Emotional Labor and Female- On- Female Emotional Exploitation
I was thinking about possibly writing a post or two more about the concept of Emotional Labor in the future.
First, here is a primer from another site explaining a little bit about what this issue is about, with a few comments by me farther (way farther) below it:
Emotional labor is the exertion of energy for the purpose of addressing people’s feelings, making people comfortable, or living up to social expectations. It’s called “emotional labor” because it ends up using – and often draining – our emotional resources.
Now, don’t get me wrong: Asking friends for advice, reaching out to people in your line of work, and other actions I’m about to mention can be part of a healthy relationship. The issue arises when it’s not reciprocal.
Many marginalized people can tell you that people frequently make demands of them that cross the line from participation in a mutual relationship to work – and unpaid work, at that.
Because we’re assumed to be naturally emotionally intelligent and nurturing, people don’t always understand that this is work for us. And because we’re expected to put others before ourselves, a lot of people don’t even care.
Here are just a few of the many ways that women and femmes, in particular, are expected to perform emotional labor without compensation or acknowledgement throughout their lives:
2. Friends offload their problems – sometimes serious problems that we’re not equipped to handle – onto us before we have agreed to talk about them, often expecting an immediate response.
3. Casual acquaintances and sometimes complete strangers do the same, often over the Internet and often sharing triggering details
6. When we have relatives or friends with physical or mental illnesses, they and their loved ones are more likely to reach out to us than men to take care of them.
7. If we are in professions that involve interactions with people, those we serve expect us to act as their therapists.
8. We are judged more harshly for lacking social skills and criticized for not being sentimental or warm, so we go to great lengths to present ourselves in a desirable manner in social interactions.
9. We are more often criticized for swearing, talking about sex, and doing other “vulgar” things men get away with, so we go to great lengths to censor ourselves.
10. If we don’t take immediately to parenthood, want to put our kids above all else, want to be the primary caretaker, or want kids in the first place, we are made to feel like something’s wrong with us.
14. We’re expected to take part in “heart to hearts,” “girls’ nights,” and other emotionally intensive occasions that we may or may not have the energy for or interest in.
15. We feel pressure to feign interest in “feminine” topics like beauty and fashion even if we have no interest in them whatsoever. (Masculine-presenting people experience this, too, just for other interests like sports and cars.)
16. Our coworkers expect us to mediate conflicts, brainstorm ways to improve company culture, and perform other roles typically assigned to human resources.
17. When men explain things to us that we know as much or more about, they expect us to listen as if they are educating us in order to stroke their egos.
23. We are judged more harshly if we don’t keep our living spaces neat, succeed at cooking and other forms of homemaking, and do a great job entertaining guests.
25. We’re expected to constantly ask questions and make observations to keep conversations going, while men often get away with waiting for others to ask questions and giving one-word answers.
26. Our significant others expect us to initiate important conversations like defining the terms of the relationship, taking stock of how the relationship is going, and addressing conflicts.
27. When we decide not to enter into a relationship, we risk being guilted for failing to reward a “nice guy” who “deserves” our affections.
28. When we end a relationship, we’re often demonized and blamed for not doing enough to maintain it, even if we devoted extensive time and energy to discussing problems and trying to make the relationship work.
29. We’re expected to provide our children and other people under our care with the majority of the emotional support and caretaking that they need.
30. We’re expected to keep the peace with our cohabitants under all conditions, facilitate bonding between us and our roommates, put up with disruptive behavior, and, if we have male roommates, do the majority of the housework.
32. We’re expected to grit our teeth and put up with disrespectful and objectifying behavior from men because “boys will be boys”
33. In the workplace, we have to worry about presenting our ideas in a non-threatening manner so that we won’t be labeled “aggressive”
34. But we also have to worry about being assertive, not apologizing too much, and avoiding other behaviors that will get us labeled as “feminine” and consequently ineffective leaders.
37. If we have children, we’re shamed for everything from how we give birth to how we feed them.
39. When we go out, we’re encouraged to be hyper-vigilant by keeping our eyes on our drinks, keeping track of our friends, and taking out our keys before we get home in case we’re attacked.
40. During sex, we feel pressure to make artificial faces and noises and fake orgasms in order to turn our partners on and make them feel good about their sexual prowess.
46. If we ask for what we want in relationships, we risk our partners labeling us as needy.
47. Men we date often expect our full attention while they keep their options open and only devote as much time to us as they want to.
48. People frequently tell us to smile and otherwise adjust our appearance and behavior to make ourselves more pleasing to other people.
49. Men hold us responsible for explaining these problems and other manifestations of sexism and doubt us if they don’t personally observe or experience them.
50. When men try to advocate for us, even if they fail miserably and even if they hurt us in the process by promoting (Link): benevolent sexism, we’re expected to pat them on the back for their efforts and be grateful our problems are getting any attention at all.
