Women Research Institute (WRI)’s experience shows that there is a need among young researchers to understand the feminist research methodology in a more comprehensive manner in order to better understand the issue and find aspects of empowerment in realizing a gender-fair social prosperity.
The feminist methodology is essential because it can assist and provide a framework for those working and taking a concern in women’s issues. This method reminds us that there is no single truth for everything; hence, the need to respect the diversity of views and opinions. This perspective criticizes other methods that have been followed and used, particularly in social researches or scientific journals, which believe that quantity can reveal the existence of social truth. Furthermore, this method invites us to see, listen, ask questions, and interact well with others as well as ourselves in order to create a better order of life for women in particular and society in general.
With its ample experiences in feminist-based research methods, WRI continues to develop and disseminate this method as a critical alternative to non-gender perspective research methods. In regards to this, on 24-27 May 2011, WRI held a Basic Feminist Methodology Training for Knowledge Development (First Batch).
The first stage of this training is the selection of participants. From the total of 30 candidates that came from various backgrounds (researchers, activists, academicians, students, and employees who use social researches as a basis), a number of 20 people were selected as participants of the training through a selection of CVs and short essays.
The selected participants of the training would have to undergo another round of selection to participate in the Advanced Feminist Methodology Training in October 2011. The process of selection will be based on the Research Design which the participants had made during the sequence of the training.
- To provide young researchers with a coaching in feminist-perspective research methodology and enable them to disseminate its implementation in other research works.
- To improve researchers’ comprehension on the ways to manage researches as well as understand feminist theories and the methodological options that relate to the issues of women and the social, political, and cultural contexts.
- To enable participants develop a network of methodological learning forum among researchers and enhance their capacity to conduct a critical analysis using the feminist standpoint.
- To enhance participants’ capacity to write a scientific report which can be disseminated through journals or books, introducing readers of the published work to the feminist research method.
- Participants can understand the feminist research methodology, including the source and philosophy of its theoretical background and praxis.
- Participants can enhance their capacity as a researcher by gaining new references and sources on feminist researches.
- Participants are able to study the development of the theories of feminist praxis, as well as align themselves with the feminist ethics.
- Participants are able to adjust themselves in managing researches with ample management skills.
Aris Arif Mundayat, Ph.D; Myra Diarsi, MA; Sita Aripurnami, M.Sc; Edriana Noerdin, MA
Theodora J. Erlijna (Social History Institute of Indonesia), Dr. Risa Permandeli (Director of Center for Social Representation Studies), Erni Agustini, Msi (Women Research Institute), Muninggar Saraswati, MA (Women Research Institute), Ika Wahyu Priaryani, S.Sos (Women Research Institute)
All speakers stimulated the participants to critically study the truth of thoughts and interpretation of social reality so in the future researchers will have a conceptual framework and sharp analysis in reading the social reality faced by women.
Process of Training
First Day, 24 May 2011
On the first day, participants were encouraged to trace back the history of thoughts, opinions, and perceptions of women, both in Indonesia and other countries. This session attempted to deconstruct the dominant thoughts, perceptions and opinions of women in society, as well as deconstruct the power relation in gender relations. Through this session, participants were expected to understand the long history of women’s marginalization in the living discourse within society, before moving on to interpret the long history of that marginalization. Finally, participants would establish the ability to compare various thoughts, perceptions and opinions of women. A specific explanation of discussion materials is explained through a discussion topic, which was held per session.
SESSION I: Feminist Perspective in Developing Knowledge
In this session, participants were invited to place the feminist concept as a foundation in developing knowledge and as a basis of social movement for social changes.
Points of Discussion:
- School of thought: critical theory as the foundation and history of feminism
- Feminist standpoint: the basis of knowledge to understand women from a feminist perspective for women
- Feminist empirism and interdisciplinary approach: the feminist basis to reveal social facts through an interdisciplinary approach
Aim of Session:
- Participants can understand feminism as a platform to formulate critical thinking.
- Participants can firmly use the feminist approach as a framework of thought to understand social phenomena from various disciplines.
- Participants can gain a critical social stance regarding gender relations.
SESSION II: Presentation of Research Topics
Participants were asked to think critically and identify gender-based social relation issues, which would be the basis of their respective topics of interests. In this session, participants could also express their ideas or suggestions about the research that they had carried out or would do.
Aim of Session
Participants can think critically about themes of research that relate to social phenomena, culture, and politics that are influenced by gender-based power relations.
SESSION III: Feminist Research Methodology
In this session, participants were invited to discuss approaches that combine several interdisciplinary methods to understand feminist-perspective social issues. Some of the interdisciplinary methods were discoursed by women, holding an important significance in social change.
