Essentialism is the belief that a single essence is the only thing really necessary for a subject to define itself; all that matters is what remains after the subject in question is reduced to a single generalization or defining quality. This generalization creates a common thread for liberation because it represents a point of solidarity that (in the context of our course) everyone can relate to. It is the basis for establishing a voice for a group of people. There are four different types of essentialism: strong essentialism, weak essentialism, historicist essentialism, and strategic essentialism.
Strong essentialism is the acceptance of the generalization that appears to be "natural." For instance, according to Nardarl, when women fail to be the social workers that she suggests they should be, they are unnatural and therefore do not fit in to the strong essentialist way of life.
Weak essentialism is the embracement of whichever generalization allows for the subject to be "at their best." It suggests optimal subjectivity because it allows room for variance within the generalization.
Historicist essentialism is an essentialist point of view that is for a specific period in history. It is not an internal truth, it is there for a specific historical moment.
Strategic essentialism denies any claim of a concrete essence, but affirms essentialist characteristics for the sake of a strategy for liberation.
"The social is the aspect of life that interests woman first and foremost. Regarding social duty, she is man's equal. as an individual, she is also intelligent and free. But as a social being, her services are bound to humankind. Like man, she must contribute to the progress of humanity. But this service, owing to the physical and psychological differences that exist between man and woman, will be of a different kind, though not necessarily of lesser value because of its difference. In fulfilling this social obligation, she remains true to her feminine vocation." Pg. 21, Beyond Negritude: Essays from Women in the City.