chapter  7
21 Pages

Feeding Egos and Tending Wounds: Deference and Disaffection in Women's Emotional Labor

What does a man want? What, in the conflict-ridden arena of current heterosexual relations, does a man want from a woman? I went straight to the horse's mouth for an answer, to men, indeed, to men who claim expertise in the interpretation and management of relationships. "What a man is attracted to most deeply in a woman," say the male psychologists Connell Cowan and Melvyn Kinder in their best-selling Smart Women, Foolish Choices, "is a magical mixture of unadulterated power and tenderness-in equal measure. "2 "Strength, forcefulness, and mastery can be gained," they assure us, "without giving up female tenderness and concern with relationships. "3 This is good news indeed. But elsewhere Cowan and Kinder admit that "whatever men say, most of them still like to control the timing and frequency of lovemaking. "4 Men do not want a sexually aggressive woman but "a woman who will be exquisitely responsive and passionate. "5 An alarm buzzer goes off in my head. "Whatever men say ...": Is this a warning or a confession? How can a woman have' 'unadulterated power" and yet be unable to control the timing and frequency of her own lovemaking? Nor are men attracted by the qualities that make for career success in women: "A woman who has worked hard at an education and career is not necessarily valued higher by men. "6 Once more, "unadulterated power" does not in fact attract, for such power would have to include, would it not, the straight-out exercise of power in the public sphere that is oftentimes the reward of career success? I am perplexed: What does a man want? Some sort of power in a woman, but none of the ordinary sorts and, less mysteriously, tenderness, not tenderness simpliciter but "female tenderness."