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Before the Code of Conduct debacle, I never felt like a member of a minority. I was just a developer asking and answering questions. Now I feel pressured to come out of closet and announce every minority I belong to whenever I want to discuss anything and not be branded as a bigot.

During the last few months, whenever I voice an opinion which even remotely can annoy any activist, I feel that I must start my message with "I belong to these minorities, but..." I'm no longer a developer, I'm a person with various quirks that has to state them every time. Instead of the proposed "Hello, my pronouns are" my greeting became "Hello, my sexuality is".

You may say that I don't have to do this. Yes, I probably don't have to. But if I don't, my posts will be flagged as offensive and removed by moderators. If I want my opinion to be heard, I have to walk this crazy winding path of putting stickers on my forehead just to avoid being silenced.

And I'm not alone. I see many people doing the same. All messages start with the same words: "I belong to this and that minority, but...".

Just look at this:

With the introduction of "the loop", users of Stack Exchange network see focus on minorities and disregard for opinions again, for a good reason. At least the company had the decency of not including a question about sexuality in their survey.

I don't care about trolls. I never cared. But I'm tired of emotional exhibitionism which I'm forced into by the "caring" company.

Can the company stop focusing on minorities so much?

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    "Can the company stop focusing on minorities so much?" In a way they are focussing on the vast majority, the 'new' users, and clearly at the expense of moderators and long time users. – dfhwze Nov 26 at 11:57
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    @Rob What makes you think this question is in any way related to the SO company being "american-centric"? It isn't even about race in particular, which the linked question discusses. – Athari says Reinstate Monica Nov 26 at 12:06
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    "But if I don't, my posts will be flagged as offensive and removed by moderators." I don't understand that really and the whole question seems to hinge on that. Why is it impossible to not state anything personal and still not get flagged or removed by moderators? Maybe how to achieve that should be discussed instead. The flagging did definitely get abused in the past. – Trilarion Nov 26 at 12:09
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    +1 "Now I feel pressured to come out of closet and announce every minority I belong to whenever I want to discuss anything and not be branded as a bigot." I've taken the other road and felt it; I've been censored, suspended and verbally abused for voicing my opinions, and I believe none of this would have happend if I had stated some of my 'minority traits'. – Inactive - Objecting Extremism Nov 26 at 12:18
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    @AtharisaysReinstateMonica I think both questions are related but they are not duplicate. You express a whole other genuine problem. Have an upvote. – aloisdg says Reinstate Monica Nov 26 at 12:26
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    @Trilarion Most recently I have seen trans and non-binary people being called transphobes for their views that didn't matched "expected" norms. As a woman, I am also finding myself stating that before I have to say some "unpopular" opinion because if man would say it, he would be marked as misogynist. That is the problem. In order to say something you have to first declare yourself to preemptively avoid attacks based on wrong grounds. – Resistance Is Futile Nov 26 at 12:26
  • I didn't take the survey, but based on what I was seeing here, was sure they also made those who take it tell their sexuality. Well, it's a pleasant surprise to be wrong in that case, lol. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Nov 26 at 12:33
  • @ResistanceIsFutile Okay, I understand that and I would prefer if this would not happen. The usual way is complaining about it. It looks like a moderation problem, at least at first glance. I had different experiences. I have never been called a transphobe or misogynist here and my opinions aren't always popular either. – Trilarion Nov 26 at 12:33
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    @Trilarion Not sure if that last part is intended to be a euphemism, but there is a big difference between "...my opinions aren't always popular..." and "...my opinions are removed from the platform.". – Inactive - Objecting Extremism Nov 26 at 12:38
  • @Inactive-ObjectingExtremism I translated not-popular just to a negative score. – Trilarion Nov 26 at 12:41
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    @Trilarion One of these days, I'll have to list all the suspensions I've earned. – Richard says Reinstate Monica Nov 26 at 20:10
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    @Trilarion There is a an attitude among certain Americans that only minorities should be allowed to express certain opinions. (Said people don't think those people should have those opinions, but at least they tolerate them.) These censorious people are a small percentage of the population, but highly influential enough that it's not surprising that people are getting flagged for not conforming to those expectations. – rockwalrus-stop harming Monica Nov 27 at 1:55
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    @AtharisaysReinstateMonica At least after that premise you can state your opinion. I'm not a member of a minority and if I said the same thing that comes after your "but..." I'd be branded as a racist/homophobic/whateverobic... – ChatterOne Nov 27 at 10:54
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    @rockwalrus-stopharmingMonica To add to some of these arguments: being part of a certain identity group usually suffices as having experienced something. Actually having experienced something, but not being part of the identity group associated with that experience is ... well, a bit annoying. Not being part of the identity group you are allying with, might get you labeled as lacking empathy to understand the struggles of that group. Being part of a identity group considered more privileged than another one, makes you eligible to being an oppressor of that group. – dfhwze Nov 27 at 20:11
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    @rockwalrus-stopharmingMonica Thanks for the explanation. I understand the argument but I also think that most probably every day people express opinions about things they haven't really experienced or aren't really qualified to talk about it. I could give literally millions of examples. And especially in the context of SO it's even more complicated. If I couldn't say anything I haven't experienced, I also shouldn't vote on these things. Do people do that actually? Please note, I'm coming from a more technical background where content most often stands on its own independent from who wrote it. – Trilarion Nov 28 at 8:59
105

Welcome to the world of identity politics, where some have decided the best way to create power for themselves is to promote division amongst communities, in order that they can claim to be the solution to the division they just created.

