Emotional Labor Falls Disproportionately To Women

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A recent Medium post by Emma Lindsay titled "Men Dump their Anger into Women" discusses the cultural expectation for women to manage men's feelings, since men have been socialized not to manage their emotions themselves. This is one of many ways in which women are expected to do emotional labor that men just aren't, and it contributes to a society where women end up doing more unpaid work overall. In order to address gender inequality, we need to teach men to deal with their emotions, both for their own mental health and for the sake of women who end up addressing them instead.

Men, Lindsay points out, are the perpetrators of most violent crimes, yet women are more often the ones airing their feelings, going to therapy, and doing yoga. "Why is the less violent gender the one learning all the emotional self regulation?" she asks. "Because women are expected to regulate the emotions of men as well as themselves." This can happen in the form of female coworkers disproportionately mediating conflicts, female partner going above and beyond to avoid making men unhappy, or female friends constantly giving advice without receiving any themselves.

Here are some other ways women are expected to perform emotional labor that men just aren't.

By Rejecting People Kindly

Even if someone's being rude to us, we often feel pressured to break it to them gently that we're not interested in speaking with them. Some women even face retaliation for not responding to street harassers. Instead of the onus being on us not to defend our boundaries too aggressively, it should be on the harasser or rude person not to violate them.

Protecting Men's Egos

Women are expected to be very careful when confronting men about something hurtful they've done. In particular, many of us tiptoe around the issue of sexism to avoid implying that men are bad. The phrase "not all men" has been used so much by men defending their gender that it's become a hashtag. The problem is, the pressure to protect men's egos discourages women from speaking out against men who are violent or misogynistic.

Assuming The Bulk Of Childcare

According to a Working Mother Research Institute survey, even working moms spend more time than dads on childcare. Parenting is work, and unpaid work at that, and it's a type of work women are disproportionately expected to do — even when they also have careers outside the home.

Guessing How Men Are Feeling

Since men are socialized not to communicate their feelings, many expect women to read their minds or draw their feelings out of them with careful questioning. Women looking to connect with men end up doing more than half the work to get them to open up — something which is often taken for granted.

Taking Abuse

In its most extreme form, the expectation for women to do emotional labor can lead to emotional abuse. Men who feel entitled to offload their feelings onto women may do this by manipulating and hurting them. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, half of women have been emotionally abused by an intimate partner at some point in their lives. In this regard, the expectation to do emotional labor is a form of violence.

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