Laurie Penny asks about emotional labor on twitter
February 25, 2019 6:04 AM   Subscribe

 
I was just reading this about men being more likely to leave their sick wives behind while the reverse isn't true. Like... sad face? And this comment from Jeff G in the responses, "Sorry man, but you’re missing the point here: being with men, in particular, is very often unhealthy for women. Emotionally and physically. We gotta be real about these dynamics if we wanna be with women."
posted by xarnop at 6:14 AM on February 25, 2019 [41 favorites]


I was really glad to see that the men were able to jump in on that thread. How else are we going to know what women think about their own experiences, if not through the eyes of men? /s
posted by corey flood at 6:36 AM on February 25, 2019 [34 favorites]


Re: men leaving sick wives. My ex wasn't THAT much of a shitheel but he was close. When he was sick he expected to be coddled and cooed over. When I was sick, he would just yell at me for the inconvenience to himself. I can't believe I put up with eleven years of that crap but at least I'm out now.
posted by MiraK at 6:44 AM on February 25, 2019 [49 favorites]


My personal experience has been quite different; my husband is a tremendous source of joy and support in my life. However, did we ever have to fight through chores and emotional labour to get here (and frankly I have mostly fallen to his standards rather than him rising to my own, at least on the family emotional labour front. But chores, the reverse, and parenting, the absolute reverse - he puts in so much.) That said, if he vanished off the face of the earth, I would never get married to a man again.

What I hope men learn from women sharing their experiences this way is that they can move the needle by doing the work, not by arguing against it. Just join in with your partner! Treat her priorities as shared priorities, not like you are a whiny teenager and she is a MOM making you clean your ROOM or call your GRANDMA.

My husband really did not see the point of playdates, ever. Then he stepped up to taking our youngest to them and got to know some other dads and moms...and saw how the kids learned to play together, were better friends at school, etc. Now he's organizing them. He was a little dismissive at the start, caught himself, and now our family is stronger.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:45 AM on February 25, 2019 [33 favorites]


*Prolonged scream of rage*
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:45 AM on February 25, 2019 [33 favorites]


I never wanted children, but I have been married to a man. My estimate of was it worth it is skewed, because it brought me to my beloved Canada, but if I discount that, no, it was way more trouble than it was worth. And it was getting worse, because we were both changing, and the changes weren't congruent. So I left.

My heart would like to not paint marriage-to-man with a broad brush. My head likes its independence, and not spending money we don't have on extravagant holiday gifts for people who are loaded (and, you know, stuff). The heart and head, they fight a lot.
posted by wellred at 6:46 AM on February 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


The premise makes uncomfortable sense on a visceral level. I grew up in a "tribal" atmosphere, where the women were the seat of the family's organization, and many of the men were either shiftless or outright dangerous.

I was the youngest among my siblings, my peers as a child were my nephews and nieces. My siblings were more like aunts and uncles than sibs. A feature of our extended family was for a child to go to his sister's family when their mother (for some reason) had a hard time dealing with them. Various reasons related to hand to mouth economics and following various crops all over the south of Arizona and California kept us all well away--virtually--from the middle class life. Some of my family members (me, for one) spent their early childhood moving from one labor camp to another, and playing with other children among the row crops in the fields where our mothers labored, until we were old enough to work there ourselves. It was our mothers who kept us whole, fed and clothed, and loved.

If I followed the twitter lead accurately, the shadows of that dynamic seem to be overlaid even in the more economically fortunate sets of people who try to make families, or reach out for someone to hold in the night. My relationships, after the first heady and blissful months or years, have been shitstorms, but I managed to father a child and see him into a successful adulthood. I no longer am associated with his mother, and I have no particular legacy to leave for him. I can't honestly say that his mother, the Dragon Lady, and I shared the dynamic under discussion, but that's because of the weirdness that we both, each, brought to the relationship.

Is this premise a social dynamic, or is it something wired into us humans? My life's lesson is that relationships have many moving parts that aren't obvious to those of us entering into them in our youth. By the time you realize how they work, you will have already committed yourself. The heartbreak comes when you realize that, although this isn't what you signed up for, you have already taken on responsibilities that are hard to just step away from. Complications then get ugly or vanishingly sad.

By the way, this premise is not an epiphany for me. It represents some sort of rot that's been a part of my life all along, but for various reasons honest dialogue hasn't really been available in any form that I was willing to appreciate. Now I am old. I can reflect with sadness that I spent most of my life groping around for a partner, but none of us seemed to have had a way to lever ourselves out of the rut of unequal responsibility that had shaped our lives. My issue was complicated by the way my wonderful sisters managed the children in our families. They took on the burden. I guessed that's how it was supposed to work.

The thing is, no metric exists to quantify how this works. Relationships are probably supposed to be agreements. Our social templates are woefully inadequate. Now I'm in a relationship that has different parameters. If it fails this time, it will probably be because of a lack of imagination.
posted by mule98J at 7:02 AM on February 25, 2019 [30 favorites]


Somebody in the replies to this Twitter thread thought it was a good idea to give his personal stats and interests and say “DM me with serious marriage opportunities, please.”

I love men, but I have to choose myself, because no one else will. That’s the simple fact of it. Being single isn’t an act of defiance; it isn’t a failure to be fully human; it is just a thing that has happened.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:04 AM on February 25, 2019 [55 favorites]


Somebody in the replies to this thread thought it was a good idea to give his personal stats and interests and say “DM me with serious marriage opportunities, please.”

I saw that, right after the anti-vaxxer who loftily declared that "The women responding to you simply are not representative of the larger population."
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:12 AM on February 25, 2019 [4 favorites]


I once came across a statement that went something like 'the fact I still like men is proof sexuality is not a choice', and do I ever identify hard with that. It's now been over a decade since I was in a relationship, and while there are times when that is achingly lonely, I read things like this and reflect on so many past relationship experiences, and am reminded there's no guarantee the alternative would be any better.

Countess Elena: I love men, but I have to choose myself, because no one else will. That’s the simple fact of it.

So much this.
posted by myotahapea at 7:16 AM on February 25, 2019 [77 favorites]


I'm skipping over the paragraphs of scathing laughter to note one thing:

I am really interested in this demographic shift. I keep reading about the wave of "bachelors" as a social threat to worry about, but I think it's going to be a wave of single-by-choice women who are thriving in careers and have stronger social networks that are going to upset social orders far more. The men wanting to marry will rely on their families or whatever group of women they can pressure through finances and social access.

Women used to be held on to their family of origin as responsible for the vast majority of the scutwork and emotional group, but increasingly the families are smaller, older people are more independent and there's state support so they've suddenly got this huge release of resources to put into their own lives.

I can't wait to see what happens as women put their energy into their own lives.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 7:25 AM on February 25, 2019 [54 favorites]


Part of what makes this conversation so difficult is that people are like "choose better" or "refuse to accept anything less than equality" with a tone like it's so obvious, gosh! but if they'd only think about it for a second...

Nobody gets to "just" opt out of an oppressive system by an effort of will. That's what makes them oppressive systems in the first place, is the fact that you don't get to opt out. The system follows you wherever you go, whatever you do. It's a constant uphill battle to go against both partners' ingrained tendency to default to patriarchy everyday all the time. We never get to win always. Small example: How many kids have just their mothers' last names vs. just their fathers'?

Even the women with amazing male partners who do pull their fair share of all labor including emotional, administrative, unpaid, or other can't escape the system because they're forced to talk about how awesome their partners are all the time (for good reasons like showing the rest of us how it can be done, or for bad reasons like giving their partners a cookie) instead of being able to simply take equality for granted and get on with their lives.

I could see myself walking away from heterosexual partnerships just to avoid having to talk about an awesome partner (were I so lucky as to win that particular lottery). No offense to those who do it - I'm grateful that you do, really - but I imagine it must be quite exhausting in and of itself.
posted by MiraK at 7:27 AM on February 25, 2019 [66 favorites]


I was really glad to see that the men were able to jump in on that thread.

I appreciated Jeff G's response. He wasn't saying anything new that women weren't already saying, he was dealing with a tiresome "not all men" response, saving women the trouble. At least, that's how I read it.

More general reaction to this kind of thread: It makes me happy to be asexual and aromantic. This does not have to be my problem, as much as I feel for all of the other women who have to deal with it.

I'm currently living withe a male friend - now male roommate - and he's more open and cooperative than most guys. But, like, the socialization runs so deep. When I think about how above average he is, and how we still have problems sometimes, I just cannot imagine the frustration and despair of trying to find a male partner. I mean, it just ... is corrosive to your happiness and self-worth when someone you love and who should love you doesn't treat you as an equal.

I've seen it happen to my mom and as much as I love my stepdad, sometimes I want to just tell my mom to leave him and come live with me.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:31 AM on February 25, 2019 [12 favorites]


Oh wow, yes. All day long, this.

I love my spouse. But in counseling, when they're all like "don't you want to be happy / build a healthy foundation," I'm like "guys, hello, straight relationships are all miserable garbage why would I even bother trying."

It does not go over well.

So this is validating, at least to my cynical, sick-feeling side that knows I need to jettison this person I love and trust in order to Live Life Correctly; that my parents were right, I will always be alone in the end and the only ones who love me will use me. That there is no such thing as a happy ending for some people.

It's funny-not-funny, we told queer people that through media all these years so that no one would see that the opposite was true.

Blargh.

If I have any hope, it's that at least some people will raise their kids better in the future. That Those Fucking Dudes(tm) will not halfass their way through life and get rewarded for it forever, in every instance. I hope.
posted by cage and aquarium at 7:34 AM on February 25, 2019 [12 favorites]


I had a conversation with a retired friend of mine in which she mentioned having three broken engagements, a sudden elopement in Vegas marriage that lasted three weeks (they'd only been dating 2.5 months and then he turned out to be an abusive addict), one long term live-in relationship with a guy for 20+ years that ended because he was a lot older than her and he had to go into a care home.

I asked if she'd ever want to date again and she was basically "eh, no, I don't want to live with someone again and at my age I'd just have to be a caregiver at some point and I love being alone," and said growing up that she always wanted to be like her single aunt.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:36 AM on February 25, 2019 [5 favorites]


Quick followup to this before I run out the door: there are far more shitty, boring, not great dudes out there than there are good ones, as far as I can tell. It'd be nice to find a good one but the good ones go fast and the avoidant and shitty are always heading back into the dating pool.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:39 AM on February 25, 2019 [9 favorites]


My teenage stepdaughters are a year out from graduating high school and, so far, they have shown less than zero interest in dating. I think they're the wave of the future: they are best friends with each other; they pour all their energy into school, baking, and cosplay; they have big plans for their futures and careers and travels.

This is not to take credit for their amazing lives, but one point, I did tell them that men are terrible (I always relish saying "no offense" to my husband* when I get on that soapbox). I told them they don't have to date men (or women) if they don't want to. As I said it, I realized what a big and fresh concept that is. And with this Twitter thread, too. I wonder how much of my dating/marrying behavior is what I've actively chosen to do, and how much is just me riding the wave of defaults and socializations that began before I turned six years old.

*who is in the top 1% of good dudes out there, and I am exceedingly lucky to have met him, and it does not feel like something I could just run out and find again
posted by witchen at 7:41 AM on February 25, 2019 [19 favorites]


That said, if he vanished off the face of the earth, I would never get married to a man again.

So much this. I don't think I'd get married again, ever, to anyone. I 100% hit the lottery with my husband and god dammit, I shouldn't have to even SAY that. Why can't men (#notallmen whatthefuckEVER) just be decent human beings?
posted by cooker girl at 7:41 AM on February 25, 2019 [20 favorites]


Nobody gets to "just" opt out of an oppressive system by an effort of will

The closest you can get, in this case, is having relationships with only women and being self-employed. I highly recommend both, if they are available to you.

I honestly don’t think there’s a place in my life for another cis man ever again, even, as they would have to be, as a friend. In my entire life that has only ended one way. Like I literally do not have personal experience of anything but the eventual poison of their sexism and their entitlement. I’m in spitting distance of 40 and I have always found it easier to become friends with men, so...it’s not an insignificant number of data points. But that sounds like I’m trying to justify it. I’m not. It just is. I’m done. Straight women who have come to the same conclusion have my infinite sympathy.

I don’t know. This feels depressing. I would like to move to a queer crone archipelago, I guess.
posted by schadenfrau at 7:44 AM on February 25, 2019 [21 favorites]


Nobody gets to "just" opt out of an oppressive system by an effort of will. That's what makes them oppressive systems in the first place, is the fact that you don't get to opt out.

It's so true. I'm raising sons with my husband and every single day is a battle. My sons are both strong at empathy and we are raising them with kindness, respect, and personal responsibility front and centre...and every day, not only do my husband and I fail at educating them out of sheer tiredness (like I fold the laundry at 11 pm because it's quieter and easier, rather than waiting for the next opportunity to get my kids to do it), but they are encountering other messages.

Of course, if you want to own a chore for the rest of your natural life, be one of my sons parroting a YouTube video about what a "mom job" is. This is why my son mops the floor.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:04 AM on February 25, 2019 [65 favorites]


Why can't men (#notallmen whatthefuckEVER) just be decent human beings?

I mean, either:

1. There's something uniquely terrible about the Y chromosome that makes us all evil and terrible. (not likely)

2. There's something uniquely terrible about our patriarchal society that warps and breaks men in horrible ways to turn many of them into despicable people. (I'm guessing this)

Generally bad people aren't born, they're made, and they're made through trauma. Hurt people hurt people.

