Feminist Methodology

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Feminist Methodology

  • Reinhartz - feminist methodology is based around a 'woman's way of knowing".
  • Tries to represent and access all views of all people to try to combat 'malestream' research.
  • 1) The attack on 'malestream research' involves criticising previous male dominated mainstream research as being based on sexist or patriarchal priniciples. Tries to rectify the mistakes of previous, dominant and male orientated research methods.
    • Abbot & Wallace - criticise malestream research for researching only men and using men-only samples, ignoring women's issues and neglecting sex and gender as variables.
    • BUT now more attention to womena and gender and research less dominated by the 'malestream'.
    • Harding - supports the 'malestream' view and believes that this has resulted in sociologists focusing on issues important to men.
  • 2) There can be distinctive feminist research methods - more conventional 'scientific' methods used by men are not particularly good at helping the researcher to understand social reality.
    • Oakley - feminist way of conducting interviews which is superior to a masculine model because in a masculine approach there is:
      • an emphasis on objectivity and detachment - emotional involvement must be avoided.
      • interviewees are manipulated as sources of data and have an entirely passive role.
      • the emphasis is on reliability.
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    • Oakley suggests that in a feminist approach the researcher should be willing to answer questions, research should be collaborative, validity can be improved by encouraging the interviewees to be reflective about thier own lives and the power relationship = equal.
    • This approach was used in Oakley's study on childbirth BUT this has been criticised by Pawson for simply using unstructured interviews.
    • Feminists often use focus groups - Wilkinson - fits ethos of feminism because it emphasises group interaction, even out the power, gives marginalised women a sense of solidarity.
    • Reinharz - more effective way to study women is using ethnographic methods - allow a full documentation of women's lives. Also seen as less exploitative of women. Skeggs used ethnography to emphasise the words, voices and lives of the women.
  • 3) Feminism can reveal a distinctive theory of knowledge which is superior to others theories.
    • Women have a unique insight into the social world because they are an oppressed group.
    • Stanley & Wise - a variety of women's views have to be examined - one set of knowledge cannot deal with the experiences of different groups of women.
    • BUT critics like Pawson - some feminist researchers will not accept the viewpoints of women they disagree with, feminist theory of knowledge neglects the oppressors and makes it hard to understand how oppression comes about.
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Feminist Methodology - Evaluation

  • Evaluation
    • Maynard & Purvis - the strong position taken by feminists belongs to an earlier era of feminism.
    • Stressing the need to listen to women's experiences, particularly through in-depth interviews, has become PC and so other forms of research are ignored.
    • Oakley - feminists should also use quantitative methods as this will let them influence govt policy and gain access to prestige and funds.
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