Previously on HOLY MOLY-why are people in my life (for example male relatives or friends) not emailing me and calling me more?- we discovered that emotional labor is seen as women’s work!
What is Emotional labor?
It is part of #FundraisingisFemale. It’s what happens when we as women do the work of keeping relationships going- whether it’s calling a sick relative, writing a letter to a donor, inviting people to a party, creating an enewsletter, or sending a thank you video. So, your fundraising job is probably emotional labor. Here are some more examples of emotional labor.
Why are we expected to do the emotional labor of keeping relationships going, having “conversations about the relationship” or generally being the only ones who reach out? What’s BEHIND all of this?
Here’s WHY we are doing emotional labor. BECAUSE, according to Rebecca Solnit’s new The Mother of All Questions (which you should totally read and buy by the way):
It’s the Patriarchy!
Rebecca Solnit defines “Male Silence: Silence is present everywhere under patriarchy, though it requires different silences from men than from women. You can imagine the policing of gender as the creation of reciprocal silences, and you can begin to recognize male silence as a tradeoff for power and membership.”
She quotes bell hooks, saying,
“The first act of violence that patriarchy demands of males is not violence towards women. Instead patriarchy demands of all males that they engage in acts of psychic self-mutilation, that they kill off the emotional parts of themselves. If an individual is not successful in emotionally crippling himself, he can count on patriarchal men to enact rituals of power that will assault his self esteem.”
“That is, patriarchy requires that men silence themselves first and this means learning not only to be silent to others but also to themselves, about aspects of their inner life and self. ” Solnit continues. She writes, “Bell hooks observes men’s psychic self mutilation-it is a portrait of the other kind of self mutilation, to make a self to meet and serve those mutilated selves. A silence to meet the silence, silences that fit each other like a mold and a casting.”
So, imagine trying to talk about feelings with one of your male relatives, and having them run out of the room in tears, saying “We don’t talk about feelings in our family!” Think it sounds far fetched? Nope. It really happened. When feelings are held inside too long, they can explode out in scary or sad ways.
Solnit continues, “This is like a zombie movie, as the deadened seek the living to exterminate feeling, either by making their targets join them in numbness or by intimidating or assaulting them into silence. In the landscape of silence, three realms might be silence imposed from within; silence imposed from without; and silence that exists around what has not yet been named, recognized described or admitted. But they are not distinct, they feed each other/ and what is unsayable because unknowable and vice versa, until something breaks.”
This is why I started my business. I wanted to encourage people to speak the truth, and to seek the truth of their situation. In my coaching with executive directors, development staff and in speaking, I encourage people to know themselves with the destiny cards, and attempt to find meaning, instead of seeking happiness.
Audre Lorde addressed the Modern Language Association in 1977 with her landmark talk, The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action. She said,
“My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you. But for every real word spoken, for every attempt I had ever made to speak those truths for which I am still seeking, I had made contact with other women while we examined the words to fit a world in which we all believed, bridging our differences. And it was the concern and caring of all those women which gave me strength.”
Solnit writes, “Masculinity is a great renunciation. The color pink is a small thing, but emotions, expressiveness, receptiveness, a whole array of possibilities get renounced by successful boys and men in everyday life, and often for men who inhabit masculinized realms, sports, the military, the police, all male workforces in construction or resource extraction-even more must be renounced to belong.”
I recently had lunch with a guy who has been in this masculinized realm all of his life, as a union worker making ducts. I asked him if Solnit’s words were true. He said, “It’s definitely true. Very much so. Picture this. You’ve got Black guys, Hispanic guys, White guys all hanging out all day, working together. You’ve got a break, and tension is high. You don’t know each other. But to break the tension, you go for what you all have in common. Women. So you make fun of women together. And the lower you go, the more they laugh.” It’s something to emphasize your belonging in a single group of supposed straight men-your contempt for, and difference from those who are unlike you.
Solnit continues, “Women get to keep a wider range of emotional possibility though they are discouraged or stigmatized for expressing some of the fiercer ones the feelings that aren’t ladylike and deferential, and so much else, ambition, critical intelligence, independent analysis, dissent, or anger. That is to say, silence is a pervasive force, distributed differently to different categories of people. It underlies a status quo that depends upon a homeostasis of silences.”
This next section chilled me to the bone.
Solnit writes, “If emotion must be killed, this is work that can make women targets. Less decent men hunt out vulnerability, because if being a man means learning to hate vulnerability, then you hate it in yourself and in the gender that has been carrying it for you.”
Read on for how silencing in the patriarchy goes on at the macrocosmic level-not just the personal level.