Can a Person Consent to Gender and Gender Roles ?
I’m going to start by just stating my conclusion, a person can neither make a “feminist choice to do gender” or make a “feminist choice to not do gender” because feminine gender is oppression, therefore “choice” is not a factor. A woman doing feminine gender is not a “choice” for a feminist to approve of or disapprove of, it is a state of oppression and exploitation for feminists to disapprove of, but there is no “choice” here for feminists to approve of or disapprove of.
Supposedly gender roles are bad because they are imposed without people, and babies’ and children’s consent. Supposedly gender is bad when it happens without “consent” but when it is “freely chosen” and is a “choice”
, it can even be a “feminist choice”. But supposedly when it is consciously chosen, then it can be feminism and a “good feminist choice.” But I don’t think that it can be any sort of choice, feminist or unfeminist.
Gender roles =bad, but gender roles + consent = good (a feminist choice, choice makes even bad things good)
Gender =bad, but gender + consent= good (a feminist choice, choice makes all things good)
Did I get that right ? The idea is that when gender is a freely chosen and a “choice” it is good or bad. As you can see “consent” and “choice” is the magical fairy dust that apparently makes things that would otherwise be bad OK. (This is the same reasoning applied to BDSM by the way, what would be considered abuse and oppression on its own (mind you that the victim should never be blamed) when combined with “consent” is suddenly all good).
If gender is a hierarchy though, can one consent to being on the bottom of the hierarchy ? Is it ever a “choice” that one can consent to to be an underdog ? Is there ever an option to make a better “choice” and not be oppressed ? Can one get out of feminine gender oppression via a “choice” ?
In a hierarchy feelings are not a good guide to truth (in fact they can be exactly the opposite). If you believe that gender is a hierarchy (often imposed through sexual abuse and rape), and you know that hierarchies, instituted by violence warp people’s feelings (people are beaten down into a state of such complete submission and terror) so much that “consent” and “choice” become meaningless for the underdogs, then how can women or anyone consent to gender ? How can women consent to femininity, “womanhood” or feminine gender roles ?
There is no such a thing as a “choice” to either do or not do gender roles for women. It’s not a “less feminist choice” to do gender roles or a “more feminist choice” to not do feminine gender roles, because feminism is not about women’s “choice”. There is no such thing as “the more feminist choice” or “the feminist choice” because feminism has no concept of “choice.” It’s literally as if there is no word in the language for “choice” so we could all do well to get rid of this word from our vocabulary.
Also when talking about oppression and exploitation, we cannot talk about “choice” on the part of the victim, there cannot be a “more feminist choice” or a “less feminist choice.” The victim cannot just “choose” to stop the oppression or exploitation, and they cannot be said to be making a “choice” to be exploited or oppressed. There is no “feminist choice” here or “lack of feminist choice” for people to either approve of or disapprove of. Yes there is oppression to disapprove of, but there is no “choice” on the part of the victim for people to either approve of or disapprove of.
I don’t think that we can ever put the responsibility for the hierarchy with the underdog or the “choice” to be an underdog with the underdog. Perhaps we can put the responsibility and “choice” to do the hierarchy with the oppressor if they created the hierarchy by doing violence.
Now certain “feminists” would argue that “choice” does not make everything bad OK, but instead of making the “wrong choice” to do gender roles, you should make the “right choice” to not do gender roles. Unfortunately the problem to certain “feminists” is that one needs to make the “right feminist choices”. One even has the responsibility to make the “right feminist choice.” (However this loses sight of oppression that is gender, and that fact that in oppression yes it is bad, but there is no such thing as “choice” on the part of the victim. It’s also worth remembering that when there is oppression, talking about “choice” denies and thus reinforces the hierarchy and reinforces the oppression, making it more difficult for people to get out of).
The women who do the “wrong choice” to do submission and submissive gender roles, are making the bad “unfeminist choice” in this paradigm and viewpoint. I would say that doing feminine gender or gender roles and submission is really capitulation to oppression. It’s not a choice.
There is no such thing as a feminist “choice” even the “choice” to do or not do gender because “choice” is not a factor in feminism. Feminism critiques (and rightly so) political structures not women’s “choices.” If feminism notices oppression, the response is not to critique women for making the “unfeminist choices” and allowing themselves to be oppressed. The feminist response is not to suggest to them a “more feminist response” or a “more feminist choice.” The feminist response is to critique and try to dismantle the power structures creating the oppression.
If women seem to be “making a choice” that is hurting them, feminism would acknowledge the damage, and the oppression and harms but seek to change political structures that are creating this “choice.” Feminism would try to remove the oppression that is causing this damage to women, rather than advising women to “make a more feminist choice.” Feminist does not deal in “choices.”
Now you may remember my other post on how feminist choices do not exist because feminism negates the concept of women’s “choice” and makes any discussion of women’s “choice” whether it is an “all choices are feminist” discussion or a “not every choice is a feminist choice” discussion a meaningless and a nonsense discussion. Under feminism “choice” does not exist. There is no such thing as either a “feminist choice” or a “non feminist choice” because “choice” as a phenomenon does not exist in feminism.
To make oppression into women’s “choice” is to attack women which does not make the problem of oppression better. It in fact makes the problem of oppression worse.
This does not mean that under feminism, anything goes and everything is “all good.” Under feminism oppression and exploitation of women is certainly highlighted and disapproved of, one can acknowledge that women are oppressed and exploited without making the oppression and exploitation into their choice or personal responsibility. The oppression is bad and we can disapprove of that, but that does not mean disapproving of the women who are being oppressed. Disapproving of women’s oppression does not mean disapproving of women’s “choices”. The critique is of women’s situation and state of oppression rather than of women ourselves.
Feminism also makes women’s “consent” under patriarchy into a pretty much meaningless and nonsense discussion. If you subscribe to a feminism that either approves of or disapproves of women’s “choices” that’s not feminism. Feminism is not about either approving of all women’s “choices” or critiquing women’s “choices” for being lacking because feminism does not have women making free “choices”. Feminism is there and needed because women’s choices are not free, and women don’t have much of a “choice” if any “choice” at all. When feminism does not approve of something (such as via gender and gender roles) that is happening to women or sees exploitation or oppression happening to women , it does not promote the idea that this exploitation or oppression can be solved by women making “more feminist choices.” Feminism would seek to remove the oppression or the factors driving exploitation, rather than approving or disapproving of women’s “choices”. In the case of gender roles and gender, feminist would seek to remove the oppression and the factors driving gender and gender roles, rather that critiquing (or approving of) individual women’s “choices” to do or not to do feminine gender.
If you subscribe to a viewpoint that thinks that women’s “consent” is a real “thing” a real phenomenon that exists under patriarchy, that is not feminism. If women were free to chose and consent to gender roles or to not do gender roles why would we even need feminism ? Talking about women’s “consent” and women’s “choices” under patriarchy (not to mention capitalism) is a nonsense discussion. Not critiquing women for our “choices” does not mean abdicating critiquing oppression in society and the oppression and exploitation of women. It does not mean that, “every choice is a feminist choice” because feminism is not about “choice.” “Choice” does not even exist. Feminism is needed because women are oppressed (with gender and gender roles).
In closing let me add that consent is also not a socialist or marxist concept. Consent hinges on “choice” and it hinges on the individual self. “Choice” is also an individualistic concept and idea. It’s not a collective idea. “Choice” is about self help, feminism is not about self help or about people individually making better choices. “Choice” and “choosing better” is literally the anti thesis of feminism.