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What is ‘ Emotional Labour’?

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Costantino Battistina
Dipartimento di Scienze Sociali, Università di Torino, Via Sant’Ottavio 50, 10131 Torino Italia

What is ‘ Emotional Labour’?

We think of ourselves as Florence Nightingale - 
tough, canny, powerful, autonomous and eroic.
Fagin and Diers (2)

December 29 2016

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Second European Feminist Research Conference 1994 Graz / Austria

Feminist perspective on
TECHNOLOGY WORK+ ECOLOGY July 5-9 1994 Graz University of Technology Austria.

Internal index:
#abstract, #emotional, #work_on_oneself, #concrete_work, #conclusions, #notes, #references


The expression ‘emotional labour’ is frequently used in discussions among women, and appears all the more in scientific literature. It has never been part of the official language of work, it is a new term. In this paper I assert that the most frequent meanings ‘emotional labour’ assumes identify its basis and global structure. Furthermore I show that ‘emotional labour’ can be conceived as having an autonomous status comparable to ‘manual’ and ‘intellectual’ labour. As a result, remarkable consequences for job analysis and evaluation can be envisaged.

1. Meanings of ‘emotional labour’

The term ‘emotional labour’ is used in four basic meanings, as follows:

1.1 Emotional labour as product

Nicky James, in a stimulating essay dedicated to “emotional labour”, defines it as, “the work involved in dealing with other peoples’ feelings, a core component of which is the regulation of emotions” (James, 1989:15), whose “value lies in its contribution to the social reproduction of labour power and the social relations of production” (ib.:19). “Emotional labour” here essentially refers to the result (someone else’s emotion transformed by the production process), that is the expression is used in the same way as we say: “It’s a craft”, or “She did a really good job”.
During the meeting “Le donne e il lavoro di cura” the term (“emotional labour”) was used with a fairly broad meaning, referring to “care and service jobs”  tout court (this usage does not appear, however, in the written reports). Such jobs were defined by Jessica Ferrero as, “all those jobs that have human beings as their object... such as caring for an elderly person, looking after a child or taking care of a sick person”. Care is, “all aspects of caring, from the most basic material needs to psychological needs” (Coordinamento...,1990:7). This definition, like that of James, also refers to the object of the work (“the ‘valorization’ of the human being”, or even his “maintenance” (ib.:8).
According to these definitions, mothers are producers of emotional labour just like priests or teachers, trade unionists, the foreman, sport trainers and novelists...; Joan of Arc is included here among generals who, by encouraging their soldiers, motivate them to go on fighting.

