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516 points by SnarkAsh 17 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 486 comments



"require use of preferred pronouns and avoiding them is forbidden"

This line of thinking is so bizarre to me, but seems to be increasingly common (or at least loud enough in the right places to be noticed). There is a segment of the population that seems intent on being able assign and punish that assumed thought crime.

Now your lack of a specific behavior is suspect!


The behavior of the far-left identity politics crowd has crossed over into outright bullying. I say this as someone who self-identifies fairly left and extremely liberal.

Their central rhetorical tool is extremely effective: if you are not a member of a marginalized identity group (this category itself being fluid), you do not have a right to question anything they say (according to them). This works on thoughtful people who want to do the right thing, because such people tend to take the general concept of social justice very seriously (as they should, it's important).

We need to collectively realize how toxic these people are, and start pushing back.


If you are part of the identity group, and if you question what they say, they'll call you a traitor. It's thinly veiled fascism to say the least.


Yes, and that's why this and other people (like the way Codes of Conduct were pushed in the first place) always smelled to me similar to a fascist coup. You suddenly find yourself you've become a part of the identity group, you're judged a traitor, and you're out.

(I know "fascism" is the wrong word here, but what's the correct word for "fascism-like, but with $random-issue instead of nationality, and without the far-right"? We need that word.)


> I know "fascism" is the wrong word here

I think the proper word is "authoritarian", which is a classification they would likely agree with.

As an aside, I think traditionally political labels like "the Left" are becoming very problematic and are part of the problem. It's generally no longer enough to ask someone whether they're left or right and then correctly assume their stance on things. Instead - and I argue that we should have started doing that before this current upheaval - instead, you have to query a person specifically about their positions on specific things.

For example, that way some confusion about the so-called Social Justice Warriors could have been avoided on all sides. They are a heterogenous group, but do tend to represent leftist values (inclusiveness, equality, a belief that society should take care of disadvantaged individuals disproportionately), at the same time they are not liberals in most regards. They tend to believe in progress through force, and they do generally favor strict rules and harsh/permanent punishment. They're authoritarians.

One might argue that the SJW movement has more in common with conservatives and reactionaries than traditional leftist liberals, if you disregard their disparate political goals for a moment. Leftist liberals and SJWs often cannot successfully communicate and as a result are often in conflict, despite overlapping goals.

This may also be the reason why, as the article describes in one instance, an openly anti-trans moderator was mostly seen as A-OK, whereas the leftist liberal author was fired.


Thanks. I might be too young (being ~30), but I never understood why people use the labels "left" and "right". As you say, they're not very informative; doubly so, if you talk in an international setting (like HN), with US "left" and "right" being different than Europe's "left" and "right". But even in the past, I don't remember any time when they were accurate. Personally, I hate them and much prefer to talk about particular issues. I only brought "alt-right" because Wikipedia puts it in the definition of fascism.

As an aside to aside, if we take that Wikipedia definition: "Fascism (/ˈfæʃɪzəm/) is a form of far-right, authoritarian ultranationalism[1][2] characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition, and strong regimentation of society and of the economy" - and if we strip it off "far-right" and "nationalism", we're left with "authoritarianism" + "dictatorial power" + "regimentation". Not sure about the last one, but "dictatorial power" doesn't seem to me to fit the SJW movement. There are few prominent figures wielding some amount of influence, but they've already fallen out of favor. When I look at it, it feels like authoritarianism, except the authority at the top is missing. Just a bunch of people willing to disrupt a community bottom-up for an idea.

Come to think of it, it actually smells like a bottom-up, secular flavor of a cult. I grew up in a religion which is sometimes classified as a cult, and the way the SJWs manage to insert themselves into a group and suddenly turn the focus from whatever it was originally about into a focus on race or gender issues very much resembles what I've seen (and sometimes done) in that group. Except that dismissing some discussion because "God's Kingdom will soon come and put an end to that problem, so it's more important to talk about how to be in that Kingdom than about that problem" doesn't work anywhere as well as the equivalent with gender.


If I had to shoehorn it in a historical political ideology I might pick Stalinism.

People were “disappeared” overnight into Siberian labor camps or just shot with very little thought or due process.

At some point some caught on and started to report people they didn’t like for made up stuff, knowing the state would do the dirty work for them. You didn’t like your neighbor’s haircut? — No big deal, report them for criticizing the party, then watch them being dragged away.


> (I know "fascism" is the wrong word here, but what's the correct word for "fascism-like, but with $random-issue instead of nationality, and without the far-right"? We need that word.)

I think Social Justice Warriors is the proper term.


That's with $random-issue = something from the bag of things related to gender identity and minorities. I wonder if there's a more general term, partly because I have the feeling that the very use of "SJW" is now perceived by many as association with far-right.


I don't really think calling it "fascism" is especially accurate or productive. It stinks of "the other side" which is, frankly, much scarier, whether you think I'm referring to the far-right fringe or the propaganda operations that are working to deepen these divisions. See also e.g. the widely documented fake BLM pages on Facebook.

It's just a meme that spreads through its appeal to a certain type of person.


The other side in this case isn’t the far right. The other side are just ordinary people who don’t want to be called names for forgetting to use the right pronoun or even not using a pronoun at all.


Yeah, those aren't the people labeling it "fascism" as far as I can tell. GP of this comment was specifically responding to GGP.


The "actual thing" w/r/t pronouns in particular is that people should respect someone else's identity.

Deadnaming someone is basically bullying. There's no principled to intentionally do it, and it's almost always done as a power play more than anything. Respecting someone's choice of identity is just baseline "respect for others". It would be like insisting to use someone's old married name after a divorce (or even just refusing to use someone's name after they get it changed, for whatever reason!)

I'm a bit agnostic about stuff like "forbidding non-pronoun usage" (how is that intent even seen?) and fights are getting virulent. But I think it's hard to see the principled argument against asking people to respect someone's choice of pronouns or name.


All things are not the same thing. We are not talking about using the wrong pronouns, or deadnaming, intentionally or otherwise. We are talking about somebody who expressed a preference to favor "writing in a gender-neutral way" (her words) over using specifically "them" and "they" for (ostensibly) a linguistic reason having nothing to do with the identity of people who prefer those pronouns for themselves.

It's irresponsible to trot out this sort of vague common-sense rhetoric (most of which I agree with, of course) to justify inventing an offense, or blowing something small way out of proportion, and on that basis piling on in public social media to paint the accused with the brush of transphobia or racism or whatever it may be.


You have a right to have whatever identity you have, but others should not be enforced to respect that. That they do is a courtesy extended to you by the person you're interacting with. This much I'm fine with. Doubly so with assumed genders, which is IMO, a perfectly reasonable thing to go on. We don't fit to outliers after all and simply correcting when requested seems like a reasonable approach to me.

However, I've seen a steadily rising trend of weaponized fragility and crusading on this particular topic, along with a particularly virulent group which uses this as a tool to force compliance and control. It's bad enough that while I can observe my personal opinion of the T side sliding towards the negative through frequent contact and exposure with that sort.


I don't get how this became a thing. 5 years ago half of the people who are railed up about this didn't even know what word 'pronoun' means.

Why would using the wrong one be harmful to anybody?

You can call me a she but it just would mean that you'd be wrong. It would harm your public image more than mine since there would be no harm to mine. None of my self-worth or my worth to other people relies on people believing me being any specific gender.

And if you build your worth on your gender should I really be interested? It was your choice. You could have chosen otherwise. Any harm you might feel when someone misgenders you is self inflicted.


Try to imagine a thing that's very personal to you, and secret. Imagine that you pour it out into some creative work, like a painting or a story, and you share that thing with the world. You feel anxious exposing yourself like this but also joyful, because you're finally telling everybody who you really are.

Now imagine that nobody sees any of the things you love about your work, and that all your anxieties are borne out. You are crazy, a freak, a slut, a pervert, an idiot. Delusional, more than anything. Nobody ever looks at you the same way again. You took the leap you desperately needed to take, and you fell on your face.

The older we get, the less we care what other people think, and some people probably literally cannot identify with this even if they scour the depths of their adolescent memories looking for an analog. I think it would be sad to be one of those people, but I guess maybe they're the lucky ones?


> Now imagine that nobody sees any of the things you love about your work, and that all your anxieties are borne out. You are crazy, a freak, a slut, a pervert, an idiot. Delusional, more than anything. Nobody ever looks at you the same way again. You took the leap you desperately needed to take, and you fell on your face.

That's pretty much the feeling that every even mildly controversial artist experiences at some point. The question remains "was that a good idea to make something like this out of your gender?" I'd say, never.

> The older we get, the less we care what other people think, and some people probably literally cannot identify with this even if they scour the depths of their adolescent memories looking for an analog.

Maybe that's it. I'm 40 year old fart whose life partner died a month ago because of brain cancer. My scale of how significant teenage-like problems are, must be off. But even as I reach towards my adolescent memories ... I struggle to find any instance where I was desperate to be recognized as a man or a boy. Maybe that's because I was raised as a single mother, never met my father and my male model was my grandfather who above all was a tinkerer so that became much more important part of my identity then being of specific gender.


I'm sorry for your loss.

I think it's important to recognize that most of us fall into one of two buckets that are considered "normal" wrt. our sex and gender. If you don't fall into one of those two buckets, you are going to feel tension externally, in the ways other people interact with you, and internally insofar as you've internalized societal sex/gender norms, which is hard to avoid doing when you've lived in society your whole life.

So really it is not so much about looking for a problem ("I've decided to hang my identity on my gender") as it is about having to solve a problem that most people (including you) don't have ("I'm in the wrong body"). It's a distressing problem to have, and not an easy one to solve.


But isn't the best solution for not falling neatly into those two buckets, paying less attention to the buckets and promoting giving less attention to the buckets? Maybe taking some additional labels out of the buckets and putting them on the floor so everyone can enjoy them?

Not putting out your own new bucket with a laud bang, puting yourself into it, and claiming it is just a legit as those two because you put 0.1% of people in there with yourself (which may or may not want to be put there) and getting offended when your bucket doesn't get equal recognition as the ones containing over 3bln people each?

...

I am very sorry for people that have constant feeling that there's something wrong with their body and when I meet them in person I always try to be mindful and help them however I can in either accepting or changing it. Although I must admit I lean toward option that brings less harm to their physical health. I am a materialist and believe that except for very rare cases you should avoid permanent damage to your hardware just to make possibly software bug more bearable.

I don't have any transgender friends (that I know of) but I would definitely try to talk to them in a way they find most comfortable. However being required to always use that way rubs me the wrong way. That seems like something authoritarian. There's a specific way you should address royalty or clergy or teacher in school system with threat of violent reaction looming. I don't think we should enlarge that group of people and put that rules in writing.

When priest welcomes you in Poland he always says "let be praised Jesus Christ" and you are supposed to say "for ages of ages, amen".

