Manual Feminism/Postmodernism (Thinking Gender)

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Add to Cart. In this anthology, prominent contemporary theorists assess the benefits and dangers of postmodernism for feminist theory. The contributors examine the meaning of postmodernism both as a methodological position and a diagnosis of the times.

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They consider such issues as the nature of personal and social identity today, the political implications of recent aesthetic trends, and the consequences of changing work and family relations on women's lives. The complexity and erudition of the scholarship are proof of the maturity of feminist thought. The energy and depth of the analyses are proof that feminist theory has both the ability to keep its critical edge even when the subject of attack is itself and a deep reserve of vitality nourished by commitment to practical struggle.

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We have all watched the press and television make the differentiation between "innocent" and other victims --thereby passing a moral judgment, while apparently dealing with a medical issue. This slippage isn't new, of course: the history of disease and its representation in art think of leprosy in earlier periods is a history of social and moral values as much as medical information. I noted with great interest that your definition of postmodernism in The Politics of Postmodernism states that this movement, particularly its attention to difference and marginality, has been significantly shaped by feminism.

Most commentators -- those compiling the anthologies and encyclopedias -- have stated the opposite: that feminism is the direct result of a burgeoning postmodernism. This may seem a trivial observation -- the beginnings of a "chicken and egg" argument -- but it may also be indicative of the proclivity of academic texts to consign feminist writers to the sidelines, the happy cheerleaders of the postmodern movement. My sense has always been that there were certain important social movements in the s and before that made the postmodern possible: the women's movement though, of course, the movement existed much earlier, but this wave of it in the s was crucial and, in North America, the civil rights movement.

Suddenly gender and racial differences were on the table for discussion. Once that happened, "difference" became the focus of much thinking -- from newer issues of sexual choice and postcolonial history to more familiar ones such as religion and class. I think feminisms in the plural were important for articulating early on the variety of political positions possible within the umbrella term of gender -- from liberal humanist to cultural materialist.

Feminist discussions "complex-ified" questions of identity and difference almost from the start, and raised those upsetting but, of course, productive issues of social and cultural marginality. Why have so many feminist artists and theorists resisted the lure of postmodernism?

In part, it has been because the early constructions of the postmodern were resolutely male and that's one of the reasons I chose to write on the subject : male writers, artists and theorists were for a long time in the foreground.

Sometimes this was a real blind-spot; sometimes it was what we might call a form of gender-caution: people were afraid, because of that resistance of feminists, to label women writers or theorists as postmodern. This was, in part, because, women were indeed resisting such labeling, sometimes out of a worry that the political agenda of their feminisms would be subsumed under the "apolitical" aestheticizing label of postmodernism. But it depends on whose definition of the postmodern we are talking about.

I happen to think that postmodernism is political, but not in a way that is of much use, in the long run, to feminisms: it does challenge dominant discourses usually through self-consciousness and parody , but it also re-instates those very discourses in the act of challenging them. To put it another way, postmodernism does deconstruct, but doesn't really reconstruct. No feminist is happy with that kind of potential quietism, even if she or he approves of the deconstructing impulse: you simply can't stop there. This important issue of agency has become central not only to feminism, of course, but to "queer theory" and to postcolonial theory.

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You have noted in your theoretical work and above that feminism has taken a variety of forms in different cultures, and you prefer to speak of "feminisms" in your texts rather than a single feminist movement. Much is now being written on the distinct forms of feminism emerging from countries like Italy, France, India, Britain and America. Is there a distinctly Canadian Anglo and French feminism? As a feminist who has been influenced by postmodern thinking -- with its challenging of universals and its stress on the local and particular -- I can't help believing that Canadian feminism is different: our social situation as women in Canada is different even from that of women in Britain or the U.

Framed geographically and historically between two major anglophone empires past and present , Canada has experienced an odd amalgam of British and American influences and both have played their role in shaping our intellectual heritage. The mix of the Anglo-American activist strain with the more theoretical European focus has been fruitful, I think, for Canadian feminists. This would seem to imply that, to eliminate these social biases, feminists adopt an individualist epistemology. Instead, feminist epistemologists urge, not that inquirers insulate themselves from social influences, but that they restructure scientific practices to be open to different social influences.

Call this the paradox of social construction. Feminist empiricists argue that the key to dissolving both paradoxes is to undermine the assumptions that underlie them: that biases, political values, and social factors can influence inquiry only by displacing the influence of evidence, logic, and whatever other cognitive factors tend to lead to true theories.

Not all bias is epistemically bad Antony There are three general strategies for showing this, which may be called pragmatic, procedural, and moral realist. The pragmatic approach stresses the plurality of aims that inquiry serves. Inquiry seeks truths, or at least empirically adequate representations, but which truths any particular inquiry seeks depends on the uses to which those representations will be put, many of which are practical and derived from social interests.

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The paradoxes are dissolved by showing how responsible inquiry respects a division of labor between the functions of evidence and social values—the evidence helping inquirers track the truth, the social values helping inquirers construct representations out of those truths that serve the pragmatic aims of inquiry Anderson b. This view may be joined with a view of nature as rich, complex, and messy. No single theory captures the whole structure of reality, since different ways of classifying phenomena will reveal different patterns useful to different practical interests Longino The procedural approach argues that epistemically bad biases can be kept in check through an appropriate social organization of inquiry.

