“We need more Emmas, and Emma needs more readers” – The Mental Load: A Feminist Comic by Emma

Well, this one really does what it says on the tin: it’s a series of pithy essays in graphic form dealing with everyday sexism, xenophobia, racism and, generally, the compound evils of late capitalism. Boom!

Emma’s a French activist and blogger whose translated comic strip, ‘You Should Have Asked’ (the opening chapter here), went viral via The Guardian in 2017; the essay details, in steps so clear and convincing they could well be Instructable directions on how to Stop Being A Misogynist, how and why women are largely expected to project-manage their family’s households and why this ‘mental load’ is both damaging (to women and to men) and preventable.

Similarly, in ‘The Wait’, she looks at the intersection between the gendered expectations of childcare responsibilities in French society (amongst others) and the position of women in the workplace; argues that women’s career progression is stymied by the imbalance of domestic responsibilities within most heterosexual couples – not as a direct result of the attitude of the particular couple in question, but because we’re all at the mercy of a grand systemic failure when it comes to gender equality. She claims that the way we differentiate priorities (work vs home) along gender lines is incredibly embedded, and, of course, equally arbitrary. And she follows this piece up with ‘Work!’, an analysis of why we work (in ‘bullshit jobs’) and why we ought to work less, and exhorts us to think hard about the idea of universal income instead of slaving away to make the rich richer.

It’s a feminist book, but it’s also a socialist one; Emma is as ruthless in her attacks on police racism and brutality (‘The Wonderful Tale of Mohamed’, ‘Just Another Guy from the Hood’, ‘Violence of the Oppressed’) and state-sanctioned Islamophobia (‘Show Me That Bosom’) as she is on the straight-up patriarchy. And it’s an educational book as well: there’s more useful knowledge imparted here about the clitoris (‘Check Your Pussy!’) than in any sex-ed book I’ve ever seen.

There’s probably nothing in here (apart, perhaps, from the very detailed clitoral-info) that will be news to your average woke feminist in 2019, but there probably is quite a bit that might be eye-opening for your average allegedly-woke dude: the whole concept of ‘the mental load’, when it hit The Guardian, and then Facebook, became such a talking point because it so succinctly expressed the lack of mutual understanding that was driving many women loopy. It hit a nerve because it’s direct and uncompromising, and accessible and funny; it’s not dumbed down, despite it’s pithiness, and it’s by no means hostile towards men: if anything, it’s incredibly hostile only towards our neoliberal overlords.

Any Cop?: Big thumbs up! This is an excellent primer in many of the ways in which society’s going wrong. We need more Emmas, and Emma needs more readers.


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