I’ve been thinking a lot about emotional labour, what it is, what it looks like, and what it means.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, here is a great post about it: Brute Reason on Emotional Labour
In brief, emotional labour is the kind of work we do to take care of our own feelings, our own state of mind, but also that of others, whether that be in romantic relationships, friendships, familial relationships, and even more broadly in social situations, online, etc. It involves both having a sense of how others might be affected by actions, situations, words. It means putting thought into your words and actions beyond your own perspective: it means imagining how they will be received by others, both concrete and abstract.
Emotional labour is everywhere, basically all of the time. It means checking in with your partner so that they don’t always have to bring something up when they are bothered by something you do. It means thinking ahead about social events you are organizing to make sure that such events are accessible to everyone invited, and if not, what you might to do make it accessible. It means taking turns with inviting friends out to events, sharing housework so that it doesn’t automatically default to the women in relationships, it means speaking up when you have needs so that the other person doesn’t have to guess about what’s going on in your mind.
And so, so much more.
It strikes me that the distribution of emotional labour is gendered, and in a way that is very very difficult to combat. Women are raised to do it, we are raised to feel *responsible* for it, and so in a sense it is invisible to us how much we do. Men are not raised to do it, and so in a sense it is invisible to them in that a) they don’t know what it is or how to do it and b) other people have done it for them their entire lives.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot this summer, and I’ve been having some revelations that my past relationships have largely broken up over exactly this. It’s an unsettling revelation and one that has raised a lot of feelings but I hope that in part I can start some conversations about what it is, how it affects dating and relationships, and what kinds of things we can do to make it more equally distributed. There will be many posts about this in the next few months.