When you look at a little baby full of love and snuggles, and you imagine the horror show they go through growing up in getting trained in our culture, it's terrifying.

I mean, hell, I didn't have words to express and describe my emotional states until I got to college, and that was only due to a girlfriend with a mom as a therapist. I can only imagine the wake of unknowing damage I left behind me before then. My mother still can't fathom having an conversation about feelings with me, because that's not something men do.

There's a lot of broken people out there without the skills to cope or to describe their suffering, and this is one of the rare areas where, because of how our society and gender roles are constructed, being a man makes things harder to address.

This is not excusing, btw, but describing part of the problem. Our culture produces monsters, and simply slaying or shunning the monsters doesn't solve the problem.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:09 AM on February 25, 2019 [52 favorites]


How many kids have just their mothers' last names vs. just their fathers'?

I have my mother's last name. But it's her father's last name, so.

I haven't had a romantic relationship or a partner in a long time. Would I like one? Sure. Do I wish I could go out and get laid with some hot dude and not have to worry about getting emotionally involved? Sometimes. I've tried, and I'm just not wired that way. I like men. I like the frisson of flirting, and the way they look and smell, the way their hugs feel, all of that. But.

I had thought that the main reason I haven't gotten out there to meet a likely fellow was because I had way too much baggage from my family of origin and didn't want to dump all my emotional issues on some poor guy. But in the last couple of years, both from going over these issues in therapy, and in watching my friends marry and have kids, and seeing in their lives what I didn't want my life to become, I've realized that the other part of my reluctance is exactly this erasing of self into a "relationship" that women go through, while men's sense of self is enhanced and their lives are made easier.

I'd already had enough of people trying to both dump their baggage, housework, etc., etc. AND erase my sense of self as a kid. All my ex-bf's were expecting me to be the 360 project manager for their lives, and no. And I'm certain that I gravitated to these men in large part from what I was forced to put up with and learned from my (female) guardian as a child. It was the same dynamic where she behaved like these sorts of men to a traumatizing degree. I'm sure I'm not signing up for any more of that, thanks. So for the time being, I'm better off alone.
posted by droplet at 8:09 AM on February 25, 2019 [20 favorites]


But it's her father's last name, so.

[not to pick on you personally, droplet, but this is one of my pet peeves: your mother's name belongs to her, as yours does to you - it's not "her father's name" any more than any guy's name belongs not really to him but his father. And, like, women who take their husband's name upon getting married and then keep it after getting divorced aren't stealing or whatever, they're just holding on to their own fucking name -- and those who change it back to their maiden name, I can't even, it breaks my heart that they had to symbolically erase their identity to be married because they're now feeling the need to symbolically reclaim it. I feel like shouting but it's into the void: WHEN DOES A WOMAN'S NAME BELONG TO HERSELF?]

[PS: can someone show me how to make my text small because it's really about time and I lack googlefu. ]
posted by MiraK at 8:15 AM on February 25, 2019 [28 favorites]


Ironically I’m into dudes as social companions if they’re willing to pull all the old-school dude weight. Like are you willing to make decisions and pay for stuff and take care of yourself emotionally and deal with logistics and let me relax? If so yeah maybe. Overall I’m extremely tired of progressive feminist guys who want none of the responsibilities of “manhood” but still want to subtly manipulate you into the one-down position via years of slights. Like, if you want to be a Big Man fine but I’m also buying my own drinks and making all the decisions and you’re lazing about like a teenager? What exactly are you bringing to the table here if it’s not responsibility but it’s not egalitarianism, either?
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 8:20 AM on February 25, 2019 [40 favorites]


Small example: How many kids have just their mothers' last names vs. just their fathers'?

Mine does!

A straight male friend asked me once if that choice wasn't illegal. Lol.

And no, it's not my dad's name. It's mine, and now my daughter's.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:21 AM on February 25, 2019 [18 favorites]



2. There's something uniquely terrible about our patriarchal society that warps and breaks men in horrible ways to turn many of them into despicable people. (I'm guessing this)


Breaks them, maybe, but especially when you get into socially privileged men they are doing it because they can and because it makes them feel good. Eg If you want a free therapist, be reasonably well off and get a wife and a female coworker/subordinate and female friends and maybe a girlfriend and they’ll all study your facial expressions and identify all of your feelings for you.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 8:23 AM on February 25, 2019 [20 favorites]


> PS: can someone show me how to make my text small

You wrap your text in the HTML tags for small font, like this:
<small> This text will become small </small> 
and now it will return to regular size.
In practice it will look like this:

This text will become small and now it will return to regular size.
posted by RedOrGreen at 8:24 AM on February 25, 2019 [21 favorites]


Our culture produces monsters, and simply slaying or shunning the monsters doesn't solve the problem.

It's a problem when not wanting to marry monsters is considered to be the same as shunning or murdering them, I mean, seriously.

RedOrGreen omg magic thank you thank you
posted by MiraK at 8:25 AM on February 25, 2019 [48 favorites]


There's a lot of broken people out there without the skills to cope or to describe their suffering, and this is one of the rare areas where, because of how our society and gender roles are constructed, being a man makes things harder to address.

When women entered the workforce in significant numbers after the 1960s, it was really hard! I was a child in the 70s but I remember how it sort of went down in families as mother after mother got a job, started bringing home takeout, my friends' houses started to sprout piles of clean laundry on armchairs. The women themselves faced discrimination and harassment in the workplace. And yet, they persisted. They persisted in getting educated, getting employed, organizing their kids and yes, their husbands, to do more around the house (I myself watched my sister and put casseroles in the oven.)

In that case, a lot of those women understood the benefits to their families. Sometimes they made these changes with the support of their spouses and sometimes without. Sometimes it resulted in divorce. But it wasn't easy. It still isn't easy.

The problem isn't that it's hard. The problem is that many many men do not perceive the benefit of doing the work.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:25 AM on February 25, 2019 [57 favorites]


I mean, my god, this was called the problem that has no name and still women DID SHIT about it.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:26 AM on February 25, 2019 [17 favorites]


When I was four, my parents arranged thanksgiving with a few other families who they were friends with and who had kids in my age range. I grew up with my dad cooking, but knew that for my friends, their moms cooked. After eating, the women cleared the table and did the dishes. I asked my mom why the women did that, since most of them also cooked. My mom got really uncomfortable and told me that that's the way it was. I decided that wasn't fair, and I wasn't going to be doing that with my life.

I don't know if other people have the same childhood awareness of sexism in the household that I did, but I was really aware that my mom was always stuck doing thankless, endless work that my dad never bothered himself about, and that so were all of my friends' moms, and I didn't want to be stuck doing that. Which, of course, my mom absolutely socialized me to do. Me, and not my brother. My dad wasn't much of a participant in raising us.

This shit is why I was so relieved to realize I'm gay when I was 14, because it meant I didn't have to do this, I didn't have to waste my life on some man. This is not to say that dating has been anything like easy, because queer dating is a different kind of nightmare. I don't date much, and once my ex-girlfriend moves out I'm planning to never live with another human.

I am also definitely up for moving to the queer crone archipelago with schadenfrau.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:29 AM on February 25, 2019 [40 favorites]


Our culture produces monsters, and simply slaying or shunning the monsters doesn't solve the problem.


I mean, here you are, considering yourself more enlightened than average, and still the only thing you can think of is to make sure that women don't try to opt out of perpetual bondage.
posted by praemunire at 8:32 AM on February 25, 2019 [93 favorites]


^^^truer words were never spoken.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 8:37 AM on February 25, 2019


Also it may be true that if I don’t partner with a given man, no one will, but that is because I do not have good taste in men, not because I am effecuating a shun.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 8:38 AM on February 25, 2019 [6 favorites]


Our culture produces monsters, and simply slaying or shunning the monsters doesn't solve the problem.

It's a problem when not wanting to marry monsters is considered to be the same as shunning or murdering them, I mean, seriously.

I mean, here you are, considering yourself more enlightened than average, and still the only thing you can think of is to make sure that women don't try to opt out of perpetual bondage.


These are both tremendously uncharitable readings of my comment. I'm not suggesting folks enter into relationships with terrible people. I'm saying if that's the only response, it's insufficient to solve the problem of all these terrible people being created.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:45 AM on February 25, 2019 [6 favorites]


The problem isn't that it's hard. The problem is that many many men do not perceive the benefit of doing the work.

And why is that? You've either got to go back to some kind of essentialism (men are uniquely bad). Or our culture is teaching them, incorrectly, that there's no value there. Which is wrong! So how do we fix it?
posted by leotrotsky at 8:47 AM on February 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


Or our culture is teaching them, incorrectly, that there's no value there. Which is wrong! So how do we fix it?

I guess the men will just have to figure out how to fix the culture on their own, because it sounds like the women are done fixing things.
posted by JanetLand at 8:49 AM on February 25, 2019 [96 favorites]


Our culture produces monsters, and simply slaying or shunning the monsters doesn't solve the problem.

I don't think this is a thread for for that sentiment, but in response (and as regards the bachelor wave thing, I guess) I'll offer that I've basically elected to withdraw myself from circulation so I don't have to be educated, endured or shunned, etc. by a partner who needs to get on with the rest of her life.

The only person who has to take me as I am, is me.

FWIW, I started moving in that direction without realizing after the EL thread and recently it's become a more conscious thing. A thread on how men can constructively respond to this kind of fatigue could be interesting but that thread does not need to be this thread, and the lack of articles on the topic to base such an FPP on kind of speaks for itself....
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:51 AM on February 25, 2019 [8 favorites]


I don't see any "problem" that needs fixing. Being single should be the default, not the exception.

If only say 5% of the population breeds, isn't that better for the world?

Especially when those that do are making informed choices, rather than it just happening by default.
posted by goinWhereTheClimateSuitsMyClothes at 8:56 AM on February 25, 2019 [15 favorites]


our culture is teaching them, incorrectly, that there's no value there. Which is wrong! So how do we fix it?

Step 1: Stop asking women to fix it for you.

Step 2 through Step N: ... [men fill in the blanks]
posted by MiraK at 8:57 AM on February 25, 2019 [36 favorites]


(N.b.: you can also nest those <small> tags inside each other to get really, really, small text.)
posted by wenestvedt at 8:58 AM on February 25, 2019 [28 favorites]


I'm saying if that's the only response, it's insufficient to solve the problem of all these terrible people being created.

This is a parent problem not a woman problem

Anyway, back to complaining about men who won’t even pick the %#*$ restaurant but also snipe at you if they feel like you’re being bossy
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 9:00 AM on February 25, 2019 [17 favorites]


I mean, it was a rhetorical question, I know the system is broken but fuck if I'm going to be the one to fix it and I damned sure don't want any other women to do it. Y'all need to fix it your damned selves. I'm fucking sick to death of fixing shit for men.
posted by cooker girl at 9:01 AM on February 25, 2019 [36 favorites]


Men: women don’t like men!!!!!
Also men: here’s a big impossible job that could be done much more easily by men
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 9:02 AM on February 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


I realized this when I was twelve years old and read Judy Syfers' essay I Want a Wife for the first time.

That was first published in 1970 and we're still stuck in this rut.

But yeah, I tell people upfront that the only potential benefits I see for me are help with the mortgage payment and steady sex, and those just aren't sufficiently motivating for me.

Too, also - this isn't just a male thing. I was approached by a married couple who wanted to do a poly relationship with me, because they both were looking for someone to basically manage their lives for them. I rolled my eyes so hard at that. Why does anyone think anyone else should feel privileged to do their adulting for them?
posted by Lunaloon at 9:04 AM on February 25, 2019 [32 favorites]


snuffleupagus: FWIW, I started moving in that direction without realizing after the EL thread and recently it's become a more conscious thing.

As a guy, it was super helpful to have the language of emotional labor to help me guide making a conscious change. I mean, yes, just in general "do more stuff" -- but evaluating which stuff is the heaviest (so to speak) or least-rewarding for my wife, and so is the best to take over from her so as to re-balance the load sooner.

(These days I can't imagine anyone dating me when I was a teen, and looking back I am lucky my wife married me. I am working hard to deserve her.)
posted by wenestvedt at 9:05 AM on February 25, 2019 [6 favorites]


I have gotten an interesting perspective on this lately, because I (a woman who traditionally dated/had relationships with men) just over the last year or so realized I was most likely gay, or at least very interested in being with women and not at all interested in being with men. (Not really because of EL stuff, but it's an interesting context)

This has resulted in some really interesting conversations with the women in my life, and I can't tell you how many women I've told who have told me they are honestly jealous that I never have to go on a date or be in a relationship with a man again. And this is not just typical straight girl stuff, like "Oh my life would be easier if I liked women" - this is well-thought-out "relationships between straight men and straight women are often emotionally unrewarding for women" stuff.

I'm 41, so all of us have a lot of experience with dating men. And I've started to notice how many of my unmarried straight friends around my age (let's say 35-45) have just checked out of men. They're straight, and maybe they have flings/whatever with men, but they're not actively looking for relationships because they've just decided it's not worth it.
posted by lunasol at 9:06 AM on February 25, 2019 [17 favorites]


You've either got to go back to some kind of essentialism (men are uniquely bad). Or our culture is teaching them, incorrectly, that there's no value there. Which is wrong!

Or the benefits just aren’t immediately obvious, so they don’t want to put the hard work in

So how do we fix it?

Possibly by shunning them so that they see the benefits?

Like honestly, I fantasize about the queer archipelago, but the biggest reason I know it’s a total fantasy is not the difficulty of acquiring an archipelago, it’s that men would never, ever, in a million years, actually leave it alone.

