Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al (livredor) wrote,
Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al

What don't you do?

Several people commented to my emotional labour thoughts by bringing up the issue of unwanted emotional labour. People who kind of martyr themselves doing EL that they hate, when the person they're doing it for doesn't want it anyway.

There was a bit of that in the MeFi thread, where there was an early comment that birthday cards are a silly thing to care about, just don't bother with them, and that line was shut down quickly because lots of people pointed out that it's not about the birthday cards specifically. And that's a typical sexist reaction, where women point out that they're doing a lot of extra work and men jump in to say that the work is worthless and women should just not bother. But fail to understand that women may suffer social consequences, even quite severe ones sometimes, for opting out, even if the same people who might punish them would also claim that the work was worthless.

That said, I think there genuinely are cases when the right answer is to opt out. I don't want it to be completely off the table to look at ways to automate some kinds of emotional labour or collapse it to something mainly mechanical rather than emotional. Or ways to pay someone else to do it, including working out what's fair compensation rather than exploiting people because emotional labour is low-status. Or just deciding that a particular instance of emotional labour simply doesn't need doing at all.

That decision needs to be mutual for the people who are affected, a household or a friendship or a working team (paid or volunteer) or whatever. And it needs to take into account that there may in fact be costs to opting out, and that those costs may fall disproportionately. The MeFi thread is about sexism, but the disproportoniate costs could be on disabled people, or could be externalized (eg the non-solution to being overwhelmed by housework of exploiting really poorly paid people who only take on destructive and miserable jobs because they're marginalized and desperate). I also worry that if the proposed solution to women doing a disproportionate amount of EL is "just don't do it" that could in the long-term lead to less well connected communities and more isolation.

Still, I think the concept of opting out could be a really interesting and fruitful one. So I solicit input here: what EL do you just not do? Not because you feel like you kind of should but you just don't have enough time. But what have you actively chosen not to do because you think it's pointless, or the downsides of not doing it are smaller than the costs of having it on your plate all the time?

Personally, I'm really nearly at the tipping point when it comes to maintaining a Facebook presence. I agree with [personal profile] rmc28 that it's a lot of work for me, and it brings with it a lot of draining things like culture war memes in my feeds, and of course there's all the problems of privacy and being sold to advertisers, and the benefits to me are very marginal. The main reason I stay for the moment is precisely because some people I care about do get more benefit out of it than I do. There are a few friends who use FB as their primary or at least major social network, and I have to explicitly tell myself that I'm doing the FB-work in order to smooth their lives and make it easy for them to stay in touch with me, rather than for my own sake.

What else? I largely avoid office collections for cards and presents. I mean, if I'm right at my desk and someone comes round with a card to sign I'll happily sign it and put a few quid in the kitty, but I won't go out of my way to seek out the people who are organizing collective good wishes, unless I actually know the person well enough to care about them personally. I most certainly don't take on the EL of organizing collections, and yes, it is nearly always women who do that. I don't know if people think I'm mean and stand-offish because my signature is rarely on the good luck or congrats cards; as far as I'm aware I've never got in trouble for not bothering with this stuff.

I prefer comments at Dreamwidth. There are currently comment count unavailable comments there. You can use your LJ address as an OpenID, or just write your name.
Tags: issues

  • Punching up

    A locked discussion on my reading page reminded me that I've been meaning to talk about this: I basically hate the framing of "punching up versus…

  • Cultural sensitivity: ur doin it rong

    I may be turning into one of those American style liberals... One of the most interesting conversations I had was with a guy from the relatively new…

  • Health and safety warning

    If anyone else today forwards me this festering pile of maggot droppings that makes even spam look good by comparison, there will be violence. As…

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.
  • 1 comment