Beyond the “Secularism Tic” – An Interview with Feminist Philosopher Sandra Harding by Nina M. Flores at Ms. blog
Standpoint theory is a theory of knowledge, but in most disciplines it is regarded as a methodology, a way to do research. Standpoint approaches use the differences between a dominant group’s values and interests and those of subordinate groups to provide research that is for the subordinate group – that answers the kinds of questions they want answered. Standpoint is a logic of research that seems to emerge every time a new group steps on the stage of history. For instance, ex-colonized groups, the civil rights movement, the LGBTQ movement and other groups ask similar kinds of questions. They may not use the language of standpoint theory, but they tend to say, “Well, from the perspective of our lives things look different.”
Feminist standpoint asks why what is regarded in disciplines as the very best research so often ends up making sexist, racist, heteronormative, classist or abled claims. What does it tell us about research processes and standards for objectivity when the very best research produces these results? Well, when the whole research community is androcentric, it has no way to detect those androcentric assumptions shaping its research – it’s like a fish trying to see the water it swims in. Feminist standpoint proposes starting research from the daily lives of women (or others who didn’t design the dominant frameworks) for three reasons: first, to understand women’s lives through concepts and terms that come from those lives. Sociologist Dorothy Smith says the term “housework” would never be coined by people who do it – it clearly comes from the lives of people who work outside the home, for whom the household is not a place of work. Secondly, to “study up”: to critically analyze the dominant institutions, their cultures and practices through the lens of people who receive few benefits from those institutions. Third is to understand how the assumptions and practices of those institutions – such as the Pentagon, the Department of Education, the State Department, Wall Street – shape the daily lives of women, and how does what women do shape those institutions?
And also, when the whole research community and liberal arts and social science disciplines are White supremacist, it has no way to detect those racist assumptions shaping its research and their liberal arts and social science theory – it’s like a fish trying to see the water it swims in, when the white fish have decided that they’re colorblind blind. Fish with colors!? We’re all white! Except we aren’t.