Entries by Dr. Harriet Fraad (37)


Capitalism and Loneliness: Why Pornography Is a Multibillion-Dollar Industry

First published in Truthout By Tess Fraad Wolff and Harriet Fraad December 2011.

Massive social changes in the US labor force and in commerce have transformed the economy and powerfully affected personal relationships. Since 1970, we have changed from being a society of people connected in groups of every kind to a society of people who are too often disconnected, detached and alienated from one another.

One is the loneliest number, and in their personal lives, Americans are increasingly alone.

What Has Happened to Us? 

In the 1970s, the American dream of 150 years duration ground to a halt. From 1820 to 1970, every US generation did better than the one that preceded it. In the 1970s, computers began to replace millions of US jobs. International communication systems became so sophisticated that factories could be moved overseas, allowing the livelihoods of more millions of Americans to be outsourced. Civil rights and feminist gains had given women and minorities access to a depleted job market. Militant left trade union movements or political parties were not there to protest. Wages flattened. Profits rose with productivity and the share distributed to the top rose, rather than being distributed in wages. Wealthy banks issued credit cards with high interest rates that allowed them to make even more money on funds formerly paid out as salaries.

Men were no longer paid a family wage. Families suffered. Women poured into the labor force to make up for lost male wages. Until this point, most women's work was primarily labor in the home: creating domestic order and cleanliness, performing childcare, and providing social and emotional services for the family. After the 1970s, the majority of women worked outside of the home as well as within it. Now, practically all women work outside the home, currently constituting almost half of the labor force.

Before the movements for racial and gender equality, the best jobs were reserved for white males who were an overwhelming majority. Within our racist and sexist labor force, white men had what ultimately amounted to two wage bonuses: one for being white and another for being male. Beginning in the 1970s, it was no longer necessary to give financial bonuses to white men. Indeed, it was not necessary to pay higher wages to any workers in the US labor force. Workers' salaries flattened even as they increased their efficiency. This meant that ever more profit was made and accumulated at the top.

American white men lost a good deal of the male hegemony that accompanied steady jobs and wages that could support a family. When millions of manufacturing jobs were outsourced, our economy became a service economy. Neither the greater physical strength nor the higher levels of aggression associated with males are particularly welcome in a service economy. Heterosexual personal relationships that had developed on the basis of a male provider income could not hold. Those gendered roles were sexist and limiting. However, they could have been transformed politically without economically and psychologically traumatizing the American people.

New Roles

US women adjusted to new roles in the marketplace. Unfortunately, men did not make comparable changes. They held on to the privileges that came with men's provider roles and women's full-time service in the household. The average unemployed man currently does less housework than his fully employed wife. Many men now want extra domestic, sexual and emotional services to compensate them for the emasculation they experience when they lose provider jobs and salaries. There is conflict in the household on a whole new level. Our divorce rate has become the highest in the world. Unfortunately, men and women did not mobilize to force the government to provide free or subsidized childcare, eldercare or any other direly necessary social services to compensate for women's "second shift" at home.

In 2008, the recession struck, plunging millions of Americans into precarity and loss. Male jobs were hit hardest. Most of the jobs lost were in disproportionately stereotypically male fields such as construction, heavy machinery, finance and aggressive big-ticket sales. Seventy-five percent of the more than 5 million jobs lost in our recession have been traditionally men's jobs.

Men have fallen behind. Women's earnings grew 44 percent from 1970 to 2007, compared with 6 percent growth for men. Women now occupy nearly half of the nation's jobs, more than half of management positions and most of the seats in higher education.

Men's traditional roles in both the marketplace and the home are becoming obsolete. Only two of the 15 most rapidly increasing US jobs are usually male jobs: janitor and computer engineer. All the rest of the job-growth areas are in traditionally women's jobs in social services of all kinds. Social service jobs cannot be outsourced. Qualities traditionally associated with women, such as the abilities to nurture, cooperate and socially connect, are those most often required in America's new service economy.

Women have responded to men's financial incapacity and refusal to share equally in housework and childcare. Women can no longer bear the extra work in caring for men who can neither support them nor compensate for women's quadruple shifts in domestic labor, emotional labor, childcare and jobs outside of the home. US women increasingly refuse to marry men who cannot provide economic support and still want full personal services. Women currently initiate most US divorces and, increasingly, refuse to marry in the first place. Women can now afford to live in single households, and do. The majority of people of prime marriage and childbearing age (18-34 years old) remain unmarried and live alone.

