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Emotional Labour

Nearly 10 years ago, I worked on a cruise ship for 6 months. Sunday to Sunday. My main role was to make guests feel special. Offer them an illusion of the perfect life in a glamourous world where they were treated as Kings and Queens.

I loved it during the first 3 months. Everything was new and exciting. Then I realized how tired I was and how much effort I had to put into keeping a smile on my face from 6 am to 10 pm. It was exhausting - sometimes humiliating - to make others feel great about themselves, while I was feeling rubbish. Besides, a day on a ship feels like a week. Picture my misery.

On her book "The managed heart", the sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild talks about Emotional labour. Here's how she describes it:

"For the flight attendant, the smiles are a part of her work, a part that requires her to coordinate self and feeling so that the work seems to be effortless. To show that the enjoyment takes effort is to do the job poorly. Similarly, part of the job is to disguise fatigue and irritation, for otherwise the labor would show in an unseemly way, and the product — passenger contentment — would be damaged. Because it is easier to disguise fatigue and irritation if they can be banished altogether, at least for brief periods, this feat calls for emotional labor."

Among the many interesting stats and references she shares in the book, one in particular called my attention: women are taught to control their feelings and control them carefully in the way society expects. If women show their emotions, they can be called emotionally unstable, irrational and are taken less seriously than men.

For men, on the other hand, when they express anger, it isn't seen as a weakness of character, but a deeply held conviction.

Women are believed to be more emotional and this belief invalidates our feelings. So, when a woman loses their temper, it's not a reaction to the event, but a reflection of her as an emotional woman.

Another study showed that physicians tend to take illnesses more seriously in men than women.

Like house work, emotional work is often unnoticed and unacknowledged. As women, we are expected to keep our feelings in check, therefore we end up doing more emotional work than men.

I hope that by thinking and talking about this, we can start to create a more interesting and kind approach towards expressing our emotions.

Source: BBC

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