The election, blaming, and emotional labor

In the wake of last week’s presidential election, I’ve been thinking a lot about emotional labor. Many of the posts I see on my social media accounts are about blame. I understand this as an initial reaction–I think it’s fascinating to figure out what messages resonated with which voters based on turnout–but I’m really struggling with some people’s sustained obsession with casting blame. In particular, I’ve seen many people blaming women.

Let me just repeat that and be a bit more specific. Liberals are blaming women–especially white women–for the outcome of this election.

I’ve had liberal friends talk about how white women handed Trump the election. I’ve had them tell me that straight women aren’t politically conscious and just listen to their husbands to decide who to vote for. I’ve had them tell me (simultaneously!) that white women won’t be affected by the things people fear from a Trump presidency and also that they don’t understand how women could vote for him given the ways he treats women.

And I have just one question. Why are we so obsessed with holding women accountable? A whopping 63% of white men voted for Trump, compared to 52% of white women. College-educated white women were the only white demographic group I’ve seen reported on who didn’t break for Trump (though admittedly by only a few points). About 33% of Latino men voted for Trump as well as 13% of Black men; both of those numbers are significantly higher than women in the same ethnic groups.

Liberals blaming women for Trump’s election–while utterly failing to hold men, especially white men, accountable in any way–is a symptom of the very same sorts of rhetorics that scapegoat women for unwanted pregnancies, discriminatory pay practices, and domestic abuse situations.

Clearly, as a white woman, I have a stake in this argument. But on top of the scapegoating behavior I’ve described above, I’ve also found myself being asked to do emotional labor for others–often others who have more privilege than I do–even while being blamed. And I’ve seen this happening to other people, too–consistently and powerfully. The article I’ve linked below (“50 Ways People Expect Constant Emotional Labor From Women and Femmes”) is, I think, instructive. Here are a few of the problematic patterns it notes, with direct quotes in standard texts and my additions in italics:

  • 2. Friends offload their problems – sometimes serious problems that we’re not equipped to handle – onto us before we have agreed to talk about them, often expecting an immediate response or requiring that we engage with the things that are bothering them specifically, and with no acknowledgment that we are also struggling.
  • 7. If we are in professions that involve interactions with people, those we serve expect us to act as their therapists and to be on call at all times (see above) even in the midst of our own crises.
  • 11 & 12. We have to justify decisions … again, and again, and again, while watching others make the same decisions we are punished for with no repercussions whatsoever
  • 30. We’re expected to keep the peace with our cohabitants under all conditions, even if this means sacrificing ourselves for the sake of others’ emotional and mental health and self-interest
  • 33. In the workplace, we have to worry about presenting our ideas in a non-threatening manner but also in a way that allows us to claim credit for our labor when someone else, inevitably, discredits or colonizes it.

I hope that those struggling to make sense of the world today might, in the future, do a better job of doing so in ways that value cooperation, shared accountability, and intelligent inquiry. I, for one, am about to start holding myself accountable for intervening in patterns of woman-blaming when I hear them.

50 Ways People Expect Constant Emotional Labor from Women and Femmes


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