How Emotional Labor Affects Women's Careers
June 9, 2018 2:00 PM   Subscribe

"In the workplace, the expectation for women to cushion their responses, manage the emotions of their peers and make their workplace “pleasant” can hold them back from doing the work that will help them get ahead." Gemma Hartley, author of the forthcoming book Fed Up: Emotional Labor, Women, and the Way Forward, discusses emotional labor at work. Hartley's upcoming book credits the original MeFi emotional labor thread as an influence on her work.

In a recent comment in a restricted Facebook writers' group, the author - quoted with her permission - credits the original EL thread on MetaFilter as an influence on her earlier piece and her forthcoming book:
"I mention that thread within the first few pages of the introduction. Jess Zimmerman's piece for The Toast, along with that MetaFilter thread pushed this new understanding of emotional labor into public consciousness. I wouldn't have written my Harper's piece without them."
posted by velvet winter (39 comments total) 96 users marked this as a favorite
 
Beyond naming the problem, Fed Up offers practical advice and solutions for teaching both men and women how to wield emotional labor to live more full and satisfying lives. Hartley helps us to see emotional labor not as a problem to be overcome, but as a genderless virtue we can all learn to channel in our quest to make a better, more egalitarian world for ourselves and most importantly, our children.
It’s difficult to tell, because the book isn’t out yet, but I sort of feel like what we really need is a way that women can get out of this bind right now, not in some genderless utopian future.

The way forward for society is one thing. The way forward for women in the actual workplace today is something else. Because when your boss, and your boss’s boss, and everyone on up are all men who just kind of don’t like you if you don’t do all this extra work, but aren’t emotionally literate or self-aware enough to know how sexist they are...well then what?

Still looking for tips on that.
posted by schadenfrau at 2:25 PM on June 9 [55 favorites]


I think any small step in the right direction is a good one: asking male coworkers to pick up after meetings, or take notes, or organize social events, or mentor new hires. It's small in the grand scheme of things, but it helps convey the idea that that shit is everyone's responsibility.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 2:44 PM on June 9 [10 favorites]


The work EL I'm dealing with right now is that we have an ongoing, blatantly obvious crisis of burnout throughout our company. Because I'm in Marketing I interact with all the departments, so I know it's not isolated. We're growing fast, but we're also outpacing our own ability to keep up with work/train new hires.

And no one listens to me (and my boss, also a woman) when we keep telling them. They are in a macho mode of "just work harder" I guess none of them remember Animal Farm and also, that's a great recipe for fucking shit up and getting on the bad side of clients.

Anyway, I'm going to keep speaking up about this, but as a woman I don't even really feel surprise that nobody pays attention to my expertise or insight or suggestions. It will probably take a dude saying the same shit I've been saying for months for anyone to pay attention.

I keep at it because my team is one of the burnt out ones so I have to, for them. But it fucking pisses me off to get repeatedly blown off because of my lack of penis.
posted by emjaybee at 2:57 PM on June 9 [26 favorites]


Personally, I dealt--am dealing?--by having a major burnout crisis which I'm still working through, which also included having a couple of meltdowns at my boss over the emotional labor divide in the lab. With respect to my job, I feel like a great big emotional vortex of suck right now, but that might just in part be because I significantly withdrew from the lab after several years of ignored effort.

I do not suggest doing this, but I suppose it's one method.
posted by sciatrix at 3:11 PM on June 9 [13 favorites]


sciatrix, emjaybee and everyone else dealing with this big bucket of bullshit....

we're rooting for you!
posted by lalochezia at 3:35 PM on June 9 [13 favorites]


I mean, yeah, I deal with it by being self-employed. So far “complete withdrawal” is the only solution I know of, but that doesn’t seem like it scales well.

Unless...it does.

