Fed Up book review

Fed Up. Why do women subconsciously take on the emotional labour of the home? Is it years of deep-seated patriarchy? Or do we chose to be in control?

In 2017 Gemma Hartley wrote an article in Harper’s Bazaar which quickly went viral. ‘Women Aren’t Nags – We’re Just Fed Up’ was all about emotional labour, which was a new term for me to hear. It’s basically all the unpaid, unnoticed work completed by women to keep the home running smoothly and everyone happy and content.

My first reaction to Fed Up, the book borne by the Harper’s Bazaar article was “This is not relevant to me, I’m not a working mum with chores piling up and screaming kids in my ear.” But, just as I thought about that and thought Fed Up wasn’t relevant to me I thought again about my own life. I automatically order the monthly groceries, book appointments, arrange dinners and calendars.  The cat needs to go to the vet? I’m the one booking that in. We need a new couch? I make it happen. Going to a wedding? I ensure we have an appropriate gift and sorted dress code acceptable outfits.

Duffy’s Thoughts On Fed Up

My mum ran the quotes and invoicing for my Dad’s business for years, all unpaid and this was done when us kids were fed and bathed or in bed. The females in my friendship circles and family are the organisers for trips and lunches and days out. Why do we do it all? Well, my partner isn’t a complete lazy slob, he does all the kitchen housework, takes out the trash and separates the recycling without asking, and if the cats shed fur, he’s first to the hoover. But, when it comes to life admin, I’m definitely the majority worker.

Gemma Hartley refers to her Harper’s Bazaar article frequently in Fed Up and discusses the reasons we take on the emotional labour, and also the benefits that come with taking on the mental load. Would you really trust your partner to get the right gift for your best friends wedding? Or, would you prefer to have the control and the accolade of the thank you?

I found Fed Up quite an interesting book at the outset because I had never considered all the extra I do, where the balance lies and how to address that. But, after I while I felt it was a little repetitive and felt a little down seeing the words ’emotional labour’ spattered across the pages in paragraph after paragraph. The examples are also squarely based on traditional family setups and the book is more of a personal memoir than any real research and psychology. But, today’s families have blended families, same-sex couples and single fathers doing the best every day and those people have the same ‘life load’. I would have enjoyed exploring these dynamics too.

An interesting topic, but Fed Up didn’t keep me until the last page as it began to feel a little repetitive. Maybe I don’t feel the burden as much as others, which makes me pretty lucky!

Fed Up Book Blurb

From Gemma Hartley, the journalist who ignited a national conversation on emotional labour, comes Fed Up, a bold dive into the unpaid, invisible work women have shouldered for too long—and an impassioned vision for creating a better future for us all.

Day in, day out, women anticipate and manage the needs of others. In relationships, we initiate the hard conversations. At home, we shoulder the mental load required to keep our households running. At work, we moderate our tone, explaining patiently and speaking softly. In the world, we step gingerly to keep ourselves safe. We do this largely invisible, draining work whether we want to or not—and we never clock out. No wonder women everywhere are overtaxed, exhausted, and simply fed up.

In her ultra-viral article “Women Aren’t Nags—We’re Just Fed Up,” shared by millions of readers, Gemma Hartley gave a much-needed voice to the frustration and anger experienced by countless women. Now, in Fed Up, Hartley expands outward from the everyday frustrations of performing thankless emotional labour to illuminate how the expectation to do this work in all arenas—private and public—fuels gender inequality, limits our opportunities, steals our time and adversely affects the quality of our lives.

More than just name the problem, though, Hartley teases apart the cultural messaging that has led us here and asks how we can shift the load. Rejecting easy solutions that don’t ultimately move the needle, Hartley offers a nuanced, insightful guide to striking real balance, for a true partnership in every aspect of our lives. Reframing emotional labour not as a problem to be overcome, but as genderless virtue men and women can all learn to channel in our quest to make a better, more egalitarian world, Fed Up is surprising, intelligent, and empathetic essential reading for every woman who has had enough with feeling fed up.

Published by Hachette RRP $29.99

Fed UP