset.

This is the thing that makes me want to claw my own face off.


Yes. Can't tell you how many times men have said this to me. When I have stated repeatedly, in a direct, matter-of-fact way what I was trying to communicate, just so there wouldn't be any ambiguity. Then they get upset when I enforce previously stated boundaries and say "Why didn't you ever tell me?" and I'm like - I'm not actually sure how I could have been more clear.

And, really, what would it take for me to be taken seriously by men when I say these things? That I ACT really upset or angry? Yeah, I've tried that too. And guess who gets called hysterical, overemotional or told to "just calm down" in those situations? It's really hard for me to see how I can win sometimes. And believe me, I've thought about it.
posted by triggerfinger at 6:49 AM on December 6, 2016 [20 favorites]


I just fell down the Beguine googling rabbit hole

Excellent! Eventually I plan to write an article about the Beguines myself, once I've finished some of my current writing projects. In the meantime, I'm so glad the Sisters of the Valley are writing about them, and helping to get the word out. That's actually how I first heard about them - through the Sisters of the Valley site.

I wish I'd known about the Beguines when I was first getting into Paganism back in the early 1990s. If I had, I might have started taking steps toward realizing my own monastic vision sooner! In those days I was in a relationship with a man I loved deeply and didn't want to leave...yet I was carrying the emotional labor burden for us both, and I resented it. (I told the story of the "communal purse" a-ha moment about that in the original EL thread.)

I was also starting to suspect I'd never manage to get free of this burden as long as I continued to date men, and was wishing I could just "shut off" my sexual attraction to men in order to make it easier to stop dating them. I had just come out as bi, too, and my favorite escape was reading a lot about radical lesbian separatist communities, political lesbianism, and the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, wishing I could be a lesbian myself, and dreaming of finding a way to live and support myself that would be as free of patriarchal bullshit as possible. So I was a prime candidate.
posted by velvet winter at 9:57 AM on December 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


I mean I'm this close to asking if they book vacation packages
posted by schadenfrau at 10:20 AM on December 6, 2016 [6 favorites]


Not totally kidding either

I used to joke about lesbian separatism, and now...I mean I'm old enough to know that comes with its own problems, and small insular communities are particularly vulnerable to the turbulence generated by, for lack of a better term, imbalanced people, and that they also tend to attract a greater number of imbalanced and traumatized people, but...

I just could really stand to change the flavor of shit I have to eat all the damn time. It's just been this patriarchal nonsense since forever and honestly I would welcome the challenge of dealing with the craziness of a Crone Island settlement instead. Worst case scenario it would be like emotional labor cross training.
posted by schadenfrau at 10:24 AM on December 6, 2016 [10 favorites]


I don't think he had any idea how carefully and closely I was managing him. I don't think he'd recognise any of it as something someone did even if I did bring it up, because for him that just happens. It just happens that he gets his favourite chair in his favourite spot. It just happens that he had his plates and cutlery arranged exactly how he likes them best. It just happens that he always, always gets to talk at length about himself first for a good half-hour before he asks me anything about what I think or what I've done or where I've been.

I think this is both the hardest part of emotional labor and also the hardest part of explaining the exhausting nature of emotional labor and trying to step back from it.

Because - just take that one interaction and let's step back from it and examine it.

How much mental energy must be taken up remembering precisely which chair is his favorite, and where he likes to arrange it, and how he likes his plates and cutlery, and that he needs to talk for at least half an hour? For years, because you don't see him every day, right, but still all this needs to be remembered.

And how much subsuming of yourself must take place, in not choosing the setup that you would like, and not talking about yourself in any sort of honest way, and careful flattering. How much do you lower yourself, even just for the duration of the time, by how much you raise him?

And more importantly - how much does he do this for you? Who is doing your emotional labor?

Because here's the other secret about emotional labor - which is that it isn't draining if it's reciprocated. When I remember the kind of tea my SIL likes, and she remembers that I like a pot of coffee in the morning, we are both enriched. When I remember that she doesn't like to talk about her family at the beginning of the call but only at the end, and she remembers that I don't like to be interrupted when I'm speaking slowly but don't mind if I'm talking fast, we are both lifted up. The problem isn't that we are skilled at being kind and considerate. The problem is that we are kind and considerate to people who have been socialized not to have to bother being kind and considerate for us to the point where it's a fucking punchline. The problem, essentially, isn't just "women are taught to overvalue men", the problem is, "men aren't taught to value women" AND because they are never taught to value us, they don't recognize the effort we are putting into it all.
posted by corb at 10:53 AM on December 6, 2016 [93 favorites]


Flagged as fantastic, corb. That is it precisely.
posted by sciatrix at 10:57 AM on December 6, 2016 [11 favorites]


I'm old enough to know that comes with its own problems

Indeed. All communities do. As a veteran of a failed attempt at starting a rural intentional community, I learned that first-hand in my own way, so I'm not starry-eyed about it.

