Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Aberdeen chapter.

Anything Else Sir?
Gender Disparities in Organ Donation

For some reason, my long hair has always been a hot topic for debate in my family. When I was 16, my aunt asked me when I was going to cut and donate it to charity. As I didn’t want to chop off my hair, I began developing a guilty complex, wondering if having long hair made me a bad person. My flatmate also has long hair and recently decided to get a haircut without donating the leftovers. This sparked some controversy in her own family too. Yesterday, I watched a video of a woman getting a trim and style on Facebook, and she had gorgeous long hair. It was upon reading the Facebook comments section that I realised my experience was not unique, as innumerable comments were pressuring this woman into donating her hair, speaking about charities that make wigs for children with cancer, and generally portraying the woman as evil if she didn’t donate her hair. Obviously, I have a massive respect for wig-making charities, and my heart goes out to any child with cancer. But my decision not to cut and donate my hair does not make me evil. And unless they live like Jesus, people do not get to guilt or lecture me about it either. However, this whole experience got me thinking about the narrative that’s forced down women’s throats – that our bodies are resources, and if we choose not to donate hair, organs, or keep a foetus, then we are selfish hoarders.
I decided to research more into organ donation statistics, to see if this sort of narrative is present across other body ‘resources.’ What I found was horrifying – according to World Kidney Day, in North America, 63% of kidney donors are women, yet 62% of recipients are men. A study in Germany found that women were twice as likely to donate a kidney to a compatible spouse than the inverse. In Canada, that figure shot up, with wives being six times more likely to donate to a husband than a husband to a wife. India showed the most shocking results, with a 2021 report from the National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation finding 80% of organ donations were made by women, while 80% of recipients were men.

This disparity is not limited to the process of organ donation, but the decision to be added to a transplant list in the first place. A study on patients of colour found that black women on dialysis were less likely to be evaluated for kidney transplantation than both black men and white women. Another report studying over 700,000 patients found gender disparity in terms of body mass index too: whilst overweight women were significantly less likely to receive transplants than their thinner counterparts, overweight men were the opposite, and more likely to receive transplants than thinner men.

Experience with major operations during pregnancy and more ease at getting medical leave have been listed as reasons for this gender disparity. However, scientists conclude the main driving force is that women are socialised to see caring for the family as their specific role.

A doctor from the University of Maryland Medical Centre, Dr Klein-Glover, reported that “women are more likely to see themselves as the solution” to the problem than men. This follows general societal expectations on women to be givers – give up their jobs to run the home, give up free time and good health to have children, and give up last names to take their husbands’. Even though 49% of women now make either the same or more money than their male boyfriend/husband, there is still an expectation for women to do most of the housework and childcare. A study reported that even with both parents working full-time, women still do 70% more work in the home. Thus, the idea that self-sacrifice in women would follow in organ donation is not outlandish. After all, the recovery from such an operation might actually give a wife the chance to put her feet up for a while!

Mother’s bodies are explicitly envisioned as the source of life from which both fully formed babies and organs can be extracted, dehumanising women as people, and demanding life from a body without even offering the respect it deserves. Some cultures believe that because a woman is the source of life, she should be worshipped as a higher deity. Our society thinks it can get away with demeaning, raping, and battering women, while still demanding the right to new life.

Nevertheless, I have a lot of faith in my generation. The phenomenon of the “lonely man” is increasing, with men struggling to keep marriages and relationships going in the face of modern-day feminism. Married men have consistently lower rates of depression and live longer than single men. The exact opposite is true in women, so if you want to live longer and happier, stay single ladies!

Her Campus Placeholder Avatar
Isobel Grieve

Aberdeen '24

I am a student at the University of Aberdeen, with a passion for social issues and politics. I write a lot about feminism, LGBTQ+ rights, Black Lives Matter, socialism and many other topics.