Feminist geography at Dartmouth

Dartmouth College, a high-class American school, has on its library page a long section that it calls “a short definition for feminist geography“. It appears to be an entrée to the field as well as a list of resources for people who want to investigate the discipline.  If you read it, you’ll find the usual obscurantist and postmodern descriptions, heavy on jargon and short on comprehensible statements. But the description makes it clear that the purpose of the field is not just to bring feminist perspectives to the study of geography, but to overthrow masculine ones, which apparently include the objectivity of science (my emphases in all statements):

Part of this commitment is to transform the practices and structures of geography itself. To that end feminist geographers have made critical interventions into the conduct of research in geography, introducing feminist epistemologies and methodologies that challenge the masculinist formulation of science as objective, neutral, and value-free, instead arguing that research always has a positionality that produces situated knowledge. They have thus highlighted the masculinist nature of fieldwork and made the case for more interpretative approaches to research that utilize qualitative methods.

Well, you can argue that there’s no such thing as academic study that doesn’t have some kind of ideological motivation behind it, but I would deny that for most of science. What ideology motivates me to figure out how genetic change produces new species, or whether there’s a way to test the many-worlds theory of physics? More important, the formulation of science should indeed be “objective, neutral, and value-free”, except for the “value” of finding truth and not giving in to your biases. Is that “masculinist”? I don’t think so, for the women I know who do science, including those who are known for doing really good science, do it exactly as men do. There is no “feminist scientific method” that I can see—just a set of conventions that are used by everyone, regardless of ethnicity or gender, that have been time-tested to give results. There is no Catholic science, no Hindu science, no Hungarian science, and no Hispanic science. There’s just science, and it forms a glorious community united by a single method and a single goal: to satisfy one’s curiosity about the universe. As I always say, when I travel and meet other scientists, as I recently did in India, I can immediately begin conversing with them about their work, with a mutual set of understandings and methods that requires no preliminaries.  If there’s any community that is universal, it’s the community of scientists. (I’m not saying, of course, that scientists don’t have prejudices and bias.)

But if there is indeed a “feminist formulation of science” and if such a method emphasizes nonobjectivity, non-neutrality, and the insertion of personal values, well, that’s not only bad, but it’s not science. Such a science would in fact be an insult to women.

This implicit denigration of objectivity, and of the way science is done, irritates me immensely. It privileges anecdotes over data, “lived experience” over objective tests, and confirmation bias over uncomfortable truths.  But that is the way that many humanities scholars, corrupted by postmodernism, have operated.  Denying or denigrating an objective search for truth, they’re free to say whatever they want, or “discover” whatever they find ideologically convenient.  I’ll remind you that this is not some inconsequential school in the middle of nowhere—this is Dartmouth.

As for objectivity, the library admits that feminist scholarship is not only non-objective, but designed to change society in certain ways:

Unlike many theoretical approaches that seek to be objective and impartial in the production of knowledge, feminism is explicitly ideological in that it seeks to transform that which it studies (see feminist standpoint theory).

But is there a given way to transform society: a given goal that everyone agrees we must attain? Granted, most of us want equal treatment and opportunities for women, but this goes beyond that, for it rejects objectivity in the service of ideology. And when they clash, as they might if, for instance, women and men are found to differ genetically in their preferences, you know which one will win.

I always flog myself when writing stuff like this, for I don’t want to come off as someone who is anti-feminist. But what I can say is that any form of feminism that privileges ideology over truth, and jettisons the latter when it clashes with the former, is not my brand of feminism.

I urge you to look at that library page and judge for yourself.


  1. Harrison
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Chauvinist men say science is inherently male.

    Third wave feminism agrees.

    What a world.

    • Posted April 2, 2018 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

      Well, we and creationists both agree that the Bible and science are incompatible. Those on the ends of the spectrum aren’t all that dissimilar.

  2. Jonathan Dore
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Dartmouth’s description implies that feminist science must by definition be the opposite of whatever currently happens, and therefore must be non-objective, non-neutral, and value-laden. Oh, and apparently it doesn’t like fieldwork.

    Hard to imagine anything more insulting to female scientists everywhere.

    • Truevo
      Posted April 2, 2018 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      “Hard to imagine anything more insulting to female scientists everywhere.”

      Not for Cordelia Fine…

    • Posted April 2, 2018 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps “fieldwork” sounds too close to “housework” which is, of course, a loaded word in the feminist world. 😉

      • Truevo
        Posted April 3, 2018 at 5:45 am | Permalink

        Meanwhile, Cordelia Fine has just won an award from the Edinburgh SciFest… I think there is something wrong in the world right now.

      • Posted April 3, 2018 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

        “masculinist nature of fieldwork”

        That is, going out and counting the horses teeth rather than sitting in the ivory tower arguing about what number of teeth horses SHOULD have.