And yet. And yet.

At least with Crone Island there'd be a better chance that the emotional labor women do would be reciprocated, or at least recognized and appreciated, rather than taken for granted. And as corb wrote so beautifully above, that makes all the difference.
posted by velvet winter at 11:13 AM on December 6, 2016 [10 favorites]


For all those who are interested in a women-only commune, are you all asexual/lesbians? Or are you straight women who are totally willing to give up sex because the EL is just too much? There's definitely a non-trivial amount of work I'm willing to put into a relationship in order to have safe, regular, and fantastic sex.
posted by ethidda at 11:36 AM on December 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah in this instance my lesbianism feels kinda privilege-y.

(I mean, I'm still single, but that's not for lack of trying.)

I sort of assumed people were talking about organizing their lives around female partner(s) and then having sex and romantic relationships with whom ever, so implicit in that is that your romantic relationships don't have to include your life partner(s)--which is what feels radical to me. On a personal level the idea of managing that many important relationships seems daunting? But I don't know if that's because of the EL involved or because even little lesbians get socialized to think of a romantic AND life partner as the ideal.

Like I assume that's the ideal that I would want -- but is it? I have no idea!
posted by schadenfrau at 11:47 AM on December 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


it isn't draining if it's reciprocated. When I remember..., and she remembers....

Just quoting for emphasis. It's not mind reading or the magic of estrogen. It's remembering someone's preferences and using that to guide your future interactions with that person.
posted by ghost phoneme at 11:52 AM on December 6, 2016 [11 favorites]


Who is doing your emotional labor?

For some periods in my life the answer to that question, sadly, has been "no one." But mostly it's been the women and queer men in my life, and occasionally a therapist. My mother, especially, has been there for me. The cis het men? Rarely or never. My stepfather has no clue whatsoever about this stuff, and never will. My brother used to put in some effort for my sake when we were younger, and I appreciated that, but in recent years he's pretty much checked out, for reasons I don't understand. And while my brother is dear to me, I'm not willing to carry things for us both, so the result has been that we aren't close anymore. It saddens me that the price for doing only my own share of the EL - and not men's - has been the loss of closeness to men that I love, when it becomes clear that they won't step up to meet me halfway.

Last summer my brother had to have surgery. When it became clear to me the day before his surgery that there were a whole host of urgent, last-minute logistical issues that needed to be worked out (due to his failure to handle them earlier - arrgh!), and the hospital wouldn't release him after surgery without someone there to accompany him, and no one else was available to do so, I stepped in. My mother lives across the ocean from us, and his girlfriend was laid up with severe health issues of her own, and couldn't be there for him. None of his friends were available either. It was either me or no one.

It was probably the most stressful day of intense emotional labor I've ever done in my life. The stakes were high, everything was being handled at the last minute, I had never accompanied someone I loved through a serious surgical procedure before, and I was having to compensate for his failure to be responsible for the necessary logistical prep work in a more timely fashion. (Even some of the medical staff folks were annoyed that he hadn't done as he'd been instructed to, and I had to field their questions about it, because I was the only one available to do so.) If I hadn't stepped in, I have no idea how he would have gotten through the situation.

To this day my brother has no clue what kind of stresses I went through to smooth the way for him on surgery day, so that he didn't suffer the consequences of his own neglect to prepare properly. After he healed, I sat down with him and tried to talk to him about what I did behind the scenes that day. He listened, but I could tell he still didn't get it.

To be clear, it's not that I regret doing what I did; he's dear to me, and I would have done the same thing for other loved ones without a moment's hesitation. In my mind, that's part of what family is for. I'm glad I was available, had the day off work, and had the necessary skills and disposition to do it (in particular, I had to exercise a lot of diplomatic skill, and even tell some white lies, in order to get things properly arranged in time). But it cost me a great deal emotionally, and left me thoroughly drained. And at the end, I was left to wonder: who would be there for me if it had been me in surgery? I don't think it would have been him.
posted by velvet winter at 12:13 PM on December 6, 2016 [14 favorites]


I'm bi, for what it's worth. I would totally be down for something like this if my life were differently situated.
posted by XtinaS at 12:16 PM on December 6, 2016


For all those who are interested in a women-only commune, are you all asexual/lesbians? Or are you straight women who are totally willing to give up sex because the EL is just too much?

