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Sociology - Essentialism - Essay Example

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Sociology - Essentialism

Grosz's definition or understanding of feminism emerges from within her understanding of essentialism and its correlation to gender.
Equality feminism is somewhat at odds with the essentialist representations of the female gender. As Genovese (1996) explains, this feminist ideology highlights the similarities between men and women, irrespective of biological differences, and argues gender equality on the basis of the similarities. This stance may be interpreted as a negation of essentialism, insofar as it only concedes to biological differences but does not acknowledge the inherent importance of social and cognitive essentialism.
In direct comparison to equality feminism, feminism of difference emphasizes the differences between the genders. As Ebert (1993) explains, difference feminism argues that the sexes are fundamentally different but that differences, whether cognitive or social, do not negate the equality of the sexes, or make one more equal than the other. This feminist ideology is reflective of essentialism.
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Its weakness is rooted in its assumption that equality is only applicable to those, or that, which are alike. Difference feminism, on the other hand, draws its strength from its recognition of essentialism and its understanding of the fact that equality does not have to be founded on similarity. The sexes are different but differences do not undermine equality.

Ebert, T.L. (1993) Ludic feminism, the body, performance, and labor: Bringing "Materialism" back into feminist cultural studies. Cultural Critique, 23, 5-50.
Genovese, A. (1996) Unravelling identities: Performance and criticism in Australian feminisms. Feminist Review, 52, 135-153.
Grosz, E. (1994) Sexual difference and the problem of essentialism. in The Essential Difference. Indianapolis: Indiana UP.

Paradoxically, Foucault, the author of several philosophical treatise on prisons and the penal system, was a firm believer in human liberty and the inherent right to freedom. While acknowledging that a select few possessed the power to limit the freedom of others, he perceived of limitations as temporary. Certainly, some had more power than others but, ultimately all had power given that its primary source was knowledge. Indeed, as Flyvbjerg (1998) explains, Foucault perceived of power as a multi-faceted, multi-dimensional, dynamic phenomenon which, to all intents and purposes, belonged to no one and everyone. This essay will explore this notion in greater depth through the use of illustrative examples.
Knowledge is power and as a direct consequence of the correlation between the two, power is as fleeting as knowledge dynamic. As Fox (1998) argues, knowledge is, by its very nature, dynamic, mercurial and expansive. This means that not only is it constantly changing but it ...Show more


Essentialism is inextricably linked to Grosz's particular brand of feminism. Indeed, one may even posit the claim that her feminist philosophy derives from her definition of the feminine essence. This is amply evidenced in the following quote,
Women's essence is assumed to be given and universal and is usually, though not necessarily, identified with women's "biology" and "natural characteristics." There are cases in which women's essence is seen to reside not in nature or biology but in certain given psychological characteristics-nurturance, empathy, supportiveness, non-competitiveness (Grosz, 1994, p…
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Sociology - Essentialism essay example
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