Women's Ways of Knowing: The Development of Self, Voice, and Mind

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Mary Field Belenky
BasicBooks, 1997 - Psychology - 256 pages
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This volume offers new and useful understandings of the epistemology (methods and basis) of the development of women's knowledge. From interviews with 135 women (mostly privileged college students), the authors determine five learning "perspectives" that characterize "women's way of knowing." The authors looked for patterns in the responses they received, and were able to draw together a concept of how women deal with knowledge. The authors identified five different "ways of knowing" that women utilize. The first one addressed is given the name of "silence." By "silence" the authors do not mean an absence of speech, but rather a state of being intellectually voiceless. They do not see themselves as beings capable of receiving or retaining knowledge, and are therefore subject to the control of those around them. The second way of knowing discussed is termed "received knowledge." Received knowers believe themselves able to learn from others, and even to pass on what they have learned, but they do not see themselves as capable of independent, original thought. The authors identify both silent women and received knowers as dualists. They see things in terms of black and white, right and wrong, and one of the two is always seen as superior to the other. "Subjective knowers" do realize that they have the ability to formulate knowledge for themselves, and rely on a strong inner voice with which they develop their thoughts. They believe all knowledge to be subjective, and every person's opinion to be equally valid, though applicable only to that person. They recognize that there are shades of gray and that one answer to a problem may not be better than another. "Procedural knowers," which might also be called objective knowers, base their development of knowledge solely on objective, scientific procedures. They distrust as fallible any sort of "gut instinct" that the subjective knowers rely so heavily on. Procedural knowers are also multiplists, however, in that they recognize that there may be more than one "right" answer in a particular situation. This way of knowing is identified as more masculine, and that which tends to be advocated in traditional educational institutions. The last way of knowing is referred to as "constructed knowing." These women see all knowledge as contextual, and rely on both subjective and objective methods to arrive at "truth."

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Women's ways of knowing: the development of self, voice, and mind

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From interviews with 135 women (mostly privileged college students) regarding their search for truth and knowledge, the authors (all female faculty members of colleges or universities) determine five ... Read full review


To the Other Side of Silence
Listening to the Voices of Others

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About the author (1997)

Mary Field Belenky is a consultant on human development and an associate research professor at the University of Vermont. she lives in Marshfield, Vermont and New York City.   Blythe McVicker Clinchy is a professor of psychology at Wellesley College and lives in Boston, Massachusetts and Marshfield, Vermont.   Nancy Rule Goldberger is a member of the psychology faculty of The Fielding Institute in Santa Barbara, California, and lives in Housatonic, Massachusetts and New York City.   Jill Mattuck Tarule is a professor and the dean of the College of Education and Social Services at the University of Vermont and lives in Essex, Vermont

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