Hengameh Yaghoobifarah: Erbsünde und Ablasshandel im Feminismus

Hengameh Acabifarah, selbst dank Passing „weiß-privilegiert“ versucht sich an einem neuen modernen feministisch-rassistischen Ablasshandel:

Die Parallelen zum Christentum im Feminismus sind schon interessant. Der weiße Mann ist sündig geboren, er kann durch Buße tun ins Himmelreich kommen, aber niemand ist je ohne Sünde. Ein Priesterwesen verwaltet die Bewertung allen Handelns, erbitterte Streitigkeiten im Innern über den richtigen Weg und wer besser im Glauben ist.


Objektivität und die Anzahl verschiedener Erklärungen in wissenschaftlichen Artikeln aus den Gender Studies

Eine sehr interessante Studie nimmt die Gender Studies unter die Lupe:

Gender studies (GS) has been challenged on epistemological grounds. Here, we compare samples of peer-reviewed academic journal publications written by GS authors and authors from closely related disciplines in the social sciences. The material consisted of 2805 statements from 36 peer-reviewed journal articles, sampled from the Swedish Gender Studies List, which covers >12,000 publications. Each statement was coded as expressing a lack of any of three aspects of objectivity: Bias, Normativity, or Political activism, or as considering any of four realms of explanation for the behaviours or phenomena under study: Biology/genetics, Individual/group differences, Environment/culture, or Societal institutions. Statements in GS publications did to a greater extent express bias and normativity, but not political activism. They did also to a greater extent consider cultural, environmental, social, and societal realms of explanation, and to a lesser extent biological and individual differences explanations.

Quelle: Objectivity and realms of explanation in academic journal articles concerning sex/gender: a comparison of Gender studies and the other social sciences

Erst einmal wird die bestehende Lage ganz interessant zusammen gefasst:

Gender studies is a growing academic field, on a track of establishing itself as a discipline in its own right (Lykke et al. 2007; Thurén 2002). However, a chain of criticism has been launched towards Gender studies, which may in turn be related to claims about it being ideologically and politically charged. Here, we summarize the central points in this criticism, select a few of particular importance, and analyze differences between journal articles that have more or less gender perspective.

Gender studies is an interdisciplinary field featuring many subjects under study (Thurén 2002), and the current definition should be specified. Here, we follow the most comprehensive encyclopedia in Sweden, in which Gender studies is described as (1) relating to power structures: “The perspective of interpretation is based on the power relationship that historically, culturally and socially have defined women’s and men’s roles and status in society” (2) social construction of gender: “… the society and culture are structured according to gender… this determines our experiences and knowledge and how others perceive us” and (3) intersectionality: “…how different power relations interact in the construction of social differences…” (Nationalencyklopedin 2016, our translation).

Academe has been skeptical towards Gender studies and its predecessor Women’s studies, with claims that it is biased (Baumeister 2015) and overly political and not scholarly enough (Zalewski 2003). The field has also been fraught with internal conflict, to a large extent related to various strands of French poststructuralist theory and to the conflation of academe and politics (e.g., Brown 1997; Friedman 1997). This is piece and parcel of the criticisms launched in the “science wars” that raved in the USA in the 1990s (Brown 2001; Nelkin 1996), a period of controversy and heated debate that was strongly associated with Gender studies and related ideological currents in academe, stemming from post-modernism, relativism, and critical theory (Brown 2001; Sokal and Bricmont 1998). It was characterized by a complex mix of different epistemological and philosophical standpoints, issues of objectivity, subjectivity, and bias, and whether science should be disinterested or have an activist agenda (Brown 2001; Gross and Levitt 1994; Nelkin 1996). Much of these deviations from mainstream science are subsumed under the label “feminist epistemology”, which is reviewed together with its main thrusts of criticism by philosopher of science Elizabeth Anderson (2015). Ideology is often thought to hinder the pursuit of truth and scientifically based knowledge, for the apparent reason that it tends to limit the search space of explanations and co-variates, bias the interpretation of data, and favor methods that provide the answers one wishes to get (e.g., Carl 2015; Klein and Stern 2009; Koertge 1998). From this perspective, it has been observed that Gender studies is closely related to the feminist movement, an activist agenda, and associated ideologies (Curthoys 2014; Liinason 2011; Lykke et al. 2007) with influences from postmodernism (Brodribb 1993), relativism (Friedman 1997), and critical theory (Bergman 2000; Thurén 2002). Also explicit societal goals are central: “…there are questions regarding how gender studies within the subject itself can contribute to the societal changes that are desirable from a feminist point of view” (Thurén 2003, p. 27, our translation). This is clearly at variance with some traditional scholarly ideals, such as disinterest (Merton 1973).

Sweden is unique for both being highly sex egalitarian and for having exerted governmental support for Gender studies for several decades. According to the 2015 Global Gender Gap Report, Sweden is ranked as the fourth most sex egalitarian out of 145 countries (World Economic Forum 2015, p. 8). The country has a feminist political party called Fi! and a government that self-identifies as feminist (Socialdemokraterna 2016, p. 6). It is therefore likely to offer a milieu with a high level of public as well as institutional support for Gender studies. Inasmuch as there is a general development in Sweden’s direction, it would constitute an example of the future for other nations heading in the same direction. Specifically, Gender studies has received considerable structural and financial support (Bergman 2000), amounting at least SEK 400 million1 in the period 2001–2011 (Swedish Research Council 2011). This may be compared to the total national support to the humanities and the social sciences from the Swedish Research Council in 2015, which was SEK 253 million (Swedish Research Council 2016). Given a similar level of support to the latter two domains in previous years, and adjusted for inflation, Gender studies has received approximately one sixth of the total funding for the humanities and the social sciences (see Söderlund and Madison 2015 for further details). This substantial financial support was earmarked for Gender studies alone, and aimed to boost and internationalize the field. Another example of the level of institutional support is that central feminist beliefs are implemented in official governmental documents. For example, Sweden’s “Public State Investigations” (SOU; Statens offentliga utredningar) states that sex roles can and should be changed by governmental interventions in kindergarten (Delegationen för jämställdhet i förskolan 2004, p. 64; 94), that sex is a social construction (Delegationen för jämställdhet i förskolan 2006, p. 55) and that femininity and masculinity depend on the interaction between sex, class, and ethnicity (Delegationen för jämställdhet i förskolan 2006, p. 34). In summary, there has been extensive acceptance and promotion of feminism and Gender studies from the highest political and administrative levels of government. It is therefore not surprising that the level of criticism is smaller in Sweden than in many other countries, and that it seems to be more common from outside academe than from within.