1.2 Emotional labour as subjective effort and ability

In James “emotional labourers” (James, 1989:19) correspond literally to emotional products as defined above. In the discussions which took place during the above mentioned meeting, the equivalent expression “I do an emotional job” was common currency (and understood by all). An expression which, here too, is not put in writing: indeed one woman said that the expression for “outsiders” was “relational labour”. There exists a variety of terms, often used as synonyms, to indicate the capacities required in order to carry out this work, including above all: “acute and objective perception”, “awareness of the situation”, “sensitivity” and “intuitive knowledge” (considered by many as a supreme form of intelligence). Someone who possesses this quality does not slog away, following slow mental processes, but “knows” or “sees” clearly. One person’s emotions stir up another’s emotions: sometimes the enthusiasm of a boy is enough to inflame souls, wrote Fourier (1980:30) referring to Joan of Arc! By saying “emotional labour” we are saying (is it tautological?) that there exist jobs based on the power, or rather the potential of the heart. And they are termed “emotional” because emotion is the sensible (sometimes visible) expression of perception.
The well-known sociologist Jessie Bernard (1981:215) says that “the professions now open to women ... in the main in the service sector”, call for “warm hearts”. Other expressions used are: “labour of love”, “sentimental labour”, “labour with a smile”, “comforting labour”...; Luce Irigaray (1985:142) speaks of the “fecundity of the caress”; in a recent essay Lynch considers “solidary labour” (such as the work involved in creating and maintaining caring relationships  per se, e.g. friendship) as part of “emotional labour” (Lynch, 1989:7).
And then there is the capacity for self-involvement. The explanation given gravely by a woman as to why her job was emotional was: “because there is involvement!” The worker opens up to the situation and partecipates from inside, so that she feels the same things as the other person. This is exceptional perception, the validity (value) of which is demonstrated in the field.
There exist infinite levels of empathy and infinite forms of application in relation to job requirements. We may note the differences between jobs where there is observation/perception and intuition, but a relative detachment/distance (also physical): between the hospital chaplain, analyst or doctor, the trader, the fearful father, the courageous, impressionable mother. It has been said how in many cases a person performing a therapeutic function has to himself experience “the repressed feelings, fantasies or so on” of the patient so that the latter in turn, identifying himself with the therapist, becomes able to “integrate analogous experiences into the functioning of his own Ego” (Searles, 1992:118). Many of the duties performed by the nursing profession involve physically touching patients. Through this contact, touch - the sensible perception - becomes tangible and is really put to the test. “I no longer feel genuinely available to be overwhelmed by dribbling and slobbering children” (so said a woman who has worked with handicapped children for many years).
Are there other capacities “of the heart” used at work? It would be important to investigate along these lines. There are some recognized capacities of this kind. For example, courage (“inner sthenght”) and patience. “The attribute of courage is a necessary condition for the efficiency of certain social institutions such as the army, police force, etc.” (Dalla Volta, 1974: headword Coraggio). But is this the only form in which courage is manifested? Regarding care work, in addition to the courage to become involved, I am thinking, for example, of the capacity for self discipline in order to face dirty tasks (the “bedpan” immediately comes to mind) and foul smells or contact with the dead: aspects which give rise to disgust and/or fear in most people. Or the psycho-physical risks involved in contact with the injured, the elderly, the dying...
We can assess the value of certain job tasks by considering how much it costs to master ourselves to do them! A nurse on her first day at work fled screaming when she saw a woman’s cancerous vagina (“I saw an orchid”, she explained later). A psychologist told of the attacks of vomiting, the trembling and sweating she and her mother had experienced when washing pus, with its unbearable stench, off her grandmother’s back. “I couldn’t eat for a week”. The psychologist overcame this ordeal (“I believe I was helped perhaps by my love for the sick person - I adored her - but, above all, by pity for the suffering body”), but not her mother. (3).
There is a division of hospital work that today protects doctors and surgeons from the hardest aspects of the job, and not just from dirty tasks. As Mary Daly (1978:277) points out, a surgeon operates and cuts the patient under anaesthesia, a doctor prescribes “drugs which often have harmful effects, issuing orders from on high”... but it is nurses who are present at the patient’s sufferings on awakening and who even have to cause pain by changing of dressing after surgery, by dressing the wound, disinfecting it, etc., or physiotherapists (“most of whom ... female”) who “force women to do excruciating exercise after surgery, for example, after mastectomies”.
I have heard of (male) nurses in Torino who refuse to wash patients: displaying insensitivity, that is professional incompetence.
(Is it because of the courage required that men only wash away dirt in the army, reaching the most profound level of humility?).
On the contrary, doctors in ancient Greece would not allow anyone else to perform tasks that are today left to nurses, so as not to surrender the “credit for a cure”, the “glory when the patient recovers!” (King, 1991:15, 22).
It’s significant to note that what is called courage (ac-credited) in a man, is called love (dis-credited) in a woman.
It has been stated many times that patience is an important quality for care work (but also for “manual”, “repetitive” jobs or for “patient research work” or “intellectual jobs”).
Being available or waiting (e.g. waiting 4-5 hours for the placenta to be delivered naturally), silently holding hands, letting a sick person hold onto you... Waiting is not passive: it has to be endured; “in the highest sense, patience is contained strength” (I Ching, esagramma 64); it is a capacity of the heart that not only until now has not been recognized in “feminine” jobs, but has been undervalued with respect to excitability and inability.
It as to be added that female “attitudes” for repetitive work often conceal harmful heavy tasks endured by women only for lack of alternatives.
May honesty (I mention it here because it is connected to “the heart”, the seat of conscience) be considered as a job quality? It is generally required for all (honest) jobs and in particular, for example, in police work. Recently, Carla Artusio has shown how in the context of private industry, the “criteria that bosses bear in mind when assigning particular jobs, including very delicate tasks, such as handling cash or paying out wages” are morality, honesty, loyalty and conscientiousness (Artusio, 1991-92:257). “Bosses” believe that “women have a more firmly rooted moral code than men” and that they are above temptation. Perhaps some man “had gone off with the loot”, in all events bookkeepers and wage clerks are almost exclusively women (ib.:259-60).

