The Managed Heart
In The Managed Heart (1983), Arlie Hochschild introduces the concept of “emotional labour. ” Since then, numerous studies have been published on her theories of commercialising emotions. Emotional labour typically involves face-to-face contact with colleagues, customers, and vendors. Manifestations of this can include a genuine display of emotion –where workers try to get into a particular frame of mind to convey sincerity to the target audience. For example, flight attendants and nurses sometimes treat their charges as children that may not be cognizant of their behaviour.
Emotional labour can also involve surface acting in which workers suppress their real feelings and, instead, present emotions on the “surface” that they don’t actually feel but put on a facade as if they feel them (Rafaeli, 1989). In this state, there is great distance between one’s true feelings and the desired effect. Within this framework, there are protocols, procedures, and strict guidelines, which one must conform. Steinberg & Figart (1999) distinguish between two interrelated areas of research on emotional labour.
“The first area involves predominantly, though not exclusively, qualitative case studies of employees at workplaces in the service sector. A second set of studies, primarily quantitative, investigates the link between emotional labour at home, in
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Cultural forces often shape the extent to which someone could express her true feelings. Popular stereotypes often depict passionate and uninhibited Italians contrasted against the British reserve. Hochschild uses other examples however. Person A is a female, middle-class Protestant, and Person B is a male, working-class and Catholic. Although she acknowledges that men, Catholics, and the working classes on a universal level are less likely to suppress their emotions, than women, Protestants, or the middle-class, Anglo-American culture usually encourages the opposite of the general trend.
In most cases, Person A would be more inhibited, but in Western culture, it is Person B. Men in our culture are expected to show poise and restraint in all situations while women are allowed a wider degree of expressions. Protestants are invited into an inner dialogue with God where negative feelings can be acknowledged and released without the formalities and middle-class employees can work with feelings in service jobs (i. e. counselling, activism, etc. ) Moreover, “We receive rule reminders from others who ask us to account for how what we feel.
A call for account implies that emotional conventions are not in order and must be brought up to consciousness for repair—or, at least in the case of weak conventions, for a check up”(p. 58). Davidson, Bondi, & Smith (2005) contend that the social characteristics of a particular culture determine which emotions are expressed (p. 180). Today, with the phenomenal success of books like The Secret, and other Law of Attraction manifestos, negative attitudes—no matter how justified—are looked down upon by the majority in the social arena.
Salespeople are wrapping up positive feelings in a beautifully decorated book or DVD and selling it to the masses. At work, the norms have not changed much; men must be assertive and take charge while women must be cheerful and accommodating. All other behaviours are looked down upon. Of course, there are some critics that disagree with Hochschild’s thesis of ‘commercialising’ emotions. In a 2003 study, Bolton examines the emotional management skills in flight attendants—a group of workers Hochschild considers emotionally imprisoned by their organisations.
She found that airline cabin crews are skilled in managing emotions, and can respond appropriately to a wide range of situations. “In addition, the capacity for cabin crews to resist and modify the demands of management and customers acts to further contradict Hochschild’s claim regarding ‘transmutation’ of feelings”(p. 289). After establishing her theory on feelings, she had shifted her focus to the division of labour between the sexes. In 1989, she published a study (Second Shift) offering many insights into the lives of dual-income families, and the interactions between men and women at the end of the day.
While men and women might split expenses, women are still forced to manage the bulk of household affairs. In fact, only one-fifth of husbands in dual-income homes take on an equal part of the housework. While many women agree to this arrangement to maintain marital harmony, this arrangement can be damaging to a woman’s health and well being. In looking at data about how people spend their time, Hochschild found that women work fifteen hours more than men every week, one month more than men in a year, and one year of twenty-four hour days in twelve years (p.
4). This includes paid work and housework. One woman even suffered severe health consequences because of her lifestyle. She would go to work, come home and do most of the chores, and childcare. She also earned a higher salary than her husband. “In time, Nina let her fatigued condition speak to him. Great rings appeared around her eyes; she had grown almost alarmingly thin, and talked and moved listlessly. Finally, Nina confided to Peter that she was getting close to a certain emotional edge. Instead of having a nervous breakdown, however, she got pneumonia.
Although Peter was concerned, he considered the problem to be a conflict between her career and her motherhood”(p. 86). Quite often, men do not want to take up their share because of cultural taboos of doing “women’s work. ” That is why it is so rare to find male secretaries or nurses, and most are shocked when they hear of one. In the Western world, the masculine ideals of competition, providing for self and family, and rugged individualism have invaded the psyches of both genders to the point where family values such as caretaking and nurturing are universally devalued.
Twelve years later, Hochschild finds that people are neglecting their families more than ever in order to hold on to the ephemeral idea of job security in The Time Bind. Before the Age of the Internet, there was a sharp demarcation between work time and family time. On Monday-Friday, an individual’s time belonged to an employer from 9-5pm. Weekends and evenings were traditionally reserved for families. Now with telecommuting, text messaging, and cell phones widely available, increasing numbers of workers are on call around the clock.