As an atheist I refuse to participate in this and respond with "hello". Which communicates "your cognitive problems and solutions you've chosen are not mine and are different form mine, I won't reinforce your beliefs" or I hope it at least "ah, non-believer, I shouldn't put too much Jesus on him". This is mean spirited of me, because it's just a customary greeting and I might be harming this man a bit by poking at the image of reality he internalized and keeps reinforced daily, but I'd like to have the option to do that. I wouldn't like to be forced by code of conduct or law to respond (or talk) to religious person in their preferred way even if that's the most polite thing to do. Right to be mildly impolite to people you don't agree with to let them know you'd prefer they kept their distance because you don't share their mindset is maybe not the nicest thing but I think it's how a lot of people protect themselves and a thing that people should be required to suffer through.

Of course that doesn't mean that you should be free to stalk people, telling them things that make them feel bad as they are trying to isolate themselves from you. That behaviour is reprehensible because of intentional nature, persistence, high disruption it brings and physical and emotional cost incurred to counter it, not because of the content of what the offender is saying. Content might be expression of love and still the action is horrible. We won't solve stalking by banning compliments and expressions of love. We should ban targeted insistence in causing distress instead. And if anyone would try defend it with freedom of speech, you do have right to speak, but not loudly into specific person's ear as you follow them around.


> And if you build your worth on your gender should I really be interested? It was your choice. You could have chosen otherwise. Any harm you might feel when someone misgenders you is self inflicted.

Would you say the same about a person being called a racial slur for example? “You shouldn’t have built your worth on your race”?

Any harm you might feel when someone [calls you the n-word] is self inflicted, of course.

> Why would using the wrong one be harmful to anybody?

As alexwennerberg said elsewhere in this thread:

> The reason that people are so sensitive and strict about this is because the stakes for trans people are very high -- some people don't believe trans people exist, should exist, or should have the same rights as cis people. Refusing to use the right pronouns reveals either a benign misunderstanding about trans people or a willful hostility towards their existence. The latter is extremely common and can be both hurtful and often scary, as trans people, especially trans people of color, are often subject to violence because of their identities.


I think that's absolutely horrible when people intentionally call others names they don't want to be called by. Even worse if it's done in hostility and if it escalates to violence.

I think that people taking strong offence from a racial slur or any other slur made the mistake of making "I'm a universally respectable person" part of their identity. Then any display of disrespect becomes attack on identity. Making race part of your identity would backfire not when people recognize your race even with a racial slur but when your race is doubted ("you are not that black") or misrecognized, like hearing n-word when you had some black ancestors but you think of yourself as white and made it a part of your identity.

'n-word' rose in popularity immensely over last two decades. Earlier either people said it or didn't say it but never people made the mental gymnastic of saying a lot 'that word that we do not say'. It could be made taboo because it's fairly useless and there are fairly good alternatives. People born in the fifties in the US might disagree but this never bothered me much, being born in 99,99% white country that never had any expeirience of exploiting people of other races. Also any reflexive negative feeling you get when hearing specific words is self inflicted harm. You trained yourself to react that way to those words. It's not innate. Getting mad at people is punishing yourself for their stupidity and you should try to do as little of that as you can.

Unfortunately you can't convince people who despise you especially when you don't know who are those people. And they will not stop despising you.

By trying to convince everyone what you might get is a lot of people despising your actions when you try to turn a common word like 'he' or 'she' into a contextual slur.

A lot of people care how their actions affect other people and don't like when they affect other people negatively. Telling them that your plain speech affects you negatively and possibly intentionally, affects them negatively. I think striving to not harming people is important part of a lot of people's identity as is gender for some and telling them they are harming you is attacking their identity.

I guess I just figured out why this is a thing.

There are just two fractions of offended people. One fraction suspects other of intentionally attacking their identity by using improper gender pronouns. The other feels like the first one intentionally attacks their identity of being a good person by insinuating that there's harmful intent in their use of common words. Words they use every day. Words they learned around age 3.

While the despicable people grab popcorn, fuel the fire, and watch from the sidelines as vulerable people and good people hurt each other.

I see no resolution of that conflict. It will just gradually die down by a lot of people removing gender out of their identity and a lot more removing 'being good' from their identity to remove themselves from the conflict. This is all sad.

I guess lesson for me is, be ready to shed parts of your identity when they become source of harm for you.


> And if you build your worth on your gender should I really be interested? It was your choice.

We live in a world where entire social structures are built up based on gender. It's not a choice.

Also, it's not about "worth". It's about identity. If we lived in some alien society that defined nothing along gender lines and didn't even have gender specific pronouns, maybe there would be some merit to the argument. But we don't and there's none.


Your gender is not a choice (i think? Not sure where science stands on that) but whether you make it part of your identity or not is a choice. "I'm a male" is statement of a fact, but "I identify as a man" is a statement of choice.

I choose to identify as a hacker, potentially useful, solver, youthful, intelligent, mostly self-reliant, good person. If you don't successfully harm my perception of myself in those aspects then you won't threaten my identity. And even if you do I'm ready to shed parts of my identity if they start to be too troublesome to uphold. If you called me 'not that white' or 'half of the man somone else is' or 'a pussy' or a 'weakling' it wouldn't harm me in a bit because those are not the parts of my identity.

What societal structures are based on gender? The only one I can think of in modern western society are the toilets/dressing rooms of gyms and pools, clergy, husband, wife and mother.


This comment is off-topic to the issue at hand, which is about forcing people to use "they" instead of any other singular gender-neutral pronoun or simply avoiding pronouns.


"identity politics" has very little to do with the left. It's a social diversion tactic from actual left-wing struggles, that is employed by pro-Capitalist political parties (with the US Democratic Party being a prominent example).

That's liberal politics, not left. There's a real, meaningful difference. Liberating identities is a form of liberalism.

There's some dogpiling effect where all these terms which deviate from a current conservative are used interchangeably.

Leftists and liberals really don't like each other and when the liberal parties need to choose between supporting their conservative opponents or a leftist challenger, they almost without exception, join the conservatives to block out the leftists from power.

Many liberals see the left as a far bigger threat than most forms of conservatism and to confuse the these groups is part of the reason people don't think these groups have a coherent vision, because they actually don't like each other and aren't the same.


That people should be allowed to assume whatever identities they like is a liberal position, but telling people what they cannot say and should not think in relation to identity (or anything else, really) is not. There may be some muddled overlap between those two sets but they are absolutely not the same.

The latter is, generally, a leftist thing. The political left is concerned with egalitarianism, often to the extent that they believe specific and deliberate actions should be taken to reduce inequality. See also: social justice. The identity politicking we're discussing here is predicated on the idea that there are marginalized groups, i.e. folks who do not comfortably fit into the established gender binary and/or gender-sex clustering, and that people outside those groups should change their behavior to reduce that marginalization.


You actually just crossed the two again.

The leftist position is the imposition of the language is yet another form of oppression. Crafting new social hierarchies based on language, like has has existed throughout time, is wildly incompatible with leftism.

Anarchism, Libertarianism, these are closer to leftism than liberalism.

The liberal would reproduce class hierarchies through language and phrasing virtue signaling, ignoring and respecting people based on their use of language. The left has no such masters which is why they have such a hard time consolidating and organizing - there isn't a central cultural idealism.

And just to be clear, I'm perfectly happy with being ahead of the curve on this one and getting the "down votes". I know most people don't currently see or care about this distinction, but it's really important.

The two words begin with "L" and sound alike and the liberal party tries to capture the left like the conservatives try to capture libertarians, but these four things aren't really two things and their differences matter.


> I'm perfectly happy with being ahead of the curve on this one

Making up your own definitions of words != being ahead of the curve.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberalism

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left-wing_politics


Those wikipedia articles defend the distinction I'm making.


As much as I wish you weren't, I think you're actually behind the curve on this. Barely anyone defines left-wing politics this way any more; it's all about idpol and capitalist realism now.


The only important distinction is in self-identification. Who calls themselves a leftist, not who is called one. For instance, look at the program for the left forum 2019: https://www.leftforum.org/program-2019 or the offerings of say Verso books: https://www.versobooks.com or the self proclaimed left-wing news sites like in these times: https://inthesetimes.com or jacobin: https://jacobinmag.com ... there's effectively zero identity politics.

Instead, they critique and criticize it.

For instance, here is a book review from verso

> "...argues that identity politics is not synonymous with anti-racism, but instead amounts to the neutralization of its movements. It marks a retreat from the crucial passage of identity to solidarity, and from individual recognition to the collective struggle against an oppressive social structures"

https://www.versobooks.com/books/2716-mistaken-*%20identity

People who see identity politics in action on news sites indeed call it leftism, along with fascism, liberalism, racism, and socialism. These people are just flinging words around however, they don't draw a distinction between any of those things. They're using those words as a form of profanity, purely emotive.


and here's another example of how leftists do not like identpol, also from verso:

> identity politics is positioned in a variety of Marxist frameworks as ineffectual; as a politics founded on difference, it is inherently incapable of building the broad-based movement needed to destabilise capitalism.

https://www.versobooks.com/blogs/3853-marxism-and-identity-p...

Or Jacobin, the leftist magazine, smearing it as a form of liberalism (which leftists, once again, do not like):

> But the term “neoliberal identity politics” refers to the way the politics of identity can be — and often are — abused by those in power, to undermine the very politics of collectivity upon which the liberation of all oppressed groups depends.

https://jacobinmag.com/2019/06/elizabeth-warren-bernie-sande...

or the leftist InTheseTimes, clearly criticizing the (liberal) Democratic party:

> Far too many black folks will vote for their worst enemy, if he or she looks like them. That’s why identity politics, which masquerades as a black power strategy, winds up disempowering African Americans every election.

http://inthesetimes.com/article/19762/identity-politics-take...

It doesn't matter whether one agrees with these positions, what's important is to correctly identify who is making them if one values trying to accurately depict reality. These 4 citations from popular self-identified leftist sources think identpol is a bad idea. There's dozens more.


IMO internet communities make this worse - it’s a lot easier to be a bully online than in person. Also, internet communities are so large that the chance of running into a bully is much higher.

I have plenty of LGBT friends and family, and none of them get too caught up in language. I’d assume this is the norm? Nobody wants to be disrespected - if someone clearly identifies as a man, then referring to them as “she” (especially if done in a spiteful manner/tone) is disrespectful. Using gender neutral pronouns, or avoiding pronouns altogether ... I don’t think many would consider that an issue? Especially online, gender is normally not known at all, and that’s fine. Calling someone a bigot because they avoid using gendered pronouns seems like bullying to me.

Communities should stand up to bullies, not cave in to them, especially internet communities where bullying is so easy and common. This is true whether the bullies are extreme left, extreme right, or just assholes. I consider myself fairly left of centre, but siding with someone just because they’re on your end of the political spectrum is wrong. People can share some beliefs with you but still behave as bullies, and if they do it’s important to stand up to them.

From what I’ve read of this Stack Exchange mess, it seems like the people who won were the bullies, and that’s unfortunate.


