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For instance.

Gender Identity is defined as what a person believes they are.

Gender Roles is defined as what society constitutes as being a specific gender.

With the latest boom in Gender Identity laws it has made me think of how ethical these types of laws are? If Gender Roles are defined by the collective thought of the society then what right does an individual have to force a person to bend to their notion of gender? The question being are these laws ethical that subvert the will of the majority to please the individual thus mandating kindness in exchange for values and beliefs?

Link to example law - http://www.parl.ca/DocumentViewer/en/42-1/bill/C-16/royal-assent And the politics Exchange answer regarding the law - https://politics.stackexchange.com/a/20116/14452 which points out that blatant discrimination is not just the only issue

I've edited the title from being about gender identity because I believe this is a general thought and not based around any one type so though the question remains primarily about Gender Identity it can be hosted to a number of things. If a law were crafted that made misrepresenting someones religion illegal this would also fall into this category.

I am okay with any evaluation of the field, but would be interested in Kierkegaard or Nietzsche-in perspective

  • There may be hundreds of positions on that matter out there. It would be helpful to narrow the question down to a specifical philosophical network. As it stands, it is too broad to answer objectively. – Philip Klöcking Jun 29 '17 at 15:04
  • @PhilipKlöcking I would be fine with multiple answers from different viewpoints. I think it's rare for such a thought to have only one answer. – SCFi Jun 29 '17 at 16:42
  • @jobermark that is the notion of Gender-Roles which constitute what a society identifies behaviors as. These are subverted by such laws forcing you the majority to subvert their own thought in favor of individualism. This can without a doubt cause discontent and anxiety in the masses can it not? – SCFi Jun 29 '17 at 21:22
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    Sorry, I do not follow on "If Gender Roles are defined by the collective thought of the society then what right does an individual have to force a person to bend to their notion of gender?" The linked thread is about passing a law, which is a collective action by society expressing its "collective thought". So this is not about individuals forcing anything, but rather about society redefining its notion of gender and then forcing everyone to conform to the new one. – Conifold Jun 29 '17 at 22:40
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    To me the premise of the question (that "individuals" are responsible) is very questionable. You also seem to treat individual beliefs and societal expectations as if the latter were set in stone and insulated from the former. But the latter merely sum total the former and laws are vehicles for changing both. So the question I see is when it is ethical for a society to prescribe how its members should behave concerning the gender of others (or other characteristics), and whether the recent laws pass the ethical muster (minus the "individuals" and malleable "societal expectations"). – Conifold Jun 29 '17 at 23:46
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Gender 'roles' in the sense you are defining them exist only because gender roles in a more legitimate sociological definition have always existed. We label men and women and become attached to those labels, because we have traditionally expected very different things from them. When we had compulsory conscription and the working women always got fired first, because they always had a fallback role, this really, really mattered. It no longer does.

Since the male role has been extended to everyone now -- women can be soldiers, etc. we no longer have such expectations. So it is not longer really important how we are labeled by the culture.

If it happens to be extremely important to some individuals, there is no longer a pressing public interest in insisting on the label, because it is not the basis for any important public expectations, like going to war, or raising children. It is not clear that this is going to be the case indefinitely, but right now, gender roles mean almost nothing. The expectations of men and women are the same.

Social norms shift. There is not currently a real consensus on what proper gender roles are in our society, so attempts by individuals to press their own chosen definitions of them are out of line with the majority position -- which is that there is not a consensus. When there is not a consensus, choosing to enforce traditional roles because they are traditional is not effecting the will of the majority. It is distorting perception.

In the U.S. at least, when there is no pressing public reason to resist internal promptings, and those are genuine, we defend them. The combination of the 1st amendment and the existence of Pennsylvania means that we have forever agreed to not infringe on religion, and one of those religions, from very early on, has been Quakerism, which has no credal elements and simply acknowledges "leadings of conscience."

There are standards for what the court will take seriously, but for instance vegans do not have to dissect frogs in public schools. This is not a religious idea, but it is seen as an infringement of religion to force someone to violate it. A good part of the LGBT community holds the identification of one's own gender identity to be the same kind of insistence, and a majority of the public in general does not report strongly disagreeing, when actually asked.

History is not an ethical argument, but it has come to have an ethical stance behind it. We have decided to defend quirky individuals when they go well out of their way to hold strongly onto a belief, they are not alone in that belief, and they appear to be genuine in their attachment to it.


Both of the authors you would like answers from the positions of had immense disdain for majority opinions as a way of deciding things. Neither of them approved of majority rule to begin with. Nietzsche considered it a disease of the herd mentality, and Kierkegaard considered democratic opinion the worst form of tyranny.

So the government enforcement of majority norms would disgust them both.

  • That's not what the question is about. And your definition would be equivalent of saying because a society is composed of individuals and individuals may have conflicting thoughts that no form of societal ethics exist – SCFi Jun 29 '17 at 22:10
  • No. That is a complete misunderstanding. There are things we have consensus on. This is just not one of them. By what logic do you convert what I said into what you claim I said? There isn't any... If no social norms existed, they could not shift!! – user9166 Jun 29 '17 at 22:12
  • "There is not currently a real consensus" So it's a meaningless term as it has no hard definition? "attempt to enforce are out of line with the majority position" And society does not acknowledge them. As it is a societal concept it is as akin to saying that it does not exist? I fail to see where I am misrepresenting. Also Kierkegaard believed in societal ethics just not democratic christianity that God was the sole metaethic/Religous ruler and that those metaethics trumped societal ethics on the road to being a knight of faith – SCFi Jun 29 '17 at 22:17
  • No, it is in the state of changing and does not have a majority position. We are, as a society re-evaluating gender, and a minority don't approve of the fact that means things are ambiguous. – user9166 Jun 29 '17 at 22:19
  • I didn't say otherwise. But government enforcement of majority norms, just because they were majority norms, and not because they were based in something deeper would in fact still disgust him. You are making up a lot I never said. – user9166 Jun 29 '17 at 22:24

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