Like people react to the idea of women opting out of heterosexist patriarchal nonsense with fear and alarm, and the unspoken agreement seems to be that that is fear and alarm at what men might do in response. Think about how you would describe those dynamics in a personal relationship between two people, and then consider whether it would be less awful at scale.
posted by schadenfrau at 9:09 AM on February 25, 2019 [60 favorites]


Back when my wife (I'm female) worked in an office, she routinely got comments from the other women about how much they envied her having a wife -- because that's clearly the only way that your spouse will cook yummy food for you or clean the house, etc.
posted by world wide woman at 9:10 AM on February 25, 2019 [8 favorites]


Too, also - this isn't just a male thing. I was approached by a married couple who wanted to do a poly relationship with me, because they both were looking for someone to basically manage their lives for them. I rolled my eyes so hard at that. Why does anyone think anyone else should feel privileged to do their adulting for them?

Wait wait. Did they put it in those words, or were they just kind of expecting you to make the dinner reservations and then gradually that escalated to "get everyone scheduled for haircuts and doctors' appointments" and "transport their kids to soccer practice"?

Thought 1: Have they never considered a personal assistant or concierge service??
Thought 2: Oh but they also want to have sex with the assistant.
Thought 3: Oh, so...a marriage.

Lunaloon, this is sadly not so far-fetched, the more I think about it. I'm sorry about your experience.
posted by witchen at 9:16 AM on February 25, 2019 [8 favorites]


Thought 4: Profit!
posted by The Bellman at 9:26 AM on February 25, 2019 [6 favorites]


> Nobody gets to "just" opt out of an oppressive system by an effort of will. That's what makes them oppressive systems in the first place, is the fact that you don't get to opt out. The system follows you wherever you go, whatever you do.

Maybe twas ever thus, but one of the reasons I never wanted to have children was because I feared that trying to raise a decent human being - especially a male human being - while mired in the (misogynist, racist, late capitalist, etc.) system we're living in would be like standing in the middle of a river and trying to push the water back upstream.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:35 AM on February 25, 2019 [8 favorites]


1. There's something uniquely terrible about the Y chromosome that makes us all evil and terrible.

From what I have seen online, the general thought is that there's something about the testosterone kicking in around puberty that seems to have some frequently negative effects.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:42 AM on February 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


it's insufficient to solve the problem of all these terrible people being created.

The problem is that you see the problem in the passive voice--"being created"--as if the system whereby men (I guess "people" = "men") benefit perpetually from the self-sacrifice and destruction of women just somehow warped itself into existence--and regard it as the job of women to fix.

I decided a long time ago that I was not in the fixing business. Should I ever develop mutual interest with a man who genuinely seems capable of being an equal partner in life, that would be nice. Otherwise, since I don't want kids, I see no benefit in pouring my precious life energies into sustaining someone who's not even trying, and for whom there's a terrifyingly large possibility he won't reciprocate if I'm ever unable to care for myself.
posted by praemunire at 9:43 AM on February 25, 2019 [24 favorites]


Let me tell you about dating after 45, and encountering the terrifying term "nurse with a purse."

i.e., what older men are looking for. Because Wife No. 1 left, or died, and now they need someone around who has some income to take care of them till they kick off.

It is definitely enough to make you say "Yeah I'm done with dating men." I mean, I am a straight lady. I find them attractive. I do not want to date ladies, much as I admire them.

But I'm not optimistic about the outcome of letting another guy into my life/within reach of my income/able to make emotional demands on me. Because I think it's pretty unlikely I'll get anything worthwhile out of it in return.

So Crone Island it is, I guess.
posted by emjaybee at 9:51 AM on February 25, 2019 [46 favorites]


Women Going Their Own Way.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:56 AM on February 25, 2019 [14 favorites]


solve the problem of all these terrible people being created.

This framing of what the problem is is so very wrong on so many levels:

1. As pointed out above, the passive voice. The system does not create itself; it was created and is sustained primarily by those who benefit from it, and those who are bribed/coerced/threatened by those who benefit from it.

2. People "being created" isn't the problem, even, it's people being propagandized and brainwashed and coerced into participating in the system after being created. Framing this as a people-creation problem is a neat way of pointing fingers at women because patriarchy (oh look there it is again) says babies are made and raised by women, so all this is women's fault (insinuated without having to come right out and say so)

3. Which neatly turns into ANOTHER misogynistic potshot because wow, how stupid do you have to be to choose to have kids if you're a woman, that's basically choosing to oppress yourself! Neatly eliding both the fact that mothers pay an unconscionable and purely misogynistic price in exchange for doing the work of motherhood and that ALL of us depend on their procreative and caregiving/parenting labor for our very lives, day in and day out. Even feminists condescend, often, to women who have children, as if by creating the society of tomorrow, mothers are betraying the movement. It's altogether infuriating.

4. As noted by several commenters above, why are women expected to provide solutions to men's problems? #NotOurJob

5. Reread the quoted bit again and riddle me this: At what point - at what precise point - are adult men to be held responsible for their own goddamn behavior? Is it literally never, as this framing seems to suggest?? This line of reasoning where "it must be in the Y chromosome or it must be our upbringing" sidesteps all personal responsibility forever. BURN IT DOWN.
posted by MiraK at 10:00 AM on February 25, 2019 [64 favorites]


Too, also - this isn't just a male thing. I was approached by a married couple who wanted to do a poly relationship with me, because they both were looking for someone to basically manage their lives for them.

I've found that the privileges established couples bring to interactions with women they're interested are often very much like male privilege generally.
posted by bile and syntax at 10:02 AM on February 25, 2019 [15 favorites]


From what I have seen online, the general thought is that there's something about the testosterone kicking in around puberty that seems to have some frequently negative effects.

It's always interesting to see the ways in which trans women are left out of conversations about EL.
posted by lilies.lilies at 10:05 AM on February 25, 2019 [20 favorites]


BTW it's not lost on us that the passive voice used in "being created" is the same passive voice, lack of responsibility crapola as "was raped".
posted by wellred at 10:11 AM on February 25, 2019 [10 favorites]


I read ‘A Strong Libido, and Bored by Monogamy: the Truth About Women and Sex’ in the Guardian awhile ago. They described women who lived with their male sexual partners losing interest in sex with them after 12 months, and desiring other partners.

The key take away to me was that women who didn’t live with their male partners, or who lived with female sexual partners did not have such a strong urge to find new partners. The writers couldn’t quite bring themselves to join the dots about how much fucking hard work living with a bloke adds to a woman’s life; how much un-thanked social servicing, propping and grantedfor-taking bullshit is involved in patriarchal romances, and how OBVIOUSLY this is desire killing social machinery for women. Twelve months is just long enough testing for a woman to watch all the romance of deciding to live with her lover go down the drain with each new sign that she’s just some domestic artefact.

(The comments on that article were incredible: the piss streams men left for women to mop up from toilet seats; the endless skid marked undies left on floors for them to pick up; the nose pickings, sperm stains on furniture, and ear wax and shit stains, the filthy dishes in the sink; the being talked at but never heard, the soothing of the sick man whilst being a woman with the same illness in the house, etc etc, and the expectation after all of that for the woman to provide enthusiastic sex.)
posted by honey-barbara at 10:11 AM on February 25, 2019 [54 favorites]


I want the next feminist revolution to be women charging for everything: company, sex, therapy - whatever we charge. Married women can charge what they want too.

Log off of dating apps and start logging onto and making profiles for escort or sex-work apps and let's shift the world's capital into the hands of women.

It's not like we haven't been ground up and commodified. Let's be self-employed and our own bosses. It's not like men won't pay.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 10:16 AM on February 25, 2019 [14 favorites]


I unfortunately do not have time to go down the rabbit hole for y'all today to look for the research on the testosterone that I've seen in the past. But clearly not everyone goes bad from it, so....
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:19 AM on February 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


I was briefly married 21 years ago for a couple of years. It was an arranged marriage crossing continents that brought me to the US as an H4 dependent spouse of a work permit holder. He was abusive. I was rescued by my B School classmates in the year 2000 and got my divorce in 2002. I have been very happily single since then, neither being motivated to enter a long term commitment nor feeling an iota of biological clock barring the menopausal process.

Now, I am preparing to get married again this year after 17 years of establishing a rather comfortable solo lifestyle. It took him 10 years to get me to this point, including a break of 2.5 years, and the last three of serious courting within a committed relationship situation. I am in my early 50s and he is ten years older and has been single for 19 years. We're obviously not doing this for the sake of a partner in our life and the status of being married.

Because this relationship picked up its threads and got serious again AFTER the emotional labour megathread of a few years back, I was on alert for emotional labour and its aches and pains. Our generations meant we did struggle with our patriarchal conditioning while trying to keep up with all the changes in gender roles and relationships in the current day era. I created boundaries as necessary and enforced them in order to start bringing some balance to emotional labour. But it has only be the last long year that we achieved some measure of "eureka" and a shift in the balance of load carrying the emotional labour investment.

It took me going to empty and burning out numbly around 4 months ago to wake us up to what we were passively allowing to happen out of decades of established social conditioning and work within ourselves to figure out our own styles of what we'd do in such a case were we free to be our whole being emotional selves.

We discovered solid gold. I will have to come back and end this comment. I must go to the airport.
posted by infini at 10:23 AM on February 25, 2019 [35 favorites]


Our culture produces monsters, and simply slaying or shunning the monsters doesn't solve the problem.

The socialization that produces monsters is this:

1. Men don't have to do certain work because society tells them women will do it for them.
2. Men don't have to be equal partners because society tells them women will marry them anyway.

Women refusing to do those things is the social change you're asking for.
posted by straight at 10:30 AM on February 25, 2019 [62 favorites]


Or our culture is teaching them, incorrectly, that there's no value there. Which is wrong! So how do we fix it?

Men, leotrotsky, need to talk to each other and tell each other there's value. We need to understand and learn how to cope with our own emotions so we can get clear insight into relationships so we can better serve others. Sharing the emotional labor that women usually take on by themselves helps form family and community bonds. Sharing in regular household labor helps get things that need to be done more quickly. There's a myriad of reasons to work on such things.

Let me tell a story here: I recently was having a bad time of some unexpected need for me to part with a car I've had for at least a decade. It brought up memories of my parents, and how I miss them a lot, especially my father. I didn't recognize this, and started to take it out on my wife through body language and sharp words. I figured it out eventually, but she shouldn't have to manage my emotional upwellings. It hurt her, and it sucks up a bunch of time and energy for both her and me. So I've realized I have to take a daily check of my own emotions, and make sure I keep in touch with my own family (imagine that). It sounds obvious when typed out, but we don't get taught this stuff as boys. I need to teach my kids this stuff.

We need to mentally, each day, consciously think about these things. How am I feeling? Why am I feeling this way? How are my wife and kids feeling? What needs to be done around the house? Laundry. Cleaning. I struggle to keep it up. I don't like to talk about it because I don't want to be lumped in with all the other "unenlightened men." It'd be easier if men could discuss with one another, but that's another no-no in our culture. Can't show vulnerability. But we've gotta start somewhere on changing the culture.

Women can shun us as much as they want. They don't need to try to fix us. Most of what I'm saying here is just restating what women have already told us about emotional labor. Endless amounts of real and digital ink have been put to page discussing how society twists men.

Part of working to take on emotional labor, household chores, and managing our internal lives is that we shouldn't expect to be rewarded for it. Obviously it can benefit family and society, but we can't anticipate a cookie for just being decent human beings. I've also wrestled with this. The value isn't in my wife saying "good job for starting a load of laundry, you aren't like those other, terrible husbands." It's in getting the laundry done. It's from helping out the family. The reward comes from the process and doing a job well. The reward comes from becoming a fuller human and being over service to others. It seems very basic, but like anything it takes practice and doing over and over again to help unlearn what society has taught us.

Memail me if you want discuss their own difficulties working to be a more responsible man that shares in emotional labor. Or raising boys to listen, and be gentle and loving. Honestly, talking to other people about this stuff scares me, but I am holding my hand out to fellow men.
posted by Mister Cheese at 10:34 AM on February 25, 2019 [79 favorites]


Well, women refusing to do more than their share is one step. Men prominently doing those things, encouraging men who do, and shaming men who don't is another.
posted by straight at 10:34 AM on February 25, 2019 [16 favorites]


Penny points out, in her follow up tweets (worth reading), that a lot of spectrum of men's negative responses to this is based on some form of fear (of varying intensity).

The fear is certainly real (and leads to reactions that themselves raise fear, as pointed out upthread), but if accepted then dealing with it gives way to a kind of relief. I wish that was better understood.

Oh, I don't have to keep doing my particular version of this shit to myself and people I care about, whether through multiple relationships gone bad or one long one. I can stop what I'm doing, take time to listen, work on myself and hopefully improve and get to the point that having a healthy relationship is more likely than not! I don't have to fight the odds. In the bargain, I can learn to see to my own needs so I don't go around feeling raw and unstable without a designated caretaker of my social and domestic life! (And ironically, perhaps, if I do then maybe I'll feel the same lessened pressure to pair up as do the women who have these skills.)

