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Archive for the ‘arguments with your partner’ Category

In her 1983 book The Managed Heart, sociologist Arlie Hochschild first coined the phrase emotional labor to describe the work of flight attendants and bill collectors to consciously regulate their own feelings and attempt to shape the emotions of others to get their jobs done. Women and low-income workers were being asked to very subtly (and very deftly) fix up people’s feelings without being recognized or compensated for that very tricky part of their labor. Hochschild was also worried about the potential social and health side effects of asking people to manipulate their emotions for others for pay, day after day. How did this affect their well-being when they went home? Did it alienate them from their ability to gauge their authentic emotions when they clocked out and regained their autonomy? Are women judged differently for their emotional work than men are? How are the emotions of people of color judged more harshly at work than white workers’, and how is this leading to workplace inequality? Hochschild’s work anticipated the rich field of research on the booming low-wage, high-stress service sector many workers find themselves navigating today.

However, since 1983 there’s been a shift away from using this as a term to understand the workplace to using it colloquially to explain interpersonal relationships between men and women. In 2015, some were calling emotional labor “feminism’s next frontier.” Taking Hochschild’s phrase from our workplaces to our homes requires some clarity, at least in part so we don’t trivialize the actual emotional labor many workers (customer service agents, flight attendants, nurses, and adjunct professors) do on a daily basis in their jobs, sometimes without support or adequate training.

So what exactly is emotional labor? Emotional labor is simply the management of feelings (your own or someone else’s) to accomplish some goal—to leave a customer satisfied or to get someone to do something they might not otherwise want to, or to keep your household functioning. Note that there are many other kinds of labor that can produce these outcomes too (simply providing information to someone, for instance), but emotional labor concerns the work of emotion management—say, delivering bad news about a flight cancellation in a comforting way, so that disgruntled passengers hardly notice the news is bad. At home, this might mean giving solace to a crying child with warm words and a calm demeanor or intervening between your mom and your sister when a fight about Trump threatens to ruin Thanksgiving. And when there’s a partnership or friendship in which one person is the go-to emotional servant while the other disregards others’ feelings and well-being will-nilly, these people are rightfully called emotional vampires.

What isn’t emotional labor? Most things, actually.

From “Please stop calling everything that frustrates you emotional labor” by Haley Swenson in Slate.

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Sometimes I think my whole life has been an embodiment of the conflict between art and motherhood, but by letting the two coexist entwined, I live in peace.

The conflict exists in me, just like it does in everyone, but I refuse to make a choice between art and motherhood. I reject the all-sacrificing martyr-mother archetype and I reject the selfish male artist archetype.

In Western culture, the social role of the mother is as the keeper of the family secrets. The social role of the writer is as the teller of the family secrets. So when you’re both, it goes against the whole social order. We have very little celebrated history for the combination of the two because if our grandmothers tried that shit in a lot of contexts they would have had their children taken away from them, and if their grandmothers tried that shit they were burned at the stake.

Part of the problem expressed in those essays you mention might be having a husband. I’ve never had one, so I don’t know anything about that firsthand, but it does seem that the women I’ve read and heard recently exploring the mother/writer conflict in these terms have not just partners, but specifically husbands. From where I’m standing I can see that straight, married women face an intense pressure to suddenly go super mainstream when they have kids. Like, Okay, mama, enough art for youIt’s going to be all carpool and Superman cakes all the time now. But if you read Maya Angelou or Diane DiPrima, their experience of this issue was very different. Not easier, but very different. So we do have that model—a tradition for at least a couple of generations—for the single mother as bohemian artist/writer. And I think even married moms can take a look at that model and find some inspiration and some tools there. You can keep the husband if you like, but maybe all the adults have to be willing to go against the social order.

In the Kim Brooks piece you mention, she quotes her friend saying, “the point of art is to unsettle, to question, to disturb what is comfortable and safe. And that shouldn’t be anyone’s goal as a parent.” And I understand that sentiment—but that doesn’t resonate with me at this point in my life. My family has always been targeted for harassment because it’s a nontraditional family, and of course it’s my job to protect my kids from that harassment to the extent that I can, but it would be a fantasy to think that I could shield them from all the bigotry and injustice that a creative life becomes the counterpoint to.

It’s always a mistake to give up art for safety except in short-term, emergency situations where self-preservation has to take priority. We can’t give up art for safety longterm. And we’re not doing out kids any favors if we try.

It does make you wonder if part of progressives’ extreme resistance to early motherhood is that they do believe, deep down, that once a woman has children, she can’t do her own work anymore, shouldn’t have her own life anymore. It’s a place where feminism hasn’t won out over internalized notions that the Family Values people were right—that a mother being herself is a mother being selfish, that our children will suffer if we’re whole and complicated people. And of course I reject that.

For me, the answer is to reinvent motherhood, not just to delay enslavement to it. The answer is to reinvent art, too, so that we’re not just trying to squeeze our complicated experience into the oppressor’s format in hopes of the oppressor’s praise.

From Ariel Gore in an interview in The Rumpus with Zoe Zolbrod.

