On The Mental Load
Updated: Nov 14, 2019
Last week, I wrote about wanting to reorient the aims and outlook of The WW Club. A lot has changed in recent years, and I want this platform to address a cultural climate that includes both Trump and #MeToo, reflect important shifts in the public discussion around gender, and make room for some good old-fashioned personal growth.
I also referenced the rapid expansion of the women’s professional empowerment space in the four years since I launched The WW Club - an explosion of platforms, books, initiatives, websites, podcasts, and networking events, catering to Millennial women and their specific career needs.
This is a movement to which I've obviously devoted a substantial amount of energy, and I consider it some of the best-spent time of my working life. But over the last year I've been grappling with ways in which - consciously or not - some aspects of this movement perpetuate problematic power structures. The voices it excludes. The uneasy commodification of its principles at the hands of VC-funded startups and corporate brands. Etc.
A couple of weeks ago, I read a piece on the new Marie Kondo series on Netflix. It's a show about cleaning out your closet that's also a show about women’s invisible labour, argues the author, in that it highlights the many hours of unpaid 'project management' women undertake in the household, in addition to chores themselves. (Not to mention parenting. And, y'know, our actual jobs.)
Women are so used to figuring out the logistics and clean-up of the domestic sphere - even when we didn't make the damn mess in the first place!! - that it's no wonder we've unquestioningly taken on this mantle at work. We got lumped with sexist hiring policies, workplace harassment, and unequal pay, and now it’s also our job to devise and institute the necessary reforms? Seems like a lot of work.
The longer I spend in the *women’s professional empowerment space* (sidenote: if anyone has a catchier term for this, please do let me know) the more I've come to believe that the job of changing workplace culture requires a new division of labour in itself. I still retain hope that there are men out there – some of whom may be reading this. Hi guys! - who want to help do this work. There are many others who need to be guided, educated, and mandated into doing it anyway.
Women working together to help other women is a beautiful and magical thing, but we've been tackling this to-do list alone for too long.
Time to delegate.
READ the Vice piece about 'Tidying Up with Marie Kondo' that I reference above. Author Nicole Clark observes that: "Things are the dominion of women, and the place where these things are stored are the dominion of women too. Women store things, organize things, clean things, order things, schedule things. We not only do these chores, we keep a mental bank of what, how, and when these chores need to be done."
CHECK OUT 'The Mental Load - You Should've Asked' by French comic Emma, which succinctly illustrates all the above.
FOR A LIGHTER TAKE ON THE MARIE KONDO PHENOMENON: Taffy Brodesser-Akner's profile of Kondo for The New York Times is brilliant (like everything she writes) and also *L-O-L* hilarious (like everything she writes).