This may seem shocking but it is absolutely not any form of attack: One person's identity crisis is very likely not another person's problem. Trying to force that problem where it is not well understood causes confusion and miscommunication issues, especially for people who not using the current language as a comfortable native language. Furthermore, a difference of opinion is not a form of attack. People forcing the narrative that any difference of opinion must be some form of attack are perhaps a source of the problem.

When these sorts of issues come up in an online community I do myself the service of abandoning the community before watching things get out of hand.


It's also super weird because everyone I know who is NB, trans, or genderqueer is fine with singular they and absolutely supports its use when someone's pronouns are unspecified.


But this is in a case where the pronouns are (presumably?) known. If you were obviously doing it with regards to one person, it could be very offensive. That is, if you insist on referring to a transgender person as "they", when you know their pronouns but refer to cis-gender people using gendered pronouns.... then you're just refusing to gender a trans person correctly as opposed to trying to take pronouns out of your language.

We did just have the whole contrapoints fiasco regarding pronouns, which shows that... the community is not dealing with some of these things very well at all. (FWIW, I'm a transgender woman and I totally agree with the concept she was expressing)


What if you use they for just about everyone? The other question I have is am I expected to look up every single person's preferred pronouns that I reply to? This situation doesn't make any sense at all to me personally.


I feel like there's part of this story I'm not hearing because just using gender neutral language for everyone on its own shouldn't be offensive. Unless, as I said in my other reply, you're basically doing it to avoid having to gender someone correctly.

I certainly wouldn't expect somebody to know what my pronouns are over the Internet. I try very hard to present in a way that is identified as female in real life, but the Internet? It's not like I try to write in a feminine way or anything, there's just no way you would know.


The part of the story you're missing is the somewhat recent (arguably happening for many years, now) phenomenon where some people take an issue like this (correct use of pronouns, in this case), weaponize it, and use it to assault communities. If you find yourself in a situation like this, you cannot get away by being more neutral and more reasonable, because it's not a misunderstanding - it's an attack. The situation is very asymmetrical; a lot of people and organizations yield at the very first opportunity, and people thinking it was just a misunderstanding get thrown under a bus.


Sure. But social justice activists aren't unique in that.

What puzzles me greatly is how differently things are developing online vs in meatspace. Maybe it's just an urban vs rural dynamic.


They aren't, though they seem to be most successful at it currently.

To me, this phenomenon feels like a memetic equivalent of transplanting a species into a perfect niche far away from home, where it faces no predators or restrictions, so it's free to grow extremely fast. It usually ends up with it devastating the new ecosystem it was introduced to.

I think the difference is made by the medium. In any meatspace population, most quirks and beliefs are close to normally distributed. You have to deal with people who are different from you in many dimensions. The cost of associating and forming groups is high. On-line, all differences except those a person is willing to express themselves are masked by default, the cost of associating and forming groups is near-zero. Any group that finds purchase in their attempts at gaining influence can very quickly exploit it.

What I'm not sure about is why gender and race, and not religion. It would seem that religion was the original hot topic on the Internet, but we've managed to develop ways of dealing with the issue in both meatspace and on-line. Then again, maybe it's because the way we did it was to stick to the letter of old anti-religion-discrimination laws, but otherwise marginalize the religious - if you bring religion to a discussion you're by default "in the wrong", the same way that when you bring race or gender identity to a discussion, you're somehow by default "in the right".


Yes, they're most successful at it online. And from what I read, on many university campuses. But notwithstanding the historic election of President Obama, things aren't looking at all well for them in meatspace.

I get what you say about the ease of community building online. But online, all you can do is talk. And yes, frighten people who are managing online communities.

In meatspace, however, you can vote. Without otherwise revealing what you support. And you can also game the process through gerrymandering, challenging voters, and so on.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next couple decades. Especially in light of the surprises that climate change may bring. Such as perhaps millions of immigrants coming north as drought reduces agricultural productivity.


> Yes, they're most successful at it online. And from what I read, on many university campuses.

Which correlates with what I've observed: they're all young. I don't think I've seen a social justice activist older than 30-35. I wonder why that may be?

> It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next couple decades. Especially in light of the surprises that climate change may bring. Such as perhaps millions of immigrants coming north as drought reduces agricultural productivity.

Interesting, yes, but it's the flavor of "interesting" that scares the hell out of me. Dealing with climate issues requires cooperation, and it seems that in spite of all the social and technological advancements we've made, we're at historical low point of humanity's ability to coordinate.


> we're at historical low point of humanity's ability to coordinate

I don't think this is true. We humans have never been good at solving coordination problems on scales larger than the family or the tribe. I don't think the present is any worse in that respect.

What's different about the present is that instant global communication has made billions of people aware of huge differences among humans along many dimensions, that previously were only known to those who were able to travel extensively. But I think it's an error to translate much increased knowledge of those differences into much increased coordination problems. Virtually all of these "problems" would be solved if people would just let each other alone when interaction was not necessary.


They're mostly young because change is accelerating so fast that few older people remain outliers. I used to consider myself a social justice activist. A few decades ago.

It scares the hell out of me too.


Huh, didn't consider that angle - that changes happen so fast that your cause can fall out of the public consciousness within a decade or three. Thanks.


I meant that, regarding social justice, my position has become too close to the norm for me to be accepted as an activist. By activists, I mean. But by many civilians, sure.


But what, exactly, do they gain from this?


Picking up an argument I wouldn't generally make myself, because I think I at least understand it:

Imagine some person, P. P is not very nice and for whatever reason P really hates transgendered people and thinks everything about them is fake and invalid.

P encounters a transgendered person, T, and would like nothing more to call T by the wrong gender to make it clear that P disapproves and to make T unhappy. But P's culture would consider such an action harassment, so P can't get away with that.

So what does P do instead? Maybe P carefully and conspicuously erases T's gender in every interaction specifically calling attention to this de-gendering through its conspicuousness, and ultimately having the same harassing result.

[You could even imagine that T might even prefer the more overt behavior, then at least it would be clear where everyone stood-- and T wouldn't lose support from people who hadn't yet seen enough from P to have inferred the intent.]

I think most reasonable people would agree that someone carefully following the letter of an anti-harassment rule in a contrived way in order to harass someone ... would simply be harassment, and should just be dealt with as such.

I don't think it's that hard to see how some could believe that it is possible to prevent this sort of problem (or at least make giving P a kick in the teeth much easier) by proscribing in advance P's behavior.

I think the problem with that approach is that P's specific behaviors weren't the problem at least in isolation, P's intent was the problem. An effort to prohibit that behavior by blunt rule which is inherently blind to intent will inevitably be full of false positives and be unduly burdensome. Especially so because avoiding a needless invocation of gender has historically been a highly effective way to avoid offending people when you simply don't or can't know what gender to use, and also because the overuse of gender itself offends some people who argue against gender existentialism.

But the idea that there could be harassment that exploits the ability to omit gender seems reasonable to me, even if it doesn't seem reasonable to me to solve that problem by-rule.

Of course, there are much less charitable interpretations of these sorts of disputes. But the mere fact that there are both charitable and uncharitable interpretations possible on all sides is a major reason why this kind of issue can turn into such a mess.


This appears to have been more specifically about using neutral forms (EDIT: specifically avoiding any pronouns at all), if someone's preference otherwise is known.


It's about writing around pronouns, not using neutral or gendered either way. That was said to be unacceptable.


I tend to avoid using gendered pronouns in professional settings because I want to keep sexual dynamics out of it.


The policy is talking about situations where a person's preferred pronouns are known.


Even if someone's pronouns are known, what is the issue with using a gender neutral term? The ire with he/she is misgendering someone, so why is going with a neutral term for everyone a bad thing?

I am not trying to be inflammatory, I am genuinely confused as to why this would upset anyone. I don't look up the pronouns of every single person I respond to on the internet.


It upsets me because it's removing utility from the language.

"They" is plural. "They are running late" tells me that multiple people are delayed. "She is running late" tells me that one person is running late.

It's a silly workaround at best, but also a massive reduction in the usefulness of the language, and it establishes the awful precedent that a accommodating a fraction of a percentage of people supersedes the universal utility of the language. Even if you are okay with "they", what will the next re-write of the language sacrifice?

Don't get me wrong, if there is a way to accommodate that small group of people's circumstances without damaging the language, I am 100% for it. But "they" is like cutting off your middle finger in order to never gesture rudely with your hand.


> It upsets me because it's removing utility from the language.

> "They" is plural.

It's not though. We use the singular "they" in conversation all the time. You're probably just so used to it that you don't notice.

"The Uber driver is still ten minutes away, maybe they got stuck in traffic."

"Somebody left their book on the bus."

Nobody would think there are multiple people driving the car or that the book belongs to several different people.


Shakespeare used singular "they". If you want to cite your personal authority vs The Bard, you lose. Hint: he used it in gender-bent situations. Theater people tend to be progressive... 400 years ahead of the game in this instance.


That's actually not what's in contention here. Using singular "they" when gender is unknown avoids the old default of "he". Which feminists rightly took as sexist.

What this is about is using singular "they" when declared gender is known. Whatever people declare themselves to be is what they are. The rest is just mechanics.


The issue is when you use pronouns for others, but you won't for one person, because they're transgender. You're really calling their otherness out, and it hurts.

There are people in this world (ex: Ben Shapiro) who simply refuse to gender transgender people correctly on principle. If you are such a person, and your organization doesn't let you do that, and your solution is to use gender neutral pronouns for transgender people? Yup, that's very nearly as bad.

This is very different than me referring to you or anyone else who I only know as a screen name as "they". That's normal because if you don't even know their pronouns, what else can you do? But if you are part of a team and you know how people identify, you don't really have an excuse.


To be fair to Monica I think she was intending to use gender neutral pronouns for everyone regardless of their preference. This looks like a good compromise solution.


Actually, she appears to have wanted to not use pronouns at all--to write in such a way that pronouns, or at least third person singular ones, are never required. And the SE staff appears to have told her that would be against the new Code of Conduct, apparently on the theory that purposely avoiding the use of pronouns counts as misgendering, even if it's done all the time and not just with respect to particular people.


It's an extremely unusual choice.

But, her main complaint is how Stack Overflow treated her. I've known her for 25 years via a hobby, and she's an extremely well-reasoned person.


I've heard Shapiro's opinion on the matter, and he is most definitely not intending to "call their otherness out". Rather, the point he intends to make is that by agreeing to others demands that he and others use "correct" pronouns, that he would be giving up his principles on free speech, and therefore the foundations of the country. Other people like to frame the issue as plain bigotry without trying to understand the actual point of view at hand.


Everyone is welcome to exercise their freedom of speech to say offensive things -- and no one is required to give them a platform to do so. Nothing new here.

Miss Manners was strongly of the opinion that you should call people what they wished to be called. In her era, the controversy was about Miss vs. Mrs. vs. Ms.