1.3 Emotional labour as a stressing job

    Another important and common meaning of the term is “work that implies suffering”, which makes one feel painful, distressing emotions. Involvement/distress are often felt together. But women workers even feel the need to put themselves at stake emotionally. Nursery school teachers, for example, vie with each other to secure jobs involving more contact with the children and complain of being taken away by excessive tidying up and cleaning duties (Giacomini, 1982:63). Is there not perhaps pleasure in using one’s emotional capacity, up to a certain point? Energy consumption, intellectual, physical or emotional exhaustion can give pleasure (rather like orgasm). There are events - sometimes even pleasurable - that severely test the heart, a person can feel real pain and even die of a broken heart, as doctors and sociologists have confirmed (Barbagli, 1990:290). Moreover, it is to be expected that all-encompassing and instant understanding is matched by a sudden and powerful outpouring of energy, at times a destructive explosion. On the other hand, the slow reasonings of the mind correspond to slower wear and tear, and the same can be said of the body (on the contrary, emotional recovery can be slower and difficult). It is a question of equilibrium. There are jobs that drain one’s emotions even in a short time, for example nursing terminal patients or children with leukaemia, who still looked well initially and then you watch them waste away and die...
In the meaning given above, “emotional labour” defines the effect of the work on the emotions, and can therefore be applied to all jobs because they all have this effect, to a greater o lesser degree.
Aspects of emotional suffering are present in intellectual work: for example, Andrea Dworkin, after writing a book on pornography said that the material (visual and non-visual which she had had to put up with for three years) had ruined her life (I981:302-304). And G. Legman (1971:45) described how he composed his voluminous work on the logic of the dirty joke between tears and laughter.

1.4 Emotional labour as ‘work on oneself’

Work involving observation/perception is also work on oneself; this is certainly more intense, the greater the challenge to one’s emotions and therefore forms a significant part of such jobs. The expression “emotional labour” denotes this work on oneself, in the officially accredited usage -in psychoanalytical language - in order to process/digest one’s own emotions within oneself. The expression is also used for inner, spiritual searching. This “emotional labour” was discussed at the meeting and was viewed as an activity to be carried out consciously, both to “overcome the limits of our ways of approaching people, influenced by our background, behaviour, experiences” (Coordinamento..., 1990:37), which make us incapable of perceiving the other person for what he is, and as a must for acquiring detachment, so as to be involved and perhaps carried away, but not distressed. We may ask what are the appropriate instruments for meeting these requirements of “introspective capacity”: a sense of humour, wisdom...(they have also been expressed by asking for a “training in dealing with hardship and grief”).
The need to acquire a greater capacity for work on oneself is essential to all jobs, not only actors - called by the actress Stefania Sandrelli “athletes of the emotion” -, or professional athletes, prostitutes, veterans, the “simple” male or female homemaker, the apparently silent typist, the worker of the night shift, the nurse, and varies according to individual differences, but also different sectors, social classes, societies and for entire cultures, presumably being greater in the west because of the haphazard and mechanical way in which we are schooled in emotions (4). It has being shown that in India (Somjee, 1991:36) and Japan (Hendry and Martinez, 1991:64) nurses are concerned with the patient’s well-being, but are more “detached” than in England. It is this lack of social skill in training  the emotions that defines the high value of the job. The worker is thrown in at the deep end with respect to manual or intellectual work, where job processes are more consolidated and definite.

