Factors defining our unique standpoint include viewpoint, perspective, outlook, and position. Our locations within society shape the way in which we understand and communicate with ourselves and the world around us. Our worldview is a direct result of our individual standpoint. Inequalities found in gender, race, class, and sexual orientation contribute to the differences found in social hierarchy. Emphasis on the relationship between power and knowledge is crucial in defining the terms the standpoint theory sets forth. Perspectives of the less powerful provide a more objective view than the perspectives of the more powerful in society. The more authority an individual possesses, the more power they have when implementing their viewpoints on the world. Without power, one does not have a voice and a silenced individual has little say regarding policy. These forces are all contributors to the way people communicate in our world.
So when I post or reblog posts where race is an important issue, I want my racial standpoint as a white person with white privilege to be clear to readers/followers. It’s more honest bc it lets ppl know that I cannot relate to what I’m sharing and am not claiming it to be my own experience. And as a white person whose culture is notorious for colonization and cultural appropriation, I do not want to make it seem like I’m claiming experiences or anything else that are not my own.
Standpoint theory is a philosophy that comes out of feminist epistemology, or rather the study of the ways in which gender influences our conceptions of knowledge, the knowing subject, inquiry, and justification. This theory aims to identify ways in which dominant conceptions of knowledge systematically disadvantage marginalized groups. It strives to reform these practices so that they serve the interests of these groups instead of oppress them. Various feminist epistemologists have argued that dominant knowledge practices disadvantage women by excluding them from inquiry, denying them epistemic authority, disparaging their cognitive styles, producing theories of social phenomena that represent certain genders as inferior, and producing technologies that reinforce gender-based social hierarchies. Feminist epistemologists trace these failures to flawed conceptions of knowledge, objectivity, and scientific methodology.
Christopher Nolan, with his 2014 cinematic masterpiece “Interstellar,” offers an account of what overcoming these epistemic failures might look like. Not only does Nolan take aim at the stars, but he also takes aim at advocating for the entry of female scholars into different academic disciplines, especially in the sciences.
The film opens with a narrative from Murphy Cooper, the female theoretical astrophysicist named after Murphy’s Law, which is interpreted here as “whatever can happen, will happen.” Murph, as she’s nicknamed, is the scientist who solves the equation for interstellar travel (and thus saves humanity) by following her intuition and believing in a ghost she feels to be real. In the beginning of the movie, she says that “science is about admitting what we don’t know.” Although she doesn’t know for sure if the ghost exists, Murph follows her intuition, which is what ultimately grants her the scientific knowledge required for saving the entire human race. The greatest scientific advancement in human history comes through this feminine intuition, and Nolan provides another similar example of this as well.
The film closes with a scene of Dr. Amelia Brand, a female biologist, as the first inhabitant of humanity’s new home, a new Earth. Dr. Brand had left Earth following her heart, as she knew the mission would bring her into close proximity of a planet that her former lover was last known to be on. During a debate amongst the crew regarding the decision of which planet is most feasible for them to reach, Brand defends her reasoning to visit her lover’s with the assertion that “love is the one thing we’re capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space. Maybe we should trust that even if we can’t understand it yet.” Ultimately, Brand’s planet of choice is the planet that ends up being the new home for the human race, and the planet that Brand arrives to as a lone pioneer, as the mother-figure and founder of a new, and assuringly more advanced, civilization. Brand was in the right all along, based on her perception of love.
The juxtapositions to these feminine standpoints are those of Dr. Mann (fittingly named) and Professor Brand, Amelia’s father. Dr. Mann ends up being the cowardly main antagonist of the storyline, trying to sabotage the mission of saving humanity in an attempt to preserve his own life. Professor Brand ends up being the greatest liar humanity has ever known, deceiving the masses with the false promise that he would be able to save them. Nolan depicts these masculine characters as immoral with narrow-sighted selfish interests. The women, with their altruism and honesty, are the outstanding heroes here.
With “Interstellar,” Nolan has generated new questions in showing how feminist values can play a causal role in scientific transformations. Nolan promotes a standpoint theory that supports egalitarian and liberating social movements. More importantly, he defends these feminist developments as cognitive, and not just social, advances.
The central concept of feminist epistemology is that of a situated knower and of situated knowledge, a knowledge that reflects the particular perspective of the knower. Perhaps the greater situated knower in “Interstellar” is the collective human species, having the situated knowledge of our helpless existence in the universe. If only the perspective of greater humanity was to love, then perhaps the indifference of the universe wouldn’t be as frightening. Perhaps Nolan’s critique is that humanity is too masculine, as he depicts our attempts at dominating and manipulating nature as only destructive and detrimental to our own well-being in the long run. Maybe Nolan suggests that if humanity could be more loving, then we could have a grounding that no force in the universe could take away…
The “Interstellar” Standpoint Theory: In loving each other, we are at home in the universe.
in fact, the irony doesn’t escape me that despite white women claiming to have adopted intersectionality & champion multi-issue struggles
they will still throw their weight behind someone whose legacy, in the popular imagination, for all intents & purposes, is single issue
not to mention if R.B.G really was bout that life
she’d know that police brutality & mass incarceration are reproductive justice issues
whether it’s talking about BW & femmes being afraid to have kids that will get shot + sterilization in women’s prisons + lack of feminist health care centers in poor black & brown neighborhoods that, you guessed it, are criminalized & policed more
it’s all connected
but welcome to the failures of appropriated intersectionality for shallow white feminist standpoint theory