EL thread (and EL) discussed on the CBC December 11, 2016 9:48 AM   Subscribe

On Tapestry - Mary Hynes interviews philosophy professor Marguerite Deslauriers, founder of McGill's Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies. (26:17; no transcript that I could see, but sometimes they show up.)
posted by cotton dress sock to MetaFilter-Related at 9:48 AM (26 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

Huh, neat!
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:48 AM on December 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

"I am prepared to be considered not being good as a woman...in order not to have to do all of the emotional labor." And [paraphrased] it's really not worth it to ask him to do what he hasn't trained for, so consider his positives and ask your girlfriends for the EL you need; men, consider wondering about your female partner's inner life once in a while.

Pragmatic, I guess. But hardly reassuring.

I'll be interested to see what others take away from this interview.

Thanks, cotton dress sock.
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:20 PM on December 11, 2016 [5 favorites]

I really like the distinction she makes between emotional labor and domestic labor, and illuminates their interaction. That's something I think we got fuzzy on in the thread, though I completely agree that the constant attentiveness required for tracking the state of a household/other people is emotional labor-driven.

I liked that she pointed out that women who do less EL are perceived as "bad women," whereas men are just perceived as "busy." I also thought it was interesting how she linked EL behavior to "giving status" to the recipient of the labor, which made me think about how EL is complicit recreating patriarchal structures (even between and among women themselves).

The story about her husband caring for the baby in the hospital, I didn't like. She talked about people falling all over his parenting as being "helpful" in teaching him that he could do this work and be good at it. For me, that stuff just reinforces the sexism of not celebrating the work women have normally done, but totally celebrating it when men do it.

Also, agree that going to women ('great girlfriends!") for your EL rather than trying to work with or, in her terms, "train" men to do the EL you need essentially just replicates the way women's societies have run almost continuously up through 2nd wave feminism -- so, that's no kind of progressive solution, and not a new idea.That's settling.
posted by Miko at 3:48 PM on December 11, 2016 [13 favorites]

"The story about her husband caring for the baby in the hospital, I didn't like. She talked about people falling all over his parenting as being "helpful" in teaching him that he could do this work and be good at it. For me, that stuff just reinforces the sexism of not celebrating the work women have normally done, but totally celebrating it when men do it. "

That was the point of the story when she told it -- that the nurses considered her mother caring for the baby just normal stuff, but when her husband did it it was like OMG BEST DAD EVER! She made the point that the nurses see a lot of families and their default assumption is that a grandmother knows about caring for a baby and can be expected to do it, but the dad can't be.

I can tell you when my husband wears the baby (which he does often because he is taller than me and I keep having C-sections), people fall all the fuck over themselves about how he is the greatest dad in history because he is carrying a baby in a convenient hands-free way. We both laugh about it, but it is still a thing. Women have even said to him, "I know we shouldn't praise dads for doing normal parenting, BUT ... it's just so rare to see a dad wearing a baby! Great parenting!"
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 7:45 PM on December 11, 2016 [6 favorites]

The hospital story, I don't think, was intended as a guide for others; she was asked about EL in her personal life, and that experience just ended up overturning her husband's expectations, to, I guess, some lasting and important effect. She was also just noticing the nurses' expectations.

Re giving up on teaching men to notice this kind of women's work, she talked about not wasting time on "unwilling" men, specifically. Which I think is sound advice, if there's a blanket unwillingness... I think she did miss the point the Mefite made about her partner taking on feminist aims and falling short in this particular way. (Well, she questioned whether that partner was as feminist as all that. Which might be a fair question, or might be a bit reductive. Bit of both, probably.)

Do less, give what you can away, don't waste time forcing horses to drink... (Maybe also, look for a thirsty horse to begin with?) Not unreasonable, to me?