2. Emotional labour as concrete work

 Love has its pregnancy in the heart. (African saying.)
The energies involved in these occupations are energies “of the heart” - a muscle, as peculiar as any other, like the uterus, or the brain, the biceps...-, not explicitly included (but which could be included) in the most comprehensive definition of labour I have found: “However varied labour or useful production activities may be, it is a  physiological truth that these are functions of the  human organism, and that all these functions, whatever their content and form, are essentially an expending of the  human brain, nerves, muscles, sense organs, etc.” (Marx,1965:68). This energy is manifested as an immediate, constant perception at every moment of our lives, just as our hands or brain are always ready for us. But at work we “lend” our perceptive force which is used (is “objectified”) in order to carry out our job tasks. Just as the mind can be applied voluntarily to a given subject (reading, for example) knowing that it will then spontaneously perform its task, so can the emotions: our emotions are “exposed”, if we place ourselves in situations in which they are required, our emotions will be responsive and understanding. (It’s more than will, it is desire, motivation...) 
It costs time, however volatile emotions may be (never slow or heavy like the mind or body). If we wished, we could even establish, at least to some extent, standard times, a combination of work quantity/quality: “Let’s say a woman turns up and needs a bit of love, tenderness: it takes at least a couple of hours” (Millet, 1977:69).
It takes effort, as we have seen. Its usefulness is obvious: when we want to cheer up the old lady who’s letting herself go and she finally gets her appetite back, we can say: I’ve done a good job! We’ve achieved our aim! The aim here is to remove weights, uplift hearts; nurture the spirit; “give strenght to those who are in need of it”; to stimulate a desire to learn; “to get children to come out with their emotions”, as a good teacher does. Depending on the particular aim, the content and techniques, the hard practicalities of emotional labour are selected. “In some circumstances advice is sought, in others action is required, and in others a sense of perspective, of ‘rightness’, is to be established (James, 1989:26). “Comfort, confrontation, humour, empathy or action may each be appropriate in different circumstances” (ib.:27) (5). “Caresses can probably be considered as innate stimuli of calm and a sense of tranquillity” (Frjida, 1989:381). It has been observed how “patients who were groaning in apparent pain seemed to feel better for at least thirty minutes after contact with the nurse’s hand” (Autton, 1992:93). J.J. Linch has measured the “positive effect of contact with the nurse on the heartbeat of comatose patients and those in intensive care” (ib.: 1992:99,101).
And so it is not an extravagant idea: this kind of work respects all the conditions that define useful labour: energy, voluntary use of energy, time, aims. It is certainly “useful work” (at times a question of life and death), and it is “social” since it is of use to others; and valid in every society. Irrationality denotes only the poor functioning of this capacity. One can be more or less good at this, as with other things. Average individual capacity helps to establish the level of development of productive forces in these jobs.

