The woman in PW II would like me to be more “emotional.” This means, I have learned, that I am not feeling the same set of emotions my interlocutor would like me to feel. I am against the current emphasis on emotion in our culture because it is not about emotion, but about politics.
After 9/11, people who did not have the right political reaction were unfeeling. They were pardoned for this with the formula that they were not yet able to deal with their grief. Counseling was offered. Children in school were assigned personal essays about their “feelings” on the matter, and then tagged for counseling if they were not in line politically. “I feel angry and scared, and unsafe for the first time” was one of the requisite sentences in these “personal, original” essays.
I hear a great deal about being emotionally incorrect because I do not scare easily, or go in for drama. This is unnatural in women, I am told. People ask how I remain calm, or retain the ability to think logically under stress. They also ask how I am able to behave ethically without a religion in which I fear God. I must be denying feelings in order to do all these things, they say. This last fallacy they have learned from Al-Anon and its spinoffs, which, as you know, I consider to be Banes.
These people confuse deep feeling and histrionics. They also see political difference as psychological or religious error. If you find the high rate of incarceration among non-whites problematic, for instance, they find that you are inappropriately afraid of crime, and therefore “in denial” about what must have been a traumatic childhood. They are also operating, I discern, with a certain set of ideas about how European-descended women must be structured in order to retain whiteness (a very important endeavor). Finally, for some, the lack of obvious weakness in women makes us fast.
Adorno and Horkheimer have this to say on conventionalized feeling:
Today the culture industry has taken over the civilising inheritance of the entrepreneurial and frontier democracy – whose appreciation of intellectual deviations was never very finely attuned. All are free to dance and enjoy themselves, just as they have been free, since the historical neutralisation of religion, to join any of the innumerable sects. But freedom to choose an ideology – since ideology always reflects economic coercion – everywhere proves to be freedom to choose what is always the same. The way in which a girl accepts and keeps the obligatory date, the inflection on the telephone or in the most intimate situation, the choice of words in conversation, and the whole inner life as classified by the now somewhat devalued depth psychology, bear witness to man’s attempt to make himself a proficient apparatus, similar (even in emotions) to the model served up by the culture industry.
That is what this post has to do with patriarchal women – produced by mass culture and called “free.”