What Counts As Gift

In The Second Shift (19), Arlie Hochschild points out that “the interplay between a man’s gender ideology and a woman’s implies a deeper interplay between his gratitude toward her, and hers toward him. For how a person wants to identify himself or herself influences what, in the back and forth of a marriage, will seem like a gift and what will not.”

When a woman earns more than a man, and when a man thinks that he oughtn’t be the kind of man whose wife earns more, “it may become his ‘gift’ to ‘bear it’ anyway. But a man may also feel like the husband I interviewed, who said, ‘When my wife began earning more than me I thought I’d struck gold!’ In this case his wife’s salary is the gift, not his capacity to accept it ‘anyway.’”

Hochschild generalizes: “When couples struggle, it is seldom simply over who does what. Far more often, it is over the giving and receiving of gratitude.”

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