I’d like to propose an alternate to the “market economy” paradigm that infects almost all of modern society. Let’s not talk about paying back or paying forward. Instead, let’s consider the model of the matriarchal Gift Economy, based on Genevieve Vaughan’s book, “For Giving,” that follows the pattern of the mother-child relationship.
In infancy and early childhood, the nurturing parent or caregiver “gives” food, shelter, comfort, while the child “receives.” The equation is simple–I give to you, because I have it to give and you have the need. This assures our mutual survival in the long run. When the time comes, you gift to me what I need, because you have it to give. Any person can both give and receive, and the roles are naturally reversed. Both parties are strengthened in this model; the act of giving is as important for well-being as the act of receiving. (And we also know that giving and receiving both increase the production of oxytocin, our hormone of bonding and strong relationships.)
The alternate equation of relationships is the market or exchange model: I give something to you for the purpose of your giving me something in return. For example, I give you money and you give me a pair of shoes. (I am offering something with the ultimate goal to benefit myself.)
Gen Vaughan says,”Giving in order to receive – exchange – is ego-oriented. It is the satisfaction of one’s own need that is the purpose of the transaction. Giving to satisfy another’s need is other-oriented. . . . Exchange creates and requires scarcity. If everyone were giving to everyone else, there would be no need to exchange.”When we shift our perspective, we realize that “gift giving and receiving could be the way forward for humanity to evolve beyond its present danger and distress.”
I’d like to apply Gift Economy thinking to something we all share–an affection for this App and the services it offers. Let’s say you had been looking for a women’s circle and then found out about the Divine Feminine App. Of course you’re thrilled, and you started looking for the right circle for you. Then, let’s say you have found it (and everyone is glad you did). When the time comes to renew your subscription to the App, do you think, “I found what I want, I don’t need to continue supporting the App.” That’s market thinking: This exchange of goods is complete, my need was met, and I can move on.*
From the point of view of the Gift Economy, this would be a missed opportunity, a broken relationship. What if you think instead, “Wow, I found what I want! I am so glad, and I appreciate how much this means to me. I want all other women to have access to this important resource. So I’ll continue my support, in gratitude and to help other women.” That’s Gift thinking: I give what I can when I can. Everyone benefits when more women benefit. I may not even know the person who benefits, but I know that my gift strengthens the whole community.
Gen Vaughan would say that when we think this way we restore nurturing to its rightful position as the “creative norm” for developing a strong and productive society. To read more of Gen’s theory check out her Gift Economy website. And then let’s start conversations about how to be “For Giving” in order to restore the model of nurturing to our everyday experiences.
Note from Caryn, creator of the divine feminine app: To be clear, it has been and always will be free to add and search for Circles on our website. We support the [expensive] needs of the website and our free smartphone apps through the generosity of our members. Membership not only gives you access to Profiles and Resources, but also gives you that oxytocin that Sid speaks of above knowing that you are supporting a worthy cause. If you do not wish to have a recurring charge, you may always donate here.
And then head on over to ASWM: The Association for the Study of Women and Mythology where you can find both Genevieve Vaughan and Sid Reger as well as incredible Scholar Salons and other resources.
Thank you Sid for the article and support. In deep gratitude.