And, probably unsurprisingly, the way working on this stuff plays out in day to day life winds up overlapping a lot of areas in which I already knew I needed to progress by other measures or for other reasons.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:36 AM on February 25, 2019 [4 favorites]


It's a kind of trolling to offer up post hoc explanations, basically "Just So" stories, stories that rely on essentializing sociobiology, for extremely complex patterns of human behavior, especially when those explanations feed into really harmful discourses of transphobia -- transmisogyny in particular. I went through a testosterone puberty, I'm a woman, and I am very much impacted by EL dynamics in the culture writ large. Anyway (and hopefully relatedly), I think every kind of marginalization results in these kinds of EL dynamics: black people are expected to provide EL for white people, trans people for cis people, disabled people for able people.
posted by lilies.lilies at 10:41 AM on February 25, 2019 [39 favorites]


This affirms my assumption that everyone in the world is horrible and you should all get divorced and avoid having kids at all costs. Cripes, the bar you need to clear to be a passably decent human being is unbelievably low.
posted by eotvos at 10:53 AM on February 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


I’ve seen it happen to my mom and as much as I love my stepdad, sometimes I want to just tell my mom to leave him and come live with me.

I was in a hospital room with my parents a couple months ago, and I started a conversation about what help my mom would need around the house as she recovered from this round of chemo. She mentioned that it would be great to have help cleaning the bathrooms, but at a minimum it would be very nice if my dad could start to clean his own bathroom. My dad sat there in silence. Rather than step in as the dutiful local daughter and say, “I can come over to help,” I asked, “Dad, is this something you can do?” He told us that this was not the time or place for that conversation, and then he left the room.

After he left, my mom said, “Even if he did clean it, I’d have to go back later and re-clean it anyway.”

Here was one easy, tangible way to step up to the plate and help a sick woman, let alone start to pull his own weight around the house, and my dad refused to even entertain the thought. I am so angry on my mom’s behalf, especially because she refused to be angry about it herself. EVERYONE DESERVES AN EQUAL PARTNER.
posted by Maarika at 10:54 AM on February 25, 2019 [121 favorites]


10/10 would get divorced again
Hehe.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:06 AM on February 25, 2019 [19 favorites]


To shift gears a little bit.

Ladies.

Especially those of us who are too straight for our own good and not content to be celibate and who live in the world of today-this-minute where neither crone island nor safe/effective ways to charge for sex work and companionship exist.

What are some specific habits we can become aware of and quell in order to opt out of as much of this inequality as we can? What are some specific demands or standards we can have for our male partners to get a better deal? Bonus points for "wackier" ideas such as:

I have a friend who has a friend who negotiated a deal with her husband that he would pay her $1500 a month plus also contribute to her retirement account in exchange for her staying home with their new baby. I thought that was freaking genius (though it's horrifying how even this arrangement does not fully compensate for her efforts as 24/7 nanny and housekeeper, nor does it account for career advancement and opportunity costs).
posted by MiraK at 11:28 AM on February 25, 2019 [23 favorites]


I unfortunately do not have time to go down the rabbit hole for y'all today to look for the research on the testosterone that I've seen in the past. But clearly not everyone goes bad from it, so....

Talking to trans men might be instructive on this point. I just can't really believe that there's some magical testosterone poisoning going on, because I've known a fair number of trans guys at this point and in feminist/lefty-crunchy circles trans guys tend not to be like cis guys, but instead tend to preserve most of the habits you tend to pick up in queer/left/feminist circles. I can readily believe that there are trans guys who totally bro down and become huge assholes, but I really think that's about choosing to hyperconform to toxic masculine norms rather than about hormones.

I also think it's instructive to consider how many BIPOC won't date white people after having had some experience with us. Like, I know some, and they say a lot of similar things (adjusted for racism) about dating white people that women say about dating men - that it almost always becomes painful and fatiguing, that even "good ones" take a lot of work, that they are perpetually one down. There aren't white-people hormones, so it has to be something else, and I think that something else is entrenched, violent social hierarchy.

~~

I really think that what we need are legal forms/structures for creating long-lasting and stable households not based on romantic partnership. It's easy to have a lease with two unrelated people on it, but trickier to buy a house or a car or do serious logistical stuff about child-care or long-term planning.
posted by Frowner at 11:38 AM on February 25, 2019 [66 favorites]


Sociobiology and evolutionary psychology are the twentieth and twenty-first century versions of phrenology or alchemy; our descendants will look back and shake their heads in amazement that anyone believed that stuff.

With few and sporadic (sociopath) exceptions, people aren't born bad; they're made that way by parents, families, and societies. It's not the Y chromosome or testosterone or anything innate to (cis) men that makes them clueless or cruel, it's being immersed in a patriarchal society. There are (or were) societies more egalitarian than ours, from Sweden to the Moso people of China. Fatalism will get us nowhere.

I think lilies.lilies and Frowner nailed it - people - men, cis people, white people - expect and exploit the emotional and physical labor of those lower in the social hierarchy - POC, women, trans people, and so on.

Myself, I'm glad to be demisexual at best, childfree, and capable of supporting myself. I have a house. I have dear, good friends. I have kitties. I am lucky to be able to opt out of the heterosexual relationship game and live permanently on Crone Island.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:44 AM on February 25, 2019 [20 favorites]


Women Going Their Own Way.

I mean, lol, but look at the difference between women who actually have made personal decisions to go their own way and the men who claim to have done the same

one is just a bunch of women who have apparently all come to the same conclusions independently and occasionally participate in online forums where they state this fact before going back to living their lives independently of each other

the other is a male supremacist hate group that helps organize harassment campaigns and celebrates/encourages violence against women

you know, a terrorist group
posted by schadenfrau at 11:46 AM on February 25, 2019 [66 favorites]


I once found out that one of the reasons my boyfriend wanted to leave me was because he knew my dad was probably going to die from cancer in the coming months and he didn't want to deal with supporting me through that/couldn't handle it.

He literally described it (to a friend) as me being in debt to him if he 'stuck with me through it,' and that it would create an imbalance in our relationship. That I would owe him somehow.

And yet- never once thought about how he asked me to get him through finishing his college degree, editing his papers, staying up late nights to talk through his thesis, him crying in my arms when he was feeling incapable or stressed, and so on and so forth. And I never questioned my commitment to him or assigned a VALUE to what I was doing because I loved him and wanted to help.

I mean, what the christ, for real.
posted by rachaelfaith at 11:47 AM on February 25, 2019 [107 favorites]




schadenfrau: Exactly. It occurred to me after posting the comment that maybe folks weren't as familiar with mgtow as I am and so wouldn't see the stark comparison.

MGTOW appear to spend much of their time complaining about women instead of, you know, ACTUALLY GOING THEIR OWN WAY. WGTOW are out there doing their own thing and being awesome.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:57 AM on February 25, 2019 [13 favorites]


I really think that what we need are legal forms/structures for creating long-lasting and stable households not based on romantic partnership. It's easy to have a lease with two unrelated people on it, but trickier to buy a house or a car or do serious logistical stuff about child-care or long-term planning.

In all seriousness, there is no reason two people have to feel romantically to get married. I'm gay and if queering marriage includes platonic life partners committing their finances etc to each other, hell yes.
posted by nakedmolerats at 12:01 PM on February 25, 2019 [13 favorites]


What are some specific habits we can become aware of and quell in order to opt out of as much of this inequality as we can?

Our own desire to be partnered, sounds like. I mean, I'm sitting here feeling utterly shitty because the person who means the most to me in this world is a cis man, and I can't find any excuse for that. I want to say "I get to have my own feelings, it's okay to want a life partner, you aren't weak and stupid because you care about this person" but... that just makes me a traitor to the cause and a tool of the patriarchy, right? The only acceptable option is celibacy.

I mean, there's not much wiggle room in "burn it all down." Trying is not good enough. Educating oneself is not good enough. It's all unsalvageable, right?
posted by cage and aquarium at 12:15 PM on February 25, 2019 [3 favorites]


Metafilter has convinced me - probably with some truth - that no-one would be made happier or better off if I brought them into my single-fatherhood life.
posted by clawsoon at 12:29 PM on February 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


cage and aquarium, I don't think it's necessary to punish yourself for loving someone. More love in the world is better. It's hard to reconcile loving a member of a group that has hurt you, but hurting yourself isn't the way to do it.
posted by wellred at 12:33 PM on February 25, 2019 [16 favorites]


"I don't see any "problem" that needs fixing. Being single should be the default, not the exception."

I have and never will be able to afford to really live on my own, I've always had to have a roommate, live with a friend, or split a place with someone I'm in a relationship with. It'd be really nice to live alone and just be single, but economically I can't do that. A roommate is like being in a relationship with none of the benefits and even more downsides. I wonder how relationship dynamics would be in a world where 1 person working one job could support themselves comfortably. Often I think if I could avoid living or associating with garbage people (literally all people are monsters if you look more than a few seconds), I might just. Then again, here I am willingly trying to talk with them.
posted by GoblinHoney at 12:39 PM on February 25, 2019 [6 favorites]


I think some amount of the egalitarianism in my relationship comes, oddly enough, from my parents divorce. My parents split their time with us 50/50, including splitting weekdays and weekends absolutely fairly. As a result, I grew up knowing deep down, men cooked dinner, washed dishes, cleaned their houses, and raised their children. My dad got us into Girl Scouts and was involved in the troop. (I forget what some of the stereotypical make things are, but I knew my mom could do everything too.) I believe my husband is capable of doing everything in the house well and, as far as I can tell, he's always wanted to live up that.
posted by Margalo Epps at 12:42 PM on February 25, 2019 [7 favorites]


I'm sitting here feeling utterly shitty because the person who means the most to me in this world is a cis man, and I can't find any excuse for that. I want to say "I get to have my own feelings, it's okay to want a life partner, you aren't weak and stupid because you care about this person" but... that just makes me a traitor to the cause and a tool of the patriarchy, right? The only acceptable option is celibacy.

But why does this always become a problem for women to fix? I mean, it's good for women to come up with strategies to deal with this, and people who are oppressed in a system can't rely on their oppressors to liberate them, but jeez, why do we always blame women for the ways we're oppressed? It's not wrong to want love and companionship, and it sucks that women are put in a position of having to deal with so much to get it. THAT'S the problem, not the fact that women partner with men.
posted by lunasol at 12:52 PM on February 25, 2019 [14 favorites]


A friend, who was in a great role in a major global insurance company and living it up in Manhattan about ten years out of college, told us she was a "SARAH": Single And Rich And Happy.

It doesn't seem to have caught on like DINK (Double-Income, No Kids) or SAHM (Stay-At-Home Mom), but it really encapsulates an idea.

Then she married my high school buddy. It was a good match and they seem happy.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:06 PM on February 25, 2019 [14 favorites]


SMOK. Single and managing OK.

But seriously, I value intimacy SO much that I make room for the cis man in my life (low-residency, non-commitment style). I've dated people of other genders and still, he's the one I want, so I let myself have him. I'm not perfect. I do a lot of other things "right". I need this, and I choose it (though honestly, it didn't feel like I chose to have feelings for him, it just kinda whoa happened, so it'd be choosing NOT to have it).

If we went from low-residency, non-commitment to something else, it would have to be a gradual, figure out if we can still be so good to each other kind of thing, for sure, and maybe it wouldn't turn out. But should I deny myself love on principle? I don't want to do that.
posted by wellred at 1:13 PM on February 25, 2019 [9 favorites]


that just makes me a traitor to the cause and a tool of the patriarchy, right? The only acceptable option is celibacy.

Do you think this or do you think that other people think this? I’m asking because it reads like you’re reacting to feeling criticized by being hyperbolic about what people are saying. I can’t tell if you’re doing this because you think it’s what people are actually saying/actually mean, or if you’re trying to communicate how it makes you feel.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 1:14 PM on February 25, 2019 [28 favorites]


I mean, I'm sitting here feeling utterly shitty because the person who means the most to me in this world is a cis man, and I can't find any excuse for that. I want to say "I get to have my own feelings, it's okay to want a life partner, you aren't weak and stupid because you care about this person" but... that just makes me a traitor to the cause and a tool of the patriarchy, right? The only acceptable option is celibacy.

There aren't no men who fall within an acceptable range of "capable of equal partnership." There just aren't very many of them.

The desire for affection, care, sexual intimacy, security in a connection--these things are all very human and good. In a just society, we would all be able to enjoy these things without being forced to trade our dignity and autonomy for them. I hope you have such a relationship. But if you suspect that maybe your partner doesn't respect you, if you feel like he's more interested in being cared for than in caring for you...then you're probably right, and he's not going to change, and you are faced like every marginalized person in an oppressive society with an unattractive set of choices. You're not "bad" for choosing any of them.
posted by praemunire at 1:18 PM on February 25, 2019 [12 favorites]


That said, if he vanished off the face of the earth, I would never get married to a man again.

This is probably me. I would absolutely have lots of sex still, but I wouldn't get married again, no way no how. My husband (of 15 years) is great. He does about 1/3 of the emotional labor and almost 100% of the day-to-day organizational tasks (dealing with the government, the bank, paying bills, etc) and probably about 25% of the housework, but we live with two other adults who each do about 25% of the housework and take care of their own shit, so it all works out. I'm willing to do a little more emotional labor to never again have to deal with getting an overdraft forgiven or tasks of that ilk.

It's not equal but it's equitable.