Aim of Session
Participants understand that the combination of interdisciplinary methods could contribute in presenting women’s experiences.
First Day of Discussion
The first day of training was commenced with a critical question, “What is a feminist research?” The series of discussions revealed that research using the feminist perspective enables a researcher to get closer to and even side with the subjects of his/her research, who would largely be women. This is very related to the term “feminism”, a school of thought that was started in the 19th century and is still relevant today. This school aims reveal the issue of the imbalanced power relations, both within individuals and groups in the social community, which tend to give a bigger authority to men in deciding and making decisiond. It is only by conducting a feminist research that the inequality in the power relations between men and women could be described, analyzed, and ‘voiced’. Such is the strength of a feminist research; it voices the unheard, as well as changes the imbalanced power relations.
The imbalanced power of relations originated from a long history of civilization. The expression ‘the man made world’ is a perspective that men were the one who created the world and life, originating from Frederick Engel’s 1884 book ‘The origin of the family, private property and the state’. Men’s history of civilization was started from the hunter-gatherer phase, where women held an important position by occupying the land and producing/preserving offspring; whereas men held the role of the hunter.
At this phase, kinship is based on the matriarchal system, which is traced through the mother’s lineage. This placed women as a controller of the economy because men were more often hunting. The social change then shifted; men no longer hunted and started to farm from one place to another. Men began to accumulate and build a strong economic basis, building a pattern of ownership of the material-based assets. Thus, the power relations and system of lineage shifted to the patriarchal system, which is based on the father’s lineage, because it is men who own the larger accumulation of material assets and have a higher mobility than women. Women were not be able to advance because they had no access to develop themselves.
The implication could be seen from the dichotomy of public-private roles for men and women by following the change in nature. Men are the sky, providing rain and sunshine; whereas women are the earth, receiving, producing, and giving birth to the living beings. This principle is implemented in humans’ lives until today; men are active, women are passive. Such assumption is the characteristic of patriarchy in reality. Men construct culture and history. Therefore in English the term is ‘His-story’, and not ‘Her-story’.
The question is, how do we see the imbalanced power of relations? The answer is by using a feminist methodology. The feminist methodology aims to realize a women culture, in order to change, expand, and disseminate so that women will no longer be ‘The Second Sex’ or ‘the other’, unable to change her course of life. This is carried out by working, becoming an intellectual, and transforming society while rejecting the justification of ‘the other’. The principle that must be incorporated is ‘Go to work, become intellectuals, work toward transformation of society and refuse to internalize othernesses’.
Second Day, 25 May 2011
The sessions on this day centered on the introduction to several methods of research, including feminist interviews, feminist case study, feminist analysis, and feminist action research. Apart from that, participants were invited to use research as one of the tools to observe the social reality of women. The materials covered the methodological approaches that could be chosen to reveal the social reality of women in the research areas. This session took a particular focus on the ways to develop a framework of analysis from the observation that is conducted, use an interview method to discover the reality that women face, and recognize the strengths of the location of research. Also explained in this introductary session were the values of the steps of research, namely: Introduction, Trust-building, Friendship, and Participation.
These steps of research are the basis in conducting a feminist methodology; whereas the four Feminist Methodologies offered in this training include:
1) Feminist Interview; 2) Feminist Case Study; 3) Feminist Analysis; and 4) Feminist Action Research.
SESSION I: Feminist Interview
In this session, the interviewer (Erni Agustini) invited participants to discuss interview strategies with the subjects of research using a feminist perspective, as well as understand its differences from non-feminist interviews. The aim of this discussion was to make participants understand how to dig information, all the while respecting the subjects of research’s opinions and thoughts.
Feminist interviews bridge and enable a connection between the researcher and the subjects of research, between the knower and the known. This requires women, and not only men, as the subject with the right to produce knowledge (knower). The standpoint in feminist interviews is to side with women who had experienced injustice. Consequently, a reciprocal and equal interaction will be formed between the researcher and the subject of research. Through feminist interviews, a researcher includes her self-reflection as a woman who shares similar experiences relating the issues of research.
The emphasis in feminist interviews is to tap into individuals’ opinions, thoughts, and memories in their own languages rather than the researcher’s language. This type of interview also provides various possibilities of the involvement (participation) of (female) subjects of research in the form of research collaboration. The intention is to encourage the transformation of personal knowledge in the process of research, thus pushing for women’s empowerment.
