Like many people, I started my working life as a barista. I’ll never forget my shock when an elderly man asked my 17-year-old self out on a date. Didn’t he realize I was just being nice as part of my job?
The February 2 In These Times post Grin and Abhor It: The Truth Behind ‘Service with a Smile’ details how the service industry demands that workers appear happy, empathetic, or flirtatious as part of the job. These expectations especially impact female workers, who are considered naturally endowed with social and emotional skills.
Lady sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild coined the term “emotional labor” to describe employer demands that are outside the bounds of the traditional job. As the article writes, “Hochschild has spent decades writing of the role such labor plays in the lives of workers, especially women workers. She co-edited with Barbara Ehrenreich the book Global Woman, which looked at the role of women, many of them migrant women, in the ‘new economy,’ exploring the ways in which women’s supposed skill at emotional labor leads to their exploitation as low-paid care and service workers.”