If we say that it’s okay to expect that men will want to be engaged at home, and will want to share the mental load, are we man-bashing?
We’ve been talking all month about emotional labor and mental load–or just how overburdened many women feel when they are responsible for remembering all of the details of the home and the kids, and when others rely on them to keep absolutely everything together.
In reply, many women have said that their husbands have called this “man-bashing”. And a few women insinuated that this was also man-bashing.
So Rebecca and I thought we’d tackle this in the podcast today!
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And now–listen in to the podcast!
If we think that men are more than capable of stepping up, and that most men WANT to step up, isn’t that the opposite of man-bashing?
I actually think that most men are good guys and that they want to be equal partners in the relationship, but that’s just not the norm in our culture. And if they hear about how burdened their wife is, most men want to step up.
But when we talk about things that women almost universally find difficult, the quick “go-to” criticism is that we’re man-bashing. I find this really unfortunate. If you’re in a relationship, you should care if your spouse is burdened and feels tired and exhausted. And you should care if they feel taken for granted. That’s what Rebecca and I were talking about today, partly based on this comment that was left on Facebook:
Whew. I shared the first podcast with my husband and tried to explain THIS is what I’ve been feeling but couldn’t express- mental load!! After listening his takeaway was I was listening to “man bashing” and that he “helped” as much as he could but he had a job and worked all day and is tired when he gets home. He just wants to “relax”. He said he would “try to do better”, I just need to let him know what I want him to do and he will do it (maybe). MISSED THE WHOLE POINT?!?! I don’t know how to explain it any better than you already have and he still can’t fathom what I’m talking about! I’m so frustrated!!
We get it, and next week we’ll be talking about how to have these discussions with your husband.
I’ll also be sending out a special email on Tuesday with some examples of how to have these conversations. I’ve got 46,000 people on my email list right now–if you’re not on it, you’re missing lots of extra stuff! So sign up, and you’ll get that email!
A Game-Changing Solution for Sharing Mental Load and Emotional Labor--
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But I’m going to be super honest and transparent here: It does sometimes seem like if we want to ask men to do something, we have to tell them what’s in it for them.
It’s like we can’t just say, “be a good person” or “do what’s right.” We have to tell them, “don’t worry, you’ll get more sex,” or “you won’t have to work that much harder”, or “you don’t even have to do 50%. Just a little bit.”
I know that when men approach women about some things, women can be super defensive, too.
But a reader called me out about how I was phrasing much of the stuff about emotional labor and mental load, trying to convince men to do the right thing. She said:
Your blog post on emotional labor was quite effective in demonstrating how women are required to bring this up to even get a shot at change. Can we talk about the emotional labor of having to make sure it’s not acknowledged that women in general DO have it worse? (As you know, study after study confirms less free time) The exercise of having to make sure to not trigger defensiveness in husbands is exhausting and a big part of the emotional labor. Also having to make sure to frame it as him getting more sex so that’s why he should consider changing. Not because it’s just the right thing to do. Or even the kind the thing to do. Also the reassurance that it won’t have to be 50/50. Only 21% is the magic number so women will be ok as stated in other posts quoting Rodsky. So the emotional labor looks like: 1. Have to plan out and execute assurances that it’s not focusing on who has it worse (even though you do have it worse) 2. Have to make sure it’s framed around change so he gets something he wants. 3. The goal isn’t even equity you must assure, if he does 21% and you are left with 79% that will feel fair. Sigh
And I looked back at that post, and I realized she was right. I was trying to phrase everything into, “don’t worry, guys! There’s a ton in it for you, too!”
I think I do that a lot. And maybe I shouldn’t. I don’t know. I do think that when we go into these conversations, saying, “you’re not being fair and you’re doing everything wrong” isn’t very helpful, and likely isn’t a good heart attitude. But I do get frustrated sometimes that when all I’m arguing for is that men be invested, that so often that’s called man-bashing, when I’m trying so hard not to.
And, honestly–I’ve never done a series that has resonated so much with women.
The number of emails and comments and Facebook comments that have come in about how much “mental load” encapsulates the frustration so many women feel is astounding. This is a real issue. It may be “man-bashing” to talk about it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not real. And if we want to work towards emotionally healthy marriages, we do need to address this.
So today, on the podcast, Rebecca and I got rather heated and talked about this phenomenon. Please listen in! And now I’ll give you all a chance to respond (and I’m getting ready for the tomatoes to be thrown at me!).
What do you think? Is it man-bashing to say that many women are exhausted? How should you talk about this stuff? Let’s talk in the comments!
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
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