SESSION II: Feminist Case Study
The aim of this session's discussion was to train participants in determining types of case studies which demonstrate issues relating to gender-based power relations using the feminist standpoint. The speaker, Sita Aripurnami, explained that through case studies a researcher would be able to represent women’s experiences and grant authority to their voices or experiences.
Case study is a description of a situation or problem that needs to be overcome and the description of how a decision is taken to address the situation or problem. The description in case studies will illustrate the real situation, as it is, or conceal several parts for the sake of the involved parties’ privacy. In short, case study is a way to document information and articulate efforts that have been taken by an individual or a group of women in tackling an issue. The information which is uncovered would be used to understand the issue of oppression in a social group. A feminist case study attempts to represent women’s experiences in giving the authority for their voices or experiences. The language or perspective written in the study case uses the first-hand language or perspective of the subjects, therefore presenting a precise and truthful description and representation of their experiences.
Case studies can present a/an individual figure, group, episode, process, community, or society. Thus, the aims of case studies include: 1) to highlight the reality of women’s experiences; 2) to analyze the changes of a symptom; 3) to analyze the significance of a symptom for future occurrences; and 4) to analyze the existing relationship in a symptom.
SESSION III: Feminist Content Analysis
In this session’s discussion, participants were asked to read texts and understand their explicit meanings. The speaker, Myra Diarsi, stated that a feminist content analysis is a systematic study which carefully analyzes a series of objects (cultural artefacts) or events in a systematic manner, by counting or interpreting the themes within them. The texts researched by feminists are artefacts produced by, about, or from women and vice versa. The studied cultural artefacts are products from individual activities, social organizations, technology, and cultural patterns. The materials include written notes, narration and visual texts, material culture, and behavioral residue. Feminist content analysis is used to find textual contradictions which describe the powerful effects of patriarchy.
Feminist content analysis itself is principally the effort to give a meaning or interpretation of the contents, as cultural artefacts have always been made and interpreted by men, about men, and for men. Another inseparable part in the discussion of interpretation is the issue of representation or attendance. The cultural artefacts that have been made and produced could be interpreted in the context of for whom the cultural artefact is made, and what kind of cultural artefact is missing or void.
SESSION IV: Feminist Action Research
The speaker, Edriana Noerdin, explained several points of discussion. In general, this session covered the discussion of participatory research in order to regulate the agenda of women’s empowerment in fighting for a gender-fair power relation, how researchers can capture the subject’s perspective in interpreting the reality they face, and how such perspectives are used to guide their behaviour.
Specifically, feminist action research is a feminist research activity that is inherently related to the action to change imbalanced power relations. This type of research is run synergically, through both action and evaluation, with the orientation of changing the condition and position of as well as empowering subordinated women.
The aim of this feminist action research was to empower the oppressed in order to make them understand and able to change their oppressive situation. Other than that, the vision of this research is to create a new and better relationship in terms of women’s condition and position, better laws and regulations, as well as better and stronger institutions. Feminist action research is not only specifically based on observations and interviews, but also requires real intervention (both political and moral changes) to create change.
Second Day of Discussions
In this session on Feminist Methodology, the facilitator gave a short explanation of the characteristics of Feminist Research Methodology. A feminist research should:
- Attempt to understand the construction of a woman.
- Prioritize on being subjective, in order to perform a content analysis, etc.
- Use an inductive approach, to build a concept, hypothesis, and theory based on women’s experiences.
The facilitator closed the introduction by explaining several types of Feminist Research Methodology that contribute to a Feminist Methodology Research:
- Ethnography, which emphasizes on the details of daily life, as well as the daily cycle of life. This is beneficial for data baseline and lasts until 10 years.
- Phenomemology, whose theories focus on the experiences of individuals, according to the social reality. This reality is built on intersubjectivity, because humans share subjectivity with one another. An actor’s subjectivity is important in order to understand the existence of women – women’s community thus becomes essential. It also aims to get the subject’s perspective from their daily behaviors, verbal words, and gestures.
- Field research, which is conducted by immersing in the field.
- Life history.
The techniques of the feminist methodology tend to be qualitative as it attempts to grasp the meaning. Such techniques include observation, which consists of:
- Complete participation on women for women
- Participant as observer, where researchers are involved in an ongoing activity, yet without influencing its dynamics.
- Observer as participant, where researchers are involved in an ongoing activity and distance themselves from the happenings.
- Complete observation, where researchers are part of the community or society, yet are uninvolved in a specific activity.
From all the methods that were explained, the facilitator concluded that the benefits of the usage of feminist research method are:
- Capturing the meaning: this provides the researcher with an opportunity to analyze the subjective experience of the social actor; while meaning holds an association with the experience.