I think it's notable that he's seven years younger than me, and that he was 20 when we met and 23 when we got married. He had lived independently since he 16, so he didn't read as if he were younger than me, but I think I benefited from having... I don't know what to call it, age privilege? I think the age discrepancy kind of balanced the gender dynamics so it was more fair.
posted by joannemerriam at 1:24 PM on February 25, 2019 [3 favorites]


[cage and aquarium, you need to step back now. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 1:34 PM on February 25, 2019 [3 favorites]



Anyway in non-monogamy communities this question takes on an interesting dynamic because a lot of women are looking for men but not looking for parenting/live-in partners. Interesting how that affects the selection of male partners. Emotional intelligence is currency in those communities and it often ends up with, like, the two men who are actually good conversationalists, thoughtful, and good at making women feel heard ending up with ten girlfriends each.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 1:41 PM on February 25, 2019 [23 favorites]


I'm going to echo a really vital point up above - the idea that testosterone somehow "poisons" AMAB folks is nonsensical and transphobic. It's extremely obvious that it's not true every time I have ever interacted with anyone who is trans - it hasn't poisoned any of the trans women I know, or any of the trans men. It's absolutely about who gets privilege versus who gets stigma.

The cis men I've known who were particularly toxic post-puberty were awful before puberty, too, only then adults kept brushing their horrible behavior off with "Oh, haha, he likes you! Boys will be boys!" nonsense. It's easier to blame T and treat toxic masculinity as something inevitable rather than to acknowledge what roles we've all had in this, and how this is perpetuated inside families, in schools, in media, everywhere.
posted by bile and syntax at 1:42 PM on February 25, 2019 [44 favorites]


The cis men I've known who were particularly toxic post-puberty were awful before puberty, too, only then adults kept brushing their horrible behavior off with "Oh, haha, he likes you! Boys will be boys!" nonsense.

I agree with this - I think even good, well-meaning parents and other adults who sincerely want to raise good men fall victim to "boys will be boys" indulgence and/or excuses for bad behavior. Note that there's really no "girls will be girls" excuse when AFAB kids act out.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 2:03 PM on February 25, 2019 [9 favorites]


Note that there's really no "girls will be girls" excuse when AFAB kids act out.

This sentence basically sums up my entire childhood. I'd do the same things as male peers, I got punished harshly and they didn't even get reprimanded. Boys will be boys, girls will be punished for existing.
posted by bile and syntax at 2:24 PM on February 25, 2019 [22 favorites]


It's encouraging to see so many of you, and others, express the same frustration I feel for something we're all told we need, when traditional relationships are the cause of so much misery. I'm not radically against monogamy or anything, but I hate that a lot of people feel they don't have any other options. I've always wanted to live alone and do the Solo Poly thing, and for now I'm pretty happy with just being single, going on three or four years. I don't know how to justify relating to women so much about these issues, because I'm not a woman and I've never dated men, but there it is.
posted by mammal at 2:34 PM on February 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry to hear that, clawsoon. The issue is not relationships, but uneven relationships. I am in a wonderful relationship with a cis man. He cares about my emotional well-being, he washes dishes and does half of the chores, I am more to him than a housekeeper or prospective mother to his kids. Boomers are hitting this wall pretty hard, because they grew up with expectations that are really not equitable. You both have to be willing to do 100% of the chores, because sometimes your partner won't be able to meet you halfway.

Being the pregnant and nursing parent does put a larger load on cis-women in hetero-normative relationships, but it doesn't have to be inequitable.

I have heard (from the older generation) horror stories, such as a new mother coming home from the hospital with the baby, and being expected to make dinner that very night. We don't have to be those people.

Why can't the non-post-partum partner take on the house work and logistics until weaning? Or if their partner is sick? Or hell, just because they're having a tough time? This should go both ways. Divorce rates go down for men who are very ill. They go up when women are the ones who are sick. That right there should tell you something about our society.

If you feel attacked by people wanting better partnerships, ask yourself why that is.
posted by domo at 3:35 PM on February 25, 2019 [18 favorites]


Hi! Small text is difficult for me to read! I wish you wouldn't use it. Thanks for your consideration!
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:41 PM on February 25, 2019 [14 favorites]


Thank you, joannemerriam, for acknowledging the notion and describing your relationship as "It's not equal but it's equitable," which actually is my ideal relationship. Unless I were living with my clone I wouldn't expect or want everyone to be contributing identically. I have always considered an ideal relationship to be sorta Marxist: "From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs."
posted by PhineasGage at 3:51 PM on February 25, 2019 [9 favorites]


I've always felt sort of cursed/blessed by growing up with my parent's relationship. I'm not sure how it came about, since neither of them were from backgrounds or times that would promote it, but I can't think of a single thing that only one of them did. One might do slightly more of some task, but the other still did it, without any indication it was a bother or they didn't want to or shouldn't have to because they were the husband/wife. I appreciate now that they made that such a basic fact of my life that I'm not trapped in the endless complaints I hear from others, but at the same time it has made it so much harder for me to be in relationships with others because I have 'high' expectations.

Being alone is sometimes frustration, but the alternative, unless I find just the right person, hold very little appeal after previous relationships with partners that expected me to do all the heavy lifting. I am not your mother or your father, ffs. It's interesting to me that now there isn't as much of a NEED to have a husband, so many, many women are opting out. Men are going to have to step it up at some point, but they don't seem to have really realized that yet.

Plus its super depressing that, across six jobs now and all friendships, I can't think of a single person who has had nice or good things to say about their current husband/boyfriend. So, so many of them were constantly complaining about how useless their partners were, but just ... accepted it. I wanted to shake them and scream, you don't have to stay with them. You don't owe them civilizing.
posted by goreycat at 3:51 PM on February 25, 2019 [7 favorites]


I can't be the only one who reads some of the arguments in this thread as a desire to return to 2nd-wave radical feminism and separatist political lesbianism.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 3:56 PM on February 25, 2019 [4 favorites]


Women Going Their Own Way.

Someone in the Twitter thread made that comparison, and someone else pointed out that unlike the MGTOW crew, women replying to Penny's thread didn't endlessly threaten and gripe and conduct actual murder sprees about wanting to go their own way.

They just...did it.

Because we have to do fucking everything around here.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 3:56 PM on February 25, 2019 [28 favorites]


domo: If you feel attacked by people wanting better partnerships, ask yourself why that is.

I don't feel attacked, just... realistic? Part of the wisdom in this thread is about accepting how things are, and the ways in which they're unlikely to change. That's something I've had to do, too.
posted by clawsoon at 4:10 PM on February 25, 2019


2nd-wave radical feminism and separatist political lesbianism.

No TERFiness for me, please. This is a very easy line for me to draw.
posted by praemunire at 4:55 PM on February 25, 2019 [17 favorites]


reads some of the arguments in this thread as a desire to return to 2nd-wave radical feminism and separatist political lesbianism

I'm not sure how you can read people complaining about how they've been hurt or drained by relationships with men to the point of no longer being willing or able to engage with them as desire

Like...that seems pretty fucking invalidating. "It can't possibly be the men's fault; no, no, women are making these choices because they want to."

Because, you know, you just can't trust women.
posted by schadenfrau at 5:06 PM on February 25, 2019 [20 favorites]


Without wading into a huge side argument, I think there is plenty of room to acknowledge the problems of some 2nd wave feminism and also the legitimate rage and conscious 'dropping out' from the patriarchy (as much as any of us can) that some 2nd wave feminists were feeling that is still the same feeling today.
posted by nakedmolerats at 5:11 PM on February 25, 2019 [14 favorites]


I'm a SINK in my early 40s . Lately I've been feeling kind of gripey that there aren't any decent portrayals of Gen-X women who have opted out of marriage and children where this is seen as a positive. It's not even that there are bad portrayals, it's like we don't even exist.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 5:33 PM on February 25, 2019 [25 favorites]


So I just want to take a moment and thank y'all for sharing this Twitter thread and, I dunno, validating my own experience. I've been single for a while and I was just telling someone last week that "I really like my life the way it is, and I don't want having a partner to prevent me from living my life." It's not like I don't know good men, but they're either not my type or they're in committed relationships; the men I meet from dating apps are boring or a bit mean or full of themselves. They say you gotta kiss a few frogs but when they're all frogs you have to wonder if you're just wandered into a swamp without knowing it.

I seem to know many more single women my age than single men. My sisters and I are all killing it in our own ways. We travel and learn and build things and communities and I can't help but think that men would just slow us down.
posted by invokeuse at 5:55 PM on February 25, 2019 [21 favorites]


Mother of a teenage boy - my sweet boy will turn 17 in ten days - and I could hurl the entire YouTube universe in to the centre of the sun to burn, because it is SO MUCH work trying to pull him away from that toxic stew.

He kind of gets it - if he wants dinner, time to help in the kitchen; cleaning is not optional; better not to make a mess in the first place, than have to clean it up. But trying to get him to the next level - use words; choose words carefully; be in the moment and observe what is around you - it is just so much harder when he has been exposed to some snarky loud self-anointed expert who says that you can just argue your way to success.

I am trying to make the next generation better than the last one, and I just hope that the next generation appreciates that.
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 7:05 PM on February 25, 2019 [35 favorites]


Like...that seems pretty fucking invalidating. "It can't possibly be the men's fault; no, no, women are making these choices because they want to."

I'm not sure how you can get all that out of the word desire. I didn't say it's not righteous anger, or men's actions, or a perfectly reasonable weariness that drives it, but I'm not sure how I can express "the way you want to react / deal with it" without using some version of "want", because there are multiple choices in how to deal with something, and I'm talking about the one being selected out of a set of given options. I haven't made a comment on whether I think it's right or wrong.
I'm using desire to mean the choice people in this thread are choosing to make out of their range of options, none of which I think are all that desirable, but nonetheless there will be one you desire most.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 9:05 PM on February 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


part 2

When I said we hit solid gold, I meant that he discovered he had a knack for emotional labour and he was doing a lot of it at work already. This was seamless. He's been hard at it consistently for a couple of months now and I know that he's grounding it in his muscle memory so as not to forget. This was a critical turning point in our relationship, from "will this person hurt me" to "I can't hurt this person (again)".
posted by infini at 10:26 PM on February 25, 2019 [8 favorites]


So I literally just told my husband I wanted a divorce like a month and a half ago, after 16 years of being together (thank fucking god we hadn't had kids yet!). He was a stay at home spouse and he was fucking wonderful: cooked, cleaned, did the errands, supported my career without hesitation, totally appreciated who I was as a person. Our marriage ended due to his developing an addiction in the last 5 years. I really never felt an imbalance of emotional labor until then and I stuck around so long through all the addiction bullshit because he essentially got credit for 10 years of good behavior. And good fucking god am I so glad to be free of that shit.

So after 16 years, and being on a temporary assignment in a foreign country for a couple years, I am absolutely not looking to for a relationship in the slightest. But all these EL threads have me really terrified for when I do start getting back on that track again. I really doubt I'll be able to find another dude who was so supportive. Fuck.
posted by LizBoBiz at 12:06 AM on February 26, 2019 [14 favorites]


Life long hetereosexual mutual monogamous marriage is unnatural and abnormal. Full stop.

Its broken now, it was always broken, it has never been universal in practice, the idea that all mating/child rearing and bonding would be restricted to its confines is a recent fad often imposed by upper classes on lower classes and by imperialists on the conquerored. The faster we stop voluntary servitude to this unnatural and abnormal institution, the faster we can work on work of affirming consensual mating, planned and supported child rearing and healthy emotional relationships.
posted by Anchorite_of_Palgrave at 12:10 AM on February 26, 2019 [6 favorites]


my above comment is my attempt to celebrate and affirm those in this thread and elsewhere who have come to the conclusion that they dont want to and dont have to marry a man, and that many, most, nearly all men deserve to be considered unsuitable partners to be avoided instead of an endless unpaided project of emotional labor whose investment will be unrewarded and unappreciated.
posted by Anchorite_of_Palgrave at 12:25 AM on February 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


A few years ago here on MeFi someone said that picking out a spouse is like choosing a co-founder for a small non-profit: there will be no remuneration, long hours of thankless work, differences of principle, customers [kids] who are ungrateful, etc., etc. It was (naively) disheartening to think of it that way -- what about romance?? -- but also refreshing that someone was being this honest.

We took a big pre-Cana class before we got married, and the leader said that some couple in the room would already be gone before the weekend ended (because they'd been forced to confront things that were deal-breakers). This seemed harsh, but should have been no surprise to anyone who's seen a family go through divorce -- i.e., any of us there that day.

And yet, people still told us dewey-eyed kids that we were doing a beautiful thing for love....no word about the tax implications, no word about child care expenses and imbalances in pay for women that would lead the wife to bail out of the workforce when kids arrived, no word about the value of couples counseling, etc., etc.

And it was still more than a lot of couples get!
--
Anchorite_of_Palgrave : Life long hetereosexual mutual monogamous marriage is unnatural and abnormal.

Like I said upthread, I can't imagine anyone marrying my younger self. I think I have gotten much better, and I know I have more to do, and she's not perfect, but...yikes.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:30 AM on February 26, 2019 [8 favorites]


This sentence basically sums up my entire childhood. I'd do the same things as male peers, I got punished harshly and they didn't even get reprimanded. Boys will be boys, girls will be punished for existing.

Yeah, scrawl that across the file of my childhood and throw it in the round file.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:40 AM on February 26, 2019 [6 favorites]


... think I'll skip cluttering up the Green with that online-dating-newbie AskMe, New Year's resolution be damned.
posted by Iris Gambol at 1:44 PM on February 26, 2019 [4 favorites]


WGTOW are out there doing their own thing and being awesome.

One interesting thing that's happened as I'm getting divorced is discovering what feels like a secret society of women who have been where I'm at and who are all quietly and deeply encouraging.

