This has gotten well and truly ridiculous. I don’t care what side you come down on. It’s absolutely inane, the amount of angst and energy and dogmatism and “hurt feelings” this shit has caused and effected. (Yes, grammar nazis, that is a purposeful rule-bend.)
What am I talking about? Just skim these 4 links:
- News article with a decent summary
- The online community moderator who was unceremoniously fired for her questioning of pending policy changes
- Another community moderator who resigned in protest/solidarity
- A community discussion on the effects and ramifications of such behavior by the parent company
So for those of you too lazy to read, and/or who don’t understand what this online community IS, I’ll break it down for you.
StackExchange is a vast and popular Q&A site which started back in the 2000’s as a programming-help resource (coined StackOverflow). Think of it like Yahoo Answers or Quora but 100 times better (1000 times better, in relation to Yahoo), because the community actually cares about quality and takes time to curate and research and maintain the wealth of information therein.
One of the biggest and most important parts of this online community is the moderator staff — a group of volunteer users who have risen up in the ranks to have “phenomenal, cosmic powers” to be used for the good of said community. They review questions and answers, they keep other uses behaving nicely, they facilitate the ebb and flow of good quality information and contributions, and they’re generally pretty awesome guys & gals.
Oh noes! I gender-ified them! (Genderized? Engendered?) WHAT EVAR SHALL WE DO!?! Sound the alarms!!
(That’s totally not the right word, but I’m too lazy to look up what it’s supposed to be. And it’s not “gentrified”, that’s completely unrelated.)
So the drama, the uproar, the righteous indignation and press fallout, surrounds one such moderator and her discussions with the actual company staff (the corporation that owns StackExchange, i.e. the website, the software, and now apparently the content), over what was being proposed in a new/revised “Code of Conduct”.
To be clear, “Code of Conduct” is just fancy words for “expected behavior” when you’re using the site / participating in the community. The old-guard believed in the KISS principle, and basically just said “Be nice.” In other words, “don’t be a jerk.” Easy, right? However, as time went on, the size of the community (the # of users and the amount of activity) exploded, and people, being people, weren’t always “nice” to each other.
Now, the mod (short for moderator) in question was a bit concerned with the proposed CoC revision that essentially forces you to acknowledge (ok), respect (fine), and actively affirm (uhh) anybody else’s preferred gender pronoun (wat?). But it’s more nuanced than that. See, this mod, like many of us who call ourselves “writers” (loosely, of course), has developed her habits for coping with this brave-new-world where gender is no longer a binary construct (and I’m not going into that here; that’s a whole other discussion topic, dumpster-fire and flame-bait galore).
Her habits include using collective and neutral pronouns, or even avoiding them altogether with other language mechanisms; and when all else fails, disengage from the conversation with the person(s) who are having issues with it. I, for one, think this is a fantastic philosophy. It allows you to be respectful, civil, and expressive, yet does NOT force you to actively affirm and participate in a mentality or world-view that you don’t agree with. Because look, we can all be civil and respectful of each other, no matter how deeply we disagree on something, as long as you’re not forcing your viewpoint down my throat and I’m not doing the same.
But no. This perfectly reasonable work-around wasn’t good enough for the extreme liberal agenda at StackExchange. You MUST address anybody and everybody with their stated preferred pronouns, full-stop. In fact, remaining neutral, or disengaging, is now deemed hurtful and offensive. WHAT?!? Really? To quote the 2nd resignation post I linked, which I adore simply for his incredibly articulate and well-structured writing style:
The new “tolerance” is tolerant of everything except ideological disagreement. It is forced conformity.Caleb
So. Stop the presses. Raise the pitchforks. Light the cigars. Grab the popcorn, and watch the flames. Because this is a shit-show. And it’s a sad reflection of our times.
But it’s more than that. There’s a certain elitism there, subtle, but cunning. See, it’s fairly likely that none of you, dear readers, knew about this. StackExchange was a tech-startup. Another silicon valley brainchild. And like many of its ilk, despite attempts to democratize it, the sites themselves are still relatively isolated to folks of a certain demographic — young, tech-savvy, privileged, and financially stable. So despite all of its postured attempts to say “we want to be more inclusive”, it never really succeeded to reach beyond the glass of the tech-elite walled-garden.
Look at Twitter, for example. The weekly shenanigans of Trump and everything that happens as a result. If your only source of information about Trump was Twitter, there is absolutely no question that you’d want him impeached ASAP. If for no other reason than just being a royal douche. But you know what? Most voting Americans still don’t pay attention to Twitter. They go to work, do their jobs, come home to their families, maybe watch the news, do chores, play with the kids, get them to bed, struggle with bills, and on and on it goes. They don’t give two craps about what the idiots said online this week. As far as they’re concerned, they need more money in their bank accounts, more food on the table, less crushing debt, less smog in their sky, and more time with their kids/spouses/friends.
And that’s the same thing here. The vast majority of regular-Joe hard-working tax-paying folks couldn’t care less about what gender you think you are, much less about how that question is handled in some weird website where people ask and answer questions all day. So to even spend this much time and energy on the subject, to even have such a fallout and such vociferous outcry from all sides of the straw-man… seems downright ludicrous.
Look, I respect the original mod, Monica, for standing by her principles and expressing herself in a definitive, respectful, and humble way. I’m not saying “who cares”. I’m just saying that this is an example of the technical elite enjoying the privilege that they have to openly and freely raise these issues about which they care so deeply, in an environment that is, by comparison to the real world, SUPER soft and squishy and forgiving.
So here’s the point. Next time you get all bent out of shape because someone didn’t respect your fabricated right to self-identify as an androgynous unicorn, take a breath, drink a sip of your pH water, pop a Xanax, and try to put it into perspective. You are privileged. The fact that you can read this proves it. (So am I, by the way.) Channel that energy toward something good, something positive and helpful and humanitarian.
Love & light. ❤