ESSAY ON THE RELATIONSHIP OF FEMINIST ONTOLOGY AND EPISTEMOLOGY AND SOCIAL RESEARCH.
Feminist theory, it should be mentioned from the beginning of the paper, is not a unified theory. As women experience the social world differently (according to class, age or "race"), there exist different feminist standpoints within the feminist tradition - i.e. Marxist or Postmodernist feminists (and this explains the need to talk of Feminisms - in plural). In general though, feminist theorists in order to explain the marginal position women's issues hold in the social sciences - and why they are merely "added on" in the academic discourse, focus their critique upon traditional scientific approaches existing in the social sciences, offering alternative theories of knowledge. In addition, they attack concepts that originate from the founding fathers of each discipline (i.e. Durkheim in Sociology), and which still hold an exceptional position in the social sciences. For example, feminists believe that the concepts of scientific neutrality, or objectivity, or the belief that we can achieve "pure" knowledge of the social world, have all contributed to the androcentric status of the social sciences. .
In this essay we will attempt to define what is meant by "conventional epistemologies" (focussing primarily upon Sociology), suggesting also that different feminist epistemologies offer different approaches regarding conventional epistemologies. Thus, it is going to be discussed why feminists view as problematic the "scientific" approach that permeates and influences traditional explanations of the social world. Moreover, we will attempt to explain how feminists, with the introduction of new ways of investigating society - that is, the introduction of new subject-areas in social research, the placing of the researcher along with the research in the centre of research analysis, or the emphasis of the importance of locating experience and emotions in the research, challenge conventional epistemologies.