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.”


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