At work as at home, men reap the benefits of women’s ‘invisible labor’

Soraya Chemaly writes: Men today do a higher share of chores and household work than any generation of men before them. Yet working women, especially working mothers, continue to do significantly more.

On any given day, one fifth of men in the US, compared to almost half of all women do some form of housework. Each week, according to Pew, mothers spend nearly twice as long as fathers doing unpaid domestic work. But while it’s important to address inequality at home, it’s equally critical to acknowledge the way these problems extend into the workplace. Women’s emotional labor — which can involve everything from tending to others’ feelings to managing family dynamics to writing thank-you notes — is a big issue that’s rarely discussed.

In the early 1980s, University of California, Berkeley sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild coined the term “emotional labor” in her book The Managed Heart. Hochschild observed that women make up the majority of service workers — flight attendants, food service workers, customer service reps — as well as the majority of of child-care and elder-care providers. All of these positions require emotional effort, from smiling on demand to prioritizing the happiness of the customer over one’s own feelings. [Continue reading…]

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