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Gender inequality has been an issue that has raised a lot of discussion since the early 19th century. Most societies during this time had incidences of male chauvinism and women were referred to as the weaker sex which in real sense isn’t true, this was witnessed even among the minor and oppressed races e.g. among the slaves as Harriet Jacobs says about her life experiences as a slave.
She was a freed slave that most sociology scholars that advocate for gender equality refer to as a woman who had great impact in influencing women with potential to claim share of the cake in the male dominated society. Some of these scholars include Dorothy E Smith, Sandra Harding, Patricia Hill Collins, Carol Gilligan, Joan Jacobs Brumberg among others (Lord et al 2011). This essay mainly focuses on the contributions and the impact of a sociologist, Dorothy E Smith, to the development of feminist theory.
This theory was developed after female scholars noticed that most theories, including sociological theories, were developed by male scholars and researchers and they mainly focused on the social issues that affected men. The few that involved women only talked about women but they were not for women.
As we know men and women face very different and diverse challenges in life and therefore developing a theory that is supposed to suggest solutions to these problems of both men and women is supposed to look at both sides of the coin i.e. both the men’s and women’s point of view (Sociology 319, 2006, pp 3-5).
Experience is said to be the best teacher, sociologists of the early times did not put this in to action since no woman was consulted. Female sociologist claimed that they were male centered and this frustrated them as Abigail Brooks suggests that “the sociological theories and methods being taught did not apply to what was happening as the female students experienced it” (2006, p 4). This made the women develop new theories like ‘feminist standpoint theory’.
This suggested that scholars place women at the center of sociological research since they would offer the best starting point for developing knowledge. This would also be the best method of solving issues of exclusion and misrepresentation of women in the society. Including their experiences feelings and thoughts would be airing their grievances for them to be attended to. In other words ‘interactive approach’ would be the most effective method of consulting women.
Abigail suggests that women personal experiences can used as a lens in viewing the problems and challenges of the society and even developing challenges that solutions to the identified problems. This is in accordance with Dorothy’s work which reveals to us how women in early have been taking care of children and helpless people in the society.
Previously only women used to take care of their own children and close family members, this changed over time and some women were employed and they had to live their young one on the care of other women while they were away during the day. This was the main reason why Dorothy suggested that the personal and life experiences of women can be considered as a lens of viewing societal problems.
In other words the women experienced all kind of problems when raising their children and those of others. They witness all the challenges and problems that the children face sine the time when they are born to when they grow up and mature as opposed to men who witness very little (Brooks 2006, p 7).
Men would be referred to as the ruling class while women as the subordinate class. This can be proved by the fact that men were the key decision makers and policy implementers. The decisions and the policies though they were meant to solve societal problems as a whole they were though indirectly formulated in such a way that the protected the interests and position of men as the ruling class. This clearly tells us that all the interpretations of the societies that were made were either biased or twisted to favors men.
Therefore if one needs a clear understanding of the society it should come from the women since they are the oppressed and they have no interests or position to protect as we have seen above. The hardships that they face can be used as a motivator for finding possible solutions to the problems as Abigail Brooks quoted, “Their pain provides them with a motivation for finding out what is wrong, for criticizing accepted interpretations of reality, and for developing new and less distorted ways of understanding the world” (2006, p 15).
As we have seen the best most effective way of eliminating male chauvinism in the society is by involving women in the development and formulation of policies which will be in accordance with their experiences, feelings and thoughts.
By not letting men perform entire investigation and research on issues that involve both women and men and solely relying on their recommendations would be the first step towards eliminating male dominance. Women are more exposed to pain and other kinds of social hardships, this puts them at a better position of having the urge to find solutions to their challenges.
Brooks, A. (2006). FEMINIST STANDPOINT EPISTEMOLOGY. (p 4) Retrieved from: https://www.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/upm-binaries/12936_Chapter3.pdf
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Lord, M., Greiter, A and Tursunovic, Z. (2011). Feminist Theory. Web.
Sociology 319. (2006). “Contemporary Social Theories: Feminist Standpoint Theory – Dorothy Smith” Retrieved from: http://uregina.ca/~gingrich/319m2206.htm