That’s a convenient opinion for a married woman going by “miss”. Also, an opinion I agree with.


"Gosh. How can it possibly be bigotry to call people something they don't want to be called? I do it all the time." - the belief system of a bigot, spoiler alert.

So let's speak frankly for a tick. Is it that you have such a low opinion of your readers that you think that "oh, it's a well-known and self-admitted regressive's free speech in question, not that he hates trans people and has a vested interest in catering to those who hate trans people" is an actual argument? Or are you a dupe who genuinely buys it as if it were true?

Of course, my question is rhetorical. Not attempting to other trans people? Don't insult the people reading your comments like that. Shapiro's entire schtick is othering anyone who the GOP doesn't have in their pocket. His entire ethos, hell his entire telos, is to maximally hurt and control those who are not white, straight, preferably-Christian men (and them too, so long as they are poor).It has nothing to do with "free speech" except insofar as "free speech" can be perverted to "freedom to abuse others while remaining beyond their reach." That's what he gets out of bed in the morning for.


This insistence on assigning maximum negative intention to someone's actions is really bizarre, and is a trend I see a lot of on the Left today (though it isn't limited to them). You're reading into what Shapiro does (I don't follow the guy) and inventing an entire narrative around it that makes him sound like an actual in-real-life cypto-Nazi (which is a little strange, as understand that Shapiro is Jewish).


What you call "inventing", I call "having been unfortunately aware of his boil-on-the-public-discourse's-rear-end existence for most of his career." And to be very clear, he's not a crypto-Nazi. He carries water for crypto-Nazis because they pay his checks. Being Jewish is immaterial; this was the argument used about the gay, Jewish Milo Yiannpoulos not possibly being a literal fascist. Play that one back, too, and see where you get.

There is a strain of thought among the terminally gray-fallacious that somebody has to say "I am a trans-hating asshat" (which is different from being a Nazi, crypto- or otherwise) to be understood as a trans-hating asshat. He does it intentionally, he does it with malice, he does it to appease his similarly trans-hating-asshat bosses and customers, and we have the receipts. Res ipsa loquitur.


>His entire ethos, hell his entire telos, is to maximally hurt and control those who are not white, straight, preferably-Christian men

Shapiro is Jewish.


In meatspace this issue is quite different, and I have no issue with using what someone wants. What about using they for everyone, preferred pronouns or not? It seems more logical to not make distinctions at all, and just use one term, they, for everyone. In other languages one can simply omit the subject as well.


> You're really calling their otherness out, and it hurts.

> your solution is to use gender neutral pronouns for transgender people? Yup, that's very nearly as bad.

Indeed, this is calling out someone as other and different, probably with pejorative intent. However, this is distinct from the effect of mis-gendering someone. The latter is about the transgender person not feeling like they are perceived like they perceive themselves. The former is about the transgender person being ostracized.

Those are different problems. Wanting to fix one of them does not require fixing the other. And really, if people want to ostracize, they will find ways. We should give guidance on speech to avoid inadvertently hurting others. For those who intentionally want to hurt others with speech, rules won't suffice. Those people either need a change of mind, or be dealt with like you would any other asshole.

I suppose that taking certain speech out of the accepted vernacular can help isolate the bigots. Because they could no longer hide amongst those who unintentionally use harmful language. This is what happened with the N-word. If someone uses it these days, you can pretty easily mark them as racists without worrying they didn't mean to use the term.


Where does it mention that? And is asking what a persons preferred pronoun is considered rude?


If I'm reading these leaks correctly, the core issue is that Monica was not okay with singular they. The issue isn't that SO was forcing her not to use it, it's that they were forcing her to use it, and she was refusing.


It’s the other way around, the policy was enforcing specific (preferred) pronouns. But they didn’t get to force her to do anything, she was fired before having a chance to violate it.


There seems to be some debate about that: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21175143

> Monica was asked many times, by many other moderators, to please use "singular they" for people who she actively knew preferred that pronoun.

To the extent that's true, then 1) the issue is about her refusal to use the singular they construction, and 2) the suggestion that this about her potential to violate a future change to the CoC is a red herring, because she was removed for actual violations of existing rules.

Of course, I'm not sure how much I trust the leaks. Given how politicized the situation now is, any transcript now has to be viewed a bit sceptically. However, The Register talked with her, and their story (https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/10/01/stack_exchange_cont...) quotes her as saying "I said I don't use singular they". From context it seems this is categorical; she won't use it ever, in any circumstances, including in cases where that is someone's preferred pronoun.

That doesn't answer the timeline question, but it strongly suggests reports of her refusal to use singular they are correct. If she's just quietly avoided language she didn't like, I'm sure she'd have been fine, but when you make a big deal about how you're refusing to use a specific pronoun, even when asked, and even when using it is grammatically correct...

...yeah. Sorry, no sympathy for Monica there. I don't see how she really gave SO a lot of choice.


SO had the choice to 1) not remove someone for a violation that hadn't actually happened, and 2) give her a warning rather than surprise her with a firing, and 3) follow their own procedures for removing a moderator. And many other choices besides.

Heck, they could even have had a discussion with her.


Why do you think so fired her ? There has to be a reason. If you don’t like the official one propose one


[flagged]


Please let's not cross into name-calling ("mentally ill"). Internet psychiatric diagnosis is a particularly bad sign in contentious threads.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


People with gender dysphoria are by definition mentally ill...


That sounds like a circular statement to me. But even if true, it's not ok to diagnose people on HN or to use diagnostic labels to juice up arguments.

Note how the GP's substance doesn't change if you take out the label "mentally ill". It just gets less labelly.


Ad hominem arguments are always unacceptable. People with various mental illnesses (depression, autism, asperger, OCD, etc.) can still hold perfectly valid claims. The fact that somebody might see the world in a different way does not discredit them.


I don't believe that's what the post is saying though. It appears to be saying a minority of them are mentally ill.


Singular they is great when pronouns are unspecified, and also makes for a great specific pronoun :)

But the issue at hand is precisely that Monica doesn't want to use singular they, even when someone has specified that pronoun – not out of bigotry, but because it supposedly makes for ambiguous, inelegant writing. Instead she prefers alternative constructions. I think this standpoint is more stupid than actually harmful; Stack Exchange of course disagrees.


> It's also super weird

It’s a private organisation. The person “let go” was a volunteer. It sucks, but both parties acted within their rights, legally and I’d argue morally.

Lots of places have weird norms—dress codes, for instance. This group has a different view of pronouns. They want to enforce that as a cultural value. Apparently, their leadership either agrees or doesn’t find the topic worth burning political capital over. The author did find it worth burning political capital over, which caused him [EDIT: oops, them] to be ejected.

The cost of vilifying norms we disagree with is a reduced cultural space private organisations can explore. That loss of dynamism may reduce the frequency of seemingly-silly subcultures, but it also hits our broader culture’s flexibility.


Yes, it's a private organization acting within their "rights", but this private organization is heavily reliant on their community, which they are now alienating themselves from.. which is the topic of discussion.

The moderator (whom you are ironically misgendering) was not attempting to burn political capital, and was never told they were doing anything against the rules by offering their opinion on a topic of discussion.


> The moderator (whom you are ironically misgendering) was not attempting to burn political capital

One, thank you for pointing out the midgendering. Flagged it in my original comment.

They weren’t attempting to deploy political capital. But repeatedly flagging an issue for discussion is a political act. (This is, by the way, another cultural norm. The level of openness to challenging the organisation’s authority.)

On content, I agree with the author. But I disagree with OP’s claim that there is a growing wing of our culture seeking to punish people for thoughtcrime.

The analogy would be someone who brings up the office dress code at every meeting. Yes, it’s arbitrary. Yes, you’re just talking about the rule. And yes, at a certain point it will be perceived as a challenge. (Depending on the culture, one that is laughed off or responded to.)


It was on private moderator chat. Content of this conversation was not intended to be public. It was not Monica to bring this issue up to discussion but new PR people in SO working on new CoC.

IMO there bigger problems in SO that should be addressed on instead of gender pronouns. I would question SO leadership ability to focus on the right things.


Where do you see an indication that the moderator in question brought up the issue constantly? By her own account, she got into a single major discussion and then let it go.


> The cost of vilifying norms we disagree with is a reduced cultural space private organisations can explore.

In case you've been living under a rock, this has already happened. Organizations are routinely boycotted, denied business, harassed out of existence and deplatformed by providers for "exploring" cultural spaces and for allowing others to do that without enforcing certain cultural norms in aggressive enough manner. It's not something theoretical, it's what has already happened many times. People fired, sites shut down, services denied, etc. And yet, the occasion where you decide to raise your voice is when somebody complains about being excluded from the community for mere discussing the rules - and falsely accused in violating those rules with no evidence whatsoever? This is where you wake up and start protesting about narrowing the exploration of cultural space - when somebody who dares to question whether it should be narrowed as harshly as it is done is immediately fired and libelously accused?

Somehow it sounds to me as if either you are not completely informed or your "let the thousands flowers bloom" sentiment is less than genuine and of more tactical nature.


What's the point of noting that they have the right to do this? Was anyone arguing that SE violated the law?

Their culture is stupid and alienating to many intelligent people.


I don't think anyone thinks SE violated the law. The point is they are a useful organization that many people use. The policy is causing their target audience to question the usefulness and try to find alternatives. I am curious about the alternatives.

My problem with the policy is the cognative load that the policy puts on the moderators given that most people want to be judged for their ideas rather than their gender.


> their culture is stupid and alienating to many intelligent people

We grant private organisations wide latitude to set their norms. Seemingly stupid norms can develop into, or inspire, sensible ones. Alternatively, they can illustrate the deficiencies of the norm.

I’m arguing against automatically branding this as stupid. I don’t agree with the norm, as a frequent user of the singular “they”. But there isn’t a clear right answer to the question, and that means diverging solutions deserve at least the respect of being explored.

(I would be more pointed if this were a government agency or company firing someone for not following this communication policy.)


Stack Exchange is the closest thing there is to a utility in terms of technology Q&A sites. I find it pretty disturbing to see websites like this become so overtly political.


Because the comment at the top of this thread uses the phrase "punish that assumed thought crime." It's just a disagreement of values.

I'm not going to hire a Catholic to be a pastor at my Lutheran church, but that doesn't mean I think that Catholics are committing thoughtcrime. (Despite the historical fact that many Lutherans and many Catholics did go to war for disagreeing with each other thoughts.)


You really can't grasp the differences between a technology site that's used by practically every software developer and a church?


True, I've never heard of an official state established Q&A site. So there's even less danger of state suppression of rights in the case of the technology site.


Unlike a church, most of the world's programmers have to use Stack Exchange in some capacity and abide by its policies. You're being obtuse.


Huh? Why?

