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Women's History

What is the difference between feminist empiricism, feminist standpoint, and feminist postmodern epistemologies? I am reading an article by Jacqui True and I am trying to distinguish between the three for an assignment I have to write. Thank You, Jennifer

After reading your question, I was reaffirmed in my decision not to major in women's studies because it spent too much time using obscure language and too little time talking about women's everyday lives. That said, I would assume that what she means by these phrases is as follows. To make it easier, take the main word and just look at it through a gender lense:

Feminist Empiricism -- is data that is collected based on women's real life experiences. This would involve talking to women about whether or not they have felt discriminated against based on their gender or talking to men about why they don't ever think about combining their career with childrearing as a clue to finding out why most women still have two jobs.

Feminist Standpoint--is simply a feminist perspective on a given issue. For example, when there is a conversation about welfare--a feminist at the table would be likely to put the welfare debate within the framework of women's lives and how women are more likely to be welfare recipients, because:

1.) They are still primarily responsible for children
2.) Because there is still unequal pay for work of equal value and
3.) Because women still don't have access to higher paying jobs, they remain in the pink collar ghetto--which in most instances is only a side-step to welfare.

Feminist Postmodern Epistemologies--although I don't personally believe in the term "postmodern" (and this statement is the perfect example of why--because if you remove "postmodern" from the phrase you are left with the sentiment).--- this would involve going to the root cause of the inequalities that exist between men and women--when did it begin? Why? I hope this helps--and good luck--Amy

P.S. For more information, please see: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminism-epistemology/.

FOLLOW-UP LETTERS

Hi, I'm writing with a request to please not denigrate feminist scholarship in the "Ask Amy" section of your website. I popped in to read a few of the "Ask Amy" Q & A's so that I could talk about your site to my introductory women's studies class, and the first Q & A I read sorely disappointed me. I scanned through a couple more and my disappointment wasn't lessened.

When a young college student asks for definitions for terms in an article, terms such as "feminist epistemologies", and Amy answers by responding that reading the list of phrases reminds her why she didn't want to major in Women's Studies, that what is studied in classes doesn't have direct application to women's lives or to activism, your column simply replicates a perceived theory/activism split that we've all been working to suture. *Many* women's studies classes open with a discussion of just this issue.

Please don't overgeneralize about what women's studies actually studies, or assume its ineffectiveness, or pass those prejudices on to our students. The result is an undermining of the movement itself. Most of us are activists, and many of our students are, too. We also happen to study philosophy, sociology, psychology, literature, education, and many other disciplines, and work to understand how women's activism and feminist ways of knowing have contributed to and will continue to contribute to social change. Sincerely,

Ann Haugo
English and Women's Studies
University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign

AMY'S RESPONSE

Thank you for your note -- and for pointing out the ways that I was being irresponsible in my column. I will certainly attempt to correct my "anti academic bias" in the future--and refrain from making generalizations.

In my defense, 1.) sometimes when I respond to "Ask Amy" questions, I forget that they will be read by more than the recipient. Therefore, while I think that some of my comments are appropriate in the context of a single given question, you are entirely right that it sends a bad message to the movement and it appears as a greater generalization than it would in the context of one of the actual exchanges. 2.) While I agree that my comments were sometimes flip, general, not specific, and irresponsible, I also stand by that fact that many academics cloud women's studies by the language that is used. As witnessed by "Ask Amy" as well as by the conversations I have with many feminists on college campuses, the language used by their professors is 1.) intimidating, and therefore, a barrrier to them fully understanding the material and 2.) more theoritically and less practical, i.e. when putting these theories into practice, it is unlikely that this is the language that will be used.

To help on this latter point, I encourage you and your colleagues to use language that is more accessible to your students--so they can further understand it rather than go to "Ask Amy" because they have absolutely no idea what they are researching.

Please write back if this isn't clear and/or if you have further concerns. Thanks again for taking the time to respond.


Amy

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