The Year of Emotional Labor July 15, 2016 7:41 AM   Subscribe

Happy one-year anniversary to the emotional labor thread! Any reports from the field on changes (big or small, temporary or permanent, concrete or otherwise) Jess Zimmerman's article and the testimonies in the thread engendered (pun intended) in your life?
posted by sallybrown to MetaFilter-Related at 7:41 AM (34 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

Because of this thread I went and re-read through the EL thread on Wednesday.

I'd spent most of the last week texting with a dude I had been on precisely one date with (and plans with for later in the evening) and figured what the heck, gonna send it to him. So I texted him the link, out of nowhere, with "I've been spending most of the day rereading this metafilter thread and frowning very hard at my screen. It's a really good read." He said he was at lunch with someone and would read it in a bit, then sent me a few pictures of his sandwich and talked about how good his sandwich was. (It was an impressive sandwich.) Convo moved on to other things. Ok, fine.

And then three hours later he texted me saying "wow this thread is a good read, now I'm intensely frowning at my phone while reading it, too." It came up briefly again that night. The next morning when I got out of the shower/getting ready for work he had taken care of my dog, made breakfast, and cleaned up completely unprompted.

Early and often, people! Early and often!
posted by phunniemee at 8:12 AM on July 15, 2016 [76 favorites]

I have made a chore chart and everyone in the house has to sign up for chores and it's fucking working.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:13 AM on July 15, 2016 [19 favorites]

It's 10pm, have you talked to your dude about emotional labor?
posted by phunniemee at 8:13 AM on July 15, 2016 [21 favorites]

Woah that long ago?

I was just re-reading the thread yesterday, LOL!

I'm not exaggerating when I say that the thread changed my life. Changed my marriage. Made me feel un-crazy. Gave me hope for women and men who want to get away from toxic masculinity (Um: giving me HOPE in this is NO SMALL TASK)

So yes, life-changing.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 8:15 AM on July 15, 2016 [13 favorites]

Thanks to sciatrix for posting the article here!
posted by griphus at 8:15 AM on July 15, 2016 [7 favorites]

It's 10pm, have you talked to your dude about emotional labor?

Yes, though he seems to feel that having heard about it absolves him of the need to read that thread.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:30 AM on July 15, 2016 [12 favorites]

I'm not sure there's an aspect of my life that the EL thread hasn't affected. My marriage, my friendships, my relationships with my family, my parents' marriage, my relationship with myself, my approach at work... it's upset all the apple carts in such an upsetting and ultimately wonderful way.
posted by sadmadglad at 9:08 AM on July 15, 2016 [14 favorites]

This well-liked comment by Eyebrows actually scared the everloving shit out of me when to the extent that I've been spending the last, well, year I guess, putting a lot more work into girding both me and my wife's mutual social circles, as well as my own personal ones.
posted by griphus at 9:16 AM on July 15, 2016 [11 favorites]

The years are going by so quickly. I've been talking about emotional labour a lot without actually saying the words 'emotional labour' and I've been getting some pretty good feedback so that's something, I guess. I'm still bloody awful at it even though I'm continuously exposed to it. It's nice to have people empathising with me about it, which means that they're now thinking about it. It's the thinking about it that's the important thing, to my mind. For so long it's just been hey ho that's how it goes.
posted by h00py at 9:45 AM on July 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Damn it, griphus, I went back and reread that comment and realized there are two "just saying hi" emails sitting in my inbox from friends of mine (fellow dudes) that I received *months ago* and I never responded to them and I'm doing it now now now right now, but before I do, THANK YOU griph and eyebrows and also Jess Zimmerman for writing the article and sciatrix for posting it to the Blue.
posted by duffell at 9:55 AM on July 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

Thanks for the anniversary reminder! I'm so happy with how my life has changed since the thread. I learned new words and phrases to express how I've been feeling about so many things in my life thanks to the thread. It's changed my relationships and how I manage them, as well. Best of all, it's given me a great community--Crone Island. Thank you again to Sciatrix, everyone who posted in the thread, and the Islanders.
posted by angelchrys at 10:00 AM on July 15, 2016 [7 favorites]

What a year!