I thought it was interesting that she talked about taking cues from younger colleagues, wrt defending professional exchanges from emotional labour creep. I think it's probably true that (at least some) younger people have things a bit more together in some ways than older generations.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:01 PM on December 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yes, I understood the point she was attempting to make, but I think you're missing mine. Yes, of course, as she says herself, "it's a question of expectations." What I object to is the notion she advanced that this praise is "helpful" in progressing gender relations.
The nurses...treated my mother as though she was a perfectly ordinary mother doing what a mother should - a mother and grandmother - and they treated my husband like he was a god among men....That really instructed me on how it's a question of expectations...nurses see a lot of families, and they'd obviously seen a lot of mothers and grandmothers being devoted to their daughters and grandchildren, and I think they hadn't seen a lot of fathers being so devoted, becuase my mother and my husband were doing exactly the same tasks. So that taught me, and my husband as well, that he can do it! He can do it really well! And that was really good!
In the end, the hyper-praise is just more male ego-stroking. Yes, it's about expectations, yadda yadda, but women have to learn these behaviors every bit as much as men do, yet we learn it without all the folderol and fanfare. In an equitable scenario, either we all get the praise, or no one gets praised, they are expected to do parenting work because they are adults with children.

Also, how much damage is done by the assumption that women just know what they're doing with babies? I can think of plenty of brutal consequences to that imagined capacity without going far beyond my own immediate family.

I also found some of her perspective dated, cotton dress sock.
posted by Miko at 8:15 PM on December 11, 2016 [6 favorites]

Miko, I think you're building a bit of a straw lady here. I've no doubt Deslauriers agrees with you on the imbalance of expectations (because that's what she said, that was the observation related...)

What did you find dated?
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:38 PM on December 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

>What I object to is the notion she advanced that this praise is "helpful" in progressing gender relations.

She talked about a personal experience. She said it was [ended up being] helpful to her husband and their relationship, and explicitly said it wasn't meant as a programme for broader social change...
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:46 PM on December 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

(Ah, just a heads up, I'm quite tired (as in, got hit with the sleepies), so will probably not check back here until tomorrowish, apols.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:22 PM on December 11, 2016

I think I found the "training" framing not quite right, because for me it translates as women's expectations are unrealistic; men aren't trained to this stuff, and can't be expected to learn; EL is to be shared by women, but minimized for men and therefore men can continue not to change or notice. That's not shared internal dynamics with reciprocity, not a mutual and evolving narrative about the quality of the relationship; that's one person doing most of the heavy lifting and the other not even knowing there's a weight.

they are expected to do parenting work because they are adults with children.

Yes, exactly this. And they are expected to work at relationship because they are adults with other human beings.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:33 AM on December 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm really not into having a big argument or mutual POV policing here. I dislike the way she frames this, plain and simple. I find it perhaps realistic, but not progressive. That's it. Trust me, it's really, really not that I didn't understand what she said and don't need it explained an additional time. I just think it doesn't go far enough; her view is analytical, not progressive. She's a philosopher, not an activist.

Also, what MonkeyToes said.

Cotton dress sock, I was agreeing with you about her perspective being somewhat dated, as she observed different patterns of interaction among younger colleagues.
posted by Miko at 7:14 AM on December 12, 2016

Miko, sorry, bit there does appear to me to be a misunderstanding going on... Because correct, she's not actually put anything like an agenda forward in that interview. Which is why I'm completely baffled that an agenda is being read into her answers to questions that didn't ask about one.

She more or less described the general dynamic and answered the particular questions asked. She wasn't asked, "what is your view of how this could/should change on a large scale", she was asked, how should *a* woman in a specific situation, ie who's in a relationship with a partner *who is unwilling to change*, cope. She was asked what men should do; answer, prioritize the other's view, apply empathy - do the emotional labour required for a conversation to even take place.

Not sure what you mean by POV policing, I just don't have the impression that we all even heard the same thing...
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:40 AM on December 12, 2016

I get that. I just didn't like it. It's no more complicated than that.

In general I really thought it was kind of a flabby and not-that-insightful interview. It added nearly nothing to the EL thread, and she doesn't seem to have taken the state of that discussion into account. She might be better in writing, like a lot of academics.
posted by Miko at 7:47 AM on December 12, 2016

On looking at her faculty profile, I'm not even certain why this scholar was the one chosen for this interview. Her research doesn't really even deal with contemporary gender relations. I feel like it was a somewhat journalistically lazy pick: she founded a center for gender studies, but she's one of many faculty and staff, and she uses the notion of emotional labor in one seminar, but she seems to basically be deploying the idea as you would any other scholarly theory you found had interesting applications to your work - not someone who's really deeply dug into this topic as part of her primary research, and not someone who's done a lot of social science at all. I just don't think she could really have the best person to interview on this topic.
posted by Miko at 7:54 AM on December 12, 2016

I think she was asked, yes, because she teaches emotional labour, and because she founded the center mentioned above.

