Feminist critiques of science

John Mcreery (JLM@TWICS.COM)
Thu, 7 Sep 1995 07:18:31 +0900

Ruby Rohrlich writes,

"Have none of you who are talking about science philosophically,
anthropologically, and every other way, read any of the feminist
critiques which demonstrate that masculinist and misogynistic concepts
contaminate the kind of research scientists choose to do, as well as the
findings they come up with? That science as a culture still discriminates
against hiring and promoting women? Get real, fellows."

I'd like to hear more about this. Haven't, as a matter of fact, read the
feminist criticism to which Ruby refers and could use some references.My
uninformed first response would be

(1) Yes, historically science has been sexist; as an institution in sexist
societies it could hardly be anything else.
(2) One appalling result has been a significant lack of women's perspectives,
especially in the "human" sciences. Work asserting those perspectives and
enlarging our sense of what it means to be human is valuable.
(3) Still, I'd like to separate the epistemological issue, "How close an
approximation to reality can we achieve using method X in situation Y?" from thepolitical issue "What ought to be done about situation Y in light of our
commitments to values Z"?
(4) I recognize that this is tricky ground. When a feminist says that because
of sexist bias a male researcher missed something important (as, for example,
Annette Weiner criticizing Malinowski's lack of attention to women's
exchanges in the Trobriands), she is making a valid epistemological point.
If she goes on to conclude that we ought to have more women doing research, thatis, to me, an equally valid political point. These two points have an obvious
connection. Still, I think it worthwhile to separate bias=source of error from

Got to think about this.

John McCreery