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Philanthropy and the Hegemonic Ideas of Womens Domestic Responsibilities

The dictionary definition of philanthropy is: ‘An active effort to promote human welfare.’ This word is usually remembered for its use when describing a benevolent donation being given to an organization which is concerned with helping less able members of society. When combined with the role of women in society, do we assume that women are seen as the rich benefactresses showering their loving kindness on children and the men in their lives, a way of softening the effect of their loss of freedom when choosing their life path, fastening them to domestic responsibility and child-rearing?

Women fill a specific social role that they learn from their parents and other family members from the moment of birth. It is apparent in the different ways people communicate with girls and boys; even between themselves they have a different vision of the correct way to act. Woman’s role in history has always been linked to the care of children, due to the biological differences of her bodily functions; but the link to domestic responsibilities is due to the historic domination of men and their relationship with money.

Hegemony is the dominance of one social group over others. This balance of power is not dominated by force but by an acceptance of the superiority of the abilities of the leading group who then decide on the gender and other roles of the members of the group. The intellectual and political leaders of the social group decide on how the gender roles are best served in society, these are then presented through the media available to the population as a whole and as they become a regular and accepted part of the social group, no retrogressive action is taken.

The intellectual leaders however cannot expect the views of the followers to remain static, so to maintain the position of dominance, progressive action to improve the position of the lower levels of the group need to be continually advanced. This can be seen by the allowance of women to vote and to receive the same educational opportunities as men. Even now the fight goes on to escape the environment of the home and take on the role of breadwinner or leader of the social group, but this is the exception rather than the rule and the role of domestic responsibility still lurks like a skeleton in the female closet, still causing mute compliance.

Antonio Gramsci’s theory of hegemony points to the influence of television and cinema as bringing the intellectual view into the home, designing life structures and role models that support the urging of women to fulfill their rightful role, a position of lesser importance than the masculine role. By regular portrayal of women in the role of housewife and mother and showing the detrimental effect of moving away from this path, the dominant view acts like brainwashing where women believe that they have to make a home.

Perhaps the underlying problem is that it has been allowed to continue for too long as the accepted norm or that women prefer to live in a warm, clean and organized environment that men are incapable of creating.