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Please, immediately and totally note, that this question is not to debate the existence of sexism on SE properties. I would like to have that discussion but I do not feel I have the tools for it now for reasons I will describe. This question is extremely meta for this reason.

On the bright side, every SE in which such questions come up seems to have a firm grasp of sexual harassment at the level that would be received by the law or by an HR department. I'm more concerned with forms of sexism that have only been modernly identified: "subtle", "systemic", "microaggressions", "unconscious bias", etc. I am more concerned with sexism in content (e.g. advice to women) but rarely direct disrespect to users of any identity. These forms of sexism are not safe to discuss openly. They are quite contentious to discuss openly. There is a time for open debate on these topics but it is not even possible to do that constructively if relatively like-minded people on these topics cannot congregate and get on the same page on their own theory and opinions. But, in my personal opinion, these forms of sexism are very rampant, especially in "soft" SEs, and there simply is not the tool or platform for the segment of users who would like to constructively challenge these trends to even try to do anything about it.

Another way of framing this is that at present I have a hypothesis or theory that an SE-style open discussion with a democratic structure is not sufficient alone to solve or prevent systemic sexism or other forms of bias. Were this theory to be correct, it would of course be impossible to address this through the community at large since its own platform is the same platform as for the smaller communities in question. So if the theory is wrong there is nothing to discuss, and if the theory is right there is no place to discuss it. So, naturally I've considered raising this issue on the metas of the communities in question, but I have a rather strong feeling there is a critical mass of bias in the communities themselves to even humor the topic. (And this question is obviously a concerted attempt to break that theorem in the most modest way possible. We will see how it goes.)

What I would like to ask is:

  • Is the company interested in exploring these questions, and if so may I be included in that discussion, or even just receive a quick status update on what is in the works?
  • Is there any mechanism, like an existing chat room, that has the attention of pulling in likeminded people to consider this problem, rather than open up a debate or vote to the respective SE communities as a whole? (This is a counterintuitive concept but there is time for fully open discussion and time for relatively focused discussion in which participants agree they share some common opinions for which dispute is off-topic... of course sites like e.g. Christianity.SE utilize this principle heavily.)
  • Do I have the tools, short of an area51, to initiate such a task force myself? (And heck, an area51 might be on track, it does sound like a long shot to me though.)

I really would like to get into specifics on this topic but I have a strong sense specific questions here and there would basically be shot down, to varying degrees depending on the community. So this question may seem peculiar but if the two bullets above yield decent answers it would be very helpful for me.

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    Raising the topic in chat has already been attempted. Twice. It didn't exactly go well in either case. – John Dvorak Mar 14 '17 at 6:44
  • Basically, try to never give an edge to other users allowing them to dismiss your post as a rant or "not-a-real-problem". – Νеvеrꭑoꭇе Mar 14 '17 at 9:03
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    Forgive me if I'm wrong, and feel free to clarify, but I get the impression you want to discuss among like-minded people. But ultimately somehow arrive at something that can be seen as a community consensus. Aren't those two mutually exclusive? – Bart Mar 14 '17 at 14:16
  • @Bart step 1 and step 2 basically. e.g. a "task force." Also curious about company response... a lot of major tech companies are really vigilant about these things and I haven't seen any material from the company on this. – djechlin Mar 14 '17 at 14:29
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    If you were to ask your actual questions without the long opinionated ramble that some will see as a rant, you'd probably get better results. – Monica Cellio Mar 14 '17 at 15:00
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    The idea of a task force sounds... contrary to how moderation's happened here. Also, you need to keep in mind not everyone in the site has the political background you do. I don't entirely get what the main post is about at all. – Journeyman Geek Mar 14 '17 at 15:16
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    It seems to me that the best way to approach this is to first ascertain what the problem is, exactly, before proceeding to discus possible solutions. To quote Sarek: "it is difficult to answer if one does not know the question". You seem unwilling to discus the problem, and only want to discus solutions? This seems rather curious... – Martin Tournoij Mar 14 '17 at 15:25
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    Howdy! I know you say that you don't want to get into specifics but specifics would really help us understand what you're talking about. I'm a lady... I moderate a "soft" site... outside of everyone calling me "sir" or referring to me as male, I don't really get the sexism vibe that seems to be running rampant across the sites... So, I would really appreciate those examples as the only ones I'm aware of are excluded by your dictate of "not talking about gender pronouns". – Catija Mar 14 '17 at 15:31
  • What would the discussion with like-minded people do that's helpful? – Tim Mar 14 '17 at 23:23
18

This is a weird discussion.

  • You're theorizing that there's a problem which cannot be effectively discussed here.
  • You're further theorizing that if it can be effectively discussed here, it isn't a problem.
  • You propose to resolve this paradox by discussing the problem in a venue which is distinguished by virtue of being distinctly unlike this venue.

In short, you're asking if you can ask, with the additional wrinkle of asking if you can ask somewhere else, and ask people who are not or cannot be here.

