Since 1980 there have been male responses to feminist methodology that have been hysterical. James Davis’s (1994) attack using the offensive metaphor of germs and infections is entirely hysterical in tone. Of course, not all men have been opposed to feminist methods, methodology or epistemology as the work by, for example, McLennan (1985), Holmwood (1985) and Morgan (1981) demonstrates.
It is legitimate to say that men have no need to bother about feminist methods. If they do not like them, they could ignore them: no one expects, or demands that men should or could adopt feminist methods. Such methods are not taking funding from non-feminist methods, nor squeezing non-feminist research out of the journals, so they are not objectively a threat. A woman researcher might be accused of ignoring feminist methods by feminists judging her work, but no man ever has been, is, or is likely to be. Those men who attack feminist methods must find them threatening in some way. Davis’s (1994) language is so extreme that Mary Douglas’s (1966) ideas of purity and danger come immediately to mind. For such men, methods must be some kind of sacred enclosure in constant danger of being invaded, and therefore polluted by feelings, emotions, mess, blood, dishwater and the contents of nappies. Most men have gone on with their own research using the methods, secure in the methodology and epistemology, they prefer, and ignore feminist methods. Here Cohen and Manion, authors of a bestselling methods text, are typical of the malestream majority. In their first edition (Cohen and Manion, 1980) feminist methods are not mentioned at all. In the third edition (Cohen and Manion, 1989) they are still absent: not a section, not indexed, and none of the key references are in the bibliography. The fourth edition (Cohen and Manion, 1995) does not index feminism, has no section or sub-section on feminist methods, and does not cite key feminist methodologists. Judging these books as useful sources for students, this is a flaw. However, it is a rational response if Cohen and Manion are uninterested in feminist methods or disapprove of them, and one common in scholarship. The
most devastating way to deal with opponents is to freeze them out of the discourse by silence, by omission. In the fifth edition Cohen et al. (2000) added four pages of neutral description of feminist methods (ibid.: 34-8), plus two short paragraphs on other pages (ibid.: 111, 123). None of the leading exponents or advocates of feminist methods are cited, but the ideas are presented in an appropriately dispassionate, even disinterested way.
The man who has repeatedly published attacks on feminist methods, Martyn Hammersley, may not actually be the most hysterical opponent of them. Among male sociologists it is possible that there are much fiercer opponents who have not deigned to make their opposition public, and there are doubters, opponents who have not yet realised that there are exponents of feminist methods, methodology and epistemology, or who have not taken them seriously enough to formulate their oppositional stance. These hypothetical opponents cannot, by definition, appear in my text.
Hammersley, however, is obviously bothered by feminist methods, methodology and epistemology, as he has published attacks on them at irregular intervals for a decade (Hammersley, 1992, 2000; Hammersley and Gomm, 1997). Liz Stanley (2000) provides a detailed critique of Hammersley. There are three features of Hammersley’s papers which undermine his scholarly authority. First, Hammersley does not cite (and therefore we must assume has not read) the up-to-date publications on feminist methods. In 1992 he did not cite the literature from the frontiers of the debates, in 1997 he and Gomm cited the same literature as the 1992 paper had done, in 2000 he cited nothing by Patti Lather published later than 1993, and then not her 1991 book, nothing by Sandra Harding more recent than 1992, or by Liz Stanley since 1993. Other leading feminists, such as Judith Butler, were also left uncited. Second, he over-simplified the range of positions within the ‘feminist’ canon; from Lynn McDonald’s (1994) positivism to Patti Lather’s (2001) wild postmodernism, feminist methodologists cover a large waterfront. Susan Haack (1995) and Lynn McDonald (1994) hold views on methods Hammersley probably shares, yet because he does not disaggregate ‘feminist’, he fails to produce a sophisticated critique.
Third, he does not address the basic premise of historical writing on science and objectivity. The history of science shows how problematic the Enlightenment idea of objectivity is; those feminists who propose that ‘objectivity’ is a reification of a middle-class white male historically specific view are drawing on a rich historical literature, which many scholars quite distant from feminism share.
Much of Hammersley’s repeated attacks is focused on the two sciolisms, on Harding’s position in 1986 rather than 1996 or 2000, on straw women rather than real-live articulate feminists.
Personally, I am not particularly enamoured of the idea, or the practice of ‘feminist methods’ (Coffey and Delamont, 2000). However, there is no doubt at all that much social science done before they, and queer theory, evolved, took objectivity, male supremacy, the male gaze, and heterosexual standpoints for granted. Ideas and standpoints were unexamined, and the ideas of dominant groups were treated as findings without any attempt to discover, explore or analyse the perspectives of muted groups. Too much research claimed an objectivity it did not and could not, in fact, have. The rise of feminist methods has coincided with, and helped to produce, a climate in which there is more explicit discussion of standpoints, of why methods were chosen, of the implications of the choices, and the interactions between researcher, methods, and findings. These are entirely desirable outcomes. I remain confident that good research will also aim to minimise sexist assumptions, whatever the paradigm or epistemology underlying it; and remain sceptical of many claims to authenticity made by feminist researchers. But I am equally sceptical of all claims to authenticity (Atkinson and Silverman, 1997).
The rise of feminist methods was swiftly followed by the growth of queer theory and methods. The following section briefly outlines the challenge to male heterosexual hegemony built into research in the name of objectivity. Noble (1992) raises some fascinating points about the exquisite irony of using an idealised view of science, and hence objectivity, grounded in the Royal Society after 1660. The men who founded the institution which canonised the approach to investigating the natural and physical world, from which we derive the idealised, mythical notions of ‘objectivity’, ‘replication’, and even peer accountability, were a distinctly odd bunch. They included Boyle, a celibate, Hooke who aimed at celibacy, and Newton, misogynist, alchemist, a virgin who suppressed his homosexuality. To take that model, problematic in the sciences as the sociologists of science have shown (Collins and Pinch, 1993, 1998), into the social sciences which are about cultures where both sexes live, is frankly absurd.