I had never heard of Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha before a day of two ago. It's actually through a recommendation from a fellow STEEMIT reader ( @improv ) that I recently subscribed to Bitch magazine, where a recent article by her has been pretty insightful.
A Modest Proposal for a Fair Trade Emotional Labor Economy (Centered by disabled, femme of color, working class/poor genius)
The working-class Irish ancestry on my mom's side definitely comes with a work ethic where sickness and poverty are considered–unconsciously if not consciously–to be the wages of laziness and couch-sitting; and depression is self-indulgence.
At the same time there's a spiritual and poetic side to my ancestry. One which extols the value of laziness. There is this beautiful poem by the Persian poet Rumi about the laziest son. As a parent, I discovered the beautiful children's book, Frederic by Leo Leonni in which a family of mice are preparing for the winter.
And what are you doing, Frederic?
I am gathering sunrays, colors, stories
And then when winter is at it's coldest and all the food has been eaten, Frederic warms their souls with magical imagery.
We all know people (femmes, Piepzna-Samarasinha calls them) who spend a lot of time on the couch, on the phone, on social media, wrestling with their own and other peoples emotions.
These are the people we call when we need help with a suicidal friend; addicted family member; intense argument with our spouse, our boss; a legal issue. We feel like a little advice, a contact number isn't a lot to ask.
On the one hand we judge femmes for being lazy, and on the other hand we take their knowledge and wisdom for granted.
What Piepzna-Samarasinha illustrates so beautifully in this article is that Emotional Care Labor is labor. It's work and should be compensated for.
They’re going to ask you to listen, do a favor, do an errand, drop everything to go buy them some cat food or crisis counsel them. Manage logistics, answer feelings emails, show up, empathize, build and maintain relationships. Organize the childcare, the access support, the food. Be screamed at, de-escalate, conflict resolute. They’re going to say, “Can I just pick your brain about something?” and then send you a five paragraph email full of pretty goddamn complex questions. It’d be real nice if you could get back to them ASAP.
Femmephobia, sexism, and transmisogyny act together to view femininity and femmeness as weak, less than, not as smart or competent, “hysterical,” “too much,” not worthy of praise or respect, enforcing rape culture and political, economic and social disenfranchisement of femmes.
I've definitely been one of the dudes treating someone like they're overreacting to a situation that I'd rather ignore. I have definitely had a man I dug in many ways tell me that "women are lazy mules." Sound familiar? This is the total line of thought of people that blame "entitlement spending" for the supposed financial struggles of our society. Work harder. Millions on welfare depend on you. Please. Our social structure depends on the emotional, spiritual and cultural work done by "millions on welfare."
The thing is, the femmes I know hold it the fuck down. We organize miracles—from complex political actions to the life support work of making sure people are fed, don’t die, and don’t get evicted—on no sleep and low spoons and a quarter tank of gas. Our organizing skills in these departments are incredible, and often not respected as much as masculine leaders’, or indeed seen as skills.
I would like to advance the radical notion that providing care is work. By work, I mean it’s just that: work. I would like to state for the record that we are building and maintaining movements when we’re texting to make sure someone is ok, talk on the phone for hours, talk shit on the couch, drop off a little care. Those things are not a sideline or an afterthought to our movements. They are our movements.
Thank you, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha for reminding me that it might not be an imbalance for me to take out the trash again (as usual, he complains), or wash the dishes or sweep up the animal hair while Rivka schools someone on facebook, or learns about intersectionality or how to deal with CPTSD and if I'm feeling resentful it's probably because I need to stop doing the easy work and do some of the inner/heart work for a minute: maybe sing a song.
There's more to the article. I'm barely touching on disability and the ableist approach of
coming from a place of discomfort with disability and wanting to "fix" us.
Peace and stay strong, sisters of all genders and abilities.
Input, pointers and schooling welcome.