I... Don't think anyone here can accurately answer that question; any answer here is guaranteed to violate one of your premises. If anyone knows the sort of environment you're looking for, it would be you. If anyone knows whether a given venue will meet your needs, that would also be you.

You have the ability to create a chatroom (of which you would be the sole owner and gatekeeper, able to invite or exclude others at will); if you think such a venue might be appropriate, then you could test that theory. I doubt anyone else could test it for you without significantly more information than what you've provided here.

(My apologies if I've mischaracterized this in some way; it's early, I'm lacking sleep, and haven't had nearly enough coffee for this level of meta)

  • The "here" in your bullet 2 is different than in bullet 1. The question is if I'm missing another venue that isn't in the first "here". I'm also asking if the company has taken interest in the question (and so far has not talked about publicly to my knowledge). – djechlin Mar 15 '17 at 5:23
  • So... I've worked in companies that take the issue of sexism (and other discriminations) very seriously, to the extent that they just assume it's always happening ("unconscious bias") and they promote a culture of constant vigilance pulling us toward fair treatment. I have no idea what SO's internal culture is like and I really hope it's pretty progressive with these topics. But the properties have some serious problems and I really strongly urge the company treat that like it's real and serious. – djechlin Mar 15 '17 at 5:33
  • Evidently others do not. It's not a great sign I have to take 20 downvotes just to raise the question in the usual support channel though (and I don't plausibly see that explained by a clarity issue or so forth.) – djechlin Mar 15 '17 at 5:35
  • Those 20 downvotes are not necessarily "we don't care". I for one am tempted to downvote (but have not yet done so) because your post is rather unclear, and if I understand it correctly, imho somewhat pointless in its approach to perceived issues. But in general, there is a strong "be nice" policy, and from passing contact over the years with community members, elected moderators and employees alike, I do get a sense that at all levels people are indeed vigilant and concerned when it comes to these issues. tl;dr Don't take the downvotes as "See, they don't care". – Bart Mar 15 '17 at 11:13
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    I don't know what your question is, so I can't tell you if Stack Overflow (the company) has taken interest in it, @djechlin. If you mean "sexism" as a broad topic, sure; you can find where we've written about it publicly though, so you don't need me to answer that. Your question is downvoted because a cursory reading suggests you came to meta to tell the folks on meta that you couldn't discuss something with them (the people who visit meta) - regardless of topic, that's rude and belittling; you've been around long enough to have known this already, so I wonder why you did it? – Shog9 Mar 15 '17 at 18:26
  • Do you want me to start a post on gender biases existing in SO and other properties and what can be done about that? How much respect do you seriously think I would get for that? – djechlin Mar 15 '17 at 21:36
  • One specific is that the harshness toward new users on SO is men hazing men, who are more likely to react "this is a game, I better try again" than women who react "I am not welcome here, I should leave." How well do you think raising that topic will go? I'll be raising it to mostly men, who mostly are guilty of perpetuating this, and who are mostly skeptical that gender bias can be anything besides overt sexism. The only question remaining to me is basically whether the company is concerned by this. – djechlin Mar 15 '17 at 21:39
  • Did I stress enough that I am not interested in explaining to a bunch of men that sexism exists and is institutional? Like I could not be less interested in letting SO users upvote or downvote whether they agree with that based on how it makes them feel. I cannot stress this enough. I'm not trying to convert the opinion of hundreds of people in three paragraphs of evidence. – djechlin Mar 15 '17 at 21:42
  • Here is a bunch of men explaining to a woman that she's not a victim of sexism on academia (with a nice defense of stop-and-frisk thrown in) academia.stackexchange.com/q/80561/18072 – djechlin Mar 15 '17 at 21:44
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    I have no idea, @djechlin. In general, folks do better when they're able to focus on a specific problem and make a clear, compelling case for it - tell a good story, back it up with data. Whether or not you can do that, I can't say; there's actually been a bit of research on this (for example) - if you poke around a bit, you might be able to write something good. [edit: yeah, you wrote 3 other comments while I was writing that; pretend it's a reply to the first of the last four] – Shog9 Mar 15 '17 at 21:45
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    I've been trying to think of how to reply to your other comments, and... I kinda feel like this could easily turn into an all-day thing; comments don't work all that well for resolving complicated misunderstandings, and I definitely feel that I'm misunderstanding you in some fashion. If you'd like to join me in chat, happy to hash it out there @djechlin. – Shog9 Mar 15 '17 at 21:54
7

Yes, those questions would most likely be shut down immediately. An example of how the Stack Overflow community reacts to the enforcement of "gender-neutral usage of pronouns" is this thread on mSO.

Various community members have shown how they think about that topic in general in that thread, either by answering, commenting, or voting, and the consensus seems to be "I don't care, don't force me to care.", which - imho - is perfectly fine.

