Introduction. I was hoping to share my research on 28 different paradigms that I regard as of importance to academic research. The purpose of sharing the articles with you is to also learn. After having done research and written for seven years, my book on qualitative research methodology is more or less ready for publication. However, the field of study is immensely vast and I need to do my utmost not to spread inaccurate information. So far I received no comments, feedback or suggestions on my articles. Please let me know if you find any mistakes or room for improvement.
This is the seventh article that I am sharing.
Feminism. Feminism is grounded in feminist values and beliefs. Philosophically speaking feminism is the movement for the political, social, and educational equality of women with men.
The ontology of feminism is that there is a ‘reality’ that has been created and shaped by social, political, cultural, economic, ethnic and gender-based forces that has evolved over time into social structures that are accepted as natural, cultural or in different other ways justified.
Feminist issues range from access to employment, education, child care, contraception, and abortion, to equality in the workplace, changing family roles, redress, sexual harassment in the workplace, and the need for equal political representation.
The basic epistemological principles of feminism include the taking of women and gender as the focus of analysis; the importance of consciousness raising; the rejection of subject and object (valuing the knowledge held by the participants as being expert knowledge and acknowledging how research valued as ‘objective’ always reflects a specific social and historical standpoint); a concern with ethics and an intention to empower women and change power relations and inequality.
Simply stated feminism is research done by, for and about women. In research feminism seeks to include women in the research process, to focus on the meanings women give to their world, while recognising that research must often be conducted within universities that are still patriarchal.
With the above philosophy as basis, research in support of the interests of women aims to emancipate women and improve their lives. The aim of research on women is to clarify bias and inequity in a way that women are treated in various social settings, such as the workplace, universities, sport, etc. and to fill the gaps in our knowledge about women.
Feminism is characterised by its double dimension and diversity. As opposed to traditional research, its objectives include both the construction of new knowledge and the production of social change. It assumes that woman are oppressed in society, therefore research is used to help reduce such discrimination.
In terms of diversity feminism is interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary; it uses different methodologies and it is constantly being redefined by the concerns of women coming from different perspectives. Feminism therefore requires that issues such as antiracism, diversity, democratic decision making and the empowerment of women are addressed.
In terms of research methodology feminism actively seeks to remove the power imbalance between research and subject; it is politically motivated in that it seeks to change social inequality and it begins with the standpoint and experiences of women. Feminism uses a wide variety of research methods, including methods belonging with the qualitative research approach, methods belonging with the quantitative approach and mixed methods. A qualitative approach is mostly favoured because it lends itself better to reflect the measure of human experience without focusing too strongly on males while neglecting the role of women in a particular social, economic, political or technological setting.
Feminism shares an academic as well as an affective link with neoliberalism, post-colonialism, critical theory, critical race theory, romanticism and post-structuralism, seeing that all of them deal with issues of inequality and discrimination.
Although both deal with power relations between people, feminism seldom uses the rigorous approach to research that is typical of structuralism. Ironically the lack of objective and systematic research typical of structuralism might be what is needed to elevate feminism to a more generally accepted research paradigm.
The main objection to feminism as a research paradigm is not that it is invalid or irrelevant, as some might claim, but rather that the very supporters of the philosophy are causing damage by the emotional manner in which it is put forward. The way in which it is applied and the spirit in which people write about feminism is often overly emotional and devoid of academic substance. In research, arguments are not supported by corroborated evidence, and findings are superficial and subjective. Feminism is used as the grounds for advocacy campaigns rather than academic research. The development of knowledge and theory is overshadowed by subjective philosophical points of view.
Related to the above argument is the fact that by emphasising the equality of genders we might well be denying both men and women certain privileges and rights that go with such differences. Men and women are different in ways that, if not respected and taken into consideration, can also lead to unfairness. Pregnancy, for example, dictates that women should have certain rights that men might not be entitled to or need, although even this is a contentious argument for some.