200

This question on MSO got a terrible edit war. The OP told a story with somebody called Nancy. For some reason, I don't know which, there was very some vital need to hide/obfuscate/censor the name or even the gender of that person.

I never saw something like that before anywhere in SE. I don't understand what the problem of using a generic person's name in the post is. And given the last comments (see the image), even one of the moderators couldn't get what was going on:

Comments

That comment from Shog about a court case was rather cryptic and intriguing to me. What is going on after all? If nobody but Jon knew if Nancy is a real name or something he made up, what is the point of asking him to change that name?

Anyway, what I see is a violation of the author's intent, which I would still expect to be a thing that SE values. So there should be a solid reason to need to override that, but I saw none.

Further, is this a precedent to avoid using name people? What rule would I be violating if I wrote the following?

Alice was my manager, but she was asking me to give her some coffee instead of giving me any real work.

Am I obligated to write the following instead?

They were my manager, but they were asking me to give them some coffee instead of giving me any real work.

And, with this type of text, context is very obscured since it is not clear that "they" is singular in that particular phrase. Most people would expect it to be plural.

If the problem was the court thing, to take an example out of SE, let's suppose that I post something about Alice on Facebook, and Alice wants to take me to court due to that. In this case, Facebook, as a company, has virtually nothing to do with that. Now, if this is prohibited in SE by some policy or something on the CoC, I would appreciate being pointed to that.

What is so bad about giving people names after all, even if fictitious?


EDIT:

Ok, a lot of things happened since I posted this. So, considering all the comments and answers so far (including a lot of content that unfortunately were deleted), here is a synthesis of the main (but not all) issues presented so far:

  1. Should fictitious bad feminine players be recast as masculine? If yes, isn't that a form of sexism?

  2. Is it allowed to give random generic fictitious names in anecdotes or we must avoid names entirely?

  3. Should people engage into edit wars even if they are CMs, moderators or former moderators?

  4. Is it really a good idea to engage into edit wars without commenting to present your POV?

  5. This is meta, so we are discussing the precedent that this creates.

Other minor issues presented so far are:

  1. What to do about misgendered or ungendering fictitious or anonymous people?

  2. What about taking anyone to a court due to some maybe-fictitious name? (Not that I think this is important here, but anyway).

  3. As a side-issue, was Nancy a fictitious name for Sara Chipps or not? Some people presented that as a personal attack against her, while some other people doesn't. (Not that I think that it would be any productive of matter discussing that, but anyway.)

  4. What if some person with a fictitious name can be unannonymized and resolved to an identifiable real person (generifies the case of the precedent question).

Or to summarize all those questions in a single one thing:

What precedents are set by this incident? What we've learned from it? What are our next steps? What we would need further discuss in specific questions?

  • 22
    Comment nuking is happening all over Meta now. So if you want any chance of your thoughts to be heard, take the time to compose an actual, thoughtful answer. – user102937 Oct 17 at 18:43
  • 1
    An update: The post has been re-re-edited to refer to "Alex (they)" and locked. – Ask About Monica Oct 21 at 18:40
  • @kbelder That's after it was switched from Bob to Lawrence. – Reinstate Monica Oct 22 at 14:41
  • 10
    Based on popular usage, it is 7.363 times more common for Alex to be a boy's name, so not exactly gender neutral if that is what the final edit was supposed to achieve. – Alex Oct 25 at 8:52
  • 4
    close reason somehow doesn't feel right here – gnat Oct 31 at 13:33

14 Answers 14

208

So why exactly, is it okay for a fictional man to be portrayed in a negative light, but not a fictional woman?

These people are fictional. They are not real. The primary motivation behind the edits seems to be that someone got offended over a feminine-sounding name.

If it's not okay to paint a fictional woman as a lousy manager, what makes it okay for the fictional manager to be a man instead? Western society ideally views men and women as equals. But equality also necessarily implies equal treatment. If you give one party preferential treatment, you are negatively discriminating against all the other parties.

Women can be strong. Women are strong. This edit war is in contradiction with that fact. Women do not need to be treated as helpless victims. That's regressive to the cause.

178

Let's be sensible here. Introducing a pseudonym (hopefully it was a pseudonym) to tell a story is... well, just a part of storytelling. Nothing is disparaging about any specific gender, demonym, or demographic in that story.

I'd strongly encourage calm and assume good intentions when seeing, editing, and flagging posts like that. Without any of the above, you lose the value of communal trust and thus run the risk of muting or silencing perspectives.