(tbh, a huge moment of truth for me was when my ex-FIL passed away, and I thought about how old he was, and how old my mom is, and asked myself if I wanted to do all this for another 30 years...........)
posted by epersonae at 2:22 PM on February 26, 2019 [14 favorites]


I've thought a lot about this thread today, and trying to pin down a lifelong of disappointment to a moment or two. I think the most recent example was when I was talking with a guy and thought, "he can have an interesting conversation... knows how to listen... team player... reasonably well groomed/attired... this is a Candidate" before he mentioned he was married and had two kids.

Reader, I was not disappointed because his Candidacy was no longer; I was disappointed because I realized that it probably took several years of marriage to a very patient woman, and the work of raising young kids, to turn this man into someone who clears my (very low, in my opinion) bar. Perhaps he was a decent sort from the start, and I misjudged, but the interaction sparked a realization from a lifetime of expecting better from men and being disappointed.

Though I'm no longer looking, I still managed to be disappointed by men on the regular.

cage and aquarium, that link's gay outrage warmed my cold, dead heart. Thanks for including it!
posted by snerson at 4:35 PM on February 26, 2019 [6 favorites]


Part of the wisdom in this thread is about accepting how things are, and the ways in which they're unlikely to change.

there is no wisdom, here or anywhere, telling you that because sexism is "how things are," an individual man had better hurry up and accept that he has no ability to behave in a different way and no reason to try.

women are telling each other that they can't opt out of the system, although obviously we can, we can opt out of heterosexual dependency and cohabitation by the simple act of never starting to do it. it's easy. women do it every day and stick to it. opting out is not a problem. getting out of it once you're in it is harder. changing it once you're in it is hardest of all, because one thing we actually can't do is make a man we already live with not be sexist at home. not if he wants to be.

but any man at home can do that. every man has a power no woman does, which is absolute control over one man's actions. it's not worth much but it's not worth nothing. "unlikely to change" - likelihood has nothing to do with it. you do whatever you want. but have the decency not to write it off as realism.
posted by queenofbithynia at 6:25 PM on February 26, 2019 [36 favorites]


This thread kind of cemented in the feeling that I haven't been pulling my weight over the past few days while I was working on a major grad school project. So I took a couple of hours to clean. And I realized something, which is that even I, someone who has been trying to do the equality thing as much as possible in my new marriage, still see cleaning as a performative activity. I clean because my wife asks me to or because I want her to notice (there are a few exceptions, as I'll dust and swiffer on my own account, but things like cleaning the sink are definitely things I expect to be noticed). If she notices, I hope for a thank you and also her day getting a little better. But I've been trained to get these emotional cookies for doing basic tasks, the sorts of things that women do on a daily basis. I've been doing my best to hand out cookies in return (although I was bleary enough I forgot to thank her for breakfast), but it just doesn't feel right. When I thank her, it's slowly stopped being a surprise, but for a long while it was. For me, it was almost something I expected.

It's not just that men are trained to expect this sort of thing from women. It's also that we are trained to expect an emotional reward when we "step up" and actually do something resembling half the housework. Housework is still, in the minds of many woke guys (and semi-woke like myself) something that is above and beyond. We do it, but besides the normal benefits (clean house, less clutter, better smelling bathroom, etc.), there's at least a small part that is expecting to be recognized as being better than the guys who don't.

I'm not exempting myself from this, hell, I figured it out when I was examining my emotions while cleaning. But it's kind of a second level of the patriarchy lurking in American culture. Even when things are actually split evenly, guys still expect to be praised for their contributions.

I could be a sole outlier here, but I really feel that this is something that is much more true than we'd like to admit. I'm going to work on cleaning for the sake of having a home that we both enjoy, but coming to see the emotional treats as a bonus, not as part of the deal, will probably take me some time.

To bring this back to the original conversation, this is extra emotional labor that shouldn't be required of women. (Both parties performing it seems to be a distant second here.) Even when women find the guy who is willing to do their part, they're still expected to kick in the extra emotional labor of praise and reward. No wonder so many women are just fucking done with it all. I don't blame any of them.
posted by Hactar at 6:37 PM on February 26, 2019 [28 favorites]


As the head of a SIOC (single income one cat) household, I want to say that I am so grateful for all of you who just get it. (We would be a multiple cat household if it were just up to me, but the one cat doesn't really approve of other cats.)

I have known I didn't want kids since I was a teenager, though I was raised by wolves who thought it was appropriate to argue with me about this. WTF. Even if they did think I'd eventually change my mind, what moron tries to convince a 16yo that having babies is great?! In my twenties and early thirties, I still kind of entertained the notion that I might find a (male) partner. Over the years I have been transitioning from a sort of "well, it would be nice if I met someone, but I'm not going to work too hard on it" attitude to "nope, I actively don't want anything to do with this". I have no desire to train a supposedly grown man how to be a good partner.

I found my sassy but super affectionate introvert dream cat last summer, and now we're living happily ever after. Years ago I might have considered this a compromise or giving up, but now I wouldn't trade it for anything. I am extremely fortunate to make enough money to support this lifestyle (no more housemates except said cat), and that is largely due to good luck, but it means I have basically no household-related stress. Sure, I have to do all of the chores, but I don't really make many messes. (E.g. bathrooms stay cleaner a lot longer when there are no men constantly missing the toilet bowl.)
posted by ktkt at 7:48 PM on February 26, 2019 [7 favorites]


My partner and I have a long history of commenting, "Why are heterosexuals like this?" on a variety of behaviors and interaction styles that we see quite commonly. More and more, though, I'm realizing that it's really just, "Why are men like this?"

I keep reading or hearing about all the shit women in heterosexual relationships put up with and I just... feel such a deep well of sympathy because it doesn't?? Have to be that hard?? I constantly hear about how much goddamn fucking hard work relationships are, and like... for a long time, I was afraid there was something wrong with MY relationship because it's never been that hard? Yes, there's work, there's conscious effort, you have to put in the time, but... it's not the grueling, thankless task I see so many people portray relationships as. And it's not like we have a perfect stressless relationship--we're both chronically ill, my partner is depressed, I'm in grad school for a PhD (a relationship killer if there ever was one, I'm told).

But if we have conflict, we can usually hash it out in an evening and then we both put in effort to changing our behavior in the future. Obviously it takes some time to work into new habits, but it's always clear we're both still working on it independently--it's not like I need to sit there and nag my partner to be better. Once they realize there's a problem, and we identify a solution, they work on it on their own. And vice versa. I think the only conversation we've had to have more than once is about our mutual commitment to exercise more (and the occasional clarification of a particular problem, e.g. they find planning meals very draining but it's NOT better for me to plan and take over the whole thing but then ask them how to do xyz step every 5 minutes because my cooking skills are nonexistent).

It's just... really not that hard to listen and pay attention to your partner and remember what they told you and try and change your behavior according to that because you love them? It doesn't happen overnight, but christ, we both have ADHD and memory problems and we still make it happen. I have to believe that men just aren't putting in the effort, whether it's conscious avoidance or a skill that's been trained out of them. And sure, I'm not saying lesbian (or whatever you call two femme, maybe women, maybe not, people together) relationships are perfect, or women can't be awful and never listen to their partners, or it doesn't depend on personality and emotional intelligence and some people are just better at listening than others and etc. etc. etc. But it does seem statistically more likely that two women/womenish people in a relationship are going to be able to complete the basic task of listening to each other and valuing each other's contributions and trying to share an equal load. Which also, like, isn't that hard?? Just pay attention and do things when you can so your partner doesn't have to and they'll do the same for you! And say thank you! My partner and I say thank you for literally every single thing we do. Every time they do the dishes, I say thank you. When I wash the counters or pick up some of the clothes off the floor, they notice and say thank you. It's quick and easy to do and I cannot fathom that there are women constantly working tirelessly without getting any thanks. I'm so, so sorry. Thank you, from both of us, for keeping the world fucking running.

I don't know. I hear the men in this thread talking about how they are trying and still fall short, and I know part of it is communicating like this is a skill that takes time to develop, and may require some innate amount of xyz personality trait, or whatever, but. I just keep thinking that my relationship looks so wildly different from the male-partnered relationships in my life, to the point that multiple people in our lives have extremely idealized it as the ultimate perfect relationship (it's not, but I will take the "hell of a lot better than a lot of straight relationships" award). But I have never felt that I work anywhere near as hard as the male-partnered women in my life.
posted by brook horse at 8:55 PM on February 26, 2019 [14 favorites]


[One deleted. Please don't pop in to throw up a lazy reductio ad absurdum argument (and weird tough guy challenge). If you are not familiar with the emotional labor concept at this point, you need to either do the work to read up on the mass of easily available background information on this — and then ask for further clarification, if necessary, in a respectful way — or skip discussion on this topic.]
posted by taz (staff) at 12:19 AM on February 27, 2019 [2 favorites]


Conscious behavioural change intended to be permanent takes discipline and will power. That effort does deserve praise.
posted by infini at 6:56 AM on February 27, 2019 [2 favorites]


Then men should set up some kind of self-praise system so that they can get the praise they need to continue behavior modification. I refuse to be responsible for men anymore: I don't mentor them, I don't date them, and I sure as fuck don't praise them for being baseline decent.
posted by sockermom at 9:54 AM on February 27, 2019 [19 favorites]


heh, i started shooting testosterone and had to fend off a lot of horrible comments from well-meaning people about how of course this would make me dumber/hornier/angrier/sympathetic to the foibles of the OEM men i previously chastised for troglodytic and immature actions. nope, nope.

i do walk among the men now though so those of you interested in working on emotional intelligence and life/ self-care skills please reach out, as the energy i now save being taken for a white man and treated with kid gloves i will happily reroute there. it breaks my heart to see how my straight woman friends live. that's no way to live.
posted by nixon's meatloaf at 10:47 AM on February 27, 2019 [21 favorites]


M2AMWOK, here. (Married-to-a-man woman one kid?)

I'm the breadwinner in our family (by mutual choice, and it's very much the right choice for me and something I'm mostly happy with day-to-day).

I was recently interviewed by a friend of a friend for a Refinery 29 piece on female breadwinners. I assumed that most of the other people in the article were going to be parents, like myself, who landed on mom working outside the home and dad staying home with non-school aged kids as the best arrangement. Or possibly some other situations that revolve around caregiving or arrangements where the male partner wasn't able to be traditionally employed for Reasons, or, like, male partner is a grad student or extremely prestigious artist in a field that doesn't pay a lot (like, "my husband won the Nobel Prize for poetry" would be a completely valid reason to be a female breadwinner). Or, shit, maybe most of the other households would be queer families where one female-identified partner worked outside the home and the other stayed home as a primary caregiver/student/poet laureate.

Nope. Most of the other women interviewed had live-in boyfriends who just didn't work, mostly for no particular reason that was mentioned in the article. Additionally, a common complaint in the article was that these house-husbands/male homemakers also did no domestic or emotional labor to speak of. I mean, I have my complaints about the working mom/SAHD arrangement, and yeah, our house is way messier than it might otherwise be, and yes I am sometimes President of emotional labor tasks that ideally wouldn't fall to me. But, for fuck's sake, at least my husband is at home doing something (raising our kid). At least he sometimes cleans, mostly cooks, and also does a lot of domestic and familial labor type tasks with only minimal prompting.

It was at that point that something started to occur to me: men don't fucking do anything. And we pretty much just let them. The answer to the domestic labor questions that have been a feminist issue since Betty Fucking Friedan is that men need to shut up and do the housework. And yet, for the most part, we give them a pass. When professional women talk about the Second Shift, the answer is always to hire domestic or childcare help (99% of the time, other women). Somehow the answer is never "men fucking start doing your share". Oh, and god forbid a man pipe up and say "um actually I did the laundry yesterday!", as if this disproves that, in aggregate, mainstream society does not expect men to take on any domestic duties whatsoever. Because, yes, it's almost always performative, and not the default arrangement that exists without extensive demands on the part of a female partner.
posted by the milkman, the paper boy at 2:00 PM on February 27, 2019 [37 favorites]


Oooh, count me as another SIOC! And at this point, I've been single for the vast majority of my adulthood. I knew from my teenage years that I never wanted kids, but I did very much want to be in a long-term relationship. But I've got a lot of strikes against me when it comes to hetero dating, apparently, and my refusal to compromise on certain standards, or abandon my career path, or, I dunno, learn whatever the myterious thing that I just can't figure out, has left me where I am. I'm in my early 40s and at this point have resigned myself to being single for the rest of my life. And honestly, I often find it hard to imagine sharing my space with anyone but the cat; everything is exactly where I want it, and I've filled up my space to suit just me.

But then there are times, like now, when I'm sick and miserable and whining and feel so alone. But I realize that the boyfriend probably still wouldn't bring me soup or listen to me whine or run to the store for the better class of Sudafed, unless first I did the work of telling him to do all of these things, so... Props to several girl friends who saw my whining about being sick and offered to bring me soup or help out in other ways. Not a single guy did.
posted by TwoStride at 5:11 PM on February 27, 2019 [11 favorites]


Hi I'm back, today it was my turn to bring snacks for our weekly meeting and among items such as a cheese plate and coffee cake and pretzels with pesto dip I included brown sugar poptarts specifically because someone brought them a few weeks ago and everyone loved them and I remembered that. My (male) supervisor didn't see me bring the food in and was trying to guess who brought in food this week and insisted it must be a man because "poptarts are the laziest food."

Those poptarts were a fuckin women's decision. If you did the emotional labor of paying attention to people's basic likes and dislikes perhaps you would know that.

This is the tiniest thing but somehow also completely encapsulates everything ever and holy shit I am so glad I don't have to deal with this in a romantic relationship
posted by brook horse at 8:01 PM on February 27, 2019 [20 favorites]


Metafilter: #notallmen.

