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The Gift: I Am Woman?

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Sam here with Chapter 6 of Lewis Hyde’s The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World. Pull up a chair and join the conversation, or find links to previous discussions below. Let’s get started with a brow-wrinkling quote:

“The clergyman is grouped with the pregnant and the betrothed as the object of a gift ceremony [a “shower”] because he performs a ‘female’ role in the community.”

I’m a campus minister; an unordained version of a clergyman. Does this mean my work is feminine? Maybe feminine work isn't so bad for a guy, but reading the statement above made me feel a bit insecure. It certainly felt strange to be included with pregnant women and fiancées.

Hyde says that a clergyman performs a different kind of role than other traditionally masculine jobs, such as banking or running a business. Clergymen – like nurses, social workers and therapists – do gift labor while businessmen do market work. “[G]ift labors…cannot, by their nature, be undertaken in the willed, time-conscious, quantitative style of the market….” They “cannot be undertaken on a pure cost-benefit basis because their products are not commodities….”

I’m more settled with playing a “female” role if this is how Hyde distinguishes it. I do “social work and soul work” and have no regrets that my labor isn’t more calculated or profit-driven. (Interestingly, in Hyde’s terms, a lot of my labor deals with helping advertisers (literally “market workers”) become more feminine by encouraging them to love their neighbors.)

Do you see your job as more feminine or more masculine? Does God favor gift labor over market work? And who reads a book like The Gift – gift laborers or market workers?

Post written by Sam Van Eman.

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