3. Intellectuality and manuality

The more general definitions of labour are “intellectual work” and “manual work”. The jobs we have termed emotional jobs fall officially within these labels: in fact, today the poet, teacher, analyst are classified as intellectuals, while the nurse or policeman tend to be classed as manual workers. One aspect of the “comparable worth” policy has consisted in re-evaluating the intellectual and manual characteristics of these jobs. In this way, trade union assessment categories are not questioned, but a larger space than before is staked out - and immediately! - pursuing them on their own ground. The word “emotive” today would make a trade unionist laugh! This is the explanation, I believe, for the use of the expression “relational work” to indicate ‘care’ work in general for “outsiders”. Is it perhaps too soon to bring into question current general labour classification criteria, consolidated as they are by custom and power? There has been an attempt, as I was saying, to re-evaluate professional duties, sometimes using an aseptic language that does not stray from the customary language: “A professional nurse must be able to perform numerous different technical activities. For example, a seemingly ‘low grade’ activity, such as moving a bedridden patient, presupposes technical-scientific knowledge and practical ability in order to move the patient correctly without causing pain, avoiding awkward positions and bed-sores” (Coordinamento..., 1990:64). The considerable psycho-physical tolerance a nurse must have has also being rightly pointed out in order to be “instantly awake at a call, on her feet and functioning for as long as she needed, and instantly asleep as soon as she could lie down again. It had never kept nurses, or women of any kind, from lissening respectfully as the physician whined about the way their vaste incomes were justified by the fact that they where awakend during the night to see the patients... Women had to get up much oftener, stay up longer, and where neither paid not admired for doing it” (Haden Elgin, quoted in Kramarae and Treichler, 1985: headword Nurse).
Turning a patient over (to wash and perfume her purulent and malodorous back), trying not to hurt her, involves not only strenght and dexterity, but concentration, tact and courage. During those moments, the nurse is attentive to the needs of the patient, including her non-immediate needs; he must become intimate with the patient, “manage” the patient’s emotions and his own.
If the psychiatric nurse, Laura, had not brought her feelings and emotions into play (that is “using myself as a work tool”) raving with Valeria, a woman “of impetuous rage”, she would not have been useful to the patient. Moreover, she would had been hit on the head by a chair and would have made the bad impression professional make when patients “kick up a row”. In any event, at the end of her shift, she felt as if the patients had drained her, “to the point of leaving me empty and with nothing to give” (Gnocchi, 1991:30, 31, 60, 101).
Emotional language cannot help but break out because care work, with it’s large emotional component (essential for achieving the desired results), cannot be contained within the narrow, artificial confines of a “manual” or “intellectual” job. Margaret Mead, “noted that nursing is, more than any other similar job, a moment that can re-establish people’s faith in the relationship that exists between the hands, the heart and the mind: it is one of the few situations in which it is possible to experience the importance of the hands” (Autton, 1992:56).
Do not solecitude, readiness, creativity, clearheadedness, intellect... perhaps co-operate in the capacities that women express? To quote some of these capacities: “the capacity to establish optimum methods and conditions for intervening or abstaining from action” (Artusio, 1991-92:75); the capacities of relating, mediating in conflicts, communicating (“being able to juggle the delicate balance of each individual and of that individual within a group”(James, 1989:26); the capacity to work by means of “meeting/confrontation between different cultures”, where the other person’s emotions are understood bearing in mind her cultural and social background...; the capacity of “flexible management of resources, firstly of time” (Manacorda, cited in Coordinamento..., 1990:76); the capacity to face numerous complex activities; “flexibility and adaptability in the face of the unforeseen, of variety”; the responsibility of decision-making in conditions of uncertainty”.
