What is Feminist Standpoint Theory?

The basic premise of feminist standpoint theory is that knowledge is socially situated, and marginalized groups are more aware of power relationships, and are able to critically ask questions and interpret discourses at a more insightful level, than non-marginalized groups (Kadi, 47). Standpoint theory then broadens over just discussion about situational feminism, and integrates within a broad range of social relations, including, but not limited to, socioeconomic disparities, methodological discussion, and political activism.

“Borrowing heavily from Marx, yet adapting her insights to her specifically feminist ends, Hartsock claims that it is women’s unique standpoint in society that provides the justification for the truth claims of feminism while also providing it with a method with which to analyze reality.” – Susan Heckman

This theory resonates with many because it addresses the ideological premise that equality can only express itself within a society when we address the exploitation that has led to the negative subjection of communities in the first place.

Thus, before addressing complex matters like bridging and sustaining equity, we must address how the marginalized view the word versus how the non-marginalized do.

For instance, historically exploited communities recognize that they are already two steps behind all those not marginalized, therefore the same opportunities either do not get presented to our communities, or we do not have the capabilities of obtaining the resources needed to participate in those opportunities.

“The practice of solidarity foregrounds communities of people who have chosen to work and fight together. Reflective solidarity is crafted by an interaction involving three persons: ‘I ask you to stand by me over and against a third.” – Chandra Mohanty

Feminist standpoint theory, as it should, allows us to analyze the discourse that certain communities are not able to engage in economic and social development because the plane they have started at does not equate to the plane that privileged groups start at.

This may be a bit confusing, so let me illustrate via an example; as a marginalized woman of colour, I can now recognize that I view an opportunity from the perspective of a marginalized woman, an Indian woman, and an immigrant woman whose community has been degraded, assimilated, and exploited.

My insight is different than that of a white woman’s, a brown man’s, and an Indigenous individual’s. My insight is my own.

This can even be understood with some simple math. The consistent marginalization and exploitation of my multi-minority identity have left me at negative two for instance, while someone not marginalized starts off at zero.

When you add an opportunity to that, say plus one, I go to negative one, and they go to plus one. I will always be two steps behind.

To then change that, we must acknowledge the difference between these planes. The difference between perspectives.


Joanna Kadi, “Stupidity Deconstructed”


2 thoughts on “What is Feminist Standpoint Theory?”

    1. Kanishka Sikri

      Agreed, it is an absolutely integral concept that is not popularly known! I think you will also enjoy the other feminist pieces, and there are definitely more like this to come 🙂

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