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!
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.
(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 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.
As an aside to aside, if we take that Wikipedia definition: "Fascism (/ˈfæʃɪzəm/) is a form of far-right, authoritarian ultranationalism 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.
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 think Social Justice Warriors is the proper term.
It's just a meme that spreads through its appeal to a certain type of person.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Making up your own definitions of words != being ahead of the curve.
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"
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.
> 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
What puzzles me greatly is how differently things are developing online vs in meatspace. Maybe it's just an urban vs rural dynamic.
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".
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.
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.
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.
It scares the hell out of me too.
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.
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.
"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.
> "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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Shapiro is Jewish.
> 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.
> 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.
Heck, they could even have had a discussion with her.
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 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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.)
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
> "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".
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
One can use it at any time.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Is "Mikey" pejorative?
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.
Nothing wrong with that.
I call Robert, Robert - and not Bob, Bobby, or Teddy. Because Robert goes by Robert. Similar to pronouns. Not difficult at all.
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.
> 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 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?
* 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.
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!
How will civilization endure? After us, the deluge. We shall not last, the die is cast. YwY
It's not, but it shouldn't be a punishable offense either.
"They" apparently is wrong. You see, it depends. That's the issue.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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?
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 ...
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.
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.
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 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.
Now I don't know what the F it is, but "pronouns" is about as far from technical knowledge you can get...
OUT OF ALIGNMENT.
like Geometric values or what?
E.g. he suggested users who didn't like the rules require therapy
In the chat, Monica was asked many times, by many other moderators, to please use "singular they" for people who she actively knew preferred that pronoun. Monica flat out refused, saying it was confusing and grammatically incorrect. She said she'd be happy to use literally any other word, including "new" pronouns like "Xe". She also suggested that she could avoid using pronouns altogether, either just for people who preferred singular they, or universally for everyone. (Other moderators said this last option likely would have been fine had Monica not made known her reason for doing so.)
Now, on a purely personal level, I also find singular they to be super confusing in conversation, at least when the subject is unambiguous. But the extent to which Monica refused to budge, even after being told that she was making colleagues uncomfortable, struck me as behavior that would need to be disciplined in any formal workplace.
Whether you agree or disagree with the author's position, whether you agree or disagree with the Stack Exchange policies, a reasonable person acting in good faith would change their behaviour when told they are making others feel uncomfortable (unless perhaps they thought the change would make others more uncomfortable which doesn't appear to be the case here). This is pretty much the definition of good faith.
Yes, in yesterday's world this would be sensible. Nowadays being uncomfortable is being weaponized to bully others into submission and this should be fought against.
Being uncomfortable is part of the human existence and anyone should be able to feel uncomfortable and continue to function and continue to work with whoever is making them uncomfortable, unless that person is being downright offensive. Using "they" doesn't qualify, it's not even playing this game.
However, I truly do believe from reading the chat that Monica had no ill intentions. She has strong feelings about the english language, and takes pride in upholding her own personal standards of quality in her writing.
Furthermore, the entire conversation was overly heated. And much of the blame that can be placed on StackExchange—they dropped an ambiguous announcement into the chat without any context, and left everyone to discuss and interpret it amongst themselves instead of staying to answer questions.
This is simply not a concern in the real world, it's another storm in the internet outrage tea cup.
That reason being that it's "confusing and grammatically incorrect"? What does that have to do with the distinction between "people who preferred singular they" and "everyone"?
> even after being told that she was making colleagues uncomfortable
Where is the evidence that she was legitimately making colleagues "uncomfortable"?
If I claim to be "uncomfortable" at work because my colleagues do X or don't do Y in their interactions with me, should that be taken at face value? Is my claim enough to have them removed if they don't correct their "problematic" behavior?
I just want to build software. I don't go to work to talk politics or have to keep track of every person's political radicalism for fear of being fired.
I'd also prefer not to add even more social anxiety because I don't keep up with the latest stuff on Twitter.
Nothing beats being around other smart and motivated people sometimes.
So how does a bill become a law with regards to this pronoun stuff? Who were the people who initiated this policy? What motivated them to do it? Who influenced them? Who influenced them? Who funded the whole movement?
4chan has been doing research into this by doing enough trolling that they got the ok hand sign classified as a hate symbol. It seems, based on following the timeline on that phenomenon that a lot of what is considered forbidden in our culture is generated by certain 3 and 4 letter non-profits who feed that information to Google, Facebook, and others. That's just the negative part of it all though: how behavior becomes forbidden.
I want to know how behavior, like the pronoun stuff, becomes prescribed. I want to use that machinery to get society to do strange stuff as civilization level performance art.
What I am asking here is how do we regain control of The Spectacle of Guy Debord for our own performance art projects that originate nowhere except our very own minds.
Is this a reference to something? I've seen wording similar to this somewhere recently.
Progress they say....
Who? Far from everybody.
> looks like the most stupid thing in the world
At the very least…
> Progress they say....
Almost nobody is for progress for the sake of progress. Rejecting a solution that tries to address a (arguably) less-than-ideal status quo as stupid is not very helpful. We could argue that the status quo is stupid too anyway. Don't you see that the solution you find stupid (which you can, of course) is an attempt to address something some people see as a problem?
At least, enlighten us with reasons why you find it stupid, it's easy to find interesting things to say on this matter.
As for the erroneous judgment stemming from analysis (like doing a word count for taboo words), would analysis arising from drastically less historical data be any more impressive?
Or does one somehow incredibly discuss a person from a single snapshot? Surely one-shot judgment is what's shallow, and zero-history judgment is called prejudice.
How does one crave context and then forget the past?
And when court compassionately considers events in a person's life which may have lead to a crime, how is that a "derailing" of forgiveness? What would clarity even mean here?
I guess the deep distinction you are proposing is that the random HN person who cherry-picked is bad, while HN moderation is good. How do we recognize your distinction? Through a history of behavior.
The tool I linked above is an example of working around the issue: it's a form of doxxing, in which the information is dumped publicly beneath the user's post in order to tag and attempt to remove the validity of the post in the public opinion, even (and especially) when used in a non-sequitur manner.
This entire thing is so confusing to a point it almost requires a fair degree of exposure to politics, sub culture and social narrative cutting across various issues just to be able to ask some one to serve them a cup of tea.
I'm surprised a language proficiency testing system, with may be tens of thousands of people taking the exam, with books, and training material designed with may be a century worth of experience from English speaking cultures across the world doesn't have anything on this. Or doesn't train us on this. There is no right way, grammatical or cultural accepted across the English speaking world to get this right.
It so confusing. At this point in time its like I have to run a rule engine inside my brain just be be able to say 'Hi $title, $name, Did $pronoun take the book from my desk'
Try filling in $title and $pronoun and see how it goes, especially when $name has a gender attached to it over entire known human history.
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!