And worst of all, you get into silly edit wars for little material gain. Surely we have better uses of our time.

117

I find it quite interesting how many men think they have to protect Nancy and replace her with Bob, who apparently can be blamed for anything.

Has anyone of you asked any woman what she thinks of Nancy? I bet you didn't, so how can you know we are not ok with her and require your assistance?

Do you think you do us here a favor? But you don't. You think we are weaker, so you need to protect us. By editing her out, you only show that you believe in some of the stereotypes yourself and try so badly to remove her to hide that fact.


Why, when someone says women would do their nails, you think you need to do something against it, and when someone else says men would drive their cars or are playboys, no action necessary. How is that fair? Have you ever protected any man from stereotypes about men? I don't think so, so why do you think you have to do this for women? Are male stereotypes considered acceptable, but those of females not?

  • 28
    Is it safe to assume you're a woman that's annoyed by people taking offense for you (/women in general)? – Cerbrus Oct 16 at 13:53
  • 21
    @Cerbrus yes, you can say that. – Christine H. Richards Oct 16 at 13:53
  • 2
    Bob could still do Bob's nails. – House- 'Reinstate Monica' -man Oct 24 at 20:15
89

What's concerning here is the apparent lack of ownership JonH has over their own anecdote. From the information given in the post, this was a real memory concerning real people.

Are we now at the point where we have to alter real events to prevent a post from being even possibly, remotely, offensive?

  • 4
    This misses the point a little (or actually tackles it from the wrong side). If it was a real anecdote about real people, then there is all the more reason to obfuscate their names in a public internet rendition of the events. I agree this question was treated quite weirdly and excessively, but I find it a bit disingenuous to lump this under a blanket critique on censorship because it is a realy story. Let's stay on the carpet here, noone is taking JonH's realy life experiences away from changing the name to someone else. – Chris says Reinstate Monica Oct 16 at 11:53
  • 22
    But the fact that it is about real people is poignant in the sense that changing genders/names is to alter a real recollection. "Nancy" was a "she" and not a conscious decision to purposefully make them female for the sake of a narrative (which to me, would have been worse). I can understand changing names to hide real identities (movies and television programmes do it all the time), but why does the gender of the chosen name matter in a real story? This is what I don't understand. – Lewis Oct 16 at 12:08
  • 2
    Well, yes, I agree the Bobification is a bit silly, especially under the guise of supposed sexism. If they have a problem with denouncing Nancy, they could have called her Alice or whoever. But in the same way, if her gender isn't relevant it doesn't hurt the story to make it Bob either. Whatevs. – Chris says Reinstate Monica Oct 16 at 12:16
  • There is this answer where the poster claims he deliberately edited a question to restore gender - but in that one, a man was shown in a bad light (even though the OP later admitted the gender didn't matter) - have we lost the plot over all this!? – gbjbaanb Nov 3 at 21:05
27

Nothing is inherently bad about Nancy!

The sole problem could be that the OP posting that question took the real first name of the real person he was talking about. But only he can know that. So, someone coming in and replacing that name could be motivated by "let's avoid the (very small) chance that a real person feels slandered/defamed".

Beyond that, I do not see how using a female fictional name is any different from picking a male fictional name.

When people think that Nancy points to Sara, I suggest: Bob points to David. What now?

In other words: the point of that anecdote is that the OP has made the experience that some high ranking manager ruined a whole company. That is the essence of his story.

The problem is that there is a myriad of ways to "map" that story/question onto our current situation.

Probably that leads to certain people feeling attacked.

To which I can only say:

Sorry about that, but we feel under attack, too. And in contrast to said high ranking managers, we do not get paid. We do not receive a monthly monetary compensation. To the contrary, we do volunteer work here, and yet, we feel attacked and ignored for years. So, welcome to the club. Now let's get over it and do something constructive!

Finally: it is 2019. It is time to accept that every human being is an individual! A consequence of that is to accept that men, women, *, .. anybody can be incompetent as their job, and come over as arrogant and confrontational. Gender doesn't matter to that at all. Your gender doesn't make you a pain in the neck. But it also doesn't prevent you from being one!

