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Chapter Outlines
10th Edition

From the Instructors Manual


List mode: Normal (click on theory name to show detail) | Show All details | Clear details

Chapter 32—Standpoint Theory

  1. Introduction.
    1. Standpoint theorists suggest our view of the world depends on our social location.
    2. That social location is shaped by our demographic characteristics, including sex, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and economic status.
    3. As Julia Wood puts it, “the social groups within which we are located powerfully shape what we experience and know as well as how we understand and communicate with ourselves, others, and the world.”
    4. Standpoint theorists believe that knowledge starting from the social location of marginalized people “can provide a more objective view than the perspective from the lives of the more powerful.”
    5. Feminist standpoint theorists focus on the social location of women.
    6. They are quick to warn that a social location is not a standpoint.
    7. A feminist standpoint is “achieved through critical reflection on power relations and their consequences.”
    8. A standpoint necessarily opposes the status quo.
  2. A feminist standpoint rooted in philosophies.
    1. Georg Hegel revealed that what people “know” depends upon which group they are in and that the powerful control received knowledge.
    2. Early feminist standpoint theorists were influenced by Marx and Engels’ idea that the poor can be society’s “ideal knowers.”
    3. Standpoint theory is also influenced by symbolic interactionism, which suggests that gender is socially constructed, and by the postmodernism of theorists such as Jean-Francois Lyotard, which suggests a critique of male-centered epistemologies.
    4. However, standpoint theorists reject postmodernism’s absolute relativism.
    5. Although Harding and Wood draw from these somewhat conflicting influences, their theory is held together by the central tenet that all scholarly inquiry should start from the lives of women and others who are marginalized.
  3. The Help: Stories from the lives of marginalized women
    1. Passages from the book The Help will be used to help describe the theory.
    2. Communication professor Rachel Griffin at the University of Utah questions whether the novel, written by a white woman, accurately represents black voices—a fair critique.
    3. The African-American actresses who portrayed leading characters in the film disagree.
    4. These debates demonstrate how messy standpoints can be, even among those who take the social location of women seriously.
  4. Women as a marginalized group.
    1. Standpoint theorists see important differences between men and women that shape their communication.
    2. Wood does not attribute gender differences to biology, maternal instinct, or women’s intuition.
      1. To the extent that women are distinct from men, she sees the difference largely as a result of cultural expectations and the treatment that each group receives from the other.
      2. A culture is not experienced identically by all members of society because of inequities.
      3. Feminist standpoint theorists suggest that women are underadvantaged and, thus, men are overadvantaged—a gender difference that makes a huge difference.
    3. Harding and Wood point out that women are not a monolithic group, and thus they do not all share the same social location.
      1. Economic condition, race, and sexual orientation also contribute to a woman’s position in society.
      2. An intersection of minority positions creates a highly looked-down-upon location in the social hierarchy.
      3. Wood believes that a sense of solidarity is politically useful if women are to effectively challenge male domination and gain full participation in public life.
  5. Knowledge from nowhere versus local knowledge.
    1. People at the top of the societal hierarchy have the power to define others.
    2. Standpoint theorists believe that those who define a field shape the picture of the world that emerges from that field.
    3. This view contrasts sharply with the claim that “truth” is value-free and accessible to any objective observer.
    4. Harding and other standpoint theorists insist there is no possibility of an unbiased perspective that is disinterested, impartial, value-free, or detached from a particular historical situation.
    5. Harding does not want to abandon the search for reality; she simply believes that the search should begin from the lives of those in the underclass.
      1. Like all knowledge, the perspectives arising from the standpoint of women or any other minority are partial or situated knowledge.
      2. However, standpoint theorists believe that the perspectives of subordinate groups are more complete and thus better than those of privileged groups in a society.
  6. Strong objectivity: Less partial views from the standpoint of women.
    1. Harding emphasizes that it’s the perspective generalized from women’s lives that provides a preferred standpoint from which to begin research.
      1. She calls this approach “strong objectivity.”
      2. By contrast, knowledge generated from the standpoint of dominant groups offers only “weak objectivity.”
    2. Wood offers two reasons why the standpoints of women and other marginalized groups are less partial, distorted, and false than those of men in dominant positions.
      1. Marginalized people have more motivation to understand the perspective of the powerful than vice versa.
      2. Marginalized people have little reason to defend the status quo.
    3. Harding and Wood emphasize that a woman’s location on the margin of society is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition to attain a feminist standpoint.
    4. They believe a feminist standpoint is an achievement gained through critical reflection rather than a piece of territory automatically inherited by being a woman.
  7. Theory to practice: communication research based on women’s lives.
    1. Wood’s study of caregiving in the United States exemplifies research that starts from the lives of women.
    2. Wood suggests that a standpoint approach is practical to the extent that it generates an effective critique of unjust practices.
  8. The standpoint of black feminist thought.
    1. Patricia Collins claims that “intersecting oppressions” puts black women in a different marginalized social location than either white women or black men.
    2. The different social location means that black women’s way of knowing is different from Harding and Wood’s standpoint epistemology.
    3. She identifies four ways that black women validate knowledge.
      1. Lived experience as a criterion of meaning.
      2. The use of dialogue in assessing knowledge claims.
      3. The ethic of caring.
      4. The ethic of personal accountability.
  9. Ethical reflection: Benhabib’s interactive universalism
    1. Seyla Benhabib maintains that a universal ethical standard is a viable possibility, one that values diversity of belief without thinking that every difference is ethically significant.
    2. She holds out the possibility that instead of reaching a consensus on how everyone should act, interacting individuals can align themselves with a common good.
    3. Benhabib insists that any panhuman ethic be achieved through interaction with collective concrete others rather than imposed on them by the rational elite.
    4. Interactive universalism would avoid privatizing women’s experiences.
  10. Critique: Do standpoints on the margins give a less false view?
    1. Feminist standpoint theory was originally developed to better appreciate the value of women’s lived experiences, with the hope that qualitative research on marginalized groups can bring about societal reform that takes their perspectives seriously.
    2. Although comparing male and female experiences has an aesthetic appeal in its simplicity, many feminist scholars now think that’s too simple.
      1. Feminist scholar Kathy Davis (VU University Amsterdam) further notes that feminist theories developed by white Western women emerge from a stance that may not account for the diversity of women’s experiences around the world.
      2. One answer to this problem is intersectionality.
      3. For feminist scholars, intersectionality refers to how identities occur at the crossroads of gender, race, sexuality, age, occupation, and any number of other characteristics.
      4. It’s an intellectual tool that sharpens standpoint theorists’ understanding of people—people who often defy simple categorization.
    3. John McWhorter, an African American professor of English at Columbia University, is also concerned that some people use standpoint logic to oversimplify the human condition.
    4. Other critics see the concept of strong objectivity as inherently contradictory, since it seems to appeal to universal standards of judgment
    5. Standpoint theory energizes Idaho State University rhetorician Lynn Worsham and others in the theory’s broad community of agreement who believe that minority standpoints can be a partial corrective to the biased knowledge that now passes for truth.
 

