Article Review: Feminist Scholars Have Made Important Progress

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¶ … feminist scholars have made important progress in terms of transforming research in the social sciences and humanities. Initially, most of the changes in research were in terms of content: Feminist scholars began to unearth the contributions of women in different fields and the influences of women in arenas in which they could rarely act directly. But as important as it was for early feminist scholars to focus on women as the subject of research, it has been just as important for feminist scholars to question the basic ways in which research itself is conceptualized and carried out.

Feminist research would be far too small an undertaking if the only changes it helped to promulgate were to include women as the subjects of research. By calling into question the ways in which researchers and research subjects interact with each other, by looking at who has authority to do research into different parts of society, and by making theoretical and methodological assumptions transparent, feminist scholarship has helped spur radical changes in at least some corners of the academy.

Campbell (2001) examines the issue of how including men as the subjects/objects of feminist research can force researchers to examine ideas about the broader ways in which feminist scholarship is conceptualized. She focuses on research involving senior male police officers, a group that is as far as possible from the subjects of early feminist research. But beyond the fact that this is not an obvious subject for feminist research, Campbell notes that the methodology used is also hardly typically feminist given that the subjects dictated the parameters of the research and determined the methodology of the study. An initial response might simply be to dismiss such a piece of research as inherently un-feminist if not actually anti-feminist. but, she argues, investigating the power dynamics of these officers' lives, is in fact a feminist project and to push beyond traditional feminist subjects and to tolerate methodological conditions that are far less than ideally 'enlightened'.

Feminist scholarship, Campbell notes, must realize that it has come of age and that it can be more rigorous than it has been. Research such as this demonstrates that the core goals of feminism, such as clear-eyed investigations of power dynamics, can be carried out under far-less-than-ideal circumstances.

Enosh & Buchbinder (2005) look at the dynamics of the research interview, a method that is central to a large percentage of feminist social science. They argue that such interviews must be seen as cooperative act rather than one in which the interviewer serves a passive role. Any conceptualization of the interviewer as passive, in fact, is a contradiction of basic feminist principles. Feminist analysis of acts of communication (including such interviews) recognizes that communication is a complex process in which power relationships are constantly renegotiated.

A research interview is a… [END OF PREVIEW]

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