Women's double bind

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Chapter 11 endnote 16, from How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context is:

Madeleine Albright, the first female U.S. secretary of state, wrote in her memoir that “many of my colleagues made me feel that I was overly emotional, and I worked hard to get over that. In time, I learned to keep my voice flat and unemotional when I talked about issues that I considered important.”

Women live with an emotional double standard that is particularly challenging for those in positions of authority, or those who are attempting to rise to such positions. They must express emotion to be seen as feminine, consistent with female stereotype, but then they are seen as weak, preserving their subordinate place in the social hierarchy relative to men.[1] On the other hand, if women remain calm and in command, without taking care to nurture along the way, they are seen as cold, unlikeable and untrustworthy (i.e., the proverbial bitch).

Gender stereotypes also influence how university professors are evaluated.[2] Overall, female professors are valued for how they make students feel (valued for warmth, accessibility and providing students with support) but male professors are valued for what they know.  In general, male professors receive higher teaching evaluations.

This double-bind also holds for female lawyers in the culture of the law office or courtroom.[3]


Notes on the Notes

  1. Lutz, Catherine A. and Lila Abu-Lughod. 1990. Language and the Politics of Emotion. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  2. Basow, Susan A., Julie E. Phelan, and Laura Capotosto. 2006, "Gender patterns in college students choices of their best and worst professors." Psychology of Women Quarterly 30 (1): 25-35
  3. Pierce, Jennifer. 1995  Gender Trials: Emotional Lives in Contemporary Law Firms. University of California Press.