But then we are talking dystopian YA novel setting, so maybe that’s not optimal. Besides, they’d never let the Crone Island Nation survive.
posted by schadenfrau at 4:05 PM on June 9 [5 favorites]


Complete withdrawal worked for me, too. Never been more satisfied with working than now, when it's just me. And I never realized how utterly dysfunctional the labour market is for women until I wasn't in it any longer... it's so pervasive, so big that it's invisible, and it only took me 35 years to catch on.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 4:36 PM on June 9 [12 favorites]


I'm a professor, so I generally don't have to work with many people if I don't want to. But damnit if on the occasion that I do, *I* have to do so much of the busy work and organizing. I'm fucking sick of it.
Looking forward to this book.
posted by k8t at 4:42 PM on June 9 [8 favorites]


I'm interviewing right now for a job with a remote workplace. Part of the reason I applied is because I see this as a possible way that I could avoid the immense amounts of emotional labor I have performed in all of my previous jobs, which have not only exhausted me but have hurt my pay and trajectory (since at my last job the "team player/great mentor/all-in" workers got verbal praise while the "ninja/ass-kicking/brusque" workers got money and promotions, and by the time I realized this, the damage had been done).

It's hard for me to be in a group setting without monitoring everyone's comfort and making sure people feel valued/heard/safe. In personal situations this is very rewarding, and I have a partner who appreciates it and makes a lot of effort to reciprocate. But I'm seeing this potential job as a chance to control and limit the amount of E.L. I perform professionally, since the in-person office dynamics that suck me into a million and one "caring" tasks will be (hopefully) much lessened and I can focus more on the work that is rewarded with money and respect. Here's hoping (both that I get the job, and that this is true)!
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 5:01 PM on June 9 [12 favorites]


...what we really need is a way that women can get out of this bind right now, not in some genderless utopian future.

I doubt there's a permanent way "out," per se, but what's worked best for me in reducing the career-blunting impact of unpaid and unreciprocated EL is being self-employed as a freelance copywriter who lives alone and works remotely. While this isn't foolproof and obviously won't work for everyone, it's much closer to Crone Island Enterprises than any job I've ever had, and consequently I'm happier than ever. If a small business such as the Sisters of the Valley had a chapter in my city, though, I probably would have applied to work for them.
posted by velvet winter at 5:03 PM on June 9 [5 favorites]


I told myself I wasn't going to do this at this job, and a year and a half after starting my first dev job, my tech lead is constantly gone taking seminars on leadership, and I'm the one actually making sure my more-senior fellow developers actually get their work done. I'm the one who gets someone tapping on my shoulder to ask me about random error messages before anybody tries to Google it. I am literally the most junior dev on my team.

I do fantasize a lot about being self-employed but man the risk involved in that is not something I can undertake right now. And I want to be working with other people and learning from other people. I just want those other people to stop acting like I'm automatically the designated grown-up among the developers even compared to guys who're 20 years older than me and a tech lead who is younger but has a decade more work experience than I do (and a higher title and a bigger paycheck).
posted by Sequence at 5:05 PM on June 9 [8 favorites]


While sexism and gender bias clearly play a massive role in expectations of emotional labour in the workplace, I'd like to see a more comprehensive analysis of EL expectations for those in subordinate or low-paying roles (which are, obviously, traditionally inhabited by women).

I remember the feeling of utter hypocrisy of having male and female friends who worked in minimum wage jobs where every aspect of their personality, demeanour, appearance and willingness to "go the extra mile" (read: do shit for free) was scrutinised to the nth degree, while I could rock up to my six figure job, barely grunt a hello, put on my headphones and return a slew of three-word emails without the slightest pushback - yes, I was that jerk.

For me, the broader issue is not so much whether men should be putting just as much EL into their jobs as women but, rather, whether the expectation that workers of any gender put unpaid EL into their job is fair under a capitalist economy, given the worker's labour is already being exploited. Spending your precious time at work, away from your friends and family, being paid less than the value of what you produce already is a significant form of emotional labour.

I hope nobody reads this as an excuse for men's thoughtless behaviour in the workplace but, as noted by another poster above, this problem probably won't be resolved by putting more women in positions of power. Ultimately the solution is the removal of unjust hierarchies and the re-institution of solidarity between all workers.

