Epistemology and The Question of Women

  • Created by: moll23
  • Created on: 18-05-15 15:06


  • Importance of tacit knowledge
  • Sociology has a tendency to ignore the fact that society is known and experienced differently depending on an individual's position within it
  • Women's direct experience produces knowledge from within social structures, rather than being imposed from outside such structures
  • An alternative to male sociology and the use of abstract concepts
  • Instead offers a perspective engaged with women's ontological experience of the world
  • Example of feminist methodology
  • Bifurcation of Consciousness- similar to W.E.B DuBois' 'Double Consciousness'
  • Women provide for men services (such as washing, cleaning, cooking) that enable men to alienate themselves from their bodily existence and absorb themselves in the conceptual and abstract mode, disconnected from concrete experience
  • Therefore women mediate the relation between the conceptual mode and the actual concrete material conditions upon which it depends
  • Meanwhile, women have to navigate between both these worlds each day- experience in the private and public provides a privileged standpoint
  • Women’s relation between herself as sociologist and as a working woman is continually visible  
1 of 4

Harstock and Harding

  • The duality of reality is gendered- women's experiences of the world differ structurally from mens 
  • Expands Marxist theory through looking at women's place within a Capitalist system
  • Similar to Lukacs' idea of a 'proleterian standpoint'
  • The sexual division of labour means that women are institutionally defined by the production of ‘use values’ in the home whereas the capitalist male has his life structured by commodity exchange 
  • Women's relational self-definition vs Men's unitary self-definition
  • Female bodily experiences (menstruation, pregnancy, lactation etc) represent an inherent set of boundaries preventing separation from the object world
  • Women’s relational self-definition starts from the experience of the family
  • Girls learn from watching the mother whilst boys absent father figure means there is no concrete example of adult masculinity to emulate
  • Must rely on an abstract idea of masculinity
  •  Achieves ego-formation through distancing himself from the mother
  •  Seen in the fact that girls are more likely to speak of themselves in relation to others whilst boys more likely to talk in relation to objects (Luce Irigaray)
  • Claims to knowledge as socially situated
2 of 4


  • Postmodern epistemology- challenges grand narratives and knowledge claims about women
  • The concept of a feminist standpoint ignores differences between women based on age, class, sexuality, ethnicity etc
  • Postcolonial theory- draws on work of Edward Said
  • The production of the 'Third World Woman' allow white Western feminists to represent their agency- Mohanty
  • Seen as part of the legacy of colonialism 
  • Asks who is speaking for who
  • Responisbility of white Western feminists to learn to listen to rather than speak for the subaltern
  • 'Can the subaltern speak?' refers not to whether they can speak but whether anyone will listen
3 of 4


  • Challenges the universal category of 'woman'
  • Rejects the universalising and essentialising claims by standpoint theorists
  • Criticises the binary classification of sex e.g. male/female
  • Suggests gender is performative and reproduces itself through self-regulation rather than a stable and fixed identity
  • Drag as a parodic deconstruction and denaturalisation of gender
  • Attitudes towards intersex individuals reveals the violence inherent in the binary of sex
4 of 4


No comments have yet been made

Similar Sociology resources:

See all Sociology resources »See all Epistemology resources »