a rant about emotion work.

“The Managed Heart” is a critical analysis of gender in society, in which Hoschild says so many things most women are unable to say. This is an extension of the works of classical feminist thinkers like Charlotte Perkins Gilman into contemporary times, shedding light onto the unjustly gendered ways of society. I found Hoschild’s points eerily relatable, including the idea of emotion management. It is something that women are taught as they are growing up, so we often do not even realize we are doing it. Her point that women are “conversational cheerleaders,” there to enhance others during interactions, was enlightening, and I can see how that is true. I personally find that when hanging out in large groups, especially mostly men, I am more shy and am more likely to speak up only when I am called upon. In the political science major, which is largely men, I find that I always feel underqualified and unintelligent despite what professors may think or grades may show. I was raised by a traditional family with generations of quiet women. They worked, but in traditional jobs like secretaries, teachers, or florists, so their lives were mostly devoted to childcare, just as my own mothers was. This is not to say that those jobs are unimportant or unworthy, but I do mean that it makes sense that girls would grow up feeling as if they are only qualified for emotion work, because those are the examples we mostly see.

Additionally, Hoschild’s point that these careers are widely undervalued is so true. I came to college originally as a social work major, and I remember so many people scoffing when I shared that information with them. Whether it was because I wouldn’t make any money or simply “helping people” is not a “career,” I always felt judged and unappreciated. Now that I changed my major, I still have the utmost respect for people in helping professions. Even just being a full-time babysitter I have learned how difficult childcare is, that it is real work, and it is NOT something we are naturally predisposed to do. I have been taking care of children for my whole life, and I still occasionally have the impulse to get in my car and drive away because they sometimes just do not listen. I would imagine this is something people deal with their whole lives, even having children of their own. Children are autonomous human beings, so when people criticize parents for their children’s behavior I can’t help but get angry because it’s not like they are programmable robots who will do whatever you want. They are are excited to learn about the world, so sometimes they don’t listen. And let me tell you, trying to watch over them and teach them how to conform to society’s standards for behavior is not easy, but I digress. The main point here is that emotional management is work, and it needs to be valued for what it is.

My final point from Hoschild is that emotion management is not an instinct of being a woman.  It is something we are taught from a young age, and every time someone says “stop acting like a girl,” criticizing someone else for being emotional, they are reinforcing this gendered process. In fact, women are actually good at other things too. We can be smart. We can be funny. We can be demanding. We can be kind. We can be anything a man can be, but we are emotion workers because society tells us that we should be. I think that emotion work should be a two-way street. Everyone should be conscious of their own emotions as well as those of people around them. If this were the case, perhaps women would be welcomed into “men’s careers” more, and men would be welcomed into “women’s careers” more as well (because god forbid you have a male nurse and a female doctor. You might die.).

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