On Power & Pleasing

On Power & Pleasing June 24, 2016

What is power?

Photo by Roberto Tumini on Unsplash.
Photo by Roberto Tumini on Unsplash.

According to Elizabeth Janeway, “Power is the ability not to have to please.”

Let’s read that again:

Power is the ability not to have to please.

I find it useful to think about who I have to please in my life, and alternately, who acts like or tries to please me. Who has the agency to decide when they want to be pleasing, or is being pleasing forced upon people? I see this happening a lot based on gender (it generally falls to women to be pleasing), as well as race and class (heaven forbid someone appear uppity if they’re supposed to be downtrodden).

Pleasing others is taxing on one’s emotions and energy more generally. Having to please another is a form of emotional labor. While acts of emotional labor – like acts of “mild” harassment – are not overt violence, they can add up over time.


See also: The Impact of Sexist Microaggressions


So again, I think it’s worth asking: do you have the ability not to have to please others in your life? And do you think that correlates to power or its lack?

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