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Feminist research and epistemologies SO 3066. lecture outline feminist critique of sociological research and methods counting or quoting?: debate over.

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Presentation on theme: "Feminist research and epistemologies SO 3066. lecture outline feminist critique of sociological research and methods counting or quoting?: debate over."— Presentation transcript:

1 Feminist research and epistemologies SO 3066

2 lecture outline feminist critique of sociological research and methods counting or quoting?: debate over the appropriateness of quantitative or qualitative research methods in feminist research tend to favour qualitative methods e.g. refer to Oakleys (1981) study – transition to motherhood - and the idea of a participatory model is there a feminist method? gendered nature of knowledge feminist sociology of knowledge feminist epistemologies: e.g. standpoint and empiricism some final points to think about

3 feminist critique of research challenge the myth of hygienic research: question the scientistic cloak - the idea of detached value-neutral researcher research is not always orderly – messy reflexivity - no account of researchers self and their relationship to/with those participating in the research project

4 counting or quoting? debate about using quantitative and qualitative research methods in feminist research quantitative methods regarded as incompatible and unsuitable for feminist research e.g. survey – positivistic, one-way - exploitative process, associated with male values of control – rape analogy qualitative methods = more compatible with carrying out feminist research? e.g. un/semi-structured interviews – build rapport – two-way process

5 e.g. participatory model (e.g. Oakley 1981; Bryman 2001; Duncombe & Jessop 2002; Letherby 2003) Oakley (1981) – conducted research - transition to motherhood repeated interviews – 55 women twice pre and twice post birth – even attended the odd birth too! her respondents would ask her questions – read quote intense research context – increased personal involvement/rapport

6 BUT cultivating rapport or faking friendships – exploitative too? assume shared womanhood - can rapport be forged between all women irrespective of class, ethnicity, sexuality etc? feminist research – considered too subjective – issues of validity (led to a range of feminist epistemological positions – baseline to assess truth claims – discuss shortly) also some feminists argue that statistical research has an important role to play too – e.g. extent of discrimination – equal opportunities Oakley and others have since advocated mixed-method (i.e. quantitative and qualitative) research designs depend on research question(s)? – its not what you do its how you do it!

7 is there a feminist method? method: research techniques/practices – e.g. ethnography, survey, interview (choice of recipe) methodology: theories of how research is conducted – e.g. qualitative or quantitative (cooking process) epistemology: theory of knowledge – (kind of meal produced) according to Stanley & Wise (in Stanley 1990:26): who can be a knower? what can be known? what counts as valid knowledge? what is the relationship between knowing and being (ontology) what makes feminist research feminist is the methodology and epistemology NOT the method

8 gendered knowledge? (e.g. Letherby 2003) reason and the gendered metaphor – dualistic, oppositional, and hierarchical: men - women culture - nature reason - emotion mind - body public - private authorized knowledge - basis of academic knowledge (institutionalised and legitimate), scientific, reason, objective, associated with men? experiential knowledge – everyday, emotional, subjective, associated with women - dismissed? feminists claim that knowledge is not gender neutral malestream knowledge has been used to control women, and feminist knowledge is an aid to the emancipation of women (Abbott et al 2005: 366)

9 a feminist sociology of knowledge (according to Lengermann & Niebrugge-Brantley in Ritzer 2000: 477) claim that knowledge and understanding of the world: from the standpoint of groups of people is always partial and interest laden varies within and between groups power relations feminist standpoint epistemology – standpoint of women

10 feminist sociology and knowledge sociology for women (Smith 1987) womens outsider status epistemic privilege

11 feminist standpoint epistemology sometimes called womens experience epistemology- because experience is the considered the basis of knowledge standpoint – what we do shapes what we know builds on and adapts Marxs insights of the proletariat / particular emphasis on the sexual division of labour – women are particularly aware of and responsible for the grounded responsibilities of everyday life women – oppressed class – comprehend their own subordination and those who oppress them (men) – this affords a truer understanding of social reality – not distorted by ideologies of power claim that feminist knowledge is less biased than malestream knowledge

12 BUT feminism motivated by political interests too? are all women the same – is there a common basis of oppression – can some women share more in common with some men than with other women? hierarchy of oppression? are some women more oppressed than others e.g. Black women – hence do they produce truer or different version(s) of reality? problem of relativism? is it more accurate to speak of standpoints?

13 feminist empiricism accepts the norms of positivist science – change bad and sexist practices instead (compatible with liberal feminism - reform) faulty science becomes more accurate and good science (assumes a realist ontology) promote non-sexist research e.g. language; concepts; implications of findings research designs and samples include men AND women correct androcentric biases in knowledge and research

14 BUT perpetuates and leaves intact the myth of hygienic research - many feminists reject this assumption i.e. notion of a neutral researcher who attempts to access and represent an objective reality people are objects in such research lacks reflexivity and transparency of research process?

15 summary of main issues feminist critique of sociological research and methods counting or quoting?: debate over the appropriateness of quantitative or qualitative research methods in feminist research tend to favour qualitative methods e.g. refer to Oakleys (1981) study – transition to motherhood - and the idea of a participatory model is there a feminist method?

16 summary of main issues gendered nature of knowledge feminist sociology of knowledge feminist epistemologies: e.g. standpoint and empiricism some final points to think about

17 final thoughts feminist theory arose out of personal politics – importance of womens everyday lived experiences is it becoming disconnected from womens experiences? to what extent is feminist theory politically relevant today and for whom? given the emphasis on diversity and differences between women – how effectively and legitimately can feminists from different cultural, religious, class, ethnic backgrounds etc theorise about other women and their experiences?

18 final thoughts does a researcher have to be working class to study working class women or of the same ethnic origin etc – infinite regress – if this is the case what are the implications for sociology? when we talk about gender and sociology of gender – we tend to equate gender as a shorthand for women – why is this? Are men not gendered too? the influence and impact of feminism and feminist theory has played a part in opening up a field referred to as mens studies whereby male researchers look at men and masculinity or masculinities – can men utilise feminist perspectives?


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