These changes have drastically altered the pattern of intimate relationships. Shifts in gender roles and employment required women to adjust by taking on career and job responsibilities and living alone, or alone with children. Most men have not adjusted. Their former workforce and gender roles allowed men to grow accustomed to outsourcing their emotional needs and life maintenance activities to women, who are now far less available.

American women had a vital feminist movement for support. US men had and have no social, political or labor movement to explore what they missed by avoiding tasks in maintaining life or emotional intimate personal connections outside of sex. Single women continue to maintain close emotional connections with their women friends and children. Men have become increasingly emotionally disconnected and lonely. They respond to capitalist ads selling market-based solutions to their felt loss of manliness. They buy testosterone cream to enhance the sense of manhood that changed social conditions erode for them. Testosterone products are one of the biggest growth areas for the pharmaceutical industry. Heterosexual men have now become afraid of love relationships in which the rules have changed. Often, those heterosexual relationships were the only emotionally intimacy men had. They do not know how to function as equal partners, and they often fear learning. Heterosexual women, too, may be afraid, because they also have no guidance in maintaining an intimate relationship between equals. They fear losing their autonomy.

The Position of Men

Lost and lonely men may work on transforming their lives through 12-step programs or therapies. However, needing and reaching out for help has traditionally been associated with femininity, not masculinity. There are four refuges left for men who cling to male hegemony and stereotyped masculinity. They are: the National Rifle Association (NRA) and gun culture; the military; the Christian right; and pornography. Of these four misogynist refuges, pornography is the most prevalent, profitable and expanding. The heterosexual Internet pornography industry has exploited heterosexual men's loneliness and contributed to changing the face of the most intimate connections.

Possibilities for meaningful and egalitarian heterosexual personal relationships now seem bleak. Women's current disappointment with men and men's increasing withdrawal from authentic communication and relationships are now reflected in popular culture. Trendy films like "Knocked Up" have birthed a new genre. In "Knocked Up," the female lead has a good job. She is attractive and professional-looking, while the male lead lives with a handful of unemployed, slovenly, male roommates who spend the majority of their time playing video games, smoking pot and watching pornography in a filthy apartment covered in pizza boxes and overall inertia. Their biggest aspiration, which remains to be accomplished, is launching their own pornography site.

A New York Times article describing two state-of-the-art sitcoms is called "Downsized and Downtrodden, Men are the New Women on TV."

Images of high-functioning women and slacker-style, adolescent men have also come up in a study conducted by one of this article's co-authors, Tess Fraad Wolff. Fraad-Wolff interviewed 48 heterosexual women of four different races and socioeconomic groups, ranging in age from 22-40 years old. She asked questions that concerned women's emotional and sexual experiences during the dating process. An overwhelming majority, 46 of the 48 women interviewed, responded with descriptions of the problems below.

  1. Men often refuse to plan ahead and can only accept spur-of the-moment arrangements.
  2. Men show fears of commitment after first dates by failing to make or attend second dates. They reschedule and cancel frequently.
  3. Too many men fail to bring sufficient funds to even share the cost of possible activities on dates.
  4. Men introduce sex and sexually related material into conversations instantly and inappropriately, yet many cannot perform.

The last complaints, about inserting sexual material into the most initial of conversations, may relate to an issue that powerfully impacts relationships and illustrates a profound connection between capitalism and loneliness. It is the mainstreaming of heterosexual pornography.

The Impact of Pornography

Pornography precedes capitalism. However, capitalists have now marketed pornography on a whole new level. Pornography has now become a pastime for billions of men and an addiction for millions. Forty million adults in the United States regularly visit pornography sites. Of those 40 million, 87 percent are men.

Capitalism and Pornography

The explosion of heterosexual Internet pornography in the early 90s yielded huge profits. Pornography is a capitalist dream machine. The industry has larger revenues than Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, Apple and Netflix combined. By 2006, worldwide pornography revenues ballooned to $97.06 billion.

Because of pornography's extreme profitability, its producers strive to capture a greater market share. They produce more violent pornography with ever younger women and more degrading and assaultive acts. Capitalism values profit above all, thus de-prioritizing consideration for equal rights, morality or damage to personal relationships.

How do the mainstreaming of pornography and the increasing numbers of viewers and addicts affect relationships?

