The Emotional Labor Thread shouldn't be the exception September 25, 2015 11:55 AM   Subscribe

Let’s talk about expanding our ideas of boyzone-type derailing and how to be the best Metafilter we can be.

As we saw in the emotional labor thread, active and proactive moderation can make it possible to have a much more interesting and complex discussion than would have been possible if derailers had been allowed to continue the ‘so just don’t send cards’ noise. As dialetheia said in the related MeTa,
This is exactly the kind of thread that I envision when we have conversations about the importance of moderating sexist comments; we never could have reached the 400-level discussion we're having now if every ten comments, everyone was interrupted by some new person who wanted to deny that emotional labor was really a thing.
stoneweaver had a really good comment in the thread itself:
I've noticed that part of what is making this thread so pleasant is the amount of emotional labor commenters are performing for each other. They're pointing out disagreements politely, and then saying "gosh I'm sorry! I can see what you mean" and the conversation continues.
Later in the thread, easter queen builds on this, pointing out that feminist discussion is about collaborative emotional labor, and that derailing generally does not have that constructive bent.

Back in the MeTa, MonkeyToes points out that
“#julybywomen brought a bunch of posts and participation to the site. The emotional labor thread, with encouragement from participants and skillful modding, brought new members to the site. New and interesting conversations become possible when women are encouraged, believed, and supported.”
--

Four or so months ago, in the aftermath of the tramp stamp thread, LobsterMitten pointed to what changes the MeFi community could expect to see as a result of that thread:
[A]cting more firmly on clear-cut stuff (like "sluts" etc) which we nominally should have been doing already; acting at an earlier point on gray-area stuff, both comments and individual patterns of behavior, as those things are pointed out to us. Being more willing to give people a day off for stuff, and a ban for longstanding problems. Improving some of our handover stuff on the back end especially to try to pass along a sense of individual behavior patterns in long threads.
The emotional labor thread is a beautifully successful example of these changes in action, and of what makes Metafilter a better place: less back-and-forth fighting, more of the sort of discussion which invites in new members who will have something great to contribute. As don pepino commented,
threads like this have many points of view, whereas a disputatious thread has only two. That's why this one is so wonderful: it is packed full of “actually,”s but they're mostly "actually,"s aimed at revealing nuance and creating greater understanding, not toward one side losing and the other side winning.
My question is whether we, as a community, see this happening elsewhere, or if the emotional labor thread is so touted as fantastic in part because it is an exception to how conversations normally go here. It would be good for the mods to more authoritatively take stances on What Is Okay according to the community. Far too often, it seems, threads (particularly in MeTa) move far away from the collaborate-emotional-labor model mentioned above and devolve into arguments in which one party is clearly opposed to community norms of behavior; this dynamic typically turns into a pileon, or a one-against-the-world thing, which (IMO) lends ammunition to those who like to levy charges of “groupthink” or “echo chamber”; it would be much better, I think, if rather than these problem users being thrown to the wolves of the general community, moderators would step in and state “X is not okay.”

I would like to suggest that while community pushback against sexism (and other -isms) is a Good Thing, there is a point at which we as community members can only do so much— we cannot ban, we cannot give time outs, we cannot speak authoritatively about what our community standards are. I understand and appreciate that the mods have many, many times stated that it is not a goal of Metafilter to be a safe space, but I’d like to think that the general tenor of the community with regard to various -isms is clear enough that the mods would feel secure in making deletions and assertions & in imposing time outs and bans specifically because of violations of such community standards, not simply because of long-term inability to get along or general fightiness against the mods or whatnot.

Metafilter is a community, and as such we have standards of behavior. Continual devil’s-advocating, premise-questioning, notallmenning, etc., not only goes against these standards of behavior, but it makes the site poorer: in terms of quality of discussion, in terms of its effect on members in good standing as well as in terms of its appeal to potential new members of the community. I would like the mods to take a much firmer stance on this; I would like all of Metafilter to trend towards the emotional labor thread, rather than for that thread to strike us all as a particular highlight for years to come.
posted by shakespeherian to Etiquette/Policy at 11:55 AM (551 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite

So, a bunch of stuff here. You've framed this partly as a "what does the community think" thing, and that's something I totally want to keep hearing as well—I really, specifically value us having conversations as a site about this stuff, and don't think we'll ever really be done doing so, so it's good to have it come around again—and so I'm gonna aim to sit back and listen some here.

But for the more mod-centric and policy-centric stuff in here I'll address what I can. This got longish, but I don't want to make it have to sit and wait for me to manage to make it shorter, so I'll just leave it as is.

For one thing: yes, the emotional labor thread was fantastic, and I really, really appreciated it as a notable, landmark thing to happen on the site. And us doing some pretty proactive moderation along the lines of the stuff you note LM talking about helped get it off on the right foot, which was gratifying to see happen. We've been trying to focus on that stuff, with I think significant success over the last few months.

But that thread's also an outlier by definition: it's very rare that we spend an entire month with a thread staying very active like that, and it's unusual for as much constant mod attention to need to be attached to something like that. And to have the positive momentum of an established good thing going on makes it a different beast from, by comparison, the typical equivalent of 10-15 threads that last a couple days and start over from scratch with each one. So it's hard to look at it as a representative norm for a thread on the site. It's a wonderful landmark, and I am totally on board with the spirit of saying "this is good, more like this", but it very much is an outlier by necessity: lightning in a bottle, as a positive complement to the perfect shitstorm that was that unusually bad tramp stamp thread months ago. Obviously one we'd rather have more of and the other we'd rather never have again, and that's the sort of thing we are trying to work for for sure, but neither of those examples takes the likely basic structure—in terms of both intimate sharing vs. more general heterogenous discussion, and sheer scale and start-to-finish length—of the vast majority of discussions on the site.

it would be much better, I think, if rather than these problem users being thrown to the wolves of the general community, moderators would step in and state “X is not okay.”

I don't really disagree with this idea (and I think this falls into some of the same territory as stuff about how to deal with deletion-complaint-driven MetaTalk posts that came up later on in this recent MetaTalk thread); my main question/concern here is about realistic expectations about what form and degree people think that would take.

Because we've been willing to say e.g. "don't do this sort of thing" or "x is not okay" in a variety of circumstances, and have been trying to be a little more explicit about some of that in mod notes where the it makes sense to, in response to folks expressing a desire to see that stuff acknowledged more explicitly rather than neutrally acknowledging a deletion or generally saying "cool it". And that's something we're continuing to work on, and we've been trying to more quickly nip some of the more obvious/recurring Well Actually stuff in the bud as well instead of side-eyeing it and acting later. I think it's a work in progress, but between us being more active and community members helping out with flags, notes, and good shepherding of threads by working around dumb stuff, it feels like it is progress, which is heartening to me.

I understand and appreciate that the mods have many, many times stated that it is not a goal of Metafilter to be a safe space, but I’d like to think that the general tenor of the community with regard to various -isms is clear enough that the mods would feel secure in making deletions and assertions & in imposing time outs and bans specifically because of violations of such community standards, not simply because of long-term inability to get along or general fightiness against the mods or whatnot.

I agree with part but not all of this; we've been making more of an effort to basically say "no, it's not okay to do this shit here" in terms of deletions, notes, timeouts, and in some cases just showing folks the door entirely if they can't cut it out, and I agree that that's a useful and necessary thing. I think acting somewhat sooner and more decisively on problematic patterns of behavior has been a good change, and one we'll keep working on finding the right balance on.

But I think it can't be divorced from the idea of patterns of behavior and inability to make it work here as where our focus is, because a model of MetaFilter participation based on the idea that we e.g. ban people for stumbling, rather than (and here I'm a lot more comfortable taking action) willfully declining to try or unwillingly but consistently failing to figure stuff out, is wandering away from the MetaFilter that I value and think is important. I think there's a danger to this place as a generalist community to get overly ideological not just about our collective community aspirations but about the aggressive management of disliked or unpopular ideas appearing from new users or as new issues from a given user. Not that we shouldn't give that stuff attention, just that e.g. "more bannings" isn't the kind of attention that I think serves the site best as, not just a community-that-exists, but a community that new people can come, sometimes fumblingly, into.

So I suspect this is going to remain a point of conflict between us as a team and some users on the site with whom we're otherwise in agreement broadly on basic community aspirations, just in terms of the expectations we've tried to set for handling problem behavior vs. the degree to which some folks would like to see stuff clamped down on super decisively or preemptively. Which, I can appreciate that conflict and understand where some of it's coming from, because I can see the appeal. But I think this is gonna remain to some extent a compromise approach with some unavoidable friction, even as we're otherwise generally aiming for the same general hopeful target of good discussion and a reduction of tedious blarg.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:59 AM on September 25, 2015 [24 favorites]


I agree: with Cortex.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:27 PM on September 25, 2015 [7 favorites]


I think there's a danger to this place as a generalist community to get overly ideological not just about our collective community aspirations but about the aggressive management of disliked or unpopular ideas appearing from new users or as new issues from a given user.

I don't think you need to worry too much about this; from my point of view, the problems are more often caused by long term members and known problem children rather than clueless newbies. As evidence see Metatalk threads passim and the way in which various trolls were given chance after chance to stop embarassing themselves while driving others away from the site.

Conversly, a kind but firm reminder to new people that certain things are Not Done and that they should be aware of the site's culture may actually be more welcoming than allowing "I'd hit that" level comments to stand and expose the newcomer to the wrath/disdain of the community at large. Case in point that recent Meta thread about Taylor Swift's legs.

Also take into consideration this somewhat general liberal tendency to give your political opponents more slack than you'd allow those on your own side, which I've also noticed happening here from time to time.

In short, we shouldn't be too scared that we'll chase away new people by being open and firm about which kind of values we adhere to here, because the people you do chase away would probably be a bad fit anyway.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:29 PM on September 25, 2015 [28 favorites]


This might be a little bit of a derail, and I don't want to sound like I don't appreciate the thought that mods are putting into this - but to be perfectly honest, I wish this thread didn't have the multi-paragraph mod response right at the start, before anyone in the community even got to weigh in. I totally understand feeling like the mods need to respond to the concerns in the post, but this is my absolute least favorite part of the MeTa queuing system; I feel like the heavy mod note at the beginning of this thread sends a pretty strong message that the mods already feel like they have this line worked out and aren't open to hearing a lot of other opinions in either direction (although I know you explicitly said otherwise at the start of the comment - it's the effect of the essay-like response as first comment that I'm responding to). If I was feeling really uncharitable, it would feel like you're sending the implicit message that we can go ahead and vent in here, but that those concerns have already been filed under "overly ideological" and so will not result in any moderation adjustments.

On the subject of the post, I have to say that I totally disagree with the way that cortex framed the emotional labor thread as an outlier. Sure, in terms of engagement, it is not going to be identical to everyday threads here. But I read shakespeherian's post as explicitly addressing the quality of the conversation, not just the longboat/highly-engaged form of it. The conversation was extremely high-quality because of the emotional labor put forth by the thread participants and because of the extremely tight moderation. I certainly don't expect every single thread on Mefi to turn into a life-changing outpouring of thoughtful commentary, but I also don't see any utility in framing either the emotional labor thread nor the tramp stamp thread as incomprehensible Acts of Nature, either; we should be able to learn something from the very different ways that those two threads played out.

And for what it's worth, I didn't think of the tramp stamp thread as being any different from any other everyday Mefi post, and at the beginning I don't think the emotional labor thread was fundamentally different either - except for the way in which people responded so enthusiastically and conversation was able to flower in the EL thread once everyone realized that hurtful, derailing comments were being summarily deleted and they didn't have to worry as much about being "well actually"-ed to death.
posted by dialetheia at 1:06 PM on September 25, 2015 [49 favorites]


It would be good for the mods to more authoritatively take stances on What Is Okay ...

I just want to know to whom I need to send a cake to be officially Okay.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:07 PM on September 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wish this thread didn't have the multi-paragraph mod response right at the start, before anyone in the community even got to weigh in. I totally understand feeling like the mods need to respond to the concerns in the post, but this is my absolute least favorite part of the MeTa queuing system...

Co-signed.
posted by lalex at 1:11 PM on September 25, 2015 [11 favorites]


cortex, if you don't mind me bringing it up here (it seems relevant to the subject), I'm curious about why this post stands as-is. It seems to me like frankly terrible framing and likely to lead to endless "can women be funny? indeed, are they human?" spitballing, rather than discussion of the linked authors. (Not to be all accusatory or anything, but I like hearing mod explanations.)
posted by thetortoise at 1:11 PM on September 25, 2015 [6 favorites]


cortex, if you don't mind me bringing it up here (it seems relevant to the subject), I'm curious about why this post stands as-is.

Because it's a first post from a user whose intentions seem totally good, and leaving an explicit note and monitoring the thread seems like it'll help get the thing off on the right foot despite the wobbly framing. If it were a long-time user, I'd have been a little more inclined to nix it with a "hey, maybe give that another shot", but for a first timer I'm willing to put in a little extra active-monitoring work instead of potentially discouraging them more.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:16 PM on September 25, 2015 [26 favorites]


I wish this thread didn't have the multi-paragraph mod response right at the start, before anyone in the community even got to weigh in. I totally understand feeling like the mods need to respond to the concerns in the post, but this is my absolute least favorite part of the MeTa queuing system

Just to respond briefly: I acknowledge the sort of structural weirdness of that and I mean it about mostly wanting to just hear what folks have to say from the community on stuff, but for the specific calls for mod action or mod-driven changes that's something a mod basically needs to respond to. The non-queue version of this would be basically the same except with more typos and maybe a couple comments in the interim; I wrote this up right before hitting post and after dropping shakespeherian a line to let him know it'd be going through shortly.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:26 PM on September 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Continual devil’s-advocating, premise-questioning, notallmenning, etc., not only goes against these standards of behavior, but it makes the site poorer:

I agree, I think this is a shitty way to communicate. One of the Meta things about the emotional labor thread that is impressive is how little of that is going on. That was one of my biggest takeaways from that thread was "OH I need to do that shit less. look how exhausting I'm being."

I'm curious what mechanisms we can employ to change those behaviors. I'm honestly curious what folks will suggest here because this is puzzle to me how best to approach it. Seems like an exceptionally difficult thing to moderate in many cases.
posted by French Fry at 1:28 PM on September 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


Thanks for explaining, cortex. I hadn't noticed it was a first post; that makes sense.

To the subject of the MeTa: I started more actively participating in the site (after lurking for years and commenting infrequently for a few more) after reading the tramp stamp thread and another around the same time that had to do with making the site friendlier for trans members. I felt like the moderation really took sexism/transphobia/racism/etc. seriously, and moderated accordingly, without taking glee in bans or shutting down conversation excessively. I think the moderators do a great job and most of the userbase here is really thoughtful.

That said, it sucks to be a woman online. There is a level of ambient misogyny that I get sick of, even here. I'll be reading a comment sometimes and think, "wow, you don't like women very much, do you? And you're barely holding it in, dude." And what was remarkable about the emotional labor thread (which I read, but didn't participate much in) was that it was free of that. It was striking and I appreciate shakespeherian bringing it up here. Obviously, it was mainly women participating in that thread, and that is a factor. But I hope more men look at it to see what a conversation not suffused with sexism looks like.
posted by thetortoise at 1:39 PM on September 25, 2015 [37 favorites]


It feels like a bit of a strawman to equate taking a firmer stance against various -isms with shifting Metafilter's model of participation. As MartinWisse points out, oftentimes the problematic patterns of behaviour are exhibited by longterm users who are maybe given more leeway out of a sense of balance*, and being less tolerant of this particular pattern seems like it precisely fits cortex's stated goal of enforcing consequences when people are "willfully declining to try or unwillingly but consistently failing to figure stuff out".

I don't at all believe newbies should be given a time-out or a ban the first time they stumble and (e.g.) make a shitty comment, and Trochanter's MeTa seems like a great example of something where a conversation with a mod about the standards of behaviour that we expect on the site would have been much more beneficial. It certainly would've been much less toxic than a long MetaTalk suffused both with mockery of a newbie and entirely reasonable frustration that we're having this conversation--of whether or not sexist comments are defensible if you squint real hard and tilt your head to the left and drive a dump truck full of undeserved benefit of the doubt up to an intractable poster's house--yet again.

*I don't necessarily mean "balance" as in "the truth is somewhere in the middle of two positions", which I think most people on the site rightfully recognize as being a logical fallacy, but rather "balance" as in "you both play nice now". The recent FPP on bullying had an excellent quote about this very issue:
"Bullying creates a moral drama in which the manner of the victim’s reaction to an act of aggression can be used as retrospective justification for the original act of aggression itself."
One of the frustrating patterns of behaviour that I see on the site is this idea that we must bend over backwards to accommodate acts of aggression because the very act of confronting these acts of aggression creates conflict, which is de facto "bad". This unfairly puts the emotional labour of "peacekeeping" on the person or group on the receiving end of the systemic aggression, which seems like a really untenable model.
posted by Phire at 1:50 PM on September 25, 2015 [53 favorites]


I would like it if the moderators could step in much more often when someone's doing a "Are you sure you aren't imagining sexism/racism/ableism/homophobia/transphobia? Maybe you should give them the benefit of the doubt" thing, because it's a way of saying "I don't care about this and you shouldn't either," which is a type of comment already strongly discouraged. I haven't done any sort of survey, but I have the impression that such comments are often what tend to polarize discussions around here.
posted by jaguar at 2:09 PM on September 25, 2015 [32 favorites]


I don't at all believe newbies should be given a time-out or a ban the first time they stumble and (e.g.) make a shitty comment, but Trochanter's MeTa seems like a great example of something where a conversation with a mod about the standards of behaviour that we expect on the site would have been much more beneficial.

Trochanter isn't some n00b, though -- he registered his account in 2006 and has over 2,000 comments on the blue. This doesn't undermine your point, it underscores it by illustrating that even old hands screw up sometimes and need a good cluebatting now and then. A firmer mod stance against letting the MeTa as framed go through would have certainly led to a better meta-discussion, if not a consensus that the comment deletions were justified.

BTW, I'm not trying to re-litigate that issue here -- that MeTa is still open if anyone wants to go do that.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:11 PM on September 25, 2015 [7 favorites]


I have basically given up on it ever changing, really, as I realize I'm on the losing side on this, but I did want to voice this: I personally feel that more taking a more aggressive stance about only allowing comment that adhere to the "values of the community" is detrimental and something that makes me want to comment here less.

I frankly don't enjoy threads which are basically people who agree with each other's world views spending 300 comments affirming how right we all are. I agree that there's a dynamic lately where people voicing an opinion that runs counter to the median viewpoint on certain subjects seems to result in either a 20 v 1 pile on or the mod deleting the comment with a gentle, "Pssst, we don't say those things here," and I think it's a bad thing.

That's me feather laid down, y'all can continue piling the bricks on the other side of the scale. It is what it is, I don't have to be here, i don't have to participate, i get it. I in fact, didn't participate in the newer narrow mefi for a number of months, and maybe I'll wander away again soon. Narrow-minded mefi is not my favorite color.
posted by Diablevert at 2:12 PM on September 25, 2015 [57 favorites]


What exactly has this community been narrow-minded against?
posted by agregoli at 2:15 PM on September 25, 2015 [17 favorites]


Continual devil’s-advocating, premise-questioning, notallmenning, etc., not only goes against these standards of behavior, but it makes the site poorer: in terms of quality of discussion, in terms of its effect on members in good standing as well as in terms of its appeal to potential new members of the community. I would like the mods to take a much firmer stance on this

Personally I don't always agree with the characterizations of the things you've mentioned here, not to say that they don't happen. I don't think there's enough consensus on standards of behaviour or what makes for a quality discussion to start asking for increased mod enforcement of uncertain "community norms" or whatever. I often feel like I'm not part of the "community" so often talked about here even though I signed up like 8 years ago and check in almost every day.

I think the best way I can put this without being too cynical is that you can like what you like about the site and that doesn't have to (and doesn't necessarily) become the "community norm". I don't think I even read the thread you're talking about. Because I don't really come here for that kind of discussion. I'm not always here to learn, I'm not here to read every single post. I'm more often here for fun. There's frequently stuff here I find fun, funny, or entertaining and often find the conversations engaging and fun as well. And yeah, I like the occasional argument, which is kind of what first drew me in back in 2004 or so as a lurker. I have a few topics that interest me and in general I've enjoyed how the comments here go, maybe less so in recent years (getting older, man.) People get different things out of this place and I think trying to define "the community standards" too much risks making that community a bit exclusive.

This could be just me, though. I often get frustrated with a dynamic here I perceive as "WE'VE BEEN THROUGH THIS, GAWD, DID YOU NOT SEE THE META FROM 3 YEARS AND 8 MONTHS AGO AND THE 101" and it's like, no I do not share all of your knowledge, training and experience, deeply sorry for the inconvenience.
posted by Hoopo at 2:16 PM on September 25, 2015 [20 favorites]


I frankly don't enjoy threads which are basically people who agree with each other's world views spending 300 comments affirming how right we all are.

Honestly, the only threads like that which I've seen are generally in the "fuck you, Governor Walker" vein, in which case, I don't know if we really need people to back up Governor Walker. I feel the same way about e.g. the lower back tattoo thread: of what value to the community is the viewpoint that the author of the article should like it or lump it because the Correct Opinion is Everyone Gets To Have An Equally Valid Opinion.
posted by griphus at 2:20 PM on September 25, 2015 [8 favorites]


I frankly don't enjoy threads which are basically people who agree with each other's world views spending 300 comments affirming how right we all are.

Ok, but that thread in particular was a load of people naming and validating and finding social proof of their heretofore private or otherwise rationalized experiences, like "WTF, is this for real?" and "Uh-hunh! Yup it is".

I actually agree with you in that I'm not sure it's always a good model for general discussion, but I'm glad it helped affirm particular site-wide values, and I think it's good to have those (and, those particular ones).
posted by cotton dress sock at 2:20 PM on September 25, 2015 [9 favorites]


I think that framing anti-sexism, anti-racism, etc. as 'exclusive' and 'narrow-minded' is pretty much bullshit.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:21 PM on September 25, 2015 [81 favorites]


And I think sexism and racism are already pretty much against the rules here. Am I missing something?
posted by Hoopo at 2:22 PM on September 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


300 comments of people agreeing with each other is exemplified in the emotional labor thread. arguments and disagreements aren't the only mode of conversation. when a thread is on something like how women experience the world the conversation is more often than not harmed by men doing their damnedest to turn the conversation to if we're being nice enough to allies, or the nature of violence in men, or how men they know feel about something, or what body modifications can tell us about the sexual proclivities of a female writer.
posted by nadawi at 2:23 PM on September 25, 2015 [45 favorites]


This could be just me, though. I often get frustrated with a dynamic here I perceive as "WE'VE BEEN THROUGH THIS, GAWD, DID YOU NOT SEE THE META FROM 3 YEARS AND 8 MONTHS AGO AND THE 101" and it's like, no I do not share all of your knowledge, training and experience, deeply sorry for the inconvenience.

The threads under discussion are less than three months old, with massive MeTas that accompanied them, and the emotional labor thread getting shoutouts across the blue, green, and gray. It likely took more effort to go out of your way to avoid the issues and plead ignorance than it would to have actually engage with the topics. The excuse of "well I'm just here for the FUN" doesn't help your argument, it undercuts it.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:25 PM on September 25, 2015 [13 favorites]


And I think sexism and racism are already pretty much against the rules here. Am I missing something?

Sexism and racism are much more pernicious and subtle than the ban-on-sight "women suck!" and "minorities suck!" Just because something is against the rules doesn't mean that everyone agrees the rules are enforced in a balanced way or that the community norms guide everyone to a more progressive and inclusive idea of what "racism" and "sexism" entail.
posted by griphus at 2:25 PM on September 25, 2015 [25 favorites]


There's frequently stuff here I find fun, funny, or entertaining and often find the conversations engaging and fun as well.

Believe me, I would love for this to be the case as well. Few people genuinely enjoy getting into fights. But it often feels like every damn FPP that remotely touches on something a woman does winds up being a referendum on the appropriateness of her behaviour / appearance / appeal. I love me some Taylor Swift, and I'd love to chat with other TSwiftians (I have no idea what the actual fandom name is) without descending into whether or not her legs look good, and when that gets deleted, 500 comments on whether or not it was unfair it was deleted. That kind of thing ruins even casual threads.

As for the alleged echo chamber slippery slope, I will quote rtha, which I think addresses the fallacy excellently:

a lot of people (mostly men?) see some kinds of threads - like this one [the emotional labour thread] - as just an inconsequential nothing full of people nodding their heads at each other. Because no one is arguing on different "sides" it means everyone is in total agreement with everything and therefore it doesn't matter in the way that a thread full of "Yeah but"s and "Actually,"s and "Sarcastic dropping of refuting cite"s matters. That a conversation that spawns epiphanies, new strategies, opens windows, and allows for the sharing of experience is just an "echo chamber," see, and not important.

posted by Phire at 2:25 PM on September 25, 2015 [69 favorites]


I agree that there's a dynamic lately where people voicing an opinion that runs counter to the median viewpoint on certain subjects seems to result in either a 20 v 1 pile on or the mod deleting the comment with a gentle, "Pssst, we don't say those things here," and I think it's a bad thing.

If you don't like the moderation, then you might have to just deal with the 20-to-1 pile-ons, because the site has changed in that the userbase is bigger and likely more diverse, and more of us are going to speak up when we see something stupid and sexist. It's not just MeFi where the values are changing.
posted by thetortoise at 2:28 PM on September 25, 2015 [12 favorites]


It likely took more effort to go out of your way to avoid the issues and plead ignorance than it would to have actually engage with the topics.

Trust me it is not hard to not read every thread. Am I required to engage with that thread? You know, I tried to be polite and I get a bunch of fuckin zingers.
posted by Hoopo at 2:29 PM on September 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


Trust me it is not hard to not read every thread. Am I required to engage with that thread? You know, I tried to be polite and I get a bunch of fuckin zingers.

You're totally not required to, but if your feeling is that it's not your sort of thing and you don't want to muddle through that territory, probably better to just sort of leave it at having said your piece and letting other folks disagree with your preferences if they do. However anybody feels about site policy and direction and so on, there's a lot of context here and if you don't have it it's probably better not to dig in about not having it is my basic feeling.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:32 PM on September 25, 2015 [7 favorites]


Trust me it is not hard to not read every thread. Am I required to engage with that thread? You know, I tried to be polite and I get a bunch of fuckin zingers.

No, a zinger would have been me quoting Walter's "So you have no frame of reference here, Donny" speech from The Big Lebowski. I was just noting that you're complaining about conversations that you either avoid or just don't notice all the baked-in bigotry that people continually reference here.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:33 PM on September 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


What exactly has this community been narrow-minded against?

In a previous MetaTalk thread, a few users mentioned that they felt that MetaFilter didn’t handle discussion of Southern / rural folks very well, and at least one user had considered starting a MetaTalk about it. See here for the first mention.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:35 PM on September 25, 2015 [9 favorites]


hey here's a cool idea, maybe for some of us, one aspect of emotional labor we could take on is using thoughtfulness and good judgement to figure out when a topic needs a bravely dissenting point of view and when it needs us to just shut the hell up and listen, and if we make some comment that doesn't go over well and we get smacked down or modded maybe we can do the emotional labor of coming to terms with the fact that we misread the room or were perhaps even wrong or misinformed and that it doesn't mean the site culture is worse now or that the mods are doing their jobs poorly
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:36 PM on September 25, 2015 [49 favorites]


No, a zinger would have been me quoting Walter's "So you have no frame of reference here, Donny" speech from The Big Lebowski.

Don't bother, Hoopo's account has been disabled.
posted by MikeMc at 2:37 PM on September 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


What exactly has this community been narrow-minded against?

Fedoras.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:38 PM on September 25, 2015 [10 favorites]


I feel like there is a really wide swath of threads contained under the idea "everyone agreeing with each other". There's the idea of interesting and substantive discussion attached to productive venting, which is how I would characterize the emotional labor thread. There's also the "everyone shouts about how gross something is until invariably they start shouting at each other" threads. Cortex deleted one of this kind about MRAs earlier today. (I don't think it had quite gotten to phase two).

I think you can agree with each other and have a discussion that makes people, or you can agree with each other and be snarky and hostile. So there's more than one axis beyond "level of overall agreement".
posted by selfnoise at 2:39 PM on September 25, 2015 [6 favorites]


I actually would like some clarification on what you're hoping for, shakespeherian. I think MF *is* clearly operating within an anti-oppressive framework, and I think that's reflected in the moderation, which I see as successfully asserting related values. I agree that notall-type interjections in a thread like that are misplaced*. And, I enjoy and am happy to see the kind of consensus-based sharing and shading of common experience seen in the emotional labour thread. But I don't see that as an only or necessarily feminist or culturally feminine mode of discussion, do you?

*although I think they're sort of interesting, in terms of highlighting points of conflict or internal tension in non-women commenters.
posted by cotton dress sock at 2:47 PM on September 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


What exactly has this community been narrow-minded against?

Off the top of my head, Islam, minority religions in general, tackling ableist language, anti-bullying, loads of non-Western cultures, environmentalism, the Roma, art that's less accessible than Breaking Bad...

Metafilter is pretty great on gender and sexuality issues, but I wonder if the effort spent further polishing that might be better expended elsewhere.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 2:57 PM on September 25, 2015 [12 favorites]


hey here's a cool idea, maybe for some of us, one aspect of emotional labor we could take on is using thoughtfulness and good judgement to figure out when a topic needs a bravely dissenting point of view and when it needs us to just shut the hell up and listen

Hey! Here's a cool idea! Maybe the community could respect diverse opinions even if they are unpopular as long as they don't violate the guidelines. Maybe individual community members could do the emotional labor of not preemptively stiffing discourse by asking other community members to shut the Hell up.
posted by Rob Rockets at 3:00 PM on September 25, 2015 [12 favorites]


> respect diverse opinions even if they are unpopular

What does this mean? Does it mean not engaging, or agreeing with, or some other thing? Only having one response of disagreement? Something else?

