Brandi Lawless, a professor of communications at the University of San Francisco, wrote in the March issue of Review of Communications that “emotional labor” is a form of academic work for which female faculty members should be paid. She wrote, "The unwritten rule that women are emotional creatures is not natural."

Lawless teaches classes on “Communication for Justice and Social Change” and “Intercultural Communication.” Her bio on the university website noted, "Within this work, she attempts to identify dominant ideologies, hegemonic systems that perpetuate such taken for granted beliefs, and status-based hierarchies." 

The University of San Francisco is described on its website as: “a premier Jesuit university — is a reflection of the inclusive, inspirational, innovative city that surrounds it. We provide students from all backgrounds an education that is intensely personal and intellectually demanding.

“For us, reason, religion, science, and spirituality are complementary. Our students see the world with a sense of awe and wonder, and with a curiosity for answers to the world’s most complex questions.” The president of the university is Rev. Paul J. Fitzgerald SJ.

According to Lawless, who teaches courses on social justice, “emotional labor” can be defined as “demonstrations of sympathy and empathy, one-on-one attention, supportive communication, counseling, general development of personal relationships, and making a person 'feel good.'” Conferring with students during office hours, consult school disability offices, and respond to emails, are examples of emotional labor, wrote Lawless. While noting that women of various cultures show a tendency to perform acts of caring, Lawless believes that “the unwritten rule that women are emotional creatures is not natural” and that female faculty members are socialized to do so because of “neoliberalism.”

Lawless suggested that female professors should be compensated monetarily for emotional labor, arguing that “if we cannot stop neoliberalism in its tracks, then we must do something to improve our working conditions.” She encouraged academics to record their acts of emotional labor, while she demanded that colleges and universities recognize emotional labor as a valid form of work

Academics engaged in the study of communications should do further research on emotional labor so that others can argue in favor of increased salaries. She concluded that “given the additional work that is expected of us from students, colleagues, and administrators, we must make arguments for compensation.”

Arlie Hochschild of the University of California, Berkeley, popularized the theory of “emotional labor” in her book, “The Managed Heart,” which has been a staple in courses in sociology and women’s studies since its publication in 1979.  and “emotional labor” is commonly taught in women’s studies and sociology classes. 

The abstract of Lawless's article states:

“Neoliberal practices embedded in academia have transformed the university into a service industry. Through this lens, this review documents the current exploration of emotional labor in academia, specifically in communication studies. While a paucity of literature on this topic exists, I explore how a neoliberal agenda creates an expectation for communication faculty to perform emotional labor (and how this expectation is greater compared with other fields), the ways in which emotional labor is differentially experienced for women, and how communication studies as a gendered field exacerbates expectations to perform such labor. Moreover, I highlight the shifting perception of the field and the related moves to expand emotional labor. Finally, I discuss ways to move forward in a neoliberal academia.”



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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