Science in Society

Bryn Mawr College

Grad Idea Forum

20 March 2003
Women's Ways of Knowing (1990) by Mary Belenky et. al.

Additions, revisions, extensions are encouraged in the Forum.

The book for discussion was Women's Ways of Knowing by Belenky, McVicker Clinchy, Goldberger, and Tarule. Corey started us off with several discussion questions including:

Much of the discussion revolved around the idea of expertise and knowledge and the idea that passion for one's subject is tied, maybe particularly for women, to how that knowledge is incorporated for both individual women and for disciplines. Concern was expressed aabout the tendency to views these styles as stages in a hierarchy with subsequent valuing (of the "higher" ones) and devaluing of the earlier stages. All agreed that we each operate on a number of levels simultaneously and in different knowledge realms, making the thesis somewhat questionable as a categorization of individuals.

As a group that was all female for this meeting, much discussion occurred about how sexist/ essentialist the thesis of different ways of knowing may be and how assuming different ways of knowing might change the access to power for one's knowledge base. This began to be tied to ways that our different disciplines may value different kinds of knowledge derived from different ways of knowing, reviving prior themes about how the hard sciences like chem. and physics seem more straight forward and credible over biological sciences (genetics) and further against social sciences. Seemingly, the more room for multiple interpretations, the less credible and "powerful" a discipline becomes. Since much of women's ways of knowing derive from knowledge within the context of relationship, possibly always with multiple interpretations, the implications were concerning. We began to think about how this might be addressed in the college context and plan to re-visit this material in May to discuss the potential of a teaching workshop/seminar.

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