(Also, asking people to consider whether or not they need to say something is not the same as telling them to shut up.)
posted by rtha at 3:03 PM on September 25, 2015 [13 favorites]


diverse opinions

What does "diverse" mean in this context?
posted by griphus at 3:03 PM on September 25, 2015 [10 favorites]


TSwiftians (I have no idea what the actual fandom name is)

It's Swifties. I probably wouldn't know myself except that one of my roommates is the sort of person who occasionally gets goaded into Internet fights about whether her last couple of albums are a betrayal of her country/Nashville roots or something.
posted by Copronymus at 3:05 PM on September 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


And I think sexism and racism are already pretty much against the rules here. Am I missing something?

As general concepts, yes, They Are Bad, but they don't always have well-defined boundaries, or they encompass unnamed behaviors (the sorts of things that a thousand different people might think "only happens to me" before it becomes clear through conversation that it's a broad, deep issue), or their effects are non-obvious to those not directly affected, or they intersect with other less-well-known prejudices... and non-adversarial discussion helps reveal that.

And I come to this perspective as someone on the other side, who may have rolled his eyes three years ago at the thought that saying [a common trans slur] or "hearing-impaired" would offend somebody. It's OK to admit you don't know everything about someone else's lived experience; really, it's no skin off your lobes.
posted by psoas at 3:08 PM on September 25, 2015 [12 favorites]


Hey! Here's a cool idea! Maybe the community could respect diverse opinions even if they are unpopular as long as they don't violate the guidelines.

Oh yeah, no, totes.

But I think there's a big difference between, for example, going into the Scott Walker thread and saying "no here guys here's a bunch of good things Scott Walker did that helped a lot of people, he's not as bad as you're making him out to be, my opinion differs thusly, etc" (I am being very hypothetical here!) and going into a thread where people are talking about something they personally experience and questioning whether the thing they are discussing is important or even exists at all. Or offering personal value judgements on people's bodies, tattoo placement, or whatever. It falls on each of us to figure out how not to be an asshole in this community we are a part of!
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:13 PM on September 25, 2015 [34 favorites]


Hey! Here's a cool idea! Maybe the community could respect diverse opinions even if they are unpopular as long as they don't violate the guidelines.

So, this is the sort of thing I was hoping we could talk about here. As far as I can tell (and as OP), the only homogeneity anyone is looking for in this thread is on sexism, racism, and etc. Which I would think -- I would hope -- everyone can agree to: That we, as the Metafilter community, are opposed to sexism, to racism, and etc. How that breaks out on a case-by-case basis can be up for discussion.

But instead, the thread here starts off with cortex effectively saying 'Yup, we're already on that,' and 'No, the mods aren't going to be any more proactive on that shit,' and now the thread is turning into increasingly-hostile shouting about whether people are asking for an echochamber or for dissenters to be exiled or whatever. Which is exactly the fuck what this MeTa is about.

To reiterate: It would be great if the moderators could say something like 'No one is asking for a stifling of diversity except as it pertains to e.g. shitty sexist comments and the like.' It would be great if this thread didn't have to be exactly the sort of thing I'm tired of seeing, and thus this post.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:15 PM on September 25, 2015 [15 favorites]


Shakesspeherian, do you have an specific thoughts on the types of "boyzone-type derailing" that should be expanded into the mod's more aggressive modding?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:19 PM on September 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


'Nashville' was a great movie.
thats a diverse opinion.
posted by clavdivs at 3:21 PM on September 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


'No, the mods aren't going to be any more proactive on that shit,'

That seems like an uncharitable reading to me. He says the mods have been more proactive lately, but doesn't seem really say one way or another whether that trend toward being more proactive would continue, just that there are some downsides of doing so.

I question exactly how much great participation we're going to get out of people who feel the need to bring "balance" to discussions amongst marginalized groups by taking a position that reads as *-ist to the community, but I at least acknowledge that some folks may decide to take their ball and go home.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:23 PM on September 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


I would like to know more about these diverse opinions that are not allowed here as well. Because yeah, sure, if you want to insist a hot dog's not a sandwich, nobody should say you're worse than Hitler but no, nobody is required to tolerate racism or respect opinions that [actual fact] is wrong because [not actually true reason].

And stuff like this:
Hey! Here's a cool idea! Maybe the community could respect diverse opinions even if they are unpopular as long as they don't violate the guidelines. Maybe individual community members could do the emotional labor of not preemptively stiffing discourse by asking other community members to shut the Hell up.

Is unnecessary and out of context, because the suggestion was that one self-assess about whether just not saying something might be the right choice sometimes. Sort of like how I, as a white person, sometimes have to stop and think before saying things about race. When I don't do that, I sometimes say shitty things that are not productive.

As far as asking for a written rule about this stuff, if there's a written rule the site will grind to a halt over rules-lawyering. There will literally be posts in here every day about "I have to be allowed to say [awful thing] because the guidelines don't say I can't." That's why there's not.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:24 PM on September 25, 2015 [21 favorites]


Normally not suppossed to re-iterate questions, but what Brandon said.

I hopeo hoopo comes back.
posted by clavdivs at 3:27 PM on September 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


There is sort of a written rule here in the form of a "why was my comment deleted" FAQ answer. It's not a complete list of things that will get comments deleted, but if the thing you're doing is on that list or the mods think you are, you're unlikely to get anywhere protesting the deletion.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:27 PM on September 25, 2015


Shakesspeherian, do you have an specific thoughts on the types of "boyzone-type derailing" that should be expanded into the mod's more aggressive modding?

See one comment above yours.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:29 PM on September 25, 2015


There's disagreements that stop the conversation because people have to reargue basics, and then there's disagreements requiring consensus on basic grounds that get overshadowed because you can't even discuss them because people are arguing about the basics.

I'm sure a lot of us would like to be able to disagree and productively discuss concepts, but they often either stay silent or need to argue fundamentals.
posted by halifix at 3:30 PM on September 25, 2015 [7 favorites]


What does "diverse" mean in this context?

I can't speak for Rob Rockets, obviously, but I notice a tendency for people to think they are being diverse when they "challenge" peoples' expressed experiences. I've seen a load of threads where a lot of the comments are attempts to undermine or discount descriptions of being on the sharp end of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and the like. Sometimes it's the author of a piece linked in the FPP, and sometimes it's other members, but it's always ugly and brings literally nothing to the thread but aggravation and distraction. That's not diversity.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:30 PM on September 25, 2015 [40 favorites]


The "hey here's a cool idea" sarcasticish stuff is not really helpful and this will probably go better if people express annoyance by talking about why they're annoyed than by turning it into a rhetorical flourish.

But instead, the thread here starts off with cortex effectively saying 'Yup, we're already on that,' and 'No, the mods aren't going to be any more proactive on that shit,'

I'm really not trying to say that latter thing, I'm saying that I think the difference between where we are (continuing to work on being proactive to cut stuff off early, shut down bad patterns of behaivor, etc) and where I feel like some folks on the site who I otherwise agree with are (on what might fall under the knife and when and with what degree of severity) is probably not totally reconcilable, based on a lot of previous discussions we've had.

The reality is that I can hear and understand and sympathize with requests for policy changes here that I nonetheless can't agree with. And most of that is a matter of degree rather than substance, and when a key part of the request is The Mods Need To Do More I need to be clear about where we are and to understand clearly what specifically folks envision that More being. That in service of trying to make this stuff work practically, not in service of dismissing the idea that it's work worth doing.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:30 PM on September 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


If I was feeling really uncharitable, it would feel like you're sending the implicit message that we can go ahead and vent in here, but that those concerns have already been filed under "overly ideological" and so will not result in any moderation adjustments.

...

But instead, the thread here starts off with cortex effectively saying 'Yup, we're already on that,' and 'No, the mods aren't going to be any more proactive on that shit,' and now the thread is turning into increasingly-hostile shouting about whether people are asking for an echochamber or for dissenters to be exiled or whatever.


Are you saying cortex is trying to stifle dissent? Because I think that is an *extremely* uncharitable reading.
posted by Chrysostom at 3:32 PM on September 25, 2015


Hoopo sent me a note to say he just needed a break and wanted to not accidentally get into a fight on a Friday afternoon.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:32 PM on September 25, 2015 [17 favorites]


To reiterate: It would be great if the moderators could say something like 'No one is asking for a stifling of diversity except as it pertains to e.g. shitty sexist comments and the like.' It would be great if this thread didn't have to be exactly the sort of thing I'm tired of seeing, and thus this post.

This is something that I feel like the moderators say all-the-time, and doubly-so in threads like these. Since these problems often go back to a user who believes that their comment in this instance (or a number of instances) isn’t racist/sexist/whatever, I think that a reiteration from the moderators that they aren’t trying to silence anyone all their lives isn’t going to do much for the environment.
posted by Going To Maine at 3:42 PM on September 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


"300 comments of people agreeing with each other is exemplified in the emotional labor thread." If the EL thread had been somehow a question on the green, the same replies could very easily been considered Chatfilter. I read the first couple of posts, and went on to something else. I'm sure that reading other people's experiences is very interesting and validating and comforting for some people, but I'm not always looking for those sorts of stories on Metafilter.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:59 PM on September 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Um, no, chatfilter it was not.
posted by agregoli at 4:04 PM on September 25, 2015 [18 favorites]

If the EL thread had been somehow a question on the green, the same replies could very easily been considered Chatfilter.
Wouldn't that be true of pretty much everything that gets said on the blue? Why is that a special critique of that one discussion?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:07 PM on September 25, 2015 [26 favorites]


I can't speak for Rob Rockets, obviously, but I notice a tendency for people to think they are being diverse when they "challenge" peoples' expressed experiences. I've seen a load of threads where a lot of the comments are attempts to undermine or discount descriptions of being on the sharp end of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and the like. Sometimes it's the author of a piece linked in the FPP, and sometimes it's other members, but it's always ugly and brings literally nothing to the thread but aggravation and distraction. That's not diversity.

Confession: I haven't, actually, read the emotional labor thread. I read the FPP -- going from memory here, can't quote chapter and verse --- but I recall thinking that there was something I found odd about the original author's framing. About the characterization of some task as unpaid work rather than as a gift given voluntarily as an expression of love, and how one might draw distinctions between those things. These were my thoughts on reading the FPP. I don't want to re-argue or recap that thread here and now. I just mention it to try and characterize the nature of my reaction: A quibble. An eyebrow raise. A questioning of the author's premise.

There are plenty of threads on the blue where I would feel comfortable, on having that kind of reaction to the article posted, going into the thread and expressing that thought, and seeing if it matched other people's thoughts, and if not maybe having a bit of back and forth where I expanded my views and they expanded theirs and maybe I'd learn something.

I wasn't comfortable doing that with the emotional labor thread, because I felt it likely that any expression on my part of disagreement with the original author would be seen as an anti-feminist attempt to stifle people's expression of their personal experiences, or, more charitably, perhaps as the sputterings of ignorance, which people might freely react to with contempt or kindness as the mood struck them. That perhaps to some merely to express disagreement with the original author's framing of the issue would be, inevitably, a trollish attempt to derail the discussion. So I avoided the discussion.

I consider myself a feminist. I am a woman. I thought what I thought. I don't...I find myself tongue tied trying to get the core meaning I would like to express. But I guess....I would like it better if it there weren't any topics for which it was Not Okay to come in and say, "you know, I don't think the author's right about that." That as close as I can come to it at the moment.
posted by Diablevert at 4:07 PM on September 25, 2015 [34 favorites]


It's a shame you didn't read the thread.
posted by agregoli at 4:08 PM on September 25, 2015 [42 favorites]


Well, I am glad that Hoopo is only taking some time off. There is so much angry decamping in MeTas, that I kind of wonder why we think it's the site's pressure valve as opposed to the place for members to have industrial-grade scaldings. It's like the giant boiler in Metropolis in here sometimes.

However, I do have a response to something Hoopo said, and, while I don't like addressing someone who is not here to speak in their own defense, it's a common enough opinion that I think it can be discussed on its own: the defense of 101-level questions.

As far as I can tell, the vast majority of MeFites are smart people with an interest in learning. We are diverse collective of professionals, experts, autodidacts, and theorizers. We are all somewhat adept at navigating the internet, or we wouldn't be posting here. So I am resistant to the idea that there is something so baffling around racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc that makes it far more difficult for people to do some reading on their own to get up to speed. It's not like any of us were born with this knowledge -- we came to it by experience, either through living it or working to build up the intellectual and empathetic knowledge to engage with it productively (or, in my case, semi-productively; I have a lot more to learn about others' experiences and my own privilege; I won't speak for you). It's work, but doable work, to learn about these things, just like it's doable work to educate yourself on music or history or physics or any of hundreds of subjects where people aren't regularly demanding to be taught "the basics" before anyone is allowed to talk with more nuance. That's not fair, and it's not a discussion.

Also, asking endless basic questions is a well-known bad-faith internet debating technique, so it's hard to read those sorts of questions as anything but bad faith. That doesn't mean that there aren't innocent questions, but the internet well has been so poisoned that the innocent can't be told from the guilty -- and that is not the fault of the people trying to have the conversation.

Now, I think it might be interesting if we could do a special kind of MeTa on some of these issues where people with a strong background and a willingness to teach did a sort of round robin Ask Me Anything on beginners knowledge. They could include reading lists and explanations and maybe some good-faith 101 discussion (with the right moderation). I'm not sure if it would work, but it's an interesting idea.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:08 PM on September 25, 2015 [12 favorites]


I'm sorry that you felt stifled, Diablevert. But the result of your censoring yourself was that a discussion happened that was, by all accounts, really extraordinary and eye-opening and important for a whole lot of people. A lot of people have said that it helped them understand their relationships and communicate better with their partners and have a whole new vocabulary to discuss things that had been bothering them but they'd never been able to address. So you lost something because you did not feel able to challenge the author's premises in the way that you would have wanted to do. Do you feel that what was lost is more significant than what has been gained because of that thread?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:13 PM on September 25, 2015 [21 favorites]


"300 comments of people agreeing with each other is exemplified in the emotional labor thread." If the EL thread had been somehow a question on the green, the same replies could very easily been considered Chatfilter. I read the first couple of posts, and went on to something else. I'm sure that reading other people's experiences is very interesting and validating and comforting for some people, but I'm not always looking for those sorts of stories on Metafilter.

Great, but why is that germane to this MetaTalk?

It's a shame you didn't read the thread.

Man, I haven’t read the emotional labor thead, and I’m never going to. You know why? BECAUSE IT’S LITERALLY MORE THAN A THOUSAND PAGES LONG. And because, as apparently cathartic as that thread was for everyone, it results in comments like the one above that read as smug and superior to the folks who didn’t.

I’m glad people got something out of it, and I certainly agree with the end of having better, kinder conversations. People loved it for a reason. But the read-this-thread-and-be-cured atmosphere has made me want to NOPE out of it forever.
posted by Going To Maine at 4:15 PM on September 25, 2015 [25 favorites]


So I am resistant to the idea that there is something so baffling around racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc

Not at the macro level but when it starts getting more granular (down to the "micro" level) the number of "Wait...what?" moments start to increase.
posted by MikeMc at 4:15 PM on September 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


No. But would not want that kind of careful pruning to become the default for every thread on the blue. I would as a general rule want more topics to be more freewheeling and for more people to be more prepared to encouter viewpoints that don't accord with their own and not to take the expression of such viewpoints as a de facto demonstration of bad faith. Because politcs and culture aren't physics. It is possible to have many different opinions on their basic nature and proper form.
posted by Diablevert at 4:18 PM on September 25, 2015 [10 favorites]


(And to be clear, I’m also glad I didn’t come into the thread and crap it up with my BLUUUURGH! That would have been a dick move too, and that isn’t something anyone should strive to be.)
posted by Going To Maine at 4:19 PM on September 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I consider myself a feminist. I am a woman. I thought what I thought. I don't...I find myself tongue tied trying to get the core meaning I would like to express. But I guess....I would like it better if it there weren't any topics for which it was Not Okay to come in and say, "you know, I don't think the author's right about that." That as close as I can come to it at the moment.

I hear you. I didn't comment in the Emotional Labor thread (and only a little in the MeTa attached to it) because I didn't think I had anything to add that would be helpful. I instead read the thread and tried to bring empathy to that reading and learn what I could. I'm a man, and, while I have experiences with unreciprocated emotional labor (and that thread clarified things about my job that I hadn't had words for), what I have experienced is very little compared to those stories.

However, I have had experiences of wanting to bring more nuance to threads about sexism (especially the collision point between sexism and institutional policies) than those threads were able to carry. But the reason I was in that position were not the people pushing back against sexism or the women telling their stories, but that there were a fair number of (mostly male) members in those threads playing a variety of internet debating games that made nuance impossible. So in a better, less hostile world, it might have been possible to have that conversation you wanted on the piece that sparked the emotional labor thread or that I wanted in other threads. The Patriarchy is doing very few any favors is my takeaway.

Which, I suppose, doesn't make the awkward discomfort you describe feel any better, and I don't want to discount your experience, but, from my seat, I have to say that I am happier to be in a world with that thread in it than one without it, even if I was not part of creating it.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:23 PM on September 25, 2015 [26 favorites]


It seems to me that Metafilter is an extremely "safe place" for women and queer people specifically. It's so weird to me to read these discussions about how we can prevent boyzone-derailing etc. When I read some of these huge contentious threads after the fact, what I normally see are a ton of comments and somewhere in the middle someone says something that is a little offensive. Not over the top sexist but a little gross, like the Taylor Swift legs comment. Following this are a bazillion comments condemning it.

Another example is a thread from last year I think where someone tricked the mods into making an anonymous post in a huge thread about how "TERF" was a slur. Was that a shitty thing to do? Yes. Did the mods fuck up? Yes. (They apologized.) But there were just hundreds and hundreds of comments afterwards talking about how shitty that was.

On the flip side was the deleted MRA thread from earlier today that selfnoise mentioned. I'm not sure what the creator of the post intended but the comments very rapidly turned into just outright making fun of these really troubled men in nasty ways. It was like a Two Minute Hate from 1984. I'm glad cortex killed it because it was just vicious.

I'm glad Metafilter is a safe place for women and queer people. We need more places like that online. And it takes heavy moderation to keep misogyny, homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia out of any public online space, unfortunately, so thanks to the mods. But it seems obvious to me that the needle is pegged way toward the safe space end of the 4chan-to-safe space spectrum.

Now I think we're talking about whether the mods should simply delete comments that don't completely fit the site's orthodoxy. My opinion is that if the choice is between outright deletion and allowing the community to dogpile someone, the comment should be deleted. You never know where the offending poster is coming from. People making off-color comments on Metafilter are probably sympathetic to social issues and mean well but are still learning. We should want to keep these people, so they learn and feel welcome. Letting the wolves at them will just turn them away and they go back to Reddit or wherever and won't learn. If they just get a comment deleted with a polite note, they might be a little upset but they won't feel like the whole community hates them.

For what it's worth, I haven't finished the emotional labor thread but so far it has been incredible. Maybe one of the best things on the internet, period. I think that was a special case though, the community decided it was going to be about sharing and not arguing, not even polite arguing. Do we want every thread to be about sharing and not even polite arguing? My own opinion is that's okay for some threads but not every thread.
posted by yes i am a bisexual man at 4:23 PM on September 25, 2015 [12 favorites]


Diablevert, I'm sorry for my prickly comment to you above. I thought you were referring to any thread where the moderators stepped in to remove sexist comments. Reading your update, I can see you're talking specifically about the emotional labor thread and the dynamic there.

I didn't participate much in that thread, too, because much of what was being discussed was outside my experience. But I was glad that the moderators encouraged people like me who were outliers in that regard to pipe down a bit and just listen. The result was a thread that really opened up my eyes and allowed MeFi to hear in detail from people who may not have felt comfortable in the conversation otherwise. I know every thread can't be like that one, and I enjoy heated arguments about aesthetics just as much as the emotional labor thread, but it did make me wonder what went right and how something like that might happen again on the site.
posted by thetortoise at 4:27 PM on September 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


My opinion is that if the choice is between outright deletion and allowing the community to dogpile someone

These are not the only choices. In fact they are pretty much a false dichotomy.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:30 PM on September 25, 2015 [9 favorites]


To clarify, I wasn't being smug about it being a shame you hadn't read the thread. Because I believe, based on your comments and misread as a seeming (not trying to put words in your mouth but that's what your raised eyebrow seemed to be about) selfishness being a part of the author's premise, that you would have gained a better and more nuanced explanation of emotional labor had you read the thread. And instead, it appears you felt you couldn't participate because you would possibly have been jumped on...but that didn't happen, to anyone in the thread, to my recollection. So, to me, that truly is a shame.
posted by agregoli at 4:30 PM on September 25, 2015 [15 favorites]


In fact, some of what you seemed to want to discuss - the idea of emotional labour as a gift freely given - was actually discussed in the thread, insofar as whether the author was using an extreme framing device to advance the Overton Window of emotional labour, so to speak, and the context that a gift freely given acquires when one group disproportionately does (and is trained and expected to do) the gifting.
posted by Phire at 4:35 PM on September 25, 2015 [28 favorites]


Metafilter is not a government but it is a system of law. I am glad that it is more like the British system of law, where precedents are taken into consideration by a judge who is trusted to make the right call, rather than the American, where there is a rock solid constitution by which everything must be measured. That is literally everything I know about laws. Possibly it sounded daft. Nevertheless I continue to use the site because of the good judgement of the moderators who try to take into account the goals and needs of wide range of users and not a cobbled together set of rules re: exactly what can or cannot be said.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:36 PM on September 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

Do we want every thread to be about sharing and not even polite arguing?
No, definitely not. But I also think that sometimes people overvalue "polite arguing" and assume that debate is the highest, smartest, most-important form of communication. If people aren't debating, something very inferior and unedifying is going on. Just talking about stuff is soft and stupid and, let's face it, girly. And that's bullshit. Not every discussion has to be a debate. You can learn a lot from discussions that are not about challenging people's premises.

I also think that there can be interesting debates among people who basically agree about things. For instance, most Mefites think that Scott Walker is a jerk, but we may still disagree about whether he ever had a shot at getting the nomination, why he dropped out of the race, or why it matters. There are valuable things to discuss about Scott Walker that are not at the level of "Scott Walker: good person or bad person?"

(This is something that I have to remind myself, because I definitely lean towards the fighty side of things in online communication. And seriously: this is not the debate team. Sometimes it's great to say "that's an interesting insight, and it led me to have this further insight.")
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:37 PM on September 25, 2015 [55 favorites]


These are not the only choices. In fact they are pretty much a false dichotomy.

If someone posts an offensive comment and it's not deleted, then they will be dogpiled. That's what currently happens. You're right though that these are not literally the only options. The mods could curate every comment so rather than it being deleted, it never shows up. They could also try to discourage dogpiling by for example deleting the pile-on comments while leaving the original comment.

What else is on the table? I know it's hard to read tone but my question is sincere and not rhetorical.
posted by yes i am a bisexual man at 4:37 PM on September 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


Seriously though people should at least read the first 200 posts or so of that EL thread it's pretty great and a lot of wise things are said for your life. It's not going to erase your mind crime though that shall never heal.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:38 PM on September 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


To clarify, I wasn't being smug about it being a shame you hadn't read the thread.

I’m not Diablevert, but your clarifications are welcome.
posted by Going To Maine at 4:39 PM on September 25, 2015


Not at the macro level but when it starts getting more granular (down to the "micro" level) the number of "Wait...what?" moments start to increase.

Well sure. There are plenty of "201-level" questions that can be asked without causing the thread to be reset to the beginning. For example, in a trans-related thread, I think questions like "What is a TERF?" are reasonable because there are a lot of people blissfully ignorant of that group, even if they are generally aware of trans issues. On the other hand "what is the deal with pronouns?*" is so basic that it's pretty much always out of place -- you can answer that yourself with about 5 minutes and google. Were is the dividing line? I think it varies from topic to topic and thread to thread; if you spend 20 minutes searching and can't figure it out, maybe that's a good sign that it might be OK to go in the thread and say "OK, I have a question here -- I read the thread and all the linked articles, and I've been searching Google and I don't understand X" will probably get you further than just jumping in with no prep. I think that it's on you to show that your question is innocent in a world where so many aren't.

*Much less the more offensive "Why are you all so much trouble over pronouns?" that was more common a couple of years ago. That's not, I hope we can all agree, an honest question.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:40 PM on September 25, 2015 [6 favorites]


Amusingly, to clarify: I didn't feel that I couldn't participate. I felt I didn't have the energy it would necessitate to participate. Because I felt it likely that, in expressing a minority view, I'd have to be much carefuller in my speech and draw on a deeper well of patience in explaining my views. That kind of thing can take a lot out of you.

Look, this shouldn't be the woe-is-me pity party, oh, the pain I feel upon thinking that somebody's incorrect and not being able to say so for fear of people yelling at me, the horror, the horror. There's worser things by far on heaven and earth, Horatio. I just wanted to lay may two cents down in that, inasmuch as Shakes was saying "hey that was great and I think we should have more of it," that I disagreed. That's it. I don't got much more to add, and it is Friday night, so, if you permit, adieu.
posted by Diablevert at 4:40 PM on September 25, 2015 [7 favorites]


They could also try to discourage dogpiling by for example deleting the pile-on comments while leaving the original comment.

They do this sometimes. Sometimes they just say "hey don't dogpile let's move on". Sometimes they delete the original comment but allow a follow up. And other times the person comes in and apologizes or explains themself further and the dogpile goes "Oh I get it now we're cool".

It's a false dichotomy because they have a lot of options, including deleting the original comment and they use their judgement about what will work best for the community.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:41 PM on September 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh and sometimes there's just going to be a dogpile and the commenter will just have to deal with it.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:42 PM on September 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thanks for registering yes I am. You sound like a very thoughtful and empathetic person based on your comments here and on the blue.

I don't think dogpile comments should be deleted, but an, "Enough now," from a mod if it is too much is a good idea. Use the flags and the contact form where appropriate.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:43 PM on September 25, 2015


Amusingly? I don't see what's amusing, but alright.
posted by agregoli at 4:44 PM on September 25, 2015


Although it is ironic Diablevert didn't want to do the emotional labor of bring involved with that thread.
posted by agregoli at 4:45 PM on September 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


I believe she was amused by the irony.
posted by klangklangston at 4:47 PM on September 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


The smuggest cut of all is having somewhere more fun than a Metatalk to go on a Friday night.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:51 PM on September 25, 2015 [10 favorites]


Oh and sometimes there's just going to be a dogpile and the commenter will just have to deal with it.

I've said this before, but something I have been using as a metric in my head to stop from dogpiling someone is that, if about a half-dozen comments have taken the person to task, I don't add my voice unless I think there is some important aspect that hasn't been covered (which is pretty rare). The Path away from Dogpiling comes from within, as it were.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:55 PM on September 25, 2015 [23 favorites]


The smuggest cut of all is having somewhere more fun than a Metatalk to go on a Friday night.

I, for one, have lots of other places I could be on this beautiful Friday evening. Tons even. As a matter of fact I'm going to go sit on my deck and smoke a cigarette right now. I'll take my phone in case anything interesting happens in the interim
posted by MikeMc at 4:56 PM on September 25, 2015 [6 favorites]


It's hard to pinpoint the behavior, for instance:

-devil's advocating - a lot of people luuuurve to do this! It's like they live for it. And sometimes it's a valid approach for discussion that's been abused. How do we draw the line here?

- notallmenning - yep, annoying as hell. I'd say jettison. Let's try not to have this.

- questioning the premise - hoo boy this is a tough one. It seems like tons and tons of Mefites love to do this - because this is generally considered to fall under the umbrella of 'critical thinking' and it's dyed-in-the-wool, signature Mefite behavior. I would even call it a key characteristic of the site. So... again, how are we going to all agree on what is not a 'valid' time to do this?

(Questioning the premise is hugely incisive sometimes - well, frequently - over on AskMe, for instance. Other times it can just be obnoxious.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 4:56 PM on September 25, 2015 [13 favorites]


('hoo boy' [TM] cortex)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 4:57 PM on September 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


The smuggest cut of all is having somewhere more fun than a Metatalk to go on a Friday night.

Pfft, I'm in the club right now. It's called a smart phone people.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:57 PM on September 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


Drinky Die: thanks!

Potomac Avenue: follow-up comments are always allowed so that's not really a different option, unless you mean the mods will allow you to replace a comment in-thread? Also no one can talk themselves out of a dogpile except by flat-out admitting they were wrong. If they continue the discussion without explicitly admitting fault then it becomes one of those threads that are all about them and they'll be later accused of a derail. These threads are both boring and frustrating to read, the piled-on yet again looks like a bad person and everyone else gets to pat themselves on the back, no one is convinced and nothing new is said. If a thread is going to go that way then why not just axe the original unorthodox comment? At least that way maybe there can be room for a legitimately enlightening discussion.
posted by yes i am a bisexual man at 4:57 PM on September 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't think she grasped the irony, but that was my take. At any rate, I wish I hadn't bothered to explain my comment, so its beans all the way down.
posted by agregoli at 4:58 PM on September 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


To reiterate: It would be great if the moderators could say something like 'No one is asking for a stifling of diversity except as it pertains to e.g. shitty sexist comments and the like.' It would be great if this thread didn't have to be exactly the sort of thing I'm tired of seeing, and thus this post.

Ok, it sounds like you're saying (overall) is that Emotional Labor thread was GREAT and you'd like to see more conversations that are similarly high level and deep discussions with little or virtually fighting amongst commenters. So you want to discuss with the community about ways to repeat those sort of discussions across all sorts of topics.

Is that what you're looking for here and getting frustrated by the derailing arguments?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:58 PM on September 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


GenjiandProust: "The Path away from Dogpiling comes from within, as it were."

