Gender essentialism

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Gender essentialism is a form of gender fundamentalism centered around the mistaken premise that gender is an essential and immutable attribute of human beings. It generally proceeds to draw from this – typically combined with largely anecdotal observations about human behavior within the observer's culture – a number of conclusions about the nature of "femininity" and sometimes "masculinity".

These conclusions are in many ways deeply embedded in Western culture, due largely to their utility (from an authoritarian perspective) in controlling and limiting the range of culturally-acceptable actions and in maintaining a patriarchal system in which men have power over women.

Among these are the belief that there are exactly two genders (male and female), and that the condition of being male or female carries with it a certain number of immutable characteristics. Gender prescriptivism (a view held by many social conservatives) additionally holds that individuals have a social obligation to carry out cultural roles which have been assigned to their gender.


Gender essentialism is often used to justify a number of counterfactual political positions, including:


Gender essentialism is sometimes erroneously referred to as "biological essentialism", a related but distinct concept. Within the context of feminism it may be shortened to just "essentialism", although there are other types of essentialism.




  • 2017/07/17 [L..T] Transgender People and “Biological Sex” Myths “...sometimes, efforts to undermine or exclude trans women rely on a somewhat different tactic which takes the following form: A case will be made that sex is distinct from gender – the former being purely biological in nature, the latter being entirely social. Upon making this claim, it will then be argued that, while trans women may indeed be women (because “woman” is a gender category), we nevertheless remain “biologically male” (a sex category).”
  • 2017/06/27 [L..T] Debunking “Trans Women Are Not Women” Arguments “...since these trans-women-are-not-women claims recur on a regular basis (and are often forwarded by people who self-identify as feminists), I thought that it would be worthwhile to compile all my relevant counterarguments in one essay.”