Archive | November, 2012


17 Nov

Although I tend to agree that at the most it’s basic points standpoint theory can be very useful, I also believe that this theory has its own flaws. By defining standpoint theory to be best utilized by a feminist viewpoint subjugates all women to be of the same social, political, cultural and economic hierarchy. This in and of itself is contradicting to standpoint theory’s basic definition of using the viewpoints of the oppressed and marginalized. By grouping ALL women into one population or group we discount the differences amongst women of all social, political, cultural and economic backgrounds. In doing so we take power away from the most marginalized groups within that population (women of color, lesbians, the poor). Would the standpoint about social reform be the same between a Caucasian woman who is the CEO of a Chicago marketing firm and a Mexican-American hotel maid? I think not. It can be troublesome to assume that one large group (as in half the world’s population) shares the same views because compared to men they are oppressed. We must delve deeper into the social hierarchies to identify those individuals and smaller populations/groups that are truly oppressed.


However, I’m not completely sold that the views of the oppressed are “less false” than the views of anyone else. Through communication we create the realities that surround us. We all construct different realities based upon our past experiences, culture, and personal attitudes/feelings towards whatever is being communicated. Just because I am a white female of the lower-middle class does not discount my experiences as being of the poor working class. There are many individuals in American especially who have captured the American Dream and have obtained upward mobility within their class, social, and economical structures. Those individuals still hold onto their past experiences and use them to form the realities they share today. By stating that the views of the middle class or upper class are less false than those of the lower classes ignores the fact that many of the middle and upper class population were once or are still directly connected to the oppressed. This can cause a false understanding between the social structures.


Now that I’ve said that I do believe that those of the truly oppressed populations do have a perspective of a very harsh reality that is often discounted by those of the ruling classes. It is easy to dismiss the poor as being lazy and stupid when the rules and structures you have put forth limit education, healthcare and civil rights to those who are not of power. Why would anyone, especially those with the power to make changes, want to blame themselves?


All in all I think what is most important about standpoint theory is really just a lesson to keep in mind: Do not discount the viewpoints of the individuals you are studying. Keep an open mind and seek out those individuals who are most at stake, impoverished, and oppressed to be able to get a clearer view of how the system works. By going to the source, to those directly affected will we be able to obtain true information that is not filtered by power and greed.


Standpoint Theory in Rhetorical Studies

17 Nov

In an article Glen McClish and Jacqueline Bacon published in Rhetoric Society Quarterly entitled “Telling the Story Her Own Way”: The Role of Feminist Standpoint Theory in Rhetorical Studies, McClish and Bacon examine how Harding and Wood’s standpoint theory could be utilized in Rhetorical Studies.

“Scholars of rhetoric are necessarily wary of facile claims that certain forms of discourse are inherently more objective or valid than others, but we should take seriously the belief that marginalized voices have revelatory qualities that can effect significant social change. In this sense, feminist stand-point theory helps us to appreciate the corrective force of the discourse of the oppressed and overlooked. In the past, as many have noted, rhetorical studies have unduly emphasized the standpoint of culturally dominant voices. It stands to reason, therefore, that in contemporary scholarship, presumption may favor not the status quo, but those it has traditionally excluded.”

In this portion of the article we can see the authors making a connection of how their field has often and someone mistakenly “emphasized the standpoint of culturally dominant voices.” In doing this, McClish and Bacon explain that due to research being done in this fashion the results favor those in power because that is the lens for which the research has been done. This is a problem seeing as how those that hold power are not of the “status quo” nor do they make up the majority of a population.

In the remaining portion of McClish and Bacon’s article they analyze how standpoint theory must be modified to best fit to frame rhetorical studies. They put their modified theory to work on two pieces of literature, Jane Austen’s Persuasion and Harriet  Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. McClish and Bacon conclude their findings below:

“Furthermore, an expanded view of standpoint theory has allowed us to feature the power of situated knowledge without sacrificing the richness and complexity of the texts themselves. By augmenting the basic theory with an attention to rhetoricity, we can recast the category of experience in terms that allow for the deft persuasive shifts of Austen’s Mrs. Smith and for the verbal manipulation of Harriet Jacobs.”

By using standpoint theory as the basic framework to view their subject through and tweaking it in a way that is useful to their needs, scholars are able to delve further into their research and to find different perspectives of how social class, gender, race, and wealth create the realities around us.



“Telling the Story Her Own Way”: The Role of Feminist Standpoint Theory in Rhetorical Studies. Glen McClish and Jacqueline Bacon. Rhetoric Society Quarterly , Vol. 32, No. 2 (Spring, 2002), pp. 27-55. Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.

Article Stable URL:


The Glass Is…

17 Nov

The Glass Is...

Type in “The glass is” into a Google search box and you will find this picture. Depending on what your perspective is will determine your thoughts on if the glass is half full or empty. Harding and Wood’s standpoint theory can be thought of in this way. Depending on where you sit within the social hierarchy will determine your view on what you consider reality. Sometimes that conclusion isn’t whether or not the glass is half full, it’s whether or not there’s piss in the glass.

A Culutre War?

