Category Archives: Marriage

A Story Like Mine

We highly recommended watching Halsey’s incredible performance. If you are unable to listen, you can read the transcript full transcript below via Billboard.

It’s 2009 and I’m 14 and I’m crying
Not really sure where I am but I’m holding the hand of my best friend Sam
In the waiting room of a Planned Parenthood
The air is sterile and clean, and the walls are that not grey, but green
And the lights are so bright they could burn a whole through the seam of my jeans
My phone is buzzing in the pocket
My mom is asking me if I remembered my keys ’cause she’s closing the door and she needs to lock it
But I can’t tell my mom where I’ve gone
I can’t tell anyone at all
You see, my best friend Sam was raped by a man that we knew ’cause he worked in the after-school program
And he held her down with her textbook beside her
And he covered her mouth and he came inside her
So now I’m with Sam, at the place with a plan, waiting for the results of a medical exam
And she’s praying she doesn’t need an abortion, she couldn’t afford it
And her parents would, like, totally kill her

It’s 2002 and my family just moved and the only people I know are my mom’s friends, too, and her son
He’s got a case of Matchbox cars and he says that he’ll teach me to play the guitar if I just keep quiet
And the stairwell beside apartment 1245 will haunt me in my sleep for as long as I am alive
And I’m too young to know why it aches in my thighs, but I must lie, I must lie

It’s 2012 and I’m dating a guy and I sleep in his bed and I just learned how to drive
And he’s older than me and he drinks whiskey neat and he’s paying for everything
This adult thing is not cheap
We’ve been fighting a lot, almost 10 times a week
And he wants to have sex, and I just want to sleep
He says I can’t say no to him
This much I owe to him
He buys my dinner, so I have to blow him
He’s taken to forcing me down on my knees
And I’m confused ’cause he’s hurting me while he says please
And he’s only a man, and these things he just needs
He’s my boyfriend, so why am I filled with unease?

It’s 2017 and I live like a queen
And I’ve followed damn near every one of my dreams
I’m invincible and I’m so fucking naive
I believe I’m protected ’cause I live on a screen
Nobody would dare act that way around me
I’ve earned my protection, eternally clean
Until a man that I trust gets his hands in my pants
But I don’t want none of that, I just wanted to dance
And I wake up the next morning like I’m in a trance and there’s blood
Is that my blood?
Hold on a minute

You see I’ve worked every day since I was 18
I’ve toured everywhere from Japan to Mar-a-Lago
I even went on stage that night in Chicago when I was having a miscarriage
I mean, I pied the piper, I put on a diaper
And sang out my spleen to a room full of teens
What do you mean this happened to me?
You can’t put your hands on me
You don’t know what my body has been through
I’m supposed to be safe now
I earned it

It’s 2018 and I’ve realized nobody is safe long as she is alive
And every friend that I know has a story like mine
And the world tells me we should take it as a compliment
But then heroes like Ashley and Simone and Gabby, McKayla and Gaga, Rosario, Aly
Remind me this is the beginning, it is not the finale
And that’s why we’re here
And that’s why we rally
It’s Olympians and a medical resident and not one fucking word from the man who is President
It’s about closed doors and secrets and legs and stilletos from the Hollywood hills to the projects in ghettos
When babies are ripped from the arms of teen mothers and child brides cry globally under the covers
Who don’t have a voice on the magazine covers
They tell us take cover

But we are not free until all of us are free
So love your neighbor, please treat her kindly
Ask her story and then shut up and listen
Black, Asian, poor, wealthy, trans, cis, Muslim, Christian 
Listen, listen and then yell at the top of your lungs
Be a voice for all those who have prisoner tongues
For the people who had to grow up way too young
There is work to be done
There are songs to be sung
Lord knows there’s a war to be won

Un espacio en Australia

by Caroline Brantley

This past October, I wrote a short, contemporary scene inspired by “La casa de Bernarda Alba” by Federico García Lorca, a Spanish playwright and poet assassinated during the Spanish Civil War for being gay. My scene sought to relate these events and the uphill battle of the LGBTQIA+ community to Australia’s current nationwide postal survey for marriage equality. By November 15, 80% of Australian voters submitted their postal surveys, with 62% voting in favor of marriage equality. This past Thursday, the Australian Parliament officially accepted the postal survey’s success and voted overwhelming in favor of legalizing same sex marriage across the country (!!).

