The emotional labour that “the Other” is forced to do… #AbsolutionServicesSyndrome

It must be seriously exhausting being on the receiving end of patriarchy, white supremacy, classism etc. It must take up insane amounts of mental energy, dealing with the daily insults, microaggressions, threats to physical safety etc.

It’s what Toni Morrison says about distraction.-

“The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.”

It’s that notion of the “safety work” that women (and others) have to do all the damned time.

Where is this coming from?

Three places, I guess.

The most recent is seeing a tweet by someone I only know on Twitter. If she gives me permission to embed, I will.

Part of the tweet was

“And yes. None of what he said was an insult to me But I clearly pushed a lot of ” nice guy” buttons today”

Secondly, this put me in mind of something I wrote to some friends and colleagues about the work we are doing around a simple and embarrassingly minor change to the way things work in Manchester (I mean, it’s a climate emergency, and we are farting around with the existence of… a committee? Srsly? #senseofproportion), and a certain kind of person we encounter.

[redacted on legal advice] is beginning to really get on my tits.  I don’t quite mind so much the obvious villains, the ones who clearly don’t give a shit. It’s the ones who like to believe – and want you to agree – that they are somehow “on side” that give me the shits really.  I suppose it is because they are asking us to do their emotional labour for them, to shore up their crummy shitty cowardly selves, to help them think of themselves as more than oxygen-thieves and liars.

And this puts me in mind of what I used to call ASS – absolution services syndrome. To quote myself

Simply put – there are people who know we as a species are fucked (i.e. this is an emergency) but for reasons of temperament/career/mortgage/whatever will never push as hard as they need to to make real stuff happen.  There is always an upcoming meeting/taskforce/decision, and they want to keep their connections with Important People (usually council officers or exec members).  “I can do more to change the system from within [so please tell me I am a good person even when I show myself to be spineless but dress it up as something else – collude, please, collude]” etc etc. 
They know – on some level – that this is mostly cowardice/horseshit, and seek to have a semi-secret/supportive relationship with us, to convince themselves that they are good/bold/radical people.

It is exhausting trying to massage the egos/educate.frame things in ways that will be acceptable for who ought – with all their advantages – to be better. (and this post, btw, is mostly about ME. I know full well that when we point a finger at someone else, we point three back out ourselves. Projection always has been my go-to ego defence mechanism.)

I have zero real idea of how exhausting it must be, day-in, year-out. But I have had a tiny tiny taste of late, and wow…. I suppose I have to help not be a cause of emotional labouring, and to try, in my own small way, to share the burden.

See also

Hegel, Master Slave Dialectic.

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