In the meantime - men: for god's sake, order a colleague's birthday cake, help clean up after meetings, make sure your colleagues aren't on the verge of a emotional breakdown.
posted by smithsmith at 5:55 PM on June 9 [11 favorites]


I think we can have a conversation about gendered expectations of labor before we solve the problems of capitalism. Women’s issues matter regardless of the greater problems and don’t deserve to be pushed to the side.

It doesn’t matter if two people are at the same place in the hierarchy the woman will end up doing more of the emotional labor and the under appreciated duties that go along with it. In my experience that’s what happens even in relatively senior or professional positions. It’s a problem that needs to be addressed that isn’t going to go away on its own.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 6:16 PM on June 9 [44 favorites]


Who had comment 19 in the pool?
posted by schadenfrau at 6:22 PM on June 9 [36 favorites]


I say I'm sorry a billion times a day, no matter what. It doesn't matter if I am actually in the wrong, sorry, or guilty, as long as I show that I am apologetic and submissive and show that I am shit, so that the client can feel better.

I have been told I should "soften" my emails by starting them out with "Hi" or "Dear" (ugh, nobody is my "dear") after someone ripped me a new asshole and cc'd my boss for my "tone." She told me to contact X person for something and then when I tried, I was told vociferously by several people that X doesn't do it, Y does, and I figured that she should be alerted that Y is the new contact. That was apparently bad.

I apologized for doing my job yesterday because I found something wrong and fixed it and it was not in the client's favor or what they wanted. That's another anvil that will probably drop on my head come Monday morning.

I apologize for all kinds of shit I didn't do and literally has nothing to do with me except that it happened at my org and anything that happens at my org, I am 100% responsible for and guilty about, because I am the name they have and I serve and help for a living. I will do anything you tell me to as long as it's not expressly forbidden because I know what happens if I don't. I apologize at the slightest ruffled feather. "You roll over too easily," my boss said, and it's true, but if I don't and if I leave people angry, they get vengeful. And/or will try to get me fired (which has already been attempted). Trying to stand up for myself or defend myself or have a spine absolutely doesn't work for me in order to stay employed and not angering people and it seems like a lot of people I deal with already come in angry as is. If everyone around me isn't 100% happy, I am in danger if I am not managing their emotions for them.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:49 PM on June 9 [17 favorites]


I consider myself a pretty aware dude but the first time the scales really dropped from my eyes was in a meeting of like 15 dudes, including myself, and 3 women. The question came up: What do teenage girls like? Immediately 14 dudes started talking at once like "Y'SEE THE GIRLS LIKE THE JUSTIN BIEBER AND THE JONAS BROTHERS..." all talking over each other louder and louder and interrupting any of the women--one of whom even had a teenage daughter, the exact demographic we were asking about!--that tried to interject. It was just an endless circlejerk of dudes confidently pontificating loudly about things they obviously knew nothing at all about.

I cracked.

I mean I started laughing like a lunatic and wheezed out "You guys...are talking over...the people that know what we're looking for...and have no idea at all what you're saying" while tears ran down my cheeks because I was losing my mind.

Suffice to say I got Yelled At later that day and didn't last long at that job, but it was an eye-opening experience for me.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 6:58 PM on June 9 [62 favorites]


This has hit me so hard since joining the actual workforce— women are punished for not being QUITE sweet or QUITE assertive enough, meanwhile men have meltdowns at work once a week and no one bothers to say a thing. They’re “eccentric,” or “difficult,” or whatever if anything, while the women are actually expected to change or be fired.

The working class aspect is near and dear to my heart for many reasons. I’m constantly angry thinking about how much harder I worked for so much less appreciation as a wage slave, and how many of my loved ones are still in the same position and always will be. Then hearing about how working class men don’t want to work at pink collar jobs because 1) they’re not paid enough (women’s work) and 2) they ask for too much deference & caring and it’s even more infuriating. Do I get it? Yes. Does it matter a whit to working class women who need to work and wipe someone’s ass all day* for practically minimum wage? No.