- Capturing the process: this approach enables the researcher to understand the logic that guides a special behavior, meaning, or understanding on a social phenomenon;
- Capturing the context: the researcher can place the attitude and behavior of the social actors in their biographies as well as a larger social context;
- Capture the specificity (specific event): the special regulations of behavior as something that conflicts the common.
Third Day, 26 May 2011
SESSION I: Oral History
The first session on the third day was started with the session of ‘Oral History’. The speaker (Theodore J. Erlijna) stated that the significance of oral history is in revealing the ‘gaps’ in information which disappeared due to the lack of discussion or publication. The basis of oral history itself is the incomplete sources of recorded history and the limited access to them. A majority of recorded sources on incidents or violent cases only support the actors’ story. Consequently, written sources on the experiences of victims, particularly female victims, are very scarce if not none. Therefore, oral history is seen as a promising method because it is a method which digs into one’s memory through recorded dialogues between the interviewer and the interviewees. At this process, a researcher is required to equip himself/herself well with a prior knowledge of the intervieweer, the topic of interview, and a quality recorder.
Oral history is based on the event, resulting in various interpretations. Oral history is also able to integrate women in the writing of history -- despite the fact that a number of them no longer exists, their story could still be studied by how the public felt in that context. It also creates a new historical source: transcripts of the dialogues and interviews. However, oral history only serves as an aid tool and can only be implemented for events that have long passed.
The contribution of oral history is that it offers a different perspective from the traditional recorded history, which have been dismissed or missed, for reasons of characteristics. Oral history also reveals information behind the screen and reveals the historical daily life of the social community.
Oral history can significantly offer a means of integrating women in the writing of history, and even challenge the dominant discourses in the social, economic, and political spheres which have distorted the lives of women.
SESSION II: Feminist Ethnography
This session explained in a comprehensive manner the Feminist Ethnography and its contribution to the effort to change the imbalanced relationship between men and women. The speaker (Risa Permanadeli) stated that the current ethnography or field work uses a plural-method research, usually including observation, participation, archive analysis and interview. In short, ethnography attempts to combine the strengths and weaknesses of every method. This is particularly because the positivist method (such as survey and testing) is largely criticized by feminists due to its androcentric tendency. Thus, alternative methods such as Feminist Ethnography focus on interpretation, is based on the act of immersing into the social sphere, and aims to gain an intersubjective understanding between the researchers and the research subjects. The positivist approach is rejected by feminists because this approach is considered as an aspect of the patriarchal school of thought, which separates the researcher from the studied phenomenon.
Feminist ethnography can produce fundamental concepts which lead to new theories, in order to analyze roles beyond the specfic formulation of interviews or observations. It is thus essential as it gives a voice to women and highlights women’s lives, bringing them to the surface.
Feminist ethnography has three main aims that can change the imbalanced power relations of women in society. Such aims consist of: 1) Documenting the lives and activities of women; 2) Understanding women’s experiences from their own perspectives; and 3) Conceptualizing women’s behavior as an expression of the social context.
The most important reason why feminist ethnography is one of the choices in conducting a feminist research is because through feminist ethnography, a researcher could understand women’s experiences from women’s own perspective. This would alter the researcher’s point of view and the social context during the time the research takes place.
SESSION III: Literature Review
The Literature Review Session was facilitated by Muninggar Saraswati and Ika Wahyu Priaryani, who discussed the urgency of conducting literature review during the process of research. This session aims to present the concept and function of literature review of a scientific research, as well as present the concept and urgency of an international-standard referencing (writing references and annotated bibliography).
Literature Review is the summary of a number of scientific papers on a particular subject within our research topic. It is a description, conclusion, and critical evaluation on each scientific paper. Literature review is part of the conceptual context in placing our study in the existing map of science and showing our scientific contribution. The importance of literature review is due to the assumption that knowledge is an accumulation of what we learn from what others have found/studied.
Generally, the steps in Literature Review are 1) Reading the related papers or journals; 2) Evaluating all the papers that we have read; 3) Compiling a summary of the publication; and 4) Combining everything into a complete writing or scientific narration on a particular issue or research topic.
The components of literature reviews are: 1) formulating the issue by determining the subject or area which will be studied or written and the main components of the issue; 2) finding the relevant literature which are relevant to our proposed subject of research; 3) evaluating the data by defining which paper will provide a significant contribution in understanding the subject of our research or study; and 4) Analysing and interpretating, which are analyzing and discussing the findings or conclusion of each paper before finally formulating the conclusion.