In celebration of how far the LGBTQIA+ community has come and in recognition of the barriers we still have to tackle, I present the scene I wrote (in Spanish and English) a couple months back. Here’s to Lorca and all those who have risked or sacrificed their lives so that others may now live with pride.

Un espacio en Australia

Todos los papeles de esta obra (Bernarda, Adela, Angustias, Martirio, Pepe) reflejan los papeles originales de “La casa de Bernarda Alba” por Federico García Lorca.

Arriba el telón para una casa en un suburbio conservador de Perth, Australia, 2017. En Australia, hay una encuesta postal este mes sobre la legalización del matrimonio entre personas del mismo sexo. Esta escena específicamente está en un cuarto oscuro que es tranquilo y vacío con la excepción de ADELA. ADELA se sienta en una silla en el medio del cuarto, escribiendo en la computadora portátil con una cara de consideración y estrés. La única luz es de la computadora, y brilla en la cara de ella.

(Entra BERNARDA, encendiendo una lámpara)

ADELA: (suspiro)

BERNARDA: (severamente) ¡Adela! ¿Por qué no estás durmiendo? Es muy tarde y no quiero ver que estás cansada mañana durante la cena para Angustias y Pepe.

ADELA: Estoy cansada, pero no puedo dormir. Necesito el espacio para pensar.

BERNARDA: ¡Eres demasiado dramática! Duerme porque nosotras vamos a tener un problema mañana si tu estás de mal humor. Es la cena antes del matrimonio de Pepe y tu hermana; es un día feliz y no me gustan ánimos malos.

ADELA: (con vacilación) Mamá, tengo algo que necesito decirte.

BERNARDA: No estás feliz por Angustias.

ADELA: ¡Qué!. . . No, mamá. Yo—buenas noches.

BERNARDA: (escéptica) Igualmente.

(Cierra la portátil. Se apaga la luz.)

El día siguiente en una cena antes del matrimonio entre ANGUSTIAS y PEPE. La atmósfera es alegre mientras la familia de Angustias y los invitados hablan sobre chismes y nuevas cosas de la comunidad.

MUJER: Ay, Bernarda, ¡es una fiesta muy grande! Y yo sé que Angustias estará bonita mañana cuando ella se casará con Pepe. Pues, ¡claro! Todas tus hijas son hermosas. No tendrán problemas para encontrar un esposo.

BERNARDA: ¡Por supuesto, no! Pero mis hijas piensan que es una idea anticuada, especialmente Martirio y Adela. Ellas no quieren novios ahora—a veces son demasiado liberales y modernas para mí.

ADELA: (un poco amarga) Martirio no es liberal. . .

MARTIRIO: Sí, estoy de acuerdo con ella. Es una idea loca.

MUJER: Bien, Martirio, si no tienes un novio, ¿Qué te gusta hacer? ¿Trabajas?

BERNARDA: Sí, Martirio ha estado trabajando para la campaña de “No” contra la loca encuesta postal. ¿Pueden creer que las personas quieran implementar la habilidad para la gente homosexual para casarse?

MARTIRIO: No es “un derecho”, es horrible. Quieren terminar la importancia del matrimonio.

ADELA: Voy a tomar una bebida.

(MARTIRIO sigue a ADELA)

MARTIRIO: (tranquilamente) Flaca—fue una noche muy tarde.

ADELA: (con sorpresa) ¿Qué?

MARTIRIO: ¿Estabas hablando por teléfono a las cuatro?

ADELA: No es importante para ti.

MARTIRIO: Dime con quien te hablaste anoche.

ADELA: Vete.

MARTIRIO: (pausa) Con una chica. (ADELA mira a MARTIRIO, están enojadas) Eres homosexual.

ADELA: Y tú eres homofóbica. Mi cuerpo y mi vida me pertenecen, y no hay nada que puedas hacer. ¡No es el lugar para crear una escena, pero yo sé que tú quieres atención!

MARTIRIO: (Mas ruidosa) Cállate. Cuando le diga a Mamá—

ADELA: ¿Por qué necesitas decir a madre? ¿Porque no tienes nada interesante en tu vida? Si estás tratando a arruinar el día con mi sexualidad—

MARTIRIO: Pues, si ninguna de nosotras tenemos un novio en el matrimonio de nuestra hermana, al menos mi amor por hombres es auténtico. Va a ser muy interesante—cuando yo le diga a madre sobre tu secreto y tu “novia”.

(Llega ANGUSTIAS con BERNARDA)

ANGUSTIAS: ¡Están ruidosas! Dime el chisme.

