Value neutrality is a term in gender studies referring to the assumption of the absence of interest by individuals with knowledge on a particular subject. The term essentially means that those knowledgeable in the subject are detached and neutral and can perceive the knowledge from nowhere (Levan 28). In relation to women’s studies, for instance, value neutrality means that anyone (whether male or female) can pursue studies in women’s studies and be able to disseminate the knowledge acquired objectively. Value neutrality demands dissemination of the knowledge without subjective alterations, but rather enriching it through value addition.
Epistemic privilege or advantage refers to the advantage women have regardless of their location in perceiving and understanding the different aspects of the world and human activities. The position, therefore, helps the women to challenge the bias perpetrated by males in the existing perspectives of the world and its functioning. In women’s studies, therefore, epistemic privilege puts women at the center of the studies; that the women have an upper hand in writing their narrative as opposed to the biased male perspective of women’s studies. It is therefore vital that women play the lead role in women’s studies rather than the males.
There is a challenge within postmodern circle of the existence of a category woman. In essence, however, the category woman refers to the group of women, consisting individuals with a diverse range of experiences, political, economic, and social differences. Essentially, the category woman therefore must go beyond defining a woman as a generalized idea of all women, but be sure to see women as unique individuals, whose bundling as a category (group) would be a mistake. In Women’s Studies therefore, a blanket use of the category woman would be wrong in trying to relay the experiences of a woman in India and the United States; the two have different experiences and challenges, and assumptions to their similarities would not present the real picture of the two.
Relativism refers to the perspective that views all points of view as valid and truthful in relation to the individual giving the perspective. Relativism therefore argues that regardless of the religious, moral, political or cultural orientation, the perspectives given are truthful as they relate the experiences from an individual’s point of view. In Women’s Studies, relativism is especially important in debunking the previous notions of the western feminist literature and perspectives as the only concrete feminism. Relativism thus gives credibility to the experiences and literature by women from all walks of life, be it Black, Caucasian, Indian, African, or Hispanic as sum of a more comprehensive approach to Women’s Studies and feminism.
Gatekeeping on the other hand is the vetting process through which knowledge undergoes before coming to the public domain (Levan 73). The vetting means an evaluation process of the new knowledge discovered by scholars and experts in the field of the knowledge, ensuring that revisions occur before the knowledge gets approval to reach the public domain. Gatekeeping serves the purpose of ensuring accuracy and accepted norms of research. Gatekeeping is present in Women’s Studies where a feminist journal rejected Yllo’s work on wife abuse, given the work’s non-usage of qualitative methods of study (Levan 73).
Subjugated knowledges as exemplified by Hill Collins refer to the distortion and exclusion of experience of some groups of women from traditional academic discourse. Subjugation in this case comes from the domination of structures of knowledge validation by elite white men, who choose what to include as academic literature. Through subjugated knowledges, therefore, the discourse and founding pillars of traditional Women’s Studies have followed a path set on foundations laid by the white elite men.
The idea of subjugated knowledges has however influenced the methods of acquisition of knowledge in Women’s Studies, including approaches that contradict established research methodologies. One of the methods of acquiring knowledge in this case is the standpoint, which argues against distancing oneself from the knowledge under scrutiny, but instead accepts the position of the individual as part of the knowledge being acquired through connections such as emotions, language, intuition and the development of the knowledge itself.
The argument here is that the knower or the seeker of the knowledge cannot stand aloof from the knowledge under acquisition without being part of the knowledge and experience of acquiring the knowledge. The perspective contradicts the idea of neutrality, which sees the knower as taking a neutral position in the process of knowledge acquisition.
Quantitative and qualitative research methods differ in that quantitative research uses methodology that measures quantifiable data. Yllo argues that quantitative research processes the data collected through mathematical processes, and later represents the data in graphs and tables.
Qualitative research on the other hand refers to research based on collection and presentation of descriptions and explanations of phenomena under study. In essence, qualitative research describes the views and understanding of people; and how the people construct meaning from the experiences (Levan 73).
Quantitative research therefore easily quotes numbers, such as 50 percent of respondents had read a book. On the other hand, qualitative research looks at the feelings elicited by the experience, such as the feeling of contemporary black female scholars on subjugated knowledges; it is essential impossible to quantify such feelings.
Pedagogy refers to the methods of teaching and dissemination of knowledge from the teacher to the student. Weiler indicates the importance of pedagogy in Women’s studies by referring to the goals of feminist pedagogies. One of the goals is striving to be sensitive and minimizing the power relations in the classroom. Feminist pedagogy strives at democracy and mutual respect regardless of race, gender, age and personality, making it important for the method used to reflect such concerns.
However, there are problems that relate to pedagogy in feminist classrooms, these include authority, experience, and silences. The problem of authority comes when a professor who is a woman may be perceived as having less power than others have. Experience on the other hand becomes a problem when given the peculiarities of the teacher and the students’ experiences. The differences may then create problems, especially when there is no point of similarities between the experiences. Silence as a problem refers to the non-participation of students within the classroom situation. Such a situation may make it difficult for interaction between the teacher and the students, as well as haring of knowledge.
While Women’s Studies have been part of the university education for a long time now, there are concerns over the presence and practice of the course at the university. One of the concerns is on the job market and the ability of the degree to get a graduate outside the university and pedagogy in Women’s Studies.
The concern and debate here is on the job-relatedness of the degree. Today, university education has become more market-oriented, and the fact that a degree in Women’s Studies does not guarantee a job raises concern over the relevance of the degree. For instance, a degree in computer science guarantees a job in technology firm, while this is not the case of a degree in Women’s Studies. The relevance of the degree, therefore, comes to question given its inability to guarantee a job.
Evan, Andrea. Women Studies. Thorneloe Colllege, 2016.