You can access the Outline for a particular chapter in several ways:

  • Switch to View by Theory, then select the desired theory/chapter from the drop-down list at the top of the page. Look in the list of available resources.
  • To quickly find a theory by chapter number, use the Table of Contents and link from there. It will take you directly to the theory with available options highlighted.
  • You can also use the Theory List, which will take you directly to the theory with available options highlighted.

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Resources
by Type




 OUTLINES


 VIDEOS


 ESSAY


 LINKS





Instructors can get
additional resources.
Read more

New to Theory
Resources?

Find out more
in this short
video overview
(3:01).

Chapter Outlines
10th Edition

From the Instructors Manual


List mode: Normal (click on theory name to show detail) | Show All details | Clear details

Chapter 32—Standpoint Theory

  1. Introduction.
    1. Standpoint theorists suggest our view of the world depends on our social location.
    2. That social location is shaped by our demographic characteristics, including sex, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and economic status.
    3. As Julia Wood puts it, “the social groups within which we are located powerfully shape what we experience and know as well as how we understand and communicate with ourselves, others, and the world.”
    4. Standpoint theorists believe that knowledge starting from the social location of marginalized people “can provide a more objective view than the perspective from the lives of the more powerful.”
    5. Feminist standpoint theorists focus on the social location of women.
    6. They are quick to warn that a social location is not a standpoint.
    7. A feminist standpoint is “achieved through critical reflection on power relations and their consequences.”
    8. A standpoint necessarily opposes the status quo.
  2. A feminist standpoint rooted in philosophies.
    1. Georg Hegel revealed that what people “know” depends upon which group they are in and that the powerful control received knowledge.
    2. Early feminist standpoint theorists were influenced by Marx and Engels’ idea that the poor can be society’s “ideal knowers.”
    3. Standpoint theory is also influenced by symbolic interactionism, which suggests that gender is socially constructed, and by the postmodernism of theorists such as Jean-Francois Lyotard, which suggests a critique of male-centered epistemologies.
    4. However, standpoint theorists reject postmodernism’s absolute relativism.
    5. Although Harding and Wood draw from these somewhat conflicting influences, their theory is held together by the central tenet that all scholarly inquiry should start from the lives of women and others who are marginalized.
  3. The Help: Stories from the lives of marginalized women
    1. Passages from the book The Help will be used to help describe the theory.
    2. Communication professor Rachel Griffin at the University of Utah questions whether the novel, written by a white woman, accurately represents black voices—a fair critique.
    3. The African-American actresses who portrayed leading characters in the film disagree.
    4. These debates demonstrate how messy standpoints can be, even among those who take the social location of women seriously.
  4. Women as a marginalized group.
    1. Standpoint theorists see important differences between men and women that shape their communication.
    2. Wood does not attribute gender differences to biology, maternal instinct, or women’s intuition.
      1. To the extent that women are distinct from men, she sees the difference largely as a result of cultural expectations and the treatment that each group receives from the other.
      2. A culture is not experienced identically by all members of society because of inequities.
      3. Feminist standpoint theorists suggest that women are underadvantaged and, thus, men are overadvantaged—a gender difference that makes a huge difference.
    3. Harding and Wood point out that women are not a monolithic group, and thus they do not all share the same social location.
      1. Economic condition, race, and sexual orientation also contribute to a woman’s position in society.
      2. An intersection of minority positions creates a highly looked-down-upon location in the social hierarchy.
      3. Wood believes that a sense of solidarity is politically useful if women are to effectively challenge male domination and gain full participation in public life.
  5. Knowledge from nowhere versus local knowledge.
    1. People at the top of the societal hierarchy have the power to define others.
    2. Standpoint theorists believe that those who define a field shape the picture of the world that emerges from that field.
    3. This view contrasts sharply with the claim that “truth” is value-free and accessible to any objective observer.
    4. Harding and other standpoint theorists insist there is no possibility of an unbiased perspective that is disinterested, impartial, value-free, or detached from a particular historical situation.
    5. Harding does not want to abandon the search for reality; she simply believes that the search should begin from the lives of those in the underclass.