I'm bi, but I'm not available for sexual involvement with anyone of any gender right now (for complicated spiritual reasons I won't get into here), so it's a non-issue for me. I will admit, though, that it's possible things could change at some point, so that's a wild card in my case. But one helpful thing is that being celibate has become much easier as I approach menopause (I'm 49). My sex drive doesn't have the edge that it used to when I was younger. And frankly, that is a relief to me, because a lot of the heaviest emotional labor lifting I was doing before was related to sex - or lack thereof - and all the complications that came with it. Now I'm using all that freed-up energy to feed my creative and spiritual life.
posted by velvet winter at 1:09 PM on December 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


I just had yet another conversation with a female coworker who I don't know very well at all who kept pressing me about having more children, and kept going on and on about it. I matter of factly answered a very intrusive question and indicated that this was not something I wanted to talk about and apparently that was not an expected or acceptable response. I should have managed their emotions and not put them in a situation where they might have to feel bad about themselves for being insensitive. It's baffling to me that this works that way, but this is not a rare situation for me to be in at all. At work, I think women expect me to do more emotional labor like this than men and I'm a bit surprised that almost everyone sees such a clear gender divide here. Frankly, I think for me the kind of EL that other women expect is more draining than the kind of EL that men expect. Or maybe I'm just growing older and don't care as much about the standard things, but conversations like this one feel like a double punch, first for hitting me where it hurts, and then making ME feel bad about my response.
posted by blub at 1:34 PM on December 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


For all those who are interested in a women-only commune, are you all asexual/lesbians? Or are you straight women who are totally willing to give up sex because the EL is just too much?

I don't know if this is a weird sentiment or not, but while I am bi I don't feel like I'm owed sex, and I don't feel entitled to it from my neighbors. I would attribute that to age, but even in my most hormonal years I never thought that need equalled some kind of mandate, or for that matter that having sex alone was "giving up sex".

But for practical accommodation, I would propose a series of smallish more manageable-sized communes and frequent social events. I'd rather have a nonsexual intimacy with my immediate cronies and extremely stylish conjugal huts along the borders.

I think there is a certain amount of EL involved in mixed groups (as in one group-unit made up of couples and non-couples who are having to navigate the couple's relationship as well as individual relationships), and maybe fucking too close to home is the real problem.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:27 PM on December 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


You know, the medical angle is interesting. When I was hospitalized with malaria in the town I live with my boyfriend, halfway across the country from my parents, I had to literally beg my mother not to come stay with me (and people like my grandmother, aunts, and some of her friends told her to come anyways). My boyfriend, other than taking me to the emergency room, did not visit me one single time in the entire week. It was fine at the time (and honestly, probably better than if he'd come), but thinking about it in retrospect, and in light of watching him deal with other family in the hospital and long-term care, it's making me kind of sad.
posted by ChuraChura at 2:57 PM on December 6, 2016 [16 favorites]


And more importantly - how much does he do this for you? Who is doing your emotional labor?

Good question, corb, and thank you for your exquisite comment.

He doesn't. His answer to my weeping breakdowns was always to put a bottle of alcohol and a glass in front of me and tell me to keep it down.

As you might imagine I grew up alcoholic, and I don't say this for pity. I'm realising the ease I felt after five drinks was a lot like the ease I feel when there is someone partnering with me to handle EL. The buffer of booze was still a buffer in that particular way of borrowed strength and detachment, and it's something I recognise about stories of alcoholic women. For me it was putting that diminishment you describe into a silent partner that doesn't judge. When there's nothing else to do your EL, it's still better than nothing. From an alcoholic POV, I mean.
posted by E. Whitehall at 3:34 PM on December 6, 2016 [8 favorites]


The other thing that strikes me about it is that was his EL. That was what he knew to do, how he felt he was being emotionally generous. That was his "just happens", doing me a favour in a difficult time.

The gulf is incredible and I've never figured out how to get across it. Because there is only one E he will accept. So I sit and EL the shit out of him, because I do love him and want to spend time with him. It's a lot of work to do that, so I don't do it often. But I still do.

In some ways doing it is as a whole EL for my mother, giving her a break from the EL she does for him and that helps as a framework. It's still hard and it still feels unjust.
posted by E. Whitehall at 4:11 PM on December 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


It is unjust.

Part of the reason I really liked this article is that it isn't only an explanation of how damaging this is to women. It also includes thoughts about the damage it does to men (and other out of tune people) because of thei inability to identify and name their emotions and hence needs. The way that those pent up needs are either intuited - at a cost - by the women around them or spill out as anger. Noticing the ways that women are taught to identify and regulate our emotions gives some hope that we won't have to do this forever. Because it isn't fair - to us or to them.
posted by stoneweaver at 5:34 PM on December 6, 2016 [8 favorites]


I'm bi and just the other day was having a discussion with several other bi women about our dream commune. Some of whom are in this thread (hi, friends!)

I'm in a very long term relationship with a man that I entered when I was much younger with a very different understanding of relationships and emotional labor than I have today. For a variety of reasons and with mutual care and effort, we've carved out a thing that mostly works for us. But should we break up I have little intention of dating ever again, anyone of any gender. I think I could be a very happy spinster.

Partnered sex with men (or with anyone at all) is not such an absolute requirement in my life that I would have to think hard about giving it up for the benefits and community of the dream commune.
posted by Stacey at 6:43 PM on December 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


I have said this before but I have no real desire to hie myself off to a commune of other women with EL skills.

