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University of Bristol - Qualitative Social Research

University of Bristol - Qualitative Social Research

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Published by mwjackso
This work is about Feminist research and the statement - feminist research is by women, for women, and about women. Part of MSc in Socio-Legal Studies - Marked
This work is about Feminist research and the statement - feminist research is by women, for women, and about women. Part of MSc in Socio-Legal Studies - Marked

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Published by: mwjackso on Apr 15, 2009
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Candidate No 01380371
When one hears the term ‘Feminist research’ many images come to mindincluding protests and general man hating women. However this is most likelyassociated with the modifier ‘Feminist’ and not research at all. The field of qualitative research involves observing society and individuals beyond the numbersand beyond statistics. There are many different approaches to qualitative research allwith the main goal of finding a better understanding of society through observationand analysis. The reference to ‘Feminist research’ is in regards to the statement that‘Feminist research is research by women, about women, for women’ and it is thisstatement that will be the focus of this paper.The exclusive nature of this statement is what I take issue with when it comesto the tenets of sociological research with special attention paid to the field of qualitative research. The qualitative approach which at times is challenged for itsdirect involvement with research subjects / participants and the observed borderlessinteraction between researcher and researched does not define itself as a sociologicalform of analysis that requires certain immutable characteristics (biological sex) to beinvolved in research. However, there is a belief especially within ‘FeministStandpoint epistemology’ which is a subset of ‘Feminist research’ that holds that tohave the ‘Feminist’ standpoint is not merely having perspective but to actually haveexperienced the “intellectual and political struggle necessary to see nature and sociallife from the point of view of that disdained activity which produces women’s socialexperiences”(Kemp & Squire 1997, pg 169). The question remains if ‘Feministresearch’ is truly only the domain for women and if the researcher must be biologically female to produce valid results. I would suggest that the answer to this proposition is a resounding NO.This paper will first address approaches/types of ‘Feminism’ in order tounderstand the rationale behind an exclusive field of research. The focus will thenshift to a discussion of the variance in ‘Feminist research’ looking at both ‘Feministempiricism’ and ‘Feminist Standpoint epistemology’ as means of approachingqualitative sociological research. I will then share My Story of barriers to access inthe process of forming my MSc dissertation topic and the obstacles that remain due tomy own biological sex with a comparison to research on ‘Gay Dads’ by GillianDunne. Finally the paper will address the fractured nature of ‘Feminist’ movement
Candidate No 01380372including but not limited to the sociological approaches mentioned above in order toillustrate that the field of ‘Feminist research’ is not a field that must be conducted BYwomen, about women, for women but in the fact it can be conducted BY people,about women, for the betterment of society as a whole.
What is Feminism?
 This is a question that could be the topic of its own paper. However, the focusof this paper is the role ‘Feminism’ plays in sociological research and the varioustypes of ‘Feminism’ which would contribute to the belief that one must have theimmutable biological sex of female to conduct, analyze, and report research aboutwomen that is considered valid and without the bias of the pre-existing male patriarchy that is said to permeate the whole of science which includes sociologicalresearch.The types of ‘Feminism’ I shall discuss are Liberal feminism, Culturalfeminism, Socialist feminism, and Radical feminism with final discussion of Postmodern feminism that itself questions the structure of the ‘Feminist’ movementand methods (Etaugh & Bridges 2006, pp. 3-5).Liberal feminism “is the belief that women and men should have the same political, legal, economic, and educational rights and opportunities (Henley et al.,1998; Ens & Sinacore, 2001)”(Etaugh & Bridges 2006). Furthermore Liberalfeminists view the differences between men and women as a function of unequalopportunities (Etaugh & Bridges 2006). Would this type of feminism conclude that‘Feminist research is by women, about women, for women’? It would appear that thisstatement does not mesh well with the position of Liberal feminism since the goal isto equalize opportunity and rights for both men and women therefore this type wouldnot advocate the research is exclusive to the biological sex of female.Cultural feminism “reflects ‘the belief that women and men are different andthat more respect should be given to women’s special qualities, such as nurturance,concern about others, and cooperativeness (Ens & Sincore, 2001; Henley et al.,1998)’”(Etaugh & Bridge 2006). This approach to feminism honors the interpersonalskills associated with women and seeks to address the destructive nature of masculinetraits (Etaugh & Bridge 2006). Would Cultural feminism support the statement that isthe focus of this paper? Well Cultural feminism would seek to empower women
Candidate No 01380373 based around their inherent interpersonal approach gained through experiencehowever when we evaluate the totality of the statement Cultural feminists would mostlikely not agree with the statement that ‘Feminist research’ is for women exclusively.Socialist feminism concerns itself with ‘the attitude that gender inequality isrooted in economic inequality (Ens & Sinacore 2001, Henley et al., 1998)’(Etaugh &Bridge 2006). This type of feminism believes that oppression can not be overcome aslong as the capitalist structure of Western Society is maintained. This type would beclosely allied to Marxist Feminism (which looks at the class structure between bourgeois and proletariat that contributes to female oppression. Would Socialistfeminists believe that ‘Feminist research’ is strictly limited to the biological sex of female and to the benefit of only women? I would suggest that Socialist feminism ismore concerned with capitalist structure of society as a whole and that ‘Feministresearch’ can be effective if its relevance is beyond women to impact the structure of society to bring about fundamental social change.Radical feminism is ‘the belief that gender inequality is based on maleoppression of women (Ens & Sinacore, 2001; Henley et al., 1998; Johnson, 1997)’(Etaugh & Bridge 2006). Radical feminism would be the most supportive of thestance that ‘Feminist research’ is by women, about women, for women because theroot goal of Radical feminism is to end the oppression of women by men and the patriarchy that is prevalent in society. Radical feminist would most likely be of theopinion that male involvement in ‘Feminist research’ would be an act of continuedoppression and a means to maintain male dominance in society. This is the form of feminism that would support the exclusivity of ‘Feminist research’.Postmodern feminism ‘involves a rejection of any metanarrative (any grandgeneral theory) which purports to identify the basis of women’s subordination’(Jackson 1993, pg 20). Furthermore the basis tenet of postmodernism would suggestthat ‘once we call into question the status of knowledge as objective truth, we can nolonger claim that feminist theory can provide a definitive account of gender relations’(Jackson 1993, pg 20). Postmodern feminism therefore challenges the absolute natureof the feminist movement to supply the one and only answer to the oppression of women. The logical argument that then follows from the Postmodern argument is thatthe one and absolute answer does not exist and even if one answer did exist it wouldhave to be devoid of the influence, bias, or perception of women to be a truth.Therefore postmodern approach to feminism would question the basis of ‘Feminism’

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