I think this is great but as all of us good lefties know, at some point change has to be imposed from above to be effective.
posted by yes i am a bisexual man at 5:00 PM on September 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


From my perspective, specifically regarding the boyzone, there are/were posters who are always always always posting in bad faith. Those devil's advocates, those not all men. Recent threads on this have touched on the overwhelming frustration felt when bad actors kept toeing the line with microaggressions and such. LobsterMitten's quote in the post references that. So the Metafilter well really is poisoned. When you're constantly defending yourself from or feeling on edge because of people who literally think the boyzone was the good old days, it's harder to read newbies in good faith. At least for me. And again, in that situation, and again, for me, the dogpile is trying, futilely, to make someone understand when he (or sometimes she!) doesn't even really want to understand. That desperate hope of "I know X people have commented, but maybe this time will bring understanding." And that is also why I would never call MeFi a safe space, and the mods have explicitly said it isn't. A better place for sure, but not a safe space.
posted by Ruki at 5:00 PM on September 25, 2015 [30 favorites]


Also, to not abuse the edit button - the modding in the EL thread was top notch. But MeFi lacks the staff to ensure that every thread goes that way. So it's up to the community, in that way.
posted by Ruki at 5:02 PM on September 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


I, for one, have lots of other places I could be on this beautiful Friday evening. Tons even. As a matter of fact I'm going to go sit on my deck and smoke a cigarette right now. I'll take my phone in case anything interesting happens in the interim

I need to browse my other website, which is hosted in Canada. on the deep web.
posted by Going To Maine at 5:08 PM on September 25, 2015 [6 favorites]


Ruki: I absolutely don't want to challenge your own experience. As a man I know microaggressions against women are usually invisible to me. But I have read a lot of posts on this site and at least in recent history the pattern I see is you get one or two clueless posters making iffy statements, then a pile-on, then they're gone. I don't see these #NotAllMenners that seem to be acting in bad faith. Of course you have no obligation to provide examples -- and I know there's a long history of women providing examples of problems to men and men downplaying or litigating the examples so I completely understand any hesitance you might have to be more specific -- but from my perspective as someone who wants to see the problem, examples of bad faith actors would be useful.
posted by yes i am a bisexual man at 5:14 PM on September 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have read a lot of posts on this site and at least in recent history the pattern I see is you get one or two clueless posters making iffy statements, then a pile-on, then they're gone.

Speaking as a woman who's been reading MeFi for many years, your impression of how threads go is very, very different from mine.
posted by Lexica at 5:25 PM on September 25, 2015 [30 favorites]


The reality is that I can hear and understand and sympathize with requests for policy changes here that I nonetheless can't agree with. And most of that is a matter of degree rather than substance, and when a key part of the request is The Mods Need To Do More I need to be clear about where we are and to understand clearly what specifically folks envision that More being.

I don't think these things necessarily follow. You can totally sit back and let people other than the initial poster weigh in on the subject before responding. You have your idea of where the mods are at, but if you let other people share their experiences you might have a different sense of how moderation is actually working. Just adding my vote to the idea that the current pattern of mods being the first to respond in every Metatalk is a weird construct and I think it would be beneficial to let things breathe and then weigh in with a response to the community rather than just the initial post.
posted by one_bean at 5:27 PM on September 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


but from my perspective as someone who wants to see the problem, examples of bad faith actors would be useful.

Iif you're going to ask for cites, however politely, I think might be nice to see some of your own cites of threads where you thought merely 'iffy" statements led to pile-ons that chased people away from the site.
posted by tonycpsu at 5:29 PM on September 25, 2015 [8 favorites]


GenjiandProust, I like your idea about an Ask me anything Meta. I felt completely out of my depth in that thread and found the whole idea of emotional labour rather baffling, which bothered me quite a bit as I really did want to understand. The discussion was moving so fast and seemed to be mostly focused on long-term cohabiting relationships, so I decided to bookmark it for later. (The Wikipedia page was on academic definitions and the service industry, which was interesting) I did briefly consider asking some 101 level clarifications to help get a handle on things, but it quickly became apparent that anything I added would be all "BEEP BOOP WHAT IS THIS THING YOU CALL 'LOVE' HYOOMAN."
posted by Freelance Demiurge at 5:39 PM on September 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


Respectfully, I'm going to decline to cite, as the MeTa post I was referring to is over 1600 comments long. I do agree with your understanding that the microaggressions would be largely invisible to you. I appreciate the effort you're making, I really do, so I would like to gently point something out to you. When you say the Taylor Swift comment is "a little gross" despite a thread of women saying, "nope, not harmless, totally sexist and here's why" and then you, albeit politely, ask for a cite when a woman speaks of her own experience on the site, you're contributing to the problem. I'm sure you don't mean to, but you won't know unless you know, right? I'm pointing this out because you seem really sincere in wanting to learn.
posted by Ruki at 5:41 PM on September 25, 2015 [31 favorites]


but from my perspective as someone who wants to see the problem, examples of bad faith actors would be useful.

If you're going to ask for cites, however politely, I think might be nice to see some of your own cites of threads where you thought merely 'iffy" statements led to pile-ons that chased people away from the site.

Okay, right here? Right here is where derails often begin. There will be no agreement between subjective experiences of the site. Let’s take it as given that MetaFilter has a history of handling pile-ons in a lot of different ways, and that there are many folks who don’t consider it a safe space. The weeds seem like a bad place to go if the question is how we should change site-wide responses to bad behavior.
posted by Going To Maine at 5:44 PM on September 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


there are many folks who don’t consider it a safe space

All of the folks don't consider it a safe space. In fact, the mods have specifically said--repeatedly--that it isn't a safe space.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:45 PM on September 25, 2015 [12 favorites]


Freelance Demiurge - it's worth checking out Arlie Hochschild's original paper. I may or may not have a copy I may or may not be able to find a way to share with you if you MeMail me (but probably yes and yes).
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:49 PM on September 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


Iif you're going to ask for cites, however politely, I think might be nice to see some of your own cites of threads where you thought merely 'iffy" statements led to pile-ons that chased people away from the site.

hoopo, just now?
posted by andrewcooke at 6:05 PM on September 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


hoopo, just now?

Everyone knows the rules are different on MetaTalk, and that at least one person is required to button or the MeTa can't be closed. Hoopo was just taking one for the team and getting it out of the way early.
posted by tonycpsu at 6:07 PM on September 25, 2015


> hoopo, just now?

Is that how you interpret what cortex said?

> Hoopo sent me a note to say he just needed a break and wanted to not accidentally get into a fight on a Friday afternoon.
posted by rtha at 6:17 PM on September 25, 2015 [13 favorites]


Lots to unpack here.

I wish this thread didn't have the multi-paragraph mod response right at the start, before anyone in the community even got to weigh in.

I must agree with Dialethia here. I totally appreciate mods may feel a little "damned if you do, damned if don't" in this regard, but I do think it's important that users get an opportunity to absorb, analyse, respond before the official "mod line" is delivered. Again, this isn't a ding on you, Cortex, but it is a style of engagement I often see you use in Metas. Whilst the desire to appear responsive and substantive is very commendable, I feel it can at times come off as defensive, rigid, and in some ways dismissive of users because it can read to me as if you are sometimes saying "we're aware of it, we are doing everything right currently. Thanks."

I think LobsterMitten does a great job of appearing responsive, whilst still consultative (and concise!), if we're looking at a behaviour to model.

My question is whether we, as a community, see this happening elsewhere, or if the emotional labor thread is so touted as fantastic in part because it is an exception to how conversations normally go here. It would be good for the mods to more authoritatively take stances on What Is Okay according to the community?

On to the subject of the thread itself. I wish you had been able to provide some examples of where you think this not is happening, Shakes. I, too, am not in every thread, every day, but I honestly feel like since that thread - and throughout the year as a whole - the mods have genuinely been more responsive, more clear, more active in contentious threads, and faster to shut them down.

I grant not only my participation, but my gender, does limit how much I see and/or register. But by the same token, I don't think it's really fair to hold the mods up to the infallible standard of getting it right, every single time. Not only is this is possible, but it presupposes that "right" is always clear cut - and it's not clear cut at all times, despite the oversimplification of 'are you for sexism, or against it'?

(a personal example, I really struggle with Joe In Australia's behaviour in any thread that can be tangentially connected to I/P issues or Zionism. I have repeatedly engaged the mods about it, but they kindly reminded me of the threads where many Jewism mefites said they felt the site could be anti-semitic/hostile to Jews, and that they felt Joe represented users that otherwise don't comment, but participated in that thread. I disagreed then and now, but I appreciate their perspective and willingness to take the broader community's feelings into context. "For or Against" has a lot of edge cases).

This tension between opposing parties, neither necessarily wrong, is especially apparent when there is a minority of quality users who feel cowed or stifled, or reluctant to disagree on topics for fear of being shouted down. Not the end of the world, no not at all, but I for one would not be so hasty to dismiss all those mefites as 'the usual suspects' - they're not. There are some thoughtful, genuine, articulate and interesting mefites of many years good standing voicing these opinions, and I think it's unfair and unkind to lump them in with genuinely abhorrent blow-ins.

And the mods, I think, are trying not to do that, and trying to listen to their concerns, as well.

So I guess in summary: I don't feel we should judge the mods to a "perfect" standard; I personally feel it's indisputable that mods have been more active and conscientious this year - in banning long-term problematic users like Thatfuzzybastard, for example; in jumping into threads early and often to keep discussion on track, to post up and respond to metas quickly and sincerely; to shut down derails and pile-ons more actively. They must always balance the needs of a diverse community.

Could we improve? Probably. But I personally feel the trend-line is headed in the right direction, moreover when you consider the huge challenges the site and metafilter business has had during this period, including resourcing issues, I think it's a real achievement mods and users alike can be proud of.
posted by smoke at 7:05 PM on September 25, 2015 [11 favorites]


i don't really understand what people who don't want threads full of everyone agreeing but also want some sort of limit to what they define as dogpiling. if you want rigorous debate, then when someone says that women with lower back tattoos are open to anal, well, that's going to be met with a reaction. is it better for comments like that to just be deleted? i think it is. but if you're arguing that sort of different perspective should stand (yes i realize it's an extreme example but one that did stand and people were accused of dogpiling), how many people are allowed to respond before it's a dogpile? and if you limit that, aren't you artificially limiting the debating you want to see?

from my side it often reads as 'people should be able to debate, but if the opinion is unpopular enough, only 0-5 people should be allowed to respond before it becomes bullying' - and i gotta say, that's gonna get a hard no from me. if people want to complain that men aren't allowed to even approach women when women say they don't like street harassment or being propositioned at their job, then they're going to have to hear how it feels for women when we're harassed in this way and it's going to be a lot of responses because a lot of women don't like being harassed in that way.

if you want the original comment to stand, the person who makes it has to be up for the response. when instead it gets characterized as some sort of feminist cabal eager to score points by dogpiling, it frames it as only one side of the debate is ok inversely based on how many people agree with it.
posted by nadawi at 7:19 PM on September 25, 2015 [56 favorites]


I read the first couple of posts, and went on to something else. I'm sure that reading other people's experiences is very interesting and validating and comforting for some people, but I'm not always looking for those sorts of stories on Metafilter.

I want to respond to this idea, not the person who said it.

Most of the internet is other peoples' experiences. Sometimes we dress it up as ideas, as lists, as theories and opinions and arguments - but fundamentally it's all about other peoples' experiences and assumptions. The motivation behind picking apart other peoples' arguments is a very personal one, and comes from a certain perspective, as does the motivation to validate others and connect.

I'm seeing a recurring repeat of a combination of several ideas - a limited audience finds "validating and comforting" interactions valuable, if one can't question basic premises discussions become "an echo chamber", and aggressive interactions lead to more broadly valuable discussions which are of interest to more people than discussions like the EL thread.

I disagree with all of these premises. I think most people want to be validated and comforted, and that one of the barriers to understanding systemic discrimination is that realizing you've benefited from other peoples' suffering is invalidating and discomforting (ask me sometime about the summer after I finally saw racism clearly). I think that questioning basic premises can be entirely knee-jerk and simplistic, and while sometimes warranted it often is not (it's been centuries since Pascal's Wager was either original or an indication of diverse opinions). I think aggressive interactions often mask insecurity and fear of being wrong, and cause more problems than they solve.

But I don't know that there are arguments that could convince someone who really disagreed with me that they were wrong. People in general, myself included, dislike considering the fact that we're often wrong.

More practically, I think Cortex and the moderation team have already picked their position, and are unlikely to be shifted on it in the moment since we're still really seeing how this will all fall out. Changes in moderation led to the EL thread not being derailed by people claiming sending cards was pointless, and have been shaping other discussions away from the gratuitous reactions to women's bodies and other basic responses, and the deletion of pile-ons and outrage filter continue as they always did.

For myself, I want to make a MetaFilter where threads like the EL one - where ideas are shared, assumptions are questioned, and people learn to see the world through a different lens - become more common while the site remains open to the general public. Just recently I've had to rethink my assumptions about another member on here based on changes in our interactions, and I personally like that a lot.

I think if any place can do it, this one can.
posted by Deoridhe at 7:22 PM on September 25, 2015 [35 favorites]


and re: the el thread - i'm not saying everyone should read it or every thread should go exactly that way - i'm saying that a lack of debate doesn't mean you're creating a hugbox - it can mean you're allowing a space for a deeper conversation to happen.

for instance - i hate itunes with the passion of a 1000 suns - as such, i don't own any apple products - and so i skip all apple threads because a) i'm not that interested and b) all i would say is "itunes sucks and i don't understand how so many people have that shit installed as a requirement of owning the piece of hardware you want" - and sure, that would start a debate, but is it a useful debate? i don't think so, so i find threads where i can get a better engagement for myself and the site.

i wish some people who often find themselves at odds in feminism/racism/etc threads could consider the same thing - are you actually adding value or are you bugged that people aren't talking about how much some tiny niggling thing sucks? maybe the thread doesn't need that hot take.
posted by nadawi at 7:26 PM on September 25, 2015 [33 favorites]


Right, I would say that people need to be able to approach their comments with a sense of “Will it make the thread richer? Will it make the community richer?” & with the understanding that just tossing the proverbial turd in the punchbowl is the antithesis of that. If you’re going to disagree, make it count. How you imbue that in commenters, well, that’s million dollar question.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:29 PM on September 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think that's a great analogy, nadawi. When I was typing out my comment, I thought of equating it to when I'm in Survivor threads, and people are like "Survivor is stupid, I don't see the point" and how much I hate that and wish they would piss off to other threads. But then, I thought comparing my love for Survivor with the real-life struggles women and others on the site face, which is then represented in a thread, that it could be trivialising things! Like, if I get pissed off about survivor derails, women who are victims of sexism every day must be apoplectic with rage.

This is not to say that informed disagreement should be verboten, and I think that can perception can be there sometimes, incorrectly or no.
posted by smoke at 7:33 PM on September 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


fwiw i flag every single "i hate this show/band/website" comment that brings literally nothing else to the table - like when it's obvious that they just read the word of the thing they hated and then came into the thread to share only that opinion, to me it's a classic derail and one that makes the site substantially worse because there's no way to respond to that or fold it into the conversation that is already happening. i also flag comments where in the first 10 comments they say "ugh. i couldn't even get 2 minutes in because i hated his tone" or whatever - like, so? if you're so proud of not engaging with the post that you have to rush in to say it, i'd rather you tweet it or scream it into the void rather than trying to shit up a thread from go.
posted by nadawi at 7:38 PM on September 25, 2015 [32 favorites]


(the general you - not you specifically, obviously)
posted by nadawi at 7:38 PM on September 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you’re going to disagree, make it count.

Yes, yes this! I try to keep this sort of thing in mind when I comment in a thread I disagree with, especially one where I am one of a few people commenting disagreement and my feelings run counter to the current of the discussion. I often use a format that goes, basically, "Yes, but..." and try to say something like "I get what you're saying/I see why you feel that way, but I think that there's something else going on here. Let me elaborate."

And that works really well for me! There have a been a few conversations where that kind of delicate "I feel you, but I'm uncomfortable with this because X" disagreements meant I got to have a conversation that made me think and stretched my comfort zone while also not bogging the discussion down in grar too much.

Another vein of kneejerk disbelieving comment that really gets up my nose is when someone posts something about their experiences and someone else feels the need to wade in and list all the ways that the first person's experience is irrelevant/uncommon/probably didn't happen for the reasons Person 1 thinks and generally explain it out of the conversation. I find that just really discourages people coming in to share their perspectives, because who has the energy for that?
posted by sciatrix at 7:46 PM on September 25, 2015 [25 favorites]


fwiw i flag every single "i hate this show/band/website" comment that brings literally nothing else to the table

Yeah,and that doesn't mean no negative comments, just don't be dismissive and content free if you are being critical.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:47 PM on September 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


I want to reiterate what my position is, which is that I think Metafilter is already an extremely safe space for women and queer people, and that I support mods deleting even vaguely questionable comments to avoid the otherwise inevitable dogpiles that cause bad feelings and prevent better discussions from happening. Furthermore I think that trying to figure out how to make Metafilter an even safer space for these groups is a lost cause because there's no way to do it without changing the fundamental nature of Metafilter as a discussion forum open to the general public.

You can see that I put my money where my mouth is in my post here, which is an extremely detailed personal history and description of me coming out as bi and my ongoing challenges. I was a little nervous posting it but I felt safe enough to do so and indeed the community was welcoming. (Or maybe no one read it.)

tonycpsu: "Iif you're going to ask for cites, however politely, I think might be nice to see some of your own cites of threads where you thought merely 'iffy" statements led to pile-ons that chased people away from the site."

I think it's self-evident that a new user who gets piled-on after making a clueless comment will be more likely to leave the site than if their comment were deleted with a quick, polite note from the mods.

Ruki: "Respectfully, I'm going to decline to cite, as the MeTa post I was referring to is over 1600 comments long."

That is absolutely understandable.

Ruki: "When you say the Taylor Swift comment is "a little gross" despite a thread of women saying, "nope, not harmless, totally sexist and here's why" and then you, albeit politely, ask for a cite when a woman speaks of her own experience on the site, you're contributing to the problem."

My understanding of the Taylor Swift thing was that a male user made an unnecessary reference to Taylor Swift's legs while talking about something unrelated to her physical appearance. The user then was silly enough to make a MetaTalk about it and dig a bigger hole for himself. Please correct me if that is not what essentially happened.

I'm sorry if I implied that the original comment was not totally sexist. It was totally sexist and should have been deleted. However on the scale of sexist comments, a gratuitous leg reference might be called "a little gross" contrasted with, say, a Todd Akin "legitimate rape" comment. I definitely did not mean that the original comment was harmless fun and that boys will be boys.

My larger point is that what actually happened in that situation was that one guy made one dumb comment and then some dumb follow up comments, and in return the entire community rallied against him. To me that is a sign of an extremely safe space. I'm not sure what to do to make a safer space other than disallow general comments and turn Metafilter into, say, a curated blog.

In a discussion about whether Metafilter is a safe space, where I say it is and you say it isn't and refer to microaggressions, I don't feel that me asking once for examples is contributing to the problem. Now, if I kept asking you and turned into a sealion, then that would be contributing to the problem. I don't plan on doing that though. You may feel differently and I respect that though I would disagree. I also understand your caution especially since you have no idea who I am.

nadawi: "from my side it often reads as 'people should be able to debate, but if the opinion is unpopular enough, only 0-5 people should be allowed to respond before it becomes bullying' - and i gotta say, that's gonna get a hard no from me."

A problem is that a dogpile is unwinnable from the point of view of the person being piled on. One person makes a comment, gets six criticisms and tries to respond separately to each, and now each of their six responses will in turn be dissected and argued and require more responses and so on. It is not an effective discussion between the piled-on person and the group. Dogpiles just serve to make the piled-on person feel bad and to reinforce existing community norms.
posted by yes i am a bisexual man at 7:54 PM on September 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


(And yeah, requiring effort for criticism does require extra work sometimes as Diablevert pointed out. But well, this is a community and sometimes that means work. )
posted by Drinky Die at 7:56 PM on September 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was a little nervous posting it but I felt safe enough to do so and indeed the community was welcoming.

i respect that was your experience. i will say that i'm unfortunately at a different spot with it on a few things - for instance, i've always been very open about my history of sexual assault here, but i am at a point where i don't feel that safety any longer because of how some people respond to those stories with victim blaming and questioning and arguing about what constitutes a really bad rape. i think metafilter is far better than a lot of the internet but i don't think it's good enough.

A problem is that a dogpile is

it seems you favor deletion of comments that will inspire that sort of "dogpile," so i think we agree.
posted by nadawi at 8:03 PM on September 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


>this is a community

I guess that's debatable.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:04 PM on September 25, 2015


My larger point is that what actually happened in that situation was that one guy made one dumb comment and then some dumb follow up comments, and in return the entire community rallied against him.

One guy made two dumb comments, which were deleted in order to avoid a pileon. He then submitted a MeTa insisting that the community weigh in. The mods, as far as I understand, explained to him why his comments were deleted and told him that asking the community to weigh in was going to go badly. He still insisted the community weigh in. The community weighed in, saying they believed his deleted comments were sexist. He doubled down, several times, claiming that they were not sexist.

That is not at all the same thing as one clueless dude making some comments and the entire community coming down on him. In my mind, the original moderation worked very well (deleting his comments, which (a) kept everyone from having to read his gross comments and (b) kept him from getting piled on) and the subsequent MeTa was harmful to the community, in that it made his comments public consumption again and then opened up a debate on whether they were sexist, which tends to open the gates to more sexist comments.
posted by jaguar at 8:05 PM on September 25, 2015 [35 favorites]


A problem is that a dogpile is unwinnable from the point of view of the person being piled on.

I've found that "Remove from activity," is almost always a good solution when you dig yourself into a Metafilter "Kobayashi Maru."

It takes time to understand it is a good option and not some sort of surrender though. I've tried to encourage it in Metatalk a few times lately and unfortunately did not make headway with the posters in question.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:07 PM on September 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm really not trying to say that latter thing, I'm saying that I think the difference between where we are (continuing to work on being proactive to cut stuff off early, shut down bad patterns of behaivor, etc) and where I feel like some folks on the site who I otherwise agree with are (on what might fall under the knife and when and with what degree of severity) is probably not totally reconcilable, based on a lot of previous discussions we've had.

The reality is that I can hear and understand and sympathize with requests for policy changes here that I nonetheless can't agree with. And most of that is a matter of degree rather than substance, and when a key part of the request is The Mods Need To Do More I need to be clear about where we are and to understand clearly what specifically folks envision that More being. That in service of trying to make this stuff work practically, not in service of dismissing the idea that it's work worth doing.


Seriously, assholes. Stop telling this guy how to do his job. Maybe this place is what it is because you DIDN'T have any input on how the mods do their job.

I see these sort of backhanded compliments as insults. As if there was something more the mods could have done in the past, but they didn't. They're a bunch of metafilter mods, not the fucking LAPD.
posted by hal_c_on at 8:46 PM on September 25, 2015


Calling people assholes isn't really gonna improve the situation I don't think.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:51 PM on September 25, 2015 [21 favorites]


Sorry, what now? This has seemed to me to be a fairly low-key thread in terms of judging, with the only real mod criticism I've seen being "can we let the conversation go on a bit before we get a massive mod comment?" I'm not sure where you're getting calling everyone in the conversation a bunch of assholes here.
posted by sciatrix at 8:51 PM on September 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


....or what cortex said while I was baffledly looking for examples of people criticizing the mods/trying to tell them how to do their jobs. (As opposed to saying "Something I would like..." or something like that, which I think is pretty reasonable.)
posted by sciatrix at 8:53 PM on September 25, 2015


nadawi: "i think metafilter is far better than a lot of the internet but i don't think it's good enough."

I understand that sometimes a person is in a place where they just have zero tolerance for negativity on particular issues for their own mental health. Unfortunately I don't think that level of assurance is possible to have on a public discussion forum. Instead that calls more for like a close circle of friends or a therapist. In any case I hope you are finding the support you need.

nadawi: "it seems you favor deletion of comments that will inspire that sort of "dogpile," so i think we agree."

I strongly favor that, yes.

jaguar: "That is not at all the same thing as one clueless dude making some comments and the entire community coming down on him."

Either way my point is that basically the entire community is anti-sexist. Sexist comments are outliers and immediately either deleted or jumped on by everyone in the room. I think that's about as good as it can get for a public discussion forum.

jaguar: "...the subsequent MeTa was harmful to the community, in that it made his comments public consumption again and then opened up a debate on whether they were sexist, which tends to open the gates to more sexist comments."

Anyone who is extremely sensitive to comments supporting [horrible thing] should avoid MeTa threads that discuss [horrible thing], because MeTas are where people are allowed to ask "Can I say [comment supporting horrible thing]?"
posted by yes i am a bisexual man at 8:57 PM on September 25, 2015


in that it made his comments public consumption again

That was, as far as I could tell, the entire point of that worthless post. There really needs to be more substance to a post than just a sneaky way to get deleted comments reposted and discussed.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:00 PM on September 25, 2015 [9 favorites]


MeTas are also the place where the community weighs in on whether things are horrible or not. It's important that people who believe certain things are horrible make sure that their voices are heard. That's the entire mechanism for the site becoming better at avoiding horrible things.
posted by jaguar at 9:00 PM on September 25, 2015 [10 favorites]


I understand that sometimes a person is in a place where they just have zero tolerance for negativity on particular issues for their own mental health. Unfortunately I don't think that level of assurance is possible to have on a public discussion forum. Instead that calls more for like a close circle of friends or a therapist. In any case I hope you are finding the support you need.

zero negativity is in no way what i was discussing - it is not at all what i expect. this comes off has incredibly condescending and honestly pretty fucked up. i think we have to be done discussing it together.
posted by nadawi at 9:02 PM on September 25, 2015 [48 favorites]


Anyone who is extremely sensitive to comments supporting [horrible thing] should avoid MeTa threads that discuss [horrible thing], because MeTas are where people are allowed to ask "Can I say [comment supporting horrible thing]?"

Also, I am not "extremely sensitive" to such comments, which is one of the main reasons that I do comment in MeTa or speak up against such comments, because I know that I can stomach them more than many members of marginalized/oppressed groups. They still make me tired and upset and frustrated with the site. And asking the people most affected by the comments to avoid conversations about whether such comments are acceptable would skew the conversations in bad directions.
posted by jaguar at 9:03 PM on September 25, 2015 [19 favorites]


I'd just like to say, as someone who was very vocally and ardently advocating for more mod notes and explicitnesshen deleting of shitty, prejudiced/bigoted comments and for more steering of threads going into sketchy, hostile places: you guys have been fucking amazing, really great and done a terrific job. Even though there have been individual cases where I personally disagreed with modding or would have liked to see more, I think the change in general has been a really good one. LobsterMitten in particular is the absolute MVP, but you're all All-Stars, and I'm really super happy and grateful you guys rolled with suggestions that were pretty contentious and unpopular at the time, I think the results have been excellent and you guys have been doing a terrific job. Thank you.

In response to basically all of shakespeherian's suggestions, on a policy level more than a generally philosophical one: no thanks, I'm good.

At the end of the day this: which (IMO) lends ammunition to those who like to levy charges of “groupthink” or “echo chamber” is bullshit and should not be a concern and doesn't need to be a concern and being concerned with it is a step backwards. If you're the kind of person who thinks twenty comments of "that comment you made about a woman's body was sexist" is an echo chamber and not a bunch of people disagreeing with you, personally I'm not interested in catering to you and I'm not interested in a site that tries to coddle you, either, especially since it always seems to come from the people with the most regressive views.

I actually wind up arguing with "other members" of the supposed echo chamber a whole lot, because despite what the conspiracy theorists think, there's really not a hivemind going on here. Sometimes it's pretty contentious, too, and to be fair sometimes I do roll my eyes at threads so hard my eyes nearly fall out of my head. But I'm not fragile enough to need to frame every disagreement, even when I'm clearly a minority viewpoint, as me bravely standing up against a mindless orthodoxy and being shouted down, and I have nothing but contempt for people who act like that, and I don't think catering to them is a good idea. It's especially laughable when they also drone on and on and fucking interminably on about how they like "disagreement and debate". In the context of the issues that this centers around, especially the boyzone stuff, when you look at the inherent contradiction in "this place is an echo chamber! needs more debate and less people agreeing with each other!" and "omg stop dogpiling and persecuting ~minority viewpoints~", that the concern really isn't vigorous debate, or whatever, it's a bunch of people freaking out that they're in the minority for once, and they absolutely cannot hack it, and that means there must be something wrong with everyone else. Balls to that and people who think like that.

Either way my point is that basically the entire community is anti-sexist.

Assuming your handle is an accurate description, that really is not anything like your call to make, and in point of fact, you are completely wrong. It's not "basically the entire community" when there's a really visible, not insubstantial number of users who basically think the days of "I'd hit that" were halcyon and are incapable of not reminding the rest of us in every single thread that ever touches on the subject. I don't care if those dudes (and the occasional woman) call themselves feminists, or progressives, or anti-sexist, whatever they want to call themselves. There's a fair number of MeFites who hold sexist views and views that are pointedly anti-feminist.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 9:03 PM on September 25, 2015 [24 favorites]


And I *am* a therapist and I think the idea that people should only have reasonable assurance not to encounter sexism/homophobia/racism/transphobia/ableism/etc-ism in a therapist's office is a really fucked up idea.
posted by jaguar at 9:04 PM on September 25, 2015 [38 favorites]


I want to reiterate what my position is, which is that I think Metafilter is already an extremely safe space for women and queer people,

No. And a forty-fucking-eight hour old account proclaiming this is laughable.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:18 PM on September 25, 2015 [34 favorites]


And I'm sorry to do this across multiple comments, but "Instead that calls more for like a close circle of friends or a therapist. In any case I hope you are finding the support you need" is exactly the sort of thing that I think the moderators need to call out more often. It assumes that anyone offended by racist/sexist/etc-ist comments is so fragile as to be mentally ill, rather than simply being a compassionate human being, and it assumes that anyone who is mentally ill is incapable of participating as a full member of the site. It also invokes the stereotype that members of marginalized groups are overly emotional and irrational for being upset at their own subjugation.
posted by jaguar at 9:19 PM on September 25, 2015 [78 favorites]


No. And a forty-fucking-eight hour old account proclaiming this is laughable.

