Heartlessness As An Intellectual Style

An insight from “Heartlessness As An Intellectual Style” in The Chronicle of Higher Education – “A 1999 study of women’s emotional labor in academe found that “students expect female professors to be nicer than male professors and judge them more harshly when they are not.” More recently, the history professor Benjamin M. Schmidt, at Northeastern University, found that male professors were more likely to be called “geniuses,” while female professors were more often judged on their personalities.

Many women say that their students frequently treat them like counselors or social workers. Female academics — like their peers in other professions — are made to perform the bulk of the emotional labor, with both colleagues and students. Pressures like these might explain why so many academic women I know were immediately intrigued by the premise of Deborah Nelson’s new book, “Tough Enough” (University of Chicago Press), which explores the work of women intellectuals, writers, and artists known for their stoical, even “heartless,” dispositions. When I explained the concept to female friends across the academy (and for that matter, beyond it) they all saw something liberating in the notion of the intentionally cold woman intellectual; perhaps it could serve as a model for their own escape from the pressures of obligatory emotional labor.”

Hannah Arendt is one of the “heartless” ones, it seems. In her personal life she was a passionate lover, most famously with Martin Heidegger, her professor and a future Nazi sympathizer, with whom she carried on a life long attraction. But in her writing she was dispassionate, removed, analytical and more than capable of going against the grain of popular sentiment, even while so many male intellectuals gave in. Her assertion that some of the Jewish people were actually collaborators with the Nazis and bore responsibility was particularly hard to hear.

No doubt journalists such as Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin would be on a heartless list.

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