The Emotional Component of Intellectual Work


As a Feminist, I am acutely attuned to the emotions or lack thereof when dealing with others.  I have researched gender roles and am continuing this work, I may even begin a new blog on this topic, considering it is not about my more Civic Engagement type of work that I am planning to do.  Point being Civic Engagement= nice, calm, sort of “girly” and Research= not pretty, sort of “masculine”, not calm in the least.  Now I am not talking about research in the sense of circulating surveys and grinding out numbers and graphs, etc… I am talking about qualitative, on the “streets” work that led me to opening doors that many would prefer to keep closed and locked and preferably moved to Cuba.  Now this is not the stuff of superheroes, it is the stuff of Sociologists.  We are supposed to go to the “other side of the tracks”, to understand subcultures even the violent ones, we are just well…we should do it although not all us have taken this road.

So cue in the everyday life of someone (A Sociologist or other research person); we have an idea in our heads, but have realized we have no pen and paper to write down said ideas.  In comes a jovial, bouncing neighbor or fellow parent or anyone who leaves their job at the job.  I am sure we seem aloof and sometimes even rude when we are contemplating such things as terrorism or violent gangs and we are asked about a bake sale.  Similarly confusing to “normal” people are the times I have claimed to be “too busy” to do X or Y and I am spotted in the bleachers watching one of my sons doing athletic training, practicing, game playing, etc… and going to games is important, sure but going to practices and other events, no not even necessary.  To me it is however, as I watch their male coaches and trainers coach and train.  Their lack of emotion (except sometimes anger), use of metaphors such as “you are athletes, not horses!” when they are stomping around, and all around command of respect and space is something to learn from if you have a penchant for sports, leadership, and gender in no particular order or possibly one but not all.

One may have an erroneous idea that coaching sports (especially ones considered more violent and less aesthetic such as football and martial arts) requires no intellectual work and that it is all yelling and throwing chairs and such.  This is quite untrue as these sports are a science and an art, respectively and emotion is expected as a motivator; simply put it is a role and a necessary one.  Enter in female teacher and the opposite is expected by most Feminists; intellectual work is supposed to be all that is on display while emotions are not supposed to be added at all. Now not all Feminist teachers believe this to be true, but they do (rightly so) realize that women are viewed as being “overly emotional” i.e. hysterical or teary-eyed or more concerned with making people “happy” rather than successful.

Stereotypes do nothing positive for either men or women. But it is quite possible to use emotion as a woman in intellectual work, as well.  This emotion does not have to be of the “chair throwing” origin, but it is what I call “fake anger’…I see coaches using it quite a bit.  Now sometimes they are legitimately angry, but in the “pre preseason” as it is now for football; I see that fake anger used for two objectives (1) expect some actual anger later in the preseason and (2) I am trying to motivate you and being nice is not a motivator when push-ups, running, and other not fun activities are involved. So yes this can be translated to women in teaching or any leadership role sans the actual angry which is always counterproductive.  (A) fake anger is good in that it prepares students for the “real world” where people are not going to always be nice and (b) it motivates students to do some work that they may have to do to fulfill prereqs that they may have no interest in doing.  Of course, you have to still “coach” by praising outstanding performance and have some fun here and there.  But the point is when we think of women as emotional, the angry side is often looked at as a transient “she must have PMS this week” type of thing.  Consistency is key and I will attest to this in my classes and in my parenting of 3 boys as a single parent.

I can and will be nice, step out of bounds and I won’t be, it really is that simple.  When I feel legitimately angry, I pull out pen and paper and write, literally write “do not freak out on Jordan for being disruptive in class, count to 10…oh still mad at him? count to 20”, then I shoot “Jordan” a look and move on… same thing at home. Stay in the bounds of acceptable behavior and all will be well, step out and it will be a boot camp situation.  In hindsight, dealing with all the myriad issues of having my oldest son start high school and the middle son start junior high, has been a trial.  The oldest has went from being disruptive and failing to honor roll at this point, the middle one; well his angry outbursts ended when I got radical and took him to the ER, knowing the charge nurse was a fellow parent of kids his age.  After getting a counseling referral and telling him in no uncertain terms “if you want to go to counseling to have people feel sorry for you, you will never be an adult that can function on your own- stop feeling sorry for yourself”. It has worked.  He is also honor roll and doing great.

One final statement on this, Feminists stop, just STOP acting as if parenting is something that is taboo in your world.  Yes, I get it believe me, it sets up back 50 years if all we talk about is our kids, and swap recipes, and read People magazine.  But don’t deny the fact that if you can’t run a “tight ship” at home, don’t expect anyone to think you can run anything else.  Also some might assume that your husband (even if you hyphenated your name or kept your maiden name and the rest of us are confused as to whether you even believe in having children) is doing all the discipline at home then.  No, we can’t have it all, but we can do emotional and intellectual work simultaneously and be better people for it.

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