Feminists Critiques Within the Disciplines
Feminist scholars have focused much effort during the last few decades on challenging the presumed objectivity and value neutrality of the natural sciences. Drawing upon the insights of interdisciplinary feminist theory, they have revealed much about the connections between the creation of scientific knowledge and culturally embedded gender ideologies. In "The Egg and the Sperm: How Science Has Constructed a Romance Based on Stereotypical Male-Female Roles," anthropologist Emily Martin insightfully reveals how biological explanations of reproduction that are commonly assumed to be based on objective scientific truth are in fact laden with cultural stereotypes about male superiority. Gender biases infuse medical textbook descriptions with the result that male physiological processes such as sperm production are privileged over egg production. Martin warns biologists that by projecting culturally sexist imagery into their work, they not only impair their understanding and future investigations of natural processes, but they also give greater legitimacy to increased technological and political surveillance and manipulation of women's pregnant bodies.
In "Feminist Skepticism and the 'Maleness' of Philosophy," Susan Bordo argues that the discipline of philosophy from its origins until the present can meaningfully be characterized as "male." In so doing she seeks to retain the right to generalize about the existence of "men's perspectives" and "women's perspectives." She supports her bold contention, which challenges prevailing contemporary antiessentialist modes of analysis, by drawing upon a body of interdisciplinary theory, especially the works of Nancy Chodorow, Carol Gilligan and Michel Foucault. Bordo makes this argument in order to caution feminists against the dangers of what she calls a postmodern "theoretics of heterogeneity" that questions the legitimacy of historical and cultural generalizations about the commonalities of women. What is ultimately at stake for Bordo is the survival of gender as a feminist analytical category. In another article on this topic, Bordo has instructively queried: "Why, it must be asked, are we so ready to deconstruct what have historically been the most ubiquitous elements of the gender axis, while so willing to defer to the authority and integrity of race and class axes as fundamentally grounding?" ( Bordo, 1990:146) In Bordo's view, it is critical for feminists to acknowledge that no matter how attentive scholars are to the axes that constitute social identity, some of them will be ignored or marginalized and others will be selected.