      1. Like all knowledge, the perspectives arising from the standpoint of women or any other minority are partial or situated knowledge.
      2. However, standpoint theorists believe that the perspectives of subordinate groups are more complete and thus better than those of privileged groups in a society.
  6. Strong objectivity: Less partial views from the standpoint of women.
    1. Harding emphasizes that it’s the perspective generalized from women’s lives that provides a preferred standpoint from which to begin research.
      1. She calls this approach “strong objectivity.”
      2. By contrast, knowledge generated from the standpoint of dominant groups offers only “weak objectivity.”
    2. Wood offers two reasons why the standpoints of women and other marginalized groups are less partial, distorted, and false than those of men in dominant positions.
      1. Marginalized people have more motivation to understand the perspective of the powerful than vice versa.
      2. Marginalized people have little reason to defend the status quo.
    3. Harding and Wood emphasize that a woman’s location on the margin of society is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition to attain a feminist standpoint.
    4. They believe a feminist standpoint is an achievement gained through critical reflection rather than a piece of territory automatically inherited by being a woman.
  7. Theory to practice: communication research based on women’s lives.
    1. Wood’s study of caregiving in the United States exemplifies research that starts from the lives of women.
    2. Wood suggests that a standpoint approach is practical to the extent that it generates an effective critique of unjust practices.
  8. The standpoint of black feminist thought.
    1. Patricia Collins claims that “intersecting oppressions” puts black women in a different marginalized social location than either white women or black men.
    2. The different social location means that black women’s way of knowing is different from Harding and Wood’s standpoint epistemology.
    3. She identifies four ways that black women validate knowledge.
      1. Lived experience as a criterion of meaning.
      2. The use of dialogue in assessing knowledge claims.
      3. The ethic of caring.
      4. The ethic of personal accountability.
  9. Ethical reflection: Benhabib’s interactive universalism
    1. Seyla Benhabib maintains that a universal ethical standard is a viable possibility, one that values diversity of belief without thinking that every difference is ethically significant.
    2. She holds out the possibility that instead of reaching a consensus on how everyone should act, interacting individuals can align themselves with a common good.
    3. Benhabib insists that any panhuman ethic be achieved through interaction with collective concrete others rather than imposed on them by the rational elite.
    4. Interactive universalism would avoid privatizing women’s experiences.
  10. Critique: Do standpoints on the margins give a less false view?
    1. Feminist standpoint theory was originally developed to better appreciate the value of women’s lived experiences, with the hope that qualitative research on marginalized groups can bring about societal reform that takes their perspectives seriously.
    2. Although comparing male and female experiences has an aesthetic appeal in its simplicity, many feminist scholars now think that’s too simple.
      1. Feminist scholar Kathy Davis (VU University Amsterdam) further notes that feminist theories developed by white Western women emerge from a stance that may not account for the diversity of women’s experiences around the world.
      2. One answer to this problem is intersectionality.
      3. For feminist scholars, intersectionality refers to how identities occur at the crossroads of gender, race, sexuality, age, occupation, and any number of other characteristics.
      4. It’s an intellectual tool that sharpens standpoint theorists’ understanding of people—people who often defy simple categorization.
    3. John McWhorter, an African American professor of English at Columbia University, is also concerned that some people use standpoint logic to oversimplify the human condition.
    4. Other critics see the concept of strong objectivity as inherently contradictory, since it seems to appeal to universal standards of judgment
    5. Standpoint theory energizes Idaho State University rhetorician Lynn Worsham and others in the theory’s broad community of agreement who believe that minority standpoints can be a partial corrective to the biased knowledge that now passes for truth.
 

You can access the Outline for a particular chapter in several ways:

  • Switch to View by Theory, then select the desired theory/chapter from the drop-down list at the top of the page. Look in the list of available resources.
  • To quickly find a theory by chapter number, use the Table of Contents and link from there. It will take you directly to the theory with available options highlighted.
  • You can also use the Theory List, which will take you directly to the theory with available options highlighted.

Back to top



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