I want men to get better at this. I want, very specifically, the men in my life to get better at this. I want the world to get better at this.
posted by geek anachronism at 7:28 PM on December 6, 2016 [19 favorites]


Yeah, different strokes for different folks, I imagine. Speaking personally, I've spent far too much of my life banging my head against the wall with very little to show for it. I would totally go full separatist if I thought I could get away with it.
posted by XtinaS at 8:02 PM on December 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


For all those who are interested in a women-only commune, are you all asexual/lesbians? Or are you straight women who are totally willing to give up sex because the EL is just too much?

The latter.

And yeah, the medical stuff. I'm dealing with a family member who basically just didn't do any of the planning work he should have done in case something went wrong with a medical procedure, and something went wrong, and I'm just... too tired. I'm worried, and I love him, and I'm holding back yelling at him because he's in the midst of an urgent medical situation, but I'm also not jumping up to step in and save him from himself. He needs to get his (legal and medical) shit together, and he needs to realize the full (emotional) impact on everyone he loves when he doesn't have his shit together, so I see no real benefit to pretending like nothing's wrong and enabling him to pretend like other people will somehow fix everything for him without him having to do any work. And I fully realize that the main work he has to do is the emotional work of realizing he's going to get really sick and die one day and maybe he should have plans in place for that, which is a giant existential issue and all, but it's also one of the few things in life that's guaranteed and it's stupid for me to pretend like I can stop that from happening.
posted by lazuli at 8:11 PM on December 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


I want men to get better at this. I want, very specifically, the men in my life to get better at this. I want the world to get better at this.

I'd love to see the men in my life (and in the world at large) get better at EL too. However, in all my 49 years, I have not seen even a shred of convincing evidence that they will actually do so, and I've seen a preponderance of evidence that they won't. And after two divorces where I was deliberately deceived and screwed out of large amounts of money that were legally mine, countless low-paid suffer-with-a-smile-while-men-harass-me jobs, and years of dealing with the fallout from all kinds of passive-aggressive avoidance strategies that men have used, my patience has reached its end. Like XtinaS, I've got nothing to show for all the years of EL I invested, in good faith and trust. Nothing but exhaustion, burnout, and poverty I didn't deserve. Now I save my efforts only for relationships with other women and queerfolk - relationships in which I know that my EL will be valued and reciprocated.

I wish I had something more encouraging to say about the prospects for improvement here. But sadly, I don't.

It's Crone Island (or the best approximation of it that I can find, anyway) for me.
posted by velvet winter at 8:57 PM on December 6, 2016 [8 favorites]


I'm alone, not necessarily by choice, but mainly because I've never found a romantic partner who was willing to do the emotional labor that I needed to be in a relationship with him, without making it a HUGE deal. I wasn't willing to spend the rest of my life apologizing or overcompensating for the fact that I needed certain things in a relationship (which was an expectation) or having my issues used against me (which happened, more than once). Also, my desire to have my ambitions, goals, and career taken just as seriously as my partner expected me to take his was seen as a huge affront.

There are huge advantages to being alone, mainly in terms of having control over my own money and time. Also, the emotional labor I undertake is usually voluntary, centered around maintaining friendships and volunteer work.

At the same time, it does get lonely. Case in point, I got some good news yesterday, but I didn't have anyone to celebrate with me and take me out to dinner. Of course, I also didn't have someone to be dismissive and want to know why I cared about something so trivial (which also happened, back in the day). Also, the thought of getting old and/or sick is scary, because, while I have very good friends, I don't know who would step up and take care of me, if it came to that. I'm saving for retirement and have nursing home insurance, but still.

Overall, I think things are getting better - slowly - but that emotional labor is part of the whole hidden emotional economy of misogyny and privilege that we, as a culture, are only now starting to unpack. As a really anecdotal example - I've joined an "Instant Pot" community on FB, so I don't blow up my house when I start using my new pressure cooker, and the amount of energy that women (most of the members are women) put into menu planning for their "picky eater" husbands, demonstrating the value of their new purchase, and overall managing their relationships is significant.

All in all, unless things change significantly and I meet someone SPECTACULAR who don't make me feel as if I'm this huge burden and ask me to constantly contribute everything while he just skates on through, I'm probably sticking to Crone Island as well.
posted by dancing_angel at 9:42 PM on December 6, 2016 [11 favorites]


dancing_angel, your comment (which I can very much relate to) brings to mind the candid collection of personal relationship stories told by women in their own words in Shere Hite's 1987 book Women and Love. The book was considered extremely radical when it was released. I still remember the uproar over it. Hite moved from the US to Europe to escape the fallout from the furor it stirred up. It's one of my all-time favorite books, and I highly recommend it, but it's also extremely depressing. It radicalized me as a feminist, especially when I read it again a few years later after I'd had more relationship experience with men, and been disappointed time and again.