I can't help but be so grateful for even that sop of understanding. Some habits struggle to survive. This is backwards, but, inspired by tradition, it's generated and defined at the family level. Even now I realize that it would be hard to be me without her; not a bad foundation, except for the part about the "social fictions." Me, the emotional millstone, another child. That smarts.

CIS males have a long row to hoe.
posted by mule98J at 4:45 AM on February 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


As the head of a SIOC (single income one cat) household

Slight derail: Have you broken the news to the cat that she's not the head of the household, and if so, how did she take it?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:09 AM on February 28, 2019 [30 favorites]


women are telling each other that they can't opt out of the system, although obviously we can, we can opt out of heterosexual dependency and cohabitation by the simple act of never starting to do it.

So I am visiting my elderly, ailing dad in a red state for way too long (19 days!), a visit made bearable by my refusal to help him with anything involving attorneys, buying or selling cars, or yelling at people on his behalf about slights that appear imaginary to me. To his credit, my dad told me as soon as I arrived that I shouldn't do any cooking or cleaning. That was a nice surprise, but I do need to do a tiny bit of cooking and cleaning, which is fine.

My dad lives alone because he ran through three wives, largely by taking them for granted and/or other bad behavior. When he talks about girlfriends now, he talks about wanting someone for touching (understandable) and for caretaking. And then he comes to his senses and says, "nobody is going to want to be with me, I am too sick and too old." No kidding, dad.

Anyway, last night I was listening to country music as I tooled around in a rental car and a song called "Buy My Own Drinks" from a trio called Runaway June came on the radio. The lyrics include:

I found myself a dive
The type he would never walk in
Then a guy at the bar sees an empty drink in my hand
I said sweet of you to ask if you could fill my glass
But I'm gonna have to pass this time
Me and myself, well we’re doing just fine
I can buy my own drinks
I can pay my own tab
And at the end of the night when they cut on all the lights
I can call my own cab
I can drop my own change in the jukebox
I can dance all by myself
'Til I can stop thinkin' 'bout drinkin' 'bout him
I don’t need nobody else
Yeah I can buy my own drinks


So yeah, this is a breakup song but it's a lot more than that. If a country trio is singing this kind of song, it seems to me that straight, cis men really ought to be worried. In Baltimore there are some 167,000 unmarried female homeowners, which exceeds not just single male homeowners in Baltimore but also the national average. Also, more single women are buying homes than single men nationally.

I think many women are opting out of traditional heterosexual dependency and cohabitation. Some of them never opt in; others, such as myself, decide after a divorce or breakup that cohabitation with a male partner is not what we want. I won't pretend to know the future but I think single women who may be sexually attracted to cis men are discovering the freedom and power that stems from not cohabitating with them at a minimum.
posted by Bella Donna at 12:12 PM on February 28, 2019 [20 favorites]


Slight derail: Have you broken the news to the cat that she's not the head of the household, and if so, how did she take it?

I admit, the most likely scenario is that she just lets me pretend I'm the boss of things.
posted by ktkt at 11:36 PM on February 28, 2019 [8 favorites]


Hey, guy up there trying to train himself not to want a cookie and to want to be virtuous, instead. Guy who announced: "I'm going to work on cleaning for the sake of having a home that we both enjoy." I advise you skip that shit because it's weak sauce, motivationwise. At least, it never works for me to get me to do scutwork of any kind.

What works for me is developing and endlessly tweaking scutwork systems to get scutwork done ever faster, ever better, and above all, ever cheaper. This makes me feel smart, and feeling smart is motivational. Attempting to make myself feel kind and decent is a fail because I already know I'm not: that ship sailed in like infancy. But smart? Oh my God, so smart.

So with dishes, loading the most possible dishes in the most best way to get hit by the spray, making sure there are either three or fewer or five or more but NEVER FOUR, FOUR IS THE DEATH NUMBER pieces of silverware in each silverware stall, finding new ways to nestle the items. Each day it's a slightly different set of filthy items that must be loaded, so they must be combined in a slightly different way. I don't rinse before loading; I wipe before loading. Not with a paper towel--am I made of money? With a cotton fabric scrap from my quilting project that then goes into the compost pile. No wasted water, nothing in the landfill, and no grease down the drain because none of my goddamn money goes to the goddamn plumber. Because I am a genius.

I do everything this way. Marie Kondo was a godsend because she gameified laundry folding, a task I used to find dull. No more! There is always a way to improve! Try it, no-more-cookies man. Stop trying to be good for goodness's sake; it's exhausting, it's depressing, and it doesn't work. Let's face it: you think you're too awesome to grovel around cleaning, right? So then so the solution is to shine some of your innate awesomeness upon the lowly chore and make it your own chore done your own, superior, way.
posted by Don Pepino at 11:44 AM on March 1, 2019 [5 favorites]


"hey men, don't try to get better because you can't, but focus on gamifying your entire life because you're a helpless agencyless machine" isn't the most tone deaf thing i've come across in emotional labor threads. but i'd say it's in the top five.
posted by rotten at 12:13 PM on March 1, 2019 [10 favorites]


Haaar! You're right, rotten.

My only quibble is with "agencyless." At least in my observation, the whole problem is an excess of agency on the part of the shirker, so my system is all about how to bring some agency to painfully boring thankless tasks. But I see what you're saying, of course, and it's hilarious that it didn't occur to me it would read that way.
posted by Don Pepino at 12:52 PM on March 1, 2019 [3 favorites]


The problem with gamified/smart-focused domestic work, especially for someone who already is not doing enough domestic work*, is that it's very easy to transition from "I do my chores smart and fast and WINNING" to "Why actually be the one to load the dishwasher in a precise way when I could simply harangue my girlfriend when she does it wrong? I mean I'm not going to start actually doing it, but she is doing it wrong and needs to know that my smart way is the best way!"

*Kudos to you and anyone else who is doing their actual fair share of the domestic work.
posted by the milkman, the paper boy at 1:27 PM on March 1, 2019 [5 favorites]


Part of the game is to get to the chore before the other person who doesn't know the supergenius system does. This increases the intellectual--and sometimes the athletic--challenge. A major part of the game is not talking about the game. In fact, if you're playing it well, your "competetitors" probably don't even know there's a game or that they're playing. They only know it's been quite a while since they loaded or unloaded the dishwasher. (I like unloading it even more. I have a whole system with coffee mugs that brings me great joy.)
posted by Don Pepino at 2:12 PM on March 1, 2019 [1 favorite]


For those with questions about the extent to which housework is/can/should be categorized as emotional labor, sociologist Arlie Hochschild, the coiner of the term, has some doubts:
Many people who write about emotional labor do tip their hats to Hochschild, and acknowledge that they are expanding her original definition, but the umbrella of emotional labor has grown so large that it’s starting to cover things that make no sense at all, such as regular household chores, which are not emotional so much as they are labor, full stop. “Really, I’m horrified,” Hochschild said of the concept creep when I called her to set the record straight.
posted by PhineasGage at 2:13 PM on March 1, 2019 [1 favorite]


Well, the concept creep sets in because a lot of people experience the Dunning-Kruger effect, which means they're not smart enough to realize they're using the term wrong. But it's not entirely a bad thing, because expanding the definition shifts the Overton window in a way that familiarizes more people with the concept. Sure, it can feel like you're being gaslighted when these terms get used incorrectly, but it's pretty ad hominem to be overzealous about correcting people.
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:21 PM on March 1, 2019 [2 favorites]


My impression was that emotional labor as it relates to housework isn't so much the actual performance of the tasks as it is the caring enough to get them done, caring about when and how well they're done, and thinking more about the benefit to the family unit than you do about whether you feel like doing the task.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:48 PM on March 1, 2019 [20 favorites]


I definitely think there's an emotional labor component to domestic work, or at least another type of labor that is hard to see or quantify, and which thus tends to be invisible and fall to women: household management. My husband and I do similar amounts of chores, but one of us remembers that we are out of toilet scrubbing stuff and gets more. One of us realizes that, if we are cooking Thanksgiving on Thursday, and we are brining the Turkey on Wednesday, and we are pre-prepping things on Tuesday, that means we need to grocery shop on Monday and clean the kitchen on Sunday. One of us knows how to sprinkle baking soda and essential oil when we vacuum the carpet so it doesn't smell like we have a cat, and furthermore knows how one might obtain essential oils without accidentally signing up as a DoTerra rep.

A lot of the reason that domestic labor falls to women is that men think women are born knowing this stuff, and also that not already knowing this stuff means they shouldn't have to do it. (Or have to be made to do it like sulky teenagers.) It's also what keeps women as the President of cleaning the house even if the men in our lives are willing to contribute by doing chores.

See also how many women who hire outside cleaning help are the one in the family to seek out and coordinate said help.

See also that Marie Kondo episode where the workaholic husband is exasperated that his wife would hire out laundry help, because, I mean, come on, couldn't she just do that stuff herself? Because the entire thing besides opening the closet and finding clean clothes hanging there is invisible to him.
posted by the milkman, the paper boy at 3:57 PM on March 1, 2019 [23 favorites]


One of the vectors for this gendered conditioning is women's magazines. When I was growing up, mags aimed at men were not a wealth of home organizational charts and similar schemes. I think Details had an automotive maintenance checklist once, but the one in Mademoiselle six months prior was more extensive.

[Don Pepino, when I remember to get a new trash bag out of the cupboard and line the bin before I walk the full bag outside, I feel ridiculously proud. Because otherwise, I'll get distracted on the way back in, and the bin will sit there naked, and I'll only recall that nakedness in the middle of scraping something into it.]
posted by Iris Gambol at 4:36 PM on March 1, 2019 [4 favorites]


For those with questions about the extent to which housework is/can/should be categorized as emotional labor, sociologist Arlie Hochschild, the coiner of the term, has some doubts:
Many people who write about emotional labor do tip their hats to Hochschild, and acknowledge that they are expanding her original definition, but the umbrella of emotional labor has grown so large that it’s starting to cover things that make no sense at all, such as regular household chores, which are not emotional so much as they are labor, full stop. “Really, I’m horrified,” Hochschild said of the concept creep when I called her to set the record straight.


Ugh, stop. No sensible person among us has claimed that the physical chores themselves are emotional labor, and it was irresponsible of the author to make this assertion. The emotional labor is the managing of the household chores and the coaxing/nagging/handing out metaphorical cookies to get another adult to carry their fair share of the physical labor.

See also: the thread about women opting out of having male partners. Imagine this scenario, with a man and woman living together:
Man uses the shared bathroom, misses the toilet bowl. He either does not notice or does not care. Woman subsequently goes to use the restroom. She has to clean the seat (or what, squat in her own fucking home?) to avoid sitting on his urine. Then what? If she doesn't want the extra work of cleaning up after him over and over again and/or to be left with a bathroom that reeks of stale urine, she now has to start this awkward conversation. Out loud: "Hey, can you please make sure not to pee on the toilet/floor/generally anywhere outside of the toilet bowl, and if you somehow miss, please clean it up right away?" In her head: "How has my life come to this? I am literally having to ask another adult human to please not leave urine on surfaces." Maybe he flat out denies it, maybe in the moment he agrees to be a civilized person and be more careful about it (but then a day or a week later, they're back in the same situation), or maybe -- super rare, but possible -- he actually stops peeing places he should not pee.

It's so much more than just splitting the cleaning of the bathroom. There is extra cleaning to do because one party can't be bothered to pay attention to how his own actions affect others, and there is also emotional labor to do to hopefully put a stop to this.
posted by ktkt at 6:32 PM on March 1, 2019 [25 favorites]


Iris Gambol, you should be very proud! Of course I would lose major major cheapness points if I bought trash bags, so I use grocery bags. When they're new I re-use them as lunch bag liners a few times until inevitably I get olive oil on them, and then they become trash bags for the tiny kitchen trash can. I squish them down into wads and cram them into the bottom of the can under the one currently in service. There's a convenient gap where the handles are through which you can shove wadded-up bags. (The clean ones waiting to be lunchbag liners I store in a plastic campus bookstore bag from the University of Arkansas with an enraged red razorback on it. This hangs by its string handles from a magnetized hook on the kitchen Raskog. This bag is from 1975 at the latest because that's when we left Arkansas.) The kitchen trash can has a wide opening that's really too big for the grocery bags, but I've worked out a way to gently pry the grocery bags over the edges so that they don't tear. The city has recently declared single-use plastic grocery bags banned, and they're going to be phasing them out over the next year. Every time I think about it, it causes angst and consternation. My system! My precious system!
posted by Don Pepino at 6:50 PM on March 1, 2019 [1 favorite]


Well, the concept creep sets in because a lot of people experience the Dunning-Kruger effect, which means they're not smart enough to realize they're using the term wrong.

This is an awful thing to say. I don't care that you go on to say it has benefits anyway - what a dismissive, arrogant, insulting thing to say about women who are using "emotional labor" in a new way, a way that is more useful to them. It's also just wrong.

This thread has taken a quick turn for the worse. It really didn't need men showing up and "explaining" the best way to get themselves to do chores*, or how and why we're using the term "emotional labor" wrong, I mean what the fuck.