I mean, first, I'm surprised at the implicit claim that most of the world's programmers do use Stack Exchange and abide by its policies. I don't have a Stack Exchange account. I occasionally run across it in Google searches, but I don't have to abide by any policies to read a website. And my company (which is in a regulated industry and is IP-sensitive) prohibits us from posting detailed information about our work externally without review by the security team, so I assume most (I certainly don't assume all) of my coworkers don't post to Stack Exchange from work / about their work. I can't remember the last time I heard a coworker (here or at a previous employer) say "I asked StackOverflow and they said....". There are a lot of companies and non-company employers (governments...) which will be equally sensitive about posting code.

Second, even if it were true that most of the world's programmers do use Stack Exchange, why do they have to? It's a company that's barely 10 years old. It's a site that's notorious for closing question as off topic. Surely there are other resources. Surely other sites could pop up. I specifically mentioned "established" churches because it is no such thing - it's popular because people want to use it, not because anyone is obligated to. If people want to use something else, or nothing at all, they can. If someone figures out how to disrupt Stack Exchange, nobody is stopping them. "Crime" is a term that applies to violations of rules set by the government, which you are obligated to follow - it does not apply to violations of rules set by private parties.

Finally, the policies in question were applied in this instance to a moderator, not a user. I don't believe that most of the world's programmers have to be a moderator. (And, again, given that StackOverflow is notorious for editing questions to make them more generally useful even at the risk of making the question useless for the individual asker, I assume they would at most rephrase the question to be policy-compliant instead of banning the user.)


> Meh. It’s a private organisation. The person “let go” was a volunteer. It sucks, but both parties acted within their rights.

The drama isn't that any party acted or is alleged to have acted illegally.

Stack Overflow derives huge value from, in part, free moderation by volunteers; part of continuing to extract that free labor means maintaining positive relationships.


It is just American puritans again but from a different angle. Rest of the world is confusingly laughing over these issues.


"It’s a private organisation. The person “let go” was a volunteer. It sucks, but both parties acted within their rights."

This. Also, if you have a legal dispute with someone, hire a lawyer and STFU. Do not go ranting on HN - that really screws stuff up for whoever has to be your advocate.


One line of thinking around requiring usage of preferred pronouns is that normalizing the act of giving/asking for pronouns allows for more inclusive spaces. For instance, if someone is transitioning between genders it might not be obvious what their gender identity is, and assuming their gender identity can lead to further dysphoria. At the same time, if you are someone who sees that the only people who get asked for their pronouns are people who do not obviously exist at either of edge of the gender spectrum, then the act of being asked for pronouns is tantamount to someone admitting their own confusion of your identity. This issue can be resolved for all parties and gender identities when asking/giving pronoun preference is the norm. For people with more straightforwardly normative gender identities, offering preferred pronouns is an act of solidarity with people who might not have the privilege of their gender identity being so obvious.


Doesn't that approach have the downside risk strongly elevating gender to be essential to activities where it really has no business?

I have no idea what your gender is and I don't think our interaction would be improved by forcing you-- by either rule or convention-- to specify something. Doing so would unnecessarily prime my sterotypes and perhaps leave you and/or me worrying that my response was unduly biased by the knoweldge. An effective requirement-to-specify implicitly makes a strong assumption that your gender can be described categorically rather than as, say, the fractal attractor of a complex collection of partial differential equations. :)

For a long time online I've tended to fill out apparently pointless gender fields with a "none of your business". I'm happy to support people identifying in whatever way they find most enabling, but at the same time it feels like a step back to elevate gender as important in contexts where it isn't after working so long to push towards a more gender blind world.


Everything that is not forbidden is mandatory.


>Now your lack of a specific behavior is suspect!

this has been established practise since the dawn of time, to the point where some languages have honorifics built into their grammar. Communities have guidelines and addressing someone with their preferred pronoun seems as simple to me as addressing someone with their proper name and title.

If someone is not up to the task to treat others with at least a modicum of respect they probably shouldn't moderate communities.


Avoiding pronouns appears to be an offense in that new CoC though. If I was to refer to your comment saying "As Barrin92 wrote", I'd be close to a ban if you've stated your preferred pronouns in your profile, as those are to be used.


> ...addressing someone with their proper name and title.

Except titles were banned by the U.S. Constitution. I'm not sure why Your Honor and Dr. stuck around, probably because of the immediacy of the need to oblige onesself to them. But it's important to remember that the Dr. honorific is cultural and unenforced. And the Your Honor is only enforced in court.

If someone wants to call the President "Donny", there are no legal repercussions. Not that Donny T will be a grown-up about it necessarily.


Titles as the general category were not banned. The US Constitution only concerns titles of nobility, and more specifically:

> "No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State."

Military titles are very important, and enforced within the military rank system. (Consider a private referring directly to a colonel as "Sherman" instead of "Colonel Potter".)

Some very common titles are "Mr.", "Ms", "Mrs.", and "Miss".

Some job titles are protected, like "engineer" - in several states only a certified professional engineer can have the job title "Engineer".


And nowhere are you generally a jerk for not calling someone "Colonel Mustard" in a grocery store instead of "Rick". If you are in trouble for that, it's in a narrow circumstance probably involving the chain of command or some generally inapplicable honor code. The grocery store certainly wouldn't ask an insubordinate PFC to leave for being careless in addressing a superior officer.

American disregard for formalities is literally a fish-out-of-water element in Saving Mr. Banks that the British "Mrs. Travers" bristles as the American Walt Disney (always just "Walt" to his employees) keeps calling her "Pamela" because that's how he talks to everyone. And the insistence on using last names formally seems archaic to the modern American viewer, besides. The screenwriters have P.L. Travers explain why she finds that form of address too familiar instead of assuming the audience understands implicitly.


That still doesn't mean titles were banned by the U.S. Constitution, as you claim it did.

All you're showing is that the US has a lower regard for formalities than the UK (in the mid-20th century). While I don't think pointing to one film is good evidence, I agree, based on what I know from other things.

However, that doesn't show "disregard for formalities" only less regard for formalities.

A decade later, you still had Mr. Rogers talking to Mr. McFeely of Speedy Delivery and Officer Clemons, so its not like that one film was representative of a US-wide change.

In 2009 it was still the norm that undergrads call their professors by title, not by first name - http://phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1153 says "Undergrads must never call Professors by their first name. It's just weird."

That's not a disregard for formalities.


this isn't a legal matter, nobody on stackoverflow is going to sue you, they're apparently just going to stop you from being a moderator. If you work at the white house and you call the president Donny I would expect you don't have your job for very long. And that wouldn't be exclusive to the white house or stackoverflow either. If you start a pronoun rebellion at waffle house or are rude to your customers in some other way the same thing would happen.


I was making the point that the U.S. has never been big on honorifics and that it influences even its laws going back hundreds of years.

And volunteering as a moderator in a forum isn't the same thing as being a sworn secret service agent part of a chain of command or something.


Hasn't been as big as, say, Germany, but it can still be important to address someone with their proper name and title, as Barrin92 pointed out.

Consider that Mr., Ms, Mrs. and Miss are four very common honorifics in the US, to the point where there are forms which require entering one of those terms. Just why do I need to know someone gender and marital status?

Yet referring to a married couple as "Mr. and Miss Smith" can make people angry. Just like referring to someone as "Ma'am" can make them angry.

Go to, for example, United's web site to enroll in MileagePlus. They require a title, which must be one of Dr., Miss, Mr., Mrs., Ms., Mstr., Mx., Prof., Rev. Sir, and Sister.

Mx. is the the very new way to avoid the question of gender and marital status, but you likely won't get a good response referring to the couple as "Mx. and Mx. Smith".

Which means that Barrin92 is right, and the US is one example of "Communities have guidelines and addressing someone ... with their proper name and title" is something we do.

The Mx title is a very new way to avoid the gender+marital status problem, showing that, yes, the US has


But nobody is getting banned from websites for not referring to folks as "Reverend".


Go back to Barrin92's statement, "addressing someone with their preferred pronoun seems as simple to me as addressing someone with their proper name and title."

It appears to me that your reply was that titles aren't important, and so therefore addressing someone with their preferred pronoun wasn't important.

I believe I have shown that titles have been and are important in the US. (Consider that in the US, children refer to adults by Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms while in some other countries, first names are the norm.) It's certainly not the case that the Constitution prohibits all titles.

Given that, your comment now seems to be that since people don't get banned for not referring to someone as Reverend, they shouldn't be banned for using the wrong pronoun.

Which is a rather different argument which doesn't depend on any history of titles in the US.

BTW, given that some reverends are touchy about being called reverend, and given that some people will deliberately not call someone a reverend, either to make them annoyed or as a protest over the right to be called a reverend, I find it very unlikely that someone wasn't banned from a website for refusing to call someone a reverend.


> It appears to me that your reply was that titles aren't important...

I didn't say it wasn't ever important. I said the U.S. isn't big on honorifics and they are largely unenforced.

If somebody wants to get snippy about honorifics or other so-called manners like elbows on the table, it's largely on them and everyone else is free to consider them a pain in the neck and avoid them.

Very rarely are there more than interpersonal consequences for ignoring honorifics. To the extent that they are honored (doctor, your honor, ranks), there is usually an involuntary imbalance of power involved with immediate consequences, at least in effect.

Nowhere am I able to put "Her Ladyship" or "Esq." on a plackard and enforce it with more than dirty looks and lectures. And, in the U.S., one would be considered tiresome for trying. It is plausibly an establishing scene for a bullying high society character in a film.


"Isn't big" is a relative thing. In the US, children (at least where I grew up) refer to most adults by their title + last name, like "Mr. Rogers". This holds even up to college, where professors are generally referred to by "Prof." or "Dr." + last name.

By comparison, in the Nordic countries, children often refer to adults by their first name, as well as college students to their professors.

To an Icelandic person, the US is big on honorifics.

But to get back to Barrin92's statement, "addressing someone with their preferred pronoun seems as simple to me as addressing someone with their proper name and title." We see that people do tend follow honorifics, even when there is no legal obligation. We also know some people do complain - loudly - when using the wrong honorifics. And we know there was a whole social movement in the 1970s to use "Ms" for women who didn't think that knowing her marital status was important.

Barrin92's statement doesn't depend on being "big on honorifics" only that honorifics are recognized as being important enough that most people follow the conventions.

An "involuntary imbalance of power" describes Stack Overflow, yes?

It's very convenient for me that you happened to pick "Esq." as an example, since that happens to be a protected term in some US jurisdictions. The Wikipedia link for 'Esquire' points to https://web.archive.org/web/20110530134510/http://www.abajou... :

> But some jurisdictions have reservations about the use of Esq. The Ohio Supreme Court’s Board of Commis­sioners on Grievances and Discipline, for example, prohibited a lawyer who was not licensed to practice law in the state from appending Esq. to his signature on business correspondence because it was deemed to connote licensure in Ohio. Ohio S. Ct. Opinion 91-24 (1991).

That would seem to undermine your argument.

Similarly, titles like "Engineer" and "attorney-at-law" and others are also protected. False use of these titles can be illegal.


