Feminist Research Ethics

Feminist Research Ethics

5. What are Feminist Research Ethics?

Through several decades of scholarship and debate feminist scholars have developed a number of ethical principles that address the context in which research is conducted, the purpose of research, whose interests are served, and the impact of research on participants, public discourse and on policy.

Feminist research ethics draws attention to:

  • The relationship between the creation of knowledge and the exercise of power.
  • Relationships between different parties in the research process.
  • The context in which research is conducted (Bell 2014, p. 84; Moss 2002, p. 8).

Feminist research ethics addresses a range of issues including:

  • The ‘politics of location’: the way researchers are positioned in relation to the field they are researching and in relation to their participants.
  • The ‘politics of interpretation’ and ‘representation’: the way in which the lived experience of participants is analysed, translated into data, represented and theorized.
  • The ‘politics of publication’: the way in which research is disseminated to various audiences (Kirsch 1999, x).

What are some key principles of feminist research ethics?

While there is no universally applicable body of feminist research ethics, a number of key ethical principles have emerged in the course of debates amongst feminist scholars. These include:

  • Reflexivity and self-reflexivity
  • Care
  • Transformation of gender relations and unjust social structures
  • Empowerment of women
  • Decolonizing knowledge production

It is foreseeable that you will encounter challenges in applying these and other principles of research ethics. These challenges highlight the inherent complexity and messiness of the research process.

Conducting research in an ethical manner requires an ability to understand the specific set of complex circumstances that apply in different research contexts and how different ethics principles are connected in that context.