ADELA: No es chisme.

BERNARDA: No tengo tiempo para sus problemas.

MARTIRIO: Es solo el problema de Adela. Mi hermana loca tiene a correr a Nueva Zelanda para casarse, y todavía ella no sería normal.

ANGUSTIAS: ¡Martirio!

ADELA: ¡Basta! Mi sexualidad no es vergüenza. No debería una cuestión política. Ustedes me tratan como una enfermedad, pero pronto puedo casarse en Australia. Y, Martirio todavía sería soltera porque ella siempre pone su nariz en los asuntos de otros. (ANGUSTIAS empieza a llorar, BERNARDA está enojada) Y madre, mamá . . . he tratado a decirte, iba decirte, pero era demasiado—

Bernarda: Basta.

Corta el escenario a negro.

La escena final: un cuarto oscuro. Tranquilo y vacío con la excepción de BERNARDA, quien se siente en una silla al lado de un escritorio. ANGUSTIAS entra.

ANGUSTIAS: (con hesitación) Son las dos en punto.

BERNARDA: Sí. Deberías dormir. Necesito pensar.

ANGUSTIAS: Pienso sobre ti, mamá. Estoy preocupa por ti.

BERNARDA: Estoy bien—es cierto. Y te quiero una montaña, y necesitas volver a Pepe.

(ANGUSTIAS sale)

BERNARDA: (murmurando) Es cierto que amo a todas mis hijas. (Completando la encuesta postal sobre apoyo para el matrimonio homosexual de Australia y sellando el sobre) Sí, Adela.

Fin.

A Space in Australia

All the roles in this work (Bernarda, Adela, Angustias, Martirio, Pepe) reflect the original roles from “The House of Bernarda Alba” by Federico García Lorca.

 

Curtain up to a house in a conservative suburb of Perth, Australia, 2017. In Australia, there is a postal survey this month about the legalization of same sex marriage. This specific scene is in a dark room that is quiet and empty with the exception of ADELA. ADELA sits in a chair in the middle of the room, writing on her laptop with a face of consideration and stress. The only light is from the computer, and it shines in her face.

 

 

 

ADELA: (sighs)

BERNARDA: (severely) Adela! Why aren’t you sleeping? It is very late and I don’t want to see you tired tomorrow during Angustias and Pepe’s dinner.

ADELA: I am tired, but I can’t sleep. I need space to think.

BERNARDA: You are too dramatic! Sleep, because we are going to have a problem tomorrow if you are moody. It is the dinner before Pepe and your sister’s wedding; it is a happy day, and I don’t like bad spirits.

ADELA: (hesitantly) Mamá, I have something that I need to tell you.

BERNARDA: You are not happy for Angustias.

ADELA: What! . . . No, mamá. I—good night.

BERNARDA: (skeptically) Same to you.

(ADELA closes the laptop. She turns off the light.)

The next day at the dinner before the marriage of ANGUSTIAS and PEPE. The atmosphere is happy while Angustias’ family and guests talk about gossip and new things for the community.

MUJER: Ay, Bernarda, what a big party! And I know that Angustias will be pretty tomorrow when she marries Pepe. But, of course! All your daughters are beautiful. They will not have any problems finding a husband.

BERNARDA: Of course not! But, my daughters think that this is an outdated idea, especially Martirio and Adela. They don’t want boyfriends now—sometimes they are too liberal and modern for me.

ADELA: (a bit bitterly) Martirio is not liberal. . .

MARTIRIO: Yeah, I agree with her. That is a crazy idea.

MUJER: Well, Martirio, if you don’t have a boyfriend, what do you like to do? Do you work?

BERNARDA: Yes, Martirio has been working for the “No” campaign against the crazy postal survey. Can you all believe that people want to implement the ability for homosexual people to marry?

MARTIRIO: It is not “a right”; it’s horrible. They want to end the importance of marriage.

ADELA: I’m going to get a drink.

(MARTIRIO follows ADELA)

MARTIRIO: (Calmly) Flaca (skinny girl)—It was a very late night.

ADELA: (surprised) What?

 

MARTIRIO: Were you talking on the phone at four?

ADELA: It’s not important to you.

MARTIRIO: Tell me whom you were talking to last night.

ADELA: Go away.

MARTIRIO: (pause) With a girl. (ADELA looks at MARTIRIO, they are mad) You are a lesbian.

ADELA: And you are homophobic. My body and my life belong to me, and there is nothing that you can do. It is not the place to create a scene, but I know that you want attention!

