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what is gender essentialism

In feminist theory and gender studies, gender essentialism is the attribution of a fixed essence to women.[1] Women’s essence is assumed to be universal and is generally identified with those characteristics viewed as being specifically feminine.[1] These ideas of femininity are usually biologized are often preoccupied with psychological characteristics, such as nurturance, empathy, support, non-competitiveness, etc.[1] Feminist theorist Elizabeth Grosz states in her 1995 publication, Space, time and perversion: essays on the politics of bodies, that essentialism "entails the belief that those characteristics defined as women’s essence are shared in common by all women at all times. It implies a limit of the variations and possibilities of change—it is not possible for a subject to act in a manner contrary to her essence. Her essence underlies all the apparent variations differentiating women from each other. Essentialism thus refers to the existence of fixed characteristic, given attributes, and ahistorical functions that limit the possibilities of change and thus of social reorganization

biologism is a particular form of essentialism that defines women’s essence in terms of biological capacities.[1] This form of essentialism is based on a form of reductionism, meaning that social and cultural factors are the effects of biological causes.[1] Biological reductivism “claim[s] that anatomical and physiological differences—especially reproductive differences—characteristic of human males and females determine both the meaning of masculinity and femininity and the appropriately different positions of men and women in society”.[2] Biologism uses the functions of reproduction, nurturance, neurology, neurophysiology, and endocrinology to limit women’s social and psychological possibilities according to biologically established limits

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