Noun 1. dehumanisation – the act of degrading people with respect to their best qualities; “science has been blamed for the dehumanization of modern life”;
degradation, debasement – changing to a lower state (a less respected state)
Starting the post with this definition is very appropriate. We live in bamboozling times, when our natural instincts of empathy, nurture and bonding are constantly challenged by misanthropic rationales disguised as intellectual endeavours.
Tearing down the concept of faithfulness in relationships was not enough – the mere concept of heartfelt companionship has to come under fire, in a mercantile attempt to redefine how people interact with each other.
So what is emotional labour?
the feminist idea that women – and other people that society labels “feminine” – are socialized to provide a vast array of emotional services for other people (usually men), most often without acknowledgement or pay.
Throughout history, people from across the globe have lived in such diverse conditions, some of them truly dehumanising, yet have always been capable of experiencing attachment. It is part of our nature and not something taught to us by our environment (unlike systemic cruelty or religious fanaticism).
If empathy is a social construct, what do these individuals imagine that prompted the fight for human rights in the first place? Some abstract morality, developing out of thin air?
My boyfriend, though, says that the idea of emotional labor misrepresents the relationship between men and women by placing a monetary value on interactions that are priceless. He says that women give the gift of their love and attention to men, just as men do to women, and trying to compete over who gives more is pointless and creates unnecessary conflict.
And that is very accurate, as proven by the fact that this has been the natural way since times immemorial, but even more so in our day, when freedom has allowed consciousness to thrive, extricated from many societal constraints which were a must before. In the developed world, people choose who they associate with; they freely give each other affection and attention.
But of course we have to start screwing that up. Never mind that we are no longer subjected to forced marriages; that we have such broader lifestyle choices and every chance of encountering the right people. After millennia of women being subjected to impositions in their daily lives, when they can finally please their own hearts, enter the progressives – who seek to drag them right back into mercantilism.
For many people, if not most, bonding emotionally makes life worth living. In fact, loneliness is a major cause of suicide. Meanwhile, others, who enjoy (let’s use and SJW term) the privilege of unconditional company, still bitch and moan about it, trying to cut the branch from under their feet, encouraging others to sabotage their relationships as well.
How can I explain to him, prove to him, that what I’m talking about isn’t just some silly feminist idea made up by whining bra-burners?
You can’t. Because it is.
In this post I’m not trying to dismiss or ridicule the author’s personal experiences; however, I have to oppose the impetus to draw others into this dark zone, leading to a toxic mentality.
First off, the author remembers being annoyingly held by her grandfather, who would ask how much he loved her. Whereas that can be bothersome to a child who wants to be left alone, I can think of far worse things children endure across the world. Many of us remember “that one relative” who wouldn’t stop pestering with hugs and kisses. Provided no criminal behaviour took place – and presumably that would’ve been mentioned – feeling invalidated as an individual based solely on that is an exaggeration, not to be encouraged.
Secondly, she recalls being given an excessive amount of information by her father regarding his past and family members, as she listened quietly. Whereas I agree ten is an early age to hear about certain aspects of life, I must note that children are more often hurt by family secrets than being shown too much of their surrounding reality. In fact, they often learn about the world by listening as adults talk among themselves, or even eavesdrop on conversations to learn what really goes on.
I fully agree a child should not be burdened with adults’ problems – however, the issue rests with the adult who does that and does not label the child a “provider of emotional services”, by default, for life. Though one might say it can shape them to a degree. The thing is, this dynamic only lasts as long as childhood does. One cannot superimpose a disclosure by an adult to a child, on one by an adult to another adult, treating others poorly later in life because of past events.
As a side note, the author refers to Chinese culture, which is known to regard family relationships differently. Besides, it’s common knowledge that the real abuse women suffer from birth is very serious over there, starting with baby girls being dumped in fountains, women forced to have abortions, working in inhumane condition, suffering political persecution and executions.
Anyway – neither one of the situations described above have anything to do with being female. They are based on interactions between children and their families. No one is to say that a male child would have been treated differently.
