Feminist methodology (20TH CENTURY)

The application of feminist theory to methods and concepts of sociological investigation.

Feminist research practice requires a critical stance towards existing methodology in the social sciences. While an attention to the responsibilities, rights and particular knowledge of those studied, and a recognition of gendered power relationships in the conduct and process of research may not be unique to feminist methodology; they are an essential component of it.

All ways of knowing are political. The use of feminist methodology implies a commitment to the empowerment of women.

Helen Roberts, ed.. Doing Feminist Research, 2nd edn (London, 1990)

Objectivity and the construction of the Other

Feminist methods have, in large part, been scaffolded as a rebuttal to existing research methods that operate under imperialist, racist, and patriarchal assumptions about the research subject.[7] By pointing out the biased perspectives and assumptions of researchers, feminist scholars work to elucidate the ways in which the idea of objectivity has operated merely as a stand-in for the white, male perspective,[8] and how feminist methods, in contrast, work to produce knowledge in which “the researcher appears to us not as an invisible, anonymous voice of authority, but as a real, historical individual with concrete, specific desires and interests.” [9]

Also inherent in the traditional researcher-subject relationship is the subject-object relationship, for the researcher becomes the autonomous subject when they study other humans as objects, as in this case the “subject” is ironically objectified through the process of scientific investigation, which does not take into account their agency or the will of their community.[10] Subjects are also simultaneously “Othered” by Western researchers who exotify their ways of life through “a Western discourse about the Other which is supported by ‘institutions, vocabulary, scholarship, imagery, doctrines, even colonial bureaucracies and colonial styles.’”[11]

Reinharz therefore posits that the destruction of the Other and the remodeling of the traditional subject-object relationship must occur simultaneously through explicit engagement with three different actors in feminist research: the researcher, the reader, and the people being studied.[12] In this way, productive, feminist methods attempt to “demystify” and “decolonize” [13] research through recognizing how traditional methods construct the Other and are cloaked in a false objectivity, and subsequently to deconstruct these narratives in order to “talk more creatively about research with particular groups and communities – women, the economically oppressed, ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples.”[14]

Questioning gender as a scientific construct

Through questioning science Anne Fausto-Sterling came up with alternatives to the concept of having only two sexes, male and female.[15] She argues that through biological development there is a possibility of having five sexes instead of two.[16] She believes there are male, female, merm (male pseudohermaphrodites, i.e. when testicular tissue is present), ferm (female pseudohermaphrodites, i.e. when ovarian tissue is present), and herm (true hermaphrodites, i.e. when both testicular and ovarian tissue is present).[17]


Alison Jaggar disputes the dichotomy between reason and emotion and argues that rationality needs emotion.[18] She states emotions are normally associated with women and rationality is associated with men.[19] She also claims that there are many theories as to the origins of emotions, and in the long run listening to emotions might lead to better decisions

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