chapter  3
46 Pages

Knowing subjects

Representation of the world, like the world itself, is the work of men; they describe it from their own point of view, which they confuse with absolute truth.

(de Beauvoir 1949: 175)

For feminist theories of knowledge, the gender of the knower is epistemologically significant. The deconstructive feminist epistemologies of the 1980s argue that the Western subject of reason is not sexually neutral but presupposes a masculine knower. The work of Evelyn Fox Keller (1985), Genevieve Lloyd (1984) and Susan Bordo (1986) exemplifies these arguments. For example, Lloyd’s influential study of the tropes of masculinity and femininity in Western philosophy describes ‘the maleness of the Man of Reason’ (1984: ix). The reconstructive feminist epistemologies of the 1990s further displace the masculine knower. Theorists such as Sandra Harding (1990) and Patricia Hill Collins (1991) construct new models of knowledge ‘that take women as the subject of knowledge [and] attempt to create new subject positions of knowing’ (Grosz 1993: 206). For example, Harding argues that ‘[f]eminist standpoint theories direct us to start our research and scholarship from the perspectives of women’s lives’ (1990: 249). Rather than begin with a deconstructive inscription of the masculine knower, these theories of knowledge begin with a female and/or feminist knower.