  • 3
    Yes. But there simply was no reason to engage into an edit war, even with the participation of a CM to at first replace Nancy with generic singular "they" and after that with Bob. Telling that this is to avoid misrepresenting women (as told on an highly downvoted and now deleted answer and many now-deleted comments) is simply lunatic. – Victor Stafusa Oct 17 at 18:40
  • @VictorStafusa I hope I made it clear that I don't see (really convincing) reasons for just a single edit. Turning that into a war is outright crazy. But such things happens when everybody is going full steam. – GhostCat says Reinstate Monica Oct 17 at 18:42
  • 1
    Unfortunately, there are hundreds of deleted comments and even two answers which explained a bit more about the intricate madness that this became. – Victor Stafusa Oct 17 at 18:46
  • 7
    One issue with "let's avoid the (very small) chance that a real person feels slandered/defamed" is that the name might already have been pseudonymised and changing it actually risks putting the real name back. – Andrew Leach Oct 19 at 16:23
  • 2
    You nailed it. (Also, though meta talk should be minimised, the whole thing could have been avoided by prefacing the post with a disclaimer, something like Nancy is a fictional name and is used instead of the real name. (presuming that was actually the case)) – Peter Mortensen Nov 1 at 1:36
23

What has been really bad about Nancy, is that the community now seems to be consumed by discussions about political correctness, rather than on making Stack Exchange a better community. If even Shog9 feels he needs to edit an anecdotal post to change Nancy to Bob, the battle is lost.

  • 6
    An update to the CoC to make it more balanced won't change this. It should have never been politicized. – dfhwze Oct 20 at 10:57
20

There is a solution to the Nancy/Bob/someone problem, and it's obvious.

Describe the undesirable behavior in specific terms. Add a note to the CoC. Write a FAQ with a dozen or so questions. Then argue some more about each others' motivations.

We can't address this sort of thing with vague principles like "Be nice" or "Be respectful." We need rules. Please decide what should have been said, and give us rules so that we will always do and say the right things.

  • 44
    In this case, the rule is "don't use traditionnaly female-gendered names when speaking somewhat negatively about behaviour". They'll sugar coat it, but it's really what it is. A fictional character was put in bad light, it's therefore bigotry to use a female name, because reasons. – Félix Gagnon-Grenier Oct 16 at 15:29
  • 2
    @FélixGagnon-Grenier The name was fictional, the character was real (in the terms given to us). Which makes things even more frustrating. – Lewis Oct 16 at 15:45
  • 9
    While real identifyable people should not be misgendered, it is important that fictitious or anonymous people should be misgendered. If unsure if the person is fictitious or not or identifiable, the solution is ungendering. – Victor Stafusa Oct 16 at 17:54
  • 1
    @VictorStafusa While it is important to not misgender people who do not identify as either male or female, I think it is still important to remember that those gender do still exist. "Ungendering", here, was mostly denying that those actually exist. There are females and males. They still exist. It would seem that some people want to remove even the possibility of telling stories that include humans of such gender. – Félix Gagnon-Grenier Oct 16 at 18:18
  • 5
    @FélixGagnon-Grenier That was sarcasm. – Victor Stafusa Oct 16 at 18:34
  • 2
    @VictorStafusa lol. Mark me officially whooshed :p – Félix Gagnon-Grenier Oct 16 at 18:40
  • 7
    @VictorStafusa you just can't tell if it is these days.... :) – gbjbaanb Oct 17 at 11:43
20

The main thing that's bad about "Nancy" is that she appeared to be a real person, and there was enough information that she and anyone who worked with her could easily identify who she was.

Which means that if it's okay for JonH to criticize her, fairly specifically, by name, in public, here on our site about the governance of our Q&A sites, we can't possibly argue that she shouldn't also be allowed to respond and defend herself, here on our site about the the governance of our Q&A sites.

But we're sure as heck not going to allow this to be a forum for Jon and Nancy to debate whether Nancy was a bad manager.

What that means is that we generally should make edits to remove aspersions cast on specific, probably identifiable, non-famous people if they have nothing to do with our sites (beyond allegorical value).

Jon didn't do anything terrible, and he needn't be chastened, but editing it out is the right call unless you want this to become Meta.BadManagement.com. And if that is what you're into, I'd strongly suggest you just go stream all seasons of Bravo's Below Deck. It's wonderfully terrible and (seemingly accidentally) all about bad management.

That doesn't mean using a name for storytelling purposes is forbidden. It just means you should use the typical device most writers do: "Let's call him/her X".

(FWIW, I did also feel that Jon's use of a single female name, combined with his comment suggesting that it could've been any other name, where one example he gave was "Sarah," made it easy to think he was taking a shot at Sara in a way that felt petty and unkind to me, but I genuinely take him at his word that he wasn't. But it doesn't matter. Assuming we won't allow back-and-forth management-of-rando-companies debates here, we surely can't allow just one side of them, either.)

