The whole kerfluffle around pronouns centers around a singular premise. This premise was first asserted in the "Stack Overflow is Not Very Welcoming, it's Time for That to Change" blog post:

Too many people experience Stack Overflow as a hostile or elitist place, especially newer coders, women, people of color, and others in marginalized groups.

The only evidence that has been given that this is true is that (paraphrasing):

Some people have told us this is how they feel, and because everyone's feelings are valid, then it must be true.


I'm not going to re-litigate that here. And honestly, I think there's very little chance that anything I say here will effect any meaningful change at SE corporate, but I must try anyway, because I love this platform and its communities, and I see them being destroyed from the inside out over policies that I believe will not actually help the groups they are supposedly meant to help, and might actually hurt them.

I'm going to quote a passage from an interview with Bill Maher about political correctness, because he says it better than I ever could:

I grew up in a household with two liberal parents who were ahead of their time. My father and mother told me about civil rights. I knew what the right thing was. The difference is that liberals protect people, and P.C. people protect feelings. They don’t do anything. They’re pointing at other people who are somehow falling short of their standards, which could have changed three weeks ago. They’re constantly moving the goalposts so they can go, “Gotcha!”

When I was growing up, the most liberal thing you could do is not see color. Well, that’s wrong now. You see color, always, so you can register your white privilege. But I grew up in the Martin Luther King era: Judge by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. I still think that’s the best way to do it. Not see it.

If someone walks in the room, after a minute, I should not be thinking about color. And I am not. That’s how I have always been. I have actual black friends. I don’t think they want me to be always thinking: Black person. Black person. I’m talking to a black person.

The Stack Exchange platform works so well precisely because it has a philosophy of staying on topic. The way I used to moderate worked so well because I don't take sides. This is an international platform; you're never going to satisfy everyone's sensibilities.

But everyone can agree to form a community of professionals around a single area of subject matter, and the backgrounds of its participants should not matter at all. That's different than taking the position that we need to protect everyone's personal feelings, or that we must change the demographics of our sites because we don't like the numbers we get from our surveys.

Stack Exchange works so well precisely because, unlike forums and chat rooms, it focuses on that singular purpose. Dragging advocacy of political causes into the platform is fundamentally opposed to that purpose.

  • 52
    Wonderful post, and well said. I wholeheartedly agree. StackOverflow is a narrowly focused Q&A platform, not a platform for political or social change. I wholeheartedly support these causes, but I don't believe this is the correct venue for this battle to be fought. In a Q&A platform, it is totally irrelevant who is asking the question, or what background they have. The only thing that matters is that all the detail are in the question. It then doesn't matter who the OP is, the colour of their skin, their gender, etc. None of it matters, they will all have questions answered equally. Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 8:35
  • 38
    "I'm not going to re-litigate that here" I see what you did there... Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 10:55
  • 4
    @lightness: Not intentionally.
    – user102937
    Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 14:27
  • 5
    @RobertHarvey Shame - I'd have just taken credit anyway ;) Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 15:26
  • Do you disagree with the priority of the high level goal "we want all users to feel welcome" or is it the specific metric "we are failing because a significant number of our users replied they don't feel welcome" or is it something else?
    – Pace
    Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 23:31
  • 29
    @Pace: I believe that the way you make users of all persuasions welcome is to treat everyone equally, to be kind, considerate and respectful to everyone equally. You don't have to drag political causes into the platform to accomplish that.
    – user102937
    Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 14:43
  • 3
    Stack Exchange works so well...” - citation needed. Seems like it doesn’t work right now. Seems like it especially doesn’t work for people who are not cis straight white men. In fact, it seems like it affirmatively hurts many users who are not cis straight white men. Commented Oct 18, 2019 at 2:55
  • 16
    @ToddWilcox: Go to the front page and watch Stack Overflow work for awhile. Notice anything? Neither do I. If you hadn't visited Meta in the last month, you wouldn't know anything had changed at all. Stack Overflow keeps humming along quite nicely, despite all the drama that has occurred here. It is a testament to how resilient the platform has become.
    – user102937
    Commented Oct 18, 2019 at 2:57
  • 2
    Just because it works for you doesn’t mean it works for everyone. You might not think it should work for everyone. Many users and ownership appear to believe that it definitely should. Commented Oct 18, 2019 at 3:01
  • 13
    @ToddWilcox How does it hurt anyone who is not a cis straight white male? (genuine question) I varely largely don't even know the gender or race of anyone who I have answered questions for. If you are talking about pronoun usage, On SO, there is about .6% usage of gendered comments. - That's ~1/150. Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 14:36
  • I keep returning to this answer because of how spot-on Maher was, as well as your statement {...}and the backgrounds of its participants should not matter at all. That's different than taking the position that we need to protect everyone's personal feelings{...} You've identified the problem perfectly. Now, where we might or might not split: I'm confused as to how anyone can suggest solutions to this without sounding "insensitive" to the crowd that is content to witch hunt for such sentiment? Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 15:55
  • 12
    @tgm1024: You can't. There will always be someone who will be deeply offended that you challenged their (so obviously correct) view.
    – user102937
    Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 16:00
  • 1
    @RobertHarvey re "humming along quite nicely" --> I think it's the eye of a big storm. Between the license debacle, the diktat on question rep etc., and whatever floods in from meta if anything, how long before some cog breaks deep inside, and the whole machine blows up?
    – Mena
    Commented Nov 26, 2019 at 14:50
  • 2
    My answer made precisely that point. meta.stackoverflow.com/a/367075/8611102
    – TheAsh
    Commented Nov 27, 2019 at 9:40
  • 4
    Can we consider locking this post, please? We don't need another round of explanations as to why certain users should be exempt from using manners. Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 2:50

12 Answers 12


This was posted too late in the UTC day for anyone to have the votes this deserves, so here is +100.

