Volume: II, Issue I, January-June 2011
RESISTING LOGOCENTRISM: MAINSTREAMING THE GENDER
Logocentrism has been universal. It has not even spared the basic Social Sciences. The intellectual landscape is pervaded with androcentrism and value hierarchical thinking. Whatever is associated with male is always being treated as superior; and that with female always as inferior. To illustrate, as opposed to males who have always been projected as ‘productive’, ‘political, ‘public,’ and ‘rational’, women have been generally dubbed as ‘non-political’, ‘non-productive’ ‘private’ and ‘emotional’. Lamentably, all socio-political structures and institutions—the state, market, organization of civil society and cultural institutions—have been instrumental in reinforcing gender inequality. However, before mainstreaming gender at the level of government policy and programmes, it seems indispensable to mainstream gender within the academic disciplines. The present paper discusses at length how logocentrism pervades Social Sciences. Doing away with this kind of logocentrism is a prerequisite for gender mainstreaming.
Logocentric Bias in The Field of Philosophy
Philosophy has all along been regarded as such a search for truth and knowledge concerning the universe, human existence, perception and behavior as is pursued by means of reflection, reasoning and argument. Has traditional philosophy been true to these requirements? Feminist explorations in the discipline suggest a negative answer. They claim that the discipline of philosophy suffers from male centric biases like value hierarchical thinking, normative dualism and predominance of scientific methodology. It emphasizes on being objective, abstract and universal to the total neglect of personal, indigenous, particular and local. Women and experiences of women are mostly invisible in philosophy and wherever they are referred to, a low value has been attached to them. Feminists allege that:
Women have either been concealed in the history of philosophy i.e. rendered invisible, or quite literally abused; or at best… [presented] as less than ‘rational’ sex… and therefore less “human” than men and relegated to the realm of “nature” rather than “culture” and so on and so forth.1
Applying value hierarchical thinking and normative dualism, philosophers have given greater value to what is seen by the male as higher than to the subtler forms of refinement such as uncomplaining fortitude, wholly selfless helpfulness, or to the emotive-intuitive sources of knowledge and behavior which are distinctive of the being and life of women. Such ‘value’ hierarchical thinking and ‘normative dualism is patently biased. Caren I. Warren roundly condemns it all as the ‘logic of domination’ – an attempt to justify the subordination of the allegedly lower (i.e., woman) by the (supposedly) higher (i.e., man).2
The feminist complaint is indeed loud and clear. Women have been taken to be virtually non-existent. Their experiences and perspectives have not been taken note of. They have not been taken to make any contribution to philosophic speculation, nor even to the range and modes of philosophy’s concern and articulation. Feminists allege that traditional philosophy has not only devolved women’s intellectual efforts but also ignored their specifically feminine moral concerns, such as security and undisturbed privacy of life for single women and widows. Alison Jaggar contends that all major concepts and theories of traditional philosophy reveal ‘a distinctly masculine way of approaching the world’.3 She points out that ‘not only has reason been contrasted with emotion, but it has also been associated with the mental, the cultural, the universal, the public and the male, whereas emotion has been associated with the irrational, the physical, the natural, the particular, the private and of course, the female’.4
In the Field of History
Similarly the history of humankind has been written as essentially the history of men. Women are generally absent from the pages of history. References to women have been made only when they distinguished themselves in some typically male field of activity such as fighting a battle or leading a revolt or when they are loved by eminent men. The experiences of majority of women were quietly ignored. At the most they were portrayed either as a subordinate passive lot or as those who reacted to male pressures or to restrictions imposed by the patriarchal society. But treating women only as victims of oppression, history placed them in a male defined conceptual framework5.As Berenice Carroll puts it: “On the one hand, most of the events, institutions, movements, and written documents of the past which the historians hold to be important have been led or produced or symbolically represented by men, and insofar as women have been active in these endeavors they are thought to have identified themselves with the leadership and models presented by men. On the other hand, in so far as women have not been active in the ways which historians deem significant, they are conceived to have lived out their lives in a limited number of stereotyped roles, essentially changeless over time and therefore, irrelevant to the ‘intellectually interesting’ questions of historical change”.6
Such lacunae of traditional history have been duly brought out by feminist historians. They have undertaken the dual task of restoring ‘women to history’ and ‘history to women’ in three clear ways:
a.They have redefined the methods and categories of history writing.
b.They have focused on sex, along with race and class, as an important category of analysis, which has helped them in rejecting stereotyped conceptions of women’s nature.
c.They have further transformed our understanding of social changes, that is, of how domestic and public sphere got alienated from each other, as a result of which women lost control over production and property and even over their freedom and capacity for self-development.