  • 10
    Discussing if Nancy is or not a bad manager is not the issue here. The issues here so far are: (1) Should fictitious bad feminine players be recast as masculine? If yes, isn't that a form of sexism? (2) Is it allowed to give random generic fictitious names in anedoctes or we must avoid names entirely? (3) Was Nancy a fictitious name for Sara or not? (4) Should people engage into edit wars even if they are CMs or ex-mods? (5) Is it really a good idea to engage into edit wars without commenting to present your POV? (6) This is meta, so we are discussing the precedent that this creates. – Victor Stafusa Oct 16 at 18:48
  • 1
    My question originally didn't present all those questions. Most of them were unravelled in comments and answers (some of them deleted) after I posted that. – Victor Stafusa Oct 16 at 18:52
  • @VictorStafusa, apologies if my post could have been clearer, or I misunderstood you, but I read the main question to be, "why wasn't this post okay," and why shouldn't we allow this. My answer is NOT about the gender of the name, but rather that disparaging what appears to be a real person (who's not involved in our sites) won't work here since we won't allow them to respond. You seem to be saying that it's fine since it's a fictitious name, and I agree - my suggestion is literally to make it clear that it's a fictitious name. – Jaydles Oct 16 at 18:57
  • 42
    @Jaydles, but in this case, when it happened that the OP clarified that the name was fictitious, Community Managers still edited the name to a different fictitious name, for no clear reason. Since that different, also fictitious name is of a different gender, and we recently had a CoC change regarding gender issues, people are legitimately wondering if that was the reason for the change from one fictitious name to another. – Nate S - Reinstate Monica Oct 16 at 19:19
  • 1
    You nailed it. SE really needs you now. :/ – Shadow The Princess Wizard Oct 16 at 21:05
  • 2
    WHO CARES. You're allowed to talk about people on the internet... – Apologize and reinstate Monica Oct 16 at 21:19
  • 4
    @only_pro, you’re allowed to do just about whatever you want on the internet, but that doesn’t mean you’re allowed to do it here. – Jaydles Oct 16 at 21:47
  • @Jaydles I know, just stating my opinion. You should be allowed to do it here. – Apologize and reinstate Monica Oct 16 at 21:51
  • 8
    @Jaydles Shog changed the name to Bob after I specified the person was fictional, so certainly it should not have been necessary. – Sklivvz Oct 16 at 23:55
  • 12
    But using "Bob" wouldnt point to David Fullerton? – GhostCat says Reinstate Monica Oct 17 at 9:12
  • 1
    If describing unacceptable and hypocritical behaviour makes it easy to identify a person, what does that tell you about this person? – Eric Duminil Nov 2 at 14:54
  • @EricDuminil apologies if I could have been clearer - I meant to suggest that for people that KNOW Nancy from work, it's easy to identify her once you read someone you likely know who reported to her write about her using her first name. – Jaydles Nov 7 at 20:39
19

Here is how the conversation should have gone (two versions)

A: Hey, your post is using a female character. I personally associated this with Sara from Stack Exchange and several others might as well. It could come across as a (passive aggressive) personal attack. Also your use of the female character corresponds a bit to the prevailing stereotype of woman not being capable to be a manager. Could you edit it into a masculine or neutral gender name in order to prevent these associations?

  • version 1

    B: O sorry, that was not intentional. Yeah, sure I am gonna change it.

    A: thank you

  • version 2

    B: O sorry, that was not intentional. I see your point, but to me the story feels better this way. I am relating my old experience with the situation here at Stack Exchange and my old HR manager was female.

    A: OK, I get it. In that case it is ok

Instead of

begin

A: your post is offensive to women I changed it

B: no your point is moot I change it back

A: you are a bigot

B: you are a feminist extremist

goto begin


Written by StackExchangeStrike

  • Besides speculation, is there any concrete evidence that "because it's offensive to women" is the reason the post was edited? – user253751 Oct 22 at 12:01
  • 1
    @immibis, what I understood is that the post was edited (the first time) because it was associated too much with an individual person of the stackexchange staff. In addition the phrase "she was busy doing her nails or was on her phone texting" was considered as a (stereotypical) expression that is denigrating towards women in general rather than an individual. It also doesn't work there to change 'she' into 'he' or 'they' and it was simply removed. meta.stackoverflow.com/revisions/390444/10 – Sextus Empiricus Oct 22 at 16:55
-12

Looking at the reactions to the post, some saw an implied connection to Sara (myself included, I have to admit), some objected to a female name, some objected to a male name, some objected to a neutral "the manager". We can obviously not have all three.