* figuratively but also not
posted by stoneandstar at 7:03 PM on June 9 [22 favorites]


Hartley's upcoming book credits the original MeFi emotional labor thread as an influence on her work.


That is a truly awesome discussion thread, too.
posted by darkstar at 7:03 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


it's a good thread but the existence of it made askme pretty dumb for a while afterwards. someone would be like "my husband can't wipe his ass good enough not to get shit on things in our house" and 40 ppl would immediately say "tell him to read the emotional labor thread!" like a guy who is okay with having laziness doodoo on him and his stuff is gonna sit down and read through a 2100 comment thread.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:34 PM on June 9 [58 favorites]


I think we can have a conversation about gendered expectations of labor before we solve the problems of capitalism. Women’s issues matter regardless of the greater problems and don’t deserve to be pushed to the side.

I was worried my comment would be misinterpreted in exactly this fashion (instead of rather than in addition to) and did try to go out of my way to make it clear that I think that those exact conversations need to be had now while we recognise the broader systematic issues at play.

An example that has always stuck in my craw - my wife, the lowest paid member of her team, was always expected to buy birthday cakes for fellow employees (on her personal time, of course) and getting reimbursed by others was like getting blood from a stone so she eventually didn't bother anymore and just wore the cost. I don't think such forms of emotional and financial exploitation should be wholly dependent on whether or not you work with sufficiently enlightened individuals.

Businesses have for far too long gotten away with delegating away the basic human needs of their employees under the rubric of cost savings and efficiency - human beings have babies, birthdays, mental illnesses, stresses and workplaces should be structured accordingly. We need to be careful not to let employers off the hook in this conversation. Nobody, male or female, should be performing unpaid labor in the workplace, emotional or otherwise.
posted by smithsmith at 8:20 PM on June 9 [3 favorites]


They’re “eccentric,” or “difficult,” or whatever if anything, while the women are actually expected to change or be fired.

Even where firing isn't on the table, I'm expected to be okay with our team getting constantly scolded for not getting enough done precisely because firing isn't on the table, and never mind that I actually want more out of my career than this, and meanwhile the rest of my team does so little work it's ridiculous. So I keep getting told to relax, and meanwhile my anxiety problem has now been in high gear for about a year and a half, and I have no idea how to translate what I'm currently doing into another job, so like--I'm not on the verge of being homeless, but I'm not making any progress, and I'm supposed to just be okay with that because everybody else is okay with that.

Except that all the everybody else's already make more than I do. Funny, that.
posted by Sequence at 8:22 PM on June 9 [6 favorites]


Emotional labor is important. We have the tools to demonstrate its value, clearly, and in immediate and vivid terms. We need to do this, so that everyone will recognize the value of those who do it.
posted by amtho at 9:18 PM on June 9


That is a truly awesome discussion thread, too.

Indeed, and awesome enough to have helped spawn a book on the subject. I was hoping someone would eventually write a full book about EL, and it's great to know that the MeFi thread played a role in it. That thread changed a lot of lives, my own included. I'm excited to read Hartley's book.
posted by velvet winter at 10:15 PM on June 9 [11 favorites]


I'm glad this is making its way into at least one book. I hope there are more. The emotional labor thread and its follow-ups really opened my eyes to a lot of things that have been and perhaps forever will be sources of soreness and inequality in some of my personal and prior work relationships, and there really is no going back for me now that I see some of these things for what they are. In 2014, everything happened in Ferguson and forever changed my outlook on race and privilege, as well as led to a major career change for me. In 2015, the emotional labor thread was similarly revelatory and probably started me on the emotional trajectory I'm on now. So thank you again to everyone who's continued to think and talk about these ideas.
posted by limeonaire at 11:26 PM on June 9 [4 favorites]


For those interested in the relationship between EL and capitalism from a radical-left Pagan perspective, I recommend Giving Power, Taking Power: Emotional Labor, Gender, and Abuse by Sophia Burns.
Emotional labor is a waitress smiling and laughing even when a customer is rude. Emotional labor is a retail clerk greeting everyone who walks in with a smile, no matter how she actually feels. Emotional labor is a nurse aide acting pleasant even under deeply unpleasant conditions. [...]

