Monday, May 25, 2009

The mythology of working-class labor

Lance Mannion on how class has shaped gender values. He's addressing larger debates about retraining former rust belt workers for so-called "emotional" sorts of labor.
This will be hard, but it shouldn't be. Men have worked as essentially shop keepers and store clerks for a lot longer than they have worked on assembly lines. There have been waiters forever. Lawyers are the world's second oldest profession. Teaching was a male-only profession for centuries. The idea that men are and ought to be unreflective, grunting, two-fisted louts good with their hands but not so much with their hearts and their heads is a class thing not a gender thing and it is imposed upon working class men by a system that needs them to be beasts of burden.

Men who reject certain values and behaviors as "sissy" or "girlie" are rejecting success, and don't think their bosses aren't grateful.

But the flip-side of the stereotype, that women are better at emotional labor, is also useful to bosses, because it often works out in practice to mean that women are more deferential generally, not just to customers but to their bosses. They don't speak up, they don't question, they don't assert themselves, and they don't fight back, not if they are real women in the way that men who accept and live by their stereotypes are real men.

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