Emotional labour is a two-way street

(I share this seagull’s irritation. Photo by Dustin Liebenow)

Ethan: Hey Audra, a friend of mine is getting beat up by a bunch of MRAs… I took a swing at them but could use some help. Any suggestions? [LINK REMOVED BECAUSE IT’S SUPER TRIGGERING.]

Audra: Jesus I thought you meant actually beat up.

Ethan: Yes, sorry… on FB

Audra: For fuck sake. It’s not cool to send someone a link to a thread where there are graphic images of violence against women being posted.

Ethan: Not sure how to respond to that. Trying to help a friend not cause more problems for someone else.

Audra: Sure I guess maybe be more considerate when you are asking someone for intense emotional labour out of the blue?

Ethan: Fair enough.

[FIVE MINUTES PASS AND I NOTICE HE HAS UNFRIENDED ME]

Audra: Did you unfriend me because I was critical of the way you interacted with me, after having a picture sprung on me of a woman being beaten? Like, I pulled my stepfather off of my mom when I was 8 years old, sorry I wasn’t more polite about being upset.

Ethan: I unfriended you because I was disappointed in your response to a request for solidarity. I’m not sure how I was to show you what was going on without linking or why my faux pas with sending you that link was worthy of ignoring Sarah..

Audra: I think it’s much more serious than a “faux pas” to not:
1. Warn someone that you are sending them something upsetting.
2. Express concern or empathy about the fact that you know they also deal with this stuff all the time and might not have the capacity right now to engage.
3. Express appreciation for willingness to engage if they can.
4. Ask if there is anything you can do to support them right now.
I’m not “ignoring Sarah”. I am literally unable to participate in that thread at this exact moment. I am in the middle of a lot of worthwhile things, and I have to triage. Women are not on call for you 24/7, and it’s pretty gross to behave like you expect that they are.

Ethan: I don’t expect women to be on call… I was hoping you specifically would be interested since I’ve seen that you have a lot of practice.

Audra: Okay well I don’t really feel like you’ve addressed the vast bulk of what I said just now.

Ethan: No I haven’t addressed it. I am not sure that a point by point response would very productive. You didn’t like how I approached you on this. I’m not sure how I would know that before hand but fair enough. Lesson learned. Thanks for your thoughts, I’ll keep it in mind next time.

Audra: You can say “Hey, the content in this link is pretty upsetting, so you don’t have to click on it if you’re not able to engage with that sort of thing right now. I know it’s something you deal with a lot. But if you have time and mental energy, I’d really appreciate it if you could maybe weigh in on my friend’s FB wall at some point. MRA’s are being really awful to her. Thanks so much either way. and let me know if I can do the same for you at some point.”

Ethan: Now I know! Thanks for writing it out.

One thought on “Emotional labour is a two-way street

  1. Reblogged this on 'Nathan Burgoine and commented:
    This. It comes up a bit for me with queer issues, as I know I’m a very out and public voice for queer inclusion/discussions. That said, I’ve had to tell well-meaning allies more than once: you know I’ve already discussed this a billion times. Maybe, y’know, go back through my archive and quote me? I don’t have to be physically present. That’s the whole point of education–passing on the knowledge.

    And never, ever, show me links with images of people who’ve been bashed without warning me. I’ve had mor than one “did you see this?” with a link I had no idea was going to be that disturbing.

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