It doesn't help one bit when everybody vehemently insists on their preference in the comments and nobody is prepared to even give an inch.

In the post, it was the role that was important, not the name of the person filling it. So to get back to the content of the post - which got somewhat lost in the process - why not use a neutral nickname if you're concerned about the "flow" of the text.

If that sounds weird, I'd suggest to return to the neutral "the manager" to be as frictionless as possible during these heated times.

We could do with less drama.

  • 26
    I think the only way to circumvent any potential contention is if we eliminate humans from both the question and its audience. – faintsignal Oct 16 at 6:14
  • 4
    @ModusTollens for one thing this is about women in a place of power. Isn't that what women want in fight for equality? Being equal means taking bad side along with good one. Not all women are good, just like not all men are bad. – Resistance Is Futile Oct 16 at 7:36
  • @HerMajestyQueenofARC I don't want to "win" something here. I want us to be equal. The post was neutral in between, it would be so easy to keep it that way. Mentioning any gender was not necessary to get the point across. – Modus Tollens Oct 16 at 8:32
  • 7
    @ModusTollens It was not necessary, but OP put it there, removing it was unnecessary and accomplished nothing. We (women and men) need to be able expressing ourselves without somebody breathing down our necks all the time. This is what makes this whole gender, welcoming, pronouns situation so toxic. Because we are all losers here. We cannot literally say anything without being dissected and trampled all over. – Resistance Is Futile Oct 16 at 8:47
  • @HerMajestyQueenofARC I would have left it alone but I knew when I saw it it would blow up. I am upset by the shouting and the edit wars. I am upset because if it had to be changed it didn't end up neutral to offend less people. I am trampling on that. If people are offended and it takes so little engery to correct that than please just do it. No. It has to blow up. It was edited 27 times. Yes, we all loose that way. – Modus Tollens Oct 16 at 8:51
  • 1
    @ModusTollens I think we are way past being able to offend people less. The only way this can stop, if we all, and I mean all, just stop poking and leave others alone. Maybe the fire will die out, maybe not... but that is our only chance. – Resistance Is Futile Oct 16 at 8:57
  • 2
    @HerMajestyQueenofARC I agree, but I feel like this post here on MSO is used to do that: poking to be able to tell people again how they should or shouldn't feel. – Modus Tollens Oct 16 at 8:59
  • 2
    Actually using not a name ruined the style of the story. It was really terrible in between. Just read: "No more, I tell you, because I'm leaving you, bad management, and I am taking my money with me." – Trilarion Oct 16 at 9:25
  • @Trilarion Aw come on, we had millions of years of evolution, we can do it. "I'm leaving you and I am taking my money with it. I blame management." – Modus Tollens Oct 16 at 9:32
  • @Trilarion Agreed. It was great story at a beginning. – Resistance Is Futile Oct 16 at 9:33
  • 2
    There was a parody You Tube video (I can't find it now) where in a future we will not have names because names are sexist... – Resistance Is Futile Oct 16 at 9:34
  • @ModusTollens Yes, we could do it, but it would be more like a regression instead of evolution. The content of the story doesn't change just because the name is changed, but the style of the story would be much worse. Not naming management but rather only alluding to it makes the story interesting. Using a rather limited, forced subset of language to essentially saying the same as before - I don't see the advantage of it. Nancy is not more discriminating than Bob or manager, but manager sounds like a direct accusation while Bob or Nancy avoid that. Names in stories are natural. – Trilarion Oct 16 at 11:20
  • 7
    A friend of mine suggested a new site - SE Void - where no questions are asked. This would solve a couple of issues we are experiencing these days. – dfhwze Oct 16 at 12:49
-15

I don't think it's a big deal. If you want to give someone your name and have them use it, that's their choice. But it would be nice for the person who gets my name in the future to know that they are using it.

  • 12
    An ex-moderator and a CM engaging an edit war with the OP with little to no explanation over a fictitious name is "not a big deal"? – Victor Stafusa Oct 16 at 19:52
-18

So can it not be both?

  • There is nothing wrong with Nancy (when you look at an individual case)
  • But it might still be good to edit the post: To make it less negative towards women, and to make it less resembling a real individual at Stack Exchange that may currently be easily associated with the character in the story.

I see two points that can be potentially associated with the use of a female character:

  1. A single post portraying a women as the bad manager is not problematic. The problem is when there are many of such posts, or when the majority of such posts tend towards the sentiment that women are bad managers.

