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Women's History

Dear Amy:

I was just doing a search for feminist empiricism because I was looking for names of feminist empiricist authors, and I found your response to Jennifer, who wanted to know the difference between feminist empiricism, feminist standpoint, and postmodern feminist epistemology. I was very surprised at your answer, and I hope that Jennifer did not write her paper based on your explanation, which was incorrect. I think that Jennifer was asking about the feminist science studies literature. I recommend checking out the book Whose Science? Whose Knowledge? by Sandra Harding. Harding discusses three ways that feminists have argued that a feminist perspective can contribute to producing better scientific knowledge about the world -- these are the three themes that Jennifer was asking about.

Feminist empiricism - argues that sexism and androcentrism are social biases correctable by stricter adherence to the existing methodological norms of scientific inquiry. Feminism removes blinders and bias to produce better accounts of the world.

Feminist standpoint - argues that men's dominating position in social life results in partial and perverse understandings (they can't see from women's positions), whereas women's subjugated position provides the possibility of more complete and less perverse understandings of the world.

Feminist postmodernism - emphasizes the multiplicity of identities (not just gender, but also race, class, sexuality, nation, etc.) and also rejects a separation between subject (observing person/scientist) and object (nature). There is also the idea that all knowledge is "partial" and "situated" - that is, we cannot see the world from a "god's-eye view."

I hope this is helpful for anyone who is working on these issues. By the way, for many women, their "everyday lives" are spent working in schools, universities, laboratories, field stations, and other research institutions. Although I agree that often the terminology is overly complex, feminist epistemology is an important issue for many people, women and men, scholars and activists alike, who want to make better knowledge about the world.

Sincerely,

Abby Kinchy Graduate Student Department of Sociology University of Wisconsin-Madison

 

Thanks for taking the time to share your opinion -- we will post on the site, so others have access to in the future.

Thanks,

- Amy

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