337

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.

Well.

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.

  • 29
    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. – Reinstate Monica Oct 14 at 8:35
  • 23
    "I'm not going to re-litigate that here" I see what you did there... – Lightness Races with Monica Oct 14 at 10:55
  • 3
    @lightness: Not intentionally. – Robert Harvey Oct 14 at 14:27
  • 4
    @RobertHarvey Shame - I'd have just taken credit anyway ;) – Lightness Races with Monica Oct 14 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 Oct 14 at 23:31
  • 14
    @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. – Robert Harvey Oct 15 at 14:43
  • 1
    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. – Todd Wilcox Oct 18 at 2:55
  • 9
    @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. – Robert Harvey Oct 18 at 2:57
  • 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. – Todd Wilcox Oct 18 at 3:01
  • 1
    @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. – Grumpy says Reinstate Monica Oct 21 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? – tgm1024 Oct 21 at 15:55
  • 6
    @tgm1024: You can't. There will always be someone who will be deeply offended that you challenged their (so obviously correct) view. – Robert Harvey Oct 21 at 16:00
  • @RobertHarvey, yes, I'm afraid you're right. I'm suspicious of a cousin to this problem too though: A great deal of people supporting that line of thinking might well be doing so just to argue "on the right side of history" (a high-road power thing?), all while completely ignoring the nuances of what you just said. – tgm1024 Oct 21 at 16:07
  • Took me some time, but I was sure there was a XKCD about that: imgs.xkcd.com/comics/helping.png – Tensibai Nov 4 at 15:54

10 Answers 10

199
+250

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

  • 3
    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 Oct 11 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 Oct 11 at 20:13
  • 1
    The vi footnote is worthy of +10 by itself. – tgm1024 Oct 21 at 15:59
153
+50

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


Moderation, down voting 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 real community here.

  • 2
    You well know that I support your stance anyways ;-) – πάντα ῥεῖ Oct 12 at 9:10
  • 9
    @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. – Her Majesty Queen of ARC Oct 12 at 9:22
  • 2
    I agree that it's easy to be misunderstood. I just wanted to give you a heads up and enouragement to continue what you're doing, and you suspected some critique :-D. – πάντα ῥεῖ Oct 12 at 9:25
  • 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. – Her Majesty Queen of ARC Oct 12 at 9:29
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    @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 Oct 12 at 12:25
  • 6
    @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. – Her Majesty Queen of ARC Oct 12 at 13:37
  • 3
    @vaxquis If I would not be women random jerks would still find some other excuse to treat me badly :) – Her Majesty Queen of ARC Oct 12 at 13:51
  • 3
    @vaxquis Current CoC has completely disregarded needs of people like you. – Her Majesty Queen of ARC Oct 12 at 13:57
  • 5
    @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 Oct 12 at 14:11
  • 7
    @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. – Her Majesty Queen of ARC Oct 12 at 14:28
  • 2
    @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)_/¯ – vaxquis Oct 14 at 1:19
  • 4
    "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. – Trilarion Oct 14 at 8:54
  • 5
    @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 ;) – Her Majesty Queen of ARC Oct 14 at 9:07
  • 5
    @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. – Her Majesty Queen of ARC Oct 18 at 8:57
  • 3
    @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. – Her Majesty Queen of ARC Oct 18 at 13:56
53

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."

50

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.

  • 15
    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. – Arlie Stephens Oct 16 at 23:16
49

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 down voted questions as answers,because, ironically they did not have the reputation to comment themselves.

Funny thing, 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 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 activally 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.

  • 5
    What's "SOCVR"? Stack Overflow Close Vote Reviewers? – user56reinstatemonica8 Oct 14 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. – tgm1024 Oct 21 at 16:05
29

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.

Hm.

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.

  • 25
    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. – Robert Harvey Oct 11 at 16:03
  • 28
    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. – Kate Gregory Oct 11 at 16:07
  • 53
    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. – Robert Harvey Oct 11 at 16:08
  • 52
    Except the rules aren't just saying "don't do that". They're asking for far more. I see a strawman here. – S.D. Oct 11 at 16:09
  • 16
    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 Oct 11 at 16:16
  • 27
    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. – Pascal says Talk to Monica Oct 11 at 16:23
  • 29
    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 Oct 11 at 16:28
  • 18
    @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. – Kate Gregory Oct 11 at 16:32
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    @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? – Reinstate Monica Oct 11 at 16:41
  • 17
    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. – Kate Gregory Oct 11 at 16:47
  • 12
    When have I ever said I wanted someone harassed, @Blue? I want posts edited. Comments have very limited editing capability. Mods can edit. That is why I would flag a comment. All this fuss about "excuses" to "harass" poor innocent users who "did nothing wrong" and no fuss about the droves of people who leave because other users make it clear they are not welcome. You just pretend they don't even exist. Probably because you don't mind that they have left. I do. – Kate Gregory Oct 11 at 16:49
  • 14
    @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. – Kate Gregory Oct 11 at 16:51
  • 16
    @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? – Reinstate Monica Oct 11 at 17:00
  • 19
    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. – Kate Gregory Oct 11 at 17:04
  • 39
    @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. – Reinstate Monica Oct 11 at 17:27
12

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 welcomness" 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 mods 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.

  • 3
    Maybe the IPO will be completed by then, and the staff have been able to crash in their stock options......... – Ian Ringrose Oct 14 at 8:02
  • @IanRingrose Could be but I'm not sure how exactly a fallout with the community is increasing the market value. – Trilarion Oct 14 at 8:47
  • 5
    @IanRingrose: Was "crash" a typo or intentional? ;-) – Pascal says Talk to Monica Oct 14 at 17:15
-5

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.

-8

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

Back in the 80s 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.

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.

-10

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, Stackexchange 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.

  • 41
    The CoC already covered this behavior before the new changes were put in. – Robert Harvey Oct 11 at 16:48
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    '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 Oct 11 at 16:49
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    @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 Oct 11 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 Oct 11 at 16:56
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    @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 Oct 11 at 16:57
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    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. – Stop harming Monica Oct 11 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 Oct 11 at 20:05
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    @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 Oct 26 at 0:38

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