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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Stoicism (as Emotional Compression) Is Emotional Labor

Táíwò, O. (2020).
Feminist Philosophy Quarterly, 6(2).


The criticism of “traditional,” “toxic,” or “patriarchal” masculinity in both academic and popular venues recognizes that there is some sense in which the character traits and tendencies that are associated with masculinity are structurally connected to oppressive, gendered social practices and patriarchal social structures. One important theme of criticism centers on the gender distribution of emotional labor, generally speaking, but this criticism is also particularly meaningful in the context of heterosexual romantic relationships. I begin with the premise that there is a gendered and asymmetrical distribution in how much emotional labor is performed, but I also consider that there might be meaningful and informative distinctions in what kind of emotional labor is characteristically performed by different genders. Specifically, I argue that the social norms around stoicism and restricted emotional expression are masculine-coded forms of emotional labor, and that they are potentially prosocial. Responding to structural and interpersonal asymmetries of emotional labor could well involve supplementing or better cultivating this aspect of male socialization rather than discarding it.

Here is my summary:

Táíwò argues that the social norms surrounding stoicism, particularly the restriction of emotional expression, function as a gendered form of emotional labor.

Key Points:

Stoicism and Emotional Labor: The article reconceptualizes stoicism, traditionally associated with emotional resilience, as a type of emotional labor. This reframing highlights the effort involved in suppressing emotions to conform to social expectations of masculinity.

Masculinity and Emotional Labor: Táíwò emphasizes the connection between stoicism and masculine norms. Men are socialized to restrict emotional expression, which can be seen as a form of emotional labor with potential benefits for social order.

Gender and Emotional Labor Distribution: The author acknowledges the unequal distribution of emotional labor across genders. While stoicism might be a specific form of emotional labor for men, women often perform different types of emotional labor in society.

Potential Benefits: Táíwò recognizes that stoicism, as emotional labor, can have positive aspects. It can promote social stability and emotional resilience in individuals.

This article offers a critical perspective on stoicism by linking it to emotional labor and masculinity. It prompts further discussion on gendered expectations surrounding emotions and the potential benefits and drawbacks of stoicism in contemporary society.