Much of the emotional labor required of pink collar workers involves smiling and apologizing at people targeting you with abusive behaviors. Tell an angry, verbally-violent customer, “don’t talk to me like that. I deserve basic respect,” and you’ll likely get fired. Submitting to an abusive partner or family member involves precisely the same work, and it’s work forced on most of us by the power structure of capitalism.
posted by velvet winter at 12:27 AM on June 10 [15 favorites]


I can't even begin to express how transformative the EL document has been for me personally but as well as for work.

On the personal side of things it's made me see where I've totally gone off the rails in relationships and how disrespectful I'd been, especially from places of male privilege and entitlement, even if it's been mostly lower grade stuff like "Why do you care if I pick up my socks?" and never "Make me a sandwich."

It's helped me grow and be more mindful as a human being, and also to value my own values and how to be communicative about my own wants and needs, and how to discern which of those wants are actually wants and which are actually needs.

On the professional side of things I've similarly used EL to help explore and define and redefine my own boundaries or even have them at all, how to be a better coworker, and how to communicate what I need from coworkers. Mainly this helped me define my last job as toxic, quit it and then heal from it.

But most importantly of all? I now work in a feminist, anti-capitalist non-profit workplace that's also inherently anti-toxic workplace and pro-people and labor. I get to practice a lot of self care with my job, including downing tools if I need to just to destress, take a walk, work remotely or do nothing at all - and our office has the mutual support and communications infrastructure to thrive with this.

Even better? We teach and use EL practices with our staff and empower them to refuse to serve abusive or toxic customers. Part of our food service oriented job training is identifying abusive customer interactions and giving our front of house counter staff carte blanche to refuse service. This includes unwanted compliments, attention, male gaze or anything that makes the server feel uncomfortable. (Yeah, I'll be forwarding this whole thread to my boss and coworkers. Hi team! Love you!)

Further, I get to share the MetaFilter EL document with coworkers WHO LOVE IT AND APPRECIATE IT to help them with their own lives and relationships. I've also shared it with about two dozen of my female friends at this point. And in both cases, we're talking about pretty evolved, progressive people being exposed to this concept of EL and the details in the MetaFilter megathread document, or being able to name it and communicate about it effectively for the first time.

I also get to personally employ it and learn from it as I increasingly lose my male privilege and change - as my emotional IQ and mental maps and values shift and change, not just my outward appearances. The inward mental and emotional changes are vastly more profound than the external, physical changes.

I guess I'm with limeonaire and expressing my profound thanks. Thank you to everyone who spoke up and shared and did the hard things. Thank you for the ongoing work and efforts and labor. Thank you for giving me some tools to strive to be a better, more mindful human being.

This is amazing work and it's reverberating.
posted by loquacious at 2:22 AM on June 10 [26 favorites]


I will basically never let go of the time that I told our new HR director about Our Problem With Contractors: namely, that we don't have a centralized list of them, and we never have, and this is sad. (I'm a sec engineer; I need lists of our employees and contractors and such for quarterly access audits.) The CTO said I needed to be coached in how to communicate more professionally. My boss said he'd be happy to have me email him with drafts so that he could help reword them.

Meanwhile, we have a sysops dude who is loud, arrogant, pro-Trump, and utterly lazy when it comes to there being any problem that 5 minutes of research would address. To my knowledge, no one has sat him down and told him to be more professional.

Recently, we've been having email issues. A different dude, a dev, will not stop complaining and asking inane googleable questions and getting fussy. Meanwhile, I quote informative stuff from the CEO's email on the topic, and the project lead tells me "Xtina... I'm watching you", like somehow quoting the boss is a problem.