The platform worked great for programming questions because it cut through the noise and clutter and kept people on subject. Nobody cares if you are a dog on the internet. Nobody even cares what text editor you use.¹ What matters is only what is relevant to answering the question. What language are you coding in? What framework(s) are you using? What does your input look like?

The platform worked great for religious and humanities questions because it cut through the noise and clutter and kept people on subject. We could leave the issue of who was apostate² out of the equation and answer questions inside a limited scope.

Using the platform to take a side on a political and cultural issue and forcing conformity to that side on moderators completely undermines the one thing this platform was great at.

¹ As long as you use vim.
² Christianity.SE vs. Survivor

  • 4
    Off-topic, but I'm impressed with your eloquence and successful track record of moderating a humanities-related SE site, and I tried visiting your website linked from your profile...is it down right now, or is it just me?
    – Wildcard
    Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 19:53
  • 1
    @Wildcard It's down because I had to migrate servers unexpectedly and haven't had time to rewire it. Personal projects get the last dredges of free time.
    – Caleb
    Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 20:13
  • 3
    The vi footnote is worthy of +10 by itself. Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 15:59
  • 8
    The keyword is forcing conformity. What the director of community has been doing.
    – James Wong
    Commented Nov 27, 2019 at 5:17

I have said it before many times, but it never hurts to repeat it:

Moderation, downvoting and close voting and feelings

Any kind of system with moderation based on quality will hurt people's feelings. You cannot moderate in a nice way. This is where the Welcoming policy failed. The problem was not generally in SO being a sexist and racist place, but being a moderated place.

When you receive a downvote, and when your question is closed it will always feel bad. When it feels bad, most of the time people will not try to see how they failed and what they did wrong. They will put the blame on others.

If you by any chance are part of some minority (or some other - fresh developers are most likely not a minority) group, it will often seem that the bad feedback you get is because you are part of that group and that you have been discriminated because of that.

Having said that, in communities this large there will always be incidences of really bad behavior. There is no way to avoid that. But what matters is that the Stack Exchange network has mechanisms that can deal with such things fast. This is what makes some communities at large sexist, racist, or unwelcoming on any other basis or not.

As a woman, I have never been treated badly on SO because I am a woman. I have never been treated badly on SO. Period.

The only offensive comments I got were from posters of poor questions when I was politely telling them their question should be improved or is off topic. I never cared much for those, because they don't represent the real community here.

  • 3
    You well know that I support your stance anyways ;-) Commented Oct 12, 2019 at 9:10
  • 11
    @πάνταῥεῖ This is perfect example how it is so easy to misunderstand other people, even when you know someone. If you jump right away and act on feelings you can get hurt for nothing. It is important to stay objective as much as possible, assume good intent and just ignore (and flag) random jerks on the Internet. Commented Oct 12, 2019 at 9:22
  • 3
    @πάνταῥεῖ Well, we don't have to have same views. It is fine if someone disagrees with you. That is not personal attack of any sort. Commented Oct 12, 2019 at 9:29
  • 47
    @HerMajestyQueenofARC It is not a personal attack. But there is one problem with the recent developments, and this problem hides under a shallow disguise of "inclusiveness" and "compassion": Every disagreement (e.g. regarding the pronouns) is either perceived or presented as a "personal attack". When someone tries to enter a discourse and states objective, factual reasons, e.g. for not using the singular they, being defamed as "disrespectful and transphobic" is basically inevitable. The aggressiveness and measures that are used to enforce this agenda are scary and appalling.
    – Marco13
    Commented Oct 12, 2019 at 12:25
  • 8
    @Marco13 Exactly. And now focus has been moved from having Q/A site and having civil discourse about particular problems regarding Q/A to how we have to address other people and not having to suffer consequences if we make mistake. SE is not here to solve all world problems. Commented Oct 12, 2019 at 13:37
  • 3
    @vaxquis If I would not be women random jerks would still find some other excuse to treat me badly :) Commented Oct 12, 2019 at 13:51
  • 3
    @vaxquis Current CoC has completely disregarded needs of people like you. Commented Oct 12, 2019 at 13:57
  • 7
    @vaxquis That's indeed a problem as well. When people talk about "compassion", people from the spectrum (and I'm also "at least a nerd") tend to think (or say) things like ~"Feelings WTF? I can memorize 50 digits of PI :-)" (<- tongue in cheek). And I seriously considered bringing up this exact point, already a year ago, when the "welcoming" issue started, maybe linking to things like en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autism_spectrum#Communication_skills (although this does not cover all aspects). But this would almost certainly be considered as "trolling" :-/
    – Marco13
    Commented Oct 12, 2019 at 14:11
  • 9
    @Marco13 Welcoming wagon successfully ran over some good people. I hope that Pronouns wagon will be less successful in that regard. But, my hopes may be more bad case of wishful thinking. Commented Oct 12, 2019 at 14:28
  • 3
    @fredsbend yup, but it turned into battleground right now :} BTW, HerMajestyQueenofARC have you noticed my comments were mod-removed in the meantime? Pray tell, what grave offense to the world and its poor souls have I done this time? The only response I got from the mods about it is that, quote "[my] execution was sloppy, incoherent and came off as crude and belittling to others." ¯_(ツ)_/¯
    – user255942
    Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 1:19
  • 3
    @vaxquis Yes, I can see. There was no reason for deletion. It was a joke. You could see that from outer space. Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 6:56
  • 7
    "As a woman, I have never been treated badly on SO because I am a woman. I have never been treated badly on SO." As a corollary statement to this: I'm not a woman and I have been treated badly on rare occasions on SO. I overcame it because I have a generally thick skin, but I didn't like it much. Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 8:54
  • 6
    @Trilarion I also explicitly said that I have encountered bad treatment but due to moderating. So I have not been treated badly is a bit of overstatement, but it was necessary to make a point. You can always encounter random jerks and when you do, it does not matter whether you are woman or not, jerks will use whatever offensive language they can find appropriate. But that is not SO in its core. People should try Twitter sometimes, SO is kindergarten in comparison ;) Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 9:07
  • 8
    @ToddWilcox No. But, one persons bad experience also means nothing. Now you can say that plenty of (minority belonging) people think SO is a bad place. 99% of developers that I know and that think so are white men with 20+ experience. So they hardly qualify as minority. This is similar to spam, SO is spam free place, not because nobody has ever seen spam post, but because it gets deleted quickly. Commented Oct 18, 2019 at 8:57
  • 9
    @ToddWilcox I cannot deny people's feelings. But we also cannot cater for everyone's feelings either. This is not a focus of Q/A sites with quality based moderation. Some people will have their feelings hurt no matter what we do. There is always room for misunderstanding, the best anyone can do is assume good intentions and ignore straight out jerks. Commented Oct 18, 2019 at 13:56

