Despite its familiar caricature, feminist essentialism is not a unitary system of thought. Marshall (1994:104) maintains that three types of essentialist thinking can be identified, ‘each resting on different sorts of argument about how biological difference is transformed into subjective difference-biological essentialism,4 philosophical essentialism and historical reification.’ Biological essentialism is usually associated with the work of Shulamith Firestone, Mary Daly and Adrienne Rich. Philosophical essentialism is represented by the work of Simone de Beauvoir. Both groups of writers are identified as making influential contributions to theories of gender-differentiated subjectivity in which women’s sense of self is seen to be located in the particularity of the female body. The historical reification of women’s experience and the corresponding reification of ‘gender identity’ is most clearly stated in socialist feminist theory.5 Marshall (1994:107) maintains that ‘the historical reification and conflation of public/ private, production/reproduction, male/female, also characterises the bulk of Marxist feminist theory which focused on the gendered division of labour in capitalism as rooted in the exigencies of biological reproduction.’