A social organization that holds people with different biases accountable to one another will be able to weed out bad biases, even if no individual on her own can be free of bias Longino This view may be joined with the idea that the subject of knowledge Nelson , epistemic rationality Solomon or objectivity Longino , is the epistemic community, not the individual.

The moral realist approach argues that moral, social and political value judgments have truth-values, and that feminist values are true. Inquiry informed by feminist values therefore does not displace attention to the evidence, because the evidence vindicates these values Campbell Feminist empiricists appeal to the pragmatist tradition to undermine the sharp dichotomy between fact and value Antony ; Nelson They argue compatibly with other pragmatists, such as Hilary Putnam , that Quine's arguments about the underdetermination of theory by evidence lead to a view of facts as partially constituted by values, and values by facts.

Without a sharp distinction between facts and values, it cannot be argued that inquiry explicitly motivated by feminist values is in principle opposed to the truth. Whether any particular feminist, or sexist, theory is true will depend on empirical investigation informed by epistemic norms—norms which may themselves be reformed in light of the merits of the theories they generate. This is the project of naturalized epistemology, whereby the vindication of norms of inquiry is sought not outside, but within, empirical investigation. Feminist empiricist investigations of the interaction of facts and values are further discussed below.

Postmodernism and Feminist Criminologies: Fragmenting the Criminological Subject

Feminist empiricist explorations of how norms of inquiry should be constituted to enhance objectivity are also discussed below. Criticisms of Feminist Empiricism. Feminist postmodernists criticize feminist empiricists for presuming the existence of an individual, transhistorical subject of knowledge outside of social determination Harding Feminist empiricists are also criticized for accepting an uncritical concept of experience Scott , and for naively holding that science will correct the errors and biases in its theories about women and other subordinated groups by itself, without the aid of feminist values or insights Harding , However, the Quine-inspired naturalized epistemology of most feminist empiricists views knowers as socially situated, empirical evidence as theory-laden and critically revisable in light of theoretical and normative reflection, and objective knowledge of human phenomena as requiring inclusion of feminist inquirers as equals in the collective project of inquiry Longino a, b.

Hundleby , a standpoint theorist, criticizes feminist empiricism for overlooking the vital role of feminist political activity, in particular, the development of oppositional consciousness, as a superior source of hypotheses and evidence for challenging sexist and androcentric theories. The history of feminist interventions into most disciplines follows a common pattern. Feminist inquiry begins as a critique of accepted disciplinary methods, assumptions, and theories.

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As it matures, it develops constructive projects of its own. This history helps us see how feminist epistemology negotiates the tension between the two poles in the paradox of bias that lies at the core of feminist empiricism. Feminist science critics began by focusing on exposing androcentric and sexist biases in science as sources of error.

As philosophers and historians of science joined the practice of feminist science criticism, they developed a more sophisticated understanding of some biases as epistemic resources. Advocates of feminist science develop this theme in seeking to practice science in the light and service of feminist aims and values, which function as epistemic resources.

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Feminist Science Criticism: Bias as Error. Feminist science criticism originated in the critiques that working biologists, psychologists, and other scientists made of the androcentric and sexist biases and practices in their own disciplines—especially of theories about women and gender differences that legitimate sexist practices. Exemplary works in this tradition include Bleier , Fausto-Sterling , Hrdy , Leacock , Sherif , and Tavris Feminist science criticism includes several types of research.

For example, the failure to provide Barbara McClintock with professional standing, resources, and access to graduate students delayed incorporation of her pioneering discoveries of genetic transposition into mainstream biology Keller Examples include eugenics Hubbard , and economic development policies that reinforce gender hierarchy by offering training and resources to men, but not women, in developing countries Waring Hays-Gilpin and Whitley document dramatic examples of this in archaeology.

Gender bias may also be revealed in the conceptual framework of the theory in question—for example, in representing subjective gender identification as a dichotomous variable, thereby eliminating other possibilities, such as androgyny, from consideration Bem In these cases, gender bias is represented as a cause of error.

But, as philosophers and historians of science joined the practice of feminist science criticism, alternative models of gender bias were developed, sometimes in cooperation with working scientists. Some of this work argues that the interests in technological control that underlie the modern practice of science limit its scope and what it takes to be significant knowledge Lacey , Merchant , Tiles Feminist science critics also show how theories go beyond the data that support them, with the gap often being filled by sexist and androcentric assumptions.

Thus, Haraway shows how hypotheses in primatology and evolutionary theory depend on narrative conventions for example, casting the transition from ape to hominid as a heroic drama and tropes for example, casting primates as mirrors of human nature. While these narrative conventions and tropes have rhetorical appeal, the evidence does not compel their selection. Feminist science critics have identified multiple kinds of bias in research programs.

Biases that generate error in this way should be avoided, through better training of scientists or the adoption and enforcement of methodological principles and social practices such as peer review designed to check their influence. Feminist science criticism in the bias-as-error mode parallels the heuristics-and-biases tradition of psychology Kahneman, Slovic and Tversky , which has been taken up in naturalized epistemology and philosophy of science e.

On a normative level, it generates methodological principles for engaging in nonsexist science. Exemplary methodological works generated by feminist science criticism include Altmann and Eichler Such biases are legitimate : it is rationally acceptable to conduct scientific inquiry under their influence.