After following this from a distance for a while, I came across a fascinating comment:

Interestingly, the entire genesis of this (at least publicly) was discussed at 32:00m on the #causeascene podcast from July 3, 2019. (The relevant part starts at 32 minutes in): http://hashtagcauseascene.com/podcast/sara-chipps (Was listening to that episode to get some insight into how all this came together and was surprised to hear that at 32 minutes in). – George Stocker 1 hour ago

This was an interview that a Stack Overflow manager did in July 2019 on a podcast called "#causeascene: The Strategic Disruption of the Status Quo in Technical Organizations, Communities, and Events". The discussion seems very relevant to the disruption that has been ongoing in our technical community. Is the current situation actually what Stack wanted all along?

I recommend that everybody who can spare the time give it a listen. Here's a relevant excerpt:

[timestamp: 31:20]

Stack Overflow Manager: I have learned that I can no longer be the decision-maker when it comes to groups that have experiences unlike my own. I really appreciate what you said about white feminism causing us to identify what we have in common and erase what we don't. If I could use an example from something over the past few weeks, one thing that happened recently in the community at Stack Overflow is one of our moderators was misgendering another moderator. We do have a Code of Conduct, but in our Code of Conduct we don't have a clear message about not misgendering other people in the community. You know, "if you know someone's preferred pronoun, you should be using it".

I think that one thing, in the past, maybe a few years ago, what I would have done would be to say "okay, this is the change we're going to make for that, and this is how we're going to help reach that community because they're very important". But I think that the most important thing is to make sure that members of that community are being spoken to and are being talked to about the decision-making process from the beginning, and are part of the conversation. So that's when I know it's above my pay-grade, and we need to incorporate people from that community. So we reached out to people in the LGBTQ community, that are part of affinity groups, and the conversation that we're having around how do we approach this in our community in a way that is making sure your needs are served, and not in a way that we think is the nice way to do it. This is, I think, one of the things I've taken away from this.

You're right: white feminism doesn't speak for other groups, and the patriarchy is something that is part of a discussion, but it's not the only thing. The thing that I keep coming back to is to not speak for, or make decisions for, or pretend I represent, anyone who has a different experience or different affinity than I do.

Host: I don't say much positive about Stack Overflow, but I'll say that that's an improvement, a much-needed and appreciated improvement, and that's what happens when you prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable, because they'll tell you what they need to feel safe, and feel welcome, and this is where a lot of individuals in our community make mistakes. Just because you have a friend or are married to someone, that doesn't make you a part of that group.

[timestamp: 35:10]

  • 19
    "Not just deciding for yourself what you think is nice, but asking affected people what would be nice" is entirely different from "choosing deliberately not to be nice." I interpret "not in a way that we think is the nice way to do it" as the first of these: it seems you interpret it closer to the second. While Kim's podcast may be called "cause a scene", that hardly suggests appearing on it proves Sara just wanted to provoke or disrupt. Oct 24, 2019 at 15:57
  • 3
    @KateGregory I'm out of votes, but I agree 100%. I think the idea that anyone in management was maliciously disruptive doesn't make sense, and I see no support for that here. Certainly Sara's actions with regard to Monica weren't fair or or effective, and created real challenges for the desired outcome, but I don't think that was the intent.
    – De Novo
    Oct 24, 2019 at 16:00
  • 44
    This is just tossing a new lit match into the issue. The titular question isn't even substantiated. Oct 24, 2019 at 16:01
  • 3
    Monica was discussed (maybe not in name) elsewhere too?
    – Script47
    Oct 24, 2019 at 16:02
  • 58
    When the host said: 'I don't say much positive about Stack Overflow [...]' then any person who claims to represent the organization would've questioned 'why'. I, as a "normal" user, frequently hold people up when they misunderstand how Stack Overflow is supposed to work and as a result have a "bad" experience. SO has helped millions of people and is the probably the go-to resource for programming issues.
    – Script47
    Oct 24, 2019 at 16:05
  • 13
    "White feminism?" that's new to me as well.
    – DK Bose
    Oct 24, 2019 at 16:10
  • 18
    White Feminism on Wikipedia - yes, it's a thing.
    – Shog9
    Oct 24, 2019 at 16:12
  • 13
    @eyeballfrog '"White feminism" has been a thing since way back -- see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_feminism -- essentially the way feminism since the fights for women's suffrage until at least the 80s and most often beyond has focused on what white (middle-class) women know and care about assuming that all women were like them and not taking into account that other women have different experiences and priorities. 'White feminism' is a criticism of the assumption that one of a few women can speak for all women. Oct 24, 2019 at 16:14
  • And @shog9 pithily beat me to it. Oct 24, 2019 at 16:15
  • 4
    There are many mod who would have been a much more effective choose if a CH (or their boss) was planning someone to fire so as to get a message across. Hence I don't believe the firing was done to change the status status que. Oct 24, 2019 at 16:19
  • 4
    @Script47 I would expect Sara did respond re: the positive things about SE, but the transcript ends with the host's statement. If not, it sounds like some training in working with the media would be helpful.
    – De Novo
    Oct 24, 2019 at 16:59
  • 3
    @DeNovo recent actions have made it very clear that training in working with is very much required.
    – Script47
    Oct 28, 2019 at 10:19