But its 48 hours of safe space!
posted by hal_c_on at 9:22 PM on September 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I understand that sometimes a person is in a place where they just have zero tolerance for negativity on particular issues for their own mental health. Unfortunately I don't think that level of assurance is possible to have on a public discussion forum. Instead that calls more for like a close circle of friends or a therapist. In any case I hope you are finding the support you need.

This is extremely condescending. And it's not the first time that one commenter has used another commenter's candidness about their personal history against them in an attempt to score points.

This is an example of the kind of subtle (to some) but grinding and draining (to others) exchange that keeps happening and which the mods don't seem to consider worth addressing.
posted by Lexica at 9:24 PM on September 25, 2015 [35 favorites]


No. And a forty-fucking-eight hour old account proclaiming this is laughable.

I feel like there should be some kind of mandatory disclosure policy when people pull this shit. If you want a BND, by all means have a BND, but this kind of stuff happens again and again and I think the mods need to start outing people who do it so it will stop. Either unbutton and reveal yourself or respect the BND. If you participated in threads like this before as someone else, it's completely shitty to do this, both to the people you're arguing with and people who temporarily disable their accounts or whatever.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 9:25 PM on September 25, 2015 [17 favorites]


Hoopo is a perfectly good example, because I think there are a ton of people who do temporarily button in good faith, for various lengths of time, and this kind of crap fucks it up for them in a big way.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 9:27 PM on September 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Outing is not something I can get behind, but I think you can either have your history or you can BND but not both. If you're going to front up as an expert on MF culture, you have to own your past here.
posted by gingerest at 9:29 PM on September 25, 2015 [17 favorites]


Yeah, outing is a terrible idea.
posted by lalex at 9:43 PM on September 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


i'm not for outing but i am for big bright lines about how socks/bnds can interact in metatalk.
posted by nadawi at 9:45 PM on September 25, 2015 [11 favorites]


Instead that calls more for like a close circle of friends or a therapist. In any case I hope you are finding the support you need.

This feels like kind of a crappy direction to take this; I think disagreeing about the bounds of moderation is something people can reasonably do without invoking the notion of like therapy or inherent fragility or whatever as the reason for that disagreement.

If you want a BND, by all means have a BND, but this kind of stuff happens again and again and I think the mods need to start outing people who do it so it will stop.

Outing is definitely 100% not going to happen, no. Acknowledging the weird "you are acting like someone who has spent more time here than your join date suggests" frisson of these things, doable, and I think that's sort of clear here and I think it's often problematic at best and sometimes more than that. And when someone appears to be actively fucking with people in that respect, we'll deal with it behind the scenes and comment about it to the extent that's workable.

But there's also a difference between commenting with a new account while heavily implying or explicitly claiming to be brand new, and just commenting with a new account, and we don't tell people that they need to pretend to be literally unfamiliar with MetaFilter if they change to a new account. We just expect them to not carry in old grudges and interpersonal shit, or repeat old bad behaviors associated with a previous account, if there's any of that. And disagreements or annoyances about specific interactions notwithstanding, the repeating-bad-behavior stuff is something we need people to trust us to manage on the back end if it's happening and not assume that someone's acting in bad faith just because they've changed usernames for one or another reason. Just because some folks have been crappy about BND stuff in the past doesn't mean every time a person has a new account they're behaving crappily with respect to that.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:47 PM on September 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


No. And a forty-fucking-eight hour old account proclaiming this is laughable.

You don't need an account to read this site and absorb its norms.
posted by Freelance Demiurge at 9:53 PM on September 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


Assuming your handle is an accurate description
-
I feel like there should be some kind of mandatory disclosure policy when people pull this shit.


I feel like there is something going on here the rest of us are not aware of. Do you have some reason to believe " yes i am a bisexual man" is not being honest about their identity?
posted by Drinky Die at 9:56 PM on September 25, 2015


The only time for me it gets really weird with the BND thing is when someone shows up and goes beyond just intimating that they've been around the site for a really long time by picking a bone with a particular user. That has always felt super unfair to me. But merely knowing that a person is a BND doesn't really freak me. It's like they're announcing their BND status/change of username by proclaiming their familiarity with the site. And I just kinda think, "well okay then." And there's no real reason for me to think that it's not a user I liked under their previous iteration, anyway.
posted by MoonOrb at 10:03 PM on September 25, 2015


I think bisexual man's theoretical previous incarnation on this site is less troubling than the fact that he's only shown up on my radar for lecturing women about how they should respond to sexist men.
posted by maxsparber at 10:05 PM on September 25, 2015 [50 favorites]


Which I mention because I think that's precisely the sort of behavior this MeTa is concerned with.
posted by maxsparber at 10:06 PM on September 25, 2015 [12 favorites]


I feel like there is something going on here the rest of us are not aware of. Do you have some reason to believe " yes i am a bisexual man" is not being honest about their identity?

No, you're reaching. I wasn't the first person to notice the reg date and I won't be the last, either.

As for the rest of it, I don't give one single flying, flaming fuck what any dude thinks about the status of anything or anywhere as a safe space for women, and in general I expect them to keep it to themselves if they want to be taken seriously as "feminist" or "allies" or "anti-sexist", or whatever type of political purity they want to claim for themselves in relation to women's issues. Also, in as much as "queer" covers a lot of ground, I'm only willing to cede the authority to declare something queer-friendly or a safe space in as much as it touches on his own personal set of demographics, just like I as a cis lesbian really don't get to opine about how safe trans men should feel on MeFi or how well the community is doing for their issues.

I mean, people within these groups can certainly disagree, obviously, and that doesn't invalidate either person, but people who aren't members of the groups in question just flat out shouldn't be voicing an opinion on the matter. If you're not the kind of person whose feeling of safety in a space is in question, I think it's incumbent on you to shut the hell up if you want to treat the people you'd otherwise be speaking for (or over) with respect. I've fucked this up myself, but it's really a very basic principle.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 10:08 PM on September 25, 2015 [21 favorites]


Right, I was more getting at the "assume" part. It seemed to me like you may have been suggesting there was some doubt they are male or bisexual, then when you talked about the BND stuff it sounded like you may know the person. Thanks for clarifying what you meant for me, I'll shut up on that now.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:25 PM on September 25, 2015


Re the MeTa queue: I'm a bit mystified as to why this MeTa from NoraReed didn't make it through. I asked about it at the time and was told that there were framing problems, but this seems to me like a pretty sane and thoughtful discussion prompt about sexism issues.
posted by lalex at 10:27 PM on September 25, 2015 [10 favorites]


Right, I was more getting at the "assume" part.

I try not to make assumptions about gender/orientation/whatever even on really, blindingly obvious handles, just because of the overall tradition of like, artistic incoherence or whatever. I mean, in retrospect I think my handle is surprisingly telling about me personally, but it wasn't intended that way and I assume most people's are basically half dorky in-joke, half conceptual art. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 10:30 PM on September 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


NP, that was a misread on my part not your fault.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:31 PM on September 25, 2015


I think there is a Metafilter problem in general where it's the done thing to question the premises of posts. You see this all the time in science posts where within the first 10 comments someone will drop in with the stunningly helpful and original observation that "correlation doesn't equal causation!!!!". If a post is "Coffee mugs throughout history" I feel confident that someone straight away will be like "One has no handle is it even a mug though? Also define 'history.'" This is part of site culture on Metafilter regardless of the content of the post. I think it is for the most part a bad part of site culture. Not because I think questioning things is bad. I think it's great to question things. But it seems like it's often done out of contrarianism confusing itself for critical thinking. Unlike true critical thinking, it illuminates nothing and is helpful to no one (other than I suppose the person who asked it to feel themselves a very clever iconoclast and mentally give themselves high fives?).

I think where this becomes hurtful to the community rather than just an annoying quirk of the community is when it runs up against things like sexism or peoples lived experiences. "But did that really happen?" may seem like a benign question to ask but its really not if you understand anything at all about how women's experiences are usually handled which is generally to be told you are imagining this or are a liar.

I don't get the argument that vigorously disagreeing about things is the only form of communication that's worthy and if a debate isn't happening then we are all on Camazotz and shall all bounce our balls at the same time. Like ostensibly the people saying this have conversations offline all the time that do not consist of people saying "Nuh uh!" "Yes huh!". Most of casual human interactions are not debates. They're just people saying shit, not rigorously logical exchanges of facts. This seems a bit of a stupid binary anyways - do people actually think that there are two poles of human interaction where there is "disagreement" which is logical and noble and there is like "the hugs box" where we all just hug?

The other issue I have with people wanting "debate" in threads about sexism, is that even ignoring how shitty it is to have your personal experiences become a topic of abstraction, and even ignoring how historically this is presented as a neutral way of interacting when really it's about undermining...there's also the fact that the proponents of "debate" are just, frankly like really bad at debating. Debate is not wandering into a topic you either know nothing about first hand, or that you think is stupid, and saying "I know nothing about this! Also it's stupid!" If you do this the people you are speaking with, who are not stupid, can tell that you do not actually want to question things and be challenged and learn, you just want to say shit and then when people clap back at you repeat yourself over and over like you're being clever. You are not being clever when you do this, and no one is fooled by it. And it again adds nothing and helps no one.
posted by supercrayon at 10:38 PM on September 25, 2015 [45 favorites]


I'm a bit mystified as to why this MeTa from NoraReed didn't make it through.

I'm not. She grounded it in callouts of individual users (including me, for "mansplaining" a test I knew about because I asked my doc about it for myself [a female smoker]. I'm not saying that was necessarily my best day, it's true that I was way off on another emotional planet than most people were, but my motivation, and as far as I can tell, actual words, had zero to do with sexism. I think that could be true of a number of the other comments she chose. Saying something slightly dickish or emotionally off doesn't make you a sexist, necessarily (a bit thick or clumsy, yes).
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:50 PM on September 25, 2015 [12 favorites]


I have a history of mental illness and am in therapy. I've been working through a rough patch recently in my own life and I guess I was projecting my own situation when I referred to a need for zero negativity. I'm not exactly sure where recent posters think I was coming from but I was trying to be compassionate and empathetic from my own experience.

I have been a long time reader of this site but this isn't my first or even second account, however I closed my immediately previous account a long time ago and it wasn't particularly distinguished. If I were "outed" you'd be like, oh it's some random account from way back with a handful of comments. Okay.

I closed my last account after I wrote some stuff that was really personal to me and was essentially dogpiled. I was not in a good place at the time and lost sleep for several days because of how upset I was at how that discussion went.

After leaving I swore off the site. Time went by and eventually I started to visit again more and more regularly. Lately I've been struggling with personal issues and part of me trying to overcome them has been to try to reach out to people and make friends. I've also been trying to come to better terms with my sexuality. So I saw the recent post on Bisexual Awareness Week and was like, you know what, I'm going to make a post about me.

And now it's two days later and there's all sorts of nasty stuff about me, that I'm fucked up, condescending, a living sign of some problem the mods won't address, possibly lying about being bisexual etc. I really challenge anyone to look at any of the comments I've made and say, yes, what you said here was definitely a bad thing and you deserve all of that.

I think it's really unfortunate that this is how it's gone this time around. I've really gotten a lot out of this site and you can see in the first comment in my history that I praise it for being a great resource. But this is literally my 15th comment on this account and I'm already doing this bullshit. Damn it.
posted by yes i am a bisexual man at 10:54 PM on September 25, 2015 [9 favorites]


/ehug if wanted


Don't leave again please. Think about what was said here and look for any lessons you might need to hear. Try and shrug off the negativity. If it's all too much remove the thread from activity, go on with your life and be a welcome member of this site in the threads where there is less you can't see eye to eye on.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:00 PM on September 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


i reject the reframing of my comment as nasty.
posted by nadawi at 11:15 PM on September 25, 2015 [37 favorites]


Re the MeTa queue: I'm a bit mystified as to why this MeTa from NoraReed didn't make it through. I asked about it at the time and was told that there were framing problems, but this seems to me like a pretty sane and thoughtful discussion prompt about sexism issues.

+1, I'm also pretty curious about this one. If we can handle that Post Deletions considered rediculous low-content MeTa, and if we can host the Emotional Labor thread (even if it's apparently a one-off that some people are worried about there being too much more like it), we can surely handle Too Much Boyzone.

Let's do this. The status quo has been steadily driving users off from nastiness being allowed to persist in the name of keeping-the-peace. The MeTa was already written up, so we're good to go. Let's go through the work for making a better Metafilter on this regard.
posted by CrystalDave at 11:30 PM on September 25, 2015 [8 favorites]


I have been wondering what was wrong with that MeTa of NoraReed's since she tweeted it. Obviously we can't just have a thread about it now, since she's buttoned and it is her intellectual property, but I think we could talk about what she raised as part of the greater discussion in this thread.
posted by gingerest at 11:38 PM on September 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'll ask a couple of things here: 1) that we not have that Metatalk by proxy here, and 2) that we don't make this personal about NoraReed or the people she points out.

Cortex wrote her a long explanation of why there were problems with the post, and rather than speak for him, I'll let him weigh in the morning, since he's just had a 16-hour shift and is maybe sleeping by now. I'll summarize briefly that the combination of calling out specific members' comments, then asking that people not debate whether those comments are sexist is unworkable, and the main thrust of "here are examples of sexist comments" plus "we need more banning people" is a problem in that we don't want a huge angry Metatalk about the idea of banning/not banning these members, or people coming up with their personal competing lists of who they think should be banned, etc. That's not something that going to be productive and definitely the sort of Metatalk that we aren't going to okay as-is.
posted by taz (staff) at 11:55 PM on September 25, 2015 [13 favorites]


>And I'm sorry to do this across multiple comments, but "Instead that calls more for like a close circle of friends or a therapist. In any case I hope you are finding the support you need" is exactly the sort of thing that I think the moderators need to call out more often. It assumes that anyone offended by racist/sexist/etc-ist comments is so fragile as to be mentally ill, rather than simply being a compassionate human being, and it assumes that anyone who is mentally ill is incapable of participating as a full member of the site.

Wait, what?--therapy isn't just for the mentally ill. At all. Like, for real. Yikes.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 11:57 PM on September 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


That's not something that going to be productive and definitely the sort of Metatalk that we aren't going to okay as-is.

OK. I think I thought that the idea behind having a MeTa queue was to make sure there was enough staff available to respond, and also to give mods some time to formulate responses to the issues raised by MeTa posts, and maybe to have discussions with the posters.

Now it feels like MeTa posts can just be blocked...what do the mods think the purpose of the queue is?
posted by lalex at 12:14 AM on September 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


We block posts that we would have closed anyway. In this instance we would have closed it with a note that it needs some reworking.
posted by taz (staff) at 12:18 AM on September 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am going to step out now, but NoraReed's post didn't need any reworking. It's absurd to think we should be able to talk about sexism on MetaFilter without linking to examples.
posted by lalex at 12:20 AM on September 26, 2015 [13 favorites]


We can discuss examples if we are talking about what comments should / shouldn't be deleted. The Metatalk as presented asked that we not discuss those comments, as well as making the argument that we should be banning people more, which suggests an implicit connection between the people who made the cited comments and the people we should be banning, and this isn't a manageable way to discuss either issue.
posted by taz (staff) at 12:31 AM on September 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


The Metatalk as presented asked that we not discuss those comments, as well as making the argument that we should be banning people more, which suggests an implicit connection between the people who made the cited comments and the people we should be banning, and this isn't a manageable way to discuss either issue.

I sort of... agree with the premise of that meta? If it WAS about those comments, it would just turn in to an energy sucking buttmess rules lawyering over the comments. As a more general "this kind of behavior" thing it could actually go somewhere.


Man, I haven’t read the emotional labor thead, and I’m never going to. You know why? BECAUSE IT’S LITERALLY MORE THAN A THOUSAND PAGES LONG. And because, as apparently cathartic as that thread was for everyone, it results in comments like the one above that read as smug and superior to the folks who didn’t.

I’m glad people got something out of it, and I certainly agree with the end of having better, kinder conversations. People loved it for a reason. But the read-this-thread-and-be-cured atmosphere has made me want to NOPE out of it forever.


I did read the whole thing, and found it extremely valuable/affirming/eye opening/having a david foster wallace "what the hell is water" quality.

And yea, i really hate that it's become the thread-all-must-read and i groan most of the times i see it linked in a one or two sentence pot shot on the green.

It's a serious commitment, there are entire popular novels significantly shorter than that thread. Sometimes multiple novels in a series back to back. The calls to sit down and read it, and the omg you didn't read it stuff just grind my gears.

I really wish there was like, an abridged highlights/best of version kinda structured to encourage people to want to read the whole thing. It took me days to read.
posted by emptythought at 2:57 AM on September 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


I really wish there was like, an abridged highlights/best of version kinda structured to encourage people to want to read the whole thing. It took me days to read.

It's actually being worked on. I'm sure it will hit the gray once it's done.
posted by Deoridhe at 3:15 AM on September 26, 2015 [25 favorites]


condescending, a living sign of some problem the mods won't address

Yes, repeatedly stating as a man that you think this is a safe space for women in a thread where women have stated it's not, after thousands of comments in the last several months alone saying the same thing, and then telling people to avoid topics that may offend them even if the bigotry seemingly comes out of nowhere does come off as pretty condescending. And yes, dismissal of concerns and mischaracterizing level-headed responses that point out flawed arguments as hostile is exactly the type of problems we're trying to discuss here.

If it WAS about those comments, it would just turn in to an energy sucking buttmess rules lawyering over the comments. As a more general "this kind of behavior" thing it could actually go somewhere.

I think another original point of the thread is that there's a lot of times that, no matter what, the rules-lawyering will happen no matter how broad or how specific the issue cited is. And lo and behold, just mentioning that bigotry exists here in a way that upsets the affected groups is getting waved away as people being oversensitive, overly angry, etc. The thread simultaneously became exactly what it was trying to avoid and an illustration of the problem. That's a sign that the site culture hasn't progressed anywhere near as far as it should.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:04 AM on September 26, 2015 [32 favorites]


I haven't read the emotional labour thread, but the framing of this post indicates that it is remarkable for it's length, and implies that threads that have not gone so well in the past could have been the same had only the moderation been more proactive.

Most posts don't generate 400+ comments, and I was under the impression that the shitty derails were in large part the reason they were so long. Is the proposal here really that we should be endeavoring create more monster-threads of feminist discussion around relevant posts? Not opposed to it personally, but it does strike me as a big ask of the moderators. By extension, it also implies that more mod time should be spent on feminist threads than threads about other potentially troublesome topics.
posted by kisch mokusch at 6:04 AM on September 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wait, what?--therapy isn't just for the mentally ill. At all. Like, for real. Yikes.

you're explaining therapy and its purpose to a therapist. maybe consider you have the wrong impression of the comment you're responding to.
posted by nadawi at 6:22 AM on September 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


Is the proposal here really that we should be endeavoring create more monster-threads of feminist discussion around relevant posts?

No. I don't care if we never have another thread anywhere as long again. The ask is that we be able to have conversations about feminism etc. which get past first principles without their being constantly derailed, and that we approach this goal by, in part, the moderation team specifically calling out problematic comments as sexist rather than relying solely on the non-moderation community to do it, which is often what constitutes the derail and the reason that the conversation cannot get past first principles.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:33 AM on September 26, 2015 [25 favorites]


Is the proposal here really that we should be endeavoring create more monster-threads of feminist discussion around relevant posts?

Pretty sure that isn't the proposal at all. Pretty sure it's more that "this thread was able to happen because mods nipped shitty sexist derails in the bud, and it'd be swell if that happened more often." People keep going back to that lower back tattoo thread as a counter point, for example - I don't think the point is that everyone wishes it had become a thousand-page* "feminist discussion" so much as it would have been swell if shitty misogynistic derails stating women with LBTs are into anal had been moderated away right from the get-go. I don't think "more proactively anti-'ist' moderation" naturally means "more monster-threads of feminist discussion." (on preview, what shakespherian said much more concisely)

(*people keep commenting on how the EL thread was thousands of pages long, longer than a novel, etc., and I realize that's true ... but isn't skimming for main ideas still a thing that is possible to do? I haven't yet finished reading the entire thread myself, but even if I were to just have read parts here and there - hell, even if I did that thing where I only read highly-favorited comments (and yes I know there is a whole other can of worms to be opened about favorites and I truly don't want to derail into that) - I think I still would have gotten a decent sense of what people found so enriching and special about that thread)
posted by DingoMutt at 6:38 AM on September 26, 2015 [21 favorites]


Any given person can not read the emotional labor thread. That is cool with me. I legitimately do not care. However, it might then be a good idea not to speculate about its contents, and then, without confirmation from people who have read the thread, go on to draw conclusions from that speculation.

In other words, if you didn't read the emotional labor thread, please try to refrain from using your assumptions about its content as evidence for your position.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:39 AM on September 26, 2015 [52 favorites]


Also, if one didn't feel like skimming the thread, one could also simply listen to the reports of people who did read the thread and find it valuable. The metatalk linked in this post is probably a decent source for that kind of information.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:42 AM on September 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


Is the proposal here really that we should be endeavoring create more monster-threads of feminist discussion around relevant posts?

Did you read the opening statement of this thread, and then the various comments people have been making since yesterday? Because, if you had, I think the answer would be an obvious "no."

One thing that I have been trying very hard to do on all the subsites is read the whole thread and at least some of the linked material before I comment. Sure, a lot of the time it means that my brilliant zinger (or, occasionally, insight) has already been deployed by someone else, and I weep a single quiet tear, but it usually keeps me from putting my foot in it right off the bat.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:57 AM on September 26, 2015 [16 favorites]


I'm concerned that apparently a very well-documented post about an ongoing problem regarding the treatment of women on the site (BND sock puppet opinions notwithstanding) gets axed and a content-free silenced all my life whine gets through as has been previously mentioned in this thread.

However as I see it (particularly with this specific issue) is that the BND policy lets people restart with the same problematic behavior for which their previous accounts were known.

In short, the BND policy seems to me to be pretty badly broken because good faith gets stretched well past the point of reasonable just because someone gets a shiny new username.

If I slapped people in the face every time they tried to talk about their personal experiences and supposedly got repeat talking-tos about it, I shouldn't be able to go out and get a Groucho Marx spectacles set and do the exact same thing while the mods stand around and wave their hands in the air as if there were no history there and nothing to be done because the act of getting a new account wipes the slate clean. PARTICULARLY if the mods know perfectly well a) who is wearing the dumbass disguise and b) what the 'new user' was doing to make them feel like they had to don the stupid costume.

There is more than one person in this conversation who is a BND of the sort of which I'm speaking and they know who they are.
posted by winna at 7:01 AM on September 26, 2015 [16 favorites]


Winna, I actually don't know who you are referring to, but if you want to contact us we can probably answer any questions.
posted by taz (staff) at 7:11 AM on September 26, 2015


I shouldn't be able to go out and get a Groucho Marx spectacles set and do the exact same thing while the mods stand around and wave their hands in the air as if there were no history there and nothing to be done because the act of getting a new account wipes the slate clean.

I would tend to assume that the mods are watchful when someone gets a BND and maybe keep the leash a little shorter?
posted by puddledork at 7:13 AM on September 26, 2015


Yeah, to elaborate a little, I had written to NoraReed at the time that she submitted her Meta a couple months ago and explained what I thought were the framing problems with her post as written—raising multiple examples (which is okay) while also saying people shouldn't discuss those examples (not workable), setting it up as essentially a venue for getting jerks who need banning banned—while also acknowledging that I think the topic itself was really important and needed to come around again. I also wrote to her about the subset of her behavior on the site that had been a problem and what needed to change there, while again making a point of acknowledging that most of her participation on the site was good and something I appreciated a lot.

I didn't say "people can't talk about this", or "you can't reframe this to be more workable", or anything like that. My expectation was she'd give it another shot or talk to someone else about it and they would. What she did instead was not write back to me, and button. And that's okay, she's under zero obligation to want to rework a MetaTalk post and likewise zero obligation to spend time on MetaFilter. But I put a bunch of effort into communicating in detail with her about that situation and that's as far as it went.

It's absurd to think we should be able to talk about sexism on MetaFilter without linking to examples.

I don't disagree and I didn't say as much. I said to her that simultaneously raising a bunch of examples directly and then telling people they shouldn't discuss them was unworkable framing for a post.

If we can handle that Post Deletions considered rediculous low-content MeTa, and if we can host the Emotional Labor thread (even if it's apparently a one-off that some people are worried about there being too much more like it), we can surely handle Too Much Boyzone.

I think we can handle the discussion, and more to the point this particular MetaTalk seems to be more or less that, to the point where my guess based on some of the similarities in framing is that (and this is totally fine) there's some chain of conversation about and direct lineage between that older MetaTalk submission and shakespeherian's post here that led to this being submitted as is. This post looks essentially like one workable redraft of that older one, and we're in here talking about the subject.

If the issue was that the older post really really needed to go through more or less as drafted, that's something we could have talked about at the time. That didn't happen, which is again okay because nobody's under an obligation to talk to us about this stuff, but...it didn't happen. I'm not gonna publish someone's MetaTalk post after they decline to get back to me about framing concerns and close their account, that'd be a terrible in absentia set up to stick either us or that poster with.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:26 AM on September 26, 2015 [23 favorites]


Wait, what?--therapy isn't just for the mentally ill. At all. Like, for real. Yikes.

The definition of a mental health disorder is basically a pattern of emotional dysregulation or cognitive difficulties not due to drugs or medical issues that is significantly interfering with social, occupational, or academic functioning and that is considered outside the cultural norms for a given situation. In saying that people who are upset by sexist/racist/etc-ist (I'd love a shorthand for that, if someone has one) comments should not be participating in a public forum but instead should talk to their therapist, the commenter was implying that such a reaction was outside the cultural norms for participating in public discourse and thus a symptom of mental illness.

I personally don't think that people being emotionally affected by displays of oppression are mentally ill (despite a long history of psychiatry treating them as such), but that was the implication. The comment also, knowingly or not (I assume not), taps into the ongoing debate about trigger warnings and whether certain people are just "too fragile" to be in public, which has become another way of preventing women from participating in public discourse, and also (I assume not at all knowingly) echoed a comment in an earlier MeTa that implied a member's PTSD made her unfit for participating on this site. Such concepts are able-ist and exclusionary, and they're exclusionary in ways that tend to disproportionately affect members of historically oppressed groups.
posted by jaguar at 7:31 AM on September 26, 2015 [31 favorites]


I think it's really unfortunate that this is how it's gone this time around. I've really gotten a lot out of this site and you can see in the first comment in my history that I praise it for being a great resource. But this is literally my 15th comment on this account and I'm already doing this bullshit. Damn it.

You do realize that this is something you are participating in, not something that's being done to you, right? You are an active participant in these exchanges, and while I haven't commented on it until now (because I thought others had handled it sufficiently by the time I read the thread), your first comment in this thread was pretty inflammatory -- you asserted something (that this is a extremely safe place" for women and queer people) that we have had a bunch of contentious MeTas this year establishing that many women and/or queer people on this site don't feel this way at all, then you go on to mischaracterize really badly why we get these contentious threads where there is pushback against sexist, racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. Those Taylor Swift legs comments were not "little things;" seeing them as "little things" is a huge part of the problem, and has been the origin of an enormous amount of the angry back and forth on this site. If you read the MeTa that arose from those Taylor Swift comments, you should know that they are really problematic for a lot of the members, and it shouldn't take too much to extrapolate from that that dismissing them was the MeTa equivalent of lighting a match in a library ful of oil-soaked rags.

So I am sorry that you are taking a bit of a beating, especially since you are having other problems in your life. But you are, apparently, a BND -- I don't really care who at this point, but this is not your first dance; you have to know that you don't get to step on people's feet and then get indignant when they get mad. So I dunno; maybe it's worth reflecting on what went wrong last time and if you are recapitulating it in this new identity. I suspect the mods might give you good feedback on what they see is happening. It sounds like you want to be a productive member of the site, and that's important -- but, while good will is central, good technique (e.g. reading the room, knowing when to walk away, anticipating how your comments may be received and revising accordingly) is also necessary. I have found myself on the brink a bunch of times and come up with rules to keep myself from going over the edge; so far it's worked for me.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:36 AM on September 26, 2015 [40 favorites]


I think if people have concerns about Nora's never posted post, it should go in a separate meta. Given she's not currently a participating member, however, and furthermore was clearly not interested discussing it except in twitter, I would question why it belongs on mefi at all. Nora never had any hesitation sticking up for herself, and I think it's in bad taste to drag in a former member unable or unwilling to respond (though no doubt she'll have some choice words on Twitter, that will probably, unfortunately, make it back here).

On topic, thanks for the clarification, shakes. In light of that I totally agree with your request, though I do feel the mods are aware of it, and trying their bests. I maintain there has been a noticeable improvement this year, I don't expect then to catch it every time, but they catch it a lot, nowadays.
posted by smoke at 7:36 AM on September 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


I mean, re the safe space thing, I literally ran into that and had to explain otherwise last week. Can we please as a group consider not making statements about how safe MeFi is for any identity that we don't personally hold in the future? Because it's really aggravating to be a woman and to have men tell me that this site is totally the same thing as an actual safe space for women, where I don't have to be on guard for people randomly dropping sexist shit and then refusing to own it when I or others ask them to take it back.
posted by sciatrix at 7:43 AM on September 26, 2015 [26 favorites]


Hey just a shoutout for another great thread since we are discussing the emotional labor one. The thread on social perfectionism and male suicide was really excellent and is a good example of how men's issues can be handled well here. It makes a good companion read to the emotional labor thread.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:45 AM on September 26, 2015 [16 favorites]


The ask is that we be able to have conversations about feminism etc. which get past first principles without their being constantly derailed, and that we approach this goal by, in part, the moderation team specifically calling out problematic comments as sexist rather than relying solely on the non-moderation community to do it, which is often what constitutes the derail and the reason that the conversation cannot get past first principles.

