We women are fucking exhausted. We are exhausted by being the caretakers of everyone’s emotions. We are exhausted by the cumulative emotional load of all the shit we have to keep track of that no one much notices or cares about unless we “fuck up” and forget to do it or — gasp — if we decide not to do it. I’m talking about all the birthday presents and parties, keeping relationships with family and friends, finding child care, dealing with emergencies, knowing where everything is in the house, who needs to be where and how, troubleshooting all this shit to make sure that nothing goes awry and everyone’s physical and emotional needs are taken care of.
The same kind of power imbalance and assignment of emotional load that makes us targets of sexual abuse and harassment. Because we are doubted before we are believed. Because if we tell the wrong person what we’ve experienced, we are seen as hysterical or blowing things out of proportion or we are out for something. (Out for what? What kind of great notoriety comes from accusing a man of sexual assault? Where are the riches and accolades we collect? Show me the great majority of cases where the offender gets punished and the woman does not have to undergo her every fucking word and piece of clothing questioned?)
We are supposed to keep things together. Admitting we were assaulted or harassed and — gasp — assigning blame? That is most certainly not taking care of the emotional load we were assigned. We shake everyone else’s world because it so utterly depends on us keeping it together. We shake it because we dare to not blame ourselves or doubt ourselves.
If you have to ask “all women?” you obviously are not a woman. Not only has pretty much every single damned woman I know been sexually harassed, many of us have been harassed or assaulted multiple times. Like, too many to count. If I start to catalogue: the masturbating guy who jumped out in the middle of the night as I walked home, the high school boyfriend who raped me, the countless men who hit on me, and then when I rebuffed them, got angry and started calling me fat or dumb or a bad writer. Assholes like the current occupant of the Oval Office and his locker room apologists, Harvey Fucking Weinstein. I could go on. How we women manage to not walk around every day ready to crack the noggins of every single man we meet is beyond me.
And that’s a fucking emotional load too. To go on with your life, to put things behind you that cannot be changed or rectified, the persistent feeling that something which was done to you was somehow your fault. But you want to live a good life. You want to raise good kids. Not just your own, but all kids. You want to do good in the world. And yet. And yet these men only have to carry the emotional load when they are caught. When they are accused by enough people, in a public enough way, by the “right” people. And then, still.
As awful and triggering as the present moment is, I actually have hope. I have hope that we hear these kinds of accusations more. I want every single man who has harassed women to begin to live in fear. We know. We remember.
I want women to listen to and accept each other. We need to believe each other. And we need to demand that, even if we are not believed, we are heard. We stick by each other. Being known and believed by at least one other human is the key to believing ourselves. I have hope that women will come forward and talk about what they’ve experienced. Every time you speak out the truth, another person becomes emboldened, gets permission to speak their truth. Silence only benefits the oppressor.
We need more men like Mark Ruffalo:
To be clear what Harvey Weinstein did was a disgusting abuse of power and horrible. I hope we are now seeing the beginning of the end of these abuses.
— Mark Ruffalo (@MarkRuffalo) October 8, 2017
And Seth Meyers:
We will not do the emotional work for you, men. You must do your own work, and come to your own reckoning. But we will continue to give you the opportunity to confront this. Because we have had to continually confront it, and no one has been particularly concerned with our feelings. We can’t make this nice for you. We cannot make it manageable for you. If you haven’t sexually harassed someone, awesome. But have your words, actions, or attitudes always contributed to a culture where women are valued and listened to? Where boys and men are held accountable for awful things they’ve said? (Often, words and attitudes are just the tip of the iceberg).
Yes, it’s time for you to go there. It’s time for you to think doubly about every situation, past, present, and future. We are not going to do the work for you. And if you don’t do the work, it will come back to bite you in the ass. Enough of us are done with the results of your taking us for granted — emotionally, economically, intellectually, and sexually. The tide is turning.
Welcome to the world of emotional labor.