FEELING RULES: LOVE AND GRATITUDE
Morgan and Brown both tell women to expect less caretaking from their husbands than they should expect to give. As Brown notes flippantly, “At my house there isn’t much wife coddling during illness, but then nobody female is ever ill at our house so the unilateral sick-care plan works okay.”16 Morgan finds support in the Bible for the same uneven expectations. As she exclaims, “God ordained man to be the head of the family, its president and his wife to be the executive vice president. . . allowing your husband to be your president is just good business.”17 From this, Morgan derives an emotional “policy” spelled out in the formula for women: accept him, admire him, adapt to him, and appreciate him. The policy is based on the idea that men and women have different needs; as Morgan argues, “Women need to be loved; men need to be admired”18—a proposition Steinem flatly rejects.
In addition to Morgan’s rules for love, she gives guidance on how grateful women should feel toward men. If a woman feels properly grateful to her husband, Morgan reasons, it will be easier to accept, admire, adapt to, and appreciate him. And to feel grateful, it helps to dwell on what she should be grateful for . .. Discussing how, after a quarrel, a woman can bring herself to apologize first, Morgan notes:
Г11 tell you what helps me apologize quite sincerely. I say to myself—and I mean every word of it—you are lucky, very’ lucky your husband married you, my dear, that you now have a husband. Should your marriage end, there is no big storehouse of possible new husbands for you to get yourself one from, at your age. That bin is practically empty’. The bin that he gets a new wife from is not empty. ia
But even a die-hard traditionalist like Morgan pitches her appeal to the reader not on the grounds that womanly gratitude is its own raison d’etre but on the grounds of a cool calculation about the availability’ of alternate spouses. What is owed and owing in gratitude, she presumes does not flow from the give-and-take of marriage but from the remarriage market well outside it. Given this marital and job market, Morgan reasons that women should feel more grateful to be married to men than men are to be married to them. So women should also feel more grateful for all the little events of married life.
Bearers of an egalitarian code advocate a very’ different, if sometimes equally crude, emotional policy. This modern code calls for a symmetry’ in what is owed and owing in love and gratitude. In this they differ from the traditional. But modern advice books themselves differ on whether both men and women should follow the formerly “feminine” rules of love or whether both should follow the formerly “masculine” ones. In Smart Cookies Don’t Crumble, Sonya Friedman advocates that women feel less grateful, not that men feel more so. She warns women that “being grateful is a trap” and elaborates: “When you’re grateful for little favors, you will always empower others to run your life. Instead empower yourself to get what you want. Staying with the man who begrudges love day after day ensures a diet of ‘mouthfuls oi humiliation.’ Remaining at a job that limits your potential saps energy and stifles goal setting.”20
No advice book takes women "all the way” to what might be imagined to be the “male” line on gratitude: to be the less grateful party’. But many move quite far in that direction by criticizing women Гог being too loving, too giving, too obsessed with romance, too clinging or dependent—ways that they describe as “sick” or psychologically defective. Again, in “The Compassion Trap” Margaret Adams argues that the traditional rule governing women’s marital love results in a life devoted to serving others, making others comfortable and cared for.21 This, she cautions, requires women to renounce their own ambitions. As Friedman comments, it is “an obstacle to assertion. … All this sounds noble and altruistic, and it is—within reason. But remember, it’s still a trap.” Friedman goes on to give examples of this trap—a secretary who stays at a dead-end job because the boss tells her no one could take her place, a woman who keeps finding excuses for her boyfriend’s refusal to commit himself to marriage, or the wife who blames
job pressures and alcohol for her husband’s unkind behavior toward her.22 In other books as well, Robin Norwood’s Women Who Lave Too Much and Colette Dowling’s The Cinderella Complex, the problem is the traditional female emotional code—not the traditional male’s—that is said to make women unhappy. In essence, Friedman warns against Morgan’s advice: “If you put others before you, they are often quite happy to move forward and leave you behind.”2*
Other egalitarians propose that men learn to love by the old female rules. As Shere Hite put it in her book Women and Love, “It’s not that women love too much, it’s that men love too little.”21 Here Hite calls for a cultural revolution I hope comes to pass.
Just as ads tell us about the latent rules for how to look and choreograph a scene with men and women, so popular advice books tell us about rules for how to act and feel. They presume that we can improve on intuition. Such books guide women in their “surface acting’’ (where they try’ to change how they outwardly appear) and in their “deep acting” ( where they try to change how they actually feel). They guide the reader in surface acting by showing her how to appear and guide her in deep acting by showing her how to see and feel.
To Goffman, everyone is an actor, and everyone, he implies, acts equally. But these advice books suggest something else: some people act more than others. While everyone may be concerned to present a certain face to the world, and may do emotion work to fix a self to that face, we do not do that to an equal extent. The slave acts more than the master. More rides on being pleasing. To the extent that women are subordinate to men, they have to act more. It is more socially “expensive” for them to freely express frustration or annoyance. Even today women are less often steering the boat, are more often thrust into situations where they must quickly adapt to changes someone else initiates—to try to feel what five minutes ago they did not feel—and have, in addition, to make it seem as if “everything’s fine.” Especially to people who are permanently or temporarily subordinate, feeling n і les and emotion work are matters of great moment. This may be why the bookstore shelves are not filled with books for men parallel to those of Morgan, Brown, and Friedman.
Advice books also tell their readers how to take their advice—ironically, cynically, lightly, seriously, joyfully, guiltily, resentfully. They invite a reader toward a certain relationship between self and rule, sel: and code. If the war between advice books is one small clue to the contemporary conflict over the changing roles of women, then one important way this war goes on is in the innuendo of irony, play, humor—the various frames placed on the old rules that make them unserious, pragmatic, or just a bit foolish. The right way to follow an old rule in a modern world, it would seem in books like Brown’s, is to disaffiliate yourself from it, to feel distant from it. You may yet
need to use feminine wiles, she seems to say, so feel that you can use them when you have to. But, there being no purpose or legitimacy to feminine wiles left, wink at them, throw them away, and reach for another advice book. Irony becomes a way of holding on and letting go.
As in an urbanizing society the peasant comes to the city and is forced to change, so women have entered a new set of social scenes at work and at home. Just as the urbanizing peasant wonders how to fit into city life without losing all his or her peasant wrays, so urban women wonder how to adapt to the industrial world of work without losing all of their domestic culture. Just as some peasants become completely urbanized, others go back home, and still others become urban-villagers, so women assimilate or in varying degrees do not. As the w’orld becomes more economically unified, the full diversity of its cultural codes will begin to show. Other versions of a traditional code will move into circulation. But in the new code mixing to come, they may be decorative to an ever more stabilized egalitarian code. And as for the contradictions? Irony will handle them.