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.