Understanding is broadened in this co-operation. “That which is different in women’s work does not lie in innate gifts”, but in a “way of approaching situations where feeling is not divorced from thinking and acting, but perhaps this means thinking and acting differently” (Coordinamento...,1990:56). We can perhaps summarize the above by saying that “techniques of tenderness” consist of a concrete synthesis of emotional, intellectuals and physical capacities. In fact, each facet of the capacity “of the heart” may combine with other emotional capacities and, even more so, each of these interacts with physical and intellectual faculties, modifying them and in turn being modified. (They even lend each other energies when it is needed.) In intellectual work “the hands” are often also used, while in manual work the intellect is used; emotions come into both of them, and emotional labour involves both the hands and the intellect. (But it is the heart to mediate between inner/outer conflicts).
Novarra writes that “the concept of emotional expression or effort as work is quite alien, of course to the conventional idea of work”, ma it is a question of “male bias” that derive from the fact that a man’s method of working is disordered, lacking in understanding, solicitude and harmony (or sense of proportion), and not without consequences: “personnel departments and the welfare officer are there to cope with emotional messes. Not for nothing has personnel been assigned a ‘female role’ among the functions of management” (Novarra, 1980:24). Adrienne Rich has already shown how it is chiefly women, in badly paid jobs and sentimentalized roles, “who find themselves facing, in the actual presence of living individuals (children, welfare clients, the sick, the aging), the consequences of the cruelty and indifference of powerful males who control the professions and institutions. It is women who are supposed to absorb the anger, the hunger, the unmet need, the psychic and physical pain of the human lives which become statistics and abstractions in the hands of social scientists, government officials, administrators” (Rich, quoted in Leghorn and Parker, 1981:178).
In only one case did I found this clear statement: “Work may be physical, intellectual or emotional” (Novarra, 1980:24). Unfortunately, Novarra does not clarify the implications of her words. Used in this way, each of the three types of labour has the same level of universality. The expression “emotional work” encompasses in its universality all those activities that refer particularly to the capacities “of the heart”.
As concrete work, i.e. taking into consideration its usefulness, its “use value”, emotional labour diverges from the others, and so may be placed alongside them. Every job is named after its most significant, most difficult task. In many cases, is this not, for example, the capacity of understanding and interpreting the needs of the other person, the  sine qua non of the job? (We need not only think of patients in intensive care on artificial ventilators and therefore unable to speak normally, or of newborn babies: we know that most of the health problems have to do with emotions.).
Introducing an emotional capacity means considering the person and her/his work possibilities in a more articulate and at the same time comprehensive manner. It is important to bear this capacity in mind when establishing a more accurate standard of equivalents for different jobs. This is a preliminary operation for making jobs comparable and setting out their reciprocal value.
The current debate on ways of preventing ‘burn-out’, “physical, emotional, relational exaustion”, which often occurs “after months or years of generous employment” in the jobs in question (Rossetti, in Cherniss), shows how it is not just useful but urgent  to find the ‘right measure’ also for these jobs. In order to “optimize management of human and professional resources”, it is of crucial importance to correct “the imbalance between the resources available and demand”, both external and internal demand (Cherniss, 1983:7). To do this, it is proposed both to eliminate or reduce some of the external demands and to make workers’ expectations of themselves more realistic (ib.:36 and sgg). I shall recall some concrete proposals: the worker must find the space to be in her/his turn “emotionally supported” and helped to “examine their own feelings”, to “understand and manage their own emotional response to the job constructively” (ib.:113,118); they must give themselves the necessary time to reflect and meditate on their own work experience (for example, planning breakes and taking days leave at short notice) (ib.:167,185); a warning is also given: “do not advice against part-time work” (ib.:185).

