The woman behind the man: unemployed men, their wives, and the emotional labor of job-searching

 

ByAliya Hamid Rao

“How’re you going to find a job when you have no confidence and are very emotional?”

Emily Bader, an office administrator asked me this rhetorical question when I interviewed her about her husband’s unemployment. Emily was worried about her husband, Brian, currently unemployed, who used to work as a project manager. She was concerned about the personality he projected when he went on job interviews. She thought he needed to be confident and upbeat. In his interview with me, Brian agreed with this.

But, after half a year of being unemployed and job-searching, Brian was down in the dumps. Projecting cheer was difficult for him. Emily worried about Brian, but she also worried about when and whether he would find a job. She worried for their future.unemployment

Being unemployed is difficult. There is a lot on the line: money, your relationship with your spouse (especially if you’re a man), and feelings of shame and stigma are just some of the negative impacts of unemployment.

But if you’re a white-collar worker, job-searching means showing your best side even you feel your worst. It means convincing potential employers that you not only have the right skills, but, as on a date, you also have “chemistry” with the employers. As sociological research has shown, job-searching and going on job interviews requires tremendous amounts of what sociologist Arlie Hochschild called emotional labor – “the management of feeling to create a publicly observable facial and bodily display.” Continue reading “The woman behind the man: unemployed men, their wives, and the emotional labor of job-searching”

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What is a Men’s Salon? And What do Women Have to Do With It?

By Kristen Barber

When I explain my research to people, they often ask: “What is a men’s salon, exactly?”In a fleeting interaction I might sBarber_idea3imply describe it as a salon dedicated to the primping and preening of men. The high-service men’s salons in my study tout stylish haircuts, fine manicures, exfoliating facials, and meticulous waxing services. But to more accurately explain what a men’s salon is involves understanding that gender is actively produced, not a static characteristic of a person or place.

In my article, “Men Wanted”: Heterosexual Aesthetic Labor in the Masculinization of the Hair Salon, I tackle the organizational efforts that make the salon an “appropriate” place for well-to-do, straight, and often white men. This is significant since the salon is historically associated with women and seems an unlikely place in which men can approximate culturally valorized forms masculinity. One way both salons in my study masculinize the space is by demanding what I call heterosexual aesthetic labor from the mostly women workers. Aesthetic labor highlights the importance of workers’ appearances and use of their body in frontline service work, where employees interact face-to-face with customers. Workers are hired because they embody the aesthetic values of a retail brand, with white, middle-class workers, for example, reflecting the identities of white, middle-class consumers. This assures consumers they are in the “right place” for people like them and is a key mechanism in reproducing social differences and inequalities. Continue reading “What is a Men’s Salon? And What do Women Have to Do With It?”

Do we owe each other our emotional labor?

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 “Do we owe each other our emotional labor?”

“There’s No Crying in Academia,” Acknowledging Emotional Labour in the Academy

Originally posted at Hook & Eye (here). Cross-posted with permission.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the demands made on graduate students and the emotional labour that is required as a result. Academia privileges and glorifies mental labour (from the qualifying exams you have to take to the dissertation that you will write). But in my experience, the academy is mute when it comes to the question of the emotional labour that these acts of mental and intellectual rigor entail. Nobody talks about his or her feelings. If, as Tom Hanks famously proclaims in A League of Their Own, there’s no crying in baseball,” then there is certainly no crying in academia. And so academia requires maintaining a vow of silence as you fight to live in this Darwinian “survival of the fittest.” Yet the dirty secret that no one wants you to know is that there is actually much crying in academia. But we do that crying in private. Our suffering takes place in bathroom stalls, in our private offices, or in our homes. We suffer in private where we cannot be shamed. Continue reading ““There’s No Crying in Academia,” Acknowledging Emotional Labour in the Academy”

Can An Angry Woman Get Ahead?

by Francesca Polletta

angry womanResearchers 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 “Can An Angry Woman Get Ahead?”