1 Answer 1


No. Most likely not.

But I can imagine that this phrase here is the key to the philosophy that is being propagated by Sara:

How do we approach this in our community in a way that is making sure your needs are served, and not in a way that we think is the nice way to do it?

She puts a lot of effort into demonstrating to the trans community that changes are happening. And she is willing to do it in the "not nice" way as long as she feels that this allows her to earn back trust from the trans community and to make them feel safe.

If you take everything at face value that she has said on the issue of Monica's firing, it makes a lot of sense: She actually believed Monica was purposefully misgendering people, so she felt she needed to fire her, quickly.

Think about how Monica is currently putting a lot of pressure on SE to deal with her situation, quickly, because harm is being done to her with each passing day. It's the same thing: there was, from Sara's point of view, an assault on a trans mod, and so she felt that she needed to quickly show people that the new SE won't stand for this. And from her point of view, this was already covered by the old CoC anyway: assaulting people in bad faith is not allowed in any of the CoC's versions.

So no, I don't think she wanted to disrupt the status quo of SE. But she did want to set an example of someone she genuinely believed to be a bad person.

At least that is my interpretation. It should be obvious from my phrasing that I don't agree with this. However, I think mistakes and misjudgments of other people can happen all the time and that if we try, we are able to overcome this. We just need to listen and to be open-minded. The actual problem is that she was wrong about Monica, and that she refused to admit this even as people kept telling her this again and again. It's a very typical, human thing to do. It doesn't help to try to turn her into a Machiavellian villain.

  • 13
    I don’t think the misgendering moderator she’s talking about could refer to Monica. The podcast was published on July 3, it was presumably recorded earlier in June or something, and says the events happened “over the past few weeks”. There is nothing indicated between February and August in Monica’s timeline cellio.dreamwidth.org/2019/10/05/… . Oct 24, 2019 at 17:17
  • 6
    @emil at least publicly it’s been indicated this happened in a private chat room called the Teachers Lounge over the last year or so. Oct 24, 2019 at 17:23
  • 46
    @EmilJeřábek I don't recall participating in any gender discussions between the team post in January/February and a team post about training in late August (where I don't think I actually said anything about gender or pronouns, but I don't have access to check). The only TL discussion from 2019 that I remember being part of was on September 18. Oct 24, 2019 at 18:17
  • 18
    The SE staff member in question has made mistake after mistake. If I had made similar mistakes in the EU it is likely I would have either been sacked, or faced disciplinary actions. In any case my career with the company would have been over, because I should have been aware of company guidelines at that level of seniority.
    – Alex
    Nov 10, 2019 at 11:58
  • 45
    Also, a different moderator made blatant, CoC-violating attacks against a trans moderator in TL last year. That person is still a moderator, despite complaints at the time from other moderators (so yes SE was aware). I wonder if Sara blamed me for that, when I wasn't even in the room at the time, and figures that "eh, one scapegoat is as good as another so don't need to fix it now"? (Another moderator also made CoC-violating attacks against me in the recent discussion, but I guess it's ok if the victim isn't queer but merely a member of several other disadvantaged groups?) Nov 10, 2019 at 18:32