I recently flagged a comment (in this post) because I think it is in violation of the CoC. It says this (bold formatting on the part I wish to emphasize):

This answer is misleading. You present two possible explanations for using the tag when in reality there is at least one more: people who disagree with how Monica was dismissed AND disagree with the CoC in that they do not wish to be dictated to in terms of how they speak. I am happy to use a pronoun such as "they" when gender is indeterminate, but I am not willing to use a made-up pronoun just because a person asks me to. It's he, she, or they. I'm not using anything else, and that's ok. I am not doing anything wrong by making this choice, and SE should respect that.

I used a custom flag to say that the following two comments from the same user should also be deleted, for the comments were all on the same spirit:

The idea that people are being foced to use people's "correct" genders is your personal viewpoint, not a fact. I disagree that a person's correct gender is "whatever they want to be called". No. It's he, she, or they. If I say "they", that's always correct. If someone chooses to get mad about it, they do not understand the English language, which is not my problem.


Basically, I refuse to cater to who are essentially children saying "look at me!" We're all out here eating a giant shit sandwich. No one deserves special treatment because of how they feel inside.

On top of going against the CoC on gender issues, I also feel those comments are rude and abusive. However, the flag was just declined without further comment, no pun intended.

Is this kind of commenting allowed in WB?

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    $\begingroup$ Keep in mind that a substantial fraction of moderators across the network have either quit or gone inactive in protest at recent events so flag handling may be more...rushed... than previously. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Dec 16 '19 at 14:10

There's always a big grey area between what may cause offence, what will cause offence, and what is acceptable. The ability to offend isn't by itself enough to cause a comment to be deleted as there is always someone out there who will find offence at the most innocent of statements.

The relevant part of the CoC is:

No bigotry. We don’t tolerate any language likely to offend or alienate people based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion — and those are just a few examples. Use stated pronouns (when known). When in doubt, don't use language that might offend or alienate.

The comments in question start off already in the grey area and then descend into what is basically a rant and insulting - so clearly do breach several parts of the CoC.

As such I've deleted both the last two comments.

The first one, while questionable, is less clearly over the line so I have left it for now - which should not be seen as me approving of either the comment or the message. It's just me withholding judgement for now pending further discussion.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you, I really appreciate it. I also understand about the backlog for moderation as you mentioned in the comment at the question itself. I wish regular users could help more. $\endgroup$ – Renan Dec 16 '19 at 15:27
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    $\begingroup$ Regular users already do a lot, that's one reason such small teams of moderators can handle such large sites. I was already semi-retired when the...incident... happened but I fully support the protests and will not be doing what I would normally do and return to increased activity to fill the backlog. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Dec 16 '19 at 17:04
  • $\begingroup$ (With the occasional exception such as writing this response.) $\endgroup$ – Tim B Dec 16 '19 at 17:05
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    $\begingroup$ To put that in perspective - currently 1 moderator out of 6 on worldbuilding is actually active. 1 was fired (the start of the problem). 1 is partially active. The rest of us do occasional things rather than a complete stop but basically we have one person who decided that it wasn't fair to punish the site's users for someone else's actions who is handling 70% of the moderator load for the whole site. :( $\endgroup$ – Tim B Dec 16 '19 at 17:13
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    $\begingroup$ Come next election I'll run for mod again, maybe I can give a hand. $\endgroup$ – Renan Dec 16 '19 at 18:21
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    $\begingroup$ @Renan That's your choice of course. Whether you want to volunteer for a company that treats a volunteer like that is a decision for you to make. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Dec 16 '19 at 20:25
  • $\begingroup$ I knew this would happen. $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles Dec 19 '19 at 23:06

TL;DR We have to be able to discuss these things. If the CoC is interpreted to say “don’t attack a person” fine. But I can’t see it targeting discussion about the CoC or its impacts... that way undermines the whole goal of the CoC in the first place, as it would have stifled any discussion of pronouns a prioii!

Details There is room for our language to evolve. While it evolves, there are many disputes about whether and how it should change. There’s a divide between those who want no change and those who want change, sure, but there’s also no consensus in the “how to change” group. The CoC attempts to nail down something that isn’t yet nailed down, and there are some very reasonable, non-abusive reasons to push back on some types of changes.

For example, I find the “singular they” renders text confusing and has lead to multiple misunderstandings and arguments in my life. I consider any request that I use the “singular they” to be a request to ferment dissent and make the communications problem worse, not better. But I happily use pronouns, including one set for “a generic person” or “I don’t know the person’s preferences”: ne, nir, nem, etc. I use these to avoid the problem of “generic he” (bias against women) and to support avoiding discussion of gender where it has no role.

I realize that makes some folks upset. Their request to me to use singular they is equally upsetting to me... I find it insulting and controlling.

That’s something society is still working out, and interpreting the CoC as preventing that discussion means you can’t ask questions and get answers.


To be honest, I think you demonstrated the answer to your own question very well! There is indeed a fine line defining a COC violation, and that line is "I know it when I see it".

You read those comments and determined that there must be a violation. I read those same comments and find no contradiction with reality at all.

The writer of those comments is not being rude or abusive in any way: they are simply speaking scientific truth.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not a downvoter, but I am curious to know how pronouns are "scientific". $\endgroup$ – F1Krazy Dec 19 '19 at 11:28
  • $\begingroup$ May I ask who actually says that? I never heard anyone saying the I identify... copypasta unironically. $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles Dec 19 '19 at 23:11
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    $\begingroup$ Male and Female are also culturally/societaly supported concepts - it's all about language and language and culture and society are all tangled up together. What makes your particular interpretation any more valid than someone elses? $\endgroup$ – Tim B Dec 20 '19 at 9:47
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    $\begingroup$ Personally (and I know a few trans/non binary people which probably helps give perspective) I've seen how hard their lives can be - down to the level of physical attacks on the street from random strangers. If letting them choose their pronoun lets them feel like they have control over part of their lives and helps them feel better about themselves then I can help them with that. It's just a matter of basic human decency to be nice to someone who is in pain and do a bit to help them out. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Dec 20 '19 at 10:29
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    $\begingroup$ I mean really - is it so hard to use the word they ask you to use? Does it somehow hurt or harm you? Even if it seems stupid to you it is important to them and by ignoring or mocking their request you are saying their opinion and feelings are meaningless and mocking them. Not cool. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Dec 20 '19 at 10:32
  • $\begingroup$ While I am avoiding as much judgement as I can while this whole thing is sorted out, I do find the phrase "scientific truth" a prickly one. Gender pronoun agreement is a linguistic concept, and those who approach linguistics with a scientific mindset are very careful with their words. Very careful indeed. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Dec 23 '19 at 20:46
  • $\begingroup$ I support using Spanish so we can get back to the days when I knew whether a table was female or male! I’m tired of not knowing whether I can mate successfully with a credenza! </sarcasm> Yes... gender is socially constructed. :-) The question is whether the pronouns refer to gender or to sex! $\endgroup$ – SRM Dec 24 '19 at 20:55

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