Those that forcibly suppress of opposing thought on pronouns share characteristics that define fascism.


I think it's just rude behavior, honestly. If I ask you to call me something and you go out of your way not to do that, how is that not a dick move?


It's not a dick move because the singular "they" covers every conceivable pronoun that could ever possibly exist. Saying "they" is not the same as calling a man "she" or calling a woman "he" or any combination of genders and pronouns. The singular "they" is as accurate for one gender as it is for any other possible genders and covers all of them exactly the same.

That's the entire reason neutral words like "they" exist, to cover every possible case to avoid mis-gendering. If we decide that the singular "they" is inappropriate, we might as well do away with pronouns altogether and refer to people by name every time we mention someone.


English already has a non-specific pronoun that's been around for hundreds of years. It has come from the French, so it's been around at least since the Norman Invasion of 1066. So roughly 1050 years.

One can use it at any time.


At least in modern English, "one" is specifically an indefinite pronoun, and is therefore inappropriate for use when referring to a specific individual.

And before anyone claims otherwise, "they" was still in use as a definite, gender-neutral pronoun long before its NB usage began to become mainstream.


"They" might be a definite pronoun, but it is almost exclusively used as a plural. It's also a pretty bad drop in replacement; "They is currently running" sounds weird as all hell for instance. That there has been an explicit and forced attempt to shift it towards that doesn't make it sound any better.

Furthermore, "He" has been used as a generic pronoun long predating the singular they. While it comes with some ambiguity as well, it flows a lot better and does not screw around with singular/plural ambiguity.


"They" has been used continuously for the singular since 1300. It has literally never died out, despite protests from grammatical prescriptivists beginning around 1795. Even Shakespeare used singular they, but this would have been considered unremarkable by his audiences.

The only thing that seems relative new here is usage to refer to a specific known individual, of known gender. Historically singular they was used definite but unknown individuals, or at least individuals of unknown gender.

In any case, "They is" is wrong for singular, just like "you is".

"You" always takes "are", for both singular and plural "you". Indeed singular "you" differs from plural "you" only in the reflexive: yourself/yourselves.

Singular "They" is exactly the same. It uses "are" and differs only in the reflexive: themself/themselves. The only difference here is that the plural reflexive can be used for the singular, and indeed that has been standard for several hundred years, but feels extremely awkward with respect to a known specific individual.

Fun fact: "themself" actually predates "themselves", and was originally used for both singular and plural they, although around 1450 "themselves" became standard for plural, with "themself" remaining standard for singular. But eventually "themself" almost completely died out.


“What did they want?” is an easy example of when people use singular they a lot.


This post is about a case where someone was avoiding singular they, in favor of changing the wording to avoid pronouns altogether.


> I answered saying that we already have a negative commandment, don't call people what they don't want to be called (like wrong pronouns), which is proper

Straight from the article. You can tell people not to call you something, Cellio will not call you that thing. However, they will not go out of their way to call you what you want to be called, it's their choice in what they call you, as well as how they respond to names you don't like.


What? You can't say "call me they/them," rather you can only say "don't call me him/her/or any other pronoun besides they"? That's very silly.

Clarification of rules, even to the point where they may seem redundant, is completely fine and often important. This is such a weird hill for them to die on.


The new rule is not a clarification of the existing rule. If you'd not like me to call you "OP", that's fine, I can refer to you by your username or they or I can refer only to "the post", and if you prefer a pronoun, Cellio states she will use that pronoun. The issue is that the new rule states you must use a certain term whichever the user specifies.


Edited to say...

I think we (as humans on this planet) need to be respectful of each other. Not go out of our way to hurt each other.

But "being respectful" needs to have a standard, society-wide definition. We cannot allow individuals to set their own standard of what they demand in order to feel respected, because then people can invent unreasonable demands on others and then claim to be harmed when that fails to happen.

For instance, I can go around demanding people call me "your lordship". No, my name is not Scott. My name is not unreal37. I am not he/she/they. Call me "your lordship" or I will consider that an insult.

Individuals cannot define the rules like this. We need a standard of what is considered respectful behavior and it applies to everyone.


You know what else is a dick move? - punishing people for wrongthink.


Let's use a hypothetical here. Let's say you're on a team with someone named Mike.

Mike has a team member that keeps referring to him as 'Mikey'. Mike doesn't like this, because he feels it's demeaning and rude. He insists on being called Mike, but his teammate refuses.

If his manager gets involved and tells said team member to cut it out, is that punishing someone for wrongthink? Do you think it's acceptable to repeatedly call someone a name that they don't like?


There's a huge difference between calling someone you know and have interacted with for a significant amount of time or a random internet stranger the wrong thing though (not to mention the overhead of looking up & remembering the pronoun vs just writing around it for technical/factual answers)


Except that's not the scenario in question. The person I was responding to (and in turn, the OP) was about someone explicitly not calling you by what you request even after you ask them to please to so.

In my scenario, it doesn't change much if Mike is a new employee at said company. The coworker still calls him Mikey even after the employee's requests to stop, which would be considered rude by a lot of people.


Are you talking about name-calling? Cause people already know what to do about it.

Is "Mikey" pejorative?


There is a distinct difference between asking to be called something, and asking to not be called something.

I don’t think anyone is arguing that it’s right or correct to continue using a pronoun or name that someone has specifically objected to.


I'm pretty sure cellio specifically said that they were fine with using pronouns when specified.


[flagged]


Where are pronouns specified? How much digging are volunteer mods required to do under penalty of censure? Will all Stack Exchange sites add a "pronouns" field to user profiles that can be displayed along with user IDs? Are mods going to be required to go look at each user account's free-form description each time to check for pronoun information and possible changes (there have been references to 'gender-fluid' which makes me think the pronoun may change frequently)? Will there be history tracking so when a mod says 'she' and gets called on it by a 'he' it can be shown that the expressed preference has changed since a response was written?

You couldn't do a better job of building a system of unavoidable traps if you were actively trying to sabotage the system. By the time this is all done every.single.moderator will be guaranteed to have violated the CoC at least once and can be censured or fired for it on a whim.


> Will all Stack Exchange sites add a "pronouns" field to user profiles that can be displayed along with user IDs?

You ask this rhetorically and like it's some big challenge, but it's genuinely a good idea and straightforward to implement for any community site.


But then why only pronouns? Are you deliberately ignoring intersectional discrimination? All possible categories must be included lest one identity group is singled out for cancellation.

/s


The answer to this is fairly obvious if you would avoid having a knee-jerk reaction: Because the dimension of gender inflects grammar, even in "ungendered" languages like English, but even moreso in most Romance or Germanic languages.

This is literally the reason many signup forms ask for gender - to know which pronouns to use. Why not just ask that? In languages which have other inflections, those fields are also often asked for - I've worked on software that needed to support Korean honorifics, and even in German you get dropdowns for "Dr." vs. "Prof. Dr.", "Prof. Dr. med.", etc.


German language doesn't even have different words for sex and gender, they are the same. It's just Americans pushing their latest group think on rest of they world. The whole pronoun issue is absurd and invented problem.


The answer to the questions asked on StackExchange have nothing to do with the gender of the asker, they are intended for anyone who has the same question.


There is other communication happening on the site. You may not care about it, but it happens and is a vital part of the site.


Meanwhile, for those of us not ascended to a Platonic space but are still in the real world, Stack Exchange remains people talking to each other.


From your derogatory reply, I can expect that the new policy on SO is to not lock duplicate questions, then, seeing as how it's a forum for conversation, instead of a Q&A platform.


I’m sure the fundamental issue is that one person wrote the code of conduct, and another is enforcing their interpretation of it.

If the code of conduct says “you must use a person’s preferred pronouns,” I would not expect to mean that I have to use pronouns at all. But if I do use pronouns, I will use that person’s chosen pronoun.

I can’t speak for anybody else, but if I write that my real first name is “Max,” and I prefer “he,” I wouldn’t consider it a firing offense if somebody were to say “Max’s post” or “Max’s answer,” or “the advice Max wrote is ridiculously bad,” even if they could have written “his post,” “his answer,” or “the advice he wrote is ridiculously bad.”

The claim (at least as I understand it) is that somebody able to fire employees believes that a rule along the lines of “you must use users’ preferred pronouns” creates some kind of obligation to use pronouns.


Pronouns are meant to be a finite set, contrary to names which are an infinite (or unlimited) set.

That way you can group many multiple names under few pronouns.

If you want to allow an infinite set of pronouns you might just as well remove pronouns altogether as they would stop serving the purpose they are meant to serve.


Ah, I had misread. I don't agree with your conclusions, however. Based on reading her last couple posts, it sounds like she doesn't like using singular they in generic settings. (No evidence either way on people who use a personal singular-they pronoun, but given that she was trying to defend against anti-trans and anti-NB bigotry, that seems unlikely?) I don't think she's anti-trans at all, and just wants to avoid unnecessary use of pronouns in generic writing.


Yes, lost among the many people rushing to comment here is context about a real dynamic that exists in some faux-inclusive, usually queer or queer-adjacent but not trans-friendly, spaces. People will advocate for singular they, solely so they do not have to use "he" or "she" for trans people, playing a shell game to misgender people while claiming not to.

It's fine to use singular "they" to refer to anyone. It's fine to write avoiding pronouns. But if you only use singular they when referring to (even specific) trans people, or only avoid pronouns when referring to (even specific) non-binary people, that's just being coy about your transphobia.

Whether that's what happened here, I suspect we will never know unless all relevant logs leak - neither side has much to gain from in going into subtleties like this.


Your comment makes some strong, derogatory assumptions about some persons' motives. Why is that?


Whose?

(If anything I suspect I'm giving someone at SO too much credit for understanding this dynamic - 99 times out of 100 this shit is just the boring office politics it looks like.)


If you ask me to do something that I am not comfortable with or goes against my values, I will not do that thing.

Nothing wrong with that.


What is the alternative on a Q&A site that explicitly restricts tangential conversation?


I don't think it's particularly difficult to refer to a person how they want to be referred to. Enforcing that as a standard isn't thought crime and the amount of hand wringing over this supposed 'thought crime' is gross.

I call Robert, Robert - and not Bob, Bobby, or Teddy. Because Robert goes by Robert. Similar to pronouns. Not difficult at all.


I have a somewhat unusual name for Anglosphere. Some people have trouble pronouncing it. When that happens, I don't attack them in a fit of rage, I either correct them or most frequently just ignore it. Sometimes - e.g. Starbucks and so on - I use English version of the name that I never use otherwise but that sounds close enough so I know they are calling me. I don't try to organize boycott of Starbucks and demand the state to make a law that under penalty of firing on the spot they have to pronounce my name absolutely correctly and with the right accent. I don't demand from people who don't know me to instantly know my name and never be confused about how to pronounce it - in fact, some of my friends sometimes mispronounce it and I don't have trouble with it because I know their language background makes it harder for them to express the right combination of sounds that the correct pronunciation in my native language requires. I don't demand venues to make rules that require everybody to learn my name and how to pronounce it and fire anybody who speaks around it because they can't remember it or have hard time to pronounce it. I know none of it is meant as an insult to me and none of people who have hard time properly pronouncing my name do it because they hate me and my whole ethnic background.