    • Posted April 4, 2018 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      My first reaction to _The Science Question in Feminism_ and other early texts in “feminist science studies” (sic!) was: I have never read such a dense and convoluted tract to the conclusion that women are somehow infantile in a way that men are not. I.e., one of the most sexist conclusions imaginable. What a disgrace.

  3. lm
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    Deeply offensive to me as a hispanic woman. Also deeply offensive is the talk I’ve been hearing in my college – that now, to increase diversity, we need to hire people NOT based on their scholarship… An insult.

    • Christopher
      Posted April 2, 2018 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

      Well, someone such as yourself is in a better position to comment on these things, but so far it looks like mostly the men who’ve commented. I wish we could here from the female geographers who do not subscribe to this ideology. Of course that would just open those women up to abuse as sell-outs who support the patriarchy.

  4. glen1davidson
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    The beauty of science is that it’s as objective as anything humans do (of course I’m not claiming that it’s devoid of subjectivity and bias), and that as such it’s one of the best means of coming to mutual understanding.

    Feminist geography can undo mutual understanding with its ideology and lack of science’s imperfect objectivity. Which appears to be what it exists to do.

    Glen Davidson

    • Posted April 4, 2018 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

      “One thing I have learned in a long life: that all our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike — and yet it is the most precious thing we have.”

      – Einstein

  5. Brian Jones
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Science as postmodernist propaganda, no truth, just power. This is anti-science, not science. I particularly liked the emphasis on qualitative rather than quantitative research. No facts please, we’re feminists. As Jonathan Dore says above, hard to imagine anything more insulting to female scientists. I would add insulting to feminists of either gender trying seriously to improve the position of women in the world. They don’t need this crap.

    • Kiwi Dave
      Posted April 2, 2018 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

      Yep. ‘…more interpretative approaches to research that utilizes qualitative methods’ is a sure sign of the few facts, overweening opinion school of social sciences.

      • Posted April 4, 2018 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

        I for one would have no problem with qualitative methods provided that was not an excuse for being inexact. I have a friend who is a fan, and I mentioned once that there were exact theories one could “pour” factual hypotheses into that were exact but qualitative (e.g., topology, logic, parts of abstract algebra, etc.) and she had no idea!

  6. Neil Wolfe
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    In one of the videos posted a few days ago Jonathan Haidt mentioned that conservative intellectuals can’t get jobs at universities so they work at think thanks. This made me think that perhaps this explains why Republicans almost always have superior political strategy and outmaneuver Democrats at every turn. Liberal intellectuals are toiling away in the bubble of academia while conservatives are out “in the real world” working on policy and political strategy. Reading about Feminist Geography makes me think that turning the liberal intellectuals loose to focus on policy and political strategy would be a disaster. Though I do think they should get out more.

    • nicky
      Posted April 2, 2018 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      An interesting take. There might indeed be something in that, it seems to me.

    • Posted April 2, 2018 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

      Not those feminist geology professors anyway.

    • eric
      Posted April 2, 2018 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

      There are liberal think tanks too. In the US, political think tanks function sort of like the “shadow cabinet” of the UK’s system – they provide the party that’s out of power a place to be employed, form policy for the future, and respond to the other party’s policies.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted April 2, 2018 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

        Your description of the ‘Think Tank’ is from some earlier mythic era [to be polite]. Take as an example the Center for Strategic and International Studies a booster of drone supply & use who happen to be healthily funded by General Atomics who are….

        Drone manufacturers

        That’s an easy example & I can supply many other examples going right back to the RAND Corporation – a ‘non-profit’ think tank set up by an aircraft manufacturer to supply analysis to the USAF back in 1948.

        • Posted April 3, 2018 at 10:07 am | Permalink

          I think you are being a little unfair here. Some companies are interested in independent, unbiased answers to questions that are important to their business so they contract with think tanks, rather than hire their own people, in order that the results not be biased by the employer-employee relationship. Also to spread the costs among others in some cases. Of course, the contractor-contractee has its own biases. You have to take this one think tank at a time, perhaps even one study at a time, in order to know if the think tank and its studies can be trusted.

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted April 3, 2018 at 10:39 am | Permalink

            Eric’s global portrayal of US think tanks is incorrect – I can’t think of one think tank that fits his description today. Their status as tax-exempt, non-profit orgs should be countered by financial transparency [who exactly is shovelling donations their way & why], but mostly they are closed books. There are cases of funding by foreign governments & any innocent business or branch of government seeking advice & analysis has no idea how much of their sensitive information leaks abroad or to competitors.

            Any customer of a TT is well advised to forget it & keep the analysis in-house despite the risk of bias. Due to the understaffing & lack of experience of the current administration I would bet the TTs are coining it in – leaky, leaky, leaky – & dangerous.

            • eric
              Posted April 3, 2018 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

              I think folks may have misunderstood me. I’m not claiming they’re wonderful neutral entities concerned with global prosperity. I’m saying that when the US administration shifts from Dem to GOP, lots of appointed Dem politicos get hired by think tanks to keep working on their areas, put out papers, and so on. Then when the administration shifts back from GOP to Dem, some of those folks go right back into government where they implement the plans they’ve been working on in their “off” time. At the same time, the GOP appointed politicos go off to right-side think tanks, where they continue to work on right-side policy. And when the government inevitably shifts back again, they or their papers/ideas get picked back up by the new GOP administration.

