Is there a gender asymmetry in emotion work

A common response to non-intimacy was to compare their relationships with ‘worst possible scenarios and finding their partners were good providers, didn’t drink and weren’t violent etc, therefore the women blamed themselves for wanting too much. This would still leave the women looking for some validation and recognition of their domestic role; “It’s not that you necessarily want them to do the housework. It’s that you want them to understand that you do it… wanting to feel emotionally special. ”

In Duncombe and Marsdens pilot study, they found that “men tended to respond to women’s largely unspoken demands with incomprehension, but disagreements followed”(p227) “Some men became so violent that the women just gave up trying to communicate, others avoided arguments altogether by leaving the room or going out of the house, some men tried to win arguments by deploying cool and verbally articulate logic” (Rubin 1993) Evidently this irritated the women further and all unresolved issues from the past would be brought up.

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The male respondents argued that they did have feelings but their feelings were theirs and not to be disclosed, most men perceived themselves to be ‘working harder and harder, but essentially on behalf of their wives and families’ Duncombe and Marsden have mentioned the holiday times and the conflict that arises from it, men’s expect that ‘the romantic, foreign settings would bring a renewal of intimacy (and with it sex)’ whereas the women felt that the ’emotional barriers between them couldn’t be broken so quickly and easily. ‘

Throughout the differences mentioned by Duncombe and Marsden and also Brannen and Collard it appears that men’s focus lies solely on action and women are concentrating on talking and mental behaviour, is this inequality or simply a difference? For women to enjoy sex they wanted to be ‘talked to in a loving and gentle way’, but if the men didn’t talk to them and still receiving sex “out of duty or to avoid conflict” (p228) then are the women doing more ’emotion’ as well as ‘physical’ work? Francesca Cancian in Duncombe and Marsden argues that

“women are unfairly assessing the way men by a feminine ruler which over stresses emotional expressions of love and undervalues the way in which men show their love instrumentally through shared physical activity and DIY” Men are showing the feelings that they have said exist, but in a different not necessarily unequal way to women. The emotion work that women are putting into the relationship being ‘reassuring, understanding and tender’ to their husbands, if this is work, then are they disclosing their real feelings; just like they state men aren’t.

What would happen if women stopped this emotion work, would they become like men and would men act like the women complaining about intimacy and ‘women don’t disclose their real feelings? LeFrance and Banaji 1992 argue that “men tend to be less prepared than women to disclose their intimate emotions apparently from fears instilled from early socialisation when any signs of vulnerability might be exploited. ” In the workplace, if the man was seen to be emotional then this might be exploited but surely not by his wife.

The differences in the behaviour and thought of husbands and wives may cause tensions, especially when children are a factor, the care of and discipline issues may be the cause of some disagreements if men and women have such underlying differences. Women do tend to be left with the childcare and the possibility of caring for an elderly parent, the housework and maybe a part time job, to make their partnership work would take effort. As Hochschild 1990 states “wives often have to do a great deal of emotion work in order constantly to sustain the ideology or myth that the relationship was indeed ‘a good one’.

” The strategies used by women to deal with no intimacy from their partners may be good short term but in the long term “resentment and ‘cynicism’ often resurfaced in different areas of the relationship. ” (Hochschild 1990 cited in Williams 2001:106) In their more recent findings (cited in Williams 2001:107) Duncombe and Marsden (1998) admit to have “grown uncomfortable that their work has simply been read as reproducing patronizing gender stereotypes of women – and are being exploited by doing ’emotion work’ on behalf of their emotionally ‘hollow man.

‘” “Men withholding from women the emotional validation which they seek through intimacy may become a source of male power and indeed some women reported that they experienced men’s usual emotional ‘remoteness’ as a from of power” (Duncombe and Marsden 1993: 226) However, it was argued (Connell 1987, Coward 1992, Segal 1990 in Duncombe and Marsden) that emotion work which women perform on behalf of men and therefore have the possibility of exercising emotional power over men, but fail to recognize and use it.

As discussed from early adulthood the difference between men and women in terms of the way they speak about love, sex and emotion is evident, and this pattern is often reproduced down the generations. It has been argued that one of the reasons men don’t show intimacy is because they have not seen their Father disclose emotions, never heard him say ‘I love you’ or physically cuddle. There is an emphasis on activities and physical ‘masculine’ action, sport for example.

Women have the emphasis upon the talking and emotional aspects of relationships. This applies to many more relationships not just the heterosexual couple, friendships to. It has been assumed that the emotional management in the private sphere has been the work of the woman and that many of the women are dissatisfied with this; but surely men must be capable of emotional management, in the end isn’t management where most men outclass women.