Towards a feminist research

“Feminist objectivity means quite simply situated knowledges”

Donna Haraway

Doing a feminist research seems to be my own personal desire, and I am sure that in the future research projects I will manage to incorporate it. Through the characterization of ‘feminist’, a research has to overcome the simplicity and naivety of just a nonsexist project, and to draw from and build upon a specific feminist epistemological theory, in order to produce new frameworks about the knowledge that exists around a specific group of women. McHugh (2014) argues that “feminist research is not research about women, but research for women; it is knowledge to be used in the transformation of sexist society” (p. 137) and in the transformation of a biased social sciences. Feminist research is a way of approaching the world and the social identities, co – constructing knowledge through the dynamic interrelation between the one who ‘knows’ and those to be ‘known’. It strives to provide an actor – centered research, with respect to the women’s experiences.

Another feature of a feminist research is the denial of the biological determinism of the sexes. Gender and gender relations are social constructed notions – which are taught, learned and eventually performed – and they are treated as such, taking always into consideration the historical framework (Rutledge Shields & Dervin, 1993). According to Crenshaw (1991), just because a category like race or gender is socially constructed, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have real-world importance. She highlights the significance of acknowledging how power is concentrated in certain categories and used to oppress others. Cockburn (1998 in Bacchi & Eveline, 2010) suggests viewing identities as being social and connected, complex, continuously evolving, and shaped by discourse.

Many feminist scholars (e.g.: Rutledge Shields & Dervin, 1993; Harding, 1987; Beetham & Demetriades, 2007 and many more) have suggested that (gender) reflexivity and intersubjectivity are key concepts in feminist research. Although may be used interchangeably, in this research they will be treated in their own right. Rakow (1987) shades light to the realization that it is now recognized that male researchers often fail to take into account the experiences of women in their research and instead assume that what they are studying applies to everyone. Similarly, white researchers overlook the experiences of people of color and think they are representative of all people, while academics often do not realize that they are only studying middle-class individuals and assuming their experiences are universal to all social classes. Harding (1987) claims that, by placing the researcher in the same critical, reflective and scrutinized position as the people in matter, is a powerful attribute of a feminist inquiry. Although a reflection of identities like race, class, gender and their consequently assumptions, beliefs and prejudices may look like a “soul searching (though a little soul searching by researchers now and then can’t be all bad!)” (Harding, 1987, p. 31), Harding moves her reasoning to a more robust conceptualization of reflexivity: “to come to understand the historical construction of race, class and culture within which one’s subject matter moves requires reflection on the similar tendencies shaping the researcher’s beliefs and behaviors” (p. 32). This leads to a multilayered reflection; for example: first, how sexism and racism shaped experiences and opportunities for the Albanian, migrant mothers in the end of 20th and beginning of 21th century Greece. Second, how racism and sexism influenced previous research and third how these inequalities transform research nowadays. Both people under research and the researcher(s) are historical individuals and this needs to be acknowledged.

Intersubjectivity is the logical continuity of reflexivity, where the researcher reflects, not only upon her socio – historical position, but on her research project as well. The results are shared with the participants in order to replace the dichotomous relation between the subjects with a dialectical one. This means that the participants collaborate and contribute to the project (Rutledge Shields & Dervin, 1993).

Reference list:

Bacchi, C., & Eveline, J. (2010). Gender mainstreaming or diversity mainstreaming?: The politics of ‘doing.’ In C. Bacchi & J. Eveline (Eds.), Mainstreaming Politics: Gendering Practices and Feminist Theory (pp. 311–334). University of Adelaide Press.

Beetham, G., & Demetriades, J. (2007). Feminist research methodologies and development: overview and practical application. <i>Gender & Development, 15(2), 199–216.

Crenshaw, K. (1991). Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color. Stanford Law Review, 43(6), 1241.

Harding, S. (1987). The Method Question. Hypatia, 2(3), 19–35.

Lykke, N. (2010). Rethinking Epistemologies. In Feminist Studies (pp. 125–143). Routledge.

McHugh, M. C. (2014). Feminist qualitative research: Toward transformation of science and society. In P. Leavy (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of qualitative research (pp. 137–164). Oxford University Press.

Rakow, L. F. (1987). Looking to the Future: Five Questions for Gender Research. Women’s Studies in Communication, 10(2), 79–86.

Rutledge Shields, V., & Dervin, B. (1993). Sense-making in feminist social science research. Women’s Studies International Forum, 16(1), 65–81.

Smith, D. E. (1974). Women’s Perspective as a Radical Critique of Sociology. Sociological Inquiry, 44(1), 7–13.

By Φαίδρα Γατσαρούλη

My name is Faidra Gatsarouli. I am a psychology graduate from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and a master’s student in Human Rights and Migration Studies and in Gender, Justice and Society in the University of Macedonia and Umea University, respectively. I'm particularly interested in research on feminist and gender studies, women’s rights and the LGBTQ+ community, the intersectional migration and refugee experience and the psychological well-being of the nontraditional family structure. Besides my academic aspirations, I really love art, photography. solo travelling and reading contemporary fiction.

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