Shaping Professional Bodies and Emotions: Male and Female Students in Midwifery and Social Work Schools in France
Drawing on 120 interviews (students, teachers, internship supervisors) and 400 hours of observations (classes, internships, student sociability...) conducted in two midwifery and two social work schools in France, I develop my analysis in three points:
- I compare the ways in which students’ bodies and emotions are educated in these two tracks. Because they are both highly feminized and require competences seen as “natural” to women, students are encouraged to express “feminine” emotions such as empathy and tenderness. They are however discouraged to develop “too feminine” body characteristics such as wearing strong make-up or figure-accentuating clothes. There is nonetheless an important difference in the ways they are asked to present themselves to users: midwifery students are educated to become exchangeable health professionals while social work students are pushed to become personalized interlocutors.
- I show next how the few male students are considered in this process: being encouraged to develop their “manly” physical and moral assets, they are given better learning opportunities than their female counterparts, which contributes to a “glass escalator” process (Williams, 1992).
- Finally, I present the resistances developed by a few male and female students against this shaping of their bodies and emotions. I analyze how these can contribute to redefining the study tracks and, therefore, the professions.