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Alison Jaggar

on the Standpoint of women



The standpoint of the oppressed is not just different from that of the ruling class; it is also it is epistemologically advantageous.  It provides the basis for a view of reality that is more impartial than that of the ruling class and also more comprehensive.   It is more impartial because it comes closer to representing the interests of society as a whole; whereas the standpoint of the ruling class reflects the interests only one section of the population, the standpoint of the oppressed represent the interests of the totality in that historical period.   Moreover, whereas the condition of the oppressed groups is visible only dimly to the ruling class, the oppressed are able to see more clearly the ruled as well as the rulers and the relationship between them. Thus, the standpoint of the oppressed includes and is able to explain standpoint of the ruling class.


The political economy of socialist feminism establishes that, in contemporary society, women suffer a special form of exploitation and oppression. Socialist epistemologists argue that this distinctive social or class position provides women with a distinctive epistemological standpoint. From this standpoint, it is possible to gain a less biased and more comprehensive view of reality than that provided either by established bourgeois science or by the male-dominated leftist alternatives to it. An adequate understanding of reality must be undertaken from the standpoint of women.  As socialist feminists conceive it, however, the standpoint of women is not expressed directly in woman's naive and unreflective worldview.  We have seen earlier that socialist feminists recognise that women's perceptions of reality or distorted both by male-dominated ideology and by the male-dominant structure of everyday life. The standpoint of women, therefore, is not something that can be discovered through a survey of women's existing beliefs and attitudes - although such a survey should identify certain commonalities that might be incorporated eventually into a systematic representation of the world from women's perspective. Instead, the standpoint of women is discovered through a collective process of political and scientific struggle.   The distinctive social experience of women generates insights that are incompatible with men's interpretations of reality and these insights provide clues to how reality might be interpreted from the standpoint of women. The validity of these insights, however, must be tested in political struggle and developed into a systematic representation of reality that is not distorted in ways that promote the interests of men above those of women.



From Feminist Politics and Human Nature, 1983.