The difference is that liberals protect people, and P.C. people protect feelings

I really like this quote. I've never thought about it in these terms, but now that you mention it, I've finally figured out what this whole drama reminds me of: Sentimentality (see below).

Sentimentality has no place on stacks. You're exactly right when you say the great thing about the stack sites is that we stay on topic and the backgrounds of people shouldn't matter at all (that's a bit more difficult to resolve on one of the sites I participate in, Parenting, but it holds even there).

An excerpt from an author who I don't agree with in everything he writes, but he did have some relevant things to say about sentimentality (a definition: an excess of emotion that is false, mawkish, and over-valued by comparison with reason):

The public expression of sentimentality has important consequences. In the first place, it demands a response from those who witness it. This response has generally to be sympathetic and affirmatory, unless the witness is prepared to risk a confrontation with the sentimental person and be accused of hardness of heart or outright cruelty. There is therefore something coercive or bullying about public displays of sentimentality. Join in, or at least refrain from criticism.

And later (talking in context of a murdered black man and his surviving parents):

Of course, there were instances of racism both in the distant and recent past that were worse and less easily overcome than this; but none of those instances justified or could ever justify treating with reverence the opinions of individuals within groups that were once, or still are, the object of unfair discrimination, as if they were sacrosanct and without further need of justification. Exactly how dangerous this sentimental way of thinking is, at least potentially, and just how destructive of rationality and the rule of law, is revealed by the report on the murder of Stephen Lawrence. It will be remembered that the report suggested that a racist incident should be defined as one which any witness to it considered to be racist; it also suggested that there should be in place ‘strategies for the prevention, recording, investigation and prosecution of racist incidents,’ and that these strategies should be implemented throughout the public administration. Since earlier in the report it was acknowledged that racist incidents did not necessarily involve breaking any law, what is here proposed is a reign of arbitrary punishment of people for alleged acts or omissions, defence against which is logically impossible. Accusation and guilt have become entirely synonymous.

Not much effort of the imagination is required to understand the consequences of such proposals if implemented, which are thoroughly totalitarian in inspiration.61 The idea that victims, real or imagined, should be given infinite power to determine the functioning of the public service would, of course, soon lead to demands for extension of that power to all parts of society. There is a very considerable element of sadism in all this (it would certainly end in violence), and once again the connection between sentimentality and brutality is exposed.

The habit of taking alleged victimisation at its own estimate is now a common one. For example, in one hospital of which I had knowledge before my retirement, staff who complained of having been bullied could take comfort from the hospital personnel department’s official definition of bullying: a person was being bullied if he thought that he was being bullied. Once again, there was no requirement that, to establish the justifiability of a complaint, there should be objective evidence of the behaviour complained of: a mere look, a tone of voice, a kind gesture, even nothing at all, indeed a total absence of any contact whatsoever, could be interpreted as bullying.

The correct idea that the powerless in any organisation need some protection against the powerful has here been sentimentally transformed into the idea that the less powerful are always accurate and truthful when it comes to their account of their relations with the more powerful.

(From "Spoilt Rotten: The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality", by Theodore Dalrymple).