Surprisingly, there is very little resistance to such intrusion; but it makes sense in light of the fact that companies are eliminating benefits, replacing long-time employees with contractors, and outsourcing jobs overseas. Interestingly enough, Hochschild cites compelling cultural concerns for the rising class of overworked parents. Amerco had the budget and inclination to aid employees in pursuing a rich and involved family life, yet many refused to take advantage of this “For women as well as men, work in the marketplace is less often a simple economic fact than a complex cultural value.
If in the early part of the century it was considered unfortunate that a woman had to work, it is now thought surprising when she doesn’t. People generally have the urge to spend more time on what they value most and on what they are most valued for”(p. 198). Today, more than ever, people seek identity from their careers rather than their families, leading to more social isolation. Still, people are less happy because they feel guilt in not spending enough time with family members, and only 9% of workers surveyed believe they established an effective balance of work and family (Hochschild, 200).
Among her research subjects, Hochschild discovered three different categories: traditional, egalitarian, and transitional. The traditional couple believed strongly in gender roles; the man goes to work and the women mind the house—even in cases where the woman was forced to work outside the home due to financial considerations. The traditionalists were largely working class families that would prefer the women to stay home, even though they are unable. Egalitarians comprise the second category.
They believe in contributing equally in terms of time spent with children, financial obligations and household chores. While it may sound like the ideal situation on the surface, parents are often too busy with professional duties and hire outside help for children and household chores. Transitional couples are the most conflict-fraught category of the three. Usually, the man does not contribute as much as he should, and in some cases, the woman resists allowing a willing husband to contribute (p. 108).
While Kristin Luker (1997) highlights the social problems of teenage pregnancy in her book, Dubious Complications, she acknowledges the growing difficulty women face in the world—expected to make significant financial and emotional contributions to a romantic relationship whilst managing the majority of household tasks and child rearing. Because there is no longer a widespread social stigma against unwed teenage mothers as there was in the Victorian Era, more young women are finishing their secondary education with the support of their parents.
While social norms gradually become more liberal, the power dynamics in romantic relationships have not changed very much in comparison. More often than not, the relationship would be an unequal one in terms of emotional, if not financial contribution. Like Hochschild, Luker finds that women must work a “second shift” at home after working a full day—spending her free time cooking, cleaning, running errands, and minding the children.
In addition to carrying the bulk of the housework, “Women are required to work a second moral shift as well, doing all the emotional caretaking of home, family, and society after they have expended much energy in the competitive world of the market place (p. 205). With social and economic forces conspiring to push women into the corporate arena, children are usually in the care of nannies, the maid does household chores; in some cases, the husband uses this person as an object for sexual release.
Social critics Ehrenreich & Hochschild (2002) comment on the way the traditional housewife role became co-opted by migrant workers seeking a better life citing Western man’s desire for the rigid gender roles of the past. “Immigrant women may seem desirable sexual partners for the same reason that First World employers believe them to be especially gifted as caregivers: they are thought to embody the traditional feminine qualities of nurturance, docility, and eagerness to please. Some men feel nostalgic for these qualities, which they associate with a bygone way of life.
Even as many wage-earning Western women assimilate to the competitive culture of ‘male’ work and ask respect for making it in a man’s world, some men seek in the ‘exotic Orient’ or ‘hot-blooded tropics’ a woman from the imagined past” (p. 9-10). Unfortunately, these women often fall prey to sexual abuse, inordinately long hours, and lower pay than expected. Like the slaves and indentured servants of ages past, the women of the third world area taking on jobs that “nobody wants to do.
” With the exportation of jobs from industrial giants such as the US, UK, and Japan to Latin America, Bangladesh, and India, immigration for purposes of work might become less common as third world countries begin to catch up with the rest of the world. In The Changing Nature of Work (1998), Ackerman includes a piece by Lourdes Beneria. According to her, whenever the presence of women increases in a certain sector, the prestige and social value of the job declines. “The fact that women are highly segregated by occupation all over the world makes it easier to segment the wage structure—women’s wages are generally lower than men.
For example, 80% of clerical workers in the United States were women in 1986, while only 2% were women in Togo in 1981. These gender constructions are changeable—when a male occupation becomes feminized its relative wages generally decline”(p. 99). Some economists, however, believe that this wage gap is occurring because women have less to offer in terms of human capital. That is, men are more likely to invest more in university courses that have a high premium in the marketplace (Jacobsen, 1998, p. 241).
In Reaching for the Top (1994), Nichols notes the lack of social support for women that decide to go forth into the marketplace. In the vein of Hochschild’s research, she notes that women ultimately must bear the brunt of both financial and family obligations without help from her husband or her family. With the disintegration of the nuclear family, and lack of a ‘wife’ in the domestic sphere to make a pleasant home, the woman in question must begin her second shift of work—keeping her family happy. “The women’s movement into paid work is a continuation of the industrial revolution that took men from the farm to the factory.
Unlike yesterday’s men, however, today’s working women have no one to help them ease the transition”(p. 107). In sum, interactions between human beings require a measurable degree of artifice, both in the workplace and at home. While an employee must embrace certain attitudes and behaviours to advance in the corporate world, married couples must also negotiate, compromise, and bite their tongues on many issues in order to preserve domestic tranquillity. In personal relationships, civilised emotional sharing is ideal, but this form of communication does not usually occur.
True (and harmless) emotional expression is a rare phenomenon, which may be the reason positive emotional states are being traded in the marketplace more than ever before.
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