Insisting woman’s contribution to history, Mary Beard asserts that throughout the course of history women had made an essential contribution to the building of civilization.7 A similar assertion was made by Gerda Lerner who suggests that women’s past could be reclaimed only if history is written also as an account of life as actually lived by the generality of mankind and not merely as it is found in books which focus only on the spectacular achievements of some men.8 Another pioneering historian to question the authenticity of ‘history’ as it has so far been, is Joan Kelly Gadol. Her two main protests are: first; that instead of reflecting the course of events which is in fact continuous history is generally arranged into periods shaped by wars and revolutions; and second, that the periods which are regarded as periods of progress – as, for example, the Renaissance – are actually misnomers because these were precisely the times when women, who are as much a part of the living content of history as men, actually lost in terms of power and status.9
With respect to historiography, feminists allege that the long standing dichotomies – as against mere distinctions – of nature and culture, work and family, public and private have unjustifiably worked as an unholy alliance in juxtaposing woman to man, ousting her from participation in many important areas of human activity, and so violating the very concept of historiography Gerda Lerner observes that men have regarded only their own experiences as fit material for history and have left out women completely. Carl N. Degloer rightly remarks, ‘Traditional historiography has excluded women not only inadvertently but sometimes programmatically from ‘universal’ ‘or ‘general’ history’.10
Thus, the traditional historians approach women’s history in a male–defined framework. In this context Gerda Lerner distinguishes two approaches in which such history is written: viz. compensatory history, and contributory history.11 Both, says Lerner, are infected with male bias. Compensatory history is a history of few notable women and their experiences. It also fails to take notice of the fact that different classes of women have different experiences, and that to comprehend the full complicity of female society at a given stage of its development, it is essential to take into account such experiential differences. Contributory history, on the other hand, describes women’s contribution to male defined society, but this contribution is judged not so much from the viewpoint of its effect on movements or events as from that of norms which are set by and are acceptable to men.12
These two approaches of writing history are both alike in segregating women’s activities from those of men even where the former had added substantially to the reach and effectiveness of the latter.
In order to remove these biases gender should be recognized as a category of analysis. Further, women’s contribution to labour force and to private realm should also be recognized and in this way an inclusive view of history should be developed.
In The Field of Sociology
Similarly, sociology describes and analyses only man’s work and behaviour. Its concepts do not cover women’s varied experiences, and so far it has regarded women just as an unchanging monolithic category. The methodological and theoretical perspectives offered in ethno methodology, structural – functional analysis, conflict analysis and other sociological approaches, - all neglect women’s perspectives just because women are not regarded significant enough for serious study.
To quote Millman and Kanter:
“With its focus on public, official, visible and dramatic role players, it (sociology) has produced a distorted view of social reality, thus ignoring the unofficial, supportive and invisible spheres of social life and organization which may be equally important”.13
In brief, Feminists claim that the discipline of sociology suffers from four major lacunae:
a.the omission and under representation of women as subjects
b.the focus on ‘male’ topics and relevances alone
c.a distorted presentation of women’s experiences in all the paradigms, models and methods of sociology and
d.treating male experience as the norm.
Most of the theories of sociology have therefore been labelled by feminists as androcentric theories. To illustrate, the model of socialization presented by traditional sociologists believes that personality is formed once for all, pretty early in life and is therefore relatively unmalleable. Such a model is static rather than evolutionary and so makes no provision for an individual’s self improvement. It has seriously damaged the status of women and minorities because if they admit the assumption in question as true, they cannot hope for any improvement in their lives, if it has been miserable so far. Sociologists have shown a male bias even in stratification of society. Feminist scholars have challenged the stratification model on the following grounds:
a.It neglects the contributions women have made in understanding class structure, and the place of the family in this structure
b.It fails to recognize the important interplay that freely occurs between the institution of family and the occupational sphere outside the family.
c.It assumes that independently of their family roles and ties to men, females have no relevant role in stratification processes.
