Feminist Research by Dr Ranjay Vardhan India

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Ranjay Vardhan, Govt. College for Girls, Sector 42, Chandigarh (affiliated to Panjab University, Chandigarh), India, ranjayvardhan@yahoo.com

Feminist Research: Challenges before Male Researchers

Feminist research has emerged as a legitimate, relevant and popular research model. The quality and the validity of its findings are beyond contention, and over the years it has produced a significant output that has provided guidelines for policies central to modern societies (Roberts, 1981). Its domain is wide and diverse, and so are its basic methodological principles. The foundations of feminist research are those of critical theory, and hence this research model is critical and emancipatory. It studies the social conditions of women in a sexist, male-stream and patriarchal society (Stanley and Wise, 1983) and enlightens people about taken-for-granted sexist practices that displaced, ignored and silenced women, leading to an unequal and discriminating social order, and held them captive for millennia. It also indicates the gender-blindness of government and community practices in the subjugation of the females. Hence, the focus of research that binds together all branches of feminist research is their strong commitment to changing the status of women in modern societies and studying women.

Different waves of `feminisms' lead to women's differing interests in topics for research, preference for techniques, theories for interpreting what they see as going on, and conclusions about what new actions need to be taken. Feminist research is done both by men and women and it is wrong to ask the question can men do feminist research. Some men are pro-feminist and others are engaged in anti-patriarchal research. They are doing research on women's experience directly despite limitation of their gender and labels of being chauvinist. They face difficulties in collection of data on women on sensitive issues and at times there may be refusals to share the information. This paper makes an attempt to highlight the challenges faced by male feminist researchers based on researchers own experience, discussions with other scholars and study of available literature. It tries to suggest that it is desirable for men to carry out anti-patriarchal research and pro-feminist research as well. It puts forth a point that no doubt feminist research is ‘on’ and ‘for’ women but not ‘by’ women alone as it largely benefits the society. Feminist research has a significant impact over the last few decades and has contributed to the development of many methodological ideas. Feminism and feminist research has been at the forefront of challenging the silencing of women’s voices in the society and research challenging a narrow, gendered kind of science, which cast women in passive and subordinate roles. Crucially, feminist research aspires to be for women as much as it is about women (Burns, 2005). Feminist research is more than a matter of method, and raises philosophical issues of ontology and epistemology. Reinharz (1992) advances ten claims of Feminist research, including that feminism is a perspective, not a research method; it involves an ongoing criticism of non-feminist scholarship; it is guided by feminist theory; and it aims to create social change.


There are different approaches to feminist research as there are different theoretical understandings of the causes of gendered oppressions and inequalities. Feminist theories attempt to explain, challenge and hence try to change the existing patterns of relations between the sexes. The attempt is to understand as women and men, and the research may be described as feminist since femaleness and maleness and the difference and dominations between and within them are made a central feature of research questions, conceptualizations and analysis. However, when it comes to looking at men working in this theoretical framework, it is generally observed that they are working...
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