THE BLOG

Not Our Jobs: Emotional Responsibility and Sexism

10/10/2013 05:46 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

There's a pretty leveling quote of Germaine Greer's: "Women have no idea how much men hate them." It's the kind of quote that not only knocks you ass-backwards but continues to unfurl in front of you, because the volume it speaks is only really matched by the layers in which it's applicable.

It puts to scope the intrinsic nature in which men have pathologically policed nearly, if not every, level of their interaction and communication with women. I am not even talking about violence toward women and the horrifying way this manifests in our daily news cycles because at that level, yes, we get it, you fucking hate us. Otherwise why go to such lengths as to physically wipe us out -- it's loud and clear, buddy. I'm talking about the instances of subtle, psychological manipulation that have the capacity to cause someone to constantly question their mode of thought, feeling, and the way in which this relates to the entire scope of every day life. So, a pretty big thing.

Women have long taken (or been charged with) the role of caretaker in their relationships with men. This isn't just on a romantic or partnership level, but in most every way we come to interact with men we establish multiple types of relationships with. Coworker, acquaintance, friend, partner, perfect stranger, on a societal level there is an expectation, to put it plainly, that women will "take care of it." That women will hold the relationship in place. There is the expectation that nurturing is second nature, is somehow a preference women inherently possess. As if giving a crap was a beautiful quilt we all kept locked in our bridal chests, on the ready, to be flung around the shoulders of everyone who comes into our scope on any given day.

Long are we told that when things go awry in relationships the default blame shifts to women. Not even on the appalling, actually sociopathic level of victim blaming, but in subtle ways that are easy to miss if you're not hyper aware. And face it when "hyper aware" has become your default it just makes you realize even that is not enough. I had a boyfriend who cheated on me and much later, after the relationship ended and the emotional trash had been taken out, I got into a conversation in which the gist was "women make bad decisions" and relied very heavily on me not being able to foresee that this would happen to me being the framework of that logic.

Literally not being able to see the future became my fault. The argument wasn't even as snoozingly typical like it was my fault it had happened, or I should have been more careful, but that something in my rich emotional clairvoyance as a woman went awry and because of that I made a bad decision and because of that women make bad decisions. Bad emotional decisions. We're expected to be wizened by our emotions while being constantly infantilized by them.

If a woman is going through a divorce, say, let alone has the monetary means necessary to fund a divorce and change her situation, she is doubly lambasted. First, for having failed at marriage, and secondly for going through something which she could have avoided that is going to cost her "a lot". This is all without factors like children, domestic abuse, class and race and that above all she is still seen as either emotionally void or was too emotional, too "rash", in making her decision in the first place.

At work, acknowledging a joke made you uncomfortable, was inappropriate, or that you just don't fucking feel like joking right now, more often than not you're met with an eye-roll, or told you're being too sensitive. Does this shit sound old-fashioned as hell to you? Great, me too, but it's still happening.

Women are lauded for an intensely rich emotional capacity - an archetype - and then shamed for it. Like an amateur going for the over-under high-five that misses and hits you in the back. We cry so much because we are sensitive but because we are sensitive we cry so much. We're undermined and rendered unreliable witnesses to our own experiences by what feels to be sometimes a secret responsibility everyone else decided we'd be good at. Dudes, making sure you don't feel bad after you've made me feel bad is making me feel really fucking bad.

And why is it deemed ostentatious to call men out on the ways in which they are holding women responsible for their own over emoting, lack of emoting, emoting at all, and the resulting confusion on their part that comes with all of these states. So often men's reactions to being questioned will be a mystified confusion that tends to fork one of two ways. Either into scoffing or laughing something off with quality of snark only ever used in a situation to guilt and shame a woman that has caused them this momentary lapse or confusion, or, a sneering and overblown anger, reserved and utilized for the same desired result: silence.

Dale Spender said it pretty good when she said women have historically been compared not to men in communication style, in how much we talk, choose to speak up, but instead compared to silence. That "when silence is the desired state for women...then any talk in which a woman engages can be too much". The standard in which women are held by their emotions, to emote, cannot be measured against the standard in which we are held in communication, silence. Damned if you do and damned if you don't is only really funny when the damning you're doing is not yourself, to a constantly contrarian hell in which one is rendered mute by the false-expectation of their own emotions. Angry women are threatening. If we are self-doubting, we stay in place. And when we are perpetually placed in this absurd, near definition of a double-standard role, women forever end up as the caretakers of the men that fail them.

Moreover, why is there a nagging, inherent guilt on my part in the back of my head present at the onset of speaking up and the urge to smooth things over, to crack a joke or make light when the reality of it is we are so busy doing all this other shit that we don't have time to be the sole proprietors of our relationships with you.

"We Are What Feminists Look Like" Tumblr