My previous direct bosses had Serious Communication Issues, once involving slamming a door because he was so frustrated. Again, no "word to the wise" that I was aware of, since the behavior didn't stop. Hell, with the door-slammer, he went on vacation and basically didn't come back, and we didn't cut him off payroll because... I don't even remember.

I currently sit close to the front door to our office space, so I always get up to get the door when someone knocks on it (usually delivery folk). "Just don't answer the door," the CTO says. child do you understand nothing

TL;DR: I am tired of dudes and I am tired of reshaping myself so that dudes feel better about themselves while said dudes get away with shit that would embarrass me. I really wish I could go freelance, except then my income would rely on how nice I could be to people, and I cannot.
posted by XtinaS at 4:11 AM on June 10 [23 favorites]


that double standard is so fucking corrosive.

Part of our food service oriented job training is identifying abusive customer interactions and giving our front of house counter staff carte blanche to refuse service

Please can this be made into law across the land
posted by schadenfrau at 4:45 AM on June 10 [19 favorites]


Please can this be made into law across the land

It is already essentially the law in any state that allows the right to refuse service, and there are quite a few businesses (mostly independent) that exercise this right and protect their staff with gusto, but, yeah, they're all too rare.

It's the service industry that's the problem for permitting and welcome this customer abuse, and the jerks that abuse staff. And, well, I don't want to be a downer but we only train a small amount of people, and we have no control over their future jobs and employers. And I definitely don't have the mega-kilocalories to even start trying to train the world's jerks to stop being jerks.

But we can at least show our trainees what's healthy and non-toxic, and give them some coping skills to deal with it, and some practice in how to say "No." and handle that confrontation.

And, well, a huge component of my life lessons this year are to take every small victory I can, and to remember to not let perfect get in the way of good.


Back to the immediate topic, I've been thinking about EL at work more and I'm realizing that without the EL megathread and document and all the discussions we've had about it - I'm not even sure if I could have appreciated or even recognized that my new workplace is almost completely healthy and non-toxic. (And holy crap do we need it, because our work can get really emotionally challenging without the added stress of a toxic workplace.)

I think I wouldn't have even known what to do with it as recently as 3 years ago. I probably would have gone into it with my normal adversarial, capitalist mindset and likely would have perpetuated my own toxic work environment and stress. Not to mention who knows how much self sabotage.

Right now, after a nearly two year hiatus to dive into self care - partially inspired and fueled by the original EL megathread and my personal frustration with basically all of the relationships in my life and my efforts (lack of) within them - I know exactly what to do with a blank slate, an open desk and a healthy workplace with healthy goals and a healthy mission:

Work hard and thrive.

So thanks to this thread I'm definitely going to be adding something substantial to the training about how to say "No." and deal with confrontation with rude customers. We've already been trying to reassure and remind our staff that they can do this for any reason - especially including sexual harassment and unwanted attention/comments/gaze and ANYTHING AT ALL that makes them uncomfortable.

A lot of our volunteers are young women, and this seems like a super important life skill and training opportunity to make available.

I'm precisely three hours and twenty minutes from a training shift where I have the opportunity to try to deploy and re-iterate this, and it's probably really good timing because the trainee has some social anxiety issues, and so we're going to try peer-to-peer training with her friend who is already a volunteer. (And a kick butt rock star of a worker, no less.)

I would love memails and advice about this topic, specifically about how to talk to younger women about how to empower them to say "No." and follow their instincts, both in customer service and out.

I'm trying to reach and teach but I know I'm clumsy. I know I have male privilege and socialization. And even as someone marginalized by being trans - there's a lot I don't understand.


So, thanks again for this thread and all of the EL information that's allowed me to see and understand things a lot more clearly. At least in my own life and my patch of the world, this EL awareness movement is reaching far beyond MetaFilter and our community.

p.s. Hey velvet winter? I want to share that I wore my "why work? alternatives to wage slavery." t-shirt to my job interview. Thank you for your mindful work, service and efforts on this screwy planet.
posted by loquacious at 9:51 AM on June 10 [4 favorites]


Loquacious, I think part of the problem is that, in the end, there’s nothing one woman can do on her own to make people listen to her. Just...nothing. If she’s lucky, the people who have power over her will be decent people who listen and who are open to change and self-reflection. But the problem is none of us have any control over that, and that feeling of powerlessness itself is unbelievably draining.