Bob will have a different impact on men, than Nancy on women. This is because there is an asymmetry between men and women and because of that one might consider to not use a woman as character, but a man instead. The asymmetry is in the 'fact' that women have been for years in an unequal position (and still are). And as a consequence many different jobs are being seen as either masculine or feminine. Fiction reinforces this by repeating the prevailing stereotypical division of roles between men and women.

  1. In addition, while the fictional character in the post may not have intended to match Sara Chipps, it does show resemblance and may be interpreted as such. It would be good to edit this resemblance out. Doing that will make it less likely to be seen as a personal attack, less likely to increase hatred towards an individual at SE, and improves the question.
  • 28
    Re"when the majority of such posts tend towards the sentiment that women are bad managers.": Uncle Bob must be dead of shame by now. – ankii Oct 16 at 0:25
  • 4
    @ankii I am not sure how to read the sarcasm in your comment. – Sextus Empiricus Oct 16 at 0:32
  • 1
    @JJJ but he was the power abusing user on SE in my question, Bad manger in that SO post and self declared righteous person here. Basically such posts portray that men cannot be good at anything. CC: Martijin – ankii Oct 16 at 18:11
  • @ankii yes, when the name Bob is being used then it will portray men as bad. You can indeed argue that this makes the post equally bad, that it doesn't matter whether Nancy or Bob is being used and that there is nothing bad about Nancy. My point was that there is an asymmetry between men and women and because of that one might consider to not use a woman as character but a man instead. The asymmetry is in the 'fact' that women have been (and are) for years in an unequal position. And as a consequence many different jobs are being seen as either masculine or feminine. Fiction reinforces this. – Sextus Empiricus Oct 17 at 7:10
  • That's just to say that there can be seen some bad in Nancy. Regarding the inequality and asymmetry. I am not saying it's sufficiently strong argument, in this particular case, to argue that the post has to be necessarily changed. The example 'bad manager' is only remotely relating to a stereotype of woman, and is not used as such (it is a story based on real life events in which the person happened to be a woman). Not every portrayal of women in a negative way needs to be changed. In addition in repsonse to Bob one could say 'why is the manager always a man?'. It's always something. – Sextus Empiricus Oct 17 at 7:18
  • I feel that you received -17 from others and -1 from me, because of a bit poorly positioned text due to which I, at least, stopped reading it right there. The ending (which I read just now for the first time) seems correct. I'd call person A person B or X, Y personally speaking. One can see them in my answers on IPS. When there are more than 3 people, I'd extend them to two or three syllable words. – ankii Oct 17 at 7:18
  • The post started with a positive rating but once it got a few negative votes it plummeted. – Sextus Empiricus Oct 17 at 7:23
  • I can say I contributed to it.. once when it was ~7. but in such a long series, I tend to read in some glances. Sorry. :( – ankii Oct 17 at 7:39
  • 1
    @dfhwze that, 'he', is actually one of my preferred pronouns to refer in a neutral way to gender. I dislike how SE is now strictly judging I can not have any choice in using my own preferred pronouns to refer to a neutral gender. In my view this battle for pronoun inclusiveness is just creating a lot of confusion and language will, eventually, evolve towards a single genderless pronoun (since language always/often finds the easiest way and a multitude of pronouns is not easy). It will require a lot of time, 'he' as a genderless pronoun is not yet considered correct by all. – Sextus Empiricus Oct 17 at 8:33
  • 1
    @Cerbrus I would say it is one of many problems. This issue is complex. I agree that swapping the gender may not be necessary, I even believe that swapping the gender at all (making it neutral) can be seen as unnecessary. My point is just that this portrayal of a woman as a bad manager is adding one more example to the large pile of ideas/expressions/thoughts that woman are not capable of being a managers, and that this is a point of concern. I would say that it is less a point of concern, not hypocritical, when we swap Nancy for Bob (but it is up to JonH to decide on this). – Sextus Empiricus Oct 17 at 8:58
  • 2
    @MartijnWeterings: It's not relevant that the name was female. It's an anonimized story of something that happened to the OP. If it's not okay to use a female name there, it not okay to use a male name there either. No double standards. – Cerbrus Oct 17 at 9:07
  • 1
    @Cerbrus there are double standard since 1) woman are in an unequal position 2) the female character may be associated with Sara Chipps from StackExchange. Those are two points that argue that a more feminine name is not okay and that do not equally count for a masculine name. – Sextus Empiricus Oct 17 at 9:08
  • 2
    "It is okay since the objections do "not equally count for a masculine name". " And that double standard is not okay. – Cerbrus Oct 17 at 9:21
  • 1
    One double standard doesn't excuse the other. – Cerbrus Oct 17 at 9:58
  • 1
    @MartijnWeterings: "The other theft is trying to make everything less stolen and in the long run will result into an order with less theft", or better yet: "The other murder is trying to make everything less murdered and in the long run will result into an order with less murder" That's not how things work... – Cerbrus Oct 17 at 10:10
-46

First, Nancy is not a generic name.

