I was chatting with a friend the other day who was bemoaning the amount of emotional labor around queer liberation she had to do for her cishet white male coworker. She was clearly frustrated that she was put in that situation, and while I felt for her, I have to admit: I don’t do emotional labor for people. I know that it’s an honorable thing to do, but I’m an anarchist, and I believe in the abolition of work, so I try to practice that as much as possible in my day to day life.
The idea of emotional labor is something that I’ve seen pop up more and more frequently in feminist and queer circles. I get it: we expend a lot of emotional energy trying to fix the world, and it’s great that we qualify it as labor because, yes, let’s get paid for this shit. However, we’re still a long way off from getting all those PayPal invoices cleared for all our emotional labor on the Internet and in person, so I thought I’d share with you my more practical approach to emotional labor: emotional investment.
Because I know that I’m probably not going to be compensated with money for emotional labor, I only do it for people I love. I view that as an investment: I’m going to invest my time and my energy and my emotions into helping educate and build this person’s consciousness of the world. And it’s going to be worth it, because that person is going to appreciate the time I put into our relationship, and that emotional energy will be repaid to me. This approach makes me feel a lot better about the emotional labor I do, and especially as it relates to people I love, it makes me feel less bitter about the work that I’m doing. Sure, not all my investments will pay off, and not all my investments will be appreciated, but shedding the transactional mentality around emotional labor and adopting an attitude of mutual education makes it a lot easier to tackle.
Of course, there are still those scenarios where you are expected to do emotional labor, but there is no potential for an emotional investment or an emotional payoff. Therefore: emotional chaos. This should be pretty self explanatory. If it’s not worth it for you to do the emotional labor, fuck it! It is literally not your job to do that shit. And this is the emotional labor that I am willing to do for you, dear reader: practice that bitch face. Practice that whole “not giving a fuck” attitude. Practice the smug comfort of moral superiority and walking away. Trust me, it feels good.
Just remember: it’s your call on when to invest and when to pull out. Start making the right calls.