Also, as Jan Dvorak already stated in his comment, there have been a few attempts at bringing this topic up in various chatrooms. What followed was a heated discussion that always up with someone (room owner / moderator) having to step in. Openly discussing this topic in a public, pre-existing and widely visited chatroom is probably the worst way of approaching this.

Regarding your - three - questions:

  • 1) I cannot answer that.
  • 2) To my knowledge, no. You could open up a chatroom, and invite others to discuss this topic, but please keep in mind that these chatrooms are public. You can stop users from entering & participating, but everyone will be able to read the transcript. Also, please note that a discussion in such chatroom won't lead to a "community-consensus", you'll still have to go through meta with it.
  • 3) Same as the answer to your 2nd question, create a chatroom & start it. Area51 wouldn't work I think, the proposal would most likely be rejected.

My personal opinion on this whole topic:

I personally couldn't care less if the author of a question, answer, comment or whatever is female, male or trans, if the author comes from norway, alaska, india or turkey, or if the author is a 100k+ user or a 1-rep-user.

I do not care.

I do not discriminate users, neither consciously not sub-consciously, based on anything. I am here to give help to those who need it, and receive help whenever I need it. I judge content based on itself, not based on wether the name of the author depicts the author as female or male. I also do not simplify my answer if the author is female.

Simply put, this is the internet. I've been here since I was 6 years old, and - funnily enough - I never gave anything about who the face behind the monitor was. All I care about are the actions taken here.

TL;DR: Sexism is a "real" problem, but enforcing the "proper, gender-neutral usage of pronouns" is being nit-picky, and it puts the focus on the wrong things. Real sexism? Do everything you can to stop it. "Gender-neutral pronouns"? Meh...

1

Disclaimer: Since the author of the question thinks my answer completely missed the point, and that I resemble a "hot troll", and also thinks calling me out for "dragging him into talking about gender pronouns" which he brought up first is fine, I feel obliged to post a new, updated answer. I will leave my old answer for reference.

Without further ado, here we go.

Regarding your three "core"-questions:

1.) I don't know if the company is, and I doubt that you'd be exclusively included. The most common way of handling this is - as far as I know - the "secret" preparation of a plan in step 1, and the discussion with the community in step 2.

2.) With other words, you want your own soap-box, containing only people that agree with you? I don't really see how that'd benefit anyone. What you could do is open up a chatroom, and set it to gallery-mode. That way, only users that have been granted permission can write in there, but anyone can read.

3.) You could utilize a 3rd party program/tool/whatever. Set up a discord, use github... it's the internet, the possibilities outside of Stack Exchange are basically endless. Inside the Stack Exchange network that'd be rather difficult though. First of all, an area 51 proposal takes quite a while. It's a long process of defining & shaping an initial propose to its final form. Also, there have been a few proposals for sites dealing with similar questions already. Those were rejected, although I don't know the individual reasons.


Now that I've answered your three core-questions as best as I can, I want to make a few things clear, and also point a few things out.

First of all, after you & your like-minded group have come to your own consensus, you'll still have to go through the meta-process of forging a community-consensus, and, to be frank, you really don't seem like someone who can deal particularly well with disagreement (as can be seen in the comments below my old answer).

Now, some of your statements made are simply not true. For example this one: "These forms of sexism are not safe to discuss openly". For sure they are. Noone will hurt you (physically) for discussing these openly. They are contentious, yes, but discussing them isn't contentious, in fact, discussing these topics is why we have meta.

To be honest, this whole thread seems like a "I know that the community disagrees, so I'll make it agree!!!"-type of post. If you have a theory, try to get proof for it, good, valid proof, i.e. for the "advice to women"-part that you've mentioned.

If you have proof it'll give this whole topic a fully new dimension, because right now many users are simply annoyed. This is the .SE-network, we focus on the topics we want to focus on here, and "nit-picky" people are nothing that I personally - or others, for that matter - find to be particularly enjoyable. As such, micro-issues like (don't get mad, just using it as an example) gender-pronouns or theoretical issues are not something you'll get nice responses on meta with.

However, if you have proof of the forms of sexism you've mentioned in your question taking place in multiple instances, that drastically changes the way the community will look at it.


TL;DR: Collection a lot of evidence of this taking place will do you best. Just discussing it with others who think like you, and then going to meta with it will basically have the same result as just going to meta with it from the start.

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    I don't see why this needed to be a second answer, instead of an edit to your previous answer. – Servy Mar 14 '17 at 15:30
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    Or, given that the referenced comments have been deleted, just delete your other answer and the preamble above this one. – Bart Mar 14 '17 at 16:04
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    I like having both answers. I think we need some record of OP's behavior, because it has bearing on his proposal, where he's asked to be personally involved. – Dan Bron Mar 14 '17 at 16:24
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    @DanBron i.stack.imgur.com/cvx2d.png – Tim Mar 14 '17 at 23:06
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    Yeah, I'm not reading this, it's personally rude to me, and you still see the bottom half of your answers as the appropriate time to rant off topic. – djechlin Mar 15 '17 at 5:26

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