The Potato Metaphor for Emotional Labor
Kate McCombs
7167

This is a great overview about emotional labour and I really like this metaphor, but it’s really disappointing to me when authors use socialization for their basis of how gender works when it comes to emotional labour. Trans women, trans femmes, and other trans people assigned male at birth are not “socialized” as male and in fact are asked to shoulder a TON of emotional labour in their day to day lives — not only in their intimate partner relationships, but also in regards to people asking them to deal with the emotional labour of helping them process their feelings about that person’s trans identity. They’ve got to bring their baked potatoes all ready to go before even starting the conversation and just expect that that will be on them for most of their relationships with these communities or institutions. They spend their interactions with new people waiting for the potatoes to come up and have better already preheated that oven, otherwise it could lead to a conflict that will always disadvantage the trans women or trans femme in question.

I don’t think its as simple as saying it’s about what gender one was “socialized” as, even as just a general principle, because by so doing you’re basically grouping trans women in with men and trans men in with women with regards to this issue, and I just don’t think that makes sense in the slightest.

The expected level of emotional labour extends to a lot of people who come from marginalized communities in various ways — for example, lots of black women and other women of colour have written about the extra emotional labour expected from them as specifically racialized women and how that includes being expected to provide emotional labour to white women in their day to day lives.

Maybe instead of making it about “socialization” it could be about how some groups of people are expected to provide more emotional labour than others — not because they are socialized that way, but because they belong to a group that is seen as outside the “norm” of cis white able bodied maleness and so they are forced to constantly bake their potatoes in order to make themselves more relatable and likeable to that percieved norm.

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