Book Review: Fed Up – Navigating and redefining emotional labour for good by Gemma Hartley

Fed Up…

About the Book:

Gemma Hartley wrote an article in Harper’s Bazaar in September 2017 called ‘Women Aren’t Nags – We’re Just Fed Up’, which instantly went viral. The piece, and this book, is about ’emotional labour’, i.e. the unpaid, often unnoticed work, done by women, that goes into keeping everyone comfortable and happy.

FED UP tackles the hard-hitting issues surrounding emotional labour: the historical underpinnings and roots in feminism, the benefits and burdens of this kind of effort, and the specific contexts where emotional labour, otherwise known as the ‘mental load’, plays a major but undervalued role, including relationships, work, sex, parenting, politics and self-care.

Dubbed as the next feminist frontier, emotional labour couldn’t be more relevant to these times we’re living in. Fed Up is a must-read for those who want to harness the power of emotional labour and create a more connected, equal world.

My Thoughts:

“We may think that our micromanagement is an act of love, and it often is, but it also robs those we love of the opportunity to step fully into responsibility for their own lives. They need to create their own systems, their own connections, their own priorities instead of wandering through a life that has been created around them.”

I will freely admit that I shoulder the majority of the emotional labour within our household. However, it needs to be pointed out that I also spend a great deal many more hours within our household than my husband, so it probably stands to reason that I might know more about where things are, what needs to be done, and who needs to be at what place at what time. I get tired of carrying the load, for sure, but he probably gets tired being at work for 13 hours a day as well. I suffer from migraines reasonably often, so at times I have to check out and just lay in a dark room to recover. Nobody dies while I’m doing this. And they don’t even need reminding to make sure they stay alive. I could still do with loosening the reigns though, particularly as my kids get closer to adulthood. The last thing this world needs is more useless adults. I think a lot of women martyr themselves though. A couple in particular are in my mind as I write this. Good women, who are also good friends, but they shoulder all of the emotional labour within their own households and they’re not going to let anybody forget it. That’s why I included that particular quote I started with. You can’t be angry at men who don’t shoulder your burdens if you’re unwilling to give those burdens up. But I didn’t need a whole book to tell me that.

This book is pretty much stating the obvious and it’s more memoir than research analysis – which, as you all know, I hate, but I didn’t know that’s what this was going to be when I first went into it. I didn’t mind some parts of it, but it was far too long for its topic and purpose. There was a lot of repetition and its contents will only be applicable to a small representation of women.


Thanks is extended to Hachette Australia for providing me with a copy of Fed Up for review.

About the Author:

Gemma Hartley is a freelance journalist who received her BA in English Writing from the University of Nevada, Reno.
Her work has been published in Glamour, The Washington Post, Harper’s Bazaar, Women’s Health, and The Huffington Post among many others. She lives in Reno, Nevada with her husband and three children.

Fed Up
Published by Hachette Australia – Yellow Kite
Released November 2018

7 thoughts on “Book Review: Fed Up – Navigating and redefining emotional labour for good by Gemma Hartley

  1. I suspect that this book was probably written precisely for the martyrs, not for women like you who’ve got a grip on things.
    I didn’t know you have migraines, what a curse that is. I have only ever had one, years and years ago when I took the pill, and I stopped taking it and have never had another. But it frightened me: I have never ‘lost control’ (never taken drugs, never been drunk) and I was terrified when I blacked out. Good thing I’d parked the car by then!

    Liked by 1 person

    • We’ve never been able to pinpoint what causes them. I’ve had them since my middle teens, sometimes frequently and then at other times hardly at all. Of late, I’m getting them far too often. They are extremely unsettling, the pain onsets rapidly and lasts without any easing for three to five days, affecting my balance and vision. I have a sort of residual feeling, a bit of a migraine hangover, for want of a better term, for about a week afterwards. I suspect my eldest son is unfortunately the same. The last two years has seen him start to get inexplicable headaches and to look at him when he has one is like looking in a mirror. All the same symptoms.


  2. I loved the original article, but I worry that since then, the term “emotional labour” has been co-opted and lost touch with its original intended meaning. I heard a man the other day talking about all the “emotional labour” he had to do, comforting a friend who was grieving, and it was all I could do not to roll my eyes. I think I’d be looking for a more academic take on the subject, so thanks for the heads up re: its memoir-y approach 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is definitely not an academic take on it.
      I saw the term pop in an article just this week, but completely in a different context, so I fear it may become a catch phrase, such as in the case you mention above. Next thing we know, meeting a friend for coffee will be heralded as emotional labour.

      Liked by 1 person

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