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Is there a gender asymmetry in 'emotion work' within heterosexual relationships? If so what role does this play within gendered power relations?

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Introduction

Is there a gender asymmetry in 'emotion work' within heterosexual relationships? If so what role does this play within gendered power relations? In this essay the following topics will be discussed, gender asymmetry, emotion work and what role this plays in gender power relations in the context of heterosexual couples. Duncombe and Marsden in 1993 use local survey evidence to illustrate the gender difference or 'asymmetry' in intimate emotional behaviour. It is a commonly known belief that in the first stages of a relationship, it is passionate, loving, full of thought for each other and romantic, however Mansfield and Collard (1988: 223) suggest that after the so called honeymoon period, "Couples seek incompatible emotional goals in marriage most (though not all) men seek a life in common with their wives, a home life, a physical and psychological base, somewhere to set out from and return to - in contrast, the wives wanted a common life with an empathetic partner, a close exchange of intimacy which would make them feel valued as a person not just as a wife". To begin in the marriage at different ideals, will this cause an inevitable asymmetry in gender power relations? ...read more.

Middle

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. 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? ...read more.

Conclusion

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. 1 ...read more.

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