Like many Yale students, I lead a busy life. My time is full of homework, emails and meetings. But the homework, emails and meetings I deal with are not just my own: To abuse a term, I work a “second shift” managing those things for the men in my life.
Many Yale men, by now, are familiar with the concept of “emotional labor.” Male friends rarely expect me to discuss their relationships with them for hours on end, and left-leaning men I’m close with almost never talk to me about their feelings at length without ironically asking if they’re a “softboy.” I’m lucky not to do unreciprocated emotional work for my friends — most Yale women can’t say the same. But in all the discussion of and worry over emotional labor, men have lost sight of the “real” labor they expect women to do.
The collective hours Yale women spend managing men’s lives — doing work that, in another context, could go on a resume as administrative assistant experience — could probably add up to taking another class. In a given week, I help men remember what the homework is and when it’s due. I remind men to attend meetings they scheduled themselves, set up chairs for programs I no longer run and always get asked to take notes in meetings.
The load of these individually tiny tasks is death by a thousand cuts. There’s not a good way to tell a male friend to look up the homework himself on Canvas instead of texting him back when he asks what it is. I once snapped at a man who constantly asks me what a regular meeting we had was and was told not to “go into hysterics.” Who is so selfish that she will not tell a friend a simple piece of information? At this point, though, I’ve spent hours of my life passing on easily accessible information to this man.
If, stuck in this trap, a woman performs these tiny tasks, it becomes increasingly harder to say no. A friend describes a freshman counselor who took a language class with her in the fall of her first year who would text her every week to ask what the homework was. Over time, she says, she began to feel responsible for keeping him up to date, even explaining assignments to him. After completing a term leading a student organization last semester, I found myself still arranging chairs in advance of a weekly event for months after I was supposed to have dropped that responsibility. The men who had replaced me weren’t arriving on time to set up, and it was easier to schlep the chairs than to tell them off.
A woman editor of a prominent Yale publication describes being the only one to learn the content management program when she began her role, and then teaching it (even reteaching it) to her male colleagues. She added that whenever there’s an administrative task to be done, like emailing photographers, setting up interviews, filling out spreadsheets or putting in dummy text for layout, she must either do it herself or email her co-editors multiple times before they’ll do it.
In addition to all these tasks, there are the notes. If I or another woman isn’t taking notes in a meeting, it’s because I said: “Hey, women are always taking notes, how about someone else does it this time?” When someone in a friend group distributes lecture notes, how often is it a man? This is such an obviously sexist trope that we sometimes can’t believe it happens. But spend a week bouncing through Yale classes and meetings and it becomes shockingly evident.
The trope that enables this constant drag on women’s time and energy is that we are more organized. But so what? Are men somehow less able to look up an assignment on Canvas? Are men universally late to class? The answer is no, and the solution is clear. Look up your own homework. If you can show up to a seminar on time, you can show up on time to set up for an event.
I’ve decided to call this phenomenon “deleguyting,” as in “stop deleguyting the responsibility for your academic and social commitments to me.” No man is exempt. These anecdotes are about some of the most “progressive” Yale men, friends I talk to regularly about gender and who I genuinely know are working against sexism. They just don’t see the hidden work women do to keep their lives moving smoothly — they have never been asked to, and it’s time to start.
Men: Next time you want to ask a woman what time your meeting is, just check GCal. Then walk into that meeting and offer to take notes without being asked. We have better things to do.
Avigayil Halpern is a sophomore in Silliman College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .