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related: Why is the f word still allowed in profiles? , Rules for Profiles , One user is putting another user in the pillory on his profile page. Is it really ok? , Can I link to my Male Enhancement Pills site on my profile?

Today, I received the following message from the mods according to Cody Gray ♦, it was actually from CM mods/SE staff - not from user-elected SO voluntary mods:

Hi, Vaxquis,

Could you please remove the it from your profile? It's snarky and somewhat rude, even offensive towards some people. I'd really appreciate it if you could.

Thank you.

(I got it on SO site, to be exact)

'The it' they are referring to is, as far as I understand, from this paraphrased Orwell quote:

No animal shall kill any other animal

except when it they didn't use valid pronouns.

I honestly fail to see how quoting (and paraphrasing, as far as the second part goes) Orwell in reference to recent SE events and/or using 'that pronoun they' in reference to an animal in my personal profile is, quote, "rude, even offensive towards some people", assuming the people are sane. I can agree it's snarky - it was intended to be. It's the only way to express the amount of stress and frustration the recent pronoun/Monica/Sarah/CC4.0/mod vacuum/nonapology/post-it-to-newspapers drama caused me.

I can understand that the n-word is a racial slur. I can understand that the f-word refers to a sexual act and thus is considered taboo (see the linked meta answer from Atwood about the possibility of usage in profile though). Still, if using that pronoun is now considered so rude/offensive in reference to a literal animal that usage in the profile page is verboten, what will be next?

FWIW, I don't care much about my fake internet points and virtual swag. I do still care about the freedom of self expression. Since I'm obviously "a troll" (as a mod themself put it about two weeks ago) I anticipated this action, and for this reason explicitly put

Blank me, ban me, delete me; be my guest.

in my profile already. What is sad that nobody bothered to comply with my request, instead spamming me with yet another "you're rude" mod message.

I guess I'm done, like the other people before me. I'm not a mod, not even a past one, I'm not a honcho with million rep, nobody will care and nobody will miss me. I've removed the offensive word from my profile. Still, I won't remove Orwell from my profile. If removed - I'll revert it. If suspended - I won't care, I'll do it again. If permabanned - I'll sigh with relief.

If I'm really a troll, if all my answers, rep, badges & time wasted are worth less than my "privilege", now revoked, to quote Orwell - so be it. I'm in no position to change anything. I can only complain.

The question that I want to leave to the community here - where will you draw the line?

  • 21
    If you think the moderator was right, you should do what they say. If you thinkthey were wrong, see the FAQ What recourse do I have if I believe a moderator has abused their privileges?. – Raedwald Oct 24 at 14:49
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    @ArtOfCode (I got it on SO site, to be exact) - the place where I'd expect PC-policy to be actually least relevant to the discourse. – vaxquis Oct 24 at 14:49
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    Streisand effect at play here. – Script47 Oct 24 at 14:50
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    @Raedwald I don't believe it can accomplish anything; if thousands of people protesting here didn't make a real dent in SE's approach to this, I don't have neither the time nor resources to fight a battle I see as lost already. – vaxquis Oct 24 at 14:51
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    I will use multiplication tables, I will do long division. I will even complete abstract algebra exercises, but geometry is where I draw the line! – Columbia says Reinstate Monica Oct 24 at 14:52
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    @Lundin are you aware that taste is a matter of, well, taste (opinion), and, as such, quoting Jeff Atwood: The user page is a reflection of that user and it is their page to do with what they will. - you're saying that I don't have proper taste - and I accept your right to that opinion. I understand your point of view. Our tastes differ, and that's a fact. As to the 'politely' - I've already have my user profile blanked twice during the onset of the dramas. I wouldn't call that 'polite'. As to the mods - read about the chilling effects. It has everything to do with SE. – vaxquis Oct 24 at 15:00
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    @Lundin It has everything to do with the current problems. It is a statement that is absolutely snarky but it is not directed against any individual, names nobody and is, by my standards anyway, a clear statement of opinion about the situation - starting with Orwell makes this abundantly clear (i.e., starting with some pop celebrity might make the same point grammatically but would lose the element of authoritarianism/free-speech/etc.) – manassehkatz-Reinstate Monica Oct 24 at 15:01
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    There are plenty of profiles that contain offensive content, one particular one even containing a load of words that trigger the Chinese firewall, rendering any page they interact with unreadable for Chinese visitors. If this isn't allowed, why is that? It's rude to all Chinese visitors, and I'd argue that kind of activism does even more harm to more users, but that profile isn't being touched with a 10-foot pole. – Cerbrus Oct 24 at 15:01
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    @KevinB Arbitrary justice is no justice. – Carpe CM Oct 24 at 15:20
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    @KevinB on the contrary - current CoC + FAQ tries to draw a line when it comes to general behavioural rules. Still, I don't see how I've broken the CoC in this particular case. I see a chilling effect however, and pre-emptive censorship/moderation. I might be wrong on this, but, honestly, I doubt that this is the case. – vaxquis Oct 24 at 15:22
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    @ReinstateMonica it's the last hill that is still standing for me - I respect your opinion about the ridiculousness of the situation (mostly because now it's kind of ridiculous, more than painful, for me to be treated the way I was for the last month) - but honestly, I didn't have much choice in this matter. – vaxquis Oct 24 at 15:35
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    @ScottSeidman I also understand it. As I said, I've never called anybody 'it' without explicit prior request in my lifetime, since I am well aware that the default connotation is negative (exactly as with calling a person an animal, BTW), and I really seldom want to offend people intentionally (people get offended by everything too often already without any need of action on my part, usually) - the people I'd like to offend ain't random strangers on the internet, though, they're usually politicians :D. Still, does that make my paraphrasing of Orwell's quote strictly offensive by **self? – vaxquis Oct 24 at 17:43
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    This message was not sent by a community-elected moderator, but rather by a CM/staff member. I don’t know what your profile said before, but this strikes me as an overreach. We’ve always allowed users to put just about anything in their profiles, with exceptions being few and far between, and essentially limited to slurs and other personal attacks. Curse words, while not allowed elsewhere on the site, are allowed in profiles (see Welbog’s profile). That said, I’m not sure this is a hill worth dying on. Folks are very sensitive and on-edge these days. Choose your battles carefully. – Cody Gray Oct 24 at 20:38
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    @Terry For purposes of anonymity, moderator messages do not disclose which individual moderator sent the message. This was requested a while back by an SO mod (I believe Brad Larson), and implemented by the team. It addresses very real problems of real-world stalking and death threats that have been directed at mods in the course of doing their jobs. Aside from the anonymity issue, the logic is that mods act as a group, so messages are effectively sent by the site’s moderation team. Admittedly, recent events have created some degree of ideological separation between community mods and staff. – Cody Gray Oct 24 at 20:40
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    I verified it... What I said is true. (I'm an SO mod, in case that wasn't obvious.) Lundin was just guessing, that's part of why I clarified. Obviously you still have the option of appealing. The staff member is subject to changing their mind based on arguments that you make, and/or you may have your case examined by a different CM than the one who initially made the judgment. But yeah, this isn't a case where you disagree with a community moderator and need to escalate to a CM. It was a CM who made the decision in the first place, and not in response to a flag raised on SO by another user. – Cody Gray Oct 24 at 22:08

11 Answers 11

86

It's kind of a hard question. Because resolving such cases depends on moderators’ opinions.

If we are talking about a message in your profile:

  1. For me (as a member and as a moderator) it's obvious that there was no intent to offend someone. It looks like an attempt to show the absurdity of the whole current situation and a little bit like sarcasm.
  2. It's a quote, basically.
  3. If someone is offended by this non-offensive message in another member's profile, it's, actually, their problem. They just shouldn't open it. Moderators should not react on such flags.

So, my suggestion to you:

  1. Reach a CM.
  2. Don't change profile information. If a moderator changes it by themself, use the contact form to reach a CM.
  • I don't think that the intent is that important. You can be unintentionally offensive. – Q the Platypus Nov 6 at 5:14
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    @QthePlatypus Where will you draw the line? – Philipp Nov 6 at 7:00
  • I am of the option that this is close to the line. Close enough that I would tell a person that they may have been unintentionally offensive and it might be better for them to express there view in another way. – Q the Platypus Nov 6 at 7:15
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    The two things that come to mind are the use of the word “it” in the context of a debate about trans people. Since “it” has been used to dehumanise trans people it comes across as an attempt to do it here (the counterpoint that they are animals doesn’t make sense in context as in animal farm the animals are referred to using he/She/they). The second problem is that it evokes the idea of cis people being killed for using the wrong pronoun where he reverse of transpeople being killed for being trans is something that is frightening frequent. – Q the Platypus Nov 6 at 7:24
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    I feel both of your points require some amount of "looking for bad intent" instead of assuming good intent. AFAIK it is valid to reference to animals as "it", I also wouldn't know which pronouns were used in the book itself (didn't read it in english), and even then... it's a POV thing from what kind of narrator is involved and if it's about specific animals or unknown ones. – Philipp Nov 6 at 8:26
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    Your second point.. looks pretty far fetched. It's not even directed at cis being killed, transpeople might use the wrong pronouns too... and then it's still just a quote from the book and... worst case it's exaggeration coz noone here will be actually... and..... Well, we'll disagree on this I think. – Philipp Nov 6 at 8:26
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    @QthePlatypus tvn24.pl/magazyn-tvn24/zrobimy-z-ciebie-mezczyzne,242,4189 - it's a well-known story of a suicide of a Polish trans person, who preferred to be called "it", and chose that explicit pronoun. Milo kill itself not because there wasn't any vocal alphabet community in the vicinity - the actual reason was the fact that, amongst other things, you can't expect liberal people to act fascist, and you can't expect fascist to act liberal. As soon as the alphabet community goes the fascist route, forcing people to act on their whims, it loses its sole sense of existence. – vaxquis Nov 6 at 11:21
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    @QthePlatypus also, the intent is important. I won't choose to get offended at a person that I know has no intention of harming or offending me; I expect the same from any reasonable person. – vaxquis Nov 6 at 11:22
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    @vaxquis The community refers to itself as "LGBT" or similar, e.g. see "editors note" on this answer, so it's best to follow their lead :-). I ask you not to use "alphabet community". It it could be intended as ridicule, which we don't want. – sourcejedi Nov 6 at 12:22
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    @sourcejedi Editor’s note: LGBT+, LGBTQ+, and similar are used interchangeably. We refer to the entire group of gender, romantic, and sexual minorities, or the ‘Lavender’ community.. FWIW, "alphabet community" is "similar" enough. And yes, it could be intended as ridicule. Any term can be intended as a ridicule against everyone. Milo was a friend of my close friend (lived not far from me). The so-called "community" failed him. The "community" failed me. It failed many people along the way. It failed to protect, it failed to nurture, it failed to mature. – vaxquis Nov 6 at 20:15
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    @sourcejedi if the so-called "inclusiveness" actually excludes and alienates the people that it should encompass, I thing that ridicule would be the least a person can do to express dismay. I stand with each and every queer person that asks for it - both here, and in my private life. I won't bow to demands of a group of self-entitled and self-selected "representatives", who were neither democratically selected nor have any moral right to speak on the behalf of queer people, but who are appropriating our culture. We were here before them, and we will still be here after that. – vaxquis Nov 6 at 20:21
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    @sourcejedi tl;dr see meta.stackexchange.com/questions/334575/… - I always hated those letters, the separation they brought, the boundaries they created. There was a day when we were just that, queers, freaks, but we were proud of it, and it wasn't the artificial pride of waving a flag or banner - we included everyone, because we were everyone. Anyone who could accept us was accepted by us, and it was something beautiful, for me, for as long as it lasted; alas, t'was in the days of yore. – vaxquis Nov 6 at 20:34
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    @vaxquis So I was right to understand it as being a criticism, but I was wrong to make assumptions and patronize you. I am sorry to hear how you and yours have been affected. I made a similar assumption about the phrase in your profile, and I will try to remember that. – sourcejedi Nov 6 at 21:30
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    @sourcejedi thanks, I really appreciate it. I live in a country that went into a kind of sexuality-related frenzy lately (it's related to the ruling party's approach, but also to many social changes happening here recently) - and right now it can be equally risky to identify yourself as a pro-queer (you can literally get assaulted for that in many places) or as anti-queer, in any sense (you will get ostracized by many people, you will get called names, you will be considered uneducated or mentally inferior). I, personally, am in favour of not taking sides. We should stand as one, I think. – vaxquis Nov 6 at 21:39
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    @QthePlatypus OP was going out of their way to force the use of the word "it" into it media.giphy.com/media/3o7TKGRHLyFXdeziyk/source.gif :D ... but seriously, intent is not "an impossible criteria to use". We have (or at least had) a strong guideline here, making it possible - assume good intent, unless strongly proved otherwise. It's a simple rule, and it actually works quite nice in practice. E.g. if I see a person that starts an OK exchange of arguments with me, but the discussion gets heated, I assume good intentions and back off. Goes different if a person starts wicked. – vaxquis Nov 8 at 12:19
43

Personally, I like your paraphrased quote. It's sarcastic and smart, and there will always be people who are gonna be offended at sarcasm. Especially if people realize that they can exert power over others by being offended at something, that something will attract attention-seekers. Power attracts power-abusers. This is ultimately bad for LBGT.... people who merely want to be respected, but have the sense not to impose the usage of their made-up pronouns on others.

So this whole debate about neo-pronouns has been blown way out of proportion, constructive ideas were refused and even led to firing in case of Monica, giving the impression that SE Inc. is a dictatorship (where dissenters do in fact get killed), and I believe your paraphrased quote summed that up really nicely.

39

[...] even offensive towards some

I wonder if, for ten years or more, we have simply had the wrong approach to interpersonal offence.

Of course it is wrong for an individual to go out of their way to be intentionally offensive towards another.

Of course sometimes an individual writes something offensive, entirely unintentionally.

But we treat both these situations (and others) as if the offendee is both:

  • the party which arbitrates what does and doesn't constitute offence
  • has the right to not be offended

If we were to take this to the most absurd limits, everyone everywhere could censor and silence everyone else by claiming offence.

I think, on the contrary, while recommending that of course no individual should set out to be deliberately offensive towards any other individual, everyone, nevertheless would benefit from contemplating the idea that they possess:

The right to be offended.

Sometimes the correct response to: "I find that offensive!" is:

"Oh God, I'm really sorry, I wasn't thinking - I should never have said that, I take it back."

But sometimes, I'd like to suggest, the correct response to: "I find that offensive!" is:

"Yes. You're allowed to find it offensive."

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    That's the crucial distinction: Everybody has the right to be offended. Nobody has the right to not be offended. (More specifically: Nobody has the right to suppress any speech or action that might offend someone or that some people claim to be offended by) : "In order to be able to think, you have to risk being offensive" – Marco13 Nov 6 at 15:15
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    @Marco13 Thanks for the explanation in the parentheses. I didn't get what that sentence meant in both your comment and Rounin's answer at first. :-) To me as a non-native speaker it sounded like it meant having the right to be unfazed by something and just letting it be. – Alex Nov 7 at 8:17
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    @Alex Well, just "not being bothered by some cr4p that someone wrote on the internet" is also a right that everybody does have. But people are claiming this right far too rarely. Quite the contrary. My impression is that some people are actively looking for offense. (That's only my subjective impression - dissecting this is beyond the scope of the comments). – Marco13 Nov 7 at 13:18
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    It's like a PSA: We've invented a new right for anyone to be able to make up a word, expect others to use it, and take offense when they don't. It's not just about looking for offense - it's inventing new offenses, and doing so in ways that deliberately challenge others to offend. This is what you do if there's not enough offense in the world and you need to print some more. – Scott Hannen Nov 7 at 18:57
27

Asking you to remove this is entirely unjustified.

You were using the pronoun "it" to refer to something that is not a person. It's ridiculous on its face to suggest that such usage is offensive. If it is, then the mod message itself - which also uses the pronoun "it" to refer to something that is not a person - is equally offensive. But this is a line of thought so daft I won't bother pursuing it. The word "it" exists in the English language and you used it correctly; complaining about it is so silly that I can only presume that its presence was not truly what motivated the staff message.

What could make the message in your profile offensive, then? Presumably, the implied political message - that disagreements over proper pronoun usage should not be considered serious enough issues to deliberately hurt other people. That Sara Chipps disagrees with that is clear enough from her liking and retweeting Tweets gloating about the fact that her policies have hurt people, so it's not surprising to see that at least some staff are willing to treat your viewpoint as offensive.

But it shouldn't be offensive. A basic level of tolerance and liberalism is necessary for our community - or, indeed, any community - to function. If we truly reach the point where people are going to get punished for simply being the voice of moderation that says "you shouldn't go out of your way to hurt other people just because they disagree with you", then the site is doomed to become a cesspit of nastiness and hatred. Dishing out punishment and threats of punishment simply for advocating tolerance is wrong, and should not happen here.

19

While I personally feel that the request is unreasonable, under the current circumstances, for your own peace of mind, it might be wise to keep a professional (or blank) profile. In essence, there's no end to this line of thinking; if there's even a remote chance that your writing might come across as offensive or can be misconstrued as offensive, there are people who will take offense and complain. Stack Exchange has made it abundantly clear with their recent actions that they're willing to take responsibility for people's feelings. I'm afraid you don't have much recourse here.

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    sadly, I think you're more right on this than Suvitruf (he got the ✓ though, because he said what I would like to be the truth :/ ) - I reckon the moment when THIS USER PROFILE WAS INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK BY THE USER - NOTHING TO SEE HERE, MOVE ALONG will be one of the only sensible options for people like me draws near :/ – vaxquis Oct 24 at 15:50
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    @Suvitruf you described what should be right. user437611 described what is actually right right now. I fully agree with you both, although the reality has already tilted heavily towards the latter. I hope that there will come a day what you said will be the only right answer - I thus leave the ✓ with you, waiting for that day. – vaxquis Oct 24 at 15:59
17

Before considering where each individually will draw the line, there are at least three questions on a higher level of abstraction:

  • Where is "the company" trying to draw the line?
  • Will the mods accept where the line is supposed to be drawn?
  • Will the community accept where the line will be drawn?
  • (Followed by your question: Where does each one individually draw the line?)

The important part is that the consequences that are drawn from the answers of these questions differ wildly.

The first one refers to what the company is trying to achieve, and which measures and policies they are using to achieve that. This is still independent of whether the goals are "right" or "wrong", or whether the policies will help to achieve the proposed goals, or whether they might even have the opposite effect.

The second one refers to whether the mods will continue to voluntarily act as tools for the company, and enforce the policies, even when they don't fully agree with it. That's a decision that they only have to align with their own conscience.

The third one refers to cases like yours and the associated question: Does the community think that the actions are "right" or "wrong" or "justified"? This is difficult, obviously. A few weeks ago, nobody would have bat an eye on the statement in your profile. But what has been discussed in the past few weeks has caused a certain (over?) sensitivity when it comes to pronouns. We could now ("as a community") try to figure out where to draw the line for this particular case, but even if this issue could be resolved, one could start to argue to codify other rules, with a similar level of detail as the pronouns, for other cases - namely the ones that you listed as "related" on top of your question. Even after a short glance at the discussions there, it should be clear: This cannot be codified in all detail.

Therefore, I'd say that the most important thing for each individually is to accept: There is no line!

To illustrate it: When "averaging over a (large) community", it's not like this:

TheLine

But rather like this:

NoLine

(Of course, this does not help each individual mod with the decision: "Should I allow this or not?". But the attempt to codify "the line", even for one specific issue, as in the current "Code of Conduct" update, has created nothing but a huge clusterintercourse)


To answer the last question, which aimed at each one individually: Shortly after the proposed CoC update, I updated my profile to say that my preferred pronoun was something like ~"Most gracious majesty". A form of satire, expressing my disagreement with the decisions that have been made by the authorities, and not a "hostility towards minorities", not by any stretch of the imagination. This statement was removed (without notice). Now I changed it, saying that my preferred pronouns are "er/ihn/ihm/seiner" (which are German pronouns). I wonder whether this will also be removed. If not, we know that "the authorities" draw "the line" somewhere between ~"majesty" and "pronouns in a different language". Again, this is a form of satire, pointing out the shortcomings of the CoC and the futility of the attempt to codify "the line" when dealing with a large community.

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    FWIW, I guess that obvious and intended satire without profound obscenity should be rather "in the green", don't you think? Many law systems have explicit exceptions concerning satire; you yourself were trying to find where the line of currently allowed level of self-expression is. In a sense, I think that every thinking being that has been subjected to a rule of law at least once will try to find what actually is acceptable, what ain't, and what may-or-may-not-be. Animals living with humans do that all of the time. Children do that. Adults in unfamiliar situations usually do that also. – vaxquis Oct 24 at 17:29
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    It's rude, unkind, hostile, a denial of your identity and even existence if you believe you are the target of such "satire". No "stretch of the imagination" is required. – Robert Longson Oct 24 at 17:37
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    @RobertLongson we got to the point I'm actually quite often unable to distinguish any actual irony, because the meta- level got too high... we started with jokes, then went to meta-jokes, then it's meta-meta-... more often than not I have to re-read things a couple of time to filter out all the possible implications they may have. Hell, I remember that there was a time when programming was easier :D I never wanted to take any sides here, because, frankly, I always get into the crossfire eventually - but at some point I felt that I may not have any chance to say anything, at all... – vaxquis Oct 24 at 17:55
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    @RobertLongson Iff a minority was the target of that satire, one could call it "rude" or "unkind". (And I'd like to see what "polite satire" could look like - can you give an example?). But I'll never be able to understand why people believe (i.e. silently assume) that this was a hostility targeting minorities. It was not. It was targeting the company and the inconsiderate decisions that have been made. Conversely, I consider your accusations, defaming me and others as something like hostile, hate-filled misanthropes, as highly inappropriate. But that's OK. I have a thick skin. – Marco13 Oct 24 at 18:00
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    @Marco13 how would anyone reading your message mocking pronouns who doesn’t know the context (as there is no context with it) not feel you’re mocking them? – Pricey Oct 27 at 9:05
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    @Pricey Not seeing every statement that could be turned and twisted into a "personal attack" as a "personal attack" could be a start, but I guess I'm demanding too much here. – Marco13 Oct 27 at 13:47
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    @Marco13 but I guess I'm demanding too much here Yes, you are. According to SE (stackoverflow.blog/2019/10/10/iterating-on-inclusion): Avoid sarcasm and be careful with jokes — tone is hard to decipher online. If a situation makes it hard to be friendly, stop participating and move on. I take it that satire, parody and irony are deemed the same faith as sarcasm. – dfhwze Oct 28 at 5:37
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    @dfhwze No more irony or sarcasm? Well that is certainly gonna make the site ""more welcoming"" (Side note: sometimes comments are attempts to figure out where the line is - until now, it seems like there is no line, but a fuzzy area where, depending on the mod and the mood of the mod, things may be deleted or not. That's OK, and basically matches my answer. Better than trying to set up incoherent and unenforceable rules that may be exploited arbitrarily by justifying disproportionate measures with overly strict interpretations of the rules...) – Marco13 Oct 28 at 11:35
  • Were your pronouns removed? – House- 'Reinstate Monica' -man Nov 5 at 15:13
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    @House-'ReinstateMonica'-man No, the German pronouns have not been removed. But I changed my profile info to the current one, because, ... oh, well *waves hands, vaguely gesturing at everything* ... you know. – Marco13 Nov 5 at 16:30
5

I would say that the line should enclose 'as little as possible'.


What is happening in this question is a nice example of the opposite. This change of style in moderation that the new CoC introduces is working counterproductive (more specifically the attached FAQ rulebook).

So what is the result now? It is interesting to note that on 24 October you only had 127 views (for the profile on meta) and now this is 500+ views (via a cached version of your profile). So, the result for this particular case is mostly that now there is only more attention (for your meta profile) while it was rather pointless (low impact) to moderate it.

In addition now there is also lots of additional meta-meta talk (including this post). Touching this festering wound with dirty fingers makes it grow further (if we wait too long we will need to amputate).

We could have a peaceful area. That area may have possibly some dust here and there, that should not be a problem. But SE/SO has decided to use a noisy leaf blower to clean it up and the result is that the dust is all over the space now.

  • 1
    yup, you're right. I honestly didn't want to get into the Monica-related dramas initially at all, because I used the Internet for too long already... and, frankly, I knew that nothing good would probably came out of it for noöne (yeah, I know no-one writes noöne anymore, and that double negative sentences are invalid :), me included. Still, after seeing how this dragged on for almost a month, I said to myself "hell, a joke or a metaphor about it in my profile page won't kill noöne, right?" ... And right now I'm no longer so sure about it :Z – vaxquis Nov 6 at 21:30
4

I think the moderator has made a reasonable request.

While it may not be intended, the wording carries an implication that you would rather call non-binary users "it", as you would an animal. As you can imagine, having someone call you "it" unprompted can be deeply hurtful to members of the community, regardless of intent.

Jaydle's excellent answer to a similar question applies here.

The good news is that all of us sometimes accidentally say or post things we don't know are hurtful. All we can expect of each other is that once we learn, we adjust our actions going forward.