Which I don't disagree with, and we're trying to more visibly call stuff out in the course of moderation as specifically problematic rather than always defaulting to neutrally just saying cool it, etc. And to be clear, I'm not saying this as in "ergo problem solved, don't talk about it", I'm just saying it as "we hear folks that this is a thing that matters to them and it's something we've been working on doing better". My feeling is that it has been going better, not that everything's perfect or anything like that.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:50 AM on September 26, 2015


I miss NoraReed. I guess the revelation that her MeTa was rejected from the queue and that she got a talking-to about her behavior will totally stop the claims that MetaFilter is a PC echo chamber enforced by jackbooted mods who slavishly follow some kind of unmanly cabal...

Oh dear; I must stop to wipe tears of bitter jollity from my eyes.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:58 AM on September 26, 2015 [20 favorites]


I liked NoraReed's posts as well, but I can't say I'm 100% cool with her having taken a comment I made on an off day (and was rightfully taken to task for, no argument there) to hold me up as an example of a bad person and evil sexist who needs to be exiled immediately, with no right to respond to the accusation. And (perhaps unsurprisingly) it creeps me out that that kind of village justice approach is cool with everyone, and further, brought in from off the site.

I'm a woman closing out my thirties, and there is no person like that who can avoid feminism, even if they wanted to, and as it happens I've never actually wanted to, quite the opposite.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:10 AM on September 26, 2015 [19 favorites]


I think it would be a lot better if this thread didn't turn into a discussion of NoraReed.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:11 AM on September 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


Maybe you should tell your boss that.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:18 AM on September 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


? People asked him about that previously submitted post, he answered. Now it would be great if we didn't go into stuff about NoraReed personally.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:19 AM on September 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm just gonna repost shakespeherian's clarification of what he's requesting with this MeTa, in hopes of refocusing the thread:
I don't care if we never have another thread anywhere as long again. The ask is that we be able to have conversations about feminism etc. which get past first principles without their being constantly derailed, and that we approach this goal by, in part, the moderation team specifically calling out problematic comments as sexist rather than relying solely on the non-moderation community to do it, which is often what constitutes the derail and the reason that the conversation cannot get past first principles.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:25 AM on September 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


So I guess one thing that's weighing on me re: the original post is that Metafilter is in many ways what I think of as a 101 space: that is, a place where we generally expect people to not be specialist in the topics we're discussing. Right? So what constitutes the level of basic clued-in-ness about sexism/racism/etc. that we as community members can expect out of each other, and is there a consensus about how much people "should" know about topics concerning gender? (Or insert your favorite axis here; I'll be using gender here for shorthand.) What's the boring shit we've all seen before, and what's the stuff that is treading new conversational ground?

I think that actually, it really would help if people read the goddamn link before they commented... but of course, that's, um, not a specific problem to posts on gender. Still, I see a lot of knee-jerk contrarian responses to the framing of a fpp that could have been solved if the poster had paused to actually read the fpp in entirety before commenting. And that "I question the premise of this link!" or "I question the premise of your comment!" impulse can really interact badly with the desire to have a nuanced discussion about topics like race or gender.

The EL thread is actually a great example; literally the very first response to the post (now deleted) was a snarky one-liner responding to the fpp as if the section quoted in my framing was a serious proposal on the part of the author. (It wasn't; for the record, it's clear in the piece that monetizing emotional labor is proposed more as a thought exercise asking the audience to agree that emotional labor is actual work than as a desire to make you fork over $5 before your mom tells you she loves you.) It's very difficult to frame threads like this to hook people in and encourage a discussion without also drawing people who respond to the hook directly, especially when you frame a post around a question.

And in the EL thread, the system worked and the deletion didn't have a chance to poison the thread! Once those kinds of comments are left in the discussion, especially early in a post, they really derail the discussion and also increase the grar quotient quite a bit, which makes it harder to have the really nuanced discussions as people batten down to avoid further criticism.

I've had luck shutting those clearly-didn't-read-it comments down before by answering the question bluntly and referring to the actual text, but I... actually, huh, I think I need to just flag them more and faster before they have a chance to derail a discussion. (Because it does work better when mods remove them before anyone has a chance to respond!) I do wish people wouldn't leave them so much, though. Sometimes I feel that the rush to get the funny one-liner in and collect ALL THE FAVORITES FOR MY WIT really hurts the site's ability to actually talk about stuff like that. Especially when it's that kind of "your link sucks because LOOK AT WHAT I KNOW" kind of comment that dismisses the whole discussion right off the bat.
posted by sciatrix at 8:46 AM on September 26, 2015 [28 favorites]


I wish this thread didn't have the multi-paragraph mod response right at the start, before anyone in the community even got to weigh in. I totally understand feeling like the mods need to respond to the concerns in the post, but this is my absolute least favorite part of the MeTa queuing system...

100 percent this. After reading the post and mod comment, I went in the other room to voice this exact thing to my husband to get the frustration out of my system so I could read the rest of the thread without being on slow burn. Thank you for bringing this up.
posted by _Mona_ at 8:49 AM on September 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


And in the EL thread, the system worked and the deletion didn't have a chance to poison the thread! Once those kinds of comments are left in the discussion, especially early in a post, they really derail the discussion and also increase the grar quotient quite a bit, which makes it harder to have the really nuanced discussions as people batten down to avoid further criticism.

Yeah, eliminating early comments like that has long been something the mods make an effort to do. It gets harder when they pop up later in the thread because they can seem lost in the noise a bit until a derail takes off. People should make an effort to flag them, or send a contact note if it it seems like the issue might be subtle enough that the mods might not understand the concern.

I understand some of the frustration motivating this Meta is that the community is forced to be vigilant on that when it would be easier if mods were more proactive on it, but that runs into problems with limited mod ability to keep up with so many ongoing threads at once. Flagging and contacting is the middle ground on that, when it works best you get the mods attention to an issue and then they can handle the rest of the work.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:56 AM on September 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


So I guess one thing that's weighing on me re: the original post is that Metafilter is in many ways what I think of as a 101 space: that is, a place where we generally expect people to not be specialist in the topics we're discussing. Right? So what constitutes the level of basic clued-in-ness about sexism/racism/etc. that we as community members can expect out of each other, and is there a consensus about how much people "should" know about topics concerning gender? (Or insert your favorite axis here; I'll be using gender here for shorthand.) What's the boring shit we've all seen before, and what's the stuff that is treading new conversational ground?

I wonder if the "101" framing is actually not quite accurate (though I know it's the common internet shorthand), because I don't know that the problem is necessarily basic good-faith questions about gender, race, etc. as much as it is commenters challenging people's lived experience in the guise of asking questions.

It seems like there are a ton of parallels. In a thread about spirituality, we wouldn't tend to let hardline atheists come in and derail the conversation into whether spirituality is a real thing. In a thread about evolution, we wouldn't let creationists come in and pick apart whether evolution exists. So I'm not sure why "Sexism/Racism/Etc-ism doesn't exist, or if it did, this isn't an example of it" is seen as a contribution to a conversation rather than a derail.
posted by jaguar at 8:58 AM on September 26, 2015 [13 favorites]

It seems like there are a ton of parallels. In a thread about spirituality, we wouldn't tend to let hardline atheists come in and derail the conversation into whether spirituality is a real thing.
Honestly, I think that is at least as big a thing on Metafilter as posters doing that about gender.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:00 AM on September 26, 2015 [14 favorites]


There were some recent threads that I think are relevant to this MeTa:
- End the Silence (re abortion) - I think this went well
- Locked Tight (re being a woman on the internet) - not great; mod intervened, but still not great
- No Means No (re college rape) - did not go well (also relevant to this past meta on false rape)
posted by melissasaurus at 9:01 AM on September 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


I mean, the mods seem pretty sensitive to that sort of derailing on religious topics, and I think they're doing their best on that issue, in the same way that they're trying to deal with it about topics related to women's experiences. But I actually think that there are real parallels in that there are a lot of interesting discussions about religion that could be happening on Metafilter but aren't because of a small, vocal group of people who want to make every religion-related thread into a referendum on the existence of sky fairies.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:02 AM on September 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


Eliminating sky wizard comments has been a result of a determined mod effort to make it clear that isn't acceptable (probably going too far, imo, but that is for another thread), but yeah that was still never near as prevalent an issue as the many derails on gender issues have been.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:12 AM on September 26, 2015


I don't care if we never have another thread anywhere as long again. The ask is that we be able to have conversations about feminism etc. which get past first principles without their being constantly derailed, and that we approach this goal by, in part, the moderation team specifically calling out problematic comments as sexist rather than relying solely on the non-moderation community to do it, which is often what constitutes the derail and the reason that the conversation cannot get past first principles.

That's what they're doing, though, in as much as the behavior in question actually violates the rules. So what exactly is this request supposed to be for, anyway?

At the time I was one of the most vocal people pushing for "more mod notes and explanation, please", and to me personally, my problem wasn't and mostly isn't where the mods were (and are) drawing the line on those comments, just that the way they were doing it basically obfuscated the actual standard of behavior and would often end up looking equally punitive towards the people shitting up the thread and the people complaining about the shitting, which of course only encouraged the shitters.

Most people on that particular policy "side" seemed in agreement that the actual level of feminism, anti-racism, etc baked into the site policy was acceptable, and the main issues were with enforcement. At the very least, we were willing to let the actual content policy re-evaluation wait for another time.

Now, I'll go on record that I'd be ecstatic if the mods raised the "you must be this educated and respectful of these issues to post" floor, and the threshold for what constitutes what I like to think of as Straight Men's Gross Sex Shit In The Guise Of Thoughtful Commentary being nuked from orbit was turned way down, and if the mods are willing to open that can of worms again, I'm all in. However, I'm also okay with the threshold staying where it is, and I think most of the people who aren't doing all the sealioning, mansplaining, But Have You Considered, and Gross Sex Shit Disguised etc are reasonably happy with the threshold as-is, especially since it's getting better enforcement. If nothing else, at the end of the tattoo/boyzone thread, it feels like that was the tacit price for getting the mods to agree to the change in modding methodology: the line isn't moving at least for now, but we as the mods will work on making it clearer, and I'm fine with that. My personal ideal Metafilter is not the only Metafilter I would find valuable and worthy of contribution.

In doing the BB thing where you think we're not discussing the right thing and being passive-aggressive about it, I think first you need to identify what the right thing is. Plus, as good as the mod team has been with the policy change, they've already communicated they're stretched pretty thin and there's not a lot of "stepping it up" that can be done, so pretty much the only viable alternatives are either redrawing the line, or removing people who cross it a lot more aggressively; in other words, turning this into a banning thread, which is a non-starter. I don't agree that it should be a non-starter, but I understand why it isn't a viable topic for discussion and the mods have spoken.

So I'm not sure why "Sexism/Racism/Etc-ism doesn't exist, or if it did, this isn't an example of it" is seen as a contribution to a conversation rather than a derail.

Because there are times when it actually is a contribution and it's kind of bad to have a blanket policy on it? I mean, yes, a huge amount of the time it's basically dismissive awfulness, but if you have a blanket proscription on it, you're also running the danger of making it impossible for feminists to disagree. I mean, I do generally trust the mods to know the difference and adjudicate it reasonably well.

If you're asking why the people who make those kind of comments think they're contributing, I mean, I feel like everyone who actually notices that dynamic knows why, even if it's "uncharitable" or unacceptable or whatever to say it.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 9:22 AM on September 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


To add to melissasaurus' list, there was also this thread about turning off comments on websites, which had a bunch of pointless derails about how not wanting to let people say really horrible things to you, especially on your own writing, is somehow worse than those comments. And on a different axis, there was the dumbassery in the Ahmed Mohamed thread about how dare we think that there's Islamophobia, nevermind prior reporting or the reactions from officials.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:23 AM on September 26, 2015 [15 favorites]


For an example that's only tangentially about sexism and women's issues, I thought this thread about the girl who spoke up against her professor's statements about Native American genocide was full of some very awful stuff, to the point I contacted the mods about it. They didn't actually take action about the stuff I found shitty, but I will say there was a derail about some asshole being ~disappointed~ in Ashkenazi Jews that I was very happy to see was nipped in the bud by the time I went to report it.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 9:28 AM on September 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


In doing the BB thing where you think we're not discussing the right thing and being passive-aggressive about it, I think first you need to identify what the right thing is.

To be clear, is this a personal reference to me?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:36 AM on September 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Bamer Bate?
posted by maxsparber at 10:06 AM on September 26, 2015


But it seems like it's often done out of contrarianism confusing itself for critical thinking.

This, I think, is a good way to frame the issue. I suspect that it's also done out of a desire to be on the right end of things and "teach" others while retaining some control. Some people like to be right in their thinking, and it makes them uncomfortable to allow a discussion to mature where notions might be challenged. Some "critical thinking" responses are sometimes veiled insecurity.

I'm not very good at figuring out how to control this impulse in others from an external community/mod perspective, but I certainly know it when it shows up in myself. I think a good rule of thumb before posting is to ask what the nature of an impulse is for posting. Is it a desire to simply challenge, right out of the gate, without letting the discussion mature? Do I feel the need to control where the conversation might go, because it makes me uneasy? Do I feel the need to correct others in a way that would require a bit of mind reading? Am I psychologically able to let an errant idea sit there, maybe for awhile, without worrying that something terrible is going to be happen to Great Justice?

Generally, I find a helpful rule of thumb (which I'm not always good at realizing) is to ask myself whether I can wait half an hour or more to post what I think to be an important addition, if it's contrary or potentially controversial. If the answer is no, I've got to do this now, I'm probably not coming from a place in which I'm trying to be helpful for a group learning situation, and I'm operating on some other internal impulse that isn't always other-centered. Not a perfect rule of thumb for all people perhaps, but I find that it can get to the bottom of some things quickly.

We can't read the internal motivations of others, but we can encourage ourselves, as a group value, to look closely at our motivations for posting. If someone can't resist the impulse to let the conversation mature without saying something that will be divisive, some should ask themselves why. It isn't a solution in and of itself, and sometimes opposing views can come from well intentioned places in short time frames, but it perhaps encourages a community introspection for some offenders that can be a helpful part of the conversation on how to prevent contrarian derails.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:59 AM on September 26, 2015 [17 favorites]


Related to maintaining the quality of individual thread discussions is keeping an eye on the overall ratio of difficult discussions. I haven't kept any exact tally, but the last week or two feels to me like there have been a noticeable bump up in the number of rape FPPs in particular, as well as FPPs on similarly sensitive gender and sexuality issues. (For the rape FPPs this week alone, there was the the Lady Gaga song FPP, the campus climate survey FPP, and today's Rape Culture FPP, and I am probably missing others, not to mention the ones that were deleted.)

There was a MeTa specifically discussing the impact of these FPPs on both users and moderators a while back, as well as the discussion in the emotional labor MeTa and others about the toll it takes to handle even a well-done discussion, never mind one full of sexist asshattery. Personally I'd rather have slightly fewer, but much more carefully moderated and well-handled, discussions of these topics, rather than more of them but with a higher percentage of shitshows.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:45 PM on September 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


It does seem like there have been a lot of rape threads in the last week or so, I noticed it.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 1:10 PM on September 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


(There was also this post on Sept. 17 by zarq.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 1:12 PM on September 26, 2015


For the first time in 13 years, I considered buttoning today. Instead, I'm just going to remove this thread from my recent activity and stay out of MeTa posts like this in the future. CrystalDave mentioned earlier that the status quo is driving people away. I guess I'm one of them now. This thread burnt me out, although I guess that's my own fault for speaking up. As tone doesn't translate well on the internet, I'm not being snarky. I'm just sad.
posted by Ruki at 2:19 PM on September 26, 2015 [13 favorites]


I'm sorry that the discussion has felt bad in that way, and if anyone else is feeling the same, and like getting into this stuff in an open forum is draining, you can always contact us privately about things you think are a problem, either by contact form (for immediate response) or Mefimail (for possibly delayed response). And (I'm sure people don't need the reminder but) I'll also say, if anyone's feeling raw, do take care of yourself, talk to somebody; you're important.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 4:05 PM on September 26, 2015 [11 favorites]


One thing that I have been trying very hard to do on all the subsites is read the whole thread and at least some of the linked material before I comment. Sure, a lot of the time it means that my brilliant zinger (or, occasionally, insight) has already been deployed by someone else, and I weep a single quiet tear, but it usually keeps me from putting my foot in it right off the bat.

I did read through the comments, and I did acknowledge up front that I'd not read the most relevant link. I was still confused by what is being asked here, to the Metafilter community, hence my question (which I don't think has any zingers). The singular point of the post is that the Emotional Labor Thread shouldn't be the exception. So beyond the derailed threads, it wasn't clear what was different about the Emotional Labor Thread that made it so exceptional from smaller feminism posts beyond length.

I think that good moderation of shitty and derailing comments is something everyone should be in agreement on. Prior to the shakespeherian's clarification, this post and quite frankly a lot of the comments really did imply that more was being asked than this.
posted by kisch mokusch at 4:06 PM on September 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


>So I guess one thing that's weighing on me re: the original post is that Metafilter is in many ways what I think of as a 101 space: that is, a place where we generally expect people to not be specialist in the topics we're discussing. Right?

Yeah, I think this is a big part of the friction. If I look back on the very old days, when I first came around here it seemed like the knowledge that the Mefi population tended to take for granted was computer- and code-related. Now it seems to be more social justice-related. That's good for me--I find the latter far more interesting and relevant to my life--but I find myself doubting that the need for 101ing will ever go away here.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:30 PM on September 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think that good moderation of shitty and derailing comments is something everyone should be in agreement on.

The disagreement is about exactly which comments are shitty and derailing.
posted by immlass at 7:51 PM on September 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


For an example that's only tangentially about sexism and women's issues, I thought this thread about the girl who spoke up against her professor's statements about Native American genocide was full of some very awful stuff, to the point I contacted the mods about it.

Yup. But in a weird way I find this stuff useful in the following way. I read stuff about "how you Jews ought to act" by people who know nothing about Jews, or "know" a lot of things about Jews that are laughably wrong, and I get mad, and I flag, and I wonder whether I should post a cranky MeTa, but then I say to myself, I am lucky enough to live in a time and place where people's opinions of Jews have very little direct effect on me. I flag it and move on.

But it also makes it easier for me to understand something about what it would be like if the shitty things sometimes posted about people like me on MetaFilter were also shitty things I had to grapple with every single day of my life, often directed at me from people who had power over me, and whom I could not flag, and from whom I could not move on.
posted by escabeche at 7:55 PM on September 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


That said, I too am a little confused about what the post is asking for. I read every single word of the emotional labor thread, and I thought it was great, and it affected my thinking and way of being a lot more than other MF posts do. But I do want it to be an exception, I guess! But I mean that in the sense of "the kind of validation and self-expression and community-building the EL thread consists of is not the only thing or even the main thing I want MetaFilter to consist of." Not in the sense of "I want it to be exceptional for a thread to be free of boring arguments about the premises of feminism that I've been reading online since online was Usenet." So I don't know whether I'm agreeing or disagreeing with the OP.
posted by escabeche at 8:00 PM on September 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I also think that there can be interesting debates among people who basically agree about things. For instance, most Mefites think that Scott Walker is a jerk, but we may still disagree about whether he ever had a shot at getting the nomination, why he dropped out of the race, or why it matters. There are valuable things to discuss about Scott Walker that are not at the level of "Scott Walker: good person or bad person?"

As a guy who lives in Wisconsin and has, several times, started Scott Walker threads, I have to say I think that Scott Walker threads and GOP politics threads more generally are almost always terrible. I think what people wrongly and blindly say about threads like EL ("It's just an echo chamber where people high-five each other for agreeing with each other!") is kind of true about those threads.
posted by escabeche at 8:05 PM on September 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


I agree wholeheartedly, The Master and Margarita Mix. The whole point about microaggressions is that any one of them could "reasonably" be excused, but the aggregate/gestalt effect cannot be countered if we insist on approaching these instances "reasonably." What is required, tbh is an unreasonable response. (that is not sarcasm if anyone is unsure)
posted by juv3nal at 9:06 PM on September 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Wait--do we really want moderation to be unreasonable?
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:15 PM on September 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


No, we want to change this culture, the one in this community, so that the default "reasonable" response isn't to extend infinite benefit of the doubt to new or BND users who have done nothing to earn that benefit, or to longstanding users who expertly skirt the line of unacceptable behavior over the protests of longstanding users who are members of socially marginalized groups and who are vocal about those lived experiences.
posted by gingerest at 9:39 PM on September 26, 2015 [22 favorites]


Yeah, and it turns in on itself to the point where even "reasonable" has several different meanings or implications, and thus no meaning at all. There's a reason why, wherever possible, I try to be really bullheaded about actually talking about concrete action and behavior in MeTas (or any kind of policy discussion), and it's pretty much that. The constant low-grade bullshit and semantics are just a thicket, and there's no point to engaging with it on it's own terms, so to speak. It's a mire. I've participated in maybe a half-dozen of these threads, and I'm just done.

Wait--do we really want moderation to be unreasonable?

See above, but also: oh, come on.

Sadly, and this is totally unrelated but I don't think I've seen anyone make this point yet: I think the main reason that the EL thread went so well is that so many of the usual jokers just found it too unbearably feeeeeeeemale or silly and emotional or whatever and just didn't bother showing up. In as much as they didn't bring a bunch of pile-ons down on themselves, well, it was nice that mostly didn't need to happen, but that's not why the thread was good, and I'm skeptical that it's a worthy or productive kind of goal to focus on. The thread was good because most of the really shitty, sexist and/or clueless users who ruin other threads weren't there at all. Yes, the moderation was excellent and yes, people were very mindful and determined to make good contributions, but fundamentally: the people who would have made the thread the worst just weren't there in there in first place. But I don't think it will produce useful lessons for either mods or commenters, because "less of these people" is not a workable action item. And I'm actually including myself among the "less of these people"; I basically decided it was Not For Me about a third of the way through and made a conscious decision not to engage with my concerns and disagreements.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 9:42 PM on September 26, 2015 [17 favorites]


I have to say, I found a HUGE amount of ugly irony in the person wanting examples of microaggressions to be presented to them going on to tell another member, gosh, i sure hope you're getting the mental help you need.
posted by palomar at 9:54 PM on September 26, 2015 [41 favorites]


+1 to the idea of prompt deletions with explicit reasons. I am one of those folks who is against those users being outright banned.

+1 to the idea (don’t think it’s been mentioned here) of faster cutting off of metatalk threads complaining about comment deletions that have had a rapid, negative response from the community, based on some mod-judged compromise between clock time and size of response. Community members who think the mods are being unfair to them or the community deserve the chance to ask for a response from everyone, the responders deserve a chance to give their opinions good and hard, and everyone deserves the right to have it be done with as soon as possible.

If a community member disagrees with the consensus (which, for the sorts of TK-ist comments we’re talking about, will likely be rare or else a boilerplate copy of one of several templates) they can put their own MetaTalk into the queue. If it seems to be a useful counter-read of the situation, the mods can let it through. If it’s identical GRAR, the mods can block it and tell the member to go try again.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:03 PM on September 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Maybe a concrete plus cost-effective plan is to test strong, anti-microgression moderation on a number of new posts for a period of time?

Long term, if stronger moderation gives better quality discussions, that draw in a bigger/better membership, it would incentivize the mods to maintain such a policy.

We already have names for various types of online microaggression, which is why this kind of testing is possible in the first place.
posted by polymodus at 12:18 AM on September 27, 2015


A couple of comments deleted. Please cut out the personal stuff, and don't make random accusations about other members. If someone has some sort of info we're not aware of, go ahead and contact us. If you wonder about yes i am a bisexual man's former account, we see exactly what he described: very, very low activity; no participation in any sexism threads or similar, no moderation warnings, no time-outs, no deletions, no problem stuff. This isn't even a BND as we would refer to it, in terms of a fresh start after a period of problem participation, in which the person must agree to drop the behavior that was the problem during prior membership. This is more abandoning one account for privacy reasons or similar, and moving to a new account, which people do all the time.

That said, yes i am a bisexual man, I think that actually you not having that much familiarity with a lot of the discussion that has occurred over years here on Metatalk is getting you into deep waters, since we have discussed at length various problems with, for example, men telling women how they should feel or express (or not express) themselves about sexism and other issues. I would definitely recommend hanging back and learning more about the various issues rather than sort of jumping in to seemingly tell women how they need to act here. Additionally, I do hope that the therapy comment was a true mistake based on your own appreciation of its helpfulness to you, rather than snide suggestion, and once again, will just suggest you basically take some time out from commenting here and maybe relax and learn a bit. If you have questions about things, feel free to contact us.
posted by taz (staff) at 5:58 AM on September 27, 2015 [14 favorites]


> That said, yes i am a bisexual man...
> posted by taz (staff)

Skimming through this thread can be a disconcerting experience.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 8:31 AM on September 27, 2015 [21 favorites]


I do agree that navigating internet handles can be a bit confusing sometimes, and also, I'm a busy old fool fan.
posted by taz (staff) at 9:02 AM on September 27, 2015 [6 favorites]




I want to reiterate what my position is, which is that I think Metafilter is already an extremely safe space for women and queer people

It is absolutely and categorically not a safe space for the former (as many, many, many ... many women have said; not 'splaining, signal-boosting), and it's very much not a safe space for the latter (I'm one of them).
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:29 AM on September 27, 2015 [9 favorites]


not 'splaining, signal-boosting

Can we get a jargon glossary on the sidebar? You know, for people who might think "Sealioning" is one of those fake sex acts people post to Urban Dictionary or might be wondering why the hell people are talking about frozen peaches?
posted by MikeMc at 9:36 AM on September 27, 2015


I find it difficult to believe you don't at least have an awareness of what mansplaining is. This kind of apparent disingenuousness is, unless I have misunderstood, precisely what shakespeherian is asking to come to an end.

So: please don't do this. You know what it means. If you are truly concerned about whether other people know what it means, then reframing your statement to something like "perhaps a problem is that we are using 201-level language that many people may not understand, so could we come up with a resource for quickly defining these things?" might help. As stated, though, it was sealioning--which you also know the definition of.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:39 AM on September 27, 2015 [15 favorites]


If you are truly concerned about whether other people know what it means, then reframing your statement to something like "perhaps a problem is that we are using 201-level language that many people may not understand, so could we come up with a resource for quickly defining these things?"

Well, I did just have to Google "Signal-boosting" (which I don't see happening here, perhaps I'm looking at the wrong definition because it just seems to be another term for cross-posting). So please spare me your condescension and try to keep in mind that despite the number of social justice related posts this isn't a social justice site, it's a general interest site.
posted by MikeMc at 9:51 AM on September 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


Expecting people to know the jargon is part of the issue with these threads. Assuming that it wasn't a good faith question to aid new people who don't know what words mean (if not for himself) is also part of the issue with these threads. Another MeTa at the moment involves people objecting because a word was too obscure for them to know the meaning of.

Because 'innocent' questioning is a standard derailing tactic, if someone asks a basic question it gets described as derailing every time - but that's where requiring people to know certain things comes in. There is another divide in users who think you should google before asking questions, versus those who ask the community they're having the conversation with before going to research on their own. These are different approaches, but one sometimes is considered as inherently malicious, while the other is sometimes considered inherently insular.

When really it's just a form of 'Ask vs. Guess'. And like Ask vs. Guess, it can cause outsized reactions to what are just different approaches.
posted by gadge emeritus at 9:53 AM on September 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


Well, I did just have to Google "Signal-boosting"...

You don't have to notify the community every time you have to look up a word.
posted by Etrigan at 10:01 AM on September 27, 2015 [17 favorites]


and try to keep in mind that despite the number of social justice related posts this isn't a social justice site, it's a general interest site.

As someone who reminds folks a lot that it's a general interest site, I'm gonna suggest that while it's totally fine for you to be primarily interested in other stuff that falls elsewhere in the generalist bucket, if you're going to engage in a MetaTalk discussion about a pretty clearly topic-specific thing then it's on you to make a little bit of an effort to search first and not crack wise about sealioning and Urban Dictionary or whatever.

There's wanting to helpfully clarify, which is fine if done carefully, and then there's just seeming to fuck around, and that looked a lot more like the latter and it'd be good to see you not do that sort of thing going forward.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:01 AM on September 27, 2015 [28 favorites]


Well, I did just have to Google "Signal-boosting" (which I don't see happening here, perhaps I'm looking at the wrong definition because it just seems to be another term for cross-posting).

It does mean "cross-posting," but it's coming out of the recognition that often people on the less-privileged sides of things will say something over and over but no one listens until a person on the more-privileged sides of things says it, and that more-privileged person often acts as if they invented the concept and then they reap all the praise for being revolutionary and smart and intersectional. So there's been a conscious push for privileged people to "signal-boost" pieces written by people on the less-privileged sides of things in order to get those marginalized voices more mainstream attention.

fffm used it a bit idiosyncratically, there.
posted by jaguar at 10:03 AM on September 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Is there a reason that assuming a user is posting in bad faith can't be solved by offloading that criticism to the mods? That is, flag the comment or use the contact form to say you think the user is misrepresenting themselves, and then just move on without engaging?
posted by Going To Maine at 10:06 AM on September 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


I had heard of the term, was confused by ffm's use of it, was interested to see mike mc had asked about it, was surprised that fm had assumed he meant mansolaining when my take was about signal-boosting, and am glad jaguar clarified it. And am still confused about why people are so damned defensive.
posted by disclaimer at 10:08 AM on September 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


...so even if it did hackle-raise for some folks, I'm glad I learned something.
posted by disclaimer at 10:09 AM on September 27, 2015


Is there a reason that assuming a user is posting in bad faith can't be solved by offloading that criticism to the mods? That is, flag the comment or use the contact form to say you think the user is misrepresenting themselves, and then just move on without engaging?