              Politically-oriented think tanks are the revolving door for politicians and political ideas. They exit government, go to a think tank for a while, then come back into government. In that way, they are sort of like a shadow cabinet in that the party out of power continues to work on the issues confronting the government, waiting for the day they get back in power.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted April 3, 2018 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

        Eric. I hear you, but I still say your description is incomplete – I claim that there are few or none think tanks today playing with a straight bat. How do I know? I don’t, but they sit in the path of great temptation & I doubt these people remain clean. But then I don’t trust politicians – they are all feckers when we get to it.

        HERE [PDF] is the IRS 990 for a conservative, libertarian, Christian [Roman Catholic?] think tank I’ve chosen because it’s first on a list of around 120 US political category think tanks.
        It is completely opaque about the identities of donors. It lists foreign donations by country total [as required by law], but there’s no info as to donor identities home or abroad.

        If necessary it is very easy to show foreign donations as being home grown by the usual black methods.

        People have been campaigning for at least two decades that such tax exempt organisations should have open accounting viewable to all, but it ain’t ever gonna happen because these organisations also function as lobbyists, money launderers, benders of the law on political donations & the untraceable source of little brown envelopes to people who can get ‘things’ done.

        Does this apply to all think tanks? How the devil can we know? Everything is hidden, buried under the roses. All that money, connections & influence without oversight. Of course that is the recipe for corruption every time. This one think tank [honestly picked at random] was linked to Reagan, is still linked to The Vatican & has [reportedly] had monies from ExxonMobile, The Templeton Foundation & various Kennedy dynasty trusts.

  7. Steve Pollard
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 1:25 pm | Permalink


    But it is only (one part of) the library. It isn’t necessarily part of the syllabus. There may be hope yet!

  8. Jon Gallant
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    It is time for a feminist geology, which will aim to transform rocks. And without fieldwork, which is so, uhhh, messy.

  9. Frank Bath
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Is Herstory taught anywhere?

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted April 2, 2018 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

      Ooh, good one!

  10. Posted April 2, 2018 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    It is hard to see how a gender perspective matters in physical geography, but in human geography it might.

    • Posted April 2, 2018 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

      Agreed, if one goes with the standard definition of geography: the study of the physical features of the earth and its atmosphere, and of human activity as it affects and is affected by these, including the distribution of populations and resources, land use, and industries.

      Our institution debated for many years as to whether the geography department should be considered as a part of the natural sciences or remain in the social sciences. Physical geography, natural; human geography, social.

      • Ken Phelps
        Posted April 2, 2018 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

        “Physical geography, natural; human geography, social.”

        Feminist geography, theological.

      • eric
        Posted April 2, 2018 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

        There’s probably some good questions to be asked about how the formation of geopolitical boundaries were influenced by the (overwhelmingly male) people who formed them. But to steal a phrase, postmodernism poisons everything.

        • Posted April 3, 2018 at 10:00 am | Permalink

          You are thinking borders with penis shape rather than, say, breasts?

          • eric
            Posted April 3, 2018 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

            I was specifically thinking of historical kings caring mostly about the opinions of their dukes and barons as they carve out political territories. Not giving a c**p about the effect on citizens beyond the wealthy landowners – overwhelmingly men. About whether inheritance laws (particularly among landed classes) favoring men have impacted geopolitical borders, and if so,how.

            Now we’ve seen a few powerful queens in history. Did they do things differently? Did they consider factors differently? Did unmarried Duchesses think differently in their requests? And what are the cases where a decision to favor a younger male over an older female in inheritance had a large historical impact on geopolitical borders? To the first – I don’t know. My uneducated guess says probably not. To the second – I bet there are such cases. I’m not sure of their overall historical import. But for either set of questions, would I laugh a grad student out of the room if that’s a subject they wanted to investigate? No. Those both seem like reasonable and credible areas of “feminist geography” to me. With the caveat mentioned above, that this is clearly not physical geography but rather human geography.

    • Posted April 2, 2018 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

      Don’t you remember an earlier post about feminist glaciology?

      • Mark Joseph
        Posted April 2, 2018 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

        It’s the one I linked to, just above. Three cheers for PCC(E) for consistently posting such interesting material!

        • phar84
          Posted April 2, 2018 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

          Not only interesting but incredibly well thought out as well.

      • Posted April 2, 2018 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

        How could I forget?

    • Posted April 4, 2018 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

      Analyzing the role of gender and sex in human geography makes perfect sense (especially in demography and such). Throwing out objectivity does not. That’s what I don’t get about so many of these “gendered” things – so many of them do the second when the first is the really interesting (and scientifically respectable) thing.