Nancy might be a real person, who might see this post and take it to court, as Shog mentioned.

Second, if the author would have written "I had a bad manager, let's call that manager for the sake of this post only Nancy", then it might have passed.

Third, using a name when you tell a story about a single person is noise. What info does it add, exactly? None. And there aren't more people in that story, only the bad manager. If, for example, the story also included another manager or employee, Bob and Alice would indeed be needed.

  • 58
    But Bob might be a real person who might see this post and take it to court... no? – Script47 Oct 15 at 22:49
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    @Script47 No, because the post now specifically states the Bob is a fake name. – divibisan Oct 15 at 22:49
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    But Nancy could be anyone. For all we know, it's a fake name. BTW, I believe somebody other than OP changed it to Bob. – Script47 Oct 15 at 22:51
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    @Script47 Shog9 changed it to Bob, but in the edit comment he said "Jon suggested Bob would work too" – divibisan Oct 15 at 22:51
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    Names are noise? What?? Ok, "they said me that other they were going to do some interesting thing, but one more kind of they stopped them" - that's a perfect neutral phrase without any noise from names? – Qwertiy Oct 15 at 22:52
  • 3
    @Script47, Shog9 ♦ in edit 25 with comment "Jon suggested Bob would work too. I like Bob. I have two uncles named Bob. Good gender-neutral name, Uncle Bob." You can find it in revisions even as a guest. – Qwertiy Oct 15 at 22:54
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    @Qwertiy yes names are noise. Why would anyone care how my past manager is called? The point is that the manager was bad. That's what matters. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Oct 15 at 22:58
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    @Shadow, because it's simpler to read. And because names allow to distinguish different persons. – Qwertiy Oct 15 at 22:59
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    What would be really funny now is Shog‘s two uncles suing him for slander over this. – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Oct 16 at 0:15
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    Nancy might be a real person, who might see this post and take it to court.. That is absurd. Using absurd arguments is not valid. – James Reinstate Monica Polk Oct 16 at 0:40
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    I don't mess around with HR people; they scare me. My uncles, them I can handle. – Shog9 Oct 16 at 1:15
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    @Qwertiy OK, agree about "names allow to distinguish different persons" - but that's not the case in that specific story. Edited the answer to clarify. Cheers. :) – Shadow The Princess Wizard Oct 16 at 7:14
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    The "this is a fictional person" note was introduced by OP before Bob was edited in, @divibisan – Zoe Oct 16 at 7:43
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    Where I come from, Nancy is a generic name. A bit dated, but definitely generic. Your argument is moot. – Qix Oct 16 at 11:42
  • 2
    @Zoethetransgirl Not that it really matters, but to the best of my knowledge, that was added by Sklivvz, not JonH, after extensive discussion in the comments and at the same time that Nancy was changed to Bob. meta.stackoverflow.com/revisions/390444/24 – divibisan Oct 16 at 15:36
-50

Possible Personal Attack

The post is drawing horrid comparisons between some woman who was the head of an HR department and some person in SOInc. It lends itself to being a personal attack on a staff member of the site (whether it is intended or not). As it's literally discussing some woman who comes in and makes changes, how horrid, lazy and unlawful she is and how she is now at Stack Over Inc. How in any way can this be a good thing?

There's no reason not to keep it generic and take any potential personal feel to it out of it and still make a point. Hence this edit.

As for not seeing anything like it, you haven't seen much then. The roll backs on this post are typical for a controversial post.

Poor Representation of Women

On the other side of things. We are on a site that launched a welcome wagon to increase (among other groups of people) female participation. The narrative of the post is a damning caricature of a lazy, unlawful, selfish woman doing her nails at work. Why not make it a man? Why further push women to the brink of not wanting to be here (speaking as one)? Why make a damming caricature of anyone? Why bring a biased scenario, that would not be hard to track, 18 years of employment, head of HR to a public site? It's unprofessional at best.

