Revised Sunday night. Updated Monday morning.
One of my great-grandfathers was a cop. Another ran a small grocery store. The cop's son who became my mother's father was an accountant. The grocery store's son who became my father's father was a lab technician. My father was a scientist, a teacher, and a politician. These days he's very active in community affairs and is president of one of the many service organizations he belongs to.
I don't believe that any of these men could have done their jobs without these temperamental attributes---patience, a pleasant demeanor...the ability to empathize and connect--- that Margaret Wente describes as in a column in the Globe & Mail as "stereotypically feminine" and which she calls "emotional labour" and which say she says, "women, even unskilled women, are much better at than men."
This is bunk. Women aren't better at this stuff than men are, they just have more practice at it, because of the kind of stereotyping that Wente identifies as such but then seems to accept without question.
By the way, a type of emotional labor lists (it goes where I put the ellipses in the quote above) is "deference to customers" which my father, who worked after school in his grandfather's store as a soda jerk excelled in and taught my father who no doubt remembered those lessons when it came time for him to show deference to voters and taxpayers. And good beat cop is without being able to show deference to the upstanding citizens on his beat.
To be fair, Wente, and Richard Florida, who riffs on her column in his post at the Daily Dish, aren't talking about men and male values versus female values, they are talking about working class men who have lost their factory jobs forever and now have to compete for service industry jobs, mainly in retail, with women who are "better" at the emotional labor those jobs require and therefore much more likely to get hired.
This is probably true, as long as both would-be employers and male applicants accept the stereotypes.
Re-training these men for the only kinds of jobs Wente and Florida think won't be beyond their reach will be more difficult because the men will be asked to give up their ideas about what it means to be a man.
This will be hard, but it shouldn't be. Men have worked as essentially shop keepers and store clerks for a lot longer than they have worked on assembly lines. There have been waiters forever. Lawyers are the world's second oldest profession. Teaching was a male-only profession for centuries. The idea that men are and ought to be unreflective, grunting, two-fisted louts good with their hands but not so much with their hearts and their heads is a class thing not a gender thing and it is imposed upon working class men by a system that needs them to be beasts of burden.
Men who reject certain values and behaviors as "sissy" or "girlie" are rejecting success, and don't think their bosses aren't grateful.
But the flip-side of the stereotype, that women are better at emotional labor, is also useful to bosses, because it often works out in practice to mean that women are more deferential generally, not just to customers but to their bosses. They don't speak up, they don't question, they don't assert themselves, and they don't fight back, not if they are real women in the way that men who accept and live by their stereotypes are real men.
As long as men think that successful behavior is feminine behavior, they won't be able to succeed in a world that requires emotional labor. But as long as employers insist that feminine behavior is obedient and deferential behavior, workers of both genders will get the shaft.
You might have guessed, though, that I don't actually believe that working class men can't do the kind of "emotional labor" Wente says they need to be able to do to get those service economy jobs that are all they have to look forward to. (In the comments, CathiefromCanada says that Wente out to come out West and look around the rest of Canada before writing off the idea that there's still high-paying manly man work still left to do.) Who's selling the washing machines at Sears? Who are those guys mixing the paint and stocking the shelves at Home Depot?
I do think workers, men and women, would be better off if they shrugged aside some stereotypes about how men think with their fists and backs and women don't think, they sympathize. But if men are going to move back into the service economy, then other people, male and female, need to shrug off stereotypes too. Potential employers and customers need to know that men are indeed capable of "emotional labor," but they may practice it differently, with more bluffness, more teasing, more...noise. I suspect that there are plenty of manager-types who react to anything other than simpering deference as insubordination and customers who recoil from gestures intended as helpfulness as if they were attempts at bullying.
It may be that Wente has the problem backwards. It's not that men aren't capable of working in the service economy. It may be that bosses and customers have gotten used to thinking of the people who provide the service as servants.
Update: Richard Florida responds with a nice and telling anecdote about his father. It's funny though that the word "barber" didn't occur to Florida's dad. Now there's a line of work that requires lots of emotional labor.