It's eerie how closely this mirrors your second (paraphrased) quote:

"some people have told us this is how they feel, and because everyone's feelings are valid, then it must be true."

  • 2
    "The correct idea that the powerless in any organisation need some protection against the powerful has here been sentimentally transformed into the idea that the less powerful are always accurate and truthful when it comes to their account of their relations with the more powerful." I believe this is why people see commonalities with Marxism (communism/socialism/any-related-term). Marx asserted that anyone who was not wealthy was a victim and that this should empower them to use violence and coercion to confiscate any property they saw fit, and Russia made that philosophy policy.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Feb 12, 2020 at 19:18

Here's where it fails.

When you're asking a question on an SE site, factors such as your gender, your orientation, the colour of your skin: they don't matter and they shouldn't matter. If somebody uses those factors as an excuse to downvote, or answer condescendingly, or otherwise not be nice, I think we can all agree - whether in agreement with the CoC or not - that they need to be slapped down for it.

Where the CoC and the "taking responsibility for others feelings" approach fails miserably is that it's just a superficial response to the underlying problem. It's just doing something for the sake of doing something so you can be seen to be doing something and say that you're doing something. But the underlying problem is still there; it hasn't gone away.

Worse, it fails miserably because it takes those things I said at the outset don't and shouldn't matter, and it makes them matter.

If there's a problem, and if one wants to deal with the problem, then the best way to do it is by dealing with the problem. That shouldn't even have needed to be said. Hand out slap downs to bad actors, tackle people who are behaving abusively, do what needs to be done to clean up the filth. Just don't dress it up in pretty words that enable you to say "look how great we are" without actually achieving anything but alienating a huge proportion of your user base.

  • 30
    And of course putting people's gender front and center so that everyone knows what pronouns are appropriate increases the odds that readers will react based on the gender, rather than the question. Commented Oct 16, 2019 at 23:16

Here is the hypocrisy in the that you told us it must be true statement, the veteran users told them that the blog post Jay Hanlon published made them feel like they were being accused of blanket bigotry and racism when they are/were the first line of defense against hateful and abusive language on the site.

We were the most active in finding and reporting such issues.

SOCVR was a bastion of a defense against bad content even more so than anything else we did. Toxic and abusive content and spam was handled within minutes of it being brought to peoples attention in the room. That said, extremely abusive content aimed at specific groups of people was rare compared to the run-of-the-mill abusive content aimed at people that left comments on highly downvoted questions as answers, because, ironically they did not have the reputation to comment themselves.

The funny thing is we told you over and over, and you never even acknowledged we were saying anything. You just doubled down over and over again on the new people should be treated with kid gloves because all the not-new people are the problem.

Well, we can all see where that has gotten you already in the short time (about a year) since I completely had my Stack Overflow account deleted. I might just be one person that quit, but I am not the only person that quit contributing. The number of people actively curating the content (and I include abusive comments and language in that) has dropped tremendously on Stack Overflow in the last 18 months.

I am sure statistics are showing you more than we can see publicly, and I am sure those same numbers will show you this is just accelerating the problem issues instead of solving them.

You had a good run, but in the end, you are destroying yourself from the inside out.

  • 7
    What's "SOCVR"? Stack Overflow Close Vote Reviewers? Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 7:10
  • 1
    Well, regardless if our reasons were remotely similar or not, I too demanded my account be removed from SO years ago because of the (IMO) cesspool it seemed to become. I had held very strong hope out for the ancillary sites though, and as such, they seem to not have wandered too far into the SO descent. Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 16:05

Do you think it is staying on topic if someone comments on a question "this is why women shouldn't be allowed to learn JavaScript?" It's not, is it? And a mod would remove that comment, right?

So when women tell you that those sorts of comments (and other slightly more subtle ones that last longer) hurt them and contribute to driving them out of the industry, your response is

"some people have told us this is how they feel, and because everyone's feelings are valid, then it must be true."

Let's stay on topic by not letting people introduce off topic nastiness on technical and non technical sites, ok? Not by defending whatever people want to blurt out because nobody should ever have to think before blurting or ever be asked to take other people's feelings into consideration.

Thought experiment: whenever you hear or read a sentence with "political correctness" in it, try substituting "politeness" or "compassion" or "empathy" and see if you still think it's so great.

Dragging compassion into the platform is fundamentally opposed to that purpose.


Also, I would have hoped that politeness, compassion (this poor developer can't understand an error message! I can help!) and empathy (I remember when I struggled with that last year) aren't being dragged in but have always been here. Some people are asking them to be strengthened and extended to more people.

