chapter  18
13 Pages

Essence of culture and a sense of history: a feminist critique of cultural essentialism

In recent decades, feminists have stressed the need to think about issues of gender

in conjunction with, and not in isolation from, issues of class, race, ethnicity, and

sexual orientation, and have forcefully illustrated that differences among women

must be understood and theorized in order to avoid essentialist generalizations

about “women’s problems” (Anzaldúa 1987; hooks 1981; Lugones and Spelman

1983). The feminist critique of gender essentialism does not merely charge that

essentialist claims about “women” are overgeneralizations, but points out that these

generalizations are hegemonic in that they represent the problems of privileged

women (most often white, Western, middle-class, heterosexual women) as

paradigmatic “women’s issues.” . . .