Sexual connection can motivate people to find and maintain relationships. Heterosexual Internet pornography has dramatically altered images of sexuality. Heterosexual US men are experiencing increasing difficulty performing sexually, from maintaining erections, to focusing on partners during sex, to having orgasms at all. Many men have grown so accustomed to the breakneck pace with which pornography offers hundreds of images that they can no longer maintain arousal or concentration during the comparatively slow interactive process of actual sex. Additionally, many viewers have unconsciously associated anonymity with arousal, resulting in a failure to either engage in or appreciate the intimacy that often accompanies real sex. Men in record numbers report being unable to complete sexual acts that involve another live person. A recent University of Kansas study found that 25 percent of college-age men said they'd faked orgasms with women because they could not have orgasms without pornography.

Why Is Pornography Addictive?

The act of watching pornography involves bonding between the brain and the pornographic images and acts depicted. This neural bonding process entails the immediate mental imitation that occurs when people watch representations of any behavior, particularly behavior that possesses arousing qualities. The chemicals released from the firing of neurotransmitters create pleasurable sensations. Viewers want to get more of these sensations. Viewers are all potential addicts because they can not only achieve orgasm with pornography, but potentially develop a neurological attachment to it. They often do not realize the ways in which their relationships with pornography have begun to replace those with one another.

Many men reject actual sex in favor of the synthetic version even when they have partners with whom the opportunities for sex are present. They turn off to the connectedness and intimacy that actual sex can offer. They retreat into pornography to escape from the challenge of changed and challenging relationships with women. Many avoid even trying to form a relationship in favor of a seemingly safe, isolated, anonymous bond with artificial images on computer screens. Although the fraction of women who view and are addicted to pornography mainly do not cite decreased desire to experience real sex with partners, they do share inabilities to masturbate or orgasm without pornography or pornographic images. Initially, larger numbers of women reported feeling perpetually upset and sexually rejected by their male partners. Men, too, have now grown disturbed by their increasing sexual dysfunction and reliance on pornography.

Immersion in pornography is both a cause and a result of the bleak loneliness of trying to relate in a profit-driven America with an altered gender landscape. Pornography provides a lucrative market that sells its wares to mask heterosexual men's fear of changed gender expectations. The way in which capitalism and loneliness feed one another is present as rising numbers of men and women forego countless opportunities for intimacy in favor of the experience of sitting alone with manufactured, profit-driven images that often contain polarizing and divisive messages about gender relationships and sexuality. They select solitary, purchased experiences over mutual ones - even in sexual acts that are, by their very nature and description, about merging, physically, psychologically, symbolically and perhaps spiritually.

The hegemonic position of heterosexual males has been destroyed as the relentless capitalist search for profit eliminated and outsourced jobs and lowered wages. Men and women might have reached a desired mutual respect and equality without the capitalist, profit-driven destruction of our economic and personal lives. There are non-capitalist ways, such as uniting together to force the United States  government to provide services that permit women and men to work together as equals outside and inside of the home. The destruction of the US economy left women with the burden of doing it alone and men listless, dispossessed, dysfunctional and lonely. The marketing of pornography offered a refuge from the wreckage that capitalism helped to create.

We must now face the eerie trumping of profit over shared experience. Capitalism has polluted the experience of reciprocal connection in our very bedrooms and bodies. The failure of capitalism to provide sufficient jobs, possibilities for prosperity, decent wages and social services has led masses to grab at lonely pseudosolutions that ultimately worsen the quality of life. Pornography is one of them.

Emerging From Capitalism and Loneliness

How can we emerge from this epidemic of personal isolation and loneliness? How can we connect as equals to change these things? The hope of reaching one another is beginning to mobilize the 99 percent of Americans dispossessed and formerly isolated in capitalist America. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and straight men and women of all races and ethnicities are beginning to affirm that we belong to the 99 percent and can begin to build a movement together as equals. It is happening. Occupy movements are spreading across America and flourishing in spite of police brutality and repression.

The 99 percent movement is characterized by democratic decisionmaking, respect, transparency, and race and gender equality. Together, people strive to end rule by and for the 1 percent of profiteers who have steered America into economic and emotional destitution. Occupy movements provide possibilities for better lives with opportunity and connection for all. They are our hope.


Hope is here with the OWS movement

First published in Tikkun Daily, December 2011.

Occupy Wall street has inspired a wild level of creativity which comes from hope. Hope is so badly needed in America. For over 20 years, we have been passively enduring capitalist abuse and blaming ourselves for our suffering. Antidepressant pill use has increased 400% in the past 20 years during which the 99% sink into poverty, and precarity.