Everyone has their quirks. If a friend breaks down crying on any mention of arbor day because their spouse died on arbor day... Someone might consider that response to be irrational, overly emotional, and/or inconvenient. But it would still be really unkind to fail to accommodate the friend. After all, it's easy to avoid mentioning arbor day 99.999% of the time.

Life is hard for everyone, at least at times. When we can do something painless to avoid giving someone a bad day even if its an act that would be meaningless to us, why shouldn't we?

Admitting that doesn't mean we're also required to accommodate when it's actually a problem, or that we're awful people if we don't know, forget, or make a mistake. It doesn't mean that we agree with or endorse their quirks... it's just a simple act of kindness and respect.

It's also efficient, because there is almost always something better to get done than navigate some other person's emotional minefield that we avoidably upset.


Note: “Teddy” is usually short for “Theodore”, not “Robert”.


Not only is it not difficult to use someone's correct name and pronouns, frankly it's just basic politeness to call people what they want to be called.


[flagged]


> You don't think it's a little bit difficult to check what someone wants to be called before posting, say, a reply?

I don't. And it's only going to get easier when this stuff is a part of the profile next to a users name/avatar.

> There, I did it. I didn't check if “you” was OK with you. Shit, I did it again.

:eyeroll:


That would probably make it somewhat easy enough for most native English speakers who keep up with the times. It would still be difficult enough that a big majority of my peers (middle-aged+ non-native English speakers) would get it wrong a lot of the time.

This whole thing is just a little alien and baffling to me. I don't understand why all interactions should take into account gender (or religion, age, seniority, or insert-your-favorite-disposition-here). I respect your choices and accomplishments about these things, but it's hard for me to remember to weave them into every sentence when it has nothing to do with the matter at hand.

I've had quite a few fruitful and interesting discussions online without having to bring in gender, religion, age, sex, or any number of other irrelevant preferences into it. In most contexts, I don't see the point of making a point of any of those.

I could call rank and require myself be called with all sorts of names (check my profile), but what would that benefit? I'm interested in your opinions; not on making you follow my rules.


This is a straw man.

> There is a segment of the population that seems intent on being able assign and punish that assumed thought crime.

Nobody really believes this outside of trolls and maybe a tiny fraction of people that only exist on the internet.

There are real people out there that are uncomfortable with their biological gender and I can promise you that none of them are asking to be called "xe/xey/xem" or whatever people want to beleive now.

I don't think refering to trans people by the gender they want or by "they" is too much to ask.


The Stack Exchange rule forbids calling them "they" and requires calling them the pronoun they wish to be called.

The original post is saying "I refer to people as they" and SE is saying that's a violation of the code of conduct.

So what do you think of that?


I think the situation is the other way around:

* Singular “they” can be the correct pronoun for some people, especially enbies.

* Monica does not want to use singular they for grammatical/stylistic reasons – when talking about persons of unspecified gender, alternative constructions are available.

* SE's CoC clarification supposedly says you must use the correct pronoun if it is known, including singular they. Constructions that intentionally avoid pronouns would then be ruled out.

* This is not a ban on the use of singular they.

Of course, SE's new CoC or new interpretation is still not public, so its actual contents are unknown.


It is a violation of a code of conduct that doesn't exist yet. It is a proposed future code of conduct. She was kicked out because it was decided that questioning the logic of the future code of conduct meant she didn't (or wouldn't -- I'm not sure which one is worse) follow the code of conduct that hadn't been implemented yet.


a pre-pre-thoughtcrime


I agree that it's a tiny minority view, but it's not a straw man when that tiny minority are making the decisions at Stack Overflow.


I agree.

Recently, though, a trans acquaintance told me that some trans people do find gender-neutral pronouns like "they" to trigger dysphoria. I said I don't understand how that's possible (not that I understand dysphoria to begin with). They said they don't get it either. Have we then found the line separating the realms of cultural accommodation and psychiatric help, and is that minority of trans people across it?

If not, the pronoun floodgates are loose!

https://uwm.edu/lgbtrc/support/gender-pronouns/

How will civilization endure? After us, the deluge. We shall not last, the die is cast. YwY


> I don't think refering to trans people by the gender they want or by "they" is too much to ask.

It's not, but it shouldn't be a punishable offense either.


> I don't think refering to trans people by the gender they want or by "they" is too much to ask.

"They" apparently is wrong. You see, it depends. That's the issue.


So why is this situation even happening? Can you explain it?


Although, I should mention that the way SE is handling this is still very strange.


This is getting quite ridiculous.

I don't want to know your gender. I don't care. It's your thing. It's non of my business, and it makes no difference to me whatsoever.

If I do want to know your gender, then things between us are starting to become intimate.

To sum things up: I would say it's rude if someone shares his gender identity with me without being asked. On the same level as if someone shares his/her dick size without being asked.


I agree, "They" is perfect. If you're offended then so be it. I don't really care if you're a man, woman, transgender, gay, lesbian, whatever.

We are in a society that demands special treatment and we've become so afraid of offending people.

To the offended - Don't be, assume the best of everyone and things will be fine. The problem starts when people are offended and they require special treatment. Malice, racism, segregation and other forms of abuse is not part of this clause. Those are universally inexcusable.


You, and most of the commenters in this thread, seem to have somehow missed that the author specifically objects to using the singular "they". Perhaps people are skipping to the comments and/or jumping to stock reactions to the topic of gendered pronouns instead of reading and responding to the content of the linked post. Otherwise, I've no idea why so much debate is ragimg around, for example, "custom pronouns" (ze/xir/etc), when the original author doesn't mention them at all.


There are two ways of avoiding dealing with gender in written communication in English. You can use singular "they", or you can write in such a way gendered pronouns or singular they are not necessary. The author seems to prefer the second one as a stylistic choice, expressed that preference, and apparently this was what got said author fired.

The way this decision and surrounding information about the new CoC can be read, is that it's no longer about avoiding misgendering people. It's about having to pay fealty. Writing around gendered pronouns means weaseling out of having to make a stand on the issue, which labels you as the enemy.


Many discussion threads here seem to be losing sight of the fact that these are internet forums. 99% of the time one doesn't have a clue what gender, race, species etc one's interlocutor is.

There is a perfectly good third person pronoun for this situation. Some might decry it as a neologism, but I suggest it has been around long enough and has firmly entered the language:

"OP".


The worry is though, that under SE's new CoC, this would be found a violation of "no twisting language to work around the gender pronouns" rule.


I read the entire article and just because people are in accord with the author does not prevent them to comment further about the author's stance.


But to address you, to talk to and about you, I need to know your name. And often, your pronouns.

We managed since usenet times to quite successfully communicate with knowing only the handles of the other persons involved in the discussion.

Would you be offended if someone shared their name without being asked? The issue here is that names and pronouns come up in ordinary conversation quite frequently.


I don't get offended when someone is rude, it just makes that person an asshole in my mind.

But of-course I don't think sharing the name is rude, it's a basic personal reference. It would be rude if it's followed by "I'm straight" or "I'm a woman". As for pronouns, in most languages, you can know the [grammatically] correct gender automatically from the name. And if you don't, most grammars have middle or neutral gender, so that can be used. The issue here is that we shouldn't bother other people with our gender identity.


What if you ask what somebody does and she explains she’s a mom? You don’t obtusely ask, “But I didn’t ask if you were a mom. I didn’t even ask about your gender.” Life is gendered. It’s okay to reveal gender. And in the workplace, or even church or social gatherings, people are definitely thinking of sex and sexuality all the time — who is surprised when coworkers start dating?

It’s no more rude than having baby pictures or a wedding ring or a cross around your neck. These are all examples of intimate disclosure which have little or nothing to do with some idealized cold professional relations. People wear their identity in many ways and the rest of society is perfectly okay with it.


This kind of chat is not on SO though.


> As for pronouns, in most languages, you can know the [grammatically] correct gender automatically from the name.

But what if you can’t? Or there aren’t enough context clues to determine this? For example, my username contains my name in it; do you have any idea what my gender is? Or what I’d I had a “gendered” name but actually had a different identity personally?

But really the problem is that gender comes up in conversation a lot more than orientation. You can get a lot further in a conversation without the latter than the former, so some people see it fit to frontload that information.


Well, since I generally don't care about your gender identity, I would be quite satisfied if I use the grammatical gender that corresponds with your gendered name. BTW in my native language all nouns are gendered, even the surnames, and it would be grammatically incorrect to refer to a feminine or masculine name with pronouns from different gender.

I disagree that personal gender is often relevant in that kind of discussions (SO, or similar general topic forums), and when it is, then it's perfectly normal to share it. The same goes for dick size. But why to mention it if not necessary?


This is a topic no one can talk about today. Previous discussions on this on HN quickly dropped off the page.

I've always found the concept of preferred gender pronouns to be problematic from a pure technical perspective. But I was so afraid of the stigma I haven't really written about it. Recent events made me finally publish this last night:

https://battlepenguin.com/philosophy/perspective/preferred-g...

The summary: pronouns reduce cognitive load, because you can refer to someone by a broad category. With custom pronouns, you now create a way to offend someone in the base language.


Moreover, those personal pronouns are untranslatable. If someone’s wants to be referred as “xir” in English and use of “they” is considered offensive, there is no “politically correct” way to refer to such person in at least some non-English languages unless xir defines the pronouns for other languages too.


I'm sorry I don't understand this argument. Let's say we're talking about something on a website, I say I want to be referred to by the pronoun "xir". "No,because I can't translate that into Swahili" seems like an odd response to me. It seems irrelevant to an average conversation I'm going to have. And even if you are planning to translate the conversation into another language you could just.... ask what would be reasonable in the other language?


Of course not, it wouldn't be a "no, you can't request this pronoun".

It would be "sure, but mind you that I have no clue how to talk about you in non-English languages". And in some languages it's more than just the pronouns - for example, in some languages verbs may be declined according to a grammatical gender (a concept that almost doesn't exist in modern English and not really inferable from just "xir").



Have you ever met a single person who requested anything other than "he", "she", or "they"?

Those aren't "custom pronouns". Are you pushing back against a real phenomena?


I've seen a few and that wasn't even online but in a meatspace, at a software conference. A few persons had bagdes with pronouns other than "he/she/they". Suppose that was a request of sorts. Although I haven't really talked to... err... such people ("them"? "xzem?" "xirzey'm?" what I'm supposed to use for "xe" and "ze" as a generalized group?), only saw that *ey (okay, does it work?) exist, so can't really tell more.


Once or twice. But everyone I've met who prefers Xe/Xir/Xirs will often append that with, "Or she/he/they. Fuck it, they're all wrong, use whatever makes you happy."


