'I can't do with whinging women!' Feminism and the habitus of 'women in science' activists

Phipps, Alison (2006) 'I can't do with whinging women!' Feminism and the habitus of 'women in science' activists. Women's Studies International Forum, 29 (2). pp. 125-135. ISSN 0277-5395

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Abstract

This article explores the field of policy, activism, and educational activity around the issue of women's under-representation in science, engineering, and technology (or Women in SET) which has developed since the 1970s in Europe and North America. Critical, radical, and postmodern feminist ideas are marginal in this field, despite the existence of a body of feminist literature on the inter-relationships between gender and SET. Evidence is presented from in-depth interviews with Women in SET activists, most of whom were employed in scientific and technical professions, exploring their reluctance to claim an allegiance with feminism. Bourdieu's concept of habitus is used in an attempt to show how these dispositions are connected to the internal dynamics of the Women in SET field and the wider field of SET. It is argued that the activists' ‘feel for the game’ incorporates a disposition towards reformism and ‘neutrality’ that relies in part on a dis-identification with feminism. It is therefore concluded that in addition to other factors such as the wider shift in gender politics and the role of personal experience, the status of feminism within particular social fields may be connected to the structures of these spaces and the relative compatibility of resultant dispositions with a feminist identification. The ‘reformist habitus’ of Women in SET activists, which is directly connected to the constraints under which they work, is posited as a contributing factor to the lack of progress made on Women in SET issues since the 1970s.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: The article contributes a critical examination of policy and practical attempts made to tackle the relative lack of progress in improving women's participation in science, engineering and technology. It is innovative insofar as it links activist practices to scientific identities using the concept of habitus.
Schools and Departments: School of Law, Politics and Sociology > Sociology
Depositing User: Alison Phipps
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 20:47
Last Modified: 18 Jul 2012 09:28
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/28149
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