The feminine side to Santa Claus: women's work of kinship in contemporary gift-giving relations
Faculty of Social Sciences. Political Sciences
Faculty of Social Sciences. Sociology
The social science journal / Western social science association. - Colorado
, p. 124-142
University of Antwerp
The predominant male-breadwinner model having been surpassed by other forms of household organization, discussion rises on whether the female role of caretaker within households also undergoes change. The question certainly becomes relevant concerning an often less visible and/or overlooked aspect of the caretaker role, which is the work of kinship. This article looks at a specific aspect of this, which can be considered as even more invisible than other caring tasks: the responsibility for gift exchange. More precisely, we explore women's role in, contribution to and attitude towards the gift-giving process on three domains: the buying, giving and receiving of gifts. Results point to important gender differences: women remain chief responsible for gift selection and gift giving and invest more time in selecting the appropriate gifts for kin. They also show greater satisfaction with the gift-giving process, of which they tend to stress the symbolic value instead of the instrumental value, which is more strongly emphasized by men. This shows that traditional role models endure in an important but often invisible aspect of the work of kinship and more generally of the caretaker role and that these role models also seem to be strongly culturally integrated by men and women.