      • Posted April 4, 2018 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

        They come with an agenda. Perhaps they are “agendered” and part of a feminist “agender”?

  11. Posted April 2, 2018 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Here’s an idea. Get the students to draw maps of where science and objective truth is valued and maps of countries where women aren’t treated like chattel and see if there’s an yoverlap.

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted April 2, 2018 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

      Hmmmphh. Draw? With pencils I suppose. How phallocentric.

  12. busterggi
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Feminist geology – well there go the Grand Tetons.

  13. Randall Schenck
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    How to get through some of this. Research always has a positionality that produces situated knowledge. That is hard to digest.

    In another 30 to 50 years when women make up more than half the people in state and federal govt. maybe they can bury this.

  14. Ken Pidcock
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Every time I see something like this, I am so grateful that my associations don’t require me to endorse it. Back in 1975 there was an odd band called Sparks (to place them, I saw them open for Patti Smith) who had a song It Ain’t 1918 about an elderly couple who lived as they did in that year. The last lines in the song are It ain’t 1918 for us or for you. If we can’t enjoy it, then neither can you.

    I’ve thought of that song often with respect to what’s happened to so many disciplines and how, in the natural sciences, we basically take the same approach as we have for decades. It stays 1918, as it were, and I don’t expect to see feminist geology.

  15. Pablo
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    College education in 2018: Facts = opinion + power

  16. Christopher
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    What the heck is “gendered power geometry”? An actual phrase used in the description of what they are claiming as feminists geography. None of this makes a bit of sense. And I don’t mean that as a male, or as a being with certain parts and chromosomes, and not connected with what I may do or not do with said parts, nor to whom. I just don’t understand it.

    • freiner
      Posted April 2, 2018 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

      I don’t know what the geometry is, but the language sure is hyperbolic.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted April 2, 2018 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

      The term “Power Geometry” might have been coined by Doreen Massey FRSA FBA FAcSS (3 January 1944 – 11 March 2016). It is my bet that her “geometry” has no axioms & thus isn’t a geometry at all, but it gives a sense of rigour & certainty if one borrows a term from a field where there’s hardly any room for being hand wavy! From her WIKI:

      [She was] “a British social scientist and geographer, working among others on topics involving Marxist geography, feminist geography, and cultural geography. Her work on space, place and power has been highly influential within a range of related disciplines and research fields. She was Professor of Geography at the Open University. […]

      Economic geography
      Her early work at CES established the basis for her ‘spatial divisions of labour’ theory [Power Geometry], that social inequalities were generated by the unevenness of the capitalist economy, creating stark divisions between rich and poor regions and between social classes. ‘Space matters’ for poverty, welfare and wealth. Over the years this theory has been refined and extended, with space and spatial relationships remaining central to her account of contemporary society.”

  17. Ken Phelps
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    “…I don’t want to come off as someone who is anti-feminist.”

    You don’t. This sort of idiocy is a hijacking of the word, and an insult to honest students of any gender in any discipline. Difficult though it is for people who were raised to be agreeable, the only solution I can see is relentless, mocking, push back – everywhere, all the time. The people sitting on boards, committees, and other bureaucratic venues associated with universities must be made publicly uncomfortable any time they allow this political rhetoric to be elevated to the status of curriculum.

    Politicians (of all kinds) live by an old maxim: “Yes, you’ve convinced me, now get out there and pressure me so that I can do what we both want.”

  18. glen1davidson
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    How long before they start demanding that geologic features like this be destroyed?

    Hope it shows up here, but at least it’s linked.

    Glen Davidson

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted April 2, 2018 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, but Dildo, Newfoundland will become a UNESCO heritage site.

      • Posted April 2, 2018 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

        Is Dildo anywhere near Spread Eagle Bay, Newfoundland?

  19. Posted April 2, 2018 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    This kind of “scholarship” seems also determined to label it’s practitioners as deep thinkers and great moral role models. They aren’t either.

    • Posted April 2, 2018 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

      I think that is the primary goal of this kind of “scholarship”.

  20. Posted April 2, 2018 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    As someone much smarter than me has suggested: The question to ask someone who adheres so such a doctrine is: “How would you know if you’re wrong?”

    I think the way someone answers that question will tell you what you need to know about them.

  21. DrBrydon
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    While admitting that any scholarly activity is susceptible to bias, the remedy for that is not to jettison either the methods or goals of objectivity, which are the only standards for identifying bias and remedying it. (Of course, it would also identify feminist geography as biased.) Feminist Geography is nothing more than politics. This exemplifies what I have always felt to be at the heart of post-modernism: the assault on facts and truth by those who are bereft of them. Yet another case where the addition of an adjective detracts from the noun.

  22. Posted April 2, 2018 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Every time I see something like this I have to very seriously rethink my belief that college should be free.

    • Posted April 2, 2018 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

      Isn’t it even worse that students are charged stratospheric tuition fees to be “taught” by the producers of this crap? And I expect in the near future to be force-fed the crap itself.