Yes, there are real people asking for use of novel pronouns like "xe," "sir," "hir," etc, etc, etc.


I know they exist. But how common is this? Is it actually worth spending any mental energy "worrying" about?


That's what they want you to do, because they think they're special somehow. Best is just ignore, and hopefully their house of cards will collapse at some point by their own doing.


It's uncommon. I'm not especially worried about it myself.


They is pretty novel. Yes, singular they has existed for a long time, but when was the first time anyone ever demanded that their only pronoun be "they"? I suspect only within the past 10 years or so.


That may be so, but it is a word that everyone already knows, so it seems within reason and shouldn't be hard to use in practice.


Singular they for a known person is the most confusing in practice. When I hear it I always think the speaker is referring to multiple people.


I haven't even met anyone requesting "he", "she" or "they" in real life. And if I do, I'll probably just disengage and walk away.


> Previous discussions on this on HN quickly dropped off the page.

Please see https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21153224 and https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21167710.


I'm appalled that moderators edit posts over pronouns. And not sure why the gender or sexual orientation of people matters on a site where you can basically be anonymous. I guess because I only read Stack Overflow questions from Google searches there's a whole dimension of Stack Exchange that eludes me.

On Twitter I know not to engage with people that specify their pronouns on their bio, it's just a waste of time even for trolling. I guess it's something that I can extend to SE and elsewhere.

And to be clear I've no problem with trans people and calling them what they want, but sometimes it's just difficult to remind it all (and confusing over different languages).

About CoCs: who would have thought? Well ...


> And to be clear I've no problem with trans people and calling them what they want, but sometimes it's just difficult to remind it all (and confusing over different languages).

But wouldn't you have to look in every profile on SE before posting an answer or comment to make sure you're up to date about the pronoun that person wants to have used? At least that's what I understood is how it's supposed to be.


And you can be found retroactively in violation. Time is an element that is continually rebuffed in consideration of these things.


That was the next thing I was wondering about. Will there be some "visited your profile"-marker or whatever so that somebody could be "innocent" because he did actually not visit the profile or will that visit just be mandatory before commenting on a post?


Not even that, but what if a post from some years back is now no longer using matching pronouns?


Maybe pronouns needs to be stored like vat so you can match them with a date.


So now, when referring to an Adam in a third person, I have to write things like "I like 2019-10-07!his answer, ..."?


One fair option is to outlaw pronouns in the entirety. While this is largely absurd it solves for any and all related problems of emotional distress equally to all people.

More seriously though, at one point is catering to somebody's offense the line too far? I am really of the mind that online posts that voice offense or defensiveness should be flagged. To me offense is a lazy way to discard disagreement when remaining objective or simply walking away are more effective.


Quick, can we make a business out of that?


It was poorly written on my part, I mostly meant trans people I would meet in real life and choosing between he or she.

I guess I'm strongly against discrimination but basically don't care about the rest, especially when it's about pseudonyms on the internet where nobody cares about your gender.

Maybe because I'm from the "there are no girls on the internet" meme times.


>The employee did not stay to field questions, but came back a couple hours later to tell me "we've been as clear as we can and your values are out of alignment".

The core issue as I see it isn't CoC or gender pronouns. Stack Overflow is punishing people if their perceived internal views (ie: "values") are not the same as a set of unwritten allowed views. So basically thought crime mixed with McCarthyism. Except without any specific clarify on what the allowed thoughts are.


StackOverflow is a community and communities are sustained by shared values. It makes perfect sense to oust leaders from a community who are out of alignment with the values the community wants to support.


I think the problem here is that those values are not in fact being defined by the community, in toto. They are being defined by a very vocal and relatively small subgroup. Furthermore, the author doesn't even seem to be opposed to those values, just highly ambivalent about them.


StackOverflow used to be a community of people wanting to share technical knowledge.

Now I don't know what the F it is, but "pronouns" is about as far from technical knowledge you can get...


That’s what surprises me about this. I see the StackExchange sites as a place where people help each other make their software a little less crappy. In all my years using it, I don’t think I’ve ever used a third person pronoun (gendered or not) for another user. I don’t think anybody has used any pronoun except “you” to refer to me either. Usually if I’m referenced at all it’s “@smudgy’s answer is wrong because x,y and z”. How often can pronouns come up?


StackOverflow is made of of people, not technical knowledge seeking robots. Those people are messy and will inevitably come with a hole bundle of values in addition to their desire to ask and answer technical questions.


The community has been very vocal on this issue - they stand with the fired moderator. If what you said was true, the CEO of the company would get ousted, because clearly his values are not aligned with the values of the community.


That's straight up unenforceable though. And I doubt you would be left with much of a community if you kicked out everyone that isn't at least as hard-line on the issue as the described policy and its interpretation.


This person wasn't AFAIK kicked out of the community completely. They were removed from a leadership position. Those in leadership are held to higher standards than others in the community.


OUT OF ALIGNMENT.

Unbelievable.

OUT OF ALIGNMENT.

like Geometric values or what?


No, that part makes sense. Strong value alignment is something you want as an org.


I'm mildly embarrassed to have written off critiques of the Great Awokening via CoCs a few years ago – after a few more years dealing with adult life, it's pretty clear that two constants are A) people, universally, can be in a dark cloud where unrelated actions by unrelated people are a personal attack on their existence B) authority _hates_ dealing with issues, especially the more distant they are from you in the hierarchy, and will always choose the option that keeps the largest crowd aware of the situation the quietest.


Stack Overflow hired a highly political, sanctimonious Community Manager and this is the result.

E.g. he suggested users who didn't like the rules require therapy https://meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/389935/why-was-the-... http://archive.li/UGUNK


Both links 404 for me. Did they take down the link?


Yep. Archive.is has a version:

http://archive.is/UGUNK


Also down unfortunately.



Are you using 1.1.1.1 for DNS? Archive.is actively blocks it to be inaccessible.


That explains it. I just added 8.8.8.8 as a backup DNS and archive.is works now. Thank you.


The thread was deleted, viewing it requires getting access to moderator tools by getting 10,000 reputation.


60 million starving children in Africa. Something like 25,000 people die every year to war. The US president, leader of the free world, is facing possible impeachment.

And what are we worried about? Pronoun use and codes of conduct on software Q&A websites.

Give. Me. A. Break.

Almost 2,000 words on it, no less. Talk about 15 minutes of my life I'll never have back.

I'm trying to think if there's something dumber to argue about than this, but right now I can't.

Not sure how the world will continue to spin on its axis what with the bloodbath of moderators on StackExchange but somehow the universe will find a way to carry on.


This is actually extremely poignant, because it's a neat encapsulation of the entire political climate in the US. While the far left are busy arguing and cannibalizing themselves over pronouns, the Republicans are busy getting elected.

Imagine if these people spent a tenth of that energy on striving towards positions of actual political power. But no, they must really want four more years of Trump -- why else would they spend an iota of energy on this nonsense?


This is not only happening in the US, but also Western Europe.

Left-leaning social and political elites have jumped the political correctness shark so hard that they're not being taken seriously by a significant amount of the population which feel patronized and lied to and turn to voting anyone that will at least validate their concerns.


These issues aren’t mutually exclusive, and it’s not “dumb” to argue about something that affects the the software engineering community personally and that we can have a meaningful impact on.


If you want to have a meaningful impact, go volunteer at a soup kitchen. No, seriously. Spend a day at a homeless shelter. Help with the disabled.

Arguing about pronouns is, in fact, dumb and no, it does not affect the software engineering community "personally."


I mean, those are all good things to do. But the software engineering community is largely isolated from those issues, so it’s natural that our conversation shifts to things like pronouns instead.


This line of argument is specious. There are always bigger problems. That doesn't mean that smaller issues don't matter.


Oh really? So if you had an open chest wound you'd say, "Worrying about bleeding to death is specious. There are always mortal wounds to worry about. That doesn't mean I can't worry about what color my fingernails are"?


Thank you for proving my point. Your example relies on degrees of severity, urgency, and closeness to the problem to make sense.

If we apply that to the original problems you brought up, we see that your argument is indeed specious.


I don't follow.

If we apply degrees of severity, urgency and closeness to the two problems the use of pronouns on programming websites does not rank as severe or urgent relative to...almost anything else in the universe.

But please, spend more energy arguing this point -- definitely a productive use of everyone's time, complaining about pronoun implementation.


It's pretty clear you don't want to follow. The point is quite clear. This is a subjective issue. Your ordering of what problems should be tackled first is not likely going to be the same as anyone else's.

To someone else, this may be a the most prioritized problem for any range of reasons from being the most important or being the one that they can make the most progress on at the moment.

But please, continue to hide behind burner accounts and spend more energy arguing this point -- definitely a productive use of everyone's time, complaining about which problems other people focus on.


LOL, OK. You go ahead and make how we use pronouns on software Q&A websites "the most prioritized problem" right now -- definitely makes sense.

Women face real harassment in the tech every day, I see it firsthand.

If you're LGBTQ it's even worse.

But you know what? Let's not focus our energy on solving those kind of real-world problems. You're right. Definitely let's spend weeks writing long-winded blog posts arguing about pronouns.

You've demonstrably made the world a better place.


> LOL, OK. You go ahead and make how we use pronouns on software Q&A websites "the most prioritized problem" right now -- definitely makes sense.

To trans people, it very well could be.

> Women face real harassment in the tech every day, I see it firsthand.

And so do trans people. I see it first hand.

> If you're LGBTQ it's even worse.

Lol, you bring this up, but you don't realize it hurts your argument.

> But you know what? Let's not focus our energy on solving those kind of real-world problems. You're right. Definitely let's spend weeks writing long-winded blog posts arguing about pronouns.

Yes, because they're not connected at all /s.

> You've demonstrably made the world a better place.

I like how you destroyed your own argument.


LOL OK. If anything this kind of frivolous, nonsensical argument you're proffering here undermines the rights of the LGBTQ community, allowing conservatives to easily dismiss their actual meaningful concerns as liberal hogwash.

So, please, keep setting back the cause of minorities and those discriminated against by making pronouns the hill on which to die on.

Way to fight for the oppressed! If we had 10,000x of you maybe all rights for the discriminated would be repealed, no?


> LOL OK. If anything this kind of frivolous, nonsensical argument you're proffering here undermines the rights of the LGBTQ community, allowing conservatives to easily dismiss their actual meaningful concerns as liberal hogwash.

It's sad that you don't think dehumanizing behavior is a problem worth confronting.

> So, please, keep setting back the cause of minorities and those discriminated against by making pronouns the hill on which to die on.

So please, tell us how we can move forward if people won't even treat them with basic respect.

> Way to fight for the oppressed! If we had 10,000x of you maybe all rights for the discriminated would be repealed, no?

Your sarcasm is sad and pathetic, much like your argument.


"Talk about 15 minutes of my life I'll never have back."

And yet you had decided to waste more precious minutes to write that comment.


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