Until I read that book, I had no idea how severe and intractable the problem of what she calls the "unequal emotional contract between men and women" really was, culturally speaking. Looking back, I see that Hite was talking about emotional labor. And the most depressing part of all? Nothing much has changed in the intervening years. The emotional contract is still heavily skewed, and most women still get the short end of the EL stick in relationships with men. Even feminist men.

the thought of getting old and/or sick is scary, because, while I have very good friends, I don't know who would step up and take care of me, if it came to that.

I have the same fear. Growing older while being poor, single, and living in the US scares the shit out of me. It terrifies me so much that I can't allow myself to think about it too often, or I'll be too paralyzed with depression to even be effective in navigating my daily life right now. My safety net is...my mother. That's it. She's the only one I know I could count on to be there for me in a crisis. She's in decent health, fortunately, and is financially comfortable...but she's also 76, and lives across the ocean from me. I really hope I've found my way to my monastic version of Crone Island or a Boston marriage by the time she passes on, because if I haven't, I have no idea what I'm going to do as I age.
posted by velvet winter at 10:39 PM on December 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


As I get older and into my second decade single (12 years now, so the first decade's done), I'm increasingly glad I've been single for so long. So much work goes into emotional management in my job, that I'm just glad to get home and have two fluffballs who genuinely want nothing more than to snuggle on me and chirp at me. I can't imagine having to do the same work for someone else, and have kids on top of that? I have more and more respect for women who are able to pull that off (always did, the respect just gets deeper and more nuanced).

It's been my cats who have taught me how foreign being taken care of felt – when I had my broken arm in a cast last year, at one point in the night it got twisted in a way that could have turned out badly. My fluff-monster Coon cat gently scratched me until I woke up, then he nudged my arm and said "mrrap?" worriedly. I fixed it. He purred and settled back in to sleep by my arm. He didn't leave my side the whole two months I had the cast. When he'd go off to eat or litterbox, miss ninja kitty would take his place. It was so strange at first, and yet so obvious they cared and wanted to help, that I had to accept they were giving their love. It's something we women aren't really raised to recognize, much less accept (how can you accept something you're unaware of?). "Love" is supposed to be this objectifying thing linked to money and appearances and "getting" to "take care of your man". My cats taught me that it can also be a selfless caring that asks for nothing in return. Anyone who counters that with "well they get food, cuddles, and warmth" – yeah well, that's what we women are expected to give men as a practically non-negotiable baseline, so.

Anyone who'd come into my life would have to at least reach that bar of animals with neither opposable thumbs nor human speech who are nonetheless able to take care of me.

Also I got a raw sheep's fleece last week and my apartment smells of unwashed sheep's wool, though there are increasingly large piles of washed handfuls. I can't even imagine doing that with any of the men I've dated. They'd have gone ballistic. Me? I love the scent. You can tell it's from a happy outdoors sheep who brushed up against trees and bushes. I'm doing my best not to get it on my work clothes, but still enjoy it. It's for handspinning, by the way.
posted by fraula at 2:16 AM on December 7, 2016 [30 favorites]


I worry about what happens when I get old and sick, too. But then I wonder what happens to the women in these situations -- I am loathe to call them relationships, with the implication of equality or reciprocity? -- when THEY get old and sick? It's not like the people who've exploited their EL all this time are suddenly going to step up and give back. So, honestly: what happens to them?

I don't have a solution the loneliness, though, beyond fantasizing about starting a Beguine.
posted by schadenfrau at 5:17 AM on December 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


The difference between transactional and reciprocal cannot be overstated.

One is scorekeeping, and a recipe for unbalance, resentment and disaster. The other is the product of love, respect, trust and mutual enrichment.

I am focusing on only investing myself in relationships that are reciprocal. The rest, I'm faking it. Can you tell?
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 6:17 AM on December 7, 2016 [11 favorites]


One of the things I mentioned above is how early and how consistently girls and then women are taught to never explicitly ask for what they want, how dangerous it can be for them to voice their opinions and preferences, and how many of the behaviors and communication styles that result from that cultural context are necessarily circuitous.

I do want to say that I have great sympathy for the fact that most boys and men are taught in similar ways that they are not supposed to have anything to do with emotional labor. From “boys don’t cry” to “if you want to whine about it, talk to your mother” to the majority of people growing up in households where EL is modeled in extremely one-sided ways, I don’t think boys and men are magically immune to the same societal pressures that shape girls and women. Overcoming our programming is unbelievably difficult on both sides, and it feels alien and uncomfortable to do so. I also know that for many boys and men, the threat of violence (or the reality of violence) was part of how they were educated to view EL as verboten for men. I do not wish to discount this at all.

For both sides, once they have reached adulthood, altering the boundaries of EL that exist within a patriarchy can feel like, and can actually be, a huge risk. The difference, however, is that the size and the aftereffects of that risk tend to be enormously different for men and women. It is another place where the old Margaret Atwood “men are afraid women will laugh at them, women are afraid men will kill them” applies, except add “or assault them, or fire them, or intentionally destroy their professional reputations, or doxx them, or stalk them, or go after their children, or turn them into a ‘bitches amirite' bit in his standup act, or disinherit them, or or or or” to the side of things women are afraid of, if they don’t soothe and manage the emotions of men.