  23. ashdeville
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    “…critical interventions.” Ffs – do they think they’re doing open heart surgery?

  24. ashdeville
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    “….critical interventions.” Ffs – I bet this makes them feel like they’re doing the humanities version of open heart surgery.

  25. nicky
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    As Jerry, Jonathan Dore, Im, Brian Jones and several others have pointed out: it is above all insulting, especially to female scientists.
    Pomo driven drivel, dripping with sexism.
    “feminist epistemologies and methodologies that challenge the masculinist formulation of science as objective, neutral, and value-free”, what does that even mean? It reminds us of Newton’s Principia being described as a ‘rape manual’. Some screws seriously loose upstairs.

  26. Jonathan Wallace
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    “(I’m not saying, of course, that scientists don’t have prejudices and bias.)”

    One of the reasons the scientific method is so powerful is that it recognizes this fact and uses methods to control for it.

    • Posted April 4, 2018 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      And good metasciences, like those worked on (albeit imperfectly) study how these work and don’t, and the technology of science has to include the design and maintenance of these controls.

  27. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Lived experience has its place in scholarship, but often (not always) has the problem of working with too small a sample size, plus ideologues can pick and choose whose lived experience that want to pay attention.

    Aayan Hirsi Ali is wonderful example of valuable lived experience, but few ideologues are paying attention to her.

  28. Karst
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Notice that the links within the page for such items as “feminist epistemologies” and “situated knowledge” lead to a web page that requires “Dartmouth web authentication”.

    I wonder why they don’t want non-students, non-faculty and non-staff to not see these items?

    • Karst
      Posted April 2, 2018 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

      oops…. “why they don’t want them to see these items.”

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted April 2, 2018 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

      Nah it’s a means for students to get free access to online reference materials that the library has subscribed to. A normal procedure in schools, colleges & my local library. All those links go to the department’s subscription to Oxford Reference a

      “premier online reference product, spanning 25 different subject areas, bringing together 2 million digitized entries across Oxford University Press’s Dictionaries, Companions and Encyclopedias.

      Example: The link named “feminist standpoint theory” goes to oxfordreference.com.dartmouth.idm.oclc.org/view/10.1093/acref/9780199599868.001.0001/acref-9780199599868-e-600#

  29. Zane
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Playing a mild form of devil’s advocate, it might be argued that the search for verifiable truths is an ideological commitment in its own right. Any individual scientist’s pursuit of that aim might then be colored by other commitments they aren’t even necessarily aware of. That’s putting the postmodern position in the most generous light possible, because thereafter their claims to universal subjectivity run into the hard realities of the structure and method of science, which does a pretty reliable job or sorting out claims distorted by the (perhaps unacknowledged) biases of individual researchers. Anybody, regardless of ethnic or gender identification, can look at a body of work and say “here’s where it goes wrong and here’s why”. If their critique brings a hypothesis closer in line with the data or leads to the rejection of a bad one, science has happened and the ideological commitments or blind prejudices of individual researchers have been obliterated.

    • Posted April 4, 2018 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

      Bunge suggests (in _Finding Philosophy in Social Science_, if I recall) that a pro-science ideology is possible, though one might be resistant to the *word*, because of its usual pejorative connotations.

  30. Sarah
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    This seems insane to me, in a similar way to the Nazi notion of “Jewish mathematics” and the like. I’m not a scientist, but I understand the need for objectivity in any discipline if it is to mean anything.

  31. sensorrhea
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    It’s actually “Dartmouth College,” not “Dartmouth University.”

  32. Kelcey BURMAN
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    So since the use of space seems to be gender related…. The real question to be asked is “Do I sleep on the left or right hand side of the bed?”

  33. Posted April 2, 2018 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    I would love to hear a feminist geologist defend her field using terms a normal person would understand. So much of this stuff seems like an artificially created world with its own terms, hierarchy, awards, etc. If you are a member, it is all very clear. If not, then it is gobbledygook.

    • Raymond Cox
      Posted April 2, 2018 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

      To be fair, it is explicit that this is a way of looking at human geography, a social science. Feminist geology would indeed be difficult to justify.

    • AC Harper
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 8:39 am | Permalink

      I suspect it is like playing Dungeons and Dragons – not real but an enjoyable pastime where you can increase your imaginary abilities by skillful play.

      • Posted April 3, 2018 at 10:25 am | Permalink

        Absolutely! I was thinking of D&D as I wrote this. Great minds …

  34. BJ
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    The idea at this point seems to be that the way anything is done — even science and any sort of empirical measurement — is invariably a tool of the patriarchy, as it was/has been done by men, and/or the original thought leaders were men, and/or white people did it, and/or it arose in colonialist countries. If any or all of the previously mentioned is true, the subject/field/methods must be completely subverted and upended. It doesn’t matter how silly one needs to make things to do the opposite of whatever is being done because the only question of import is whether it’s being destroyed in favor of a new, “feminist” way of doing it.

    • Posted April 2, 2018 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

      So its the George Costanza way of doing science.