MARTIRIO: (louder) Shut up. When I tell Mamá—

 

ADELA: Why do you need to tell our mother? Because you do not have anything interesting in your life? If you are trying to ruin the day with my sexuality—

MARTIRIO: Well, if none of us have a boyfriend at our sister’s wedding, at least my love for men is authentic. It is going to be very interesting—when I tell our mother about your secret and your “girlfriend”.

 

(ANGUSTIAS arrives with BERNARDA)

ANGUSTIAS: ¡You are so loud! Tell me the gossip.

ADELA: It’s not gossip.

BERNARDA: I don’t have time for your problems.

MARTIRIO: It is only Adela’s problem. My crazy sister has to run away to New Zealand to get married, and she still would not be normal.

ANGUSTIAS: Martirio!

ADELA: Enough! My sexuality is not shameful. It should not be a political question. You treat me like an illness, but soon I will be able to marry in Australia. And, Martirio still will be single because she always puts her nose in other people’s business. (ANGUSTIAS starts to cry, BERNARDA is mad) And mother, mamá . . . I had tried to tell you, I was going to tell you, but it was too much—

Bernarda: Enough.

Cut the scene to black.

The final scene: a dark room. It is quiet and empty with the exception of BERNARDA, who sits in a chair next to a desk. ANGUSTIAS enters.

 

ANGUSTIAS: (hesitantly) It is two o’clock.

BERNARDA: Yes. You should sleep. I need to think.

ANGUSTIAS: I think about you, mamá. I worry about you.

BERNARDA: I am fine—truly. And I love you a lot, and you need to return to Pepe.

(ANGUSTIAS leaves)

BERNARDA: (murmuring) It is true that I love all my daughters. (Completing the postal survey about support for marriage equality in Australia and sealing the envelope). Yes, Adela.

End.

Sexual Assault Around the World

By Kelsie Merrick

On New Year’s Eve in Cologne, Germany, hundreds of women reported being sexually assaulted. I, along with many other people, heard about this and was quite disgusted. It was uncertain as to what would happen to these women and if, when the perpetrators were identified, what would the punishment be. Unfortunately, for them, no one will be held accountable for these actions. When I found this out, I was completely shocked because I know in the United States, for the most part, people are reprimanded for their sexual assault actions. I chose to look more into this topic and here is what I found.

Chantal Louis, an editor at Emma, one of Germany’s oldest feminist magazines, says, “the German law accepts that a man generally has the right to touch a woman, to have sexual intercourse with a woman. It’s his right unless the woman shows her resistance very, very strongly.” In the logic of German law, if touching of a woman’s breasts or vagina happens quickly, the law will not punish the perpetrator because the victim did not have enough time to resist the action. As far as the law is concerned, the issue is not verbal consent. The law requires that there be a “threat of imminent danger to life and limb.” That is, if a woman, or any person for that matter, cannot prove with their body (with bruises or other injuries) that they fought back, then the assault is not a crime. In Die Zeit, a German newspaper, a male German defense lawyer reported, “a woman must carry her ‘no’ through. We [men] can hardly know with a simple ‘no,’ whether she really means it.” According to national statistics, “between 7,000 and 8,000 rapes are reported every year.” BFF, a national association of women’s help groups based in Berlin, believes these numbers only represent 5% of the real number of cases. BFF also states, “only 13% of rape cases result in convictions.” One possible explanation for this is the law’s limitations.

Interestingly enough, in German workplace it is clear that “it’s not OK for someone to touch you, to try to kiss you, to lay a hand on your back.” This is called “sexual harassment at the workplace” and every women and man knows it is unacceptable. Heike Lütgart, a criminologist and career police officer with decades of experience investigating gender-based violence, says that not having a law outside of the workforce is a tremendous problem for women because they do not realize that they do not have this protection.

After reading about the laws in Germany surrounding sexual assault, I became curious about how the three most populated countries handled sexual assault. In China, they recently overturned a law that “mandated a more lenient punishment for men who had sex with girls under the age of 14 if they could ‘prove’ that they paid the girl for sex.” There is now a heavy mandatory penalty for this crime with the highest punishment being the death penalty. India passed a new Anti-Rape bill in April of 2013. This bill includes crimes such as acid violence, stalking, and voyeurism. Attackers can be charged anywhere between 14 years in prison to the death sentence for extreme cases. The bill states that even if the victim does not physically struggle, that does not constitute as consent. Unfortunately, marital rape is still legal, but the age of consent was raised from 16 to 18.

