It is widely accepted by those in the scientific community that women have been

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1 1 It is widely accepted by those in the scientific community that women have been systematically disregarded and discriminated against in science. However, the extent to which this has undermined aspirations of objectivity is somehow still questioned. Arguments deriding the importance of the feminist critique to science frequently conflate empiricism with objectivity. Feminist scholars have challenged the assumption that science is fundamentally objective and value-neutral (Subramaniam 2009, p. 955). Contrary to the common notion that social influences must be eradicated from scientific practice, Longino (1990, p. 144) purports that objectivity is a product of the social framework of scientific inquiry. Feminist critique assists in the elimination of both implicit and explicit sources of bias, and consequently facilitates a more accurate representation of the natural world. While it is often believed that any inherent prejudices can be overcome through experimental rigour, Okruhlik (1994, p. 33) points out that any biases involved in theory generation will necessarily affect the content of science. Feminist critique has played a significant role in a number of scientific disciplines, and has been especially important in challenging sexist models of biological determinism (Subramaniam 2009, p. 955). While sexism in science is more subtle today, its effects are not trivial, and the feminist critique is vital to maintaining both scientific objectivity and women s rights. Feminist critiques of science are frequently purported to be anti-science. Proponents of these arguments tend to take one of three positions (Richardson 2010, p. 353): Feminist scientists are purported to reject empiricism, objectivity, and other scientific principles; reject scientific findings; and/ or generally weaken science s authoritative position. Such mischaracterisations have been anticipated by past scholars, and subsequently addressed (Richardson 2010, p. 353). The argument that gender disparities (e.g. IQ) are predominantly social, not biological, in origin does not imply a relativist conception of science (Richardson

2 2 2010, p. 353). It is not argued that physical differences between genders do not exist, but that social and cultural factors have significantly influenced differences in areas such as intelligence, economic success, and political power (Richardson 2010, p. 353). Further, the idea that criticising the validity of scientific findings with such incredulous methodologies and assumptions is somehow unscientific is, in itself, unscientific. Scientific progress relies on the criticism and consequent improvement of flawed research. Finally, the idea that feminist scholars, many of whom are themselves scientists, wish to undermine science as a whole is patently absurd (Richardson 2010, p. 353). They seek to improve the objectivity of science, and hence the lives of women and other oppressed groups, by systematically identifying and eliminating sources of bias (Richardson 2010, p. 354). Feminist critiques of science do not present a threat to genuine scientific practice, only to research entrenched (either implicitly or explicitly) in sexism, racism, and other forms of prejudice. Anti-feminist rhetoric stems from, among other things, a misunderstanding of what it means to be objective. In order to demonstrate how critical the feminist critique is to the objectivity of science traditional notions of objectivity must be abandoned. In contrast to the commonly held belief that social influences undermine objectivity, Longino (1990, p. 144) argues that objectivity is, in fact, a consequence of the social nature of scientific investigation. Objectivity is considered on a continuum and science is presented as a fundamentally social exercise. While the logical positivists acknowledged the role of subjective influences in science, this was limited to the generation of hypotheses, and subjective factors were seen as irrelevant to subsequent testing (Longino 1990, p. 146). The use of rigorous experimental methodology, was, and frequently still is, assumed to eliminate any underlying prejudices (Okruhlik 1994, p. 33). However, the use of empirical methods does not guarantee the

3 3 objectivity of research (Longino 1990, p. 153). Longino (1990, p. 146) questions the treatment of social factors as random error terms, and considers the relevance of broader institutional biases. It is the failure to acknowledge and examine these biases that undermines objectivity in science, not the feminist critique. Longino (1990) presents a number of examples which illustrate the fundamental role social criticism has in maintaining the objectivity of modern scientific practice. Research which fails to stand up to peer review, for example, is considered unreliable by the scientific community (Longino 1990, p. 149). One of the key functions of this system is to ensure that research is interpreted in a bias-free manner (Longino 1990, p. 149). Peer review is just one of a number of social processes that work to refine scientific ideas, with a range of points of view necessarily affecting the original research. This occurs through subsequent citations, and the reinterpretation of theories and data by a variety of authors (Longino 1990, p. 149). Scientific knowledge is therefore dynamic, and constructed by a community, not an individual (Longino 1990, p.149). Bias, however, can only be eliminated if the scientific community is open to individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds and their criticisms are given equal weight (Longino 1990, p. 154). Okruhlik argues that the objectivity of science has been tainted by androcentric practices (Okruhlik 1994, p. 21). She contends that any biases involved in theory generation will inevitably affect the content of science, regardless of how rigorous subsequent testing may be (Okruhlik 1994, p. 33). If theory choice is limited to a number of sexist hypotheses, the best theory may be chosen, but it is still entrenched in sexism (Okruhlik 1994, p. 34). Bias cannot be eliminated in a post hoc manner, it must be examined at every stage of the research process. Okruhlik (1994) questions not only the assumptions influencing the formation of

