Blood and Organs

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Of our respondents 31% have given blood. More men than women have

given blood (38% a nd 25%, respectively), whereas women are the greater

recipients of blood.We should be aware of the fact thatmenare allowed to

give blood more often than women for medical reasons – four and three

times a year, respectively. That women receive more blood may be related

to their greater needs as a result of pregnancy and childbirth. However,

more women than men have considered giving blood: 49% a nd 30%,

respectively. Apparently, women’s willingness to give blood is relatively

great but the restrictions to donation reduce participation. Of our respondents

26%have made up an organ codicil, with female respondents

outranking their male counterparts (31% a nd 21%, respectively).

There are some doubts about Titmuss’s view of blood donations as the

“free” and altruistic gift par excellence (Titmuss 1970). For some of our

respondents the main motive to give blood was “having a free afternoon

from military service.” Often a kind of postponed reciprocity is involved.

One respondent says: “It can happen to me too, such an accident. You

may be in need of blood yourself, at some time, and then you are lucky

that there are some other people who have given their blood.” Perhaps

the bearers of an organ codicil are the true altruists.

It is justified, on the basis of these data, to claim that women are the

greater givers compared with men. Even though the monetary value of

the gifts they give is lower compared with that of men’s gifts (women

have less to spend),women give not only more normal gifts but also more

nonmaterial gifts than men do. Women’s liberality is consistent over all

gift objects we distinguished in the research.Moreover, the results of our

study are confirmed by the findings concerning women’s larger share in

gift giving, reported by Caplow and Cheal. However, women appear to

be the greatest recipients as well. The principle of reciprocity is the most

likely explanation for this.Motives to give seem to be mainly a mixture of

altruistic feelings and expectations of return, as discussed in Chapters 1

and 2. And even when gifts are given altruistically, it is assumed that

people end up with some self-reward from their unselfish gift giving, for

example a positive feeling about themselves – a phenomenon that has

been called the altruistic paradox.

Howarewe to explainwomen’s greater liberality comparedwith men’s?

It is unlikely that women are simply blessed with a greater level of altruism

than men are. Gifts may convey symbolic meanings that do not so

much harmonizewith altruism but rather express thoughtlessness, indifference,

criticism, a need for attention, or an attempt to seduce. In fact,

the results of our research showed that gifts of this type are no exceptions.

Altruism and gift giving are often very indirectly related, if at all. As we

will see in Cha pters 6 and 7, motives to offer care or help to other people

are often disinterested as well as selfish. The explanation for women’s liberality

should rather be sought in different sets of expectations regarding

women and men, normative conceptions of what gender roles should

consist of, and in differences in the cultural and social value attributed

to women’s and men’s main domains of activity. All this should then be

considered against the background of factual inequality in women’s and

men’s social positions, which becomes manifest in their differing material

and nonmaterial resources (e.g., participation in paid work, income,

participation in informal networks, occupying leading positions, amount

of free time).

There are good reasons to assume that power inequality between genders

is implied in women’s gift giving, but the question is what this

relationship looks like: who is benefiting most from women’s greater gift

giving? Are women affirming their own status or power position, or even

gaining in power by means of their giving, just like the inhabitants of the

Trobriand Islands? Or are women the net losers of their own gift giving

because it is merely what is expected from them as females and amounts

to the reproduction of their subordinate position in society?