  • 30
    I countered the downvote you just got, because you make a valid point. I'll just say that I believe there's a fundamental difference between keeping content like that off the network (which should always happen) and providing active advocacy for every group that asks for it.
    – user102937
    Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 16:03
  • 34
    People who are asking to be included in our compassion and empathy don't see your fundamental difference. They see themselves excluded by material that is allowed to stay on the site, and no rules to say otherwise. I know this because they are telling me so directly and personally.. This isn't theory. Telling a trans person that they are still the gender they were assigned at birth "because God" hurts as much as "women shouldn't be allowed to learn JavaScript" and without rules to say "don't do that" people will do that. ARE DOING IT NOW AND WON'T STOP. Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 16:07
  • 59
    Content like that is deplorable and never acceptable on the network. But there's a difference between keeping that material off the network and trying to protect people's feelings by using their preferred pronouns.
    – user102937
    Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 16:08
  • 64
    Except the rules aren't just saying "don't do that". They're asking for far more. I see a strawman here.
    – user437611
    Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 16:09
  • 23
    I've seen some arrogant jerks (and many nice people) on this site, and whenever I have seen a rude comment, it was just some narcissistic comment directed at the person's perceived intellect. If you're a woman or a minority, maybe you think it stings more, but the jerk is going be a jerk regardless of your race or gender.
    – John
    Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 16:16
  • 37
    Without rules to say "don't do that" people will do that.: How is "Be nice" not a rule that can be used to flag Women shouldn't be allowed to learn JavaScript? How would a rule in the CoC that said you must not single out women as less capable be more effective? The problem here isn't that the CoC doesn't contain the necessary concrete wording for all possible cases - it's that not enough people care to flag comments or speak out against such bile. And you simply won't change that with a change in the CoC. Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 16:23
  • 38
    Of course you're going to have people make stupid comments. We're on the damn Internet after all. The lack of consequences that one faces in the normal face-to-face conversations makes people say deplorable things and this is something we're all infinitely aware of. The issue is that people exaggerate the issue and blow it way out of proportion. This problem is not ingrained in the site or its culture, it is a problem with a select few users/trolls who can be dealt with swiftly. A new CoC will not solve any of these issues.
    – Script47
    Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 16:28
  • 22
    @Pascal when the CoC doesn't say that calling me "he" isn't nice, I could flag a comment that did so, and a mod could think "he is fine as a generic pronoun, I'm not acting on that flag." Now it's clear that pronouns matter and he isn't generic, so action can be taken. As for the rest of you, if you see no difference between "your stupid" [deliberately written that way] and "this proves women are stupid" then clearly no amount of typing from me is going to enlighten you. Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 16:32
  • 14
    @KateGregory So it sounds like the primary change we want is explicit misgendering is explicitly against be nice. That is a change I can get on board with. My impression of the many posts out there is that most users, including most religious users, can get on board with this to. Why does it need to go the additional step of speech compulsion? Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 16:41
  • 18
    If your solution to "I am not allowed to misgender you" is "I just won't use pronouns for you while still happily using them for everyone I approve of" is that nice? I don't think it's nice. Are you "compelled" to use someone's pronouns? You're compelled to be consistent. See Q12. Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 16:47
  • 17
    @GarethMcCaughan not their profiles like how they describe themselves. Other answers, other comments. There is a LOT of content on meta right now claiming that trans people are not who they say they are. And it's not being deleted. It's being upvoted and celebrated. The opposite of inclusion. Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 16:51
  • 25
    @KateGregory For the rest of your comment - we're circling back to what I think most people's big sticking point. I am no longer allowed to be consistent. I'm no longer allowed to use gender neutral language for everyone. I am now forced to change from a neutral pronoun to a chosen pronoun. Even if I believe that the pronoun is a non-issue, it cuts at me that I'm forced to change my writing style for it. And this is just for me - someone who is generally fine with neopronouns. What about people whose identity is assaulted by this forced writing-eg religious folk-no compassion for them? Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 17:00
  • 22
    I believe that you believe this. I just think you're mistaken. We have zero incidents of anyone being even corrected, never mind rebuked or punished, for consistently avoiding pronouns for everyone. You can keep railing against this awful thing you're sure will happen. I'm focusing on the real thing that is actually happening right now all over this site, which is the CoC discussion opening a firehose of real nastiness against real people and it's just sitting around getting upvoted. Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 17:04
  • 53
    @KateGregory Was that not almost exactly what happened to Monica? She was fired because, when attempting to ask clarify questions about neutral they usage she ran aground of 'multiple misgendering offences'? I get we probably will never get the full story, but this is what it seems like at the moment. Also, I'm generally not interested in what has happened in the past (especially considering this policy is brand new and yet to be strongly enforced). I'm interested in what could happen in the future. This policy leaves me in fear for my future here as a good person. That is why I have issues. Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 17:27
  • 15
    Hey there. I just wanted to say: Thank You. There is a lot of nastiness going on lately and there are far too few voices standing up to it. But I have seen you in numerous threads throughout this whole ordeal and it means a lot to see someone with your network-wide reputation, name recognition, and skill with words standing up for us. I know how lonely it can feel so I wanted you to know that it is appreciated.
    – user384163
    Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 2:20

I think that by now the community has made it abundantly clear what it wants by numerous contributions and quite a few downvote orgies and the company has made it equally clear that it's dead set on its course for "inclusion and welcomeness" and publishing the new code of conduct and all the rest that disengagement is the only possible option if one is disagreeing. I think there is zero chance for any change in the near future.

Having said that, it might be interesting to come back in like a year and observe. They may be discussing the next amendments to the code of conduct then amidst a slow decline of the platform. Or maybe even it worked and people suddenly behaved much more than when only being told to be nice and assume good intentions. Who knows. Or the effect in practice is rather small, because the moderators will be reluctant to use a relatively blunt knife except in extreme cases. It seems quite complex stuff to reliably estimate the impact. Surely there will be many more discussions about people being offended and decisions who has the highest right to be offended.