4. Conclusions

They say women are superior to men in many jobs we are talking about: is this “true as a popular prejudice”? H(ilda) D(oolittle) actually realized that her own “way of being right”, her intuitions would “spring up quicker [than those of Freud] splitting the second (and this is what cares in counting spiritual time)”, and would go deeper: “almost invisible antennae, thin as hairs which sometimes would vibrate an advice in the air or solve a problem...”(H.D., 1973:180). And the majority of men would agree with her, if they would take the trouble of reading her, because they spontaneously exalt the natural sensitivity (6), still more the dedication of the gentle sex. Not to speak of her superior moral capacity, (really necessary in dealing with defenceless people), demonstrated by the fact that prisons are full of men. Intuition, some women would rectify, is the result of secular experiments, tempered through “ hard experience, passion and desperate courage” (Spender, 1982:95).
It is now appropriate to remember the process of transformation that the family has undergone in recent centuries, at the core of which has been placed the mother, first accepting to breastfeed her babies, then being tender and involved in her children’s education (see Saraceno 1988:133-143) and finally giving cognitive and emotional support to her partner (Barbagli, 1990:224-226)(7). Fathers were active in creating these new tasks for women (only, not for themselves), together with moralists, doctors, reformers and priests (Saraceno, 1988:136-137).
Society today explicitly recognizes female superiority when, on the basis of the “superior interest of the children”, gives them - in almost all cases - in custody to the mother after a separation or a divorce. It also recognizes her superiority insofar as many jobs are given to women on the sole assumption of “maternal qualities” in the female worker. I want to add that school curricula in pedagogy or psychology are mainly followed by women. It is women who are trying to master the tools of the trade. And it is women who - “chatting” and “gossiping” with each other - pass useful information on emotional relational problems. Of course all these facts do not exclude that there are also men who have reached - through luck, badluck, experience and learning -, emotional maturity and competence. Necessarily we are talking about an  average female superiority (8), to be valued individually.
Women today are aiming hard at the recognition (the “valorization”) of ‘care’ jobs. In Torino, on the basis of a research study to guarantee equal opportunities to female workers in the public sectors of social welfare and schools (see Comitato... 1994), the following proposals have been presented:
a) Training to create self-awareness of the productive value, of the contribution to the product, of her “feminine” way of working. “Without the ability to mediate sometimes work wouldn’t be finished.“ Also, stress would increase. (It is a bit like taking into account the contribution of company canteen workers to the final product: nourishing the workers, makes it possible. ) 
b) The recognition of the psychological maturity of the person, of psychological abilities. (This recognition has been proposed also in France, for purposes of job evaluation). Such recognition is born of the consideration that the family work done by children and adolescents -most often female-, and that of making and raising children, done by adult women, should be taken into account as previous training for ‘care’ work.
c) The recognition of ‘care’ tasks. For instance, passage from a lower category to a higher one has been proposed for school caretakers (i bidelli), when the job includes people’s care tasks.
d) Training to perfect acquired capacities. Until now training has been offered only to cadre leaders to learn how to manage feelings and re-balance the psycho-physical energies that have been put to a severe test in their work roles. But training is not less necessary in subordinate jobs - where relational work is demanding and emotions are coerced, and we depend on the decisions and character of others.
Many women suspect that male praise and formal acknowledgements are only male/masks of bad will: of paying with praise without accepting praise for pay. The work done by women with care has not yet given rise to a job description, let alone adequate payment. And leaving aside the huge quantity of extra-work - compared to fathers - for children in custody, that ‘superiority’ bestows on women and which earns no money at all.
We are not talking anymore about virtues, but about virtuosity and talent, capacities and trade union agreements: is our ‘feminine superiority’ to be maintained ?
To recognize the various emotional aspects of work, would bring into play not only the hierarchical order between women and men, but among men (9). Under an undiscussed, and now recognized, female leadership. Through an analysis of care work and its conceptualisation as work, we have come, from a confusedly declared sexual difference on the job - to be “respected”-, to a recognized difference in capacity.
This research was carried out with a contribution Murst (60%)
I would like to thank for their interesting stimuli and helpful suggestions given - after the reading of a previous draft of this paper - Vanessa Maher, Elisabetta Donini, Piera Zumaglino, Lidia Rizzo, Chiara Ronco, Maria Vittoria Giannelli, Paola Lupo, Laura Derossi.