If it's a poster who is posting in bad faith but isn't immediately recognizable as such, it can end up with a lot of derails , which I think is part of the overall problem. I'm crap at remembering most usernames, so while I recognize MikeMc's username, I have no memory of whether he's someone who tends to ask questions as a means of arguing, rather than from curiosity, and so while I chose to answer his question as if it were in good faith, I did have a moment of wondering whether my good-faith response was going to end up inspiring several rounds of nitpicking, which is one of the exhausting draining types of interaction that's a problem in the first place. Having people in thread who are able to say "Hey, that poster is doing that thing again" serves a useful function to everyone else to save their energy.
posted by jaguar at 10:12 AM on September 27, 2015 [16 favorites]


And am still confused about why people are so damned defensive.

I think the reason there's pushback is because holding discussions about feminism to an impossible standard that is never applied to other discussions is a classic derailing tactic.

For example, there's an entire thread on the front page right now about a traceroute/DNS joke. It's a fun thread! It's full of Unix command lines and discussion of technical arcana, and as far as I can tell, nobody is getting tetchy about how that discussion relies on jargon and specialized knowledge.

But somehow, using jargon in a discussion about feminism is a bridge too far, and we have to stop that feminism discussion and instead have a referendum on how this is a generalist site, won't someone think of the generalists, blah blah blah.
posted by amery at 10:15 AM on September 27, 2015 [77 favorites]


Going To Maine, suggestions like that are in line with something that some folks here find really frustrating: a user makes a de-raily comment, and instead of coming right down on the user who does it, the call goes out to not retaliate and/or be more civil to the user who caused the derail. What you're saying looks a little bit like that, since flagging comments in MeTa will hardly ever result in the removal of the comment. If what you're actually asking for is for mods to take more aggressive action to eliminate derails, then I would say you're aligned more closely with the OP of this MeTa, but I've come to understand your position to be more like "can't we just be more civil even when people say things we don't like."
posted by MoonOrb at 10:17 AM on September 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


Having people in thread who are able to say "Hey, that poster is doing that thing again" serves a useful function to everyone else to save their energy.

Right - and those users clearly exist, and one subset of them is the moderators. That I guess is why I'd be in favor of just a lot more judicious flagging. Respond if you want to -Lord knows I have- but I think that if you're in doubt, throw up a flag with your answer.

Actually, this is a good jumping off point for asking the mods about flags, since I'm sort of unclear what the default flagging behavior is. Do lots of users use flags? Do only a few users? What is "a lot of flags", or does that change from moderator to moderator?
posted by Going To Maine at 10:21 AM on September 27, 2015


Right - and those users clearly exist, and one subset of them is the moderators. That I guess is why I'd be in favor of just a lot more judicious flagging. Respond if you want to -Lord knows I have- but I think that if you're in doubt, throw up a flag with your answer.

I agree, and I think the frustration has come from the amount of leeway the moderators have been giving to people asking such questions. (I could be wrong in generalizing that. It's certainly been one of my frustrations. It is getting better, but it's still frustrating.)
posted by jaguar at 10:27 AM on September 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oh, definitely - I agree that that seems to be a good portion of why we're here.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:29 AM on September 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


In theory I am in agreement with this post in the sense that in my ideal Metafilter mods would take a more aggressive stance in deleting comments that are clearly in defense of some "-ism" and banning users who do this regularly, rather than relying on community policing where threads get bogged down in "25 vs. 1 or 2" arguments where several members, however well deserved, take turns telling a member that his or her terrible comments were terrible.

As a personal example, right around this time last year there was an incident where a couple of users were to my view rather aggressively arguing with a number of Jewish members (myself included) that an incident many of us viewed as clearly and blatantly anti-Semitic was not so; kind of the equivalent of the men who jump into threads dealing with women's issue to deny that sexism or misogyny is taking place. This may have been my first time using the contact form for a reason other than requesting the mods fix an embarrassing typo. It was really disheartening (and actually led to a long time user buttoning for several months) to have the mods come into that thread with the "You guys are all behaving EQUALLY badly, all of you cool it" approach rather than taking a firm stand that comments in defense of anti-Semitism will not be tolerated on the site.

Ever since the anti-Semitism Metatalk thread earlier this year, along with the Tramp Stamp/Boyzone Meta, I've been pleased with the moderators more aggressive approach to pruning questionable comments and outright banning users who regularly cross this line rather than forever trying to work with them on improving site interactions. I read this OP as a request for an even more aggressive approach than we are already getting and I am mostly in agreement.

Where this becomes difficult though, is that I don't know that it is ever going to be possible to get unified community agreement at exactly where the line is drawn. For every obvious "I GUESS I'M NEVER ALLOWED TO TALK TO A WOMAN AGAIN AND WILL BE LONELY ALL MY LIFE/Not all men do this" that gets posted on the site there are many more comments that read to me as someone perhaps not being as ideologically pure as other members might prefer, but not violating any site rules.

To give you an idea of where I'm coming from here: I'm someone who could not have cheered louder when several members who seem to have joined Metafilter for no purpose other than to jump into threads dealing with sexism/misogyny to take the "Women, you're all wrong, there's nothing to see here" position were given long overdue bans, but, for example, thinks it was really weird during the "Trader Joe's/Misogyny" thread that users risked being accused of derailing the discussion/actively participating in misogyny if they dared discuss the tactics/behavior of the author of the piece, even though a good 90% or so of her article was specifically discussing her tactics. I'm not a fan of the "if someone is on the side of angels, any criticism of the person makes you a traitor to the cause" attitude that I sense here sometimes.

Similarly, I couldn't have been happier a couple years back to see a member who regularly baited trans members of the site finally get the boot, but also found it a bit curious during the Jennicet Gutierrez thread a few months back that "I agree with her cause, but don't know that heckling the President during the middle of a speech during a private event is appropriate" was basically considered a reactionary position by many members.

I bring up these examples not to relitigate those specific threads, but as illustrative examples where I think there is a legitimate challenge in determining whether comments are derailing/contributing to an -ism vs. using this generalist site an intended, even if it means discussing an aspect of an FPP that one might find less important than another. I can see discussing the prevalence of everyday microaggressions that women are faced with would be considered more in line with the EL thread than whether or not a shopper was rude to a store manager or the plight of transgender immigrants in the US more interesting than whether or not it is rude to heckle someone in the middle of a speech, but I also don't think it is fair to criticize users for reacting to any part of an FPP they find interesting, considering this is a generalist site, not an activist one.

I read the Norareed Metatalk rough draft that was linked here and while I do wish it had seen the light of day in some form, I look at a lot of the examples of comments that to her view should have been deleted and/or led to a banning of the members who made them and I have to be honest, a lot of them look rather benign to me (with the obvious disclaimer that I am not a member of the effected groups so may very well have a huge blind spot). Not to have that Meta by proxy, just pointing out that I can't help but suspect that in practice this suggestion for even more active moderation may become more "Please prune these comments/ban these users who have an ideology that is not 100% in alignment with mine" vs. "Please prune these comments that are clearly homophobic/sexist/transphobic/anti-Semitic/racist/etc."
posted by The Gooch at 10:36 AM on September 27, 2015 [19 favorites]


Going To Maine, suggestions like that are in line with something that some folks here find really frustrating: a user makes a de-raily comment, and instead of coming right down on the user who does it, the call goes out to not retaliate and/or be more civil to the user who caused the derail. What you're saying looks a little bit like that, since flagging comments in MeTa will hardly ever result in the removal of the comment. If what you're actually asking for is for mods to take more aggressive action to eliminate derails, then I would say you're aligned more closely with the OP of this MeTa, but I've come to understand your position to be more like "can't we just be more civil even when people say things we don't like."

My position is, I think, closer to the OP. I do think people should often be more civil or just ignore stuff, but I also think that it’s much easier for me to have that position in a thread when other users are already bringing a lot of heat on someone.

I tried to capture my sentiments above, but basically: people should flag the hell out of comments they think are bad, should vociferously encourage other people to flag the hell out of things, and should just work on ignoring folks with whom they don’t want to engage. As much as a snarky response to a derail can be fun, in many ways it adds just as little to the thread as the derail itself. Let the mods be the harsh ones, because that's why they're there.

This is a super hard position to follow, especially since I’m one of the many folks who seems to always assume that people are posting in good faith. But then, I’m also someone who confuses users and usernames all the time, and who has negligible memory for posting histories. Other users have better senses of individuals on the site, and of how things go.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:42 AM on September 27, 2015


people should flag the hell out of comments they think are bad, should vociferously encourage other people to flag the hell out of things, and should just work on ignoring folks with whom they don’t want to engage.

It takes the mods days - months - years to actually do anything about some members who routinely shit up the site. The staff has consistently refused to sanction users right up until a ban that's "a long time coming."

You're saying I should just wait and flag for actual years, and then maybe when that user insults a mod personally and gets the boot, and they say "we should have banned him sooner."

No. I'm not going to let trolls run wild for again, multiple years, without saying anything in public.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:50 AM on September 27, 2015 [14 favorites]


I agree, and I think the frustration has come from the amount of leeway the moderators have been giving to people asking such questions

If there's a problematic group of people always derailing feminism threads then the mods should ban them from that particular subject and/or threads. That way if they're contributing usefully in other ways, they still can, while the feminism threads can continue into the 200+ levels many members seem to be aspiring to.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:53 AM on September 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't think the question is about Feminism Threads per se, it's about the entire subject--the thread about Taylor Swift, for example, wasn't a Feminist Thread in the sense that it was a link to something about feminism, it was a thread about a woman that got misogynist crap dropped in it. So it's a subject ban not a thread ban, because pretty much any time a woman is discussed here, some misogynist crap gets trotted out.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:55 AM on September 27, 2015 [18 favorites]


I actually think the mods are really good about deleting random drive-by sexist comments like the Taylor Swift one. I'm still seething about the person who referred to Marilynne Robinson as a "nice Christian lady" a few weeks back, but I'm pretty sure the mods got rid of it. (I don't know if I was just having a bad day that day, but that comment seriously hit me like a slap in the face. It was just such a vicious reminder that there is literally nothing a woman can do that will make her safe from sexist condescension. And since I am never going to be Marilynne Robinson, and apparently it wouldn't matter if I was, why even bother? I don't remember who posted it, and I don't particularly want to know, but if it was you: congratulations. You really put me in my place very effectively.)

I think the problem is when people want to be perfectly civil, and they may even be acting in good faith, but the things they want to discuss are going to preclude more interesting conversations from happening. If someone posts an article that proposes a new way to counteract catcalling, for all I know a poster may be acting in totally good faith when he or she questions the premise that catcalling is bad. She may genuinely enjoy being catcalled! I think that's bizarre, but some people have totally different responses to things than I do. But if we get in a big debate about whether catcalling is bad, we're never going to discuss the article's proposal for dealing with it. And I think that's where things get tricky, because I really would like for the higher-level conversations to take place, and I'm not sure how enthusiastic I would be about posting or reading here if I didn't think those conversations could take place here, but I do understand a little bit why people feel like their perfectly civil, good-faith contributions are being suppressed.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:37 AM on September 27, 2015 [9 favorites]


Ugh. I take it back. They didn't delete the "nice Christian lady" thing. So maybe drive-by sexist comments don't always get deleted. Gross.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:48 AM on September 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


And am still confused about why people are so damned defensive.

Being under attack your entire life and having all the tools of discourse arranged to prevent you from explaining the situation or even deflecting the assault might be a reason.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:13 PM on September 27, 2015 [21 favorites]


Actually, this is a good jumping off point for asking the mods about flags, since I'm sort of unclear what the default flagging behavior is. Do lots of users use flags? Do only a few users? What is "a lot of flags", or does that change from moderator to moderator?

I should take another look at flagging distribution, because I'd guess it varies a bit over time and it'd be interesting to see where it is right now vs. two years ago vs. five years ago, etc. But as a general historical thing, it's been a good-sized minority subset of users, tending toward regular participants but not exclusively so, doing flagging, with typical power law-ish roles of a few doing a lot of flagging, many doing some, and a lot doing a little bit.

"A lot of flags" varies more by context than anything; what qualifies as that on a post is generally a larger number than on a comment, since while both posts and comments pick up flags sometimes on what seems more like a "person just didn't like this or thought it was weird" sort of basis, it's a lot more common for a post to pick up two or three flags without seeming really at all actionable than for a comment to do so. Like, I can't think offhand of the last time when I saw a comment with two flags on it where I had no concrete idea why it was getting flagged, whereas with posts that's not super unusual. Difference in both content and style of presentation (and sheer visibility, since it's a lot easier to see a day's worth of posts at a glance than a day's worth of comments) driving that, mainly.

My default position has always been and will I think always be that more people flagging more is a good thing; it gives us more information and increases the chances that any given potentially problematic thing will get actual eyeballs on it.

the "nice Christian lady" thing

For whatever it's worth, ArbitraryAndCapricious, I saw that comment by chance after the fact but not because anybody had flagged it (and it would have been okay to flag it) and the vibe I got was more just sort of tedious dismissiveness in general than anything, but I get that part of the shitty deal with microagressions is that having some pointless extra note of dismissive "...lady" as the framing sucks for its complicity in the larger pattern of condescending blarg toward women.

But so, yeah. I think it's an example of what's inescapably just a borderline comment—it's someone being just pretty critical of the content of the link and in a way that I don't think makes great discussion or that shows itself off well as not potentially having some crappy casual sexism, casual anti-religious baggage underneath, but it's also not some clearcut chunk of e.g. "this is why women shouldn't be allowed to write essays" type shit that leaps off the page. And my take is not that it has to leap off the page to be worth moderator attention, just that if it's not something that hits people as flaggable, and then people have a conversation about it after the fact, that's more...meh-ish contribution territory than where we can really expect to draw a bright line in the sand as "definitely this will get nuked every time" stuff.

I was glad folks who were more familiar with Robinson engaged more usefully in response to that comment; it seemed like a good outcome and a decent rebuke to the dismissiveness in it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:02 PM on September 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


It takes almost no effort to shit up a thread with a bunch of 'just asking questions' and it seems somewhat of a weird catch-22 that the people who are being belittled and dismissed are then supposed to spend all their time on the site flagging comments in order to avoid having to wade through a bunch of garbage to enjoy the site.

I don't want to speak for anyone, but it would surely be nice if the line on 'just asking questions' type dismissive comments could be tightened without users having to take up a part time job of flagging them in the hopes that something might at some point be done.
posted by winna at 1:38 PM on September 27, 2015 [12 favorites]


So, just to be clear: is this thread an okay place to have a discussion about actually changing or implementing some kind of "I'd hit that" extended rule or policy that would cover things like the Taylor Swift's legs comments, or the tramp stamp comments, or some of the supposedly "feminist" comments in the #ILookLikeAnEngineer (with bonus homophobia!) thread, or should that be the province of a new MeTa?
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 2:09 PM on September 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


That seems in the purview of the thread to me, if you have something in mind.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:24 PM on September 27, 2015


And am still confused about why people are so damned defensive.

Being under attack your entire life and having all the tools of discourse arranged to prevent you from explaining the situation or even deflecting the assault might be a reason.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:13 PM on September 27 [5 favorites +] [!]


Is there a specific response you're asking for here, or just derailing to to score a point?
posted by disclaimer at 2:26 PM on September 27, 2015


I'm sorry, who is "so damn defensive" again?
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 2:30 PM on September 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


It takes almost no effort to shit up a thread with a bunch of 'just asking questions' and it seems somewhat of a weird catch-22 that the people who are being belittled and dismissed are then supposed to spend all their time on the site flagging comments in order to avoid having to wade through a bunch of garbage to enjoy the site.

I'll say what I've said before about this: I am not asking people to go out of their way to track down and read gross stuff of the sort they'd like to see less of on the site. I am saying that when you, in the course of your normal reading of the site, come across something gross, go ahead and flag that thing (or write to us at the contact form, or both). That is, the stuff you're aware is gross because you already saw it: that's the stuff to go ahead and flag or otherwise let us know about, if you hadn't already. If you did already do so, great. If you need to nope out, that's okay too. But flagging it or writing to us is really, really helpful and so doing it when something is already in your field of vision anyway is a helpful thing.

So, just to be clear: is this thread an okay place to have a discussion about actually changing or implementing some kind of "I'd hit that" extended rule or policy that would cover things like the Taylor Swift's legs comments, or the tramp stamp comments, or some of the supposedly "feminist" comments in the #ILookLikeAnEngineer (with bonus homophobia!) thread, or should that be the province of a new MeTa?

I think that's fine to talk about, yeah.

For my understanding, when we're talking about covering things like the Taylor Swift's legs comments: those comments were deleted, which seemed like the system working. The MetaTalk thread after, I have totally heard criticisms and concerns on how that played out, but I want to make sure I follow whether we're talking about that or about the initial comments-made-and-then-deleted events in the thread on the blue itself.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:31 PM on September 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm not speaking for anyone else, but for me, the deletions in the Swift thread were the system working as intended, and the subsequent MeTa even being allowed was a problem.
posted by jaguar at 2:38 PM on September 27, 2015 [24 favorites]


And I'm not sure what the right answer to that problem is, as I realize that saying "We're never going to allow questions about deleted comments on MeTa" is unlikely, but there really has GOT to be a better way of curtailing such an endrun around the rules against posting sexist/racist/etc-ist comments.
posted by jaguar at 2:40 PM on September 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Is there a specific response you're asking for here, or just derailing to to score a point?

You asked a question. I gave you an answer. I suspect other people here could tell you, at great length, why they feel defensive, but a bunch of them have already done so, in this and many other MeTas.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:48 PM on September 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


For my understanding, when we're talking about covering things like the Taylor Swift's legs comments: those comments were deleted, which seemed like the system working. The MetaTalk thread after, I have totally heard criticisms and concerns on how that played out, but I want to make sure I follow whether we're talking about that or about the initial comments-made-and-then-deleted events in the thread on the blue itself.

I think you guys were right to moderate it more or less how you did; I think the problem in the Trochanter thread was basically twofold. First of all, we have more evidence (if we even needed any) that those kinds of users who make those kinds of comments do not and will not listen to other users telling them that they're unacceptable and need to stop, we have evidence that their "moderate" defenders and apologists will continue to cover them in a way that minimizes the offense and continues the hostility for women, trans people, Jewish users, etc etc. The "sexism is already against the rules!!!" standard is not cutting it. I know in it's a generalist site and etc etc, but I think it's well past time there was a really clear line on commenting on people's physical attractiveness or sexual characteristics, where it wasn't framed as "this makes other users uncomfortable" but "this is unacceptable and bad and you are not allowed to do this on MetaFilter".

I bring up the #ILookLikeAnEngineer thread, because it actually made me unbelievably, violently angry to see some of those comments, especially coming from users who make a big deal out of their "feminism". This is very much a policy change I would like to see enforced from a completely "politically neutral", no-cabals-barred place; and I say that not so much to reassure the conspiracy theorists and Team Freeze Peach and their enablers, but to register my annoyance with quite a few people who make a big deal out of being on the feminist "side". In the past year or two I've actually noticed a kind of "I'd hit that!" which is mostly perpetrated by putatively feminist (white) users, where they say stuff like "well of course you'd want to make out with [actress of color popular amongst nerds because of a role in a SF/F franchise, just look at her!", and to me that's really just another variant of "I'd hit that!" and it's just as grating.

I just don't think there's a lot of room for valuable discussions that involve direction analyses of individual people's physical attractiveness or sexuality desirability, or most of the time even their presentation, regardless of whether they're commenters or link/article subjects or authors or celebrities or whatever. Given that mod bias is always going to be towards "benefit of the doubt" and leniency anyway, I think having a very explicit and frankly pretty harsh and restrictive rule about this can only be a good thing, because it's very clear that a lot of the users making these comments do not and will not ever see these kind of comments as not their "right" to make, as free speech, blah blah blah. They can't internalize, at all, how unacceptable and obnoxious it is, their defenders can't internalize how hostile it is that they keep defending it in a way where the people who it wears on are being asked to consider the motivations and the places it comes from, or do a bunch of flagging, or trust in the mods blah blah. The thing is, I do trust the mods, that's why I want a much stricter rule, because it feels like right now we're relying on two different forms of self-policing, one of which is never going to happen (bad commenters becoming better people) and one of which is just a lower-grade version of the same shit that half the moderates are pretending they're against.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 2:51 PM on September 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


I am saying that when you, in the course of your normal reading of the site, come across something gross, go ahead and flag that thing

I do most of my reading on the Recent Activity page, and I know I would flag more often if it didn't involve the extra step of clicking the timestamp to open the actual thread, where there is the option of flagging. It's a very small amount of extra work, but it is just enough of a barrier to reduce how often I flag. Is there a technical barrier to including the flagging link on the Recent Activity page?
posted by Dip Flash at 3:00 PM on September 27, 2015 [21 favorites]


I clicked off of recent activity just to flag that idea as fantastic
posted by Going To Maine at 3:13 PM on September 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


I know I would flag more often if it didn't involve the extra step of clicking the timestamp to open the actual thread

Seconded, or thirded.
posted by immlass at 3:15 PM on September 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Master and Margarita Mix-- if we're talking about the ILookLikeAnEngineer thread, some of your comments actually made me pretty angry. I agreed that analyzing the hotness of the woman in the ad was inappropriate, but you also went after Frowner really hard, calling them an "appalling misogynist" for bringing up patriarchal beauty standards, and I'm still not sure why. I also don't know what you meant by this:

it's sad and frankly embarrassing to see (supposedly feminist!!) MeFites criticizing her appearance, comparing her "level of hotness" to male co-workers, and making comments using logic that wouldn't be out of place with the genders reversed, coming from the keys of a neckbeard angry about how it's "unfair" that dumb jocks get all the girls and none for schlubby dudes like them. It's just another version of "real women have curves" type garbage, with a healthy dose of sexual entitlement.

It sounded like that was directed not just at people talking about the woman in the ad but also at people who were saying they weren't attractive enough to be chosen for an ad like that (citing instances of it in their own lives). It seemed pretty low to me, and I don't think you're representing all of that conversation accurately.
posted by thetortoise at 3:16 PM on September 27, 2015 [10 favorites]


Is there a technical barrier to including the flagging link on the Recent Activity page?

Not a fundamental one, though possible a bit of a practical one since the RA page is already a huge and complicated query. Adding more stuff to it is kind of a guaranteed way to make pb cry, but we do it now and then anyway. I can sanity-check it with him if this would be especially hairy or not.

I've also historically preferred keeping the flag widget as close to the context of things as possible—so, in the thread where the comment exists, not in alternate or aggregated views of comments outside of that—but practically speaking I don't think the distinction between RA and a thread is as great as in other potential cases (like the Popular pages, maybe), so that's I think something worth changing my thinking on if it'd help folks feel like they can flag stuff that needs flagging more consistently.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:34 PM on September 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


or some of the supposedly "feminist" comments in the #ILookLikeAnEngineer (with bonus homophobia!) thread

I, trying my hardest, can't figure out how that thread could have avoided some of the ugh it encountered. A lot of the stuff covered in there isn't something that there's a given "right answer" to. People were basically jousting multiple angles there between the "ugh conventionally attractive thin white model woman talking about friends in the office in the copy" "looks like a normal woman wearing startup appropriate clothing?" maybe with a side of "uh, i look like that?" in there. The things wrong with the second response get covered, but that's not some bullshit "sexism doesn't real" response to bring up?

To me it felt like stuff that isn't really settled like some of the rape culture is awful heres an example/rape culture doesn't real sort of jousting and threadshitting that can happen in other threads.

I mean, maybe it's a blind spot for me and maybe i'm missing how it can be tiring by not being forced to deal with it 24/7, but it seems like 201+ level discourse and... i don't really see what else would go in that thread except for "this is great!" and "here's my photo/version of this thing". As soon as that ad got brought up, and the first comment was made, i knew exactly where that thread was going to go... and then it did... and it wasn't that bad! no one got super shitty about it! I just saw it as mefi doing a pretty ok job, discussing something that isn't a 101 level yes/no issue. I mean people yelled at eachother a bit at the end, but no one said anything all that gross.
posted by emptythought at 3:35 PM on September 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Like it resolves itself in a pretty decent way where there were people going "peanut butter!" "chocolate!" and then several people go "both can exist in the same place, and still make logical sense".
posted by emptythought at 3:40 PM on September 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I can't agree more that mockery or negative comments about physical appearance, regardless of who they are aimed at, is something that we should totally end here. Great comment, The Master.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:41 PM on September 27, 2015


I know in it's a generalist site and etc etc, but I think it's well past time there was a really clear line on commenting on people's physical attractiveness or sexual characteristics, where it wasn't framed as "this makes other users uncomfortable" but "this is unacceptable and bad and you are not allowed to do this on MetaFilter".

We're definitely already on board at a basic level with not wanting folks making comments that are (a) just shitty mocking of how someone looks or, on the notionally "positive" side, (b) opining on someone's fuckability in those words or more oblique ones. One of the nice outcomes of the I'd Hit It crackdown was putting the Why of that more in the general consciousness here which has I think helped folks realize they can meaningfully flag stuff in that general vicinity and we'll look seriously at it, and I've removed a fair number of things that were basically "got nothin' to add except rowr" in a variety of contexts because, yeah, no.

(A weird cross-cultural thing for me: on mlkshk, people share all kinds of images but some of that is pornier things or just Here's An Attractive Person (Who Is Usually A Woman Because Internet Demographics Or Something), and there's a handful of dudes who really really like to mention that they "would", in as few words, and it's like, okay. Right. I don't work here. This is not my job. So I call it out sometimes and otherwise just have to remind myself that different sites have different cultures and I'm glad MetaFilter's is what it is.)

I think there's tricky grey areas where we get away from random interjections about people's personal hubba hubba trains of thought re: specific people, and into more generalized stuff like aesthetics or sexuality when that's the actual topic of a discussion (e.g. people talking about what gets them off in a thread about what gets people off, etc), and some of that is probably going to come down to differing boundaries and expectations and some to just stuff we need to keep looking at and thinking about as a mod team about where to set those boundaries and expectations. So I think it's a work in progress sort of situation, and hearing from folks about specific examples when they come up is definitely helpful for us to understand where people are variously coming from in the community.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:57 PM on September 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I definitely second The Master and Margarita Mix's point that bringing up women's appearance in a discussion where that isn't the explicit focus, rating women, and "I'd hit that"-type comments should be deleted, regardless of user, though I think the mods already try to do that. But I'm uncomfortable with the idea of identifying users as fake feminists or anything like that, because I think at 201+ level (as emptythought puts it), we don't all have the same kind of feminism and may legitimately disagree.
posted by thetortoise at 4:01 PM on September 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


Also, TMaMM, i thin it's a bit unfair to that thread when the thread is literally "this trending hashtag and article are about people who don't appear the way someones preconceived notions of an engineer do" to say it's not about appearance or presentation? I agree on the point of the "i'd hit this" comments just being that old tired line dressed up in its sunday best, but the conventionally attractive 20 year old Vs 40 year old sort of stuff was absolutely germane to the discussion.

I guess it comes down to, should we not have threads where the central point is a woman's(or womens, i general) appearance/presentation like that? Because "don't go there" when the lead in is basically teeing it up for that seems sort of... weird.

I understand to an extent how that discussion can be tiresome, but it's absolutely part of the greater topic being brought up there when in that thread it was essentially the whole "real nerds"/"you don't look like a real nerd"/"fake geek girls" black hole again. Appearance and presentation is the cudgel that started the whole thing.
posted by emptythought at 4:09 PM on September 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's a very small amount of extra work, but it is just enough of a barrier to reduce how often I flag.

I agreed that analyzing the hotness of the woman in the ad was inappropriate, but you also went after Frowner really hard, calling them an "appalling misogynist" for bringing up patriarchal beauty standards, and I'm still not sure why.

Because she didn't seem to get that in the case of an actual specific woman, who was already having her tech bonafides called into question, sexualized, and dismissed, all her "but hey maybe what if they did choose her for that ad because she was pretty instead of because she was an engineer?", which is exactly the kind of sentiment I'd have previously expected Frowner to come down completely against if your typical clueless tech guy had expressed it. Like I said at the time, if she had been overtly sexualized in the ad (she was not) or if she had been a model and not an actual programmer and employee of the startup (read: SMALL COMPANY WITH SMALL STAFF) in question, maybe discussing why they chose her would have been appropriate, but she was not either of those things and it was completely inappropriate. Seriously, that's a dismissal of her abilities and worthiness that is absolutely identical implications of the Taylor Swift leg comments and "she's such a good ~performer~ I assumed she didn't write her own songs". The only difference was who was saying it and the kind of point they were trying to make.

On top of that, just bringing up some kind of idea of affirmative "heteronormative beauty" is really homophobic shit. I don't want to go too far into that, but I just want to say that.

It sounded like that was directed not just at people talking about the woman in the ad but also at people who were saying they weren't attractive enough to be chosen for an ad like that (citing instances of it in their own lives).

In other words, making a bunch of completely unfounded bullshit speculation about why she was chosen, just to get away with being able to say something that boiled down to "she's too pretty for it to be merit", utterly ignoring the situation that actually occured: she was a programmer, she worked there, she made an ad that wasn't notably more sexualized than her male co-workers, startups tend to be small. It wasn't a situation where Microsoft or Google's PR department carefully choose thousands of employees. I think it's meaningless that "oh they chose her because she was pretty" is bascially the same logic later used by a racist idiot trying to excuse the reaction as "suspiciousness of HR" because obviously "there are no young, Asian people in internet startups in the Bay Area, that would have to be a fucking ex-post-facto insertion for PC reasons, of course people are going to react negatively!!".

Either you respect women's accomplishments and don't go looking for appearance-based reasons to undermine them... or you don't. And if you do, you are not a feminist. I'm very comfortable making that assertion.

Again, there are ways to relate someone's personal experiences of discrimination and appearance politicsthat don't involve expressing them in ways that are indistinguishable from a shitty Reddit thread. This is not "reasonable people can disagree" territory, this is the exact same thing as "Taylor Swift has too much legs to be a songwriter", but hand-waved as being some kind of "feminist discussion", just because that's how the people involved see themselves. Bullshit.