It would take so little for some of the men in my life to make me feel more heard, so extremely little, and the risk to them would be incredibly small. (The risk to them is mostly “I’m not used to doing this so it is uncomfortable”.) The risks to me are not as huge as for many other women, but they are still much bigger than for the men in my life. I know this because I’ve tried turning off the EL fountain before (exhaustion, not an experiment), and it is like the social fabric falls apart, and my life becomes instantly more difficult and unpleasant.

Learning to participate in something you were actively trained to ignore or scorn is, indeed, very hard. But it is not actually supposed to be women’s work, and leaving it to half the population makes the world a worse place.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 6:23 AM on December 7, 2016 [22 favorites]


Relevant Cracked article, it's from January but just showed up randomly in my FB newsfeed. (FB knows that I read Metafilter, ah well.)
posted by Melismata at 7:40 AM on December 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


for many boys and men, the threat of violence (or the reality of violence) was part of how they were educated to view EL as verboten for men.

Yes. It makes me unspeakably sad, because it cuts so deep. I saw how this horrible patriarchal culture affected my brother when we were growing up: he was a very warm, loving, and emotionally open person as a child, but he was mercilessly punished and bullied by his peers for his openness, and eventually he reined in those parts of himself to survive. It broke my heart then, and still breaks my heart today. I can't even type this comment about it without tears in my eyes.

There's a film, "The Mask You Live In," about this kind of socialization and how it affects men. I haven't seen it, but it's been recommended by people I trust. Jackson Katz has also done some brilliant work to address toxic masculinity and prevent gender violence. More of this, please, world!
posted by velvet winter at 9:59 AM on December 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


One of the (many) reasons this election made me so sad is that, in Senator Tim Kaine, I saw the potential for a very different male leader to assume center stage, and one that appears to excel at emotional labor and empathy.

Just watching his body language alone when interacting with Secretary Clinton was amazing - he kept his attention completely focused on her, used the "Mmmm-hmmm," and other non-lexical conversational sounds, which invited the watcher/listener to listen as intently as she was. In the case when I saw them standing together, he was half a step behind her, leaning against a wall (I think they were on an airplane or something), so he didn't loom over her and take away the attention. When it was his turn to speak, he did assume control of the conversation, handily, but he was extremely mindful about not taking up as much space.

Having had the honor of meeting him, he also genuinely listens and focuses on the agenda of the person he is meeting in a way I haven't seen in a public male figure, in, well, ever.

Imagine having that capability, that mindfulness, modeled for boys and young men for the next four years. Imagine seeing a woman publicly deferred to, her opinions clearly worth having. Imagine the impact on our society and having women realize that a woman "like them" can be powerful and have a voice, and men can listen and be supportive.

It really makes me so sad.
posted by dancing_angel at 11:13 AM on December 7, 2016 [46 favorites]


Imagine having that capability, that mindfulness, modeled for boys and young men for the next four years.

dancing_angel, while reading your comment it dawned on me that the angry backlash against "political correctness" is anger at being asked to do emotional labor: to exercise the empathetic imagination necessary to consider identities and lived experiences that are not one's own, and to be mindful of the way one's behavior and speech might affect someone with a different identity or life experience. And that the other side ran basically on the promise of liberating a particular group of people from the tyrannical expectation that they perform emotional labor instead of just receiving it.
posted by Fish, fish, are you doing your duty? at 1:31 PM on December 7, 2016 [86 favorites]


I've been keeping this thread open for the past 4 days as I gathered the strength to break up with my partner, and as I slog through the emptiness afterwards, reminding me that all I did for him was totally unsustainable, and unrecognized. He is a beautiful human, but one with undiagnosed mental health issues he refused to address.

The house is fucking empty right now, and the dog wonders where his buddy went, and I'm very sad. But I just couldn't do it anymore.

So thanks for the support.
posted by Grandysaur at 3:18 PM on December 7, 2016 [53 favorites]


Holy shit, Fish, I just screenshotted that so I could send it to everyone, ever.

Grandysaur, I'm so sorry. I'm glad you were able to make the decision for you, but I know that doesn't make it suck less. Virtual hugs.
posted by schadenfrau at 3:40 PM on December 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


Right. And the white working class backlash is men refusing to come to terms with the fact that the jobs that rely on brute strength are never coming back, and that the new working class jobs require communication skills and other emotional labor that they refuse to do. Or as economist Betsy Stevenson puts it, Manly Men Need to do More Girly Jobs.
posted by snickerdoodle at 6:14 PM on December 7, 2016 [16 favorites]


Sometimes a dude's failure to listen can have hilarious karmic results: I saw this story on Twitter yesterday.
posted by emjaybee at 7:18 AM on December 8, 2016 [14 favorites]


Just watching his body language alone when interacting with Secretary Clinton was amazing - he kept his attention completely focused on her, used the "Mmmm-hmmm," and other non-lexical conversational sounds, which invited the watcher/listener to listen as intently as she was.