Joan Acker in her essay, ‘Women and Social Stratification’ contends that all the assumptions made about women’s position in stratification are faulty.14 Further, the prevailing sociological theories have been challenged for their innate binarism. There is a tendency to view everything within the two extremes juxtaposed against each other, whereas the fact really is that two seemingly independent concepts and two different modes of thought may yet be held as one by some hidden, underruning link. The dominant binarism in the sociological theories are rationality vs. emotionality; instrumental vs. expressive, public vs. private and work vs. family. In all the above mentioned binaries, the former ones are associated with the males, the latter ones with that of female. What is objectionable is the fact that the formers are treated as superior to that of latters.As an alternative to the mainstream ‘masculinist’, ‘objectivist’ and positivist sociological theory some recent sociologists have developed a standpoint theory.The publication of Nancy Hartsock’s Money, Sex and Power15 has changed the very landscape of feminist theory. It defines the the nature of truth claims advanced by the new feminists and provides a methodological base to give validity to these claims.This has been defined by Hartsock as the feminist standpoint. Of all those who swear by this theory, the two most widely cited feminist sociologists are Dorothy Smith and Patricia Hill Collins. Both argue that until recently the knowers in sociology had a common standpoint – that of white, middle class male. Recognizing the diversity of experiences among women, both Smith and Collins maintain that each gender has a standpoint that results in profound differences between the ways men and women think, in addition to what they think about.16
Dorthy Smith argues that the lived reality of women’s lives is absent from sociology, perhaps because it is just invisible to the sociologists. She further says that the woman sociologist experiences a bifurcated consciousness that is, the abstract, conceptual world she encounters in the capacity of a sociologist as opposed to her lived reality as a woman. So Smith claims that, as a sociologist, the grasp and exploration of her own experiences as a method of discovering society restores to her a center which is wholly hers.17
In the Field of Psychology
The discipline of psychology has been challenged by feminists through and through. They argue that psychology and its practitioners have downgraded women in both theory and practice. Most of the books of psychology have defined psychology in malecentric terms, that is, ‘as the scientific study of man’ and all individuals have been referred to as he only, as if women just do not exist. Moreover, it is men who are always treated as the normative population and all females are judged by comparing them with this arbitrary conception of the normative. M. Crawford and J. Maracek rightly remark that mainstream psychology has “not only omitted the consideration of women and women’s activities, it has also validated the view that [only] those activities in which men engage are activities central to human life”.18
Masculine characteristics have been projected as psychoanalytic norms. Feminists claim that Freud explains men’s and women’s relative social and psychical positions in terms of their anatomy and takes masculine characteristics as a psychoanalytic norm; he regards the feminine simply as a lesser, ‘castrated’ version of that norm; and sees male development as the prototype, the penis being central to an understanding of the Oedipus complex and all subsequent development. Thus, for both males and females, development is to be understood in relation to penis for males because of its presence, and for females in virtue of its absence. It is to this sheer physical lack that Freud ascribes the female’s sense of inferiority, her passivity, her underdeveloped ego and subsequent dependence on the male. Feminists therefore challenged Freud’s psychoanalytic theory as just “another weapon in the armoury of patriarchy.
Until the early 1970s, most feminists (e.g. Simone De Beauvoir, Eva Figes, Betty Friedan, Shulamith Firestone, Germaine Greer and Kate Millett) treated Freud with hostility for his theory of psychoanalysis.
To quote Figes:
“Of all the factors that have served to perpetuate a male oriented society, that have hindred the free development of women as human beings in the western world today, the emergence of Freudian psychoanalysis has been the most serious”.19
Simone de Beauvoir criticized Freud for setting up a masculine model of individual development and for identifying human with male and so regarding female as merely the ‘other’.20 Betty Friedan too argued that Freud’s psychoanalysis was targely responsible for the way in which the derogatory mystique of femininity had flourished in America since the 1940s.
Thus, through its theory and practice Psychology has itself contributed in a number of ways to the reinforcement of these sex role stereotypes. This has been detrimental to women in the following ways:
a.Masculine traits have come to receive more positive evaluation than the feminine ones
b.Stereotyped expectations about women’s competence, emotionality, or physical characteristics frequently result in biased evaluations and artificial barriers to women’s achievement.
Therefore, in order to create a sex fair psychology, the feminists have suggested the following measures:
a.Feminists must re-examine female subjects in all those researches which had earlier been done by using predominantly male samples only.21
b.They must criticize past studies of sex differences, and contest common psychological assumptions about gender that are unsupported by reliable or valid evidences.
c.They must take into account the diversity of sex differences, thereby changing the traditional, biological idea of these differences, into a more viable concept of gender differences, taking cognizance of age, experience, situation and expectations.
d.They must also try to get a more balanced picture of what established sex differences mean.