I almost feel like the best thing we could do would be to set up women’s freelancer unions, networks that can refer companies that don’t suck, etc etc.
posted by schadenfrau at 10:02 AM on June 10 [18 favorites]


Agreed, schadenfrau. This is something I know isn't just going to go away. I'm not asking for sinecures or quick fixes nor am I trying to place the burden on women, but I'm definitely interested in longer term strategies and anything that can help in whatever small ways.

I guess part of what I'm hoping to convey is the skills to set more work related boundaries, and both offering coping skills and strategies from shitty customers or workplaces, how to even recognize them and how/when to walk away from shitty, toxic jobs.

Not that there's always a choice.

While I am absolutely up for the task, it's known and demonstrated that I listen and am available and that I have my staff's backs and will handle confrontations on their behalf because it's part of my job - it's definitely annoying the crap out of me to have to have these conversations that are, essentially "Well, you're just listening to me because you think I'm a dude."

And, well, who knows how long that's going to last. (About a year and a half, I reckon.)

So, yeah, I know, welcome to the club and unrelenting flood of bullshit that is everyday life for women all over the world.

Oh well, I guess I'll still be loud, outspoken and intense. Not to mention uncouth and unsocialized. There's a square on my trans bingo card reserved specifically for someone calling me a b*tch because I spoke up or called someone on some bullshit.

I've already ticked off a few squares, like "Getting super angry at someone in public spouting otherist bullshit about trans people, reading them the riot act and accidentally coming out to a bunch of people." and just the other day I checked off "Why is this dude talking weird nonsense at me and making passive-aggressive sideways trial balloon comments about offering to buy me a drink? Oh, shit, really? Go away."

Oh, fucking hell. I just realized I can probably check another square off the card, and it's whatever square it is for having a dude both talk over me and not respect my boundaries while seeking attention. Same dude with the passive aggressive comments about drinks tried to approach me yesterday as I was working in my outside mobile office and tried to strike up a conversation after I said "Yes, I mind if you sit there and smoke, I'm working." and sat down anyway with his bluetooth speaker until I said "Dude, no, really, I'm working and I don't need you smoking that joint right here."

I'm just realizing I expressed this three times and had to glower angrily at him before he left.

It's subtle but I'm definitely getting that "You vending machine, give me attention!" vibe, because it's totally different then platonic dude interaction, and also way different to my experiences getting hit on by gay dudes, which isn't this.

I strongly suspect I've been clocked or someone outed me or he overheard me talking about it somewhere, and I might have my first "chaser". Yay.
posted by loquacious at 10:52 AM on June 10


I think part of the problem is that, in the end, there’s nothing one woman can do on her own to make people listen to her. Just...nothing.

No joke, this is why we need some kind of Cyrano/Hannibal Buress sort of business in which a man repeats something a woman says and then everyone listens and cares when it's him. God knows it works at my job when I have my boss get on the phone instead of me.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:43 AM on June 10 [4 favorites]


Apologies if I've overshared or used too much oxygen.

Frankly, I'm fucking terrified of getting this stuff wrong or missing the chance to speak up. The losing privilege thing is starting to get real, too, and I want more skills.

I have no idea what I'm doing and am dealing with a lot of imposter syndrome and "What the hell do you mean I'm the adult!? Oh god, we're doomed."

But this thread was a healthy motivator and reminder about what I'm working for.
posted by loquacious at 11:48 AM on June 10 [3 favorites]


One thing that I've been thinking about lately is that as much as I would like to do less emotional labor, especially in the workplace, I want to make sure that I never get to a point where I shut down and stop doing it entirely.

My office is largely female, until you go up the org chart to the executive level (go figure). Below that, you have managers, and then mid- and early-career folks.