I then looked at the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 30 percent of U.S. women experience some kind of unwanted sexual contact in their lifetime. The Model Penal code, the go-to documents for lawmakers rewriting their criminal laws, still allows for men to rape their wives, but this “marital exemption” has been outlawed in all 50 states since the 1990s. It was not until about the middle of the 20th century that victims needed to prove their chastity for their cases to be taken seriously. In the United States, forty-three states and the District of Columbia specify that unwanted sexual contact is prohibited. Five states have laws prohibiting battery, public indecency or “lewd and lascivious” behavior. Mississippi and Idaho, on the other hand, do not have “criminal laws that clearly forbid unwanted sexual touching such as groping and fondling.” In 2013, Mississippi’s Democratic state Republic Kimberly Campbell proposed a bill to create a misdemeanor crime called “indecent assault.” This bill would handle adult fondling cases, which could prevent future crimes by stopping the act early. The bill died due to the fact the bill was too vague with the explanation of intent and opponents feared that the bill could “criminalize accidental touching or bumping.” On the other hand, there has been an indecent assault law in Pennsylvania since the 1970s. Deputy District Attorney Janet Necessary says that she takes several dozen of these cases a year. Her office has used this law to prosecute cases involving supervisors who have sexually harassed their workers in a physical way.

We, the citizens of the United States, need to work together to first, create a universal law across all 50 states to protect unwanted sexual touching/assaults against women and men. Second, eventually, spread this idea to other countries so that no human being has to live through such an uncomfortable situation.

Why Mother’s Day is a Bullshit Exercise in Appreciating Women

By Alice Elbakian

Let me begin by explaining, as best as I can, an eye-opening, world-changing phrase that I learned about only too recently: emotional labor. It’s difficult to pinpoint it in our lives because it includes a myriad of daily tasks that are easily ignored. But broadly construed, emotional labor means caring; it means taking care of whatever needs to be taken care of, or attending to our daily human and social responsibilities. It encompasses actions and tasks that are necessary for living an independent, functional human life. Typical chores of a housewife come to mind: cooking, cleaning, tending to children. But more importantly, emotional labor applies to the concealed logistics of these tasks: it’s not just cooking, it’s discerning what and when to feed everyone that you cook for according to their dietary and nutritional needs. It’s not just cleaning, it’s being able to tell what needs to be cleaned, or fixed, or replaced, and then doing the needful. It isn’t just driving your children to school, it’s helping them to get ready in the morning, and then listening and speaking with them about their day once they’ve come home.

Emotional labor goes beyond the common strife of housewives in ways that are probably more relevant to the lives of all you people reading. It’s is advising your guy friend for the millionth time about a girl who just does not, and will probably never like him back. It’s being the one roommate who changes the toilet paper and replaces the garbage bag when it’s full. It’s being the one in your partnership who plans social events and actually entertains and interacts with the guests who are kind enough to attend. It’s being the one who chooses, buys, and wraps all the presents, and writes the heartfelt cards to match for special occasions. Emotional labor even includes reminding others of their obligations, like telling your forgetful dad when your mother’s birthday is, or worse yet, the date of their anniversary. If it feels like work and you’re not getting paid for it, it’s probably emotional labor.

Why did I bring this up? Emotional labor is gendered: women are overwhelmingly the ones who are burdened with the stress of emotional labor. Given the large scope of daily tasks and responsibilities that constitute emotional labor, the fact that it’s gendered is a huge problem. Well, for half of the population anyway.

If you’re not on board with me so far, you may be tempted to say that women should just shut up and stop their whining. Sending out a reminder to your partner about their next doctor’s appointment is a task the size of a text message, certainly not a “burden.” Sure, maybe the one visible part of this one example from a whole day’s worth of work takes the form of a single text message. But this ignores the fact that it takes effort, focus, and attention to willingly and extemporaneously consider your partner, and their health, and their next doctor’s appointment, and it takes even more effort, focus, and attention to remember their appointment for them, to know that we will have to remind them, and finally to actually do the task of reminding them. How can women have their own full lives if they’re spending all of this mental and emotional energy on people who can’t do basic tasks for themselves?

Emotional labor is for the most part invisible because it focuses a lot on planning and taking others into consideration, which all goes on in our minds. We all know how taxing it is to keep track of all of our obligations and daily tasks at once, and most of us only do these things for ourselves, without the added burden of performing emotional labor for other people. People are a lot to be responsible for. And it’s true that in most cases, nobody is holding a gun to our heads and forcing us to do things like send out reminders. But women are expected to do so nonetheless. And if we don’t, you’ll probably forget your appointment, and then blame us for not reminding you.