Let me digress a bit about colorblindness. I fully agree that equality means not seeing the color, but just because some people don't see it (the good ones) doesn't mean all don't and that's why it still is a topic. We still have to speak and to think about it, even if we ourselves don't see it in principle. Affirmative actions were regarded as a good thing and maybe still are. Of course I'm too young and too far away geographically to really know what it means.

P.S.: The whole debate of 2019 about the code of conduct changes slowly faded into oblivion. It turned out that in practice the changed code of conduct didn't change much and that people weren't so interested in it after the company made some compromises. Now in 2023 there is even another iteration of the code, which is even longer to read, but compared to 2019 almost nobody is really interested in it. People already behave very well and the improvements in the code of conduct are relatively small. Was it much ado about nothing then in 2019? It surely looks like it was a bit overblown by both sides way back then and also avoidable. Or people simply forgot about it? Maybe Monica Cellio could still be on this platform if only all would have acted more cool-headed.

  • 4
    Maybe the IPO will be completed by then, and the staff have been able to crash in their stock options......... Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 8:02
  • @IanRingrose Could be but I'm not sure how exactly a fallout with the community is increasing the market value. Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 8:47
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    @IanRingrose: Was "crash" a typo or intentional? ;-) Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 17:15
  • 1
    "They may be discussing the next amendments to the code of conduct then amidst a slow decline of the platform." It took a bit longer. Commented Jul 26, 2023 at 10:52

I'm fairly sure your post is being interpreted as meaning:

  1. Familiar prejudices (like racism) are bad and we should act against them. In these cases, we don't blame the victims for being upset by racism; we indeed take responsibility for other people's feelings. In fact, we go even further: we take preventative action against people's feelings being hurt by racism. Racism is considered not okay at Stack Exchange.

  2. Unfamiliar prejudices (like transphobia) are not our problem; we don't need to take responsibility for other people's feelings. Transphobia is considered kinda okay at Stack Exchange.

The injustice of "not taking sides"...

When it comes to racism, how does someone "not take sides"? Very likely from most people's perspective, racism is _not_ considered a valid side: not taking sides amounts to taking action against racism.

However, transphobia is considered a valid side: not taking sides amounts to inaction against transphobia...

...and we argue "we're just here for the Q&A" to justify this inaction against transphobia (along with other unfamiliar prejudices).

  • 3
    The wording ("fairly sure", "very likely", ...) makes it hard to concur. But I'm fairly sure that even though the post might be interpreted like that, it was not about different forms of prejudice. I rather think that the post was about the general issues that 1. political debates do not belong on a programming Q/A site, and 2. there is a tendency to weaponize "political correctness" in a form that is rather oppressive and potentially harmful for everybody. Maybe Robert will comment and clarify that, specifically for the points that you brought up.
    – Marco13
    Commented Dec 1, 2019 at 13:42
  • 4
    Perhaps we have complete opposite opinions on who weaponizes “political correctness”; I see it used to silence transgender people, to make them fear being branded an “activist” and a troublemaker, when they’re just after a fair go and the same basic dignity afforded to non-transgender people. But that’s okay, we can disagree. Commented Dec 1, 2019 at 13:59
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    You're focusing on (racism and) transphobia in the answer and the comment, but I think that the original post was supposed to be interpreted in a far broader sense. If someone does not feel comfortable on the site, there is no point in picking out one personal attribute and claiming that the person is discriminated against because of this attribute. This is not about specific, actual forms of discrimination (and even less about specific instances), but rather (roughly speaking) about "we cannot solve every personal problem that someone might have". (Hard to summarize this in comment)
    – Marco13
    Commented Dec 1, 2019 at 14:20
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    I wonder why anybody would interpret this question that way. It seems at odds with what is actually written. Commented Dec 2, 2019 at 11:21
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    @RebeccaJ.Stones Everyone here is just after a fair go and the same basic dignity afforded to non-transgender people. They all just disagree what that is. Some people think it means not being called anything you don't want to be called, and some people think it means being called anything you want to be called. Let's not pretend both sides aren't seeking to apply basic dignity. Commented Dec 2, 2019 at 15:22
  • I'm sure people do come to such an interpretation, but they're not justified in doing so. Moral virtues do not create moral imperatives, and neither do the evil actions of others. Alternatively: if you consider that inaction against any particular cause celebre requires "justification", will you also, for example, travel to the lands of various Indigenous people, to proselytize the cause and ask why they, too, are standing idle? Commented Jul 26, 2023 at 10:58

I'm going to use your Bill Maher example mixed with some of my own personal experience here.

You see, I did not grow up in a very liberal and progressive family. I didn't have many friends growing up who were people of color and when I did make friends with a few people as an adult I tried very hard to treat them like I would anyone else. One day one of my friends pulled me aside and said, "I don't think you are a bad person, which is why I am even telling you this, but some of the things you say are racist."

Yes, she flat out called me a racist. And yes I wanted to argue with her and tell her she was wrong. And I wanted to have her explain to me exactly what it was I was doing wrong. I wanted her to prove it. I am very glad I didn't.

You see, I was so busy trying to treat everyone the same, but what I didn't realize is that I treated white people in a way that didn't hurt white people, but absolutely did hurt people of color.