People have been savaging the most helpless of Americans, their children. Over the past ten years, 20,000 children have been killed by their families.

I believe that there can now be a change as people stop blaming themselves and their helpless dependents and start building a better America. I am including three examples of our creativity so that others can share my hope for OWS creativity and real change all over America.

Find marvelous posters at http://occuprint.org/

Hear an original song on this video

Here is another example of the creativity that hope has engendered. It is a magnificent afiirmation in our connection to each other because, as the video affirms, “We are the 99%”.




From the Arab Spring to the Wall Street Fall

First published in Tikkun Daily, October 2011.

Today was another triumph for Occupy Wall Street. It was so crowded with supporters and media at 5:00 a.m. and it was also immaculate so the excuse that it must be vacated for cleaning failed. The cops that began with batons raised and ready could not proceed.

This is a movement that captures America’s reality. Occupy Wall Street has no stated platform because particular measures passed within a corrupt system will be part of that corruption. The very words of democracy are corrupted in the mouths of our government. This powerful film emerges from occupy Wall Street and captures that truth.

See UTube video.


Lessons From Dominique Strauss Kahn

First published in Tikkun Daily, July 2011.

The case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a camera’s lens giving us a sharply focused picture of American justice.

We begin with the circumstances and the facts. I cite only corroborated information. Dominique Strauss Kahn was staying alone at the Sofitel, a luxury hotel in New York City. He was then the chairman of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He resigned because of the scandal I describe. The IMF decides whether and how to give desperate nations the economic aid they want in order to survive. The IMF is known for the conditions of “austerity”, i.e., economic suffering, it imposes on its debtor nations. Strauss-Kahn was in a suite. The price for such a suite at the Sofitel is $3,000 per night. No austerity for him.

A Guinean cleaning lady emerged from Strauss-Kahn’s suite crying. She had bruises on her neck and breasts. She reported to other maids that Strauss-Kahn had grabbed her breasts, thrown her on the floor and forced oral sex on her. Strauss-Kahn denied it.

Bail and Bond

Strauss-Kahn is photographed in his rumpled expensive suit as he did the “perp walk” to a police car off to Rikers Island.

Within days his wife, Anne Sinclair, arrived from France with over a million dollars to assure the bondsman a return of the six million dollars needed for Strauss-Kahn’s bail bond and his release. You may notice that his case is now looking, shall we say, atypical.

Living conditions during incarceration

Strauss-Kahnwas on route to the airport approaching a waiting taxi when apprehended. He was en route to France. He was deemed a flight risk. Therefore, Strauss-Kahn was “incarcerated” after his release on a six million dollar bail bond. He was constrained by the usual rules for risky prisoners released on bail. He was relegated to his site of incarceration. His movements were monitored electronically. Armed guards and cameras watched him around the clock. He was allowed out for court, doctor’s visits and religious services. Prosecutors had to be notified at least six hours before he went anywhere, and he could not be out between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Under his terms of house arrest, he could receive up to four visitors at a time besides family.

That is where his terms of incarceration stop being typical. His security was managed by Stroz Friedberg. Strauss-Kahn’s security agreement cost him about $200,000, a sum he was able to pay.

The site of his incarceration was also rather unusual. He moved into a temporary space in an expensive high-rise apartment in Manhattan. The wealthy fellow residents did not want the disturbance of police and cameramen. Strauss-Kahn therefore moved into a, four-bedroom brick town house in Tribeca, an elegant Manhattan neighborhood. To ease his “imprisonment”, he had a home theater, gym, waterfall showers, a fireplace and renovations featuring the “finest materials and craftsmanship. This is the kind of imprisonment that America’s approximately 700 million homeless might envy. Strauss-Kahn is renting the red brick town house for $50,000 a month. Its cost on our suffering housing market, is fourteen million dollars.
Here it is important to contrast the terms of Strauss-Kahn’s incarceration with that of the millions of Americans rotting in jail while they await trial. They are imprisoned because they could not afford bail or bond money.

Within article 40 of our Constitution, Strauss-Kahn is entitled to “equality before the law”, just as well we all are. That is where the similarity between him and most of us ends.

Fortunately for Dominique Strauss-Kahn the vast money he had at his disposal allowed him and his defense to rely on Guidepost Solutions detective agency, in addition to his top-flight, expensive legal defense team.
According to the New York Times, Guidepost Solutions’ directors include a former head of the criminal division at the New York prosecutor’s office, a former head of security at IT giant IBM, and a former federal prosecutor who has worked closely with the US Secret Service. This service cost him between $700 and $1500 an hour for the various services that Guidepost Solutions provided.