I'll point out this comment as exactly the right way to bring up those experiences and have those conversations that was not shitty: it brings up her experiences as an "unattractive" woman, but doesn't go into gross hypotheticals of the qualifactions of prettier women or speculate on why they were chosen or anything like that.

People were basically jousting multiple angles there between the "ugh conventionally attractive thin white model woman talking about friends in the office in the copy"

Now, granted, I don't actually know what race and ethnicity she identifies as, and maybe it is indeed white, but I think it's at least reasonable to suggest that she's not, and she certainly wasn't read that way and that was part of the reaction towards the ad she appeared in. Again: she is a programmer, she is an employee of the company, she is not a model. As far as I'm concerned that's all anyone needs to know and any speculation beyond that is completely out of bounds, and that includes any speculation about her race and how that might or might not have played into why she was chosen for the ad.

There's a time and a place to have a "why does tech only put [kind of women]" in their ads, a thread involving a specific woman who was the object of doubt, hostility, and dismissiveness because of her appearance is not that place, at all. Again: not a model, actually a developer, actually an employee of the company in question. It is also certainly not okay to debate just how much of a "glamour shot" it was, either, just like it's not okay to discuss how "Taylor and her legs" portray themselves.

Now, before someone tries to use the "well she wasn't in the thread so that's okay, of course you're going to have to let people discuss the content of the post", I want to nip that in the bud, because I think ignoring those facts and baselessly speculating on why she was chosen creates a hostile, shitty, misogynist environment on MeFi, for MeFites, in general, that has nothing to do with Isis herself. "We want this to be a safe space for women - but only ones who are acceptably low on the conventional attractiveness totem pole, if you're too pretty you need to suck it up and live with the undermining" is bullshit. Just because some MeFites feel like they'd never in a million years be asked to do an ad like that doesn't give them grounds to act like a bunch of "hurr durr fake geek girl was only chosen because she was hawwwwt" assholes.

This isn't really party to my overall point, but I also want to point out that picking at her quote as just "tee hee I like my co-workers" is ridiculously shitty to try and paint as some kind of nod to the patriarchy or performative femininity or whatever when, for fuck's sake, most of the women in tech on MeFi spend half of our time in tech/industry threads backing each other up about how often we have to work with straight assholes. I mean, really? That's just nitpicking for the sake of nitpicking, and as part of the overall conversation it was sexist and shitty.

I, trying my hardest, can't figure out how that thread could have avoided some of the ugh it encountered.

A much harsher rule on discussing the physical characteristics of people, whether it's commenters or mods or the subjects or authors of FPP articles or whoevever.

I can't agree more that mockery or negative comments about physical appearance, regardless of who they are aimed at, is something that we should totally end here.

That's not what I'm going for with this because that's not what I see as the problem. Of course, if people think it is an unaddressed problem I'm willing to listen to their concerns, but I have a feeling this is winding up to agreeing with me in order to subvert my intent and I'd like to nip that in the bug. My concern is not "hah hah so and so's [ugly/fat/whatever]", which is a problem but is not this problem. "This problem" is a bunch of creeping "I'd hit that" stuff, and a bunch of "she's too pretty to [write her own songs/be an engineer/be hired or chosen for something other than her looks]", and "if a woman looks like THIS she must be into THAT sexual position". Now, obviously, if we have a much stricter standard for when it's okay to discuss the appearance of individual people, that will kill two birds with one stone and that's terrific. I just want to be clear and specific about what I see as being the main problem.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 5:23 PM on September 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


I agree with this conclusion, without intending to wind up to anything.

A much harsher rule on discussing the physical characteristics of people, whether it's commenters or mods or the subjects or authors of FPP articles or whoevever.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:37 PM on September 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think the comments you're criticizing are entirely more nuanced than you are making them out to be, and people were not criticizing the engineer's credentials or speech but instead criticizing that the person who put together the entire ad campaign chose to create an ad that lived up to a lot of patriarchal norms, and how the entire situation very much ends up in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't patriarchy-bullshit sandwich for all women, regardless of appearance. And feminism has a long history of talking about such double binds for how women present themselves physically, and it's therefore weird to claim that anyone who talks about women's appearance at all isn't a feminist. Because the topic wasn't just women in engineering (in which case I'd pretty much agree with you) but about women in engineering and women in advertising.
posted by jaguar at 5:40 PM on September 27, 2015 [38 favorites]


Because talking about people's appearance is sexism in some instances but not in other instances. The community standard should be about sexism; it's not about things members can/can't talk about. If the community is going to have rules, it does makes sense to have rules about sexist language, rather than rules about "physical characteristics of people" which is too specific.
posted by polymodus at 5:50 PM on September 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


How about we just keep wanting to learn how to be better to each other and widen our own perspectives by learning from others and their own unique perspectives that we hadn't considered before?

A general model that I think might be worth putting into practice (if you wanna or care to)

1. Someone says something and you get that defensive feeling.
2. Say something along the lines of :
"that makes feel defensive, because where you say "a thing that maybe sucks" I think "something that counters what you said that I think doesn't suck" can you clarify where you are coming from on that problematic bit?
3. Read their response to what you written in step 2 about 15 times. Google some of the terms they use.
4. Do some emotional labor and ponder "hmm. Maybe they aren't trying to be a sucky human, maybe there's a human that's not a raging asshole on the other end of that keyboard. Maybe we're both having shitty days." Ponder all their comments, think a little more about the nuances of what they are saying.
5. Follow up with " hey I've read on some stuff, and I'm thinking I get what you mean here, but it's still confusing to me. I know you're not trying to shit up the place, so can you help me out with those other bits that I've come across in trying to understand your POV?"
6. When they get pissed off because you've said something accidentally dumb and call you a something-ist, apologize.
7. Think a little more, and when the lightbulb goes off, comment on what the thing is that you've learned, and ask if that's what they were saying.
8. Get to live the rest of your life a smidge better of a human being.
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:08 PM on September 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


TMAMM, I guess I just don't see why it couldn't be that Frowner's comments were valid and your comments were from a totally different perspective and also valid, and both could be complementary, even, and both of you are feminists? That's how I read that thread. It was interesting to me that Isis's response was actually to expand representation of women engineers by starting the hashtag. I don't know, maybe we'll never agree here, because I think heteronormative beauty standards are absolutely a real thing, and yet I appreciated your contributions to that thread.
posted by thetortoise at 6:16 PM on September 27, 2015 [9 favorites]


Annika Cicada, I believe you are restating the status quo here, and that the folks who are fed up with this generally believe that they are always the ones being forced to act with infinite patience. (In contrast with, say, the mods deleting the comment and making the commenter reframe and and repost it in order to remove ambient sexism. That puts the onus on the commenter, rather than on the reader.)
posted by Going To Maine at 6:27 PM on September 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh also, +1 to thetortoise and Drinky Die.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:29 PM on September 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


"This is not "reasonable people can disagree" territory, this is the exact same thing as "Taylor Swift has too much legs to be a songwriter", but hand-waved as being some kind of "feminist discussion", just because that's how the people involved see themselves. Bullshit. "

What would have been your proposed outcome for Frowner's comments?
posted by klangklangston at 6:40 PM on September 27, 2015


Oh yeah, for sure, I feel like I have to act with way too much patience quite a lot. I also try to keep check for when I'm accidentally shitting up a thread and try to stop or do less of that.

There are specific conversational styles we can aim for for to help us suck less in social justice type threads that I believe would go a long way towards improving the overall site dynamics, and I think more people admitting when they get defensive would be a great first step.
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:41 PM on September 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


In other words, making a bunch of completely unfounded bullshit speculation about why she was chosen, just to get away with being able to say something that boiled down to "she's too pretty for it to be merit", utterly ignoring the situation that actually occured: she was a programmer, she worked there, she made an ad that wasn't notably more sexualized than her male co-workers

To be clear, this is the side i'm coming at this from too. I'm not disagreeing. "Is she not allowed to be conventionally attractive while being a programmer" is, yea, a good point. That's the side of the rope i'm tugging on.

this is the exact same thing as "Taylor Swift has too much legs to be a songwriter", but hand-waved as being some kind of "feminist discussion", just because that's how the people involved see themselves.

This is an extremely uncharitable reading of anyone who disagrees. The TS thread stuff was pretty much platonic shitposting i'd file in the no, there's no argument territory. It's like Don Draper sexist.

Discussing whether or not they might have done something really rote and heterosexual-male-targeted by choosing a conventionally attractive woman is valid.

You can see it as dressed up bullshit if you want, but i don't even really know how to explain that "lol legs amirite" and "this looks just like all the other male gaze as fuck advertising" are not the same comment. If you squint hard enough, i guess i kind of see it, but at that point everything is so blurry that a goat would look like a cat.

There's a time and a place to have a "why does tech only put [kind of women]" in their ads, a thread involving a specific woman who was the object of doubt, hostility, and dismissiveness because of her appearance is not that place, at all. Again: not a model, actually a developer, actually an employee of the company in question.

I feel like the model point is just almost strawmanning though? Although a few people sort of went the "does she really work there?" direction, no one was criticizing her. All the criticism was directed at the company for specifically picking someone traditionally attractive and putting shitty copy next to that photo that's actually pretty sexist in and of itself.

The taylor swift thread was, ostensibly, criticism of TS in a gross way. This is criticism of the company for making that choice and no questioning of legitimacy or credentials against her.

I think ignoring those facts and baselessly speculating on why she was chosen creates a hostile, shitty, misogynist environment on MeFi, for MeFites, in general, that has nothing to do with Isis herself. "We want this to be a safe space for women - but only ones who are acceptably low on the conventional attractiveness totem pole, if you're too pretty you need to suck it up and live with the undermining" is bullshit. Just because some MeFites feel like they'd never in a million years be asked to do an ad like that doesn't give them grounds to act like a bunch of "hurr durr fake geek girl was only chosen because she was hawwwwt" assholes.

I.... don't have a good answer to this. I see what you're saying and just kind of went "oh" out loud.

I still don't really know what to say though. The criticisms that they chose, potentially out of a lot of employees, traditional-ad-lady who looks like she could be on any magazine cover whereas for the man right next to her they chose quirky heavier tophat guy seemed legit?

If everyone in the ads looked like traditional stock photo people this wouldn't bug me. But i think it's supremely shitty that the guy gets to be nerdy pax goer dude whereas they chose a "normal" looking woman?

I know a bunch of people who work in tech, i work in tech, and very few of them look that way. I realize this is circling back around to basically a proxy of what was bugging you in the thread... But i identified with those comments and it bugged me.

It is, absolutely, a damned if you do damned if you don't think. I just had a long discussion with a friend whose gotten a lot of shit for "not looking queer enough" and constantly gotten backhanded comments along the lines of "you don't have to do your makeup/hair/dress like that here, we don't care!" when it's just their style. But this isn't about the individual, it's about that shoot and whoever made that call. They're perpetuating shittiness that is a lot more prevalent than the shittiness of some progressivey people going "you look too normal!" on the internet.

Our criticism of their choices is not the same song as a bunch of redditors criticism of her "not being a real nerd". And i guess if it sounds the same... I'll just cross this off as a discussion i'll step into again? I already opted out of the actual main thread when i first saw it.
posted by emptythought at 7:29 PM on September 27, 2015 [9 favorites]


And that's why the mods can't and aren't going to lay down a weird zero-tolerance rule on talking about something like "appearance" rather than using judgment calls on what is and what is not blatant sexism. Because people of goodwill can and do disagree on some comments. Though not others (like the Taylor Swift thing). So in one case they brought down the hammer and in the other they didn't. Which is how it should work.
posted by Justinian at 8:07 PM on September 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


this is the exact same thing as "Taylor Swift has too much legs to be a songwriter", but hand-waved as being some kind of "feminist discussion", just because that's how the people involved see themselves.

It is sure as hell not the same thing, and it's unfortunate that you can't see that. Regardless of how wrong you are, it's an interesting illustration of how hard it is to draw the line on what should be deleted for being sexist. I usually agree with you, but Frowner's comments should absolutely not have been deleted for being sexist because they weren't sexist (or homophobic, wtf).
posted by Mavri at 8:28 PM on September 27, 2015 [18 favorites]


6. When they get pissed off because you've said something accidentally dumb and call you a something-ist, apologize.

I don't think this is something Frowner should do.
posted by gadge emeritus at 8:30 PM on September 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


If everyone in the ads looked like traditional stock photo people this wouldn't bug me. But i think it's supremely shitty that the guy gets to be nerdy pax goer dude whereas they chose a "normal" looking woman?

That's basically an example of tokenism and is totally valid as something to bring up in a thread as a point of criticism. So there are examples where physical appearance is valid; the difference lies in the target of criticism. E.g., was the subject of the criticism Taylor Swift and her identity/femininity (not good because personal/ad hominem/sexist), or the subject of the criticism the advertising media regarding how their imagery spreads stereotypes (valid and closer to "level 400" discourse)?

Sure, there is variation in what is thought of as sexist, but what matters for the purposes of metafilter is what the existing community generally thinks of as unacceptably sexist, and a systematic way of improving standards can be done through the flagging system if people help flag these microaggressions more.
posted by polymodus at 10:10 PM on September 27, 2015


Either you respect women's accomplishments and don't go looking for appearance-based reasons to undermine them... or you don't. And if you do, you are not a feminist. I'm very comfortable making that assertion.

Yes. And she is accomplished, which puts her on the marketing team's radar when they put out the call. and her accomplishments which are many have nothing to do with why marketing chose her over the less photogenic next-in-line. It is not sexist to point that out--indeed, I believe it is anti-sexist to say "she got that [whatever] because of how she looks" when 'how she looks' is how the misogynist assbags who make the final choice arrive at their decision. She did not choose how she appears; it's the (basically always) guys who make their final decision based on who's pretty. That is them being assholes and does not diminish from her actual talent.

So yes, super context- and phrasing-dependent, and really: when most of us are saying "she got that on her looks," I think we're saying "She got that because the dude who could make a decision saw Pretty Girl and that is fucking gross as shit." I think for the most part that for most of us that is never detracting from how good she is at her job--one keeps a job by being good at it, and for so many women who perform there is so much evidence that yep, you're amazing--and it's a recognition of how gross guys are that if a not-conventionally-attractive woman reads for a role just as well, the conventionally-attractive woman gets the job. It's gross (and it's now happening to men too, as Helen Mirren pointed out in my latest fpp), and I believe (or want to believe) that when many men say "she got that for her looks" they're saying "she got that because she's pretty because these people are assholes and that's all they look at, and ignore her talent" and not "she got that because she's pretty and that's all."
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:46 PM on September 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


I wasn't talking about frowner.
posted by Annika Cicada at 5:50 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thank you, Cortex.
posted by zarq at 7:34 AM on September 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


Oh, ew.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:53 AM on September 28, 2015


I am hesitant to speak for Annika Cicada (who is, after all, here in the thread), but I think her advice was directed at someone who is reading from a position of privilege and finds their feelings getting hurt, not telling someone who is unprivileged to do more work to avoid hurting the feelings of the privileged. If you read it apart from the TMaMM line of discussion, it makes more sense that way. "The privileged need to use some of their power to examine themselves and their actions and do better" is not a controversial statement (well, except for the privileged).

On the other hand, I could totally be misreading Annika Cicada's point.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:54 AM on September 28, 2015 [8 favorites]


Yup, you read it exactly right. Thanks for clarifying that!
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:08 AM on September 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


After thinking about it for a while....

Cortex, while I appreciate your deleting that post quickly, I believe it would have been more helpful if you were more explicit in your deletion reason beyond "Eh." To have told the OP that the link was sexist and that's why it was deleted.

Isn't that what this post is about, after all? Setting standards? Setting a tone? We've spoken a bit in this thread about the undercurrent of hostility to woman that sexism perpetuates. A mod explaining specifically why a sexist post was deleted would seem to be as (if not more) important as the deletion itself.

Mod feedback for deletions is helpful to those of us who post. It helps us learn to read our audience.
posted by zarq at 8:10 AM on September 28, 2015 [10 favorites]


Honestly, I just didn't have a concise and coherent expression of the stuff I thought was weird about it, and that I'm guessing others thought was weird about it, to hand. I appreciate the idea of verbosity in deletion reasons to make this stuff clearer, but sometimes you've just got a bleary mod who knows it when he sees it but doesn't have the words handy.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:13 AM on September 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


For instance, here's a concluding comment from me where I followed roughly the script above.

http://www.metafilter.com/151112/Maybe-White-People-Really-Dont-See-Race-Maybe-Thats-The-Problem#6121791

If you read that discussion between conspire and I you can see where I'm being kinda dumb, trying to stay on the "I'm really trying I promise!" side of privilege while I worked out my own baggage and tried to get hell off their toes as best I could.

HTH.
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:15 AM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


cortex: Honestly, I just didn't have a concise and coherent expression of the stuff I thought was weird about it, and that I'm guessing others thought was weird about it, to hand. I appreciate the idea of verbosity in deletion reasons to make this stuff clearer, but sometimes you've just got a bleary mod who knows it when he sees it but doesn't have the words handy.

Ah. Okay. Good morning!

So, upthread you said, "And most of that is a matter of degree rather than substance, and when a key part of the request is The Mods Need To Do More I need to be clear about where we are and to understand clearly what specifically folks envision that More being. "

Does this: "I appreciate the idea of verbosity in deletion reasons to make this stuff clearer" mean that you'd be on board with having Team Mod call out sexism more explicitly when appropriate? Obviously I'm talking about in post deletion reasons, but also potentially in other circumstances?
posted by zarq at 8:28 AM on September 28, 2015


We just added flagging to Recent Activity. If you run into problems, please let us know.
posted by pb (staff) at 8:59 AM on September 28, 2015 [35 favorites]


woot! Thanks, pb!
posted by tonycpsu at 9:02 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Does this: "I appreciate the idea of verbosity in deletion reasons to make this stuff clearer" mean that you'd be on board with having Team Mod call out sexism more explicitly when appropriate? Obviously I'm talking about in post deletion reasons, but also potentially in other circumstances?

I feel a little weird about the question because I feel like we've been on board with that already and have talked several times over the last few months especially about hearing that people would appreciate in general more explicit reasoning about this stuff in mod notes and such, and about our actively making an effort there.

I worry that "would you be on board with", to which the answer is yes, we would and are and have been, is gonna get conflated somehow with "will you always fundamentally prioritize above all else" which isn't a practical goal because as much as I think it is important that we work to do well on this front, it's one of a whole bunch of moving parts that make up this place and sometimes something like e.g. just getting a heavily flagged thing gone promptly is going to take priority over cobbling together a coherent exegesis on the problematic nature of the thing.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:02 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just got to the bottom of the thread, and I feel weird making this comment directly below a few of cortex's comments. But timing is what it is.

I have done what the mods asked and flagged comments and dropped them a note when it wasn't entirely obvious why I was flagging. I've gotten back several walls of text that boiled down to "I don't see it, and I'm not doing something about it unless you convince me." from cortex. It's been hugely off putting, and I've needed to take a break from the site for several days when it's happened. I've never responded to these emails, because it's someone in a position of authority saying "I've thought about why I don't agree with you and No" before asking for clarification. It's intimidating and hugely emotionally demanding.

I suspect that cortex is trying to show that he's not just being out of hand dismissive, but it's coming across in exactly the opposite way. Many paragraphs justifying why you're not doing something with a little "if I'm wrong correct me!" says that you have reached a conclusion and well you're not a Jew or a woman but you're not seeing it and so if I want to sink the time into maybe having it resolved I better plead my case sufficiently. Whereas, if you had just said "I'm missing something" I would have felt a lot better about responding.

It's the same thing that's happened in this thread and previous ones since the queue started. I think you would be well served to ask for more information before text dumping, because it really is stifling. I know you want to be responsive, but sometimes the best way to do that is say "I'm listening. Wanted to get this out of the queue in a timely way and hear what other people think." You don't need to have a definitive answer right off the bat.

And I thought about buttoning after those emails, and they didn't even include any scolding about my behaviour. If they had, I absolutely would have left like norareed. Your responses need to be pared way the hell down sometimes, because it's coming across way differently than you think it is. I know you're in a tough position, and I really think we've got the best mods on the net. But now that you're the big boss man, your style of engagement gets new weight. Your higher authority means your words, and sometimes just the shear number of them, gets more weight.

And maybe if you feel like you can't post a meta without getting the first word in, step back from that role. Or wait until you feel like you have time to cut 50% of your comment.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:37 AM on September 28, 2015 [24 favorites]


I don't want to get too far into it, because it is ultimately a derail, but really, the whole idea of a "heteronormative beauty standard" is homophobic, and I don't really want to get into the way it's often used to justify really horrible treatment of queer femme women and those who are attracted to them/not attracted to butch women (often the same people), up to and including part of what I'll call "lesbian rape culture", but it is and it does. That's not to say butches don't get just as much shit in different ways, up to and including the ways that lesbian rape culture sexualizes them, just that this stuff happens and is shitty, and that is the end of me engaging with that.

When it comes to MeFi, there are threads where gender presentation and presumed sexual identity are relevant and appropriate subjects for discussion, absolutely. Who Is Assumed To Be What Based On How They Look, and how harmful those assumptions can be is an important and worthwhile discussion, but the #ILookLikeAnEngineer thread really not the time or the place. I'd like to point out to everyone that they have no goddamn idea what Isis Anchalee/Wegner's sexual orientation is, the ad in question doesn't offer so much as an indication, there are a ton of gay and queer women who look exactly like her, and with no thought towards men or heteronormatively in mind when it comes to their appearance because she was wearing a t-shirt as a part of work-appropriate clothing, and yes, you are being homophobic as well as misogynist when you try and normalize the idea that a woman who looks like that is straight, or was absolutely being sexualized by some "heterosexual man" with no possibility whatsoever that, you know, she's just wearing the standard screenprinted company swag t-shirt, just like her co-workers.

What would have been your proposed outcome for Frowner's comments?

Honestly, I was hoping when I said "this is gross, please knock it off", people would consider how they were being gross and knock it off. I guess, from there, if there had been a rule I'd have flagged the comments I saw as shitty, would like the mods to have nixed some of the worst comments and left a note, and then if someone tried to open a "why was my comment deleted??? the modding here is terrible!! you are all uptight feminazis!!!" MeTa, that wouldn't make it past the queue so we wouldn't have to re-argue the thread in grey form.

Because talking about people's appearance is sexism in some instances but not in other instances.

It's inappropriate and irrelevant in what I would say are the vast majority cases, and not even because of sexism per se; there are plenty of cases where talking about a guy's appearance just isn't relevant and talking about it isn't cool. Most of it is at best irrelevant and lots of it contributes to a ton of different very shitty atmospheres. I trust the mods to actually know the difference, and on a site where we know that plenty of assholes are coming armed and ready with "but I meant this discussion of how haaaawt a woman was as like, her artistic presentation as a performer, maaaan" and "lol he has a ton of awful policy perscriptions BUT LOL HE'S FAT AMIRITE?", an explicit rule would if nothing else cut down on threads like the Trochanter thread. "That's not okay, and it's not up for discussion" is the only standard that's going to work, because "please stop being assholes who think you're entitled to comment on people's personal appearance and please consider the impact that it has on the rest of the community when you do so" clearly is not.

Pople can always come up with some angle to legitimate talking about how attractive or unattractive or, let's face it, fuckable a woman is, just like concern trolls can always come up with excuses for prevaricating over someone's weight or whether being fat is acceptable or not. I'm sure there are other angles I'm not even aware are issues, but I bet they follow the same pattern, because it happens the same way in every single one of these threads. Who the fuck cares? In the meantime, it's creating an incredibly shitty environment and I'm tired of both the behavior and the litany of bulllshit excuses and the people who are defending the litany of bullshit excuses because freedom of speech and it's important to pretend the bullshit excuses are like actual productive discussion. I'm 100% sure I won't always agree with the mods and they will not live up to the standard of what I would moderate, but I do also trust them to err on the side of caution and never, ever, ever persecute a single genuine false positive and silence someone all their life. Seriously, zero. Zip. Zilch. That's just not how moderation rolls, I think everyone should be aware of that by now.

I think the comments you're criticizing are entirely more nuanced than you are making them out to be, and people were not criticizing the engineer's credentials or speech

Well, you're wrong about my perception of their nuances, because actually what I'm mad about is more than the statements directly but the atmosphere they're creating and the assumptions underlying them, but that doesn't actually matter very much because, because:

but instead criticizing that the person who put together the entire ad campaign chose to create an ad that lived up to a lot of patriarchal norms

first off, the OneLogin ad campaign didn't "live up to patriarchal norms", and it's really shameful that people are trying to cast it this way when there are so many examples of genuinely sexualized, degrading ad campaigns. A woman in a t-shirt talking about her job, who isn't posing provocatively, dressed in normal, work-appropriate clothing, doing the exact same thing as her male co-workers, is not supporting any patriarchal norms. It's actually the direct opposite, or what did you actually think gender equality was going to look like? She was not wearing lingerie and a full face of makeup, posing with her tits sticking out. She's shot in the exact same way as the men, she just happens to be a woman.

Any speculation about her appearance as contrasted to her co-workers appearance isn't any different than people speculating in the breakroom about who so-and-so fucked for her promotion, or whether she's too pretty to actually know what she's talking about, or any other kind of speculation about the role women's appearance plays in their professional life. In terms of "background radiation", it all pings the Geiger counter. It's dumb and shitty, and the people who were making comments about how they don't trust the marketing department system, maaaaaan, are seriously not at all different from GamerGaters bleating on about "liberal mass media campaigns to steal our precious bodily fluids" whenever a woman in a videogame shows up not looking like fucking Bayonetta.

Given what we know about her, there's no compelling reason to believe they asked her to be in the ad for reasons other than "she was one of their programmers, and she was there". None at all. The speculation is to support the sexism, the people making these gross assertions don't actually care why she was chosen, they just want to be able to feel okay believing it was her tits. With Redditors and GamerGaters, I expect this, but I will never accept that anyone who does this is "feminist".
Yeah, essentially normalizing looking at women's full and equal inclusion with suspicion is really going to stick it to the Patriarchy, you show 'em, guys!! Seriously, that thread was like an endless parade of "what the fuck?", and the MeTa recapitaluation isn't any better. I will say that, given how utterly normal she looks, the people who are acting like the company basically had Megan Fox giving the camera bedroom eyes in a wet t-shirt have some fucking issues. I understand that living in a patriarchy sucks and feeling like you, personally, would never be in one of those ads feels shitty, but the answer is not descending into "marketing material InCel" levels of pettiness and jealousy and just plain spitefulness. Especially since there were plenty of women who felt that way, in the thread, who were capable of dredging up the basic human decency not to do that.

Let's take note that no one is speculating about the personal characteristics of the male programmers or why they were chosen, other than a bit of sneering at poor Top Hat Guy, because men get to be full humans. And no, "they should get male models for the boys too!!!!" is not a sane or reasonable reaction here, because you're completely blind if you can't see that they're all wearing the same clothing, groomed the same way. Top Hat Dude is Top Hat Dude just like Isis is Glasses Lady: they're probably all just wearing their normal accessories and doing their normal grooming, Guy With No Particular Notable Features included. Welcome to Bay Area Tech Startup culture, enjoy your stay.

And again, when Frowner brings up "oh they couldn't make the same ad with a butch lesbian": A++++ mind-reading skills there, champ, but that isn't something that we can know and speculating about who had to be discriminated against is crap. It's just another form of speculating that they only could have picked Isis for her looks because if she looked different, they "would never have" picked her. Sorry, but there's no way to know and speculating when it comes to a particular case is bogus. "I was put up for one of these things and turned down because I was too butch", or even "I was rejected for one of these things at my own company and I'm not sure why but I feel like it was mostly that I am too butch because X, Y, Z", that's a fair enough thing to talk about, and again, there were people in the thread who did it the right way.

But when you start making unfounded assertions in the face of actual evidence that "oh there's NO WAY AT ALL they'd have put [a woman who looks like me] in that ad, yeah they totally chose her for her looks totes", that's the same reasoning ("I'm not comfortable with this person/they don't reflect my own experiences, THEREFORE IT MUST BE AFFIRMATIVE ACTION"), coming from the same place ("I am upset because I feel that type of person is being advanced over my type of person!!!") with the same resulting conclusion ("If you have [x/y/z characteristic], they just picked you because of that!!") as racist assholes who think every single time a person of color shows up in anything in media, anywhere, it's "diversity being shoved down our throats". Butch women do get a lot of shit and it's a real problem, and reverse racism is not, but that doesn't excuse that the form is the same and the end results are the same, ie, people who are already discriminated against have to endure this kind of cloud of suspicion, everyone who wants to discriminate them has a ready excuse that "everyone knows" there are no black people in tech, the conventional looking woman is probably a model, PC gone mad!! etc etc, and anyone who looks at this crap and calls it feminism with a straight face needs to pull their head from out their ass.

Again, as I already pointed out, there's a right way to make those comments (muddgirl, the sockpuppet I linked above), and a wrong way, and there was a whole damn lot of the wrong way all over that thread.

If everyone in the ads looked like traditional stock photo people this wouldn't bug me. But i think it's supremely shitty that the guy gets to be nerdy pax goer dude whereas they chose

Yeah, so, if people would stop being gross about top hat guy for basically no reason whatsoever, that would be nice. Yeah, okay, Top Hat Dude is super nerdy, but again, much like Isis Anchalee/Wegner, he's probably just one of their employees. He doesn't "get to be" anything, just like she isn't actually a fucking stock photo model, and just like the extremely generic non-Top Hat Dude isn't a model either, and it's shitty to speculate otherwise absent evidence to the contrary. OneLogin is a tech startup in the Bay Area, and all three of the people in the ad are wearing Generic Company Swag t-shirt. So far, there's nothing to suggest they're all that different from any other Bayrea startup, and the employees they went with in the ad were the people who expressed interest/who was on-hand. They even have the requisite Web 3.0 bubble layout.