So emotional labor is work that needs to get done but that nobody wants to do, and women are primarily the ones who end up buckling down and getting it done. We hardly notice or even count what women do as actual work. For these reasons, being a woman also means being taken for granted, daily. Don’t believe me? Go ask your mom. Women are the ass-wipers and tooth-brushers of the world. We’ve convinced ourselves, and have therefore grown comfortable with telling ourselves, that women just are the ones to do these things.

We might believe this for any number of reasons. Some people believe women perform emotional labor because they’re supposed to, or they’re just naturally better at it. Either one of those reasonings makes you a sexist prick. If you act as though you are entitled to women’s time, energy, focus, and attention, this is likely the problematic line of thought from which you operate. Work is work for everyone. Being “better” at something doesn’t mean we actually want to do it, or that we should do it more than anyone else does. And, surprise-surprise, getting good at something is a direct consequence of repeated practice. It has nothing to do with natural ability, and certainly not when the task in question is basic caring and taking on responsibility.

Others believe women perform the bulk of emotional labor because “they’re just nice enough to do it.” No. It’s not an issue of kindness, it’s doing what needs to be done and that means staying calm enough to put up with your bullshit. For example, do I want to be the one in my relationship who changes the sheets for the twelfth time in a row? No. Will I? Yes, but not because I’m being nice, rather because these sheets that my partner and I both sleep on are clearly dirty and need to be laundered, and in order for that to happen, they need to be taken off the bed, and when that happens, new sheets need to go on for sleeping.

“Why can’t you just ask your partner to change the sheets for once?” I could, but that doesn’t actually do much to address the problems for women like me or problems of emotional labor in general. Ironically, it would be a further expenditure of my emotional labor to teach my partner about bedding and sheet hygiene, for instance. Shouldn’t an adult know that by now? Do you want to know the secret to adulting? Performing emotional labor. Being responsible for things that you don’t want to be responsible for, but doing them anyway because they need to be done; because you owe it to yourself and the people around you to meet the basic requirements expected of you as a human being so that someone else doesn’t have to pick up your sack of slack, because it is a very heavy and unnecessary sack at that. The point of emotional labor is that you find it within yourself to care, and you take initiative. It is unfair that I should be burdened with even more emotional labor for trying to get someone else, my “partner”, to do the bare minimum.

Second of all, knowing if and when the sheets need to be changed is half of the emotional labor of changing sheets. If I’m going to tell him every time it’s time to change the sheets, I may as well save myself the headache and aggravation and hire a scheduled maid, or just do it myself, since I can’t afford a maid. There’s a pattern to heterosexual relationships: it starts with man-children who never learned to perform emotional labor on their own, probably because their mothers did it for them and they never bothered to learn because they didn’t acknowledge their mother’s work as work in the first place. Then – best case scenario – the man-child conveniently puts in just enough emotional labor in the beginning stages of courtship to reel women into this unbalanced relationship dynamic. Ah, so you do know what’s expected of you, you just stop doing it once you’ve won your prize. Then, the women in the relationship are tasked with raising their own adopted man-child to reach the basic standards of human functioning so that they may now apparently be considered worth their time and effort in the first place. I’m exhausted just imagining that. No wonder so many women simply prefer to be single.

It seems like there are a few options to get away from this kind of pattern, whether in a romantic relationship or not. The one that I suspect is on most peoples’ minds is to get the heck out of that relationship. Friend, boyfriend, family member, doesn’t matter. Just end it. There are some cases where women do have the opportunity to end their role as the free-ride-providing camels of life. We hear and read a lot about ending toxic relationships, cutting ties with people who demand too much of our valuable time and attention without reciprocating much, if anything, of their own. Maybe in some relationships it is possible to walk away like this. Ladies, if you’re his mother more than his girlfriend, friend, or whoever you actually are, if he’s not showing any signs of growth, if you have to pull teeth to get him to do for you what you do for him, dump his ass. Let it be a lesson to yourself in self-respect.