1) This paper is a re-elaboration of a contribution I presented to the Seminar - organized by the Coordinamento europeo delle donne (CED) and the Coordinamento donne funzione pubblica (FP) C.G.I.L. di Torino “Pari opportunità per il lavoro di cura: Prospettive europee”, Torino 20-21 Febbraio 1992. My contribution was published in Reti, luglio-ottobre I992, n. 4-5 
2) Quoted in Kramarae and Treichler, headword Nursing.
3) To “dirty work” should be dedicated a study in its own right. I noticed that nurses refer to it with weighed indifference. But during an interview, one of them said : “[my relatives] tell me that I am mad to do it, they wouldn’t... they imagine this place as a place of monsters.. [they think that] you can clean an old person, but a person between 20 and 40 years old, you cannot touch... they think that I am a kind of Cottolengo where there is only excrement (cacca) and this is all...” (Comitato..., 1994:191). Once people thought that touching bodies and dirt was made possible only by a mad love of God: it was the exhibition of medieval (female) saints! Or it was made possible from the courage of a shero who deserved to become a divinity (also) by accepting to clean dung from the huge cowsheds of Augeas - obviously before it came into her mind that it would be possible to do it quick and clean. We are referring to Ercules and his V labour! (See Graves, 1983:439- 442). Or it was the penance for sinners. In his Inferno, Dante puts flatterers in the dung while murderers, tyrants and plunderers, because they were guilty of a lesser sin, were only plunged in the boiling blood of the Flegetonte river. A synthesis that equals extreme courage in fighting/killing and touching dirt and corpses, we find in the deeds of the “princess Argia” - and of the noble platoon of women around her-, remembered by Boccaccio and Christine de Pizan (1983:125-6; at page 263 see the interesting comment of Warner). But a male army general needs only to contact a wounded soldier to pass into his/story books.
4) See how the teachings of Yoga, - essentially a method of controlling heart and mind - is now compulsory in Indian schools.
5) James (1989:25-28) presents many other interesting examples of “emotional techniques”.
6) “Discomfort in the young induces an immediate response in the majority of animal higher species, from birds to human beings - or at least in women... One of the main arguments to sustain this theory is the brief latency, around six seconds, with which mothers, in favourable cultural conditions, take their baby in their arms after it has started to cry” (Frijda, 1986:380).
7) Researchers also point out female intelligence and competence in creating and maintaining social networks and in dealing with social services and institutions (see Saraceno 1988: 187-188, 227).
8) From research by Kirouac and Dore, for example, it turns out that “no great difficulty was found in recognizing the emotion felt from someone on the basis of photographs showing exclusively the face”, nevertheless “women are on average better interpreters than men” (Dantzer, 1992:38).
9) Italian trade unions have always opposed job evaluation systems (practiced in USA), in all jobs. This opposition seems to have been favorable to equality in women’s wages. It cannot be surprising if, even in connection with the comparable worth debate on female/male jobs, an attempt to face the subject is starting slowly (see Treu, 1987; Frey, 1987; Barbera, 1991).


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Trapeze artist's "demanding skill"?
"Eroic" every day life for women's work-force?

Demanding Skill: Women and Technical Education in Australia (Paperback)
by Barbara Pocock - Allen & Unwin (April 1, 1989)

Cover design of a "trapeze artist": Donna Rawlins

Barbara Pocock has woked for many years on programs to improve women's employment status.

Recent bibliography:
Research Project
Organizational Behavior

White swan or black swan?

it’s our much-maligned dark side that often conceals the trump cards of success. 

A bizzarre survey regarding another - if not opposite - face of "emotional skills"
The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success [Kindle Edition] Kevin Dutton (Author) Publication Date: October 16, 2012
Book description. In this engrossing journey into the lives of psychopaths and their infamously crafty behaviors, the renowned psychologist Kevin Dutton reveals that there is a scale of “madness” along which we all sit. Incorporating the latest advances in brain scanning and neuroscience, Dutton demonstrates that the brilliant neurosurgeon who lacks empathy has more in common with a Ted Bundy who kills for pleasure than we may wish to admit, and that a mugger in a dimly lit parking lot may well, in fact, have the same nerveless poise as a titan of industry.
Dutton argues that there are indeed “functional psychopaths” among us—different from their murderous counterparts—who use their detached, unflinching, and charismatic personalities to succeed in mainstream society, and that shockingly, in some fields, the more “psychopathic” people are, the more likely they are to succeed. Dutton deconstructs this often misunderstood diagnosis through bold on-the-ground reporting and original scientific research as he mingles with the criminally insane in a high-security ward, shares a drink with one of the world’s most successful con artists, and undergoes transcranial magnetic stimulation to discover firsthand exactly how it feels to see through the eyes of a psychopath. As Dutton develops his theory that we all possess psychopathic tendencies, he puts forward the argument that society as a whole is more psychopathic than ever: after all, psychopaths tend to be fearless, confident, charming, ruthless, and focused—qualities that are tailor-made for success in the twenty-first century.
Provocative at every turn, The Wisdom of Psychopaths is a riveting adventure that reveals that it’s our much-maligned dark side that often conceals the trump cards of success.



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