If the company wants to create a safe, welcoming community, they have to create a single, unified community to which anyone and everyone can be admitted by focussing on the common features of those involved. So rather than say "you're a black programmer, I'm a white programmer" say "we're two people who like programming".

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Focus on race, gender and sexuality makes minorities feel exposed and unwelcome

When you focus on any one group of people, regardless of how your categorize them, you are most likely making another group feel unwelcome or exposed.

Here's a thought, how about we be good human beings to all?

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    "how about we be good human beings to all?" => you mean... a kind of simple be nice policy maybe? :)) – OldPadawan Nov 26 at 13:04
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    @OldPadawan No no no….not that....we need things to be more complicated than that. Sometimes the simplest solution works most of the time. – Mister Positive Nov 26 at 13:06
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    miss a sarcasm closing tag did you? ^^ – OldPadawan Nov 26 at 13:07
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    @MisterPositive - I have a really complicated policy, it's going to shock the community, and I called it "be nice and decent to everyone, including with those who you disagree with, because their opinion actually does matter" but you can just condense it to "be nice and decent" if you want. – Ramhound Nov 26 at 15:36
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    And this is why we love you. – Richard says Reinstate Monica Nov 26 at 20:07
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People have said this repeatedly, in comments, questions and answers. And when not being a member of the relevant1 minorities, this always felt like walking on eggshells: Imagine someone asked "Can the company stop focusing on minorities so much?", but without emphasizing that one belongs to one of the relevant1 minorities. Being called a (non-welcoming) "*ist" or "*phobic" would be inevitable.

As such, the most problematic form of discrimination on Stack Exchange started roughly with Welcomminggate: It is a problem when discrimination happens based on a personal attribute that is not relevant to the competence in a particular field. When a person claims to have the right to speak about a certain topic ""because"" the person is a member of a minority, and denies others the right to speak about this because they are not members of that minority, then this is basically the definition of discrimination.

One could argue that most of the topics that we've been discussing here recently are not relevant for a site about programming (and I think this is true, obviously). But when politics2 are dragged into the site and the surrounding discussion, then everybody should have the right to participate in that, on equal terms.

(To be clear: I'd strongly prefer to not have certain discussions here, and focus on creating a high-quality archive of programming Q/As. But that ship has sailed...)


1: I thought about an alternative for the term "relevant" here. But that's the point: The attributes are completely arbitrary. Race, gender, and sexuality are currently relevant here. Other possible attributes that could be considered are religion, weight, height, wealth, age, attractiveness,... - none of which is actually relevant when answering a programming question. In doubt, everybody can have a look at the Demographics of the world and come up with a dozen "minorities" that one belongs to.

2: Another answer already used the term "identity politics". According to the comments there, this is a loaded term, and not being a native English speaker and not living in the US, I hesitate to use it. But I think that everybody can observe the problems that are caused by dividing people into groups based on arbitrary attributes (and more often than not, this problem is amplified by inciting enmity between the groups - for example, by using a certain language and way of speaking).


I hope that, at some point, people will notice that the limit case of dividing people into groups based on arbitrary, personal attributes is individuality. We could focus on that - even though that means that we should ignore everything about a person except for the ability to write good answers.

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    It's interesting to note that historically, attributes like religion(!) were the relevant thing of the day in societies that were theocratic or had a strong state religion. People had to navigate around that too: "I am of course a member of the Church, however..." – Nate Barbettini Nov 26 at 21:02
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Disclaimer: this is a "philosophical" answer. It isn't really about you/me interacting with SE Inc., it is more about how you go about your own expectations and feelings.

You may say that I don't have to do this.

Up to this point, you don't have to disclose any such information.

Nobody forces us take "the loop", nobody forced me to continue to the end when I answered the very first version of that f...-up survey where I could only go "Other" for the mandatory race question. I did go to the end, just so that I could address my frustration towards the people who put together that cluster.....

But thing is: (so far), nobody is telling you what information must sit on your profile. Maybe SE Inc. is stupid enough to change that at some point. But we aren't there yet.

Meaning:

But if I don't, my posts will be flagged as offensive and removed by moderators.

That is a misconception on your end.

The "worst" that can happen to you is that people consider you in violation regarding the code of conduct, by willingly, repeatedly ignoring the whole pronoun thing.

But that only for situations where you reach out to others. Sure, many argue: "that is bad enough".

But things are definitely more complicated than that misconception you expressed in your question.

Therefore, my answer: albeit it is really hard at this point: look at things as they are. Don't allow "peer pressure" and unreflected impulses to gain control over you. You are the master of your destiny, nobody else is.

Or to say it in the words of today's "calm" I just listened to:

We have little power to choose what happens, 
but we have complete power over how we respond. (Arianna Huffington)

And to clarify: "responding" doesn't refer to doing something that can observed "on the outside". It is about how you feel/react on the inside.

