ITROW'S Research Paradigm


We are sometimes asked about how we view women and men. What is the intellectual foundation for the Institute's emphasis on research on women? What does it support, stand for, believe in, and pursue as research questions and topics? Below are our answers to some of these questions.

The  Fundamental Perspective

Women are human beings, and as such, share most characteristics in common with men. Research on gender differences and similarities has consistently documented the essential sameness of women and men. Differences between women and men emerge primarily from biological differences in reproductive capacities and roles, and from differences in societal roles and statuses.

The status of women vis-a-vis men has varied considerably from society to society, in different periods of history, and in different social systems. Women at times have been virtual equals of men, particularly in horticultural and hunting-and-gathering societies. However, in advanced agricultural societies (using plow technology) women tend to have extremely limited economic, political, and social rights. In industrial societies, which usually emerge out of patriarchal advanced agricultural societies, the status of women is considerably higher as compared to their status in the plow agricultural societies, but still is inferior in some basic ways.

In societies where there are pronounced structures of power and inequality, the organization of men's and women's activities is an integral part of the fabric of power. Many of the experiences and behaviors of men and women which differentiate them from each other are based on the roles they are expected to perform as part of the structures of power and inequality. This is one reason why there is great resistance to change in gender relationships.

B.  Focus of Research

The Institute supports research which examines:

  • Important scientific or scholarly questions regarding the differing patterns of gender in past and present societies, such as the origins of those patterns, their maintenance (or change), and their effects on human lives
  • Social practices and structures which have a strong impact on the experiences, problems, and life opportunities of women, particularly those which cut across divisions of women by social class location, racial/ethnic membership, or by other major organizing features of the society
  • Women's interpretations of their lives
  • Women's creativity and will

At any one time, the central emphasis of research promoted by the Institute may vary. Current emphases include gender and economics, work and the family, the status of women, women and communication, women and violence, the impact of diversity of race and class on gendered patterns, and gender socialization.

The methods used to conduct the research also may vary, depending on the research questions and the skills of the researcher.  Qualitative and quantitative approaches employing a variety of different techniques are to be sought.

C.  Standards for Research

The Institute supports research which is conducted according to the highest standards of quality.  It advocates fair, accurate, and honest reporting of findings. At the same time, the Institute favors research which bears on researchable questions which are relevant to women's lives, problems, and interests.



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