In making a literature review, there are four acknowledged systems of referencing and annotated bibliography: 1) Oxford Style; 2) Harvard Style; 3) Chicago Manual dan 4) APA Style.
All the methodology that have been explained are tools of analysis in conducting research, which side with women and have a value of subjectivity. The requirements of feminist methodology push for a particular value to be used – the value of subjectivity itself.
Subjectivity is important to highlight diversity as every individual has different characteristics, and this is an alternative from the positivist approach which is unable to present such diversity. Hence, the importance of Case Study and Feminist Ethnography – they can emphasize and draw attention to the subjectivity and perspectives of individuals in society. The Feminist Action Research is also needed to create change. Changes in society often do not happen from within, as changes on the surface do not change what is within. This type of research enters the structure within as it holds the values and norms, thus the symbol system can be read relatively well.
The key to feminist methodology is subjectivity (individual experience, diversity, endorsement); then we can reveal the existing gender relation. It is known that each methodology has its own consequence – we cannot carelessly use and choose a certain one. Our choice of methodology mirrors how we analyze the data. How that research is written is determined by our form of analysis.
Fourth Day, 27 May 2011
SESI I-IV: Formulating the Research Design or Research Proposal
In this session, participants were introduced to the making of research design which includes:
- Formulating the background of research, to present the social phenomenon which will be studied.
- Formulating research questions.
- Formulating the theoretical framework to answer the research questions based on a literature review.
- Formulating research method to explain the way or strategy to obtain data in order to answer the research questions.
Points of Discussion:
- Explanation on the reasons for the participants' interest in their chosen research topic.
- Simulation of the formulation of questions in a research proposal. The theme is formulated beforehand, followed by a background of the issue. The background of the issue is a short description which should attract readers to read the paper. Participants were required to present the social phenomenon that they would study.
SESSION V: Presentation of Research Proposal
Participants presented their research proposals, a result of their process of learning during the training.
SESSION VI: Explanation of the Follow-up to Research Writing
During this session, the facilitator explained the follow-up act to the training of the basic feminist research method through a writing of research design.
SESSION VII: Conclusion and Evaluation
This session consisted of the conclusion and evaluation of the overall running of the training in order to obtain inputs for the improvement of the next activities in future.
After the dynamic and inspiring training, participants gained the following knowledge:
1. The definition of the feminist method, its implication and its contribution as a perspective and analysis tool in research:
- From the usage of feminist as a perspective and analysis tool, it was discovered that many researches have not been able to contribute to the research subjects nor change the imbalanced power relation that they are subjected to, particularly the female subjects.
2. The study of researches related to Basic Principles or Non-positivist Values:
- The nature of researches using the feminist methodology is subjective. The extent to which such subjectivity is still valid as an international- or national-standard scientific research is as far as the researcher can assume responsibility for all the data or findings of the research.
3. Basic Concepts:
- A number of participants that did not understand a certain concept had written it in a piece of plano paper. Such concepts they found unfamiliar were like ‘the personal is political’. The concept of heterodoxy-orthodoxy and others were explained by the facilitators immediately after participants expressed their inquiry. Other abstract concepts would be the researcher’s homework – which is why the Literature Review session was greatly urgent, as on every incomprehension of a certain concept, a researcher should without delay seek and enhance herself by asking questions, reading, and discussing. This should be the basic characteristic and soul of a researcher.
Through discussions throughout the four day training, participants understood that in a research, one should consider and plan very carefully her research visions, in accordance with:
- Management of research. This session discussed the adjustment of the application of ideal research forms with the management of research. In this discussion, it is observable that research management holds an important role to support the running of research. The discussion of the management of research is of particular interest when observing the phenomena in research institutes, which face a limitation of time and funds from the funding donor, but are still under the demand to perform the ideal research with the best results.
- A feminist-method research in theory and practice. As a researcher concentrating in women’s issues and gender equality, it is necessary for the researcher to have a strong knowledge of researches using the feminist method. This is particularly imperative for WRI researchers as researches using the feminist method has a different uniqueness with researches in general, including the style of writing.
- The observation of Indonesian women’s condition in the current context and integrate it with the feminist credo. Confusion tends to happen in adopting a stance regarding a certain issue, for instance the affirmative action for women. On one hand, there is the consideration that a radical feminist-like perspective, which sees the power struggle of chairs as a matter of competition that should be won, is needed. On the other hand, many are still uncertain with such point of view, and would opt for a more liberal stance or the safer moderate one. The inability to determine one’s stance would prove to be rather inconvenient in the context of research.***