So yes, super context- and phrasing-dependent, and really: when most of us are saying "she got that on her looks," I think we're saying "She got that because the dude who could make a decision saw Pretty Girl and that is fucking gross as shit."

No, not context-and-phrasing dependent. This is a distinction without a difference. The problem is the normalizing of this kind of shitty speculation, not who is "at fault" for the systemic prejudice and sexism that it reinforces. Once again, I am going to keep saying this until people get it through their heads: there's nothing really sexual or even aesthetically gratifying about that image other than that she's a woman, and while of course there do exist people who have so objectified the entire concept of women that literally every picture of a woman is porn to them, I see absolutely no reason why MeFi needs to descend to that level and valid that shit. Yeah, as cortex says, there's a world out there where men (and some women) respond to every single picture of a woman, no matter how innocuous, with "would!" or "would not!", but when we start assuming that every single person who has ever made a business decision is one of those people, you're pretty much just lending credence to "who did she fuck to get that job?, round 382820202". I'll point out that we don't even know if it was a dude who made the decision on that photo, or who shot it.

If your first instinct is to think up ways where a woman's professional advancements are accomplishments could possibly be because of what she looks like or who she fucked, you are part of the problem and you need to stop. Or, conversely, you're revealing that you don't actually take the problem seriously; ie, you're not feminist.

What is "fucking gross as shit" is this misogynist line of speculation, and the contortions people will go through to pretend that it's feminist because they want to think of themselves as feminist but not actually be challened on it when they do misogynist things or actually change their behavior.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 10:04 AM on September 28, 2015 [8 favorites]


I've gotten back several walls of text that boiled down to "I don't see it, and I'm not doing something about it unless you convince me." from cortex.

I don't want to dismiss the concerns you're elaborating here, but I also don't feel okay about "several walls of text" as a characterization of the situation; I've only sent you two emails in the last year and a half that were even more than a single paragraph, and one of those was two short paragraphs the latter of which was explicitly asking your thoughts on how to deal with the thing you were concerned about. I think there's three total "I have a concern about comment x" exchanges you and I have had in that time, along with a few random unrelated FanFare/heads up/checking-in notes from you about misc. site stuff.

I've never responded to these emails, because it's someone in a position of authority saying "I've thought about why I don't agree with you and No" before asking for clarification. It's intimidating and hugely emotionally demanding.

I very much didn't mean it that way, but I hear you that that's how it felt and I'm sorry to have made you feel that way. I'm definitely on the Talk A Lot side of the communication style spectrum. From my end I wish I had heard back from you because I'd rather have known how you felt at the time, but I don't feel like you have to be under any obligation there, so doing what works for you is fine.

And maybe if you feel like you can't post a meta without getting the first word in, step back from that role. Or wait until you feel like you have time to cut 50% of your comment.

I can definitely do with being more concise sometimes, heartily acknowledged. (The comment at the start of this was cut down considerably, god help me. I can go long when there's a lot of detail.) And hanging back some on responding up front to every MetaTalk is something we started talking about a while ago and making an effort on. Maybe that pendulum has ended up swinging the other way some; I'll think about it in general.

But the core idea of mods not responding to MetaTalk posts that are explicitly floating directives or policy adjustments for mods isn't realistic. It's totally fine if folks want to have just a community-oriented discussion rather than a discussion about what, specifically, mods ought to be doing, and I think we have a lot of those that's a good thing, but for that to be the case it needs to be framed as such, not as something with an explicit call to action to us like this post contained.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:04 AM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


We just added flagging to Recent Activity. If you run into problems, please let us know.

Woohoo! Awesome, thank you.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 10:11 AM on September 28, 2015


What is "fucking gross as shit" is this misogynist line of speculation, and the contortions people will go through to pretend that it's feminist because they want to think of themselves as feminist but not actually be challened on it when they do misogynist things or actually change their behavior.

It's not in any way misogynist to point out that many/most people who make decisions are men, and their decisions are very often informed by misogyny. Reread my comment, please, and pay particular attention to the final sentence.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:15 AM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


I feel a little weird about the question because I feel like we've been on board with that already and have talked several times over the last few months especially about hearing that people would appreciate in general more explicit reasoning about this stuff in mod notes and such, and about our actively making an effort there.

Sorry if I wasn't clear. I appreciate the new efforts but feel not enough is being done. Because while I am seeing some comments get deleted. and some great notes from LobsterMitten, I haven't seen much else in the way of your team saying, "That's not okay." I get that my vision of mefi is not necessarily going to mesh with the mod team's. That's fine. But your initiial comment at the top of the thread made me wonder if there was some sort of an intellectual disconnect. Because (for example) sexism really has deeper problems than merely being a "disliked" or "unpopular" opinion.

I worry that "would you be on board with", to which the answer is yes, we would and are and have been, is gonna get conflated somehow with "will you always fundamentally prioritize above all else" which isn't a practical goal

What I said was, "...be on board with having Team Mod call out sexism more explicitly when appropriate? Obviously I'm talking about in post deletion reasons, but also potentially in other circumstances?"

That isn't a setup for a gotcha. I'm not asking you to prioritize calling out sexism in every possible situation above all else. And if that misconception is a concern, then there's nothing wrong with saying, "we will work on publicly saying more, but we're probably not going to catch every instance all the time or necessarily agree in every situation, so I don't want anyone to have unreasonable expectations" etc.

because as much as I think it is important that we work to do well on this front, it's one of a whole bunch of moving parts that make up this place and sometimes something like e.g. just getting a heavily flagged thing gone promptly is going to take priority over cobbling together a coherent exegesis on the problematic nature of the thing.

Is time really a factor? Why not delete a post fast, fill in a quick, generic deletion reason then edit it to be more specific? Same with comments. A comment (or string of comments) can disappear and a mod note not show up for a minute or three. Mod deletion reasons and comments are editable. (and y'all don't have that pesky five minute deadline on comment edits.)

Also, who is asking for a lengthy exegis? "We can do better than a sexist, troll-y instagram" would be fine, no?
posted by zarq at 10:21 AM on September 28, 2015 [10 favorites]


I'm a trans woman who works in tech whose looks runs counter to the traditional (cisnormative) beauty standards (I'm think I'm a babe though?) Are you saying that talking about the how the beauty standards (again, cisnormative) are applied to women in tech are counter to feminist goals? Because I have first-hand experience with this and I feel like I *should* be able to discuss it without people getting enraged at what I am saying.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:21 AM on September 28, 2015 [16 favorites]


[Comment removed; this is escalating needlessly, please cool it a little.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:23 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


(enraged is a strong word, It's a bit hyperbolic, my apologies for that.)
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:29 AM on September 28, 2015


Two is several. And to you, they're just one of the many emails and mod notes you write in a day, but to the person receiving them, they're probably the only interaction they're having with you almost ever. So, it has a very different feel to the recipient than it does to you as the sender. You feel like it's not all that much, because you have a different barometer.

Very specifically, I'm trying to let you know that your calibration is different. Mostly by necessity, because holy wow I could not do your job with what it requires. And if your intent is to get responses from emails, shorter ones are better. Even when you feel like you need to respond to every point.

I don't think anyone is suggesting that you don't respond at all to requests for policy changes. Just that you let the thread develop a little bit before you do.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:29 AM on September 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


Are you saying that talking about the how the beauty standards (again, cisnormative) are applied to women in tech are counter to feminist goals?

Did you read my entire comment? Because, seriously, I went over that at length. I lay out exactly what's wrong with the kind of comments that happened in the thread, and point out some that were actually okay. I know I tend to write walls of text, but come on.

I want to point out that this is just the N-millionth variation of "oh my god are you feminists saying I can't say [thing] anymore???", people prioritizing their right to say whatever the hell the want in the face of people telling them why it's problematic and hostile, not listening to the explanations of what's wrong with the behavior, and then again basically demanding "no explain it to me!! again!!", ie the same sad chain of shit that happens in these threads over and over.

Except, people who call themselves feminists are acting like it's okay when you do what sealioning MRAs do because, uh, solidarity, go go sisterhood?

Look, I have an entire 19th century novel-cycle's worth of stories about how standards, behavior, and conventions around female presentation can suck for a woman in tech, both on the "too femme" and "too butch" side of things, believe me, and I'll be happy to share. But the difference is, I don't think they're in any way invalidated by saying "hey, this woman really was an engineer and an employee of the company, please stop speculating about how she was chosen because you personally find her too pretty to take seriously, it doesn't actually say anything about sexism in the industry, it's not information or truth, it's just baseless garbage that contributes to and reinforces that kind of sexist discrimination in the first place".
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 10:31 AM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Has anyone mentioned to Frowner that they and their comments are being talked about here? Because their name keeps coming up, even though they have not commented in this thread.
posted by zarq at 10:31 AM on September 28, 2015 [8 favorites]


I like the early, detailed mod responses. Clarifying their own position on the issue first makes it easier to give them relevant feedback.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:32 AM on September 28, 2015 [8 favorites]


To expand slightly: to you, a response to me in this thread is just one of many you will write today. To me, it's a mod responding directly to me, omg. And I knew that would happen when I commented, and had to think carefully about whether I really wanted to draw attention to myself that way. There's an imbalance of power that has an impact on how even one long comment or email feels. That's what I'd like you to know.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:34 AM on September 28, 2015 [14 favorites]


"Eh" seemed quintessential cortex and a pretty clear "what is this shit, no".
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:35 AM on September 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


I mean, one deletion is only one deletion, but that FPP zarq linked to this morning is a great example of the kind of thing I am talking about w/r/t the reason I posted this stupid MeTa in the first place. 'Eh' as a deletion reason conveys all of nothing except that the post is sort of shruggo; but a deletion reason that is 'This is gross' or 'This seems pretty sexist' doesn't take a lot more time to write, but conveys a lot more to the community about what our standards of behavior are, and can at least potentially do a lot to head off shitty stuff like this in the future. That seems like a win-win, to me.

I intended this MeTa to invoke some input from the larger community on whether folks agreed with me on wanting mod notes and deletion reasons etc. to be more explicit, less wishy-washy on what community norms are, etc. I get that there's a large implicit Ask pointed toward the mods there, but it really was my aim to have a conversation about it that the mods could see and then respond to; as others have noted, the big comment at the head of the thread which says to some degree 'No' really sort of undermines that whole intention. Maybe I wasn't clear enough about that, but it seems to me at least that a fair portion of the ensuing 300-odd comments here do reflect a lot of community members who'd like to see the mods doing better on this front-- even with the acknowledgement that things have improved.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:36 AM on September 28, 2015 [22 favorites]


I want to point out that this is just the N-millionth variation of "oh my god are you feminists saying I can't say [thing] anymore???"

Literally nobody is saying any version of that.

people prioritizing their right to say whatever the hell the want in the face of people telling them why it's problematic and hostile, not listening to the explanations of what's wrong with the behavior, and then again basically demanding "no explain it to me!! again!!", ie the same sad chain of shit that happens in these threads over and over.

Nor is anybody doing that. And Annika Cicada is a woman, and I find it bizarre that the meaning (perhaps unintended?) behind what you're saying is, as Annika Cicada pointed out, telling her that she's not allowed to talk about her own experience. Ditto for Frowner in the original thread. I see that as problematic. If that wasn't your meaning then I am confused as to what you did mean.

"hey, this woman really was an engineer and an employee of the company, please stop speculating about how she was chosen because you personal find her too pretty to take seriously, it doesn't actually say anything about sexism in the industry, it's not information or truth, it's just baseless garbage that contributes to and reinforces that kind of sexist discrimination in the first place"

Aaaaaaaaaaand I didn't say that either. Speculating that the more cisnormatively attractive woman was chosen over an equally qualified and less cisnormatively attractive woman isn't reinforcing the sexism, it's shining a big bright light on it. Again I ask you, please reread my original comment--you're taking a meaning from it that wasn't intended and isn't in the words I used.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:41 AM on September 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm really not here trying to piss you off, and I am sorry if I am. I am honestly trying to clarify what you are saying because you've lit up some high-decibel alarms inside me that I'm trying to turn off. I don't think you have some terrible position that's horrible for metafilter or something. I believe that you are saying something very important and I am trying to engage, clarify, and understand completely what you are saying.

So If you don't mind me rephrasing, what I get you are saying is:

"This girl in this picture not the most important example of the problem with the whole damn world and we are running this discussion into the ditch of some basic level discourse that's problematic as hell when there are more important things to be discussing as a part of this campaign than how this one picture and 10 billion other pictures on the internet reinforce the beauty standard."

If that's correct then I think it's valid as fuck, and worth raising hell about. If not, I'd really dig it if you'd like to talk more about it? If not I understand.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:42 AM on September 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think that the amount of text being produced relitigating the #ILookLikeAnEngineer thread (and from people who, to my eyes, would generally be in agreement regarding this sort of thing) is a good indicator that however obvious the right answer is, the community isn’t in agreement that it’s trivially obvious.

In the thread itself, Frowner apologized for the derail. That seems about as good faith a response as you can get. I suppose the mods could subsequently have stripped the entire derail from the thread, but I don’t know that the community would be for that, either.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:48 AM on September 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


Also, being able to flag in Recent Activity seems like it deserves a bigger announcement. Is there some sort of MetaFilter Changelog where that could go?
posted by Going To Maine at 10:50 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Speculating that the more cisnormatively attractive woman was chosen over an equally qualified and less cisnormatively attractive woman isn't reinforcing the sexism

In the absence of any reason to ever believe that happened, and plenty of evidence it didn't, and the fact that no one's really speculating the same thing about her male co-workers, other than just being sort of vaguely shitty about Top Hat Guy, yes, it is.

You give Code Green on "let's speculate about appearance-based reasons why she was chosen!!!" and then pretend you're not normalizing it and turn around and condemn Redditors, GamerGaters, etc for doing the same thing from a different perspective.

Again, there is a difference between someone talking about their own experiences of appearance-based discrimination and speculating about how it must have been in play for this woman, and the former is not at all what I have a problem with.

No one on either side is giving Bland Dude much of the side eye about "oh maybe he was chosen over more qualified women!!!", and in general that kind of undermining speculation is not something that Bland Dudes of the world have to confront, and so it is an extra burden on women that men do not face, ie, textbook sexism, and you are supporting it. That's the reality people need to confront. If your "feminism" is partially a tool you use to attack women and prop up the ways they're already discriminated against, that's not feminism and is straight up shameful bullshit. There is nothing in the world that gives you some kind of ideological path on being sexist in this way, I don't care who you are or what you call yourself.

And again, please stop with the "cisnormatively attractive" shit, you don't know her sexual orientation, that term has a lot of fucked up and homophobic implications when you use it like that, like the idea that queer women could never be attracted to women like that or women who appear like that (which is incredibly conventional and not at all sexed up) are doing it to attract dudes or even, hell, that straight men couldn't and aren't ever attracted to butch women. When you use the term like that it is homophobic.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 10:53 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Nothing is inherently garbage to talk about because sexism pervades pretty much everything, and so should feminism.

There's so many things to discuss. The size of the company and the demographics (and relation to conventional beauty standards of its hires), the quotes alongside them, how the discussion is focusing a lot more on looks than we'd like and how others took this into consideration in the making of the ad, how these ads use very clean text and photos on a white background that then invoke mental software tropes which are gendered, why we might even need these ads or what the company is trying to do, etc.
posted by halifix at 10:54 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


...is there any way this derail could be moved to memail or get its own thread or something?
posted by nadawi at 10:55 AM on September 28, 2015 [15 favorites]


I will use the word "cisnormative" to describe what looks like cis standards to me when I damn well please, thank you very much.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:56 AM on September 28, 2015 [17 favorites]


Also, being able to flag in Recent Activity seems like it deserves a bigger announcement. Is there some sort of MetaFilter Changelog where that could go?

We may just make a meta about it. pb wanted to mention it in here since it came up as such, and it looks like we haven't had any big surprises with the live code with a little testing, so that's good news.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:56 AM on September 28, 2015


You just told a gay man that he's homophobic. I see no fruitful discussion ensuing with you.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:57 AM on September 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


Straight trans women are not homosexual. Discussing cisnormative standards has fuck all to do with sexual orientation.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:58 AM on September 28, 2015 [9 favorites]


Okay, I'm done with this derail and the thread for the day. Consider that discussing cis/heteronormative standards is not about what people personally find attractive.
posted by thetortoise at 11:01 AM on September 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


And yeah, it feels like this has moved away from just mentioning that engineer thread as a point of reference to kinda heavily rearguing the whole thing, which it'd be better to not totally bog down this discussion with.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:02 AM on September 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


On the "mod responses possibly choking off discourse" front - I think it might be worthwhile for discussion-type threads (i.e., not "Recent Activity won't load right" type things) if the mod on duty just put a first response of, "We see this thread, we'll have some thoughts later on, we'd like to see some feedback from users first."

Personally, I find cortex's responses useful, but I can see where some people might not react so well. At the least, maybe they can come later in the thread.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:02 AM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm flooded out to the point that I can't be useful in this discussion anymore. I hope whatever I've contributed in this conversation up to this point helps metafilter suck less over time.

Hugs everyone. I believe we are all trying our best to make the world a better place and there's a lot of frustration and passion. I like that, but I gotta break from this for now.
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:05 AM on September 28, 2015 [17 favorites]


I will use the word "cisnormative" to describe what looks like cis standards to me when I damn well please, thank you very much. Straight trans women are not homosexual. Discussing cisnormative standards has fuck all to do with sexual orientation.

But we don't even know if she is trans, or straight, or anything about her sexual orientation, really. As far as I can tell, she hasn't commented either way. Again, if you're talking about discrimination you yourself have experienced, that's one thing. I'm not trying to say "this kind of standard does not exist", of course it does. But using someone whose status you don't know to speculate strikes me as unfair and shitty. I mean, I do assume she is cis, but I'm just assuming, and so is anyone else. That strikes me as pretty shitty when you're trying to use her to make some kind of point, regardless of anything else. "Maybe we should not speculate about people based on their appearance" seems pretty reasonable to me.

You just told a gay man that he's homophobic. I see no fruitful discussion ensuing with you.

And you just showed that you think homophobia is something that gay men can never engage in, which I think is pretty telling.

And yeah, it feels like this has moved away from just mentioning that engineer thread as a point of reference to kinda heavily rearguing the whole thing, which it'd be better to not totally bog down this discussion with.

Fine. But I just want to say that this is exactly why I think in general, it's not at all a good thing to let people's personal appearances be up for discussion, outside of reasonable exceptions like when they bring it up themselves. Debating whether so-and-so looks like such-and-such doesn't really add anything to the discussion. Folks can make points about the kind of discrimination women in tech face from a whole host of different angles (transphobia, etc) without having to position them vis-a-vis someone else's appearance. I really don't see how that's a good thing, and that's seperate from saying I don't see how those kind of discussions of discrimination are a good thing.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 11:10 AM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Er, this is weird, isn't it? Thanks to the person who shot me a memail to let me know that my comments were being discussed so extensively, although I guess in some ways I would rather not have known.

If anyone is interested in what I think at this point, I think that while there's certainly a discussion to be had about advertising, beauty, how we perceive sexual orientation, cis normativity and inclusion, it should not have been had on the back of any specific woman, and I was wrong to make the comments I did. I also should have thought about how that kind of thread could go, and asked myself whether what I was saying could possibly create constructive conversation before I said anything. It would also have been better to reflect that I am not in engineering, and so I don't have personal experience with how this type of ad is read. This was not my conversation to have, even if I would be a good participant in a conversation about advertising/gender/sexuality/etc in general.

I do appreciate that people read my comments as made in good faith - which I like to think they were - but they were not good comments, and I wouldn't have blamed anyone for deleting them.

posted by Frowner at 11:11 AM on September 28, 2015 [36 favorites]


And you just showed that you think homophobia is something that gay men can never engage in, which I think is pretty telling

I showed no such thing. You're not a gay man; don't call me homophobic. Is that clearer for you?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:14 AM on September 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


No one on either side is giving Bland Dude much of the side eye about "oh maybe he was chosen over more qualified women!!!", and in general that kind of undermining speculation is not something that Bland Dudes of the world have to confront, and so it is an extra burden on women that men do not face, ie, textbook sexism, and you are supporting it.

I wasn't really successfully grasping your point before, because I thought there was some good complexity on the Look Like An Engineer thread. (I reread it yesterday and didn't find your retelling of it to represent it well.) But your point about "extra burden" does get through.

I happen, unfortunately, to look like Kim Davis (the bigoted Rowan County clerk that is refusing to do her job and issue marriage licenses without discriminating.) I almost never see women who look like her (look like me) in the media. People are fully justified in being furious with her, but the furious denigration of her appearance has been glancingly painful. And, yeah, male people who are being righteously slammed don't get the appearance comments as often.
posted by puddledork at 11:17 AM on September 28, 2015 [9 favorites]


I'm a gay woman. Don't tell me I can't find gay men, or anyone, homophobic. Homophobia is behavior, it has nothing to do with identity or orientation, even if yeah, obviously it's mostly straight people against gay people. But it's a part of the social fabric under [patriarchy/kyriarchy/The System/insert-your-prefered-term here], any particular identity is not some kind shield against it, either as victim or perpetrator.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 11:18 AM on September 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think describing someone's actions as "might be pretty shitty" is an ACTUAL SHITTY thing to do on metafilter.
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:20 AM on September 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


TMAMM, don't call me homophobic. There's really no discussion to be had on this point. Especially since I wasn't being homophobic.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:23 AM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


For the love of all that is good and holy would you all please take this to memail, or open a separate metatalk post if you need to have a public discussion? Your derail has gone far afield of the scope of this post.

If (like me,) you would like something constructive to come from this post, then keeping the shitfests to a minimum is in everyone's best interest.
posted by zarq at 11:23 AM on September 28, 2015 [18 favorites]


why hasn't a mod stepped in to nip this in the bud? it has been going on awhile now.
posted by futz at 11:26 AM on September 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


Your derail has gone far afield of the scope of this post.

I basically agree, but when someone's flinging nastiness around as fast and furiously as TMatMM is, it seems unfair to expect people to not respond.
posted by lalex at 11:26 AM on September 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


cortex asked that it be dropped but maybe it's hard to see in the walls of text...
posted by nadawi at 11:26 AM on September 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


Can I just continue for a minute? And maybe not in the tiny font? I'm only saying this because I think it's maybe relevant to how some shitty things might get said:

When I look back on how I felt in that thread, the thread really pulled up a lot of feelings of pain for me, and I think if I'd paid attention to that, I would have been able to not write, or to write differently. The thread brought up a lot of my own feelings about being worthless because of how I look, and it brought up bad memories of being told/shown that I was too ugly/gender-weird/etc to represent my institution/entity/whatever, being told that I was too ugly for [various things], etc. It pulled out a lot of really powerful feelings of pain and insecurity for me. If I'd been smarter, I would have recognized how I was being ridden by those feelings and stepped back from the thread. Instead, I wrote something which purported to address the topic of the thread but which was really about my uncontrolled feelings, and which, unsurprisingly, was not helpful. I'm sorry about that.

I guess my point is that I think that with some of these threads - where they're going off the rails over disagreement among people who usually agree, and usually don't have terrible politics - maybe part of what's happening is that we're getting overwhelmed by the shittiness of life under patriarchy [and/or kyriarchy/white supremacy/transphobia....] and maybe not being able to say what we'd normally say if we were able to reflect coolly?
posted by Frowner at 11:28 AM on September 28, 2015 [28 favorites]


Seriously, yes, please let's cool it.

TMaMM, I appreciate that you feel strongly about this and I don't think the idea of talking about what you see as troubling from that thread is a problem, but saying "not to derail, but" and then dropping 2500 words doing basically that and then scrapping with everybody who responds is kinda problematic no matter the context.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:31 AM on September 28, 2015 [13 favorites]


Frowner: I think it's important to always speak from the place of where you are sitting with your feelings.

For example, when I read that thread I thought to myself "As a person in tech who isn't traditionally pretty, this campaign really pushes a lot of my buttons and makes me feel bad about myself".

I didn't put that into the thread, but damn I felt it so hard.
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:31 AM on September 28, 2015 [13 favorites]


I guess my point is that I think that with some of these threads - where they're going off the rails over disagreement among people who usually agree, and usually don't have terrible politics - maybe part of what's happening is that we're getting overwhelmed by the shittiness of life under patriarchy [and/or kyriarchy/white supremacy/transphobia....] and maybe not being able to say what we'd normally say if we were able to reflect coolly?

I think (circling back to the thread's title) that the Emotional Labor thread was so wonderful because people were overwhelmed by the shittiness of the patriarchy and chose to recognize that that's what everyone in the thread was dealing with and responded to each other with compassion rather than defensiveness or nitpicking.
posted by jaguar at 11:31 AM on September 28, 2015 [9 favorites]


Not to prolong this, but, Frowner, I'm sorry I brought up your name in this thread without your permission.
posted by thetortoise at 11:32 AM on September 28, 2015


Not to prolong this, but, Frowner, I'm sorry I brought up your name in this thread without your permission.

I think it's appropriate to be able to talk about others' comments, though. It was a bit weird since it seemed - on a skim - to be such a lot about me, but I'm not proud of what I wrote in that thread and I think it's okay if someone calls out my comments. I'm sorry that I made the Master and Marguerita Mix feel lousy, too. I think that she's absolutely right to say that individual looks have to be off the table, categorically, and I think that should be one of the big metafilter principles like the whole "pay attention to trans 101" thing.
posted by Frowner at 11:37 AM on September 28, 2015 [10 favorites]


I agree with you and tMAMM on that.
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:46 AM on September 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


our derail has gone far afield of the scope of this post.

I basically agree, but when someone's flinging nastiness around as fast and furiously as TMatMM is, it seems unfair to expect people to not respond.

Lo! The crux of the derail problem. (I identified the crux of the derail problem differently elsewhere. Well, this is also the crux.)
posted by Going To Maine at 11:49 AM on September 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think it's important to always speak from the place of where you are sitting with your feelings.

I absolutely agree with this. Trying to look at things from an actively disengaged and "rational" stance is where a huge part of internet shittiness arises, including discounting peoples' lived experience and other bad behaviors.

On the other hand, it's also wise to notice when you are so invested that you are doing damage to yourself and others who you may not plan on targeting. I mean, it's thrilling to write from a place of righteous anger, but it's easy to get off the hook doing that. It's a little like my dogpiling suggestion way upthread. If someone has said something egregious, it feels good to unload on them, but you risk making the thread about them and their views, which is usually the last thing you want. Going through the process of counting responses and deciding whether I have anything serious to add as opposed to just trying to get a lick in means that I am less likely to be cruel to someone who deserves it, and, if they do deserve it, it's not like that comment is likely to go anywhere (and, if it does, the mods answered my question for me).

So, I guess that writing from passion is important, but being mindful of that passion is also important. (Or, more or less, what Frowner said in her painfully-tiny first comment in this thread.)
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:54 AM on September 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


Going To Maine: "Lo! The crux of the derail problem. (I identified the crux of the derail problem differently elsewhere. Well, this is also the crux.)"

Cruces?
posted by Chrysostom at 12:03 PM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


I basically agree, but when someone's flinging nastiness around as fast and furiously as TMatMM is, it seems unfair to expect people to not respond.

Sure. I'm just asking them to do it elsewhere.
posted by zarq at 12:19 PM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


I would have appreciated a delete reason for that recent FPP to have included a "sexist" mention, or at the very least more than "meh." I think it does help people understand community norms to have more verbose reasons given for deletion. And its partially what I thought this thread was about, so I was surprised to see it.
posted by agregoli at 12:21 PM on September 28, 2015 [15 favorites]


I think there's still a kind of mod subconscious assumption that delete notes are mostly notes to themselves, rather than a broadcast to the community - deleted posts are not visible on the front page. Over time, they seem to have taken on more importance to the community, though, so it's probably worthwhile to at least have a sentence.

Doesn't need to be Moby-Dick, just, "This seems pretty likely to lead to a really sexist thread."
posted by Chrysostom at 12:27 PM on September 28, 2015 [9 favorites]


I just want to second stoneweaver's feedback, whose description, and feelings arising from, correspondence using the Contact form and discussing a matter via Memail w/cortex, mirror my own. Being on the receiving end of multi-part paras and a back-and-forth from someone with quite a bit of authority, and a communication style that appeared to be more focused on point-counterpoint argumentation than on diplomacy and resolution, had the result of making me want to button right out of this community. It was stressful and I found myself feeling more unheart and pissed off after our correspondence than before, even. Which is not the ideal resolution you want when discussion matters with community members via the contact form, I should think.

My saving grace was that, in my upset state, I did not have the presence of mind to "button" correctly, erroneously sending a request that my account be closed via the contact form. (I thought I had left the community all day, until my partner got home and said that's not the way you do it! DERP. By that time I had cooled off considerably and decided not to button.)

So, one more data point and possible room for improvement.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 12:53 PM on September 28, 2015 [15 favorites]


And I don't mean to heat things up - I'm leaving a public record of someone else saying, "yeah, me too" which is what Meta is for, afterall.

Um and I wonder if maybe others like Nora Reed left because of this style of communication.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 12:54 PM on September 28, 2015 [14 favorites]


Also, being able to flag in Recent Activity seems like it deserves a bigger announcement. Is there some sort of MetaFilter Changelog where that could go?

We may just make a meta about it. pb wanted to mention it in here since it came up as such, and it looks like we haven't had any big surprises with the live code with a little testing, so that's good news.


Maybe the Metatalk sidebar could get a section which is about important site functionality and/or site policy changes that have resulted from recent MeTas? Sort of like the "noteworthy posts" sidebar on the blue, but tailored for MeTa?
posted by mstokes650 at 4:05 PM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry to hear that those exchanges felt bad, stoneweaver and joseph conrad is fully awesome. Not getting into any specifics about those exchanges here, but I know sometimes we have to say "no," or tell someone to stop something, or that a judgment call on a given issue didn't go their way etc, and that's disappointing to hear especially if the person disagrees (i.e. their judgment call goes firