'Women are just better at this stuff': is emotional labor feminism's next frontier?


From remembering birthdays to offering service with a smile, life has a layer of daily responsibility that is hardly discussed – one which falls disproportionately on women. Finally confronting it could be a revolutionary step

Well.

If, perhaps, we tried something as shocking as raising men from the cradle to be more involved and responsible, we might have a more equal balance on the emotion and responsibility front. Rather, as I've seen time and time again, and had people complain to me time and time again, boys are not made as responsible for the home, the things in the home, nor the people in the home. They aren't taught as much as females are, to nurture the home or care for it. Also, if we stopped raising men to believe that being emotional is wrong, or that it means they're gay ('cause, that's a terror, right?), we might have - again - a more balanced emotional thing going on. As I once said to a friend; if we made men as responsible as we make women, we might have to marry fewer of them through their mommy issues.

I was once told by an acquaintance that I should not make emotional statements in job interviews or meetings, particularly not with men; that I would get more leverage by being as void of attachment as possible. Being detached was the coin of the day. I never put much thought to the veracity of that comment until that very moment; and it occurred to me what a complete load of hooey it was. It speaks to a roboticism we impose on the male population, and that they impose on themselves for fear of negative judgement. There's no such thing as impartiality except as some kind of twisted Platonic ideal, so why do we keep hampering ourselves with it? We are emotional creatures, and if we spend more time actually attuning to that fact, we'd be far more capable than most seem to be, of using those emotions to our advantage. Being emotional is damned as a failing by those who believe that everything in the business world must be handled in a purely cerebral fashion.

This same acquaintance then told me, several months later near her wedding day, that the board members at her workplace had put a collection together and gifted her with a sum of money as a wedding present. For this they are labelled "good guys", despite the fact that they are endlessly rude, dismissive, and abusive of her and other female staff. For that five seconds of telling me about this money, she forgot the endless abuse, rudeness, and dismissiveness these same men heaped on her and other female staff. So, she and other staff are expected to do the emotional work as a matter of course, but the men get a doggie treat if they do something that should be 'normal', or 'usual', or that a woman would do without a second thought. On top of that, the man is never held accountable for bad behaviours.

I read something recently that I sadly can't find the link for, that discussed male loathing towards women; and I seem to recall that there was something in that article that suggested part of this loathing was rooted in female expectations of male emotion. Men are bred to believe that overt emotion is wrong, yet every woman demands it of them, and therefore they turn that hatred towards the women for trying to turn them into something society tells them is bad.

"Think of your morning Starbucks barista, who drew a smiley face on your cardboard cup of coffee this morning. Did she really want to go the extra mile today, or was it just part of the job expectation? "

Which is the pitfall of customer service. The emotional labour of the worker, which is never, ever balanced out by any concept of personal responsibility on the part of the customer; and this gets worse, and worse with every passing generation, as companies scramble to keep and increase revenues with increasing levels of competition - they think the only way through it is "improving" their customer service, which then evolves into a sort of slave-state where we must "roll out the red carpet" for people who treat the staff like trash, who swear at them, who abuse them, who insult them, and the staff is supposed to sit there and lap it up along with a minimum wage paycheque. This is grotesquely unbalanced, and creates hordes of stressed out people who have nothing left for their own lives at the end of the day. Most customers don't deserve that much out of me, but I could be fired for not being a carpet.

"The way I think of emotional labor goes as follows: there are certain jobs where it's a requirement, where there is no training provided, and where there's a positive bias towards certain people - women - doing it. It's also the kind of work that is denigrated by society at large. Research suggests that cumulatively, ongoing emotion work is exhausting but rarely acknowledged as a legitimate strain - and as such, is not reflected in wages."

I don't need research to 'suggest' that to me. I live it every day. This culture has no respect for the people who do things for it that they're too lazy to do for themselves; nor does this culture teach people to take responsibility for themselves and to acknowledge that they are complicit in the retail transaction situation. This culture has no respect for its environment, for its global good, for anything that isn't solely fixated on the immediate needs of the individual. Maybe it's time we started doing what Japanese schools do, and make our kids responsible for the tidiness and maintenance of their classrooms, for the serving of the meal at lunch and the cleaning up of it afterwards. This breeds in people the idea that they are part of a collective, and that their actions affect the environment in which they live, and that they are responsible for the environments in which they live.

In the end, if you really do think that women are "better at it", it's not because we're inherently better at it; it's because we've spent a longer time doing it.



2017 10 19 - 14:03

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