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This fascinating article, “Why happy people cheat” in The Atlantic by Esther Perel confirms something I’ve long thoughts.. people often have affairs not because they desire a different lover, but a different self.

Priya’s affair is neither a symptom nor a pathology; it’s a crisis of identity, an internal rearrangement of her personality. In our sessions, we talk about duty and desire, about age and youth. Her daughters are becoming teenagers and enjoying a freedom she never knew. Priya is at once supportive and envious. As she nears the mid-century mark, she is having her own belated adolescent rebellion.

These explanations may seem superficial—petty First World problems, or rationalizations for immature, selfish, hurtful behavior. Priya has said as much herself. We both agree that her life is enviable. And yet, she is risking it all. That’s enough to convince me not to make light of her behavior. If I can help her make sense of her actions, maybe we can figure out how she can end the affair for good—since that’s the outcome she says she wants. It’s clear this is not a love story that was meant to become a life story (which some affairs truly are). This started as an affair and will end as such—hopefully without destroying Priya’s marriage in the process.

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The biggest problem with masculinity, Perry proffers, is that it’s based on a model that’s several thousands of years old, when survival depended on physical strength and male power. Or, as he puts it, “masculinity is to chase things and fight things and to fuck. Everything else is a bit of a mismatch.” This framework for men has remained remarkably persistent even as society has evolved past it, with modern jobs and relationships requiring a very different set of skills.

And what should masculinity evolve towards?

But simply by framing a repositioning of masculinity as a boon for men rather than a loss, Perry is doing something novel. “An emergent masculinity may be one that prizes tolerance, flexibility, plurality, and emotional literacy in the same way that strength, certainty, stoicism have been celebrated in the past,” he writes.

From Sophie Gilbert’s “The tragedy of men: In a pithy and insightful new book, the British artist Grayson Perry laments how ill-suited masculinity is for modern life” in The Atlantic. 

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Stop everything and go read this short story, it’s amazing. Here’s a taste to tempt you…

There’s a man I hardly know, an academic. He began sleeping with a graduate student when his wife was pregnant, but everything was cool, because, you know, everyone involved read criticism and all three of them really wanted to test the boundaries of just how much that shit can hurt.

I imagine that shit can hurt a whole lot.

Every time I hear about another professor with a student, I think, Wow, that professor I know is way more messed up than I ever thought. Stealing confidence from eighteen-, nineteen-, twenty-year-olds.

Nasty.

This professor, he cleared the fucking of the graduate student with his pregnant wife, and for reasons I don’t understand the wife allowed him to dabble in younger, unwed women while she gestated their child, while her blood and bones were sucked from her body into their fetus.

Though the wife is an interesting part of this triangle, it’s neither her nor the husband I’m thinking of here in bed while Sam bleeds out his last drop of life on our living-room floor. I’m thinking of the poor, stupid graduate student.

She and the academic attended a lecture together one night. After the lecture, there was a party where she was in the insecure position of being a student among people who were done being students. And though everyone was staring at her—they knew the wife—no one wanted to talk to her or welcome the grad student into the land of scholars.

This was not acceptable. She liked attention. She liked performance. She cleared her throat—and the noise from the room—as if readying for a toast. She stood on a low coffee table. Everyone stopped drinking. In a loud, clear voice, one that must still reverberate in her ears, the academic’s ears, everyone’s ears (it even managed to reach mine), she said, “You’re just angry because of what I do with my queer vagina.”

On my living-room wall I keep a photo of my Victorian great-grandmother engaged in a game of cards with three of her sisters. These women maintained a highly flirtatious relationship with language. “Queer” once meant strange. “Queer” once meant homosexual. “Queer” now means opposition to binary thinking. I experience a melancholy pause when meaning is lost, when words drift like runaways far from home. How did “queer” ever come to mean a philandering penis and vagina in a roomful of bookish, egotistical people? How did common old adultery ever become queer?

I feel the grad student’s late-blooming humiliation. How she came to realize, or will one day soon, that her words were foolish. I remind myself there in bed, Dont talk. Dont say words to people, because words conjure images. Her words created a likely unwanted idea of an organ that, like all our organs, is both extraordinary and totally plain. Some flaps of loose skin, some hair, some blood, but, outside the daily fact of its total magnificence, it is really not queer at all.

From Samantha Hunt’s “A love story” in The New Yorker. 

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When I think of my relationship with my mama, I think of this poem, not because I feel Mama asked me to remember her memories, but because I think my mama feels like I’m trying to punish her by honestly remembering mine. I know what it’s like to punish vulnerable people for holding onto memories I wish they’d forget. I’m just telling you that one way we might help each other is if we try to share our sad words, funny words, whole stories, half-relationships, empty mysteries and full memories we don’t want to be true. Nothing in America encourages this kind of reckoning or liberating transformation so we have the interior lives, the policies and the president we currently have.

We do not have to be this way.

From Kiese Laymon’s “Our generation has not given you a healthy model of honest reckoning” at Mic. 

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This whole thing is very good, “You should’ve asked” at Emma. (Excerpt below).

You should've asked_008

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