In times like these, life for women is extra hard.
As I read somewhere on Twitter: "Most of the women you know are about one conversation away from crying or screaming."
We are exhausted.
Exhausted, not because we are too weak, uninspired or sensitive, but because everything we do professionally, politically and in general, we do in addition to providing emotionally for everyone we know.
You read that right: Everyone.
This is no overstatement.
Emotional labour is the labour of caring, organizing, remembering, keeping on top of and regulating, everything that needs to be done in a household and for its inhabitants, or a work environment and its team members.
As Dr. Judith Moring put it in this article, it's holding someone in mind and thinking about other people's needs:
From doctor's appointments to printer cartridges, from thank you cards to birthday gifts, from meal planning to agenda setting - we're doing it all.
"How much of this labor has a woman got to pay out before dudes will do anything in return?"
Great question, and I have no clue, honestly!
What I can offer, though, are a few ideas around how to pace emotional labour in a way that will hopefully leave you with more time to recuperate:
0. Understand that emotional labour is not you being controlling, but rather a systemic issue. That said, you're not the only one supposed to put the work in. Wherever possible, surround yourself with men who are aware of others - even just their presence in space! - and who are willing to coordinate complex tasks and processes for or alongside you.
1. Choose who you like caring for and prioritize your emotional labour accordingly. Not all dependents are created equal!
2. Identify more balanced relationships: Who are the people that demonstrate an emotional investment in your relationship that is similar to your own? What about those relationships tell you that you're not the only one putting the work in?
3. Document workflows to a T, so that at any time, someone else could take over. And when I say "to a T", that's what I mean: (1) Go to Mailchimp.com. (2) Enter [username] and [password]. (3) Navigate to "Recent" etc. Or (1) Open fridge. (2) Check amount of yogurts. (3) If ≤ 2, refill with yogurt of same brand and flavour.
4. Delegate workflows. Especially those less important to you as a person. Keep those you enjoy for yourself.
5. Discuss the issue with friends and colleagues. Particularly with those that seem to have childcare and work distribution figured out; in our household, for example, my husband takes care of our daughter more often when she's not at daycare, and he is also in charge of keeping the kitchen clean.
6. Invest in women. Make time to appreciate and support the women in your life for what they do.
How does all this relate to substance use and disordered eating?
Great question, thank you for asking, let me explain:
Problematic behaviours like substance use and disordered eating are generally understood as bio-psycho-social phenomena with an element of oppression.
In situations where people are overwhelmed with what they need to be doing or think they should be doing to uphold or increase their societal status or standing with others, the pressures of everyday life turn into oppressive force.
For women, who in our current political climate struggle to maintain control of their own bodies and are still generally paid less than men for the same work, the playing field is not level to begin with: Women are oppressed on personal, cultural, and structural levels every day, everywhere.
When we add to this daily oppression the stress of emotional labour that is often not only under-appreciated, but wholly unrecognized, feelings of emotional pain and general worthlessness may take over that often present in behaviours that further increase oppression, such as substance use or disordered eating. We self-medicate and want to disappear.
The good news is: a little bit of feminist education will go a long way:
It's okay to not do it all.
It's okay to ask for help.
It's okay to take up space.
We deserve better!
As always, I hope this blog post was useful to you, and I'd like to ask one last question:
Suppose you were able to reduce your amount of emotional labour, what would you use your energy for instead?