But of course things aren’t so easy and there are complications with this fix. What about women who don’t want to be alone but are sick of investing the necessary emotional labor to keep their relationships afloat, only to finally learn once more what they’ve already learned from all the men before? How much longer should we pretend that the problem is women’s standards instead of men’s behavior? [1]

So walking away from a relationship still has problems attached. It will only succeed in lucky cases, which are mainly romantic relationships and perhaps friendships. For a lot of women – and this is especially true for working, lower, and lower-middle class, colored, and/or multicultural women – the option of leaving the relationship really isn’t there. For example, cutting ties with family members who need you isn’t a “suck it up and do it” kind of thing. Families rely heavily on mothers and daughters to complete tasks ranging everywhere from filing taxes and balancing the checkbook, to picking up and caring for younger siblings after school, to the strenuous task of planning meals for a diabetic in the family. Most of these families would fall apart without the women there to do what they do.

Indeed, statistics show that widowers are 30 % more likely to die than widows (Ferness, 2012). This is likely because without women to care for them, widowers suffer in both their emotional and physical health, and without anyone to maintain their social lives for them, they suffer with no support system. This also explains why widowers are three times more likely than widows to remarry after losing their spouse. (Isaacs, 2015) Men literally die without us there to care for them, because they don’t know how to take care of themselves.

A few things should be relatively clear by now: emotional labor is work that is necessary for maintaining human relationships and a functional life, it is work that is primarily performed by women for both themselves and others around them, and it is work that, if performed by women, is not acknowledged as work at all. [2] I’ve offered a handful of examples and a couple of statistics that show the extent to which men and families are reliant on women and on the emotional labor that they perform. If there were any doubts about it until now, it should be an easy, albeit unpleasant pill to swallow that we are aware of all of the daily labor that women perform, but we seldom acknowledge or consider it as work.

Mother’s Day, then, seems like the perfect holiday for someone like me. How could a feminist oppose a holiday devoted to celebrating some of the hardest working women on the planet? Without saying so, Mother’s Day seems to exclusively focus on the emotional labor of being a mother. Some Mother’s Day celebrations involve performing emotional labor for our mothers while we give them a break, such as preparing breakfast in bed. Other activities serve to finally acknowledge her labor, like writing her a heartfelt card confessing how much we appreciate her and all the little things that she does for us. Still, other activities relieve her of the emotional labor that otherwise would have been expected of her on this day, such as when we gift her a “day off” with something like a mani-pedi or a movie marathon.

I like Mother’s Day in that it focuses on women and honors the impossible task of being a mother. I don’t have a problem with any of these activities. Do treat your mom however she likes to be treated, because she probably deserves it. Do not, however, delude yourself into thinking that this one day of appreciation sufficiently makes up for an entire year (and lifetime) of invisible, unacknowledged, and likely unreciprocated labor.

I certainly have a problem with people who treat Mother’s Day as a one-off holiday. This is on some level a personal decision, and therefore the people making it are at fault and are to blame more so than the name of a particular day. But my problem with Mother’s Day first of all, is that in virtue of being one of the only holidays that acknowledges emotional labor, it attributes all of this kind of labor to mothers only, when in fact most women in general perform emotional labor. Where is their holiday? Moreover, since emotional labor is the responsibility of everyone, let’s stop gendering celebrations of it. Even if the U.S. officially recognized International Women’s Day, we would still end up celebrating emotional labor as part of being a woman. Wrong message. We love that you want to thank us for doing this stuff for you. But if you really want to show appreciation, start doing this stuff for yourself.

My second problem with Mother’s Day is that is allows us to believe that the appreciation that our mothers and other women deserve can be squeezed into one day. We think that because we have this designated day, then on other days it’s not important that we show any (or much) appreciation; we don’t need to help them or lessen their burden on any other day. In assigning ourselves this one day out of 365 to acknowledge, appreciate, and most importantly, reciprocate our mothers’ work, we tacitly absolve ourselves of what is actually a daily responsibility to not only our mothers, but likely all the women in our lives.

If you’re thinking, “This isn’t me, I appreciate my mom on a daily basis”, I’m not doubting that you do. I am doubting however that you even realized how much she does for you and others, and therefore I’m doubting that you’ve shown her the adequate level of appreciation and reciprocation that she deserves, since you probably didn’t have the full story beforehand. I’m also doubting that you realized that women who aren’t mothers perform similarly large and stressful amounts of emotional labor for friends and partners who stay silent about their appreciation, assuming that they aren’t an entitled asshole. Emotional labor deserves daily recognition in virtue of being performed daily. And sheer acknowledgement is only one step up the hill. An important one, but still only one step.