I was talking with some colleagues about how to share the stage with as a white person with a person of color, and how to prevent the audience from focusing on the white person and assuming they were in charge. I quickly rattled off: let the POC speak first and introduce the main topic; when the POC is talking, turn your body toward them to model to the audience that we are giving this speaker our full attention; if audience members are directing their questions to you, turn to the POC for their answer before you speak.

The person leading the discussion is a really sensitive guy, and he said to me in a quiet voice, "You've thought about this before."

And I said, "Yes, I've presented with men. Some of them were good at sharing the stage, but most weren't."
posted by BrashTech at 4:02 PM on December 10, 2016 [22 favorites]


It's not a good situation when someone only unburdens their emotions to one person, and then has to deal with everything.

But I also worry about the people who, for whatever reason, find themselves either unable or unwilling to do emotional work with anybody else. I'm sure some people are perfectly happy that way, but I think my lucky stars but I have people I can talk to when I feel the need, and that I can do the same for them, and I'm sure I'm as screwed up as your average monster.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:37 PM on December 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


I suggest one read James Joyce, Counterparts, a brilliant short story that relates how resentment, loss of self esteem etc get passed onto the vulnerable
posted by Postroad at 6:57 AM on December 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


the hardest thing for me about drawing some emotional labor boundaries is figuring out how to love and *whether* i love someone if i'm not bending myself into tiny weird shapes to accommodate a dude? like, doing less EL feels a little like i'm pulling back, like i'm being mean, and i'm not sure i like it. it makes me feel less generous and less connected and less "in love." which i recognize as being an f-ed up way to experience love, but is where i find myself lately: half being like fffuuuuu it's not my job to do this for you and half being like "does this mean i don't love him that i don't want to do this?"
posted by misskaz at 6:22 PM on December 13, 2016 [8 favorites]


If anyone wants some perspective on an analgous issue that might, due to its age, be easier to digest, I highly recomend "There Goes My Everything: White Southerners in the Age of Civil Rights, 1945-1975". The parallels are obvious, but I'll list a few. Blacks were deferential to a fault, except for a few "troublemakers", because they were worried about being lynched. Whites then felt justified in their behavior, even congratulating themselves on their beneficience toward "their Negroes". The book has pages of direct quotes from people who are genuinely shocked that the black people they interact with every day are not, in fact, grateful for the poverty wages and minimal civil rights provided by white society. A (white) Alabama police officer says, "They're leading us around. Everthing they do, we have to think about." That quote sounds exactly like what a man who is blind to the expectations of the patriarchy would say about women.

Unfortunately, what you realize is that the problem cannot be solved by the victims. It is necessary for them to rise up and at great personal risk demand their natural rights, but that is not sufficient. Men must want to change, and there's no way a Voting Rights Act is going to make them. The fact that the rare men who are regularly doing their share of the emotional regulation work mostly identify as POC or the children of draconian parents is really troubling, though. I guess the typical man won't give up a full-time live-in therapist, thus all the utopianism of Crone Island. I'm sorry, ladies.
posted by wnissen at 9:34 AM on December 14, 2016 [10 favorites]


A couple people have mentioned upthread that it's specifically cis straight men who tend to offload emotional labor onto cis women, which makes me wonder how it shakes out for trans and non-binary people. A lot of discussions about this tend to talk about gender in ways that presuppose that everybody involved is cis (specifically by leaning a lot on the concept of gender socialization). So I'm glad at least a few trans people have chimed in but I'd definitely like to see more discussion of how this specifically affects. I wonder if the expectation that trans people all be ready to present Trans 101 to our cis friends, family, and coworkers at any time, but also that we be willing to forgive misgendering because "it's so hard to start seeing you as [gender], don't you know" or "those new pronouns are just so confusing" is another form of emotional labor.

For my part, I once dated a guy who was so tiresome and demanding of emotional labor from everyone other than cis white men that I was one of the only people in his life willing to put up with him. He was basically the anthropomorphic personification of mansplaining. And even I cut him off after we no longer lived in the same city. Last I heard he was basically friendless and alone because he was unwilling to stop alienating people. Unfortunately most of these guys, unlike my ex, don't seem to face any consequences from other men for mansplaining or being demanding.
posted by protondonor at 9:59 AM on December 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


I wonder if the expectation that trans people all be ready to present Trans 101 to our cis friends, family, and coworkers at any time, but also that we be willing to forgive misgendering because "it's so hard to start seeing you as [gender], don't you know" or "those new pronouns are just so confusing" is another form of emotional labor.


