Femenist Standpoint Theory

Femenist Standpoint Theory

Clancy Ratcliff (University of Minnesota, USA)
Copyright: © 2006 |Pages: 6
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-815-4.ch052
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Feminist standpoint theory is an epistemological view set forth in the late 1970s and early 1980s described as “an engaged vision of the world opposed and superior to dominant ways of thinking” (Ruddick, 1995, p. 129). Its development was influenced by Marxist thought, specifically the idea that the worldview of the ruling class is compromised by its vested interest in upholding the current class structure. The proletariat, who has no such interest, is able to interpret reality from the standpoint of its own experience as well as that of the ruling class because the ruling class’ ideas are widely inculcated and presented as “objective,” advancing the view that social conditions are as they are, and they cannot be otherwise. This naturalization of the ruling class’ ideas bolsters and affirms its privilege. The proletariat can inhabit both its own and the dominant perspectives, putting it at a more ideal epistemological and political vantage point. Drawing upon this line of Marxist thought, feminist standpoint theory holds that women’s social development and experiences are different from men’s, and these experiences, taken with the sexual division of labor and women’s portion of this work, including mothering, homemaking, and other emotional and relational labor such as nursing and social work (Hartsock 1983, 2004), enable women to interpret the material world from a unique standpoint. Implicit in this postulate is the assumption that men are the ruling class, and the dominant worldview is masculine. The feminist standpoint, its proponents argued, could be used as a methodology to make more accurate, holistic, and socially responsible knowledge. At the heart of feminist standpoint theory, Braidotti (2003) argues, is the emphasis on the difference between men and women and the focus on women’s experiences as a means to knowledge production. Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, and Tarule (1986), Chodorow (1978), and Gilligan (1982) extended the feminist standpoint project by studying women’s epistemological, psychological, and moral development, respectively, and the theories that emerged from their studies in particular have had considerable influence on early work in gender and information technology.

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