To this day I have to be critical of the way I act and the way I talk to make sure the way I am behaving is reasonable towards the people I want to be reasonable towards. If you want to argue that that degree of thoughtfulness shouldn't be apart of engaging in meaningful society then I say you are wrong. Everyone is responsible for their own acts, for the hurts that they cause no matter how malicious or simply carelessly blind.

Ignorance is no excuse.

  • "but what I didn't realize is that I treated white people in a way that didn't hurt white people, but absolutely did hurt people of color." It is not possible for the way you treat one person to "hurt" a group of people that said person doesn't belong to. Commented Jul 26, 2023 at 11:09

You have completely missed the point, as has Bill Maher. It's not about feelings.

Back in the 1980s, people were moaning about people being too PC, because they objected to having buildings named after the people who owned their great grandparents. It wasn't about their feelings though; it was about the fact that continuing to celebrate and honour slave owners by naming buildings after them perpetuated the inequality and oppression of black people.

The same thing here. Pronouns are not about feelings; they are about systematic bigotry that does real, actual harm to trans/non-binary people.

The people with hurt feelings here are the ones who can't even make the minimal effort to use the pronouns that someone requested, because they find it too upsetting to be polite. It's the ultimate political correctness.

  • "it was about the fact that continuing to celebrate and honour slave owners by naming buildings after them perpetuated the inequality and oppression of black people" - this isn't a "fact"; it's a set of beliefs. The apparent underlying moral philosophy is absurd to me. Aside from that, "naming" implies that new instances of such names are being applied or were being applied "back in the 80s", which as far as I can tell is utterly false. Speaking of which, this temporal reference seems to be a framing device intended to emphasize the supposed backwardness of one's opponents. I am not impressed. Commented Jul 26, 2023 at 11:06
  • To be clear: I think it is absurd to say that naming a building after someone inherently "celebrates and honours" that person; and I think it is absurd to say that a celebration or honouring of a dead person could, in principle, "perpetuate inequality or oppression". (By the way: why are you so invested in this clearly US-centric view, if you are apparently from a part of the world that uses UK spelling?) Commented Jul 26, 2023 at 11:09

Stack Exchange works so well precisely because, unlike forums and chat rooms, it focuses on that singular purpose. Dragging advocacy of political causes into the platform is fundamentally opposed to that purpose.

By regulating that racism, sexism, antisemitism, trans- and homophobia have no place here via the CoC, Stack Exchange is arguably making it easier to focus on that purpose and reducing the amount of political activism.

These rules make it easier to focus on the topic at hand and not dissolve into a discussion about hateful commentary, because that commentary can easily be deleted via the CoC.

If everyone were following these basic rules and focusing on the subject matter, there would be no problem.

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    The CoC already covered this behavior before the new changes were put in.
    – user102937
    Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 16:48
  • 28
    'Stackexchange is arguably making it easier to focus on that purpose and reducing the amount of political activism.' - You really think so? Honestly? The only political activism I see is by SE. 'These rules make it easier to focus on the topic at hand and not dissolve into a discussion about hateful commentary, because that commentary can easily be deleted via the CoC.' - Sorry, but wasn't it all covered by the "be nice" policy before? I never saw hateful content that stuck around after being flagged. And actually, now, noise such as preferred pronouns in technical posts have to be left in
    – Script47
    Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 16:49
  • 8
    @RobertHarvey I agree, and I see the CoC changes as clarification instead of a change in meaning; imho eg purposefully misgendering people wasn't acceptable before either. The announcment also calls it "clarification" and says "This has always been true of our Code of Conduct and we are making it more explicit with this language. This isn’t a new rule or a change to our policy."
    – tim
    Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 16:53
  • 2
    @Script47 I saw plenty of it and too much which was not removed. Might depend on what communities you are active in.
    – tim
    Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 16:56
  • 6
    @tim then you take it to meta and demand a reason. That's the beauty of these sites, shine a light on these situations and you'll get it fixed. Don't force CoC haphazardly onto people.
    – Script47
    Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 16:57
  • 53
    Do you really think that "write as you naturally do while using words you are uncomfortable using", "you don't have to inject the pronouns but you are not allowed to avoid using them" or "people can choose their pronouns except when they can't" count as clarification? And how is it helping us to focus? Seriously, look around you. Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 18:12
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    @Goyo, I'm out of comment votes but that comment is gold. Clearly the Ministry of Clarification has been hard at work. ;)
    – Wildcard
    Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 20:05
  • 3
    @tim - except, CoC doesn't regulate against anti-semitism. It regulates what extreme progressive ideologues consider anti-semitism (and other things on your list). I know that for sure because as a Jew who isn't progressive, I've observed first hand how you declare things antisemitic that are nowhere near that.
    – DVK
    Commented Oct 26, 2019 at 0:38

Taking responsibility for people's feelings is the meaning of living together in society imho, and communities are like micro-societies. The idea that content exists completely dissociated from posters doesn't make any sense to me. I wouldn't want to contribute to such a place, and AI might as well take my place if that were the case. The licensing model doesn't result in denying authorship, quite the opposite really. It celebrates it, through sharing and remix.