As in: assume SE Inc. really comes and throws out users complaining too much about "the new way". Of course, when they delete or suspend your account, you can't respond to SE Inc. that way. But you can step back, and decide for yourself what their action mentions to you, to then make conscious decisions about your next steps. Instead of "just being angry", and unloading that anger on some random person you walk into later that day.

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    Of course the problem there is it makes the data kinda self selective. – Journeyman Geek Nov 26 at 12:19
  • @JourneymanGeek Sure. But the nonsense that SE Inc did and does ... that isn't the point of my answer. This answer is from a user to a user, on how to stay sane within an insane context. Albeit, some people might argue that the sane reaction to a crazy world is to turn insane, too ... – GhostCat says Reinstate Monica Nov 26 at 12:20
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    "The "worst" that can happen to you is that people consider you in violation regarding the code of conduct, by willingly, repeatedly ignoring the whole pronoun thing. " This is plain false; I have had content removed (more than once) because it was found offensive, and I was allowed to repost it after adding a clarification that I have some 'minority trait'. This platform has become deeply discriminating. – Inactive - Objecting Extremism Nov 26 at 12:24
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    I've seen posts which I don't personally consider offensive being removed. I naturally don't want this to happen to my posts, so I do what I can to avoid it. And this emotional exhibitionism works, both for me and others. I'm disgusted by this, but it seems to be the "optimal" solution. Yes, sure, I'm not forced to even participate here at all, but I'd rather have some sort of a compromise before giving up. – Athari says Reinstate Monica Nov 26 at 12:25
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    @AtharisaysReinstateMonica "I've seen posts which I don't personally consider offensive being removed." Maybe we should work on solving that problem. Could be a moderation mistake or could be really offensive. Only one way to find out more about it. – Trilarion Nov 26 at 12:30
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    @Trilarion I can't "work" on it. I don't have access to deleted posts. And even if I did, discussing removal of posts leads to nowhere — these complaints are either completely ignored or mods declare "nah, too many flags, won't bother". What am I supposed to do exactly? – Athari says Reinstate Monica Nov 26 at 12:36
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    @AtharisaysReinstateMonica if there's aproblem with posts being removed (its true, had one of mine gone) then you need to update procedures so that whoever removed it has to say why and reveal that reason to the poster, along with options for appeal. – gbjbaanb Nov 26 at 12:38
  • @AtharisaysReinstateMonica I don't know what to do. Maybe ask a high rep user. They should see deleted posts, then document them somewhere and twitter about it. But someone should at least open some thread about it, otherwise the mods could say that they never heard about anyone complaining about it. That would be the easy way out for them. – Trilarion Nov 26 at 12:43
  • It's not completely true that "we have complete power over how to respond". Maybe "given the means" that would be correct, but if someone posts something about me and SE decides to close my account, I cannot respond at all. – ChatterOne Nov 27 at 13:17
  • @ChatterOne That quote isn't talking about "technical" responses. It talks about how you, as a person decide to move on. Besides that: of course, every time you use some hosted service ... when the service provider ends your membership, then you cant respond on that service any more. – GhostCat says Reinstate Monica Nov 27 at 13:23
  • @GhostCatsaysReinstateMonica My point is that the response is limited by the means that you have. In a free world you have control over how you respond. In a world run by someone that can close your mouth with the push of a button, your response is not completely under your control. – ChatterOne Nov 27 at 13:40
  • @ChatterOne I am still talking about your inner reaction to that. You can decide for example "this isnt worth my time and energy" and walk away. You can decide to talk to friends on the site, to make your case known. You can decide to go public yourself, maybe gain attraction by talking to an IT journalist or whatnot. But again: I am talking about your inner stance. That is under your control. Who is in control of your fate, you, or your emotions? Or that voice in your head that constantly keeps telling "that is bad for you", "you should do this", "no, better do that"? ... – GhostCat says Reinstate Monica Nov 27 at 13:49
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    @GhostCatsaysReinstateMonica I respectfully disagree, because I think that there is no distinction between "you" and "your emotions". I think that you are your emotions. But that discussion looks blatantly off-topic to me. – ChatterOne Nov 27 at 14:03
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    @ChatterOne Rest assured, there is. Unfortunately that understanding isn't too widespread. The whole US consumer industry is based on teaching people that having "the impulse to buy something" and "buying something" are the same. So, seriously: it is an essential part of self-awareness to establish an inner observer that observes emotions and reactions. That observer, and the decision that comes out of there, that is you. And well, my answer is just on the philosophical side of things, and we are refining that in comments. How could that be "off topic" ? ;-) – GhostCat says Reinstate Monica Nov 27 at 14:25
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    "The "worst" that can happen to you is that people consider you in violation regarding the code of conduct, by willingly, repeatedly ignoring the whole pronoun thing." - no, the worst that can happen is that SE will drag you through the mud in news publications, calling you a bigot and a transphobe and using your real name, simply because you had the nerve to raise an objection to a CoC that is not yet in place. – user622505 Nov 27 at 21:22

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