I'm diving down deep for this one, not just a website but an individual thread on a website, but the "Where's My Cut?" thread on MetaFilter, centering around emotional labor, has gone beyond the initial article which sprouted it and become it's own field of wisdom and wit. Alternatively infuriating and enlightening, it's become one long howl of recognition among a slew of women and attracted more to compare notes and exclaim about the many ways this will change their lives. And because these women have strong relationships with men, and because other men have a vested interest in listening to women, this thread has had a ripple effect through the lives of everyone who has read it and those who they have interacted with after reading it. I'm going to share some of my favorite excerpts, but I really recommend a thorough read. It is long, it is intense, and it is so very worth it. I'm front-loading the howls of joy and examples of good work well recognized, but the mix is the real strength of the thread itself.
Not just yes but HOLY SHIT YES. I try to spend my life enacting or at least preparing for war against every facet of patriarchy, but if there was one archetype in particular I could choose to destroy first, it would be the one that says sensitivity and nurturing and saintly levels of understanding and boundless, ceaseless patience aren't just women's work, but the fundamental tenets of womanhood itself. It feels like I've swallowed poison every time someone says "feminine" when what they really mean is "acquiescent, submissive, and willing to put up with infinite shit in exchange for absolutely nothing at all." --divined by radio
I live in a GREAT neighborhood. As I speak, my daughter is out playing kick the can with the other neighborhood kids in the street. There's a treehouse in the tree in my front yard, built entirely by children ages 7-12. When my daughter had a medical emergency and my four year old son ran out the front door that the paramedics left open, one of the neighborhood 12 year olds scooped him up and told me "Don't worry about it -- I've got him. Attend to Lily, he is safe with me, if he has to spend the night at our house, that's fine." We have a block party every labor day and memorial day, we have a neighborhood easter egg hunt. In the summers, one family has an outdoor movie projector and they show movies for all the neighborhood kids while the adults hang out drinking beer and jawing.
You know who does the labor to keep all that together? The women. The kids can all be out in the street playing because there are a lot of stay at home moms, and the older kids (10-14) are OK being left home alone because there are moms on the street during the afternoon. The women plan the block parties. The women rent the movies. The women arrange the dinners to people who just had a new baby, or whose spouse just died. The men show up, and they enjoy it, and they benefit hugely from the close-knit nature of our neighborhood -- but it's the women who make it happen." --KathrynT
It's hard to see, and it's easy to fall into these patterns - society pushes it onto us, we take it onto ourselves, and sometimes don't even notice. I didn't get to the state where I was being the Invisible Logistical Wonder Woman overnight. I've been calling myself a feminist since I was eleven years old, but I didn't notice that my own desire to "just help out" was toxic. Nobody ever stopped me back then and said "hey, are you doing all right? You don't have to do this much, you know." I just thought it was what I was supposed to do. No, instead, the refrain I heard from others was always "wouldn't it be nice if..." alongside some version of "please do more." Reading this thread made my heart lighter, even while I'm frustrated at just how pervasive this shit is. It's not easy to get to a place where emotional labor is even noticed, much less valued. I know we're not fully there yet in my household, though it's worlds better now than it was last year, and progress has been faster after that first "oh shit" moment. -- lriG rorriM
Just having a term to apply to that kind of work helped a LOT in making our home more equitable and giving us language to talk about that emotional work. And the other part of it is, since emotional work isn't recognized as work, people are rarely thanked for it. My husband now frequently thanks me, like, "Hey, thanks for getting everything together so the kids could have a great Christmas" or "Thanks for putting together this trip" or "Thanks for sorting all the boys' clothes and figuring out what they need new for school" or "Thanks for dealing with the plumber." THIS MAKES ME FEEL LIKE QUEEN OF THE WORLD! Just having all my "background work" recognized helps a lot! --Eyebrows McGee
The gift itself is not the thing. The card itself is not the thing. The relationship is the thing.--a fiendish thingy
My friend B has had lady troubles in a casual way for a very long time, and we're pretty good friends, and I've take him to dinner and commiserated with him several times before about it, because he's a friend and I care about him and I want him to have someone in his life who's on his side, so to speak. When I got dumped, he was one of the people who found out first, and he was phenomenal on a level I've only ever experienced with female friends -- letting me come over to his house and vent at him, not making conversations about romantic woes All About Him, saying incredibly wonderful things like, "Well, [Ex] is being punished too-- by not getting to be with you," giving me a ride to a party we were both going to so I wouldn't have to drive, checking in with me during the even to make sure I was okay, bringing me a blanket when I fell asleep on the couch at that party because I was so exhausted from having cried for twelve hours the night before. Over the next several days, he made any time he was home available to me (he lives close by) to come over and just... hang out and work, if I needed to, so that I didn't have to be in my suddenly haunted apartment. Having been dumped on the very beginning of 4th of July weekend and suddenly denied any of the parties with mutual friends I was supposed to go to with my ex, he even got in touch with his mom and made sure I could come to their family dinner so I wouldn't be home alone crying on a holiday. The three components of emotional labor were there in spades: he knew (it's amazing how oblivious men are most of the time, but B knew even down to knowing I'd probably just lost all my holiday plans), he cared (not in a casual, obligatory way, but in a serious I-don't-want-my-friend-to-be-in-pain way), and he did something (it's not like an extra guest for a holiday meal is no work). --WidgetAlley
No thanks for the chocolate yet, but someone did just ask, "hey, I've actually been meaning to ask you this all day - that is an awesome necklace you have on today, where'd you get it?"
Bad mood averted.
Noting this because sometimes this isn't about any specific set task ("always say thank you if someone gets chocolate, never forget birthday cards, etc.") - sometimes it's just a matter of noticing other people. -- EmpressCallipygos
[Quote begins mid-story] So when I arrived the next summer with my 5 other compatriots, everyone in the administration knew there was a problem, but they couldn’t fire him, because he was friends with the director, so instead they just did nothing. After the first three days of working with him, I realized that the summer was going to be really miserable if someone didn’t help Sam integrate into the company better and figure out how to interact with all of us better. And since no one else seemed like they were going to do it, that’s what I spent my summer doing. --colfax
( More pictures here. )