A Modest Proposal for a Fair Trade Emotional Labor Economy
July 18, 2017 4:59 AM   Subscribe

A Modest Proposal for a Fair Trade Emotional Labor Economy (Centered by Disabled, Femme of Color, Working Class/Poor Genius)

"I believe in fighting to win and our ability to transform anything we need to. And all of this has started me thinking about what the solutions might be. If care labor is well, labor, and we participate in an emotional economy all the time, what would a just care labor economy look and feel like? What would I want the conditions of my labor to be, in order to feel that my work was in safe, compensated conditions that had my workers’ rights at the center?"
posted by dysh (7 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
Love this love this love this - thanks for the article! <3 So true.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 6:05 AM on July 18, 2017

"Because we deserve joy and rest." Powerful. Still reading, but I wanted to thank you for this post.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:07 AM on July 18, 2017

I enjoyed this discussion. In general I agreed and liked the thought activity and intention and ideas.

I think part of the issue that makes this feel a bit out of reach is that saying no to others needs for lifesaving care is really only something that works when you're in a community of people who are collectively working to care for those in need. Like I can't say no to my kids needs because obviously, and while I do ask for chores and help with things and teach prosocial values about helping as part of being a family, I can't and won't expect that relationship to be reciprocal.

What's more I know so many people coping with disabilities and pains for whom getting a "no" might mean they don't eat dinner.

When able body society as a whole says "Hey none of us feeling like ensuring the disabled eat" is there room to take a stance that fighting for the right to live is more important than ensuring that all caregiving be consensual? This is part of a larger issue I think of in society where we label those who aggressively or manipulatively fight for their basic needs as criminal or mentally ill- but in a world where there really isn't a consensual care network in place capable of providing the amount of needs present. If someone steals a loaf of bread from the grocery store when the could get busfare to the food pantry and they already asked nicely to feed their kids; are they wrong because it wasn't consensual, or right because now their kid will not die and life is precious?

I think so often a lot of the care work women or femme identified people are doing is because no one else will do it and people will die if it isn't done. And how ever sweet it is that when my aunt took care of my great grandma, my g-grandma loved folding laundry (it took her a very long time but she did it) and other small chores in the house, there was no way that was going to be reciprocal.

I want to add I know the goal of this is really to address the concept of reciprocal care networks among people who are capable of both giving and receiving in a balanced way, of which I would say is a majority of people even who have disabilities or skill differences. So in that context it's a good thought activity and very useful ideas. I'm also thinking of this in the context of people with deep emotional wounds who act out to get emotional support and are labelled things like borderline but they endured severe neglect and abuse and don't HAVE safe people offering the level of support they need in place, and a therapist once a week and meds does not fill the soul.

Sometimes we are asking people to do the equivalent of watch their emotional self starve from the inside out and shaming them for the pain or for not being able to take "no" because their brain and heart are dying from the inside out without the level of love and care they need. Once an extensive care network is in place it makes sense to start teaching people not to use manipulative or demanding behavior to get the care they need-- but shaming people for this BEFORE their basic needs are in place seems not only unfair but like asking people to not only endure societal neglect and abuse but to do so quietly and gently so they don't bother anyone in their pain. I don't know if these issues are as relevant to anyone else so the direction my thoughts are going might just be a personal thing, but I think a lot about those who fall through the cracks and how often those who will do that work for free are the only way that care will be done.

Otherwise it just won't happen unless we make a much larger commitment to see and act on the level of needs present.
posted by xarnop at 6:17 AM on July 18, 2017 [11 favorites]

To make it shorter- in a small community of people in which many are disabled themselves helping each other- the idea of consent to caring for those in need is empowering. In the context of libertarians talking about how oppressed they are by taxes; the idea of respecting consent to deny aid so the most vulnerable can live sounds... wrong. I'm just trying to work out what the difference is there (to me there's a difference) and how to not make things WORSE for disabled and those in need while encouraging the model of consent and recprocity she's talking about.
posted by xarnop at 6:23 AM on July 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

xarnop, you may be interested in Krista Tippett's On Being interview with Jean Vanier about the L’Arche movement, which is focused on community among people with/without intellectual disabilities. Snippett: "L’Arche is based on body and on suffering bodies. And so they are seen as useless, and so we welcome those who apparently are useless. And it’s a suffering body which brings us together. And it’s attention to the body. You see, when somebody comes to our community and is quite severely handicapped, what is important is to see that the body is well. Bathing, helping people dress, to eat. It’s to communicate to them through the body. And then, as the body can become comfortable, then the spirit can rise up. There’s a recognition. There’s a contact. There’s a relationship."
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:45 AM on July 18, 2017 [7 favorites]

I like that a lot MonkyToes. I wound up with a conundrum in that two deeply held values get contradicted for me; that consent is an essential part of healthy relationships; and that most of the best social change has come from people who will not accept NO. "No I won't improve conditions in the sweatshop, no I won't provide welfare to single moms, no I won't provide food to the poor, no I won't offer business services or loans to people of a particular color."

And it's at the heart of libertarian arguments I've had before so it really perplexes me how to reconcile these two somewhat opposing values. Should people have free and uninfluenced choice whether to help others at all? And if so- what often happens is that the people with the biggest hearts take on all of it because they are more comfortable damaging themselves than watches others suffer without aid. And the rest continue to ignore. So how do we challenge people both to perhaps do more than they might think of doing for those in need while ALSO encouraging people to listen to their own limits and be able to set healthy boundaries? If the level of workload needed to be done, just isn't healthy for the amount of people willing to do it? A lot of people live ONLY because of the fact that some people overwork themselves to make it happen. I'm watching my Aunt trying to figure out how to stop caregiving for all the disabled people in our family and the pain it takes to let people just fend for themselves and suffer or care for them and have your own health destroyed. There's a no win situation in so many cases. Essentially for low income families with a lot of disabled people we need a higher amount of help coming in than anyone can afford or give reciprocally to trade for.
posted by xarnop at 7:07 AM on July 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thanks for sharing this, dysh! Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha is one of my all-time favourite writers, and it's always exciting to see a new piece by her. There is a ton more of her writing on her blog, and I can't recommend her memoir Dirty River strongly enough:

"In 1996, poet Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, carrying only two backpacks, caught a Greyhound bus in America and ran away to Canada. She ended up in Toronto, where she was welcomed by a community of queer punks of colour offering promises of love and revolution, yet she remained haunted by the reasons she left home in the first place. This passionate, riveting memoir is a mixtape of dreams and nightmares, of immigration court lineups and queer South Asian dance nights; it is an intensely personal road map and an intersectional, tragicomic tale that reveals how a disabled queer woman of colour and abuse survivor navigates the dirty river of the not-so-distant past and, as the subtitle suggests, "dreams her way home.""
posted by ITheCosmos at 10:55 AM on July 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

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