Monday, December 10, 2018

Fed Up - Gemma Hartley

Title: Fed Up: Emotional Labor, Women, and the Way Forward
Author: Gemma Hartley
Publisher: HarperOne, 2018 (Hardcover)
Length: 252 pages
Genre: Adult; Nonfiction, Parenting
Started: December 3, 2018
Finished: December 10, 2018

From Gemma Hartley, the journalist who ignited a national conversation on emotional labour, comes Fed Up, a bold dive into the unpaid, invisible work women have shouldered for too long - and an impassioned vision for creating a better future for us all.

Day in, day out, women anticipate and manage the needs of others. In relationships, we initiate the hard conversations. At home, we shoulder the mental load required to keep our households running. At work, we moderate our tone, explaining patiently and speaking softly. In the world, we step gingerly to keep ourselves safe. We do this largely invisible, draining work whether we want to or not - and we never clock out. No wonder women everywhere are overtaxed, exhausted, and simply fed up.

In her ultra-viral article "Women Aren't Nags - We're Just Fed Up," shared by millions of readers, Gemma Hartley gave much-needed voice to the frustration and anger experienced by countless women. Now, in Fed Up, Hartley expands outward from the everyday frustrations of performing thankless emotional labour to illuminate how the expectation to do this work in all arenas - private and public - fuels gender inequality, limits our opportunities, steals out time, and adversely affects the quality of our lives.

More than just name the problem, though, Hartley teases apart the cultural messaging that had led us here and asks how we can shift the load. Rejecting easy solutions that don't ultimately move the needle, Hartley offers a nuanced insightful guide to striking true balance, for true partnership in every aspect of our lives. Reframing emotional labour not as a problem to be overcome, but as a genderless virtue men and women can all learn to channel in our quest to make a better, more egalitarian world, Fed Up is surprising, intelligent, and empathetic essential reading for every woman who has had enough with feeling fed up.

I remember when this author's aforementioned viral article released. I eagerly shared it, amazed that there was actually a name for this nagging frustration I experienced as a woman, something that every woman I know has experienced but we often pass it off as "just the way things are."

I remember asking my mom as a teenager why we (the women in the family) always had the job of zipping around the kitchen fetching items for guests at our home on holidays (normally thought of as being good hosts) while my father wasn't expected to do the same. I can't even remember the exact answer she gave me, but I know it didn't satisfy my teenaged self. Now, my father has improved over the years, but there are still so many aspects of emotional labour that my mother is expected to perform on behalf of both of them (especially in our Italian family), and that I am expected to perform as mother to my child that isn't expected of her father.

Emotional labour as a term is confusing to those that haven't heard it before, but all I have to do is describe the ever-present, "Why am I the only person in this house who notices the toilet paper roll/garbage/random bag needs to be changed/taken out/brought upstairs?!" scenario for women to nod their heads in instant understanding. I did this, in fact, in my workroom with my colleagues the other day when they asked about the book I was reading. This led to an entire conversation about emotional labour, which we as a room of female educators (as well as wives and mothers) are intimately familiar.

The author does a great job of describing emotional labour to her readers, with anecdotes that will have many women nodding their heads in sympathy. She also has chapters entailing how we got to this current state (not-so sarcastic hint: patriarchy and misogyny) and how to better achieve balance between the sexes and emotional labour at home and in the workforce. It's true that some men, like many single fathers, do the bulk of or all of the emotional labour in their families because they've been forced to through circumstance; but in order for change to occur for the majority of men, it's the expectation of men not just "helping" but actually "sharing" the work of emotional labour that will help fuel the change in people's relationships.

This is a must-read (as well as the article linked above), if for nothing else than having a wonderfully cathartic experience. In my case, though, it was a bit rage-inducing when I empathized with nearly all the examples put forth in this book to the point where I wanted to chuck the book against the wall....but it's fine, really, it's fine, I'm fine, totally fine.

Thoughts on the cover:
It's very utilitarian, but it gets the job done.

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