  • 42
    "assume good intent"... – Suvitruf says Reinstate Monica Oct 24 at 15:09
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    So why is that not okay, when usernames that trigger the Chinese firewall are A-OK? – Cerbrus Oct 24 at 15:09
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    @Cerbrus because SE don't care about Chinese at all, obviously (: – Suvitruf says Reinstate Monica Oct 24 at 15:09
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    actually, it is a pronoun that some queer people (e.g. me) or furries, prefer to be used vs them IRL. It's not even a neopronoun, it's a real one. Apart from that - I never used it vs a person unless explicitly requested beforehand. Apart from that - how quoting Orwell does imply I'd call anyone 'it' any more than I would call a person 'an animal' (disregarding the fact that Homo sapiens sapiens is an animal per se). Have you ever read Animal Farm, BTW? Do you know what is the theme of the book? – vaxquis Oct 24 at 15:13
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    @Stevoisiak so? If someone offended by this non-offensive message in another member profile, it's, actually, his/her/their/whatever problem. Just don't open it. – Suvitruf says Reinstate Monica Oct 24 at 15:13
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    apart from that - your answer doesn't answer my question. I asked "where do you draw the line", i.e. how far do you think you can extend this way of thinking you are presenting. Is the fact that "the words used by me carry an implication I might do something offensive" enough to warrant a mod action? Will the fact that "the words used by me might carry a possible implication I might do something that might be considered offensive by someone" be enough for you? And yes, I have an agenda - I want the people like you, Stevoisiak, to stop and think for a while, instead of repeating over again. – vaxquis Oct 24 at 15:19
  • apart from that - meta.stackexchange.com/questions/178342/… (already linked in main answer) - how does these two dots connect? Apart from that - if my profile implied anything (which I honestly think it doesn't), wouldn't it imply that I'd use they even if I wouldn't want to in some particular situation, to evade the possible negative repercussions? – vaxquis Oct 24 at 15:20
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    Some slaves in the BDSM community refer to themselves as "it", why is their sexuality offensive? – Richard says Reinstate Monica Oct 24 at 15:25
  • @suvitruf he is assuming good intent. It was probably not meant as a slight to those who prefer a different pronoun, but even I can see that it would be. – Reinstate Monica Oct 24 at 15:30
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    "carries an implication ... call non-binary users "it"" - I presume that this is not your interpretation, but only your guess of what might have caused the mod message. Interpreting that quote as such an offense requires a form of ... let's call it "hostile creativity" ... that is irritating, at least, and would not only be not assuming good intent, but actually assuming bad intent. If I could talk to that mod for a few minutes, I'd certainly be able to find a statement that I could twist and distort in a way that sounded far more offensive. This increasingly feels like a contest. – Marco13 Oct 24 at 16:28
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    @Marco13 "hostile creativity" - wow, you have inadvertently given me an excellent new phrase for describing C++ compiler optimization passes. – Kyle Strand Nov 7 at 21:24
3

There may be two interpretations of the quote.

The first being that the subject did not use the requested pronoun either intentionally or unintentionally.

The second being that the subject is the person requesting a pronoun other than he/she is the person not using a valid pronoun.

Using ‘it’ in the second case, although not the biggest issue with the scenario, could be the issue the mod is trying to deal with as referring to someone as ‘it’ when they request a different pronoun is potentially against the CoC.

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    Which person was referred to as "it"? Because I can't see how anyone can read that quote and think "he's talking about me" – gbjbaanb Oct 25 at 13:52
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    @gbjbaanb someone could easily read that as “he’s talking about a minority group of which I belong”. – Pricey Oct 27 at 9:14
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    I can't see how that makes sense - the sentence reads directly as referring to an animal. The grammar is very much in the singular. – gbjbaanb Oct 28 at 0:37
  • @gbjbaanb Humans are animals. The first part of the quote “no animal shall kill any other animal”. – Pricey Oct 28 at 22:37
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    I'm not offended. I can however see how others may find mocking pronouns offensive regardless of what quote it is wrapped in. Especially if it is interrupted as the #2 interpretation in my answer. – Pricey Oct 30 at 15:22
  • @Pricey please, read my question again. I didn't ask "why people can take offense at what I wrote" (because I already know the answer), and I didn't ask "why a CM messaged me about it. I asked "where do you, personally, draw the line on what's socially acceptable on SO, and what's not". If you don't feel offended - that's your actual answer to my question here. You can extend the "you" in my reply to anybody. It wasn't aimed at you personally here, I can repeat the same words to anyone (hence the "if" there). Still, people are offended by whatever they want to take offense at. (cont) – vaxquis Oct 30 at 21:24
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    @Pricey I'm offended by sheer stupidity - does that give me the right to censor/attack/use the victim game vs people who are stupid? Ain't actual stupidity more offensive than any pronoun? Also - do you see the difference between mocking a pronoun and mocking an individual? For me, the difference is paramount. I was always taught "criticize the behaviour, not the individual". Those questions are open, even if they shouldn't. IMVHO if someone is offended by the fact I use "it" to refer to an animal, that's a problem, to be taken quite seriously, but it's outside my area of expertise. – vaxquis Oct 30 at 21:25
  • @vaxquis stupidity isn’t covered under the CoC & faq’s, pronouns are. My answer points to a possible conflict for the use of ‘It’ in that context and the protections of pronouns provided under the CoC and faq’s. Where do they draw the line? Under what the CoC says. – Pricey Oct 30 at 21:31
  • @Pricey actually, no. SE CMs drawn the line in a quite different place; read about Monica's case in-depth to see that CoC is, when interpreted literally, way more tolerant than some CMs. The case here is not about pronouns (it never was), it's about how corporations act, and how they treat any signs of dissent, whatever the cause is. Like I said, already - I know the possible conflicts. I know that people can get offended by virtually everything, even more so nowadays. Please, read Animal Farm. It's not a book about how to oppress people based on pronouns. The implications are obvious. – vaxquis Oct 31 at 0:44
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    @vaxquis you’re going wayyy off topic. I addressed the question. No need for the nonsense about reading books, dissent, etc.. – Pricey Oct 31 at 10:29
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    @Pricey again: the question was "where do you draw the line". "There may be two interpretations of the quote.", "there may be possible conflict" etc. doesn't answer it. It's not about "what you think people may thing" - it's about what you think. You're saying that the person who asked the question is off-topic, and that you know better if the answer addresses the question than the asker? If so, you shouldn't answer, but should instead vote to close. Also - you are discussing "interpretations" of a quotation without sufficient knowledge about the source of the quotation. EOT for me. – vaxquis Oct 31 at 14:36
  • Your comments are what I was referring to as going off topic. What you’ve quoted from my answer is what gives my answer context. – Pricey Oct 31 at 15:04
-7