Both of my managers are women. One is nearing retirement, and has checked out of a lot of the emotional labor that would ordinarily come with a managerial role. This takes the form of her wittingly or unwittingly starting fires that I then have to run around and put out.

I'm trying and struggling to be sympathetic. For years, her position was right below that of the male execs, who get to think big thoughts and say whatever is on their mind, and never have to consider people's feelings, or take notes, or manage their own calendars, or use their precious fingers to dial a phone number themselves. I could see wanting to spend your last years in the workplace laying claim to some of those same advantages, especially after years of taking shit from those guys.

But she's not getting back at them. She's dumping the fallout on me and other people who report to her, all of whom are also women.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 2:13 PM on June 10 [8 favorites]


this is why we need some kind of Cyrano/Hannibal Buress sort of business in which a man repeats something a woman says and then everyone listens and cares when it's him

I recommend getting help from HR or IT in setting up a fake email account with a male name, and forwarding things through it. This has a long history of being effective:

* Remington Steele (fiction)
* Keith Mann (real)
* Swapped names for two weeks
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:55 PM on June 10 [9 favorites]


...the best thing we could do would be to set up women’s freelancer unions, networks that can refer companies that don’t suck, etc etc.

Yes! For starters, here are a couple of sites where women can anonymously rate their employers on woman-friendliness. I haven't looked closely at these sites myself; I'm just throwing them out there as potentially helpful resources that are available right now.

* InHerSight
* FairyGodBoss
posted by velvet winter at 10:51 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]


I just checked them out. Both of them seem like venture-backed tech companies, where the emphasis is on collecting data and measuring “metrics.” They have Q&A community sections, but they’re only as good as the communities they’ve fostered, which don’t seem very robust.

Plus there are quotes everywhere about how “Merrill Lynch is a great place to work!” They’ve both done the usual media / PR tour, too. And they both offer “find a job” sections. I’m not sure how they make money, which isn’t a great sign.

And, perhaps because they’re start up-shiny and venture capital (read: acquisition) friendly, they don’t seem to take a stand on anything. Like there’s a lot of words about whether workplaces are good for women, but they’re all neutered. There’s no mention of people doing anything wrong, or what to do about it when they do, just “how friendly is this family leave policy?”

Caveat: I didn’t sign up for an account. These both seem like exactly what you would expect from Silicon Valley — more interested in preserving the status quo as much as possible rather than helping women.
posted by schadenfrau at 11:15 AM on June 11 [4 favorites]


Thank you for vetting them, schadenfrau - those sites were passed along to me without comment by one of my contacts, and I didn't take the time to go through them myself, so your assessment is much appreciated.

If I had sufficient time, I'd offer whatever skills I could to help build a real feminist website to rate employers. I mentioned in a comment above that being a self-employed full-time freelancer who lives alone and works remotely has enabled me to avoid a lot of EL, which is wonderful...but the flip side of that coin is that I have so little free time. I have to handle everything myself: all the paid labor necessary to earn a living, all the time-consuming work of running a business, and all the unpaid labor to manage a household and my chronic health conditions. And freelancers don't get luxuries like paid vacations or sick leave. If I have to turn down work because I'm sick, I don't get paid at all, so then I have to play catch-up.

My life would be so much more efficient if I had some backup or a half-decent safety net. I think the thing I miss most about being married is having another responsible adult around to contribute to the efforts of maintaining a household. (I certainly don't miss the EL, however...)
posted by velvet winter at 11:55 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]


Today I had to advise a group of senior (50-something) writers that the words "sorry about that" would have made a world of difference when I came back from vaca and discovered that their lack of process and follow-through had affected my (and others') work adversely. Initially they had tried to shove it off on my alleged failure to communicate, but one of them called the other out on that, apparently.

I got a sincere apology after that, but the insult plus injury this morning has me thinking deep thoughts (again) about living and working at a Catholic Worker type place, where I would expect the standard of communication to be just a little higher. I hope I have the opportunity and courage to make the leap. Fuck tech.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 2:55 PM on June 11


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