OH MY GOD YES. People (mostly family) act as if my transition is something I'm doing TO them. It causes me to second guess myself - am I being too harsh by expecting them to remember my name after six months? Should I say something - again? Or just let it go? I end up having to soothe them and forgive a bunch of mistakes (or "mistakes"). I'm exhausted. I've started muting/blocking cis people online who say dumb stuff, even if well-meaning, because I just don't have the energy to teach them why what they said grated on my nerves.
posted by AFABulous at 10:50 AM on December 14, 2016 [11 favorites]


In my experience, the people who claim to have such a hard time "remembering" correct pronouns or new names have no problem referring to a newly-married woman as Mrs. MansLastName five seconds after the wedding even when she has no plans to change her last name. Like when men claim that emotional labor at home is too hard because they've never "been taught" but they have no problem performing that emotional labor at work with their male boss/peers/clients.

It's not that it's too hard for them to do, it's that they don't think it's worth doing for you.
posted by melissasaurus at 11:41 AM on December 14, 2016 [22 favorites]


A lot of discussions about this tend to talk about gender in ways that presuppose that everybody involved is cis (specifically by leaning a lot on the concept of gender socialization).

The comments so far have talked about emotional labor over the cis/trans power differential, but I was thinking: the way that gendered socialization in a cisgender world affects trans people is not straightforward and it's worth talking about, exploring and clarifying.

I have a hunch that it's also not totally symmetrical between AMAB and AFAB trans people, too.

I'll try to order my thoughts on this for another comment, but honestly my upbringing was really weird and I don't want to generalize onto a broader experience.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 2:07 PM on December 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


Rainbo Vagrant, I think, judging on my own observations of queer communities I've been in, that there might not be a single consistent effect of assigned sex. The effects seem to be really complicated and may have to do with the broader context in which the particular relationship occurs. In the affluent, predominantly white and Asian, cis and AFAB dominated community of private university students I used to be peripherally attached to, the few AMAB trans people that I knew were, gradually or forcefully, driven out of the group by particular AFAB people demanding excessive emotional labor in their relationships without returning anything. (But I only really have the AMAB people's side of the story here, since they were my actual friends and the other people involved were just acquaintances.)
posted by protondonor at 3:57 PM on December 14, 2016


Rainbo and protondonor, it's definitely context dependent. Where I am, the AFABs shoulder most of the EL and labor in general. I don't really think that has as much as to do with "being raised female" as it does some particulars to our community which would take paragraphs to expound upon here. As a man who's followed this whole emotional labor discussion on mefi from the beginning, I'm definitely aware and careful of offloading it onto women, but I spend most of my time with AFAB men.
posted by AFABulous at 6:43 PM on December 15, 2016


A couple people have mentioned upthread that it's specifically cis straight men who tend to offload emotional labor onto cis women, which makes me wonder how it shakes out for trans and non-binary people.

Right, so women are expected to pick up this emotional labor; and one of the punishments for failing to do so is the shame (both internal and social) of you are a bad woman and/or you are not doing womanhood right.

That shame has absolutely no effect on me. I literally don't care about my womanhood in any way at all. And that goes for just about any gendered expectation - I never thought of myself as a girl, so I just didn't think they applied to me.

And I think that's something I can generalize about trans people as a whole. When we form our understanding of the gendered world, we'll mentally place ourselves in the role of our actual gender. All the ambient "girls are like this, boys are like this" messaging gets interpreted from that perspective.

At the same time, the rest of the world is (mostly) treating us as our assigned gender. And the interaction between those two things is not straightforward. So there's a grain of truth in the idea of "being raised female", but it's deeply incomplete.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 8:46 PM on December 15, 2016 [7 favorites]


Yeah, that's how I feel. I wasn't socialized as a girl, because when I heard "girls are supposed to do X" I thought "oh, this doesn't apply to me."
posted by AFABulous at 8:56 PM on December 15, 2016


First, the term man-splainy is offensive

Like the terms "racist," "misogynist," "privilege," and "homophobic" are offensive?

It is the height of mansplainyness to get angry over use of the term, then mansplain how it's offensive, and then essentially demand that women engage in additional emotional labor to spare you the slightest twinge of discomfort as they notify you of the ways you're being an ass to them.

It is the height of irony to do so in a thread about how man demand that women protect them from the consequences of their anger.

It's frustrating that we cannot have an open dialogue about the root causes of this dynamic because that would involve men giving their opinions and well, man-splainy again, so I guess we're stuck.

Why do you assume that men's opinions are needed here?
posted by ElizaDolots at 6:14 PM on December 18, 2016 [14 favorites]


I shared this article with a close friend, Jo.

Jo shared it with her friend Kate, who has been on-and-off with one of Jo's friends, Alex.

Kate shared the article with Alex.

Alex promptly messaged Jo for help, he was hurt and confused, looking for solace and full of self pity.

LIKE REALLY?!?
posted by Grandysaur at 2:41 PM on December 19, 2016 [12 favorites]


Performance ART
posted by stoneweaver at 3:37 PM on December 20, 2016 [4 favorites]


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