Overview

methodology, feminist


Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

There have been a number of proposals that feminist social science—or social science in general, or even science in general—requires a new methodology. Some of these have been concerned with research design, some with epistemology, and some with ontology. Proposals for feminist research methods have either been directed to the elimination of unconscious sexist bias in research, when a male perspective and double standards are taken for granted, or to the replacement of supposedly objective structured interviews and quantitative analysis by more reflexive and interactive unstructured interviews and a method of writing sociology that is said to allow the subjects to speak for themselves.

In terms of epistemology, one view is that striving after objectivity, truth, and control over nature is a masculine urge; women are thought to make less of a distinction between knower and known, self and other, mind and body, subject and object, and to be more tolerant of ambiguity and multiple truths. Another influential idea has been that of the ‘feminist standpoint’, the idea that women, as a subordinated group, are in a better position to arrive at an adequate representation of social reality than men, who are too caught up in their project of control. This epistemological advantage is not necessarily reflected in women's actual beliefs and attitudes but requires a feminist political effort and analysis. It leads towards an understanding of society which incorporates reproduction, bodily work, and intimate relations—the concrete realities of women's everyday existence—rather than working with abstract notions of isolated individuals making rational choices. The ‘standpoint’ position sees feminism as being capable of getting a truer picture of reality than masculinist science (Sandra Harding, The Science Question in Feminism, 1986; Dorothy Smith, Writing the Social, 1998). In terms of ontology, then, it is a realist position. In this respect it differs from feminist post-modernism, which is sceptical about all claims to scientific objectivity, sees all knowledge as being produced in specific historical and local situations, and recognizes important differences among women (of race, class, ethnicity, and sexual orientation), as well as between women and men.

Subjects: Sociology.


Reference entries

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.