Sorry you didn't like it. I think this interview was pretty clearly more of an introduction to the concept for unfamiliar audiences, delivered in a short segment. It is probably not for those looking for an in-depth discussion. I brought it up because MetaFilter was mentioned a bunch of times.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:05 AM on December 12, 2016 [5 favorites]

Tapestry is a Canadian radio programme about faith and spirituality. It's pretty hit-or-miss (fairly "lite"), but it's something one listens to on Sunday afternoon as it becomes time to make Sunday dinner. It's not a hard-core radio programme about XX-issue. As well, the producers are probably plugged in to a specific demographic, and this guest happens to be part of that network. Should I also mention that Tapestry likely has no budget?

"Perfect is the enemy of good", etc.
posted by My Dad at 2:58 PM on December 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Sure, I get it. I used to listen to CBC when I lived in NH. It's no biggie. I get that this is a small-time program. But I'm still allowed to think what I think about it, and was merely trying to respond to the request to see "what others took away." I offered my thoughts: Glad they mentioned MetaFilter, OK interview, not the most authoritative person on the topic. All reasonable points of view. Am I being a bad woman?
posted by Miko at 3:55 PM on December 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Am I being a bad woman?

What does this even mean? There's no labour required of you, no one is persecuting you... if you want to discuss this (by, quite honestly, it seems to me, decontextualizing and twisting arguments, and making an Everest out of a rather small molehill) - go ahead; if you don't, don't. I really don't see how much any of it has to do with being a woman, or emotional labour.

I'm just perplexed by this exchange, and I think I'm going to take a break from it.
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:22 PM on December 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

OK interview, yes. I thought that there was a schism between the host's framing (emphasizing the thousands of comments; the segment title, "Are you doing your fair share of EL?"; the attached quiz, all indicators of This Is a Thing) and the guest's pragmatic, descriptive (if not maybe slightly dismissive) attitude and her careful circumscribing of the topic. Teeny show, no budget, OK, I get that, but after all of the thoughtful and passionate discussion here, I heard this segment and wondered why anyone new to the topic--hearing about it for the first time from this guest--would take it seriously.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:25 PM on December 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

You're puzzled, CDS? I talked about two things about the interview I liked, two things I didn't like, and the next two comments (and later, a third) were pushback that assumed I didn't understand what I heard and, well, 'splaining it for me. Maybe we just disagree about how good/useful the interview was. That should be fine. That should be a fine thing that doesn't perplex anyone! I just thought we could discuss the show and that, this being MetaFilter, it might be cool if my views weren't 100% "wow, this is the most awesome thing ever." Maybe I'm spoiled by this site, but I think we did the discussion here much better, if anything. Maybe the show will send a few people to the thread, and it'll help them, and that'd be good.
posted by Miko at 4:47 PM on December 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Am I being a bad woman?

That is irrelevent to this conversation.
posted by My Dad at 4:47 PM on December 12, 2016

but after all of the thoughtful and passionate discussion here, I heard this segment and wondered why anyone new to the topic--hearing about it for the first time from this guest--would take it seriously.

Because they may not have participated in or read the 800 page thread, happened to be listening at the time, and encountered a simple and clear explanation of EL (vs. domestic labour, etc)? If any listeners were interested, it may be that they followed the link provided, and read the thread itself, who knows.

If you're asking why I posted a link to this podcast, here: initially, it was because "hey, heard this thing, hey MF was mentioned, why not". Though at this point, I'm asking myself that very same question.
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:52 PM on December 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

That is irrelevent to this conversation.

Actually, I don't think so. I think it often happens that a "failure to be nice" or "failure to be charitable" or to engage in critique rather than allow the "perfect to be the enemy of the good" is a regular punishment or admonishment for violating a gendered expectation. It is even something the interview discussed. You may not have meant it that way, but it is readable that way, and given my life experience, that's how I read it, and the other attempts to explain. You must have misunderstood; you must be being uncharitable; you must not be so critical.
posted by Miko at 5:06 PM on December 12, 2016 [4 favorites]