* like do what works for you, but women find chores fucking boring too, and if pulling your own weight instead of enacting an all-to-common form of routine disrespect onto your partner isn't enough of a motivation then goddamn
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:47 PM on March 1, 2019 [18 favorites]


I think PBO was trying to make an internet-argument buzzword-bingo sort of joke (concept creep, Dunning-Kruger, Overton window, gaslighting, ad hominem etc) but failed to read the room. Which is pretty ironic in this context.
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:49 AM on March 2, 2019 [6 favorites]


A few more thoughts, for whatever they're worth (take with a mound of salt):

There is surely a nexus between the unequal distribution of emotional labor and the domestic labor of the "Second Shift" in the kinds of heteronormative households Penny's tweet asks about opting out of. I can't imagine Hochschild would disagree and it seems like a weird quibble to get hung up on. I'm not sure why it has to be a deficit of either thinking/caring or doing. My impression from all the testimony I've read, my own family and my own relationships is that it's both and the first results in the second. And the typical awareness gap (chasm?) makes the labor deficit that much more miserable to tolerate.

The gamification stuff works for me too, at least better than having no systems and hoping I just somehow do chores, but it's an organizational tool that applies just as well to exercise, or savings, or other boring things that need to be approached systematically and go on indefinitely. In a healthy relationship it could be fun and satisfying to hone those systems with a partner who also enjoys (and needs) that sort of domestic hackery.

So I don't think devising personal systems is instead of getting better at seeing, contributing, and reciprocating emotional labor. I do think getting better at emotional labor stuff winds up requiring improvement in recognizing and distributing domestic labor, for all the reasons the replies to Penny's tweet (and the comments here, and in previous threads) highlight. Systems can help with that. Getting better at distributing domestic labor (which, it should be noted includes child care, not just cooking and cleaning and easily gamified tasks) is far from all there is to it, but it's concrete and provides immediate relief to a beleagured partner.

As was pointed out, it's not as though women want to do this labor or automatically know how to do it. Taking the intiative to set goals, putting in the time reading flylady and ufyh and Home Comforts - the same efforts women make — is an accessible starting point for men who have no idea what the fuck to do at the intersection of EL and domestic labor but want to do something.

I could write another couple paragraphs about men refusing to learn to cook, but it's basically the same spiel and I'll stop blabbing instead.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:02 AM on March 2, 2019 [2 favorites]


First of all, thank you Rosie M. Banks for alerting me to the term demisexual because it sortof/mostly fits me and I'd never heard of it before.

I'm married, cis, and with no children, by choice. He does most of the cleaning, I do the cooking, and we both share all the bills. But it is amazing to me to hear other people I know make comments excusing why their sons or husbands don't do housework, simply because they are male. I'm sorry, no. There is nothing about being any gender that says you can't load a dishwasher or turn on a hoover. Or notice that it needs to be done (I will admit both of us share the same slightly slovenly attitude to cleanliness, so more luck there).
I actually don't know how to answer back when female friends make comments about how "useless" men are in regards to housework, because it reads to me like just letting them off the hook and doing the work yourself.

But some of it, I know, comes down to the fact that society (that nameless mass) has trained these women to be able to clean efficiently, and hasn't done the same for men, so it is actually quicker and easier for them to do it, in the short term. And often the short-term is all they can think about because there is no energy/time to give to the long-term, despite the fact that having two people in a relationship working together would make everyone's life easier.
posted by Fence at 7:30 AM on March 2, 2019 [6 favorites]


Oddly, my husband was the neat one and I was slovenly one (partly courtesy of my ADHD, not an excuse but an explanation). But that was the cleaning part. The emotional labor part, the part where I remembered that we needed milk/the kid's vaccinations/the new shoes, etc. was all me. I remember asking once if he could help me by calling someone and he was all, just send me the number, and I was all, then that is no help to me if I have to do the work of finding the number and sending it to you.

So yeah, there's a huge cognitive burden, an extra burden, for many of us because someone has to basically produce, as it were, our lives and in a straight couple that is usually one person and it is usually the woman.
posted by Bella Donna at 10:58 AM on March 2, 2019 [7 favorites]


I swear. I swear by my mitochondria that I'm not trying to rerail this onto choresyack, but this "pulling your own weight instead of enacting an all-to-common form of routine disrespect onto your partner" baffles me. How is obsessing on freakishly tiny and ever diminishing chorestyles minutiae in order to make chores more attractive so that you will do the chores "enacting an all-too-common form of routine disrespect onto your partner?" It has nothing to do with the partner, except inasmuch as you're secretly competing with the partner to do the chore before the partner does the chore.

I'm not trying to make the argument that choreshirkers do not entirely and completely suck. Of course they suck. (My poor housemates when I was in my 20s. I can't think about it without shivering with self-loathing.) I think what I'm actually trying to do is encourage choreshirkers to perform emotional labor on themselves. If you're a habitual shirker who by definition sucks, you do need to expend a fair amount of work on your own actual self to get yourself to suck less. You have to think about why you suck. Is it because you hate your partner? Probably not. Is it because you're poisoned by a hormone and you can't do X? Certainly not. Is it because you've barely tried to do whatever it is ever in your life because somebody else always did it for you (or, in my case, except for a few years in houseshares, nobody did it)...? ...Maybe yes? Does that feel bad and like you may be a kind of sad ancient toddler...? ...And also pretty much a dickhead...? ...Maybe yes? Maybe if you practiced doing the thing and worked out how best to do the thing and then tried to get ever better at doing the thing, it would feel better to do the thing and you would feel less like a pathetic half-human? Maybe. Worth a try.

All I know is, telling yourself that you are bad at a thing and should be better at the thing because being bad at the thing makes you a suckperson will make you resent the thing. This is true of math, driving a stickshift, ping pong, everything. As soon as you bring morality into it, it starts to suck like 500% more. If you are like I was in my 20s, you will resist doing the chore because doing the chore reminds you of how bad you are at doing the chore, and if on top of that it's an already morality-laced chore like cleaning, then you get into a hideous Calvinist hellspiral. For people like 20-something me, people who are content to live in a sty, trying to be motivated by the goal "do this so you won't be a selfish ungodly person who makes your housemates have to choose whether to clean up after you or live in a sty" might take longer than "try this new way to do this to see if it's fun."

Also, does it matter? If the scutwork gets done by the former shirker, does it matter whether it's getting done because the person feels bad about having shirked in the past and wants to do better or whether it's getting done because the person has made a demented game out of scutwork? It does not matter. The scutwork is done. The shirker is a shirker no more.
posted by Don Pepino at 11:42 AM on March 2, 2019 [9 favorites]


How is obsessing on freakishly tiny and ever diminishing chorestyles minutiae in order to make chores more attractive so that you will do the chores "enacting an all-too-common form of routine disrespect onto your partner?"

I don't know. Since I didn't say that it is, maybe you can explain.

I said that not doing the chore is the disrespect. If you can make the chore more enjoyable that's great, but it shouldn't be necessary. It really rubs me the wrong way when a man comes into a thread about emotional labor and decides to dispense advice about making chores more fun, as if that chores being boring or stressful is the issue, rather than the fact that men are perpetuating an oppressive system in their homes, to the detriment of their partners, who they are not loving and respecting as equals.

To put it another way, the chores are a symptom of the disease, not the disease itself. It's better to treat the symptom than to do nothing at all - I'd rather you do chores than not, regardless of why you're now doing them. But the disease is patriarchy. It's men not seeing their partner's time and energy as important as their own, or her concerns as important, or her mental well-being as worth sacrifice.

The solution to that isn't making chores more fun. It's changing how men see women. It does matter why the chores are getting done, because it does matter if you're respected or not. I'd rather live with someone who simply couldn't do chores so I had to do all of them myself, than someone who did chores, but didn't see me as an equal.

I don't know you or your relationship, and I'm not saying you don't love and respect your partner as an equal. I'm speaking in generalities here, to try to explain why your comment made me so angry.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:16 PM on March 2, 2019 [17 favorites]


I know that the name is confusing. I didn't do it to confuse. I named myself that after a tomato sauce can that reminded me of the dogfood can in The Mouse and His Child back in the bad old boyzone days when it was as terrifying to be female on Metafilter as it is terrifying to be female everywhere on the Internet.

My father did the chores in our house and basically tried to destroy my mother because she didn't pull her weight, which according to him meant she was a "sloven." My father's method to get me to do chores was telling me that chores are everyone's job and my not doing them meant I was a sloven like my mother. That worked with me about as well as it worked with my mother. Eventually he flew the coop because he was tired of us going to the beach and tracking sand into the house, among other offenses to his sense of decency. He cycled rapidly through two more marriages and for the past thirty or so years has lived alone in an antiseptic condo blasting Bach on his giant stereo system that nobody ever touches but him. A perpetually sand-free environment. My own environment is, largely thanks to having grown up around him, comfortably sandy, and I live in it with my dearly beloved comfortably sandy slovenly darling, whose approach to choredoing is like mine: cheerful, incompetent, innovative, and as divorced from moral ideation as I think is possible in a world full of people who had to try to grow up with parents like my father.

Here's what you said:
if pulling your own weight instead of enacting an all-to-common form of routine disrespect onto your partner isn't enough of a motivation then goddamn

You may have been trying to write about not doing the chore being a problem, but what you actually wrote is that pulling your own weight should be the motivation to do the chore and that if it isn't enough motivation then goddamn. That was my father's theory, too, and the theory of the dude up there that I was originally spouting my unasked-for chore theology at. I am here to tell you that maybe those motivations to better behavior should work? They don't work. People don't have to feel any particular way about chores. They don't have to try to be better people. What they have to do is the chores. They have to do them, do them effectively, and do them without yacking about it. And not being a giant dickhole martinet about it, either, unless they want to live their whole life in a clean dark Bachhole never going to the beach.

Weirdly absent from the long roster of my father's crimes against humanity was his ever telling me that housework was my job because I'm female and housework is bitchwork. For him it's not. He loves cleaning and seems to consider it enobling. He didn't mind doing it, and he was insanely proud of his work. He liked to announce loudly that the kitchen floor was so clean you could eat off of it. (And then wait for applause that never came.) He wouldn't have what he called a "johnny brush" in the house because the only way to clean the toilet properly was by hand. It was our evident disregard for his work and our constant, oblivious rude schmearing of all his suavely gleaming surfaces that drove him nuts and, thank God, finally drove him out.
posted by Don Pepino at 1:46 PM on March 3, 2019 [8 favorites]


I'm not going to start actually doing it, but she is doing it wrong and needs to know that my smart way is the best way!

also known as Why Our Floors Haven't Been Washed Since 2012. I'll be damned if I will wash every floor in this place only to be told it is still filthy because I did it "wrong" (when it is not, and I did not, because floor washing is not brain surgery, and I am not an idiot).

So it will just be filthy, full stop.

That said I have absolutely no quibbles whatsoever about how a person chooses to motivate themselves to do a chore. There are plenty of things in my world for which my love of [person or thing] is insufficient motivation, and even more things for which [moral high ground] fails utterly to inspire. So long as the things are accomplished, that's all that matters.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 4:39 PM on March 4, 2019 [7 favorites]


I said that not doing the chore is the disrespect. If you can make the chore more enjoyable that's great, but it shouldn't be necessary.

With respect and appreciation to the writer of the words above, there are many people who believe that the way I need to approach any number of tasks should not be necessary. Because their brains to not work like my brain, they think that I am doing it wrong whatever "it" may be. That gets really old, really fast to the designated "wrong" person. If really, truly, honestly, "not doing the chore is the disrespect," then why does it matter how your partner or buddy or housemate or whomever gets the chore done if it gets done as agreed?

A long time ago I complained bitterly to my therapist about my partner and how he just didn't fully agree with me about X. She said I was asking for too much. She suggested I call it a success if my partner and I could make an acceptable agreement about this thing that was important to me and then each of us actually did what we had agreed to do.

According to that therapist, I could not expect (at least, not successfully) or demand that my partner agree with my perspective, or find the issue as important as I did, or think about the issue in exactly the same way. Years later, I still appreciate her wisdom. At the time I had not yet discovered Al-Anon and recognized how little I can actually control.

Mind you, I am not suggesting that anyone put up with unacceptable behavior. I am simply suggesting that we respect individual autonomy and choices if it gets the job done to an acceptable degree. Some people wash with dish brushes; some use sponges.

While I am visiting my dad, I play Solitaire. We kind of play together in that he spots me and I spot him for things we miss while playing. My dad taught me to play and has Firm Opinions about how I should play. To keep the peace, I follow his rules. But I also do one additional thing: Before I shuffle the cards, I sort them into four separate piles.

Initially, this was maddening to my dad. Because he's hard of hearing, he would shout, "What are you doing?!" After several nights and explanations, he finally understood: I do this pointless activity simply to relax and calm myself. This confused him; why would I need to do this? Who needs to do this? Only me. Because it makes life easier.

Gentle writer, I am not suggesting that the women and others charged with the burden of emotional labor don't have reasons to feel angry. We have lots of reasons to feel angry. Does it serve us to be angry about or resent the fact that someone may need to motivate themselves to get chores done? Does that even have anything to do with us personally at all?

When it comes to emotional labor, those are not the most important questions. But some may find them useful to consider within the larger context of any given relationship.
posted by Bella Donna at 2:41 PM on March 5, 2019 [8 favorites]


Bella Donna those kind, astute words make me wanna come to your house and mop your kitchen...
posted by PhineasGage at 3:16 PM on March 5, 2019 [1 favorite]


I once tried to Do All The Chores for a few months. I became an angrier and angrier person. Now I do the chores that are required to a) prevent hunger and b) prevent rashes. I can only imagine that people who have managed to Do All The Chores for years are seething balls of constant anger.

(Okay, not all of the people. But probably some of them. There's something about All The Chores.)
posted by clawsoon at 3:33 PM on March 5, 2019 [7 favorites]




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