That thread was transformative for me, but more in my work circles than my home life ones. My husband has always been pretty fantastic. I'm 7 months into a new job where I'm not miserable (from EL and otherwise) and the paradigm shift from The Thread has led me to new friends, new work, and new insight.
posted by bookdragoness at 10:01 AM on July 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

this means that my one-year anniversary of finally, after quite a few years, de-lurking and ponying up $5 is coming up in a few days! and i have the EL thread to thank for that (and many other reasons to be thankful for it)
posted by burgerrr at 10:18 AM on July 15, 2016 [6 favorites]

it has definitely added a new tool to my marriage's relationship toolbox. it's helped us both identify needs and wants that felt fuzzy before, it's helped my husband talk to me about how demanding others can be of my emotional labor and how i'm not being rude to set boundaries, it's helped me find ways to express thanks to him for things he does for us. i've also broadened the conversation to family and friends and hopefully given them some new ways to think about what they expect of those close to them and what they should be able to bow out of if their relationships are on firm ground.

i've also really enjoyed watching the conversation expand to intersectional feminism to give those who do a lot of the emotional lifting for others who are more privileged a vocabulary to discuss their burdens.
posted by nadawi at 10:32 AM on July 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think about that thread all the time. In a positive way - it gave me a language I didn't have before and I have made sure to use the term with other women to share the knowledge - but also it kind of damaged my relationship with my brother. I realised that the really close relationship I thought we had was propped up by a lot of EL on my part and that kind of hurts, but it's also liberating in a way.

Last year, the day before my niece's birthday (and I posted this in the thread) he txt me and said "Oh I'm a terrible uncle but I've left it too late to get a present for her, what should I go?" And I said don't worry and I went to the toy shop and soent time picking something she'd love, and then I took it home and wrapped it and brought it round, and made a big deal of "Uncle bee wanted me to give this to you." This year he literally did the exact same thing. One day before (this was last week) he text me this: "Quick question - is [niece] of an age where I can slip a £20 note in a card to her, or do I now have to scramble to get a present sent to her for tomorrow like the bad uncle I am? If the latter, what is she into these days?" And this time I replied "Scramble." He didn't reply, no doubt in shock that I didn't rush to help out despite that he's 36 and a fully functioning adult. And while I felt liberated - all that time I saved! - I STILL felt like a jerk and I rang my partner saying "am I a jerk because on principle I'm not going to get something I mean the shop's not that far away..." but he reassured me that no, t'was Brother who was the jerk. So it's a step in the right direction but I'm still a work in progress because damn the guilt conditioning goes deep. Oh and also he rang me the day before my actual bloody 40th a few weeks ago and told me I wouldn't be getting a card because he didn't know my address and Sister hadnt txt it to him in time! It's his next week and, yeah, I won't be card shopping either.

Sometimes I wish I'd been left in my happy ignorance but mainly I'm glad that the thread has saved me a lifetime of putting unrewarded effort into something just because I'm expected to because womanhood. Fuck no. I will no longer accept that unwritten rule and I'm grateful for the freedom.
posted by billiebee at 11:09 AM on July 15, 2016 [43 favorites]

This time last year I was living in my parents' basement, having gradually found myself living in a Lifetime movie, from 'this is troubling but manageable' to 'serious red flags' to 'take the kid and GTFO now'. Feelings were too raw and the thread was too fast-moving for me to participate, but I sent it to my Kindle and read every word. I had already emotionally detached and set up strict boundaries and forced myself to say difficult things out loud before then, but reading all your stories and comments helped strengthen my resolve. When I lie awake wondering 'was that right? could I have handled things differently?' in addition to reminding myself of the facts of the case (and the time my blood pressure went to 178/something and they thought the machine was broken; no, just stress bordering on panic) I think about the emotional labor thread.
posted by Flannery Culp at 3:10 PM on July 15, 2016 [6 favorites]

My relationship doesn't even have a woman in it and I still feel like that emotional labor thread has made me a better partner.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 4:36 PM on July 15, 2016 [6 favorites]

The emotional labor article and associated thread changed the way I think about every relationship in my life. It's made me a better friend and family member and it's made me stand up for myself and look for better treatment as well. I talk about it with everyone. And now, in addition to him making a concerted effort to take on more labor in a daily way, my boyfriend and I have set up a bi-weekly emotional labor payment schedule, where he will perform some kind of labor (often a deep cleaning project) to compensate me for the inevitable imbalances.
posted by rabbitbookworm at 7:56 PM on July 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

The phrase "emotional labor" has become a part of the vocabulary of my relationship with my SO. We always try to be conscious of whether one or both of us is feeling like we're doing too much or too little of it. I also now understand how much sexism drove my failure at my last job. Part of the reason I was fired was that I was not "bubbly." I don't feel guilty for not smiling on command anymore. I also make sure I don't leave all the emotional labor to other women in my life, since it doesn't come naturally to me and I haven't been completely socialized to perform femininity and don't have kids, so I have often been guilty of obliviousness to other people's emotional labor.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 7:27 AM on July 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

Part of the reason I was fired was that I was not "bubbly."