I just don't buy into this neutrality argument, which is really to me just a way for traditionalists to shy away from stating their true opinion about the topic. Pseudo-religious beliefs about things being the enmity of God's design, whether openly stated or not, or other beliefs based on fear-mongering concerning the safety of children and all, shouldn't be used to deny individual choice in a place I would love. A modern nation of rights can't be a theocracy and neither can a modern community. Taking into account an individual's aspirations and the way they see themselves and their place in the universe is paramount for me, and will make them want to contribute more. And isn't their contribution what people who oppose this care about? Did God contribute a single piece of content here? No, human beings did. It is the obfuscation of the lack of separation between religious beliefs and state/business, that "neutrality", which makes the topic of individual choice political, not individual choice and its acceptance, which is the prerogative of free human beings. Political just means not abiding by the far right dogma or agenda and that old order of things that can never change and is set and one size fits all stone. I don't care for it. And I'm a Christian. And since there is no moral high ground to these anyway, as old or recent history shows, denying their denial is what true neutrality really means to me.

People shouldn't let themselves be defined by the limited bygone views of others, and communities shouldn't enable this logic either in my opinion. I take the side of enabling people and diversity. The last thing I would want is for "neutrality" to make this place the place where a unique type of people barely hiding their opinion comfort themselves in their ways and make up excuses for denying people and excluding changes which are taking place, in the name of the licensing model and said "neutrality". I would find that inorganic, unbecoming and offensive.

Word golf version:

Content means nothing without the people who make it happen, and conceited carelessness is not a value I long for, one so inclined can always climb a stairway back to heaven or a tree for that matter, but society and community is not the place for that imho, so I disagree.

  • 9
    So many words. What is your point, in one sentence? Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 10:15
  • @This_is_NOT_a_forum Content means nothing without the people who make it happen, and conceited carelessness is not a value I long for, one so inclined can always climb a stairway back to heaven or a tree for that matter, but society and community is not the place for that imho, so I disagree. One sentence. Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 23:40
  • 1
    @s.H.a.R.p.R.i.F.t How nice of you to care about other people's feelings, and at the same time showing that you don't. Your answer is nice showcase, why neutrality is needed and that we cannot always cater for other people's feelings. Because, there will always be someone on whose feelings we can trample on. Now, you can always take a stance that there are groups of people who deserve that because of [whatever], but in reality those groups you want to paint with such large brush are not necessarily bad people. Commented Jul 30, 2023 at 8:33
  • And just to make it clear, I am neither the traditionalist, nor religious. And as a socialist I am definitely not far right. Commented Jul 30, 2023 at 8:36
  • @ResistanceIsFutile All feelings don't matter. Got you. Commented Jul 30, 2023 at 18:02
  • Every d/v strengthens my resolve and what I think about many people, and I feel vindicated so please do. Commented Jul 30, 2023 at 22:18
  • 1
    You have completely missed the point of this question. It is not that feelings don't matter and that we shouldn't care how we communicate with others, but that we cannot possibly always cater for everyone's feelings. We are here (on SE) for exchanging the knowledge and we can do that in civilized manner, while at the same time not having to worry about how every word we write will be perceived by someone and whether we will hurt someone's feelings in the process. If I downvote someone's post I will definitely hurt their feelings, but this is inevitable result of the quality control. Commented Jul 31, 2023 at 6:33
  • 1
    If I comment and criticize someone's post and they don't agree with my critique, I will definitely hurt their feelings. Should I (or we) abstain from commenting to just not to hurt anyone? This is the issue here. We cannot always take feelings into account and the best we can do is trying to keep constructive communication without being blatantly offensive and rude while still being able to state our objections when we have some. Commented Jul 31, 2023 at 6:37
  • I well know the circumstances around the time this was posted as well as reference to "Welcoming Wagon". I am not going to try changing your mind, but again I think you have completely missed the point here and you are jumping to conclusions. It is impossible to summarize everything in few comments, so if you are interested you can read other posts from that time, although it is still likely you will not get accurate picture because some posts and comments have been removed in the meantime (some deserved, some not). Commented Aug 1, 2023 at 6:55
  • @ResistanceIsFutile I was there during that time under another account. Although I understand many people reacted to how the mod was treated, and I agree they were poorly treated, yet I was not privy to what happened in the mods rooms and all, I believe this was leveraged by the far right etc. I may misunderstand why people make the points they're making here. Still, I believe I must make the stand I'm making, my conscience demands it. My experience with life has led me to believe prejudice is rampant & must be fought strenuously. So I will throw a brick in the pond and try to even things out. Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 3:30
  • Unfortunately, there will always be people who will take an opportunity and exploit any situation. But, I think it is important to give others some benefit of the doubt and approach them from "assume good intent" standpoint. We can all achieve much more together if we give more weight to what we share in common than our differences. Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 19:37
  • @ResistanceIsFutile True, yet in the end achieving a Q&A website vs. preserving the rule of law, the body politic, democracy, truth and justice for all seems like trivial achievement. This place would be a safe space impervious to what is happening all around us, a place where people come to relax after having bashed the world on other networks. Because neutrality. I would argue good intent can no longer be assumed, quite the opposite actually. The benefit of the doubt weighs heavily in a court of law, but is this the standard a mob upholds? I believe this is war, a tree by them fruits is all. Commented Aug 4, 2023 at 3:11

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