The fact that this person is a woman and there was no initial indication this was a fake name or gender, is pushing further credence to being a personal dig at a particular staff member.


Update:

All is well that ends well.

The question was edited to be gender neutral.

@JonH thank you for that edit! I am very grateful. Merci! – Yvette Colomb 3 mins ago

@yvette you are right it is a fictitious name so I do agree with you. Now let us all be civil please. I feel like the love I have for the community gets carried away so thank you for bringing me back to the right path. – JonH 2 mins ago

@JonH I'm so impressed by your actions. If I was in a room with you, I'd probably hug you. Enjoy this 11 second video it will cleanse the garbage. – Yvette Colomb 42 secs ago

Maybe there's hope for us after all.

  • 57
    So, presenting the bad manager as a woman is poor representation, but as a man is ok? – Victor Stafusa Oct 15 at 23:07
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    @VictorStafusa why does the person need a gender? That is the question. – user310756 Oct 15 at 23:07
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    Because most of random made up names are gendered, just as Alice and Bob. Even Victor and Yvette are gendered. – Victor Stafusa Oct 15 at 23:11
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    Ok, let's see. If someone tells that a random annonymous woman with a generic name did something bad, that it is sexist persecution. But a random annonymous man with a generic man doing domething bad, that is ok. Oh, well, until 10 minutes ago, I thought that there was bad people in both genders, not only in the male side. – Victor Stafusa Oct 15 at 23:16
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    I read it multiple times. Sorry, but this time I simply can't agree with you. I'm sorry you take it so hard, not everyone are attacking you, or women, or minority groups, whenever they can. Many times people do attack, but not in that very specific case. I am as sure about it as I can be on something. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Oct 15 at 23:17
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    The OP is only comparing SE with someone bad that he knew some time ago who apparently happened to be a woman. He is not saying that someone specifically in SE staff is a woman. Those are quite different things. – Victor Stafusa Oct 15 at 23:21
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    @Yve please, try to read your comments neutrally. You are lashing out at those who downvote or disagree with you. There are only two options here: either the OP meant to attack said SE employee, or he didn't. Those who choose to belive he didn't should have the right to do it, and you try to take that right away from them. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Oct 15 at 23:26
  • 8
    Surely feels like lashing out to me. You try to mark those who disagree or don't belive you as "the bad guys". Anyway, I'm off too. Will sleep over it and see what tomorrow brings. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Oct 15 at 23:32
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    "Or is it because I'm a woman, so I'm out of control and emotional." That's a low card to play, me thinks. – Sterling Archer Oct 15 at 23:33
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    The OP wrote a narrative about a person who acted in a certain way and their reaction to it. Claiming that the description is hurtful to women in general implies that women in general are like that caricature. Really? "Why not make it about a man?" Because this was about a particular experience. If someone has a problem with a male boss, that's a different story to tell. You are free to tell your own story in your own way. If there are things you don't like about a story that someone else told, downvote it. This nit picking over words and taking offense at nuances can get really annoying. – fixer1234 Oct 15 at 23:35
  • 20
    @YvetteColomb Standing up to sexism is certainly OK, but interpreting everything as sexism is not. Even if this post was (I'm not saying it was) an attack of a certain person, then this attack was direct towards this person and not against women in general. – samcarter Oct 15 at 23:39
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    @YvetteColomb You misunderstand me, my offence isn't that the name Bob is used, it's more about your hypocrisy that the name Bob is fine but the name Nancy isn't. Use the name John, Fred, Chris, Ahmed, Peter, whatever, I don't care, but when you say using Nancy is wrong but using a male name isn't, I see a problem. I don't associate a single incompetent person to represent their whole group. – Script47 Oct 15 at 23:39
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    @YvetteColomb it's about making a point, it's anecdotal, and it's an excellent way to write to draw people in. – Script47 Oct 15 at 23:44
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    Your problem is that you try to connect every single little to a bigger agenda. Could it not just be that the OP made a post and nothing else? Must we tiptoe everywhere because of the slightest chance that someone will misunderstand the post? – Script47 Oct 15 at 23:48
  • 30
    @YvetteColomb Even if Nancy is a woman, she is the target, not all women. Describing one bad female manager does not make any statements about women in general. If you insist on making comparisons between Nancy and an employ of stackoverflow: yes, many users (me included) did not like recent actions. I am among the users who downvoted the copy-pasta posts and the non-apology, but I can assure you this has nothing to do with the employ being male or female. So please don't mix the representation of women into this, this will just divert attention away from the real problems – samcarter Oct 16 at 0:16

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