In the Field of Economics
Economics is deemed as one of the most scientific, objective and value free social sciences. It concentrates on questions pertaining to how markets for various goods and services operate. This market oriented approach of the mainstream economics has resulted in the neglect of many economic activities in which women have traditionally been, and continue to be involved. The activities that have a market price are only counted as economic activity. To quote Waring: “The question of what entails “economic activity” revolves around the question of value… obvious exclusions from such activity are goods and services on which no one could put a market price because their values are spiritual, psychological, social or political… Women’s role as socializers, as articulators of class and gender ideology, and as (too often the easy) collaborators in reproducing the conditions of their own subordination has no value”.22 Economics ignores the unpaid work of the reproduction of human life itself as well as its maintenance and are. To quote Waring:
An infant born through the new “test tube” technology or womb implant, or a child raised in an institution, are considered “products”. Those who bring the fetus to term in the laboratory or who care for the child in the orphanage or juvenile facility are seen as workers. They are economically active. But a mother, daily engaged unpaid in these activities, is just a housewife.23
Thus, for the most part women are taken to live their lives as “unoccupied”, “non-productive” and “economically inactive” majority who do not work and whose labour (both productive and reproductive), has no “value”.24
Moreover, practitioners of economics and the leaders of the profession have been predominantly men and hence it is not quite surprising that they have made glaring omissions in economic analysis by ignoring the domains of women’s economic activity-household production and volunteer work. As a result, in all its theoretical formulations, empirical investigations and public policy implementation, economics relegates women’s issues to the periphery:
It uses theory, first of all, to decide what facts are relevant for an analysis. Only some everyday experiences are stated, recognized, and recorded by economic theory. Overwhelmingly those experiences that are economically visible can be summarized as what men do.25
For example G.N.P., which is used as a rough indicator of material well being is defined as the market value of all the final goods and services produced in one year. Economists and others have cautioned against using G.N.P. figures as an indicator of well being since it excludes many factors that effect the welfare of women. These excluded factors pertain almost exclusively to economic activities of women that is designed to increase societal welfare, that is, house work, child care, volunteer work, and unpaid work in general. Thus, statically, a large portion of women’s contribution to society is ignored.26
The rise of women’s movement and increasing intervention of feminist scholars in the field brought to the fore various issues related to women which were earlier overlooked and which may be listed as follows: Unequal treatment of women in the labour market, unequal access to the means of production, inequitable work burdens, invisibility – and under valuation of women’s subsistence production in third world countries – in data systems, the link between women’s unpaid work and paid work; the inequitable distribution of consumption resources within the household; absence of focus on women in national policies; and the relevance of all these matters to development issues.
In this regard, a meeting of women economists in Athens in 1985 prior to the world congress of the International economists association, proposed the principles for an alternative economic analysis “to assess the impact of theories and policies on women and development”.27 These included:
a.An examination of all the theories and policies to determnine the structural forms of discrimination, invisibility and oppression.
b.Inclusion of gender discussion in all micro and macro-economic analysis.
c.The expansion of the parameters of mainstream economic and policy analysis to include those dimensions which are traditionally described as “Social, cultural and political” (The soft approach) from a gender perspective.
Thus, in order to free the discipline of economics from prevailing male bias, gender must be recognized as a category of analysis.
In the Field of Political Science
Throughout history, women have been marginalized in the study and practice of politics. Since at least the 5th century BC.E, western political thought has been finding it difficult to recognize woman as citizen who is eligible for participation in public affairs. Moreover, women have never been treated as primary initiators or even as significant subjects of political discourse. Even after the Greek period and right upto the 19th century women have always been accorded an inferior status. While males are projected as ‘productive’, ‘political’, ‘public’ and ‘rational’, women have been portrayed as ‘non-political’, ‘non-productive’ ‘private’ and ‘emotional’. Since traditional political science operates with the help of such rigidly opposed concepts, women have always remained at the outermost margins of this academic discipline. To quote Sapiro:
Women do not appear in political life as much as men do, in part because they are not valued and encouraged in politics as much as men are; they do not ‘fit’ into politics as comfortably. Women and women’s issues do not appear in political research and teaching as much as do men and the issue they consider important, in part because they are not valued as much as men are; they do not fit into the concerns of political science as comfortably.28
Feminist scholars have challenged the discipline of traditional political science on three grounds:
a.It presents a concept of equality which does not give recognition to the notion of difference and thus discriminates against women by ignoring their needs, aspirations, capacities and value sense as a distinct sex.
b.It establishes a rigid dichotomy between public and private and associates the public with man while the private with woman and blatantly glorifies public (male) at the cost of private (female).
c.A male bias vitiates the very concept and dispersion of justice.
