I have recently read ‘The Mental Load: A Feminist Comic’ By Emma and I learned a lot! As I read each chapter, I took notes and today I reflected on them. I highly recommend this book to the women and men of your life.
What is this book about?
This review by Nancy O’Toole explains it well
The mental load is an intersectional feminist comic that uses simple illustrations to convey current issues. While the content goes beyond this, the main focus here is on the domestic. We already know about the imbalance in hours spent on activities such as cooking, cleaning, and child care, and how that negatively impacts women (especially those who work full time), but what about the impact of the mental load? The strain that comes from mentally balancing the dozens of seemingly small tasks in the household that men are, too often, blind to?
Why did I read this book?
As the review says above says “small tasks in the household that men are, too often, blind to” I wanted to know more about what those things were.
With that in mind, let me tell you about 3 things that prompted me to read this book once I saw it.
First : My Mom
After I got married, my mom would tell/ask me if I was doing my part in the house.
- I was not.
- … and honestly, I thought I was.
Second : Deciding to be Equal Partners
My wife and I listened to the audio book The Moment of Lift - by Melinda Gates
In it, Melinda talks about how she and Bill strive to be equals in their marriage and also in their foundation.
My wife and I thought this was a great idea!
We do not want one of us “wearing the pants” in our relationship.
We want to be equal partners.
Third : Understanding that which I did not even know
My wife and I take around 30 minutes every Sunday to have a marriage meeting.
The meeting name sounds very formal, but this is actually a very intimate moment of our lives where we reflect on the week that has passed.
It is composed of four sections where we get to appreciate each other, discuss chores, plan for good times, and talk about our problems and challenges.
One of the things we talked about was how to become more equal and hence how to split up chores more evenly.
There were some easy things that we could split, but there were also a couple of things that she did without really thinking about, but it nonetheless added to her Mental Load.
As we worked through these, I realized that she did so many things around the house that I was not even aware of.
I found out about marriage meetings via a podcast that my friend showed to me.
Here is the episode: Art of Manliness - Podcast #611: How a Weekly Marriage Meeting Can Strengthen Your Relationship
There is also a book about it:
Answering: Why did I want to read this book?
I want to be the best husband that I can be.
I want to be the best men that I can be.
I want to be a better ally to women.
There is too much inequality between men and women around so many parts of our society.
It is up to each and every one of us to learn and try to be better.
So what did I learn from the book?
You should read it and make your own conclusions.
The book is packed with very deep and important issues and yet it is very short.
If you are interested, here are the top five things that I want to highlight:
1 : “You Should Have Asked”
Often in a relationship, we may think that we are doing more than our partners.
That is when little fights start, one might say “why didn’t you put the dishes in the dishwasher?” … the other responds, “you should have asked”
and etc… the book goes into more examples.
So, try and understand what each of you does in the house.
Ask everyone to keep a list where they add the things they are doing around the house.
and then, once a week, review that list and start to divide them up more equally.
2 : “Oh wow, she is angry. Calm down” and “Did you see how these vandals destroyed the city?”
The second chapter of the book is called “Violence of the oppressed”.
It is about how fingers are usually pointed to the people being oppressed and not the oppressors.
For example, there was A LOT of news coverage on the destruction around BlackLivesMatter protests.
And yet, there was little talk about the inequality that black people in this country (and around the world) suffer. There was no coverage on how black people have this gigantic mental load about what they need to do to avoid being victims of police brutality
- dress well, drive nice cards, act calmly, speak well… the list goes on and on.
Another example is women at work (in tech, but I am sure in other places too), they cannot act angry or express their opinions in a stern way.
Some men in those environments see those behaviors as unfit for women, when on the other hand it is completely okay for men to act like that.
3 : Episiotomy
This is a practice done during childbirth that is brutal and not necessary, in most cases. Read more about it here:
4 : Hijabs
Chapter 4 in the book, “Show me that Bossom”, caught me by surprise.
It uses a clever story that changed my views on hijab.
I always viewed hijabs as a tool of men to oppress and control women.
So, of course, I never liked it.
However, now, I think differently. Here is what I think about hijabs:
If a woman wants to wear a hijab. It is their right to do so.
I won’t force them to wear or not to wear them.
It is their body and their belief.
They are in control of how and how much they want to show their bodies.
5 : “How was the Holiday?”
A woman takes her paid leave to take care of her newborn.
She is welcomed back with “How was the Holiday?”
Next time I hear someone saying “holidays” instead of “maternity leave” I am going to call them out.
Taking care of a newborn is not a holiday.
Women who have just given birth go through so much.
Their body needs to heal AND they are taking care of their baby.
- I got a puppy last year and woooooooow, I hear a newborn baby is soooo much more work than puppies.
- I have since then a deeper appreciation for my parents and mad respect to single parents.
Go read this book. If you have men and women that you care about in your life, show them this book.