Written by Dr. Hannes Nel, MBL; D. Com; D. Phil
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 have 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.
With the above philosophy as a 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 the 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. Even though feminism is mostly directed at achieving equality between women and men, it also argues that women think and express themselves differently from men.
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 can be multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary; it uses different methodologies and it is constantly being redefined by the concerns of women coming from different perspectives. In terms of being multidisciplinary feminism can utilise knowledge borrowed from any other discipline that is relevant to the topic and purpose of the research. In terms of being interdisciplinary feminism can analyse, synthesise, harmonise and ultimately link the knowledge borrowed from other disciplines to integrate and systematise findings into a coherent whole. Transdisciplinary refers to feminist research contributing to and sharing knowledge with other disciplines. Feminism, therefore, requires that issues such as antiracism, diversity, democratic decision making and the empowerment of women are addressed in any field of study where a gender-related issue calls for research.
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 feminism and structuralism deal with power relations between people, feminism seldom uses the rigorous approach to research that is typical of structuralism. Ironically the unemotional and clinical approach that is 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 feminist research, arguments are not always supported by corroborating evidence, and findings are superficial and subjective. Feminism is often 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. These points of criticism, however, probably refer more to the attitude and motivation of some individual researchers and should not be seen as general characteristics of feminism.
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.
closing, 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.
 http://encyclopedia2.thefreedcitionary.com/Feminist+paradigm. Accessed on 04/04/2017.
 Adapted from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17330451 and https://blogs.lt.vt.edu/grad5104/… Accessed on 07/02/2019.