The theorizing process both uses and produces knowledge. Androcentric theories generate knowledge that embodies the assumptions of these theories and ignores the experiences and perspectives of women. One of the tenets of feminist theorizing is that knowledge should be formulated from a broader base of experience. Thus, a new, more comprehensive, more all-encompassing knowledge is built up through feminist theorizing.
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Such theorizing seeks to provide a more complete representation of women's realities. As Sandra Harding expressed it,. Knowledge is supposed to be based on experience, and the reason the feminist claims can turn out to be scientifically preferable is that they originate in, and are tested against, a more complete and less distorting kind of social experience. Women's experiences, informed by feminist theory, provide a potential grounding for more complete and less distorted knowledge claims than do men's. Harding's analysis represents a feminist-standpoint theoretical approach.
Like others, feminist-standpoint theorists have their own assumptions. They assume there is an objective reality that can be made better if women's experiences and knowledges are added to mainstream or androcentric epistemologies. Postmodernist-feminist theorizing supports the investigation of women's experiences and knowledges as a basis for creating new feminist-informed knowledges. This approach differs from feminist-standpoint theorizing in several ways. Postmodernist-feminist theorists do not assume there is a complete, coherent reality to which women's experiences can be added; rather, they assume there are multiple realities and experiences.
Postmodernist-feminist theorists see these experiences and their influence on the generation of knowledge as fluid, contingent, diverse, and historically and culturally specific. They do not argue that feminist claims are scientifically preferable, as they are more sceptical about the faith placed in rationality, objectivity, and science. However, they support the position that knowledge claims should be formulated from a broader base of experience and should recognize that women's experiences will differ across race, class, culture, and sexual orientation.
Thus, there are diverse feminist theoretical approaches. Although they converge on the core issue of women's subordination, they differ in their assumptions about the causes or sources of that subordination. These differences reflect the richness of women's lives and the need to integrate the experiences and knowledges of women in the South, as well as all women in the North, if we are to move toward a more inclusive, sensitive theorizing about both women's subordination and their power.
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Hilary Rose's remarks in Box 6 illustrate some of the new thinking of feminists in the South and North. Staying Alive by Vandana Shiva is a marvellous example of the ways that feminists relate to theory, using it as a resource in the defence of both women and nature.
First the book is written from within a struggle of the Chipko women to defend the trees on which their lives depend. While without the mass movement there would be no story, it is also a story in which her skills as a scientist are integral. Her account of the struggle is a story of transformation She makes solid technical arguments about what is happening to the land and the water. Her training as a physicist — part of that universalistic highly abstract discourse so criticised by feminism — is both a crucial element within, and transformed by the struggle.
She reports different ways of collecting data, organising in fresh ways, producing a holistic ecological knowledge specific to the locality and people. This careful rethinking of the environmental endemic generates a highly "situated and embodied knowledge" with strong claims to objectivity, out of the "universalistic and disembodied knowledge" of the physicist.
Nor are the activities she reports limited to new knowledge building, for she also describes and endorses essential myth making which historically has often given energy to social movements of the excluded but which unquestionably often makes their intellectual allies uneasy. Whereas Western feminists have mostly fought the notion that women are naturally nearer to nature, seeing that as a patriarchal cage, Shiva casts Indian peasant women and the myths they construct cast themselves in the role of the natural protectors of the forest.
Essentialism is used as a source of strength. It is a dangerous move yet the situation is already a matter of staying alive. But the point I want to make is the extra-ordinarily divergent strands which Shiva weaves together. Nothing that can be made useful within a struggle is disregarded, she takes very different discourses and radically recycles them, adapting them with strength and imagination to political purposes.
In Shiva I think we get something of a reply from a feminist scientist to Audre Lorde's question, can the master's tools be used to dismantle the master's house? I think the reply goes something like this, providing we are prepared to select, to adapt, to use for hitherto unimagined purposes and weave them in with the entirely new, then yes, we can use the master's tools.
But in the process it is crucial to understand that the tools are themselves transformed. As well as tearing down the master's house, that crucial preliminary act, a feminist science also begins to build anew, to construct a feminist science. This more comprehensive knowledge base enables a wide cross section of experiences and measures to inform policy and action. Chapter 4 will examine existing policies and those being developed, to illustrate how they reflect and satisfy the needs of women.
This chapter discusses theorizing as a process used to test assumptions about a number of phenomena in order to generate principles and theories to explain these phenomena. This chapter also points out that traditionally this process has been male centred and related to the cultures, nationalities, and dominant economic classes of the theorists, who did not take into account the perspectives and experiences of women or the problems and issues that affect women.
Until feminist theorists began critiquing existing knowledges, these theories were used to produce programs and policies that adversely affected the lives of women. The readings highlight the feminist challenges to the traditional, androcentric approach to theorizing and discuss some of the characteristics of feminist approaches. These approaches not only take into account differences in experiences of women and men but also recognize that women themselves do not constitute a homogenous group.
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Using these approaches, feminists have deconstructed androcentric theories and knowledge and produced a comprehensive view of women's multiple realities. The knowledges they have generated provide a basis for critiquing existing policies and determining alternative policies and activities to address the problems affecting women. Recognizing that factors such as class, race, ethnicity, age, social status, and sexual orientation shape perceptions and experience points to the social character of gender and gender relations. In the next chapter, you will examine a number of theories on gender and development that have evolved from a process of both women's and men's theorizing in different contexts and situations.
Baksh-Soodeen, R. Is there an international feminism? Alternative Approach 24 Summer , Charlton, S. Women in Third World development. Chhachhi, A. Concepts in feminist theory: consensus and controversy.
In Mohammed, P. Harding, S.
Conclusion: epistemological questions. In Harding, S. Introduction: Is there a feminist method? Ornstein, A. Curriculum — foundations, principles and issues. Rose, H.
Alternative knowledge systems in science: can feminism rebuild the sciences? In Bailey, B. Stanley, L. Breaking out: feminist consciousness and feminist research. Whose science? Whose knowledge? Talking back — thinking feminism, thinking black. Seibold, C. Feminist method and qualitative research about mid-life. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 19, This chapter introduces the concepts of gender and development and the factors that gave rise to their emergence.
It also provides an explanation of the precolonial experience of so-called Third World people, especially with respect to gender relations and the experiences of women and men in social, political, and economic life.
The discussion challenges simplistic characterizations and generalizations of precolonial societies and points to their rich diversity and difference. This chapter provides a framework for considering alternative ways of perceiving human social and cultural development and organizing social, economic, and political life.