QUIZ: Are you doing your fair share of the emotional labour?
When Jess Zimmerman wrote "Where's My Cut? - On Unpaid Emotional Labor" for a blog called The Toast, she was trying to put something elusive into words: this pervasive idea - that women are just really good at certain things - lets men off the hook in a very big way.
Examples of emotional labour:
- remembering birthdays
- knowing you're almost out of soap and buying more
- planning family get-togethers
- being a shoulder to cry on at work
- putting one's own hurt feelings aside to tend to someone else's bruised ego
- knowing where the ketchup is
- remembering when your child's bake sale is happening and being prepared for it
- encouraging loved ones to book doctor's appointments for themselves
What happened next was remarkable. The topic of emotional labour was picked up on MetaFilter, an online discussion board. The conversation that happened on the thread is so long it takes days to read. Thousands of women wrote about the kind of emotional attentiveness that is required of them and how it adds up -- seldom reciprocated -- to the point of exhaustion. (Click here for a condensed, best-of version of the MetaFilter thread on emotional labour.)
Marguerite Deslauriers is a philosophy professor and the founder of McGill's Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies. When it comes to emotional labour, Deslauriers says the stakes are high. This isn't just about the way people interact with each other. It goes right to the heart of our self-worth.
"I do think there's a strong social expectation on women that they will be emotionally attentive to other people and if they fail to be, they are bad women. Whereas I think men who fail to be emotionally attentive to other people are often classed as they're just busy, they're important, they're preoccupied.
Click LISTEN to hear Mary's full interview with Marguerite Deslauriers and join in the conversation on Tapestry's Facebook page.