Among other instances considered significant to the point of this article are the support given to a friend who had been raped, as well as a career in social work and the help sought from her by women via the internet.
So my best friend can only tell me. I’m terrified, but I know that I can’t make this situation about me. I have to take care of her, the best way that I know how. I listen. I nod. I hold her as she cries. I rock her back and forth in my arms and tell her that I believe her, that she’s not alone.
The act of comforting a friend who has been traumatised, depicted as an unpaid emotional service, is quite chilling. Analysing one’s own vulnerability in retrospect, for having to listen, is very selfish indeed, an attitude which I suspect arose from feminist doctrines alone.
The same with a former boyfriend who was torn by something he had done and needed a significant other to listen. Again, this is seen as an unfair situation, one of becoming too invested in the needs of others and neglecting their own, even for an hour or two – even when someone very close is involved. And the same with emotional support in general.
You know the kind of girl I mean. There’s one in every friend group, a bunch in every community.
The girls who help you stumble home after you spend the night drinking too much. The girls who hold your hand as you cry about the break-up, about your drinking problem, about your fucked-up childhood. The girls you call at 3AM when you’re thinking dark thoughts and you need someone to talk you off the ledge of doing something you’ll regret.
These girls, and boys by the way, are commonly referred to as friends. And those who see more people coming to them with their troubles should consider themselves fortunate, as they inspire trust and wisdom to those around them. These are indeed qualities not everyone’s got, provided that they’re genuine and not faked for popularity. Instead, judging by the tone of this article, we are to see this as a subtle form of exploitation.
As I scan the faces of all the women in the room – teachers, social workers, nurses, the people who do the grunt work – the hard, deeply underpaid, usually thankless labor of working with mentally ill, often under-privileged children – I see that we all share the same exhausted look.
I wonder how it came to be that so many of us, women, came to join these so-called “feminine” professions. How it is that we were somehow all drawn to this “calling” of caring for others’ minds and health only to end up in impossible working conditions?
Well, women tend to do these jobs because they are more geared towards supporting others emotionally, as well as more likely to be patient.
If one ends up resenting their job due to aspects they signed up for, and ends up slightly resenting those they help (at least this is the gist I get), one should consider a different profession, rather than practicing their own acrimoniously and harbouring feelings of injustice. There are plenty who do these jobs wholeheartedly, without overanalysing whether they are giving of themselves too much.
Again, this is a career this person chose, knowing full well what it involved. When realising how difficult it is in practice (I wonder if that realisation had ever come outside the context of feminism), it’s much easier to blame systemic oppression than admit that the choice was not a suitable one to begin with.
After publishing a few well-shared pieces, the e-mails start pouring in, from literally all over the world. But most of the e-mails are from young women, queer people of color, trans women, asking for advice, for opinions, for friendship. Some of them are even from men, asking me to explain feminist concepts to them. Sometimes the e-mails are desperate cries for help asking me what to do in situations of intimate partner violence, mental health crises, and suicidal thoughts.
I do my best to help however I’m able. What else is there to do?
Well, to start with, becoming active in this field was a choice. If the response is more than this person can deal with, there is always the choice of stopping altogether, taking breaks from time to time or publicly announcing their limits.Those people have no way of knowing how many emails a public figure receives daily or weekly. If they cannot cope, why don’t they just say so.
However, the preferred solution seems to be to keep doing it, while harbouring resentment and complaining on other channels, such as this feminist website. Which is intellectually dishonest.
Because instead of labor, we’re taught that the work we do to care for others is an act of love which must be given freely, even when it comes at the cost of our own well-being and self-expression.
We’re taught to doubt ourselves, our instincts, our needs, so that we can play the role of loving child, friend, mother, nurse, therapist, lover.
With the risk of repeating ad nauseam, I have to reiterate these two points: except for the role of a child, the others are taken on voluntarily. If they are unsuitable, so be it. Change your career, remain single, remain childless and friendless (and get a dozen cats).
Do not expect to change the understanding of human nature to suit your limits.