The investigators were hired to uncover any elements that could discredit the alleged victim. They rummaged through the young woman’s entire history to find the slightest detail that could discredit her. The victim’s dealings with authorities – no matter how inconsequential – were put under the microscope. That scrutiny later paid off. Forensic crime scene reports were closely scrutinized. Experts were called upon to give their own conclusions on the evidence and the accuracy of the analyses. Guidepost has a special department with DNA experts.

Strauss-Kahn’s expensive team is now triumphant. They won! The hotel maid who had Strauss-Kahn’s DNA on her clothing, and bruises, is now vilified in the press (examples here and here). Strauss-Kahn is now free. He can shift his focus and money to fighting against a French accuser who also claims attempted rape. Although no one knows what happened, we can all imagine that if poor and, or corrupt people in Africa or anywhere else are offered money for condemning accusations, those accusations will be made. Strauss-Kahn’s staff did the job for which they were so well paid.


Dominique Strauss-Kahn certainly had a right to equality before the law as did the victim. We all enjoy the same rights and responsibilities. Do we all have the right to access equal resources to prove our innocence? The right to equality before the law seems to apply just as our universal law that no one is allowed to live under American bridges. Who will be tempted to violate that law and live outdoors under an American bridge? Guess?

We will never know what happened between Strauss-Kahn and the Guinean maid cleaning his Sofitel suite. What we will know is how very relevant money can be to our Constitutional right to “equality before the law.” We can also learn another important lesson: when money talks, the voices of justice and equality are reduced to a whisper.


The Pursuit of Happiness: 2011

First published in Tikkun June 2011.

This article was written with help from Gretchen Van Dyck.

The founding mothers of the Women’s Liberation Movement were socialists. We were activists who came from committees against the war in Vietnam. We believed that since we were at the bottom of the wage scale, if we demanded an equal chance for all women, we would rise and bring everyone with us to create an America with full equality for all. Instead, we helped to create near equality for women within a system of ever greater class inequality.

A new kind of movement is clearly needed to re-energize our struggles for equality and for a society that values the happiness of all over the power or profits of a few.

I was inspired to write this article after some sensible young activists formed a renewed socialist party in New York City and then asked for my ideas about feminism. In the pages that follow, I will do my best to analyze why the Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1960s and ’70s lost its vitality, to envision a path out of passivity and toward mass political engagement, and to sketch out what might be an appropriate feminist platform for 2011.

I did not conceive of this platform alone. After I wrote an initial version of my ideas, I sent them to a brilliant political friend with many years of political experience. My friend and I then consulted with Gretchen Van Dyck, a wise twenty-three-year-old feminist from the New York Socialist Party. Together we crafted the Platform for the Pursuit of Happiness that appears at the end of this article.

Why the Feminist Movement of the 1960s Lost Its Vitality

I became a feminist in 1968 when we began what we then called the Women’s Liberation Movement. The America of 1968 was starkly different from the one that young people now confront. Unemployment was about 3 percent. Job opportunities for white men were omnipresent. White men were paid a family wage whether they had a family or not. Jobs for women were available, albeit at lower wages and in fewer sectors. Men of all colors earned more than women did. Education guaranteed a job, even though a lesser one for women or people of color. The United States and the U.S. dollar were the kings of the world. In that prosperous America, women were paid fifty-nine cents of every dollar of men’s pay, even when women supported their families alone or worked side by side with men on the same job. That was the historical context of the feminist movement of 1968 to the late 1970s, which later lost its vitality through a combination of forces within itself and a transformation in the U.S. economy.

One of the women’s movement’s largest mistakes was its failure to maintain its original insistence on class justice as well as gender justice. Whatever class consciousness our movement had was usurped by successful organizing under the clever leadership of the CIA operative Gloria Steinem (for the most recent documentation of this, read Charles Trueheart’s Bloomberg article, “What Gloria Steinem and Henry Kissinger Have in Common: CIA Pay” and The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America by Hugh Wilford). Many were and still are shocked to learn of Steinem’s CIA connections. They have been kept from wide publication until recently and of course they were never reported on television. These facts were first unearthed in Ramparts magazine in March 1967, as part of a revelation of the CIA’s role in international youth festivals (“Who Paid the Piper”). They were followed by later revelations in The Village Voice in 1979, which exposed Steinem’s particular role within the CIA and the Women’s Liberation Movement (“Inside the CIA with Gloria Steinem” by Nancy Borman, May 21, 1979). Steinem’s voice was never the only voice in the feminist movement. However, her rich funding and expertise combined with our naïveté to blunt the impact of class awareness and power for the mass of U.S. women.

