An Assignment Submitted by
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Towards a Feminist Sociology
It should be noted that feminist sociology cannot be analyzed in isolation from feminism as a social movement. First feminist ideas emerged due to Olympe de Gouges, Theodor von Hippel and Mary Wollstonecraft whose books and publications in the second half of the 18th century disputed social and economic discrimination of women. Till the 20th century European women were greatly dependent on men, as they had not political rights, prestigious job, did not receive proper education. If such women lose their support represented by fathers or husbands, they were doomed to misery, whereas men often abused their power. That is why popularity of feminist ideas was growing.
Afterwards, in the 20th century, feminism began spreading all over the Western world. This time it did not limit itself to economic and social rights. In the forefront of sexual revolution and postmodernism, feminists advocated sexual liberation, reconsidered gender roles and opposed sexism in general. Some mixed views of feminists brought forth disunity and emerging of various types of feminism like liberal, radical, marxist, postmodern, anarcha-feminism, etc. Feminism in the USA of 1960s was closely connected with the fight against racism, which caused a new type of movement – black feminism. Its opposing to patriarchy was based on the idea that racism is inevitably related with wars, violence, social hierarchy caused by male domination.
Postmodernism, interpreting skeptically or even negating traditional understanding of culture, history, economic, philosophy, etc., became a basis for feminist epistemology rise. The latter analyzes knowledge from a feminist standpoint. Thus, standpoint theory, as a postmodern phenomenon, states that there are no completely the same standpoints of two people, as they may have the same standpoints on the ground of race or gender but at the point of social position (if one, for example, has less money) their standpoints differ. Standpoints are often based on more than one factor, as opinions of people are produced due to their knowledge, experiences and power.
Regarding the issue, Dorothy Smith states that with a feminist movement, some contradictions subsequently emerged but at the same time they “learned to see, act, and speak from a ground in our experience as women” (Smith, p.360). The theorist tried in her sociological project to distinguish the foundation, composed of standpoints identical to every woman, which unite all the representatives of feminism.
According to Smith, women by means of literature, talks, interconnection and inner work which “transformed” their “external and internal relationships”, investigated their own unique experiences with other women and they are not “necessarily agreed or shared” such experiences (Smith, p.361). The author believes that they “could have a sociology responding to people’s lack of knowledge of how our everyday worlds are hooked into and shaped by social relations, organization, and powers beyond the scope of direct experience” (Smith, p.361). For instance, the experience of women being oppressed is based on male domination and control of their bodies.
In her opinion, generally adopted sociology does not respond to women’s demands and does not reflect their experiences in full measure and therefore, it needs reconsideration. The concept of “standpoint” turned to abstract and blurred notion and sometimes cannot be easily captured. Smith’s notion of standpoint does not mean that a knower is at an advantage but it changes the very essence of knowing, since the latter, being a product of social organization, cannot be attributed to individual consciousness. Thus, a method of inquiry is very important in exploring and participating in social life. It does not mean that a subject of this inquiry is a supreme one but is situated in the position