What is Dorothy Smith's standpoint theory?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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In Smith's own words, the Standpoint theory (sometimes known as the Feminist Standpoint theory) is founded upon the premise that

what one knows is affected by where one stands in society.

By saying "where one stands", Smith is referring to our socioeconomic position in society: gender, social ranking (leverage), financial status, ethnicity, religion, and overall social standing.

Smith also offers three basic assumptions:

  • knowledge is not objective (it is subjective to that said standpoint)
  • points of view are not shared by any two individuals in an identical manner
  • what we consider our personal views should be always revisited; do not take them for granted- as we change throughout life, we take different standpoints which grant for a different viewpoint.

An example of how the Standpoint theory is applied can be illustrated with the current view of the US economy. Someone who is dependent on government funding might have a completely different view of the current situation of the economy from someone who is middle class and feels crushed by it. Similarly, women might feel differently than males when it comes to woman rights regarding their own bodies.