      • Neil Wolfe
        Posted April 2, 2018 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

        You know he’s always wanted to pretend he’s a feminist architect.

      • BJ
        Posted April 2, 2018 at 7:10 pm | Permalink


  35. Posted April 2, 2018 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    This “science” looks like a silly joke!

  36. eric
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    Well, you can argue that there’s no such thing as academic study that doesn’t have some kind of ideological motivation behind it, but I would deny that for most of science…

    …the formulation of science should indeed be “objective, neutral, and value-free”, except for the “value” of finding truth and not giving in to your biases.

    I’ll quibble a bit. I think there can be – and it’s fine for there to be – ideological factors in a person’s hypothesis formation. If someone conceives of a research question because of their prior ideological beliefs, but they can write up a solid proposal and convince funders to fund it, more power to them.

    The problem comes when ideology creeps into the later parts of the scientific method. Ideology isn’t an observation or evidence, nor should it play any part in data interpretation.

    If someone develops an hypothesis based on a dream, or sitting in the bathtub, or because they want to know if some claim of their religion is correct, or because they think biased male scientists might have done something wrong in the past, that’s just fine. What’s not fine is ‘I had a dream/vision/revelation/strong commitment, ergo it must be true’

    Is that “masculinist”?

    My provisional conclusion is no….but I’m willing to be convinced, should new evidence arise to the contrary. 🙂

    • Posted April 3, 2018 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      I would have more respect for the approach if they focused on particular biases related to the feminine vs masculine in geography (or whatever). Instead it smacks of feminism first, geography second.

  37. aristodemos
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    “What ideology motivates me to figure out how genetic change produces new species”

    I would disagree with that. I really like Lewontin’s concept of ideology. The irony is that no one can tell.

    relevant link that Jerry is probably familiar with. I really like the example of Dobzhansky that Lewontin gives there.

    “Lewontin: Let me repeat my simplistic view of the life of Dobzhansky. Dobzhansky started out life studying beetles in central Asia. He was incredibly impressed with their diversity: more than he could cope with. And his whole life was devoted to the claim that, not only was there a tremendous amount of diversity in populations, but that that diversity was a good thing. And he said over and over and over again that diversity per se is adaptive and good. And he and I used to have terrible fights about that. That’s what I would call “scientific ideology.” His whole life was informed by the view that polymorphism in the broadest sense was a virtue, and the problem with inbred populations was that they were all uniform. There are all those papers on how homozygotes are “narrow specialists” and heterozygotes are “broad generalists.” He even argued that the worst thing in the world was not to be homeostatic. You want to be homeostatic, which means that you don’t want to respond too much to the environment. So I used to say to Dobzhansky, “That’s crazy, because on your conception of homeostasis, an unconditional lethal is the most homeostatic genotype there is. Because irrespective of the environment, it always shows the same phenotype, namely it’s dead.” And he would say, “Oh this fellow Lewontin is crazy. He thinks that lethals are homeostatic.” And that wasn’t the point.”


  38. Roo
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    I for one am sick and tired of Florida oppressing me with its clearly phallic geographical features, and look forward to feminist geographers settling this score.

    Seriously, though, I tried to overcome my knee-jerk biases and give these concepts an open-minded read, but I have zero idea what their real world referents are. I mean, it’s even *possible that I agree with them. I agree that there will always be a facts-value gap in any science that is not entirely descriptive in nature, and the value side must be addressed somehow. And even for entirely descriptive science, I agree with the ideas presented in The Stuff Of Thought, which say, to my mind, that communal objective agreement can only really spring from individual subjective experience. If we didn’t have, at a minimum, individual sensory experiences, then empiricism essentially wouldn’t exist. And I do think expanding this repertoire, in the way we expand our vocabularies over time, is important. The more concepts groups of people have as common referents, the more they can discuss.

    That said, I have no idea how any of the concepts they discuss would change anything about geography itself. The page throws out some ideas about how women’s *understanding of geography could be impacted by gender inequality, but unless we’re getting into super trippy “your thoughts create the world, literally” territory, that wouldn’t impact geographic features in the external world – so I’m not sure what their point is.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 2:22 am | Permalink

      You tried to “give these concepts an open minded read”? It appears you read only the quotes in the post & didn’t go further than that. Roo quote:

      “…unless we’re getting into super trippy “your thoughts create the world, literally” territory, that wouldn’t impact geographic features in the external world…”

      #10 darwinwins & #33 Raymond cox have already pointed out this ‘feminist geography’ IS NOT about physical geography – your little joke about the Florida peninsula & other cock & tits jokes higher up in this thread are – ahem – pointless. Why don’t we attack this bullshit on the nose rather than building a straw target & attacking that? If people went to the link & looked at the listed Introductory Readings [end of page] they’d see these two examples among a list – of which none of the recommendations are about the study of processes & patterns in the natural environment [e.g. Physical Geography].

