With International Women's Day and the women's strike on March 8 over, there is a small chance that the momentum — used for the efforts that went into getting people together, organizing various rallies, and amplifying different causes — will fade away. Still, there are plenty of ways you can help women with the emotional labor they face after the strike and, well, every day. Emotional labor is defined as how we manage our feelings and expressions in our external environments. And women in particular are held to an exhausting standard when it comes to meeting emotional expectations.
Emotional labor is typically invisible unlike physical labor and is mostly expected of women because it is assumed that women are "better" at it. In addition to being mentally taxing, it is unpaid and constant. Ultimately, emotional labor takes a toll on mental health when it is unnoticed, unrewarded, and solely a woman's responsibility.
If you are someone who is not typically asked to do emotional labor, now is your chance to share the burden of making things work. It's important to remember that emotional labor — how our feelings and dynamics are maintained, nourished, improved, and worked upon in the varying domains of personal and professional exchanges — is critical for making life go smoothly. One group should not be responsible for carrying it out at all times while the other remains blissfully unaware.
1. Acknowledge Emotional Labor is Real Labor
The most recurring difficulty women face in getting society to understand the weight of emotional burden is by simply having people acknowledge that it is actually real. Because emotional labor is much more psychological than physical labor, people often assume that it does not exist. Most of the time, especially in heterosexual relationships, women are expected to regulate the emotional outpourings of the relationship. Share the weight of the relationship by being present in conversations, honest in your statements, and responsible for your reactions. Do not expect women to play the role of janitors after the spillage of your emotions.
2. Own Up To Your Actions
After understanding and acknowledging that emotional labor is real labor, understand that it is important for you to learn how to take responsibility for your words and actions. Male socialization often teaches men not to take responsibility for their actions in society as well as personal relationships. The "boys will be boys" philosophy, for example, teaches that men not to challenge themselves. It removes any kind of reflection and introspection, which are necessary traits for holding yourself accountable for what you say and do. Sharing the burden of emotional labor means that you should own up to your actions and be a healthy contributor to professional and personal dynamics.
3. Be Proactive
Make sure that you are a proactive person in the relationship instead of remaining reactive. Take initiative by asking how things are going, if there is anything you can do to make things better, if there is something that is left unsaid, and more. By being proactive, you are telling those around you that you are someone who is invested in the betterment of his relationships and environment.
4. Embrace Vulnerability
Trickiest part. Typically, men are taught to view vulnerability as a weakness which must be rooted out from their system. Patriarchal values lead men into thinking that the expression of emotion is proof of diminishing masculinity. Such archaic and self-destructive thought patterns place the burden of emotional labor on women and definitely don't do any favors for men's emotional well-being and openness, either. You can help with emotional labor by embracing vulnerability as a core reality and beautiful aspect of humanity. Understand that without being vulnerable, you place stress on the relationships with those around you by making others carry the weight of unexpressed emotions.
Most crucial: Instead of having a template and answer for every single thing on earth, try to listen. Many times women are taught to edit and tailor their language so that men are not offended. Pick up on the unsaid and unspoken without making assumptions, and make sure that you are providing an environment where women feel comfortable saying no and disagreeing with you. Understand that anything that is not in cohesion with what you said does not automatically mean that it is an attack on your personality or character. View disagreement as a different point of view that could potentially expand your insight.
These are only five of the many ways you can help women with emotional labor. It ultimately comes down to making sure that you are emotionally present, proactive in your communication and body language, and patient and responsible while embracing vulnerability. Take this month as an opportunity to make your contribution to women's empowerment and happiness a constant task.