Gender, Ethics and Empowerment
An evaluation of a recent paper published in the journal “Women’s Studies International Forum, published by Regina Scheyvens and Helen Leslie entitled Gender, Ethics and Empowerment: Dilemmas of Development Fieldwork.
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This essay is an evaluation of a recent paper published in the journal Women’s Studies International Forum,” published by Scheyvens and Leslie, in which the authors present facts and discussions related to several important issues for researchers pursuing ethnographic and cultural studies related to women especially third world women. This essay involves an assessment of the following: Is there, or should there (or not) be a power distinction between the researchers and their subjects? Can the work be regarded as legitimate because of the vast differences in cultural perceptions? Certain ethical questions also crop up: Can the researchers bridge the gender divide and have males research females in third world countries? Is there an imposition of a researcher’s sentimentality on the research, and is this exploitative? How valuable is such research? Can it be presented objectively, honestly and more importantly in an unbiased manner? And, can such research help empower third world women? This essay addresses these issues within the context of the Scheyvens and Leslie’s paper.
“The authors’ work is also very limited. Consider the countries they talk about: Fiji, El Salvador, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. The title of their paper is misleading; it promises sweeping work that would lead to generalized conclusions. The countries used in the research do not allow that. The countries researched are very isolated, quasi-aboriginal and primitive cultures though, this is not an indictment of these countries. Developing countries (third world) like India and China where poverty and sexism exist within a modern infrastructure (and a range of social situations’ urban and rural) would provide a better subject for such a study. Religion (or its lack in China) plays an important role in the customs and traditions of these countries. Also, India and China have enjoyed fairly evolved civilizations before becoming the over-populated behemoths they are today. The paper, in its limited scope, should be more aptly titled “Empowerment of women of the Pacific Islands and El Salvador.” ”