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What Is Feminist Sociology?

By Emily Daw
Updated May 23, 2024
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Feminist sociology arose as part of second-wave feminism in the 1960s and 1970s. Its goals include exposing injustices in male-dominated sociological work and exploring the root causes of perceived gender differences. Methodologically, feminist sociological research tends to be more qualitative than quantitative.

One of the major premises underlying mainstream sociology — or "malestream" sociology as it is sometimes called by feminists — is that people's values and actions are largely determined by their role in social structures. Feminist sociologists have extended this to argue that the field of sociology itself is largely the product of male-dominated social structures. They claim that sociologists have tended to research only men, and then unjustly tried to generalize their findings about all humanity.

Feminist sociology attempts to correct for the oversight of women's issues in other sociological studies. One of its major areas of research is how society shapes gender differences. Scholars may differ in whether they believe that these differences are the product of an inherently unjust system, but the fact that they exist is undeniable.

For instance, it is well-attested that men are more likely to be convicted of violent crime than women are. Women are statistically more likely to go into the humanities than into scientific fields of study. Feminist sociology attempts to seek out what sociological structures cause these differences between men and women.

Mainstream or malestream sociology tends to use a quantitative method of research that seeks to be objective. Many feminist sociologists, however, argue that attempting to objectify human experience actually denies and invalidates that experience, resulting in patriarchal and ethnocentric bodies of knowledge. For this reason, feminist sociology tends to use more qualitative and descriptive, rather than quantitative, methods of research. Feminist researchers may seek to develop an egalitarian, mutually beneficial relationship with the subjects of their study. Their articles often include lengthy personal reflections about the nature of their work in addition to statements of fact.

In some respects, feminist sociology attempts to redefine the goals of sociology. Many sociologists treat their discipline as a science, the role of which is to investigate and describe sociological realities. Feminist sociologists, on the other hand, often see their work as not only description, but improvement. They may seek to discover the causes of sociological for the explicit purpose of undermining injustice.

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Discussion Comments

By discographer — On Jul 02, 2014

There are definitely major differences between the genders as to how people perceive society and social structures. But women's point of view is usually ignored.

Just look at cinema as an example. They say that cinema is the mirror of society. How many women-centric films are made per year where womens' issues are portrayed? Films are usually centered around the "hero" and the woman is often reduced to eye candy. And whatever the hero feels and things, the woman usually shown as agreeing with it or going along with it.

There is a serious problem with how women are viewed and portrayed in our society. It's inaccurate.

By ddljohn — On Jul 01, 2014

I don't deny that most cultures in the world have a patriarchal system and it's usually the men who make the rules. It may also be true that sociologists are more inclined to study men than women.

But I don't think that there is an intention among sociologists to impose findings true for men for everyone, including women. If women sociologists feel that sociology is in favor of men, then I think that this is just a coincidence. It may also be a subconscious thing. That is, researchers may not realize that this is happening.

Something that I learned a long time ago in a statistics class is that "correlation does not mean causation." I think the same applies here. I don't feel that it's accurate to say that sociology is "malestream."

By stoneMason — On Jul 01, 2014

If women are more likely to work in the humanities rather than scientific fields, then is there any connection with this and the fact that people in the humanities tend to be paid less?

I think that feminist sociology needs to research how assumption about sociology by men effect the quality of life of women in general.

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