I suspect that part of the reason it’s convenient to hold Mother’s Day annually is because it takes effort, and is perhaps difficult, to show someone that you care about them. It takes more effort to show how much you care when you have more reasons to care and more love to give, because you have so much to thank her for, and so many ways of doing so. But if this emotional labor is so hard, and if our mothers and other women don’t get to take a break the other 364 days a year, then neither should we. Mother’s Day is the only day of the year that we can finally put some name or understanding to what exactly our mothers and other women do for us, daily. But now with the phrase “emotional labor”, we can identify and reciprocate this work year round—for any and all women who deserve it, not just our mothers.

So the next time you celebrate Mother’s Day and feel proud of yourself for sending your mom a fragrant bouquet of roses with a spa voucher strategically slipped in, do your mom one better and actually make a difference in her daily life: if there’s something you can and should be doing for yourself instead of having her do it for you – and there probably is – then don’t wait for Mother’s Day, own up and accept your own responsibility. The same goes for any girlfriend or partner. Educate your lazy little brother (or father!) about what emotional labor is, and tell him to get his act together because your mom (or you) deserves better. Heck, maybe it’s your sisters who managed to escape the load of emotional labor, in which case they could learn a thing or two also. Tell your mom that you appreciate it when she does your laundry for you. And then learn how to do your laundry yourself because you are a grown ass adult. Your mom is not a personal laundry-doer. If your girlfriend does any of this for you, you owe her a paycheck and also probably much better sex.

Perform more emotional labor for yourself so that your mother and the other women in your life can have their own lives. No, scratch that, perform emotional labor for yourself because that is what is expected of you as a human. But also, don’t disrespect your mom and the other women in your life by making your problems and your daily tasks their responsibility. Women have their own lives, too. If you find yourself performing copious amounts of emotional labor with no reward, I urge you to demand the acknowledgement and reciprocation that you deserve. Take note of who stays and who goes.

 

[1] There are of course women who do not perform emotional labor, and this would cause similar problems in homosexual relationships, but since women generally do perform emotional labor, as we are socialized to learn it and perform it, it’s more likely that this is an issue that applies to heterosexual couples and possibly homosexual male couples.

[2] What I mean by this, is that people will jump at the opportunity to acknowledge and praise men for doing the bare minimum, but offer nothing to women. This is because the task is expected of women but not of men, despite the task’s status as ordinary and non-gendered. For example, a father who braids his child’s hair or cleans his home is likely to be acknowledged and admired. A woman who does the same is a prop that fades into its rightful surrounding.

Boston Marriage: Historical (Ace) Lesbians

By Kylie McCuiston

I was first introduced to the term “Boston Marriage” in my first-year English class, Gender and Sexuality in Nineteenth Century Literature, when we were reading a short story titled “Two Friends” by Mary E Wilkins Freeman. It was a story about two women who lived together their entire lives independent of any male support. The two were clearly more than friends, but due to the constricting nature of the time period, their romance was only hinted at through veiled descriptions and the story ended with one of them dying (playing in, no doubt, to the “bury your gays” trope).

While this story sounds radical for the time period, it was common enough to merit a term for it. The term “Boston Marriage” derives from Henry James’ book The Bostonians, which was the first account that described this sort of phenomenon that was occurring. Usually the two women that lived together did so out of a mutual benefit, so that they could pool their assets together and live the lives they wanted to live without the limitation that would be placed on them if they were to enter in to a traditional marriage.

Though this term was in use during the nineteenth century, it was meant only to convey the fact that the women were living together, not necessarily that they were lovers, which is why this type of arrangement was accepted with little criticism. Looking back, historians can make conjectures as to whether some of these Boston Marriages were sexual or romantic in nature but we can never be certain. It would be remiss to dismiss them all as platonic however. While some were most likely sexual in nature, some were also simply romantic in nature and could be described as a form of asexuality back then.

Mary E Wilkins Freeman based most of her stories off of personal experiences and was herself in a Boston marriage with a woman named Mary Wales. The two lived together for almost two decades. Within this climate, Mary E Wilkins Freeman was able to write and publish freely and became a successful, independent author. Her disdain for traditional marriage is mirrored in another feminist short story of hers titled “A New England Nun” which tells about a woman who refuses to marry because she is content to live entirely independent for the rest of her life.

Whether or not the women in these Boston Marriages were lesbian or not, they at least demanded an early form of independence that we do not typically associate with the nineteenth century women. Many were independent writers and artists with their own flourishing careers and like Mary E Wilkins Freeman, made works that mirrored this independence.