Not My Problem: The Feminization of Emotional Labor

I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about how I allocate my time and how this can and should be affected by the way that people respect or disrespect the time, energy, and expertise I put into my endeavors.  For me, this has a lot to do with emotional labor.  Emotional labor is, essentially, lending your emotional capacity to ameliorate someone else’s emotional distress or just to serve someone else’s perceived emotional needs.  This often goes without acknowledgement, compensation, etc. and it is coded as very feminine.  Women, feminine-presenting people, and people taking on traditionally feminized positions are trained from day one to offer themselves as people who are present to listen and to help, which has a lot to do with the ways gender roles are constructed in our society.  Women, and consequently feminized roles, are coded as being positions of support.  Some classic examples of this are the secretary and the nurse, which are both highly feminized professions that are considered to be support for higher up executives and doctors, respectively.  This stems from a long, deep-seeded history of conflating femininity with weakness and also conflating emotional sensitivity with weakness. Continue reading “Not My Problem: The Feminization of Emotional Labor”