Someone overreacted.

As you did by putting this on your profile.

The wise decision would have been to not react - both of you. Updating your profile like this is yet another opinion/statement that is not a positive contribution. Show some restraint instead of putting fuel on the fire.

BTW It's still not too late to take responsibility for your part in this, and remove the 'quote'.

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    I understand your opinion, but in my experience there are times when a problem will just get swept under the rug unless there's fireworks. See also the Boiling frog fable. You can save the frog by turning the heat down, but if that fails, sometimes you gotta do the opposite or else the problems will get worse and worse. – Alex Oct 25 at 13:35
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    @OP I've taken the responsibility by expressing what I believe is within my rights to do so. I shown restraint here for 10 years. Has SE shown restraint lately? Did Sarah show it? - I see a false dichotomy in your statement; either I'm restraining myself and not saying anything, or I'm not restraining myself. That's not a valid point - I restrained myself from many actions I could take here. Are you expecting me to restrain myself from everything? If so, my presence on SE sites would be nil and void - I would only be giving, and not receiving anything in return. – vaxquis Oct 25 at 14:45
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    BTW, saying 'It's still not too late to take responsibility for your part in this' is actually quite patronizing & condescending in this context... I don't mind that, but I think you should be aware of that. Just because you consider the restraint the best solution doesn't automatically make it so. Still, I thank you for your input; you yourself shown where you draw the line. And Raedwald was IMVHO right in replacing the word 'trolling' - usage of the word shows lack of verbal restraint on your part, Jan, FWIW. It's most often the trolls themselves who accuse others of trolling. – vaxquis Oct 25 at 14:46
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    I agree someone overreacted...its called the new CoC. At the end if the day, if you allow something so small and petty to get you all riled up then there are deeper issues that need addressed. This is the internet....no clue who you are on the other side nor do I care....what I care about is if I can answer your question. Don't care what you like, what your preferences are, color of your hair, favorite book, latest crush, education level ect...What I care about is if I can answer your question. – Sorceri Nov 6 at 20:05
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    @Sorceri I sincerely long for the days where internet was the way you wrote (ca. 1990-2000, RIP Internet) - ran by a bunch of actual geeks who focused on what, and not who. We could be anonymous, we could argue, but we could help each other, and expect in return no thing other than our own satisfaction and self-growth. I could've talked with a human, an actual monkey or an amoeba for what I cared, I would still love or hate it the same way, regardless of theirs sex, nationality, ethnicity, sexual preference, whatever... it didn't matter... But that, ah! that was long ago. – vaxquis Nov 6 at 20:56
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    @vaxquis OK, removed the troll question ;-) – Jan Doggen Nov 7 at 11:01
-18

You have a fairly new account, and your protest was indistinguishable from trolling.

Satire isn't satire unless it's somehow different to the thing it is satirising.

With little account history and a recent influx of trolls to the site the mod made the only reasonable decision that they could.

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    I don't think many people would read that bio and think "ah yes, vaxquis is sincerely calling for the killing of anyone who uses the wrong pronoun to describe a trans person". I realise that the progressive left is fond of rhetorical calls for the destruction or mass slaughter of groups it perceives as its enemies (like "kill all men" and "down with cis"), and can see how someone familiar with that norm but unfamiliar with Animal Farm could misunderstand what they were reading - but I also think most of us immediately understood that vaxquis was lampooning that intolerance, not engaging in it. – Mark Amery Nov 7 at 12:56
  • @MarkAmery it's not really about what they would believe, it's about creating a toxic atmosphere where people say stuff like that. – user Nov 7 at 17:06

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