These are just fifty of the countless ways we’re expected to exert emotional energy on a regular basis. And when that much is demanded of you, it’s impossible for it not to compromise other areas of your life.
For this reason, the emotional labor demanded of us exacerbates other problems women and femmes already face in the workplace, politics, and other realms. We can’t fight for gender equality when we have no energy to devote to it.
Usually, when this topic is discussed in articles, it revolves about how men emotionally take advantage of women (as you can see is the case in the article above). It’s true that a lot of times, men do this to women.
But I just wanted to say women sometimes exploit other women in this way.
Almost all American women are socialized by secular and Christian culture to provide Emotional Labor.
We’re (women) conditioned to only put the needs and feelings of other people first, which may include things like smiling at them, asking them how their day was, encouraging them when they are down and discouraged.
I do think a lot of men feel entitled to that sort of thing – a lot of men feel as though women owe it to them to “cheer them on” at their job, at life, whatever else, and so on.
However, some women are more immune to this conditioning than others.
With my older sister, it doesn’t seem to have taken so much. My sister, for one, expects me to provide EL (Emotional Labor) for her (listen sympathetically to her complain about her life problems), but she refuses to do so for me.
My sister doesn’t feel as pressured to provide me or other persons with EL as much as she expects other people (women especially) to provide it to her.
I’ve had female friends, female co-workers, and other females through-out my life, from my childhood into my adulthood, who don’t provide much Emotional Labor to me, but they have sought it from me – and I’ve given it.
I have usually ended up in relationships where I did most of the giving and those around me did all or most of the taking. This would include women as well as men.
I’m noticing that most articles I’ve read about Emotional Labor either discuss it in general terms (such as women who work in restaurant jobs as waitresses or other sales jobs), or in how men expect EL (Emotional Labor) from women.
I’ve not yet seen an article or editorial that acknowledges that women also demand or expect lots of EL from other women, because it does happen.
I’ve written about it before – not from an EL perspective per se:
This post is about an ex-female friend of mine who I provided constant EL for, and she never really offered very much in return:
That friend cut me off some time around January 2015, and I’ve not heard from her since then. That is after having spent several YEARS being a good, online friend to her, who offered her encouragement every time she sent me long e-mails or posts whining, ranting, or crying about her dating status, family fights, or job frustrations.
This post was about a female friend of mine who constantly turned to me for EL when discussing her upcoming marriage (she was wanting me to cheer her on and endlessly pat her on the back or just listen to her gloat about her wedding plans):
I’ve had numerous women friends, acquaintances, clients, and other ladies expect me to provide them emotional labor. To pat their hand when they were down, or reassure them things would get sunnier if they would just hang in there. Seldom did these same folks who I comfort return that back to me when I went to them stressed or hurting.
Women will most definitely exploit and take advantage of women weaker than themselves.
If a woman senses that you (another woman) lack strong boundaries, if another woman senses or discovers you are afraid to say no, she will, if she is selfish and not as prone to follow gender stereotypes as closely as you, will seek you out to ask you favor after favor – whether it’s emotional in nature (such as cornering you at your job to gripe for HOURS about her awful mother-in-law, how her infertility treatments are not working, how the boss is still angry at her, whatever), and she will expect you to listen, to give her emotional support.
The older I am getting, I am having a more and more difficult time playing this role for people, so I generally do not do so any more.
Nobody, outside of my mother (who is now deceased) ever played this role for me. Nobody was there for me after she died. Nobody would listen to me talk about the loss. I wasn’t given EL by other women (or by men), so I don’t feel obligated or whatever the word is to extend this sort of behavior to other hurting people if they run up to me wanting to cry on my shoulder and want me to give them a pat on the back.
But anyway. Most of the research (that I’ve seen so far, at any rate) fixates on how men expect women to provide EL for them, which they often do, and it’s sexist and annoying as hell – but women do this very thing to other women as well.
I’ve had many women expect me to provide them with Emotional Labor from personal to work relationships, and I’m very tired of it, because I’ve not had EL given in return.
(Link): 10 Signs Someone’s Always Playing the Victim (6.05 long video)
(Link): The “Victim” Narcissist | How to tell who is playing the victim (17 minute long video)
(Link): When You’re in Imbalanced, Unfair Relationships – You’re the Free Therapist, The Supportive, Sounding Board Who Listens to Other People’s Non-Stop Complaining, But They Don’t Listen to You – re: The Toilet Function of Friendship
(Link): The Selfish, Lazy Husband Who Kept Blowing Off His Stressed Wife to Go on World War 2 Reenactments – Male Entitlement in Relationships: Why Women Divorce Men – and Churches and Culture Support This Male Entitlement