Through these critiques, feminists have laid the foundations for a woman friendly political science which would account for the differences among women, as also from men; relieve her of the suffocating public-private dichotomy; and develop a notion of justice based on ethic of care.
Thus, the first step in the direction of mainstreaming gender is to free the academic disciplines from male centric theories. A true humane society can only be built when we (a) deconstruct the male centric intellectual heritage; (b) abjure the privileged standpoints and claims to objective truth; and (c) develop a relentless critique of the relation between knowledge making and power guarding.
It is now evident that mainstreaming of the gender is only possible when we radically reconstruct existing male centric concepts, paradigms and methodologies.
1.Angela Miles and Geraldine Finn (ed.), Feminism from Pressure to Politics, Jaipur and New Delhi, Rawat Publications, 2002, p. 206.
2.Caren J. Warren, Critical Thinking and Feminism’, in Formal Logic, 10, 1, Winter 1988.
3.Alison M. Jaggar, ‘How can Philosophy be Feminist’? American Philosophical Association Newsletter on Feminism and Philosophy, April 1988, p. 6.
4.A.M. Jaggar, Love and Knowledge: Emotion in Epistemology in Ann Garry and Marilyn Persall (eds.) Woman, Knowledge and Reality : Explorations in Feminist Philosophy, London, Routledge, 1992, p. 124.
5.Gerda Lerner, The Majority Finds its Past, New York, Oxford University Press, 1979, p. 146.
6.Berenice Carroll (ed.), Liberating Women’s History: Theoretical and Critical Essays, Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 1976, xi
7.Mary Beard, Woman as Force in History, New York Mac Millan, 1946.
8.See Gerda Lerner, The Majority Finds Its Past, New York, Oxford University Press, 1979.
9.Joan Kelly Gadol, ‘Did Women Have a Renaissance? In Renate Briedenthal and Claudia Koonz Becoming Visible: Women in European History, Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1977, pp. 137-64.
10.See, Carl N. Degler, Is there a History of Women? Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1975.
11.Gerda Lerner, opp. Cit., pp 145-46.
13. Millman and Kanter (ed.), Another Voice, New York, Doubleday, 1975.
14.Joan Acker, “Women and Social Stratification” American Journal of Sociology, 78(4), 1973,pp. 936-945.
15.New York, Longman, 1983.
16.Janet Chafez, ‘Feminist Theory and Sociology’ Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 23, 1997, pp 97-120.
17.See Dorthy, E. Smith, “Women’s Perspective as a Radical Critique of Sociology in Stevi Jackson and Sue Scott (ed.) Gender: A Sociological Reader, London and New York, Routledge, 2002.
18.M. Crawford and J. Maracek, ‘Psychology Reconstructs the Female-1968-1988; Psychology of Women Quartely, 13, 1989, p. 149.
19.E. Figes, Patriarchal Attitudes, London, Faber and Faber, 1970.
20.Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, Penguine Harmondsworth, 1972.
21.For instance, Kohlberg’s studies of moral reasoning, initially conducted with young male subjects, is being repeated with sex balanced samples, with conflicting results. (See Walker, Baumrind)
22.M. J. Waring, “Economics” in Cheris Kramrae and Dale Spender (ed.) The Knowledge Explosion, New York, Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1993, p. 306.
26.The pioneering work in this field was an essay by W.D. Nordhaus and James Tobin, ‘Is Growth Obsolete? In Economic Growth, Fiftieth Anniversary Colloquium V.N. 7, National Bureau of Economic, Res: 1972 Another interesting contribution pointing out the shortcomings of the traditional ways of calculating G.N.P. was Tibor Scitovsky’s The Joyless Economy, New York, Oxford University Press, 1976.
27.This workshop involved women from 14 countries and was empowered by Mediterranean Women’s Studies Institute and the International Research and Training for Advancement of Women, INSTRAW.
28.V. Sapiro, The Political Integration of Women, Urbana, Unive of Illinois Press, 1983, p. 3.