Holy crap. I am so sorry.
posted by sallybrown at 8:09 AM on July 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

It's crazy to me that that thread was only posted a year ago. It feels like forever.
posted by rorgy at 4:30 PM on July 16, 2016

Good god this is so timely. The EL thread marked the beginning of a certain end for me and my relationship with my partner, although I didn't recognise that at the time. It gave me the words, the shared experiences, the everything I needed to start being truly honest about my situation, and what it is I wanted, needed. That kicked off a whole new awareness, which I carry with me today. It's been a year now and last week we separated, calling off the engagement, leaving the house we owned and stopping all future plans. It's totally the right thing to do; I don't know how many years it would have taken otherwise. So thank you to everyone. With some time, I'm going to be alright.
posted by iamkimiam at 6:43 PM on July 16, 2016 [41 favorites]

Aw shit, Kim. Hugs.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:23 PM on July 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

EL: The truth shall piss you off, and then set you free.*

*Terms and conditions may not apply for those around you.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:31 AM on July 17, 2016 [5 favorites]

I still regularly see the EL thread brought into other contexts on the web, often among people who have little to no presence on MetaFilter and sometimes people who don't even explicitly mention this is where it happened.

The ripple effect has been enormous.
posted by Deoridhe at 3:26 PM on July 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

One if my friends told me my boundaries were amazing and she admired them and I'd like to think that thread helped.
posted by emjaybee at 10:44 PM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

The biggest impact for me was at work where I'm a department manager. Making sure that ordering food, organizing outings, buying comfort of living supplies, random hospitality tasks, cleaning up after office parties etc etc etc didn't default fall to female staff.

This hasn't been seamless, my staff is largely warehouse and logistics workers. On many occasions I've had to say things like "You can organize a 9 truck fleet, Doug, you can figure out how to order appetizers" it's so ingrained to hand off these tasks... and there have been issues of people feeling like our willingness to help is an incitement of the job someone was doing before. Institutionalization/tradition of these behaviors. But the thread also provided good language to deal with these problems, so it's a win win.
posted by French Fry at 8:13 AM on July 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

That thread was an instruction manual, a troubleshooting guide, a glossary, and a bibliography/"recommended further reading" for so many times.
posted by greenish at 10:05 AM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

My inner bitch doesn't care to hide out so much anymore. She might start conversation threads with the statement " I have no sympathy for your fragile young male ego". The field in which her fucks grew is as barren as her post menopausal womb. She knows she's generous and compassionate but won't take bullshit anymore. She actually had a delicate little hissy fit about public plagiarism which resulted in a CEO taking the time out to look into it.

the scary part? the late night fears of OMG was I too harsh don't seem to show their ugly mugs anymore

omg y'all hate me?
posted by infini at 6:47 PM on July 18, 2016 [12 favorites]

I'm so sorry iamkimiam but it sounds like you're in a better place now.
posted by infini at 6:47 PM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Progress report: I have sent 4 cards this year. A thank-you card, a birthday card, a Father's Day card and a Mother's Day card. I am a 29-year-old woman and this would seem unremarkable, but I really struggle with some of the more formalized parts of emotional labor (and the housework parts, I'm very good at the take-responsibility-for-everyone's-feelings parts, ugh) and so for me it's great! My life is a bit upside-down and backwards in terms of emotional labor: my boyfriend is much better at cards than I am and talked me through sending the thank-you card. I will send more cards. Even holiday cards.
posted by sunset in snow country at 1:08 PM on July 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

Wait! That is not true, I have sent THREE thank-you cards. Go me!
posted by sunset in snow country at 1:15 PM on July 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty sure we'd be separated and negotiating custody and divorce settlements now if we hadn't read it. Instead, after some hard work and serious change, we are both feeling better supported, understood, and actually enjoying each others company.
posted by The Shoodoonoof at 3:09 PM on July 20, 2016 [6 favorites]

It's also opened my eyes to the dark side of my (adored) mother and her (adored, female dominated) family's core tenets of nurturing, self sacrifice, and harmony. It has been really hard coming to terms with the idea that these sweet, loving, kind, and in many ways very strong and independent women, helped warp me in a way that I think has directly impacted my (ownership for my own) happiness for decades.

But I'm glad I know. I can change things for the second half of my life, and can try my damdest to show my daughter something different.
posted by The Shoodoonoof at 4:06 PM on July 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

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