The times of crises like war tend to polarize gender relations when most men are given a task to fight in the front and most women stay at home. This division also concerns the expressions of emotions. Soldiering increasingly demands men to “shut down” their feelings for their duty of ... (Show more)
The times of crises like war tend to polarize gender relations when most men are given a task to fight in the front and most women stay at home. This division also concerns the expressions of emotions. Soldiering increasingly demands men to “shut down” their feelings for their duty of killing, while the task of mourning for the war losses is assigned to women. However, people might not always follow these predefined standards. Scholars like Jason Crouthamel have argued that the cruel experiences of world wars reshaped gender relations as people and particularly men searched for comfort for their experiences from more feminine forms of emotionality.
In this paper we analyze the interconnections of gender, war, and emotions in World War II Finland with a corpus of 7,000 digitized wartime letters. Combining statistical analysis with careful close reading, we examine the intensity and content of women’s and men’s emotional vocabulary in their personal letters. Our premise is that people’s emotional behavior is strongly related to different social situations, and we have taken four forms of interaction under inspection: we compare woman-woman, woman-men, men-men and men-woman letters.
Our analysis reveals stark differences in women’s and men’s emotional behavior in different communicational situations. We find largest differences in intragender writing when women wrote to women and men to men, with men’s mutual dialogue being particularly unemotional and harsh in tone. The differences in men’s and women’s emotionality are significantly smaller when they wrote letters to each other. Letters from women to men and from men to women are overall the most emotional types of messages in our corpus. Although they share a lot of emotional vocabulary, they also reflect the traditional gender division of war: women’s emotionality focuses on intimate relationships and longing, while men use patriotic emotion words to talk about their elevated duty of protecting the nation at war. Overall, our analysis confirms some stereotypical assumptions about gender differences of emotionality, but it also indicates that these norms varied greatly in different social situations and were perhaps blurred due to the war. (Show less)