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Women’s Ways of Knowing. Mary Field Belenky Blythe McVicker Clinchy Nancy Rule Goldberger Jill Mattuck Tarule. 5 Epistemological Perspectives. Not stages Not fixed or universal Abstract The 5 Perspectives Silence Received Knowledge Subjective Knowledge Procedural Knowledge

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Women s ways of knowing

Women’s Ways of Knowing

Mary Field Belenky

Blythe McVicker Clinchy

Nancy Rule Goldberger

Jill Mattuck Tarule

5 epistemological perspectives
5 Epistemological Perspectives

  • Not stages

  • Not fixed or universal

  • Abstract

  • The 5 Perspectives

    • Silence

    • Received Knowledge

    • Subjective Knowledge

    • Procedural Knowledge

    • Constructed Knowledge


  • Deprived socially, economically, and educationally

  • “Deaf and Dumb”

    • Deaf – had to be shown how to do something and not told

    • Dumb – voiceless

  • Need a supportive environment to learn

  • Women are passive and incompetent (seen but not heard)

  • Conceiving the self

    • Can only describe themselves from an inside point and not an outside point

    • Cannot describe future changes because they do not anticipate the future

Silence continued
Silence continued

  • Quotes from Women’s Ways of Knowing

    • “I deserved to be hit, because I was always mouthing off.”

    • “I don’t like talking to my husband. If I were to say no, he might hit me.”

    • “I had to get drunk to tell people off.”

  • What College Professors Can Do

    • Realize that women question their capabilities and intellectual capacity more than men

    • Have students use personal experiences to find meaning and understanding

    • Do not ignore good answers but give praise

Transition to received knowing
Transition to Received Knowing

  • Experiences that led to development…

    • formal education

    • childbearing

    • family trauma

    • difficult or challenging relationships

    • exposure to other cultures

    • a new kind of work

    • psychotherapy

  • By communicating to their children, silent women found that they could communicate and pass on knowledge.

Received knowledge
Received Knowledge

  • Learn by listening

    • Listening to friends

      • Enjoy have a lot in common with others and may change their own thoughts to match

    • Listening to authorities

      • Authorities knew everything and did not disagree with each other

  • Learning=Memorizing

    • Cannot read between the lines and take everything literally

  • Conceiving the Selfless Self

    • Can only see themselves from how others see them

Transition to subjective knowing
Transition to Subjective Knowing

  • Experiences that led to development…

    • Relationships exhibiting mutuality, equality, and reciprocity

    • Praise and reinforcement

    • Exposure to a diversity of opinions

  • Education alienated these women and did not help them to develop, instead their personal life did.

  • Women who did not advance cognitively usually dropped out of college.

Subjective knowledge
Subjective Knowledge

  • Sexually harassed and abused

  • The inner voice

    • Their own authority (external to internal)

    • Relied on their experience and feelings for knowledge

  • The quest for self

    • Left current situation to live for self rather than others

  • Concepts of self

    • Beginning viewing themselves differently because their life was changing

Transition to procedural knowing
Transition to Procedural Knowing

  • Experiences that led to development…

    • An inner sense of self, voice, and mind begin to develop and create an inner contradiction.

    • Their personal experience leading to their own sense of authority.

  • Realized they could know things that they never came in contact with.

  • Could hear themselves think while they were listening which would soon develop into reflecting and critical thinking.

Procedural knowledge
Procedural Knowledge

  • Privileged, intelligent, white, young, homogeneous, and attended or graduated from college.

  • The voice of reason

    • More active and powerful voice

    • Old ways of knowing challenged

  • Spoke with the voices of separate and connected knowing.

    • Separate knowing

      • Sought knowledge and evaluated knowledge claims.

      • Mastery over the knowledge but separated from knowing.

    • Connected knowing

      • Sought to go beyond knowledge, to understanding.

      • Understanding the knowledge gave a relationship to it.

Transition to constructed knowledge
Transition to Constructed Knowledge

  • Experiences that led to development…

    • Self-Reflection/Self-Analysis

    • Removing themselves from the current life either psychologically or geographically

    • Needed to integrate thinking with feeling and rationality with emotionality.

  • After a self examination they realize how knowledge, truth, and self guide their life.

Constructed knowledge
Constructed Knowledge

  • Reclaiming self

  • Integrating the voices

    • Integration of self, mind, and voice.

  • Articulate and reflective

  • Rise to a new way of thinking

  • Realize that knowledge is constantly being constructed, deconstructed, and reconstructed.


Belenky, M.F., Clinchy, B.M., Goldberger, N.R., & Tarule, J.M. (1986). Women’s ways of knowing. New York: Basic Books.

Gallos, J. V. (1995). Gender and silence: Implications of women's ways of knowing. College Teaching, 43(3), 101-105.

Love, P. G., &  Guthrie, L. (1999). Women's ways of knowing. New Directions for Student Services, no. 88, 17-27.

Other Readings

Gose, B. (1995). "Women's Ways of Knowing" form the basis for Ursuline curriculum. Chronicle of Higher Education, 41(22) [No Pagination].

Handy, T. J. (1991). "Women's Ways of Knowing": Explanations and implications for gender differences in substance abuse. College Student Affairs Journal, 11(2), 16-24.