      A Feminist Glossary of Human Geography This book provides full and accurate descriptions of terms commonly used in geographical debates about gender relations.

      Putting Women in Place: feminist geographers make sense of the world Why do women and men tend to work in different jobs, in different ways, and in different spaces? Which is more “masculine”–the city or the suburbs? Why is nature often represented in feminine form? This thought-provoking book uses the lens of gender to provide an illuminating new perspective on the geography of everyday life.

      Furthermore HERE IS THE WIKI on Feminist Geography in all its variegated glory. Not an oxbow lake in sight. No Fjords to pine over.

      • Roo
        Posted April 3, 2018 at 11:24 am | Permalink

        Um… thanks. I am basking in my newfound sense of empowerment over here. Nothing is more supportive than ideologues spewing esoteric, elitist jargon at me and then implying I’m not that bright (I did read the whole thing, thanks, and I still didn’t think it made any sense) when I don’t instantly agree with and conform to this liberating ideology.

        Things like this are why I feel no particular connection to feminism. To my mind it’s an ideology, not a vehicle of support for individual females. My mom was a stay at home mom and – unintentionally, I think – often discouraged me from having too many personal or career aspirations. She tended to warn me that things like choosing my particular major or starting a business would “probably not work out” or “be too difficult”, and so on. My dad valued education above much else and was adamant that I make it a priority, though, my professors generally forgave my flakiness with timelines and encouraged me based on the quality of my work (vs. when they actually received it), and my husband has a habit of mentally projecting his own competence on to me, a standard I like to think I’ve risen to, to some degree, over time.

        These people have made a huge difference in my life and career arc. I don’t think any of them knows a thing about feminist ideology as it’s taught at Ivy League universities.

        I am all for projects that help and empower women, locally and globally – but I can say that my general impressions as a woman are that feminism is not the place to find this, at least not anymore. Maybe I’m wrong, and there are feminist-led programs devoted to the education of women in underdeveloped nations, taking practical steps to address the pay gap and work / family opportunities for women, and so on. But as a casual observer who has absorbed the concept through the zeitgeist, if these features are present they need to be emphasized much more. To my mind feminism is as much a top-down hierarchical ideology as the ‘patriarchal’ systems it claims it is replacing.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted April 3, 2018 at 12:13 pm | Permalink


          “…Nothing is more supportive than ideologues spewing esoteric, elitist jargon at me and then implying I’m not that bright (I did read the whole thing, thanks, and I still didn’t think it made any sense) when I don’t instantly agree with and conform to this liberating ideology”

          YOUR 1st PARAGRAPH:

          ** Because I quoted stuff from the link does not mean I agree with the stuff I quoted. In fact I find the material mostly incomprehensible & bizarre.

          ** Your initial comment highly suggested you’d not clicked the link – the two references in your comment to physical geography make no sense if you’d read the source. I am asking that we should make sure we critique what these ‘feminist geographers’ are actually saying [which you’ll note I describe as bullshit] rather than what we think they’re saying.

          ** I had no intention of making you feel bad & I apologise for that. Sorry.

          ** I didn’t imply that “you’re not that bright”, only that you didn’t look at the source. But now I know you did – I agree the source is gobbledygook, but there are book recommendations at the bottom of the page that give a flavour of the subject.

          ** I am not that ideologue & nowhere did I suggest that I support ‘feminist geography’. Characterising me as “spewing esoteric, elitist jargon” is wrong too as all my own words are plain & straightforward – you are mixing my words with the bits that I’m quoting: namely the descriptions of the recommended books. The titles & descriptions I’ve quoted ARE NOT MY WORDS

          I’m in broad sympathy with all you’ve written! It is my impression that the latest wave of feminism [3rd wave] shouts much louder than the more traditional feminists that are still out there & doing good work. It is my hope that the 3rd wave will self-destruct as the many factions eat each other up, but I realise it will take a generation or more to clear out this infection – this is because the 3rd wave has allied with other loony tune interests all of whom are solidly embedded in academia [on both the theoretical/ teaching side & the administration side].

          I wish you a groovy day Roo & I hope this long comment clears up any misunderstandings between us 🙂

          • Roo
            Posted April 3, 2018 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

            Thanks, hope you have a good day too. Sorry if I was a bit too caustic in my reply, I just have limited patience with things that strike me as elitist and in-group. It’s good that they have books listed on the site but I feel the onus is on them to explain clearly and coherently what it is they are doing, and what the practical or meaningful implications of this are without asking people to first read a few books on the topic.

    • Posted April 3, 2018 at 10:10 am | Permalink

      As an editor might say, “Needs examples.”

  39. Paul
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 3:09 am | Permalink

    Politics mixed with science doesn’t have a good history.

    • Posted April 3, 2018 at 3:16 am | Permalink

      + 1

    • Paul
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 4:30 am | Permalink

      One further thought:

      The scientific method has unravelled much if the universe and our world. It’s allowed engineers to build the technology, medicine and way of life we take for granted. Indirectly, it has allowed us to stop chasing the next meal and have arts and literature.

