By Cristen Dalessandro and Amy C. Wilkins
Amber, a 26-year-old woman living and working in the Western U.S., recalls a romantic relationship she had with a man named Matt, which did not pan out the way that she hoped. Though the relationship has been long over, early on when things were going well Amber decided to tell Matt that she believed they had the potential for a “healthy” relationship, and she could see them making a long-term commitment. Amber’s words, however, did not go over well with Matt. She said, “…that was a lot of pressure for him. I shouldn’t have, you know, told him that was what my expectations were.”
From then on, their relationship was never quite what Amber had hoped for. Although they had moved across the country together, Amber said Matt grew increasingly emotionally distant and critical of her, and she suspected he was cheating. Despite Matt’s poor treatment of her, Amber blamed herself for almost everything that went wrong in the relationship: “I did make a big sacrifice to be with him, but I don’t want to resent him…It was my choice [and] I depended on him too much.” Even in retrospect, Amber thinks about what she could have done to make the relationship better and to take the “pressure” off Matt. Though Amber was hurt by Matt, she believes the relationship was worthwhile because it helped her realize that she “wanted to be treated right” and it was only through making past mistakes with partners that she could come to understand what she wanted for herself and her relationships. Continue reading
By Aliya Hamid Rao
In academia our intellectual pursuits are also inherently emotional. It is thus unsurprising that in a recent blog post (here) another graduate student makes a case for acknowledging that academic work is infused with emotional labor, and for creating a space for “crying in academia.” She urges us to move away from scripts of professionalism so that we can stop pretending that emotional labor is not intrinsic to almost all that we do as aspiring academics.
I find this framing is problematic. One function of “professionalism” in academia is to create emotionally neutral spaces. Being emotionally neutral is a myth, of course. These artificial spaces require emotional labor in manipulating our own emotional displays to minimize the expression of our emotions. But they also bring the freedom of not being compelled to perform emotional labor for someone else. The author uses examples of her own crying in her department and how it was at times “handled” well by administrative staff, while at other times it caused discomfort. She condemns the idea of having to reign in her emotions so that “the person you’re crying in front of doesn’t have to figure out how to make space for your feelings.” Yet, the demand to figure “out how to make space for your feelings” is intrinsically a demand for emotional labor from others. Continue reading
by Francesca Polletta
Researchers have shown that women are usually penalized for displaying anger on the job. Women are expected to be friendly, sympathetic, and deferential in dealing with customers, employers, and co-workers. They are expected to withstand other people’s anger, not dish it out themselves.
But the research I conducted with Zaibu Tufail suggested that there may be an exception to that rule. A stereotype of women as emotionally changeable may allow them to display anger if they precede and follow it with displays of positive emotions like sympathy or friendliness. Women can use anger instrumentally and effectively that way. The rub is that the skill is likely to be seen as natural to women, and indeed, as not much of a skill at all. Continue reading
by Zeynep K. Korkman
Have you ever had your fortune told? Many of us are intrigued by fortunetelling, yet most of us consider it empty entertainment at best and charlatanry at worst. Intrigued myself, I sought to understand divination by conducting research to observe and listen to fortunetellers and their clients. My main research site was fortunetelling cafés in Turkey where fortunetellers read the residues left at the bottom of a cup of Turkish coffee, which is served unfiltered, with the grounds. Continue reading