The mainstream feminist movement thus became a movement for gender equality within our current increasingly unequal America. It lost its mass base and class dimension. It devolved into separate issue projects of importance to the female gender, such as groups for abortion rights (for those who can pay for abortions), and legislation to help women, particularly those with education, to enter previously male professions. Three-quarters of working women, particularly uneducated women, still work in pink-collar jobs.

Larger women’s groups such as the National Organization for Women (NOW) worked to pass legislation protective of women. They lobbied for pro-female legislation within our highly unrepresentative two-capitalist-party system. The feminist movement became a series of projects working for equality with men. We achieved near equality for women within the American system of gross inequality. We lost our vision of a just, equitable society for all people.

We made another serious mistake. We understandably wanted to be included in the valued, rewarded, economically powerful areas of life from which we were excluded. We wanted jobs; careers; economic independence; and intellectual, social, and political power. We wanted to be in the sectors that are rewarded, recognized, and funded in American culture. Of course, those are worthy goals.

However, we shared society’s devaluation of the knowledge and wisdom learned from sustaining vulnerable lives, maintaining the conditions for life, and performing emotional labor, i.e., caring for people. Those powerful, life-affirming areas of knowledge were unspecified, unexplored, and largely devalued then, as they are today.

Emotional Labor: Undervalued and Undercompensated

The concept of emotional labor got its first mention in 1983 in Arlie Hochschild’s book, The Managed Heart. Even though it is crucial to the survival of infants and a basic component of humanity, it is still scarcely mentioned, much less explored outside of Hochschild’s work, my work, and the work of Pam Smith and her group from the UK, who explore emotional labor in the field of nursing. Smith is joined by Catherine Theodosius in the U.K., working in nursing. Their books are unavailable in the United States.

Emotional labor is the act of expressing sensitivity to another person’s needs and trying, in a given moment or situation or over time, to respond to those needs. It’s one of the primary ways that we express love and concern for a parent, child, lover, spouse, friend, or co-worker. On the street, emotional labor is the polite assistance we give to a stranger who’s seeking directions. Even though all human beings are often called upon to “be sensitive,” emotional labor has traditionally been associated with femininity and expected of women in their presumably “natural” roles as mothers, wives, keepers of the home, nurses, and caregivers. Historically, emotional labor was hardly conceived of or noticed, much less valued, because it was considered “women’s work.”

So what does emotional labor in action look like?

A perceptive parent senses, in one instance, that her/his infant needs to be held, rocked and cooed to; or in another instance the parent senses that the baby is over-stimulated and just needs to be held quietly, without interaction.  Emotional labor can entail responding to a friend's needs in an indirect way so that the person in need doesn't feel like a burden.  Here's a challenging situation: A man comes home from work angry and upset but is trying to conceal his feelings.  His partner senses that something is wrong and quickly comes up with a strategy for soothing him.  He/she asks the children to give them some time alone so they can discuss each other's day.  Or he/she suggests that they take a walk together, or says "I'm so glad you're here because I desperately need your advice about something" -- which distracts the upset person and suddenly reminds him that, at home if nowhere else, he's important and appreciated.
Three things are very important to understand about emotional labor.  First, like other kinds of labor, it can be time-consuming, tiring and even exhausting.  Second, emotional labor is indispensable to sustaining the family life, social life and public life of humans because we are social beings who need each other to survive and thrive. Third: Following logically from point #2, emotional labor must not be regarded, and thus devalued, as naturally "women's work."  Concern for other people, whether for the stranger who needs directions or for one's family members, friends and co-workers, is a necessary and admirable quality in humans, male or female.
In society today, people at all points on the sex and gender spectrum are calling for an end to pre-ordained sex role assignments and demanding equal rights across the board: shared responsibilities and such human rights as marriage equality for same-sex couples. In the 21st century, people are realizing there's no excuse for women not to receive equal pay for equal work, or for two parents not to receive paid leave and paid "personal time," or for daycare workers trained to care for infants and toddlers not to command respect for their professional skills and be compensated fairly, or for our elected officials not to respond to U.S. parents' desperate need for subsidized / free child care -- preferably "on-site," in workplaces.

See also http://www.alienlove.com/modules.php?name=News&file=print&sid=3853