      What would a world where only this ‘science’ had existed look like? Actually, forget that. It’s only possible -because- of real science!

  40. Posted April 3, 2018 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    I had the urge to laugh about it this, and then did the usual check. In this case to find out about what kinds of things geographers are concerned about. The feminist geography is listed under “human geography”.

    I don’t know much about geography, and how much they are concerned with the meaning of spaces, but it is not entirely unreasonable to e.g. consider notions of “dangerous” or “appropriate” areas and study how gender factor into such conceptions.

    It makes intuitive sense, at least, that (traditional) society also keeps women away from spaces because they are deemed too dangerous. We know of initiation rites into manhood and womanhood where special spaces play important roles, like sending boys to the hunt into the wilderness, or imprison girls into a special hut when they have their first menstruation (as known from the Yanomami).

    The assumptions that undergird academical feminism, namely (post-)structuralism, standpoint theory or “postmodernism” more generally are however utter rubbish, and it looks like geography and meaning of spaces is stretched very far so that in the end, they do gender studies where spaces are more tacked on to colonialize yet another field.

    • Posted April 3, 2018 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      I agree. Feminist geography has a valid reason to exist but, if done right, should have less the look and feel of a political conspiracy theory. Of course, this is my male perspective.

  41. Lurker111
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    I’ve always thought of gravity as feminine.

    • Posted April 3, 2018 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      Interesting theory. Expand please.

      • Sarah
        Posted April 3, 2018 at 11:25 am | Permalink

        Must be thinking of Latin grammar–that’s one place where it’s feminine.

        • Gamall
          Posted April 3, 2018 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

          In French, “la gravité” is feminine.

          Gramatically, at least.

  42. mirandaga
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    I’m as adverse to postmodern gobbledygook as our host, and this definition of “feminine geography” is full of it. But my first inclination, partly because of my Jesuit training, is always to consider both sides of an argument and to put the best possible spin on a position I’m inclined to disagree with. So here goes.

    Our host has often pointed out, citing scientific evidence, that differences between the sexes are real and have real-world consequences. Hence, it would be reasonable to expect that these gender differences should extend to male and female “curiosity about the universe.” What we might expect, as a generality, is that men might focus on the external (detached objectivity) and women on the internal (subjective participation—I dare not say “felt experience”). If one can get past the egregious prose and underlying ideology, this is what the Dartmouth library piece seems to be suggesting.

    The only question is, does the feminine or “internal” approach qualify as “science.” Clearly it doesn’t—at least not by the currently accepted definition—though the same could be said about many branches of inquiry that masquerade as science. All such branches of soft “science” are hampered by trying to achieve their declared ends (which are qualitative) using rigorous quantitative methods that are not amenable to those ends. (I’ve referred to this elsewhere as “physics envy.”)

    Hence, one could (generously) take the advocacy of “feminine geography” as a left-handed appeal for more respect for “feminine” approaches that don’t qualify as “objective” but that explore important truths about ourselves and the universe, relying on methods that are less amenable to consensus than “masculine ones.” (However, that appeal also seems be calling for less respect for masculine approaches, which is both unfortunate and unnecessary.)

    Overall, I see some value in this, since I believe that a comprehensive understanding of what’s real must include both the so-called subjective and objective, which are in fact mental distinctions rather than anything rooted in reality. But I agree that there’s nothing gained by pretending that one’s approach is “scientific” when, in fact, it isnt.

    • Posted April 3, 2018 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

      Well put! It would be wonderful to hear from someone on the inside of feminine geography (is that a male sentence construction?) that could tell us about their subject using a similar high level of critical thinking, lack of jargon, and objective detachment. I’m not going to hold my breath.

  43. Posted April 4, 2018 at 5:26 am | Permalink

    In 1963, for my M.A. in geography I wrote a paper on the population geography of Spain that included demographic profiles, which in turn included reference to birth rates and birth control practices.

    I found a discussion based on writings of priests stating their opinions about the subject, in turn based on confessions, mostly by women. The discussions were written in Latin with a vocabulary not used in Caesar’s account of the Gallic Wars that I recalled from high school.

    But I suppose feminist geographers might complain that priests, as males, were not qualified to describe how Spanish women confessed how they and their husbands managed to reduce the population growth rate to such low levels before contraceptive technology became reliable.

    My own concern was that the data was anecdotal.

    I am now wondering how my more recent work for an M.S. in Earth science based in part on satellite imagery could be made to comply with the feminist approach to geography.

    The satellite instruments cannot, so far as I know, discriminate between male and female pixels.

  44. Nilou Ataie
    Posted April 4, 2018 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Totally agree. Only one objective reality. Should be posted under “Get off my lawn!” though

  45. lame_science_fan
    Posted April 4, 2018 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure how a feminist version of Space-X would make it to Mars if not for building on millions of pieces of objective truth. Maybe just shame the rocket relentlessly til it couldn’t take it anymore & left.

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