|Explain (using examples and wider knowledge) why feminists have been critical of what they have considered "malestream" sociological research.|
|Consider the feminist assertion that positivist methods of investigation fail to give women the chance to adequately explain their views and experiences.|
|The feminist view is that "rational" and "objective" (indeed positivist) Sociology was a male construct, and assumed male activity and leadership as the norm throughout society. Language referred to "man" instead of human, and "mankind" instead of humankind, and although people would say "man" means men and women, it builds in an assumption of the make-up of society for who is active and who is in control. In Sociology, positivist methods (questionnaires, structured interviews) set the questions and therefore the ideas and agenda of Sociology. Therefore "malestream" Sociology has kept in control.|
|"Malestream" is a deliberate corruption of "mainstream", to state that the main lines of Sociology as a discipline have built in sexist assumptions. Sociologists have assumed the secondary supporting activity and status of women, and this has affected research. For example, if it was research about workers they usually went to male workers; if the research was about voting behaviour they would often ask men. Men were the assumed decision makers (in the workplace, in the family) and men were the ones active in the wider world of work.|
|When sociologists researched women, it was often about women's issues. Think of women's magazines in the recent past being concerned with domestic matters like cookery and housework, finding a good husband (or making him better), being pregnant and looking after babies. There were always good stories in magazines for those long hours of supposedly sitting at home. Culture assumed women would (want to) be in the ideal nuclear family doing their supportive role (remember Talcott Parsons and the Warm Bath Theory?) of being combined housewives and mothers.|
|When, as feminists claim, Sociology has for so long developed its work along the line of malestream questions, it becomes necessary to overturn the assumptions in such controlling questions and let women speak for themselves - so that this apparent bias is corrected. Interpretive methods are therefore a feminist challenge to the existing rational pseudo-scientific methods of positivist Sociology.|
|Ann Oakley, commenting on how Sociology developed, has stated,|
|...Sociology has been in its modes of thinking, methodologies, conceptual organisation and subjects of inquiry, one of the most sexist of academic disciplines ...the male's social world has constituted the world of male Sociology. (1980, 71)|
|Positive Sociology has long included the view that Sociology should be objective and value free. Feminists say that because it is "malestream" it cannot be value free. It contains values of domination and patriarchy. Interpretivist approaches are a criticism of positivism and its (feminists say) actual values.|
|The feminist view is that it is wrong to exclude emotions in the pursuit of rationality. Emotional responses are a cause of social action. Emotions and sensitive issues are picked up particularly by the use of unstructured interviews.|
|As a result, feminism has had an impact in widening the methods and scope of doing research. Now the interpretive perspective is well accepted as important in looking at social action. The women's movement has impacted on Sociology as in other disciplines and areas of life and women are fully part of Sociology.|
|These issues impact directly on whether sociology should be like a science, or whether it is different because humans think and act consciously and because sociology developed a wider basis of doing research than scientists can limited to dealing with physical properties. Sociology is about people with life-stories, and this is a key focus of feminist work. As a result of the feminist challenge, the Feminist perspective joined that of Functionalism and Marxism.|
Haralambos, A., Langley, P (eds.) Sociology in Focus, Ormskirk: Causeway Press.
Oakley, A. (1980), Women Confined: Towards a Sociology of Childbirth, Oxford: Martin Robertson.