4 4 hypotheses, but also those affecting decisions to falsify a theory. Even in the face of consistent evidence to the contrary copious amounts of research has been conducted in support of a biological basis for the superior intelligence of men (Okruhlik 1994, p. 34). Irrespective of constant failures this same theory has been presented in a slightly altered form for hundreds of years (Okruhlik 1994, p. 34). Advances in neuroscience present new opportunities for scientists who are unwilling to let go of the underlying hypothesis, Men are intellectually superior to women, and this theory will likely continue to subtly pervade scientific texts for many years to come. Feminist critiques of science have influenced a range of disciplines, including psychology and primatology, but perhaps most critical to women s rights have been the critiques of biological determinism. In many cases it seems as though biological theories have been developed for the sole purposes of proving that women are inferior to men. They have been used to explain (and implicitly excuse) why men commit rape (Okruhlik 1994 p. 21), and to this day variations on Men are naturally more intelligent than women continue to seep through the scientific literature. Current debates centre on specific areas of intelligence, for example, spatial reasoning and mathematical ability. Researchers continue to ignore the systematic differences in the way boys and girls are treated from the moment of birth when considering the causes of these intelligence disparities (Sapolsky 2011). Numerous studies have demonstrated the presence of fundamental environmental differences when it comes to maths education. Boys, for example, are more likely to be chosen to answer a question, given praise for a correct answer, and advised by their school guidance counsellors to take elective maths subjects (Sapolsky 2011). Even though differences in mathematical ability have been consistently linked to environmental, not biological, conditions, this myth continues to pervade the minds of the general public. Biologically deterministic arguments are particularly dangerous, because they imply that social reform is ineffective and unnatural (Okruhlik 1994

5 5 p. 22). These models are constantly evolving, and feminist critique is essential to exposing their sexist and racist undercurrents (Subramaniam 2009, p. 956) Discrimination against women in science has serious social and political consequences, outside of the losses to the scientific community. Science informs policy, and when scholars fail to expose entrenched biases in the literature women face considerable health and legal disadvantages. The DSM, as with science in general, is not immune to social influences. It has a colourful history of racist and sexist disorders, including drapetomania and nymphomania. The present inclusion of pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a classic example of latter. This is more than just a case of the general pathologising of normal experiences, this is a blatant example of sexism in science. The symptoms of PMDD actually appear to be as common in men, as they are in women (Caplan 2008, p. 64), yet there is no alternative diagnosis for men that focuses on levels of testosterone or attempts to curb aggressive behaviour (Caplan 2008, p. 63). Transforming a woman s menstrual cycle into a mental illness sets a dangerous precedent for future scientific endeavours. Feminist critiques of science are not just critical for maintaining the objectivity of science, but for the wellbeing of women and other oppressed groups. Objectivity is a product of the social structure of science. The feminist critique does not undermine this objectivity, it is a necessary precursor for it. The criticism of, and engagement with, scientific ideas is only productive when a diverse range of voices are taken heed of. Scientists and science scholars, regardless of gender identity, need to begin engaging in feminist critique on a much larger scale in order to ensure that their work is not feeding into patriarchal norms, and consequently undermining the objectivity of science.

6 6 References Caplan, PJ 2008, Pathologizing your period, Ms. magazine, summer, Longino HE, 1990, Values and Objectivity, in Science as Social Knowledge: Values and Objectivity in Scientific Inquiry, Princeton University Press, Princeton. Okruhlik K, 1994, Gender and the Biological Sciences, Canadian Journal of Philosophy, vol.24 (S1), pp Richardson, SS 2010, Feminist philosophy of science: History, contributions, and challenges, Synthase, vol. 177, no.3, December, pp Sapolsky, R 2011, Behavioural Genetics 1, online video, 1 st February, viewed 1 st October 2014, Subramaniam, B 2009, Moored Metamorphoses: A retrospective essay on feminist science studies, Signs, vol. 34, no.4, summer, pp

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