Philosophy of Science after Feminism

By Janet A. Kourany | Go to book overview

3
What Feminist Science Studies
Can Offer

If philosophers of science could ignore the wider social context of science for much of the twentieth century, feminist philosophers of science could not. That wider social context, after all, was the site of inequality for women—inequality in jobs, inequality in wages, inequality in expectations and treatment both in the home and outside it—and science, feminists were discovering, was helping to perpetuate that inequality. Never mind the history of misogyny in the research output of such fields as psychology and biology. Never mind the history of women’s neglect in the research output of other fields such as economics and medical research. Never mind the appalling lack of opportunities for women or downright exclusion of women as practitioners in the histories of all the sciences. The jarring fact was that it was all continuing even at the end of the twentieth century. Rather than helping the cause of equality—by replacing prevailing ignorance and prejudice and misinformation about women with more adequate perspectives—science was doing just the opposite. If combating androcentrism and sexism in society was the first order of business for feminists, combating androcentrism and sexism in science was surely the first order of business for those feminists who were philosophers of science. But how?

The task demanded interdisciplinary collaboration and received it. Feminist scientists and historians of science exposed sexism and androcentrism in such fields as anthropology, sociology, political science, medical research, psychology, biology, and archaeology, and they exposed, as well, the obstacles female scientists faced in those and other fields. And feminist philosophers of science, along with feminist scientists and historians, investigated the actions that needed to be taken in response. What resulted was not only a rich array of resources for dealing with sexism and androcentrism in science—and, by extension, racism and heterosexism and classism and the like—but also an important set of beginnings for generating a contextualized (and even, as we shall see, a politicized) philosophy of science.

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