However, academic criticism has been mounted on the account that Swedish Gender studies scholars have little international outreach (Rothstein 2006), and that governmental support for greater equality has endorsed one specific theory, in violation of established scientific practice (Rothstein 2012). A debate has also emerged outside academe proper; Governmental research support bodies have been accused of uncritically accepting questionable project applications merely on the grounds of their using certain gender buzzwords (Popova 2005), and popular articles and books accuse Gender studies of ideological bias and poor methodology; specifically cherry-picking statistics, methods, informants, etc., to arrive at the desired conclusions (see for example Billing 2012; Ström 2007). Along the same lines have Women’s studies and Gender studies scholars in Sweden described their field as tension-ridden (Bergman 2000), and their concepts as contested (Liinason and Holm 2006). Gender studies scholars have furthermore characterized the institutionalization of their field as troublesome, inasmuch as both themselves and their efforts have been systematically thwarted (Thurén 2003).

Die Studie analysiert dann eine bestimmte Anzahl von Studien näher und kommt zu interessanten Ergebnissen:

As exemplified by the Neutral group in the present sample, there is a huge literature that explores causes for sex differences amongst endocrinological, neurodevelopmental, and genetic factors. Recall that even the Neutral articles were found with the keyword gender, in order to make them more comparable to the other two groups, and that many of them therefore consider sex differences. This is because many research papers use the word gender (i.e. social sex) to denote sex (i.e. being biologically a man or woman). These and other papers throughout the social sciences find relationships between sex and other variables, such as age, relationship status, parenthood, and many other environmental influences, in patterns predicted by evolutionary theories, in particular those related to differential parental investment, costly signaling, and mate selection (e.g., Buss and Shackelford 2008; Stoet and Geary 2015; Verweij et al. 2016; Wåhlin-Jacobsen et al. 2015; for reviews, see Buss 2003; Schmitt 2005). It is reasonable to assume that these theoretical perspectives, by and large, explain a substantial proportion of the variance related to group or individual differences, otherwise would these approaches have waned for lack of empirical support. It is therefore notable that such factors are only mentioned five times in all 24 articles with some level of gender perspective, as compared to 33 times in the 12 Neutral articles. The probability of mentioning such a factor is thus 13 times smaller when a gender perspective is applied. This would not be all that remarkable if Gender studies, with its heritage from the social sciences and humanities, were compared with the natural sciences and medicine. It seems quite remarkable when compared with other social sciences, however, which are nominally equally unconcerned with biological and genetic explanatory models. It seems therefore recommendable that gender scholars and other interested parties consider and examine whether Gender studies might be prey to selective accounts of reality on the basis of ideological preferences.

Preferences of opinion and hence of objectivity were also found in the Gender studies articles, with examples such as: “In reality is the possibility of differences and individuality within the frame of equality between men based on the collective oppression of women”, and”[f]or men to be able to portray themselves as protectors do women need to be portrayed as defenceless and exposed” (our translation). This presupposition of women’s subordination could be related to the ideological background of the Gender studies area. Notable is that biased statements were found in half of the Self-identified articles with 21 instances, but not at all in the Neutral articles. Nevertheless, the proportion was very low and the case of biased content within Gender studies would benefit from further study within larger text samples. What on the other hand was almost non-existent in our data was political activism. The high occurrence of statements expressing normativity in the two Gender studies groups is interesting, considering that Gender studies frequently criticize norms and argue for their abolition (e.g., Bem 1993; Bondestam 2010; Liinason 2011; Thurén 2003). In the present sample, we found more statements expressing norms in the Gender studies articles than in the Neutral ones, both proportionally within the groups and in a higher proportion of articles, although these norms tend to articulate feminist ideology in contrast to the norms that they challenge.

In conclusion, the present study has, for the first time, quantitatively evaluated several strands of criticism towards Gender studies in a representative sample. Critics from both inside and outside academe have questioned Gender studies in relation to scientific practice (Rothstein 2012), ideology and methodology (e.g., Billing 2012; Sokal and Bricmont 1998; Ström 2007; Zalewski 2003) and the conflation of science and politics (e.g., Brown 1997). Several feminists and gender scholars identify post-modernism and value relativism as problematic concomitants (Brodribb 1993; Brown 1997; Smyth 1996), as has been thoroughly discussed from epistemological perspectives (Anderson 2015; Brown 2001; Hacking 2016; Sokal and Bricmont 1998). Thus, the present study lends empirical support to the criticisms concerning ideological bias, both in terms of objectivity and choice of explanatory factors. As mentioned in the introduction, there are several ways in which an ideological outlook may interfere with scientific endeavors (e.g., Carl 2015; Klein and Stern 2009; Koertge 1998). It would be unfortunate for the area of Gender studies if these issues ultimately would challenge the scientific value of the field.