Miko, I don't mind anyone liking or not liking the interview. You're free to have whatever view you like of it, that is fine. I maintain that your take on the section you took the time to transcribe [and the bits around it you didn't] involved a lot of reading into what was actually said... and that's where I'm perplexed - if you wanted to expand on what was in fact said, and carry on with something like, "if we extended this micro-interaction and Guest's perspective on it to a larger agenda, here are the implications I'd foresee", that would have been one thing - and could have led to an interesting discussion, there is something there, of course. Instead, you made her words stand for something they were never intended to stand for, and extracted them from context. Then, you said you just didn't like it. Then, you trashed the guest and her credentials. When it was made clear this was a piece for a popular audience, you went back to just not liking it. So my sense is that there are some strong feelings, and a lot of words generated around this inconsequential podcast, that could just as well have been expressed as "meh", and it perplexes me that this was not the choice made.
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:08 PM on December 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

cotton dress sock, I am sorry we're having a disconnect; I genuinely was/am not seeking to make an enormous deal out of this. I see that I seem to be failing to meet your expectations for an appropriate reading and response of the interview, or failing to arrive at the same estimation of it, or something like that.

As you saw, initially I reacted to four different points in the interview. Taking your response into account, I just listened to it a third time, and I still don't find my reading to be off base or misconstrued or out of context. In the question right before the part I excerpted, she does extend instances like these into a larger context and even an agenda (insomuch as she ventures to say "I think it's good if..."); she talks in that preface about gendered expectations , and that's what leads into the hospital discussion. She talks about thinking of these expectations that arise in and around gender relations as "a political phenomenon" and "that it's really important to understand that our personal relationships are affected by the social context in which we have them. So, because I see it as a way in which gender equality manifests itself in personal relationships, I do think it's good if women can view their relationships through that lens, understand that our personal relationships are not immune to political forces....I know that many women find that a really disturbing idea and resist that very much, but I think it explains so much, it explains what you were just talking about, that they [we in the EL thread] are amazed to find that other people have the same experience, but that of course suggests that it is a political and social experience and not just a personal dissatisfaction that they're finding in their own relationship." So she does get what I'm talking about. But finding that understanding that expectation was at play "helpful in teaching him" is just something that will continue to grind on me. Because that praise, that "teaching," is just more EL.

This phrase stood out more to me on listen 3: "The thought of being uncaring is really horrible to women." I like that insight.

I don't know, I come here to talk about things. It seems weird to me if it's not okay to do that. If it is more comfortable to think of all the things I've said as amounting to just "meh," sure, go ahead. Meh!
posted by Miko at 7:22 PM on December 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

I too am regretting that we don't seem to be meeting, here. I appreciate that you went back and listened again (and again), to explore these points of disjunction in understanding.

So she does get what I'm talking about.

Yes, that is what I've been saying... she (or course) frames the overall phenomenon as political, because it is (we are all in agreement here!). The hospital episode was a shift in frame in response to a question about EL operating in her personal life. There, she observes the nurses reinforcing norms - she sees the special approbation her husband receives, it is what highlights the norm, for her, it's a pivotal moment in her awareness of the phenomenon. She's critical of this response, though. Her tone's a bit understated [because, French], but she's definitely not suggesting it's appropriate or fair.

She then says that this experience, however (i.e. despite acknowledging its normative nature), did turn her husband's expectations about his own capacities around and presumably his behaviour, longer-term.

(I think a point she was trying to get back around to at least suggesting, in her advice to the Mefite quoted, was that her own husband seemed willing, and that that was important [and, reaching a bit here here, might be a difference between her own husband and the Mefite's. If that's what was intended, I think it might have been a bit reductive. Because I think most people are "willing" to be open, in concept, most of the time (or to see themselves as "willing"), and are in fact only sometimes. That tension and ambivalence could definitely have been better addressed... but again, it was a short, introductory piece, and things moved on.)

But finding that understanding that expectation was at play "helpful in teaching him" is just something that will continue to grind on me.

I think she might have meant "effective", but I don't know. That's how I read that.

But really - how, other than some kind of teaching, can these things be taught, in a romantic relationship of some investment, to a person in the class opposed to yours? Conflict is an option, and necessary sometimes. That doesn't promote the relationship. (Which to some extent is always going to be subject to this tension, as long as there isn't full equality, everywhere.)

Segregation, or partial segregation, I agree, isn't a happy solution (for straight women in relationships), but it's an effective one. It is probably less bad than finding no emotional need met, anywhere. (Or warring, in open confrontation... this person is meant to be your partner, after all.) Are those compromises better than being alone, maybe, I don't know - there are tradeoffs somewhere, no matter what you choose.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:26 PM on December 12, 2016

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