Feminist Epistemology

Feminist Epistemology

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The feminist epistemology has three approaches: feminist empiricist, feminist standpoint and feminist postmodern. Feminist empiricism feel that the traditional ways of obtaining knowledge through social science is still valid; however, gender biases need to be removed in order to fully gain a true knowledge (Travers, 2010, p. 26). Feminist empiricists feel that women are the best tools to obtain objectivity. According to Travers (2010), “women (or feminist, whether men or women) as a group are more likely to produce unbiased and objective results than are men (or nonfeminist) as a group” (p. 27). In the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry, Berger (1988) researched the effects that the pipeline would have on the North. Through out the Inquiry Berger gave evidence on how the pipeline would effect the environment, hunting, fishing and the native economy and the social impacts it would have on the community. Berger (1988) looked at specific impacts that the pipeline would bring and states that it would have cost on welfare, crime and violence, health and heath services, and alcohol (p. 202-205). Berger fails to consider the impacts that the pipeline would have on indigenous women living in the North. Almost all testimonies from the people living in the North are males. There is surely indigenous women living up north and the lack of women’s claims causes a major bias in the social research Berger has conducted. If a women researcher was to conduct this Inquiry up North, I feel that there would be a greater diversity of perspectives in regards to the social impacts the pipeline potentially could cause. According to Travers (2010), “[f]eminist empiricists are critical of the sexism that influences what problems are considered appropriate for scientific study, who gets to study them, what assumptions about gender norms are ignored, and invisibility of women and issues of concern to women in the sciences” (p. 27). Before Berger conducted the Inquiry, who and why was a male researcher chosen, what topics were to be explored, and if there was evidence pertaining to women, did Berger ignore them? Whose views to research are being looked at? (Smith, 1999, p. 187). Even when we look at the people who are chosen to do this research, would the research results be any different if there was an indigenous researcher? (Smith, 1999, p. 127). These questions are all important to feminist empiricists. Research does not just become bias because there is a male researcher, it is because men have been trained a specific way.

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According to Smith (1999), “[a]ll of these research activities are carried out by people who in some form or another have been trained and socialized into ways of thinking, of defining and of making sense of the known and unknown” (p. 124).
If feminist empiricists can remove these biases by getting more women in research to obtain a more objective standpoint in traditional social science research, then true knowledge would result.

Works Cited

Berger, T. R. (1988). Northern Frontier Northern Homeland: The Report of the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry (Rev. ed.). Vancouver/Toronto: Douglas & McIntyre.

Smith, L. T. (1999). Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. London and New York: Zed Books.

Travers, A. (2010). The Philosophy of the Social Sciences: Sociology 358 study guide. Burnaby: Simon Fraser University.
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