15 Nov

Lindy West authored an online article entitled I’m not Interested in Finding a Truce in the Culture War. I’m Interested in Winning it. In this article West rejects the notion that there should be a discussion on issues such as women’s health and gay rights. West picks apart another author’s piece of work that was published in Scientific American recently. Her style of writing is not scholarly in the sense that she uses profanities and she writes the way one would talk in a bar to friends after a couple of Jack and Cokes. West is a writer for an online news website called Jezebel that focuses on women’s interests and covers pop-culture, politics, healthy, and fashion. West is coming from a liberal women’s perspective in her article.  Below is an excerpt from I’m not Interested in Finding a Truce in the Culture War. I’m Interested in Winning it.

“I believe in right and wrong—just not the opportunistic, politically-driven kind that’s been dredged up out of some old fantasy book and used to subjugate whomever it’s most profitable to subjugate that season. I believe in the kind of right and wrong where you can see people actually get hurt. Where you see people’s rights negated and lives torn up. Where a clump of cells is worth more than a human being, and one abusive garbage straight parent is worth more than two loving, stable gay parents. That’s real. The other shit is not. Fucking up my life is not covered by your ‘religious freedom.’”

Sandra Harding and Julia Wood’s Standpoint Theory can be applied while reading Lindy West’s article. If Lindy West is of the marginalized group than her view of these issues, per the theory, should be less false in their interpretations. The excerpt above describes the type of people who hold power on major national issues. West describes those who have been of power, conservative Christians, as being the evils of our society and she refuses to debate any further. No longer does West believe that the tension growing between the power and the powerless in our country can be settled peacefully by a truce. Oh no, she believes it’s a war to be won.

“If the ‘culture war’ were an actual war, it wouldn’t be one of those sad, ambiguous wars where you’re not sure which side is the ‘good guys’—it would be the fucking war at the end of Lord of the Rings.”

How does this help change our society in a positive way? How does using the Standpoint Theory help analyze the information presented? By taking in the account of a person of the marginalized minority, in theory, a clearer picture of our cultural reality should be seen. From this clearer image we should be able to analyze the faults and supply solutions in which those who are left without power and equal rights, gain them.

Read the full article here:


14 Nov

Let me forewarn you by saying that as I try to take an objective approach at this project I find myself, in height of the political and social environment, a wee bit on the lefty feminist side. Add in a family of roller derby girls (and boys) who are just as if not way more lefty feminist than I am and you get a thread of pro-Obama, pro-choice, pro-equality, pro-gay rights including marriage articles flooding my Facebook feed.

I would like to examine my place in our society’s hierarchy to better capture where my personal standpoint may be in presenting the following information and examples on Harding and Wood’s Standpoint Theory. I am a college-aged, white female of the lower middle class. I am single and live alone. I have a full-time non-profit job and a 15 credit hour school load. I am not a political leader, community leader, wealthy or born to any family which is. I don’t feel as if my gender nor my race inhibits me but that is my personal perspective. My mother and father were divorced when I was about three years old and my father quickly remarried. My mother remarried when I was 14 but was diagnosed with lung cancer a year later and died shortly after my 16th birthday. I then went to live with my oldest brother, an Army soldier, and his wife (of American Indiana and Pilipino heritage) and their two little girls. My family as I know it has been a culturally mixed one and close knit. From these experiences I frame the world and issues around me. This is my standpoint.

The Who, What, Why

14 Nov

The Who

Sandra Harding and Julia Wood: Standpoint Theorists

Sandra Harding: Philosopher of science, University of California, Los Angeles.

Julia Wood: Professor of communications at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

The What

Standpoint: The position in which we find ourselves and view the world around us; our vantage point, location, viewpoint, perspective, outlook of the world.

Standpoint theory per A First Look at Communication Theory: “Different locations within the social hierarchy affect what is seen. The standpoints of marginalized people provide less false views of the world than do the privileged perspectives of the powerful. Strong objectivity requires that scientific research start from the lives of women, the poor, gays and lesbians, and racial minorities.”

 Quotes from Harding and Woods

“The social groups within which we are located powerfully shape what we experience and know as well as how we understand and communicate with ourselves, others and the world.”

“More than a variable, gender is a system of meanings that sculpts individuals’ standpoints by positioning most males and females in disparate material, social and symbolic circumstances.”

“A culture is not experienced identically by all members. Cultures are hierarchically ordered so that different groups within them offer dissimilar power, opportunities, and experiences to members.”

[Harding regards all perspectives as partial, but she insists that some standpoints are] “more partial than others since different locations within social hierarchies affect what is likely to be seen.”


Harding and Wood believe that marginalized groups, especially women, have a less partial standpoint and better perspective on well, life as a whole. They believe that to research any scholarly subject you must first start with the standpoint theory in mind. Harding and Wood agree that not all women think alike nor do all men think alike. However, seeing as how men have more power in our society it is safe for Harding and Wood to conclude that women then have less power and therefore a different (and to them a more reliable) standpoint. “The social group that gets the chance to define the important problematics, concepts, assumptions, and hypotheses in a field will end up leaving its social fingerprints on the picture of the world that emerges from the results of that field’s research process” exclaims Harding.

According to A First Look at Communication Theory “ Standpoint theorist emphasize the importance of social location because they are convinced that people at the top of the societal hierarchy are the ones privileged to define what it means to be female, male, or anything else in a given culture.”