Discuss the relevance of feminist method in social science research


Discuss the relevance of feminist method in social science research.

 

Feminist method helps us to look at the social world through the prism of gender. It intersects with other hierarchies and social forms. It is true that the classical sociologists generally excluded consideration of actions of women. Consequently, discipline of sociology had little to say about women. Marx, Durkheim and Weber made stray comments on women and family. This is the reason why the emergence of feminist sociology has brought much excitement and optimism among the new generation of sociologists.

 

Features of the Feminist Method

Much as in the case of the comparative method (while there are certainly some common features within the vast body of studies that warrant them being called comparative or feminist), it is important to assert that important differences also characterise what can be broadly termed the feminist method. For purposes of elucidation, I will first begin with the stages in the development of a feminist approach to sociology and then see what could be seen methodologically as some common features.

A) Stages in the development of a feminist approach to sociology A useful way to mark the growth of a feminist approach to sociology is to identify three stages in the study of gender related issues since 1970.

  • Initially, the emphasis was on sex differences and the extent to which such differences might be based in biological properties of individuals.
  • In the second stage, the focus shifted to individual-level sex roles and socialisation, exposing gender as the product of specific social arrangements, although still conceptualising it as an individual trait.
  • ‘The hallmark of the third stage is the recognition of the centrality of gender as an organising principle in all social systems, including work, politics, everyday interaction, families, economic development, law, education, and a host of other social domains.
    As our understanding of gender has become more social, so has our awareness that gender is  experienced and organised in raceand class-specific ways.

We can now usefully discuss some key features of the feminist method in the light of the above three stages.

B) Some Key Features
It has already been emphasised that important differences exist between different feminist approaches. Along with noting down the direct and lndirect links with different political and theoretical approaches, we are here making a case for delineating what a feminist method in sociology entails. To start with, we can clearly distinguish between the traditional sociological approach to gender and the feminist approach. Most introductory sociology textbooks still treat gender as an individual attribute and gender inequality as an outcome of childhood M a r b Mies (1931.) socialisation.

In contrast, current feminist thinking stresses the far greater input of the division of labour, power, social control, violence, and ideology as structural and interactional bases of inequality, not only between women and men, but among women and men of diverse social classes and racial ethnic groups. Gorelick (1991: 461) referred to Maria Mies, who had in the nineteen seventies provided methodological guidelines for feminist research. She stressed the need for replacing the practice of value-free research with a conscious bias towards women’s struggles for soda1 change. Secondly, she made a case for conscientisation of the researcher as well as the researched. Let us now outline the following key features that mark the feminist method.

Saroj Meher

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