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Elizabeth Fox-Genovese


Women's Ways of Knowing Revisited (Part 2)

(Second of two parts; click here to read Part 1)

Debold, Tolman, and Brown speculate that many women have difficulty in moving from subjective to constructed knowledge because of "the justifiable difficulty women have in explicating reason outside authorized rational discourse." In their view, WWK did "not go far enough to negate the cultural equation of mind, authority, and masculinity." Sara Ruddick, in her chapter entitled "Reason's Femininity," deplores the "impersonal procedural knowing, which continuously separates knower from known and the mind's knowing from its emotional, bodily, and social life." Arguing that both gender and knowing develop from and within relationships, she insists that "a person is the relationships that constitute and are constituted by her." Similarly, the knowing that arises from practices--for example, farming, engineering, mothering, or psychotherapy--is gendered, for "to the extent that women and men engage more extensively and intensively in certain practices than others the thinking that arises from these practices will have a masculine or feminine aspect."

In this respect, styles of thinking do not merely express attributes of gender but reinforce them. Thus, for example, the "epistemic" communities of defense analysts create a specific definition of masculinity that intensifies the devaluation of femininity. Within this community, masculinity "is expressed in--and requires--an 'objective,' abstract style of thinking so deeply rooted as to appear 'natural.' " Ruddick applauds WWK and other initiatives for serving as "disruptive interventions in epistemic communities marked by insistently separate, impersonal procedural knowing that is labeled and legitimated as 'masculine.' "

Ruddick, who has written elsewhere of her deep hostility to militarism, believes that women's experience endows them with special proclivities for attentive listening to and caring for others, notably children.2 Here, she explicitly states what the other authors ...

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