Everyone ought to be profoundly concerned with the 'development' of the leaner and consequently the development of society. The ultimate standard (value) for such development is to attain a more adequate level of value and moral awareness, sensitivity, reasoning, and action. The why, what, and how of the value education 'emphasis' are being seriously confronted in a more dedicate and systematic manner. This is perhaps symptomatic of something much deeper in our personal and social fabric. Dissonance, conflict, tensions are inevitable ingredients in our development toward self-actualization as we struggle with the sticky matter of life. The challenges are many, the roads are arduous, and the journey is lengthy but who cannot say immensely worthwhile and 'Value-able'.
What difference does feminist methodology make to other methodologies? Is there a single feminist methodology or a multiplicity of feminist methodologies? Or are feminists simply adding new perspectives to existing approaches, rather than developing a separate feminist methodology or several distinct feminist methodologies? The papers in this volume address these issues. They were presented at a conference, held at The University of Calgary, which was organized for the purpose of responding to these questions. The authors explore ways in which feminist scholars conduct their research, paying particular attention to the gender factor and gender relations in the selection, interpretation, and communication of their material.
Since feminism emerged on the horizons of academe in the 1960s many critical paths have been laid across the landscape of academic research. Feminist hermeneutics begins with a guarded approach regarding "received wisdom" passed down to us through the ages since the beginning of recorded history. Received wisdom has been characterized by pervasive cultural assumptions including those made about the different roles men and women play in the symbol-making processes which give meaning to historical occurrences. It has informed us about which topics are important to research, who the appropriate subjects of research are, the kinds of people who are suitable for conducting research, the kinds of interpretations to be applied to the material selected for research, and the implications of the research to be communicated to the public. This received wisdom has, for the most part, been formulated by men. Hence, there is good reason for feminists in academia to proceed with caution.
Historically there has been a fairly close connection between the values which shape the nature of research and the dominant values of the society in which the research is conducted. That is, there is a reciprocal relation between social context and academic research. The notion of pure research which is free from value-laden theories is viewed with a skeptical eye by feminists. However, this skepticism is not unique to feminism. It is widespread in other approaches as well, especially in phenomenology-a perspective with which feminism has much in common. The distinguishing feature of feminism is the focus on gender-related values which have tended to privilege males in both the society at large and in academic research.
Two influential and apparently contradictory beliefs about the relation between men and women have co-existed throughout history. These two beliefs are: (1) men's and women's natures are complementary and equal to each other; and (2) men are more representative of the essential characteristic of human nature (i.e., rationality) and thus women's difference from men is associated with inferiority. The prejudice inherent in the second belief is now widely recognized. However, the fact that there is a slippery slope between the "different but equal" view of the sexes and the inferior status of women is not so obvious. Even when the "different but equal" view is maintained, the different spheres of male and female activities have usually been unequally valued. The domestic sphere of women's activities in which feminine qualities are extolled is still given less value than the public sphere in which masculine qualities are rewarded. These separate spheres of activity, involving different psychological attributes, have generally been argued for in terms of biological differences. These arguments have appeared in contrasting guises ranging from scientific fact (e.g. Aristotle) to romantic idealism (e.g. Rousseau). Traditional academic research has often added the influential weight of research authority to common sense opinion about the differential nature of males and females and the hierarchical relations between them.
In the 1960s academic women, like other populations of women, began to react to the ways in which dominant male interests dictated how women were supposed to think, feel, and act. Male subjectivity was examined. The so-called objectivity of male-defined rationality was found to be replete with unexamined pervasive prejudice against women's interests, especially with regard to academic research. The topics were defined by male interests, the methods used to illuminate the topics were devised by men, the messages communicated to the public were those which reflected the interests of the powerful who were usually men. The interests of the powerful have seldom included the interests of women.
In situations where women's interests coincide with those of men of influence, women have generally not been granted the same kind of authority that men have. Even when it is clear that a woman can produce a good argument, the decision about whether it is a good argument, i.e., whether it is to be listened to, is usually made by men.1 Acceptance of women is too often contingent upon men's approval. It is the same for women doing research. The value of particular research endeavors has often been determined by those who are under the influence of historical biases (received wisdom) about that which is significant and that which is trivial. Women's interests which do not coincide with those of the ruling group are very often ignored. Even when good research is done in those areas it is not acknowledged in the way good research in traditional areas would be. The long-standing mythology about the importance and correctness of men's ideas and activities underpins the trivialization of women's participation in academic research.
In the early stages of feminist research there were attempts to "bring women into history," using traditional methodologies. A useful consequence of that approach was that feminists became more aware of significant women in history and of their significance to history. As a result of paying more attention to women as subjects of research, an important methodological insight emerged. It became clear that some of the techniques used in eliciting data were inappropriate when applied to women and that new approaches would have to be developed. An example of this kind of insight is found in the well-known work of Carol Gilligan (In a Different Voice). Her research shows that there are "two ways of speaking about moral problems" (1982: 1) and that "categories of knowledge are human constructions" (p. 6), depending upon contextualized experience. She emphasized the need to include women's descriptions of moral dilemmas and of conflict resolutions as they applied to their own lives. Gilligan illustrated the inappropriateness of applying theories of moral development based solely on men's experiences to the interpretation of women's descriptions of moral conflicts and their responses to them. As a result of her work we are more aware of gender specificity with regard to moral theory and the importance of devising questions appropriate to the social reality of the subject being questioned. The same principle can be applied to class or race; it is not specific to gender. However, gender is the focus in this book. Taking both genders into account is leading to the development of more appropriate methods of data collection and data interpretation, and, thereby, to greater acceptance of differences without the association of deficiency.
Another significant topic in feminist research that has had methodological implications is that of subjectivity vs objectivity, or qualitative vs quantitative. Objective, quantitative data-gathering methods depend on prior information which shapes the questions asked. They elicit answers that are interpreted according to the sets of pre-established questions. There is little space for new information categories to arise from questionnaire or statistical responses. There is no allowance for the effects of the questioner on the one who is questioned. The notion of objective research requires the assumptions that information is independent of personal influences and that the one asking the questions knows better than the subject what the important questions are. That is the case sometimes, but very often quantitative-type questions do not tap important information. That may be because the researcher has overlooked an area of interest, has deemed it unimportant, or merely assumes it is too "messy" to incorporate it into the determined categories. The categories of knowledge are determined independently of the subjects' responses. Often they do not relate to the actual circumstances of those being questioned. Objective, quantitative research methods are not usually successful, for example, in obtaining information about women's nurturing activities in the home. There are no established categories of knowledge into which such information would comfortably fit. That activity, therefore, is generally overlooked by researchers governed by the belief that research must be objective and quantifiable. This is not to say that quantitative methods are to be discarded. Rather, the process of unstructured information gathering on a large scale must precede the use of structured questions in order to increase the probability that the information which is to be quantified reflects the circumstances of the lives of the respondents. The lives of women have been largely overlooked in the interests of objective and quantitative research. In order to find out more about women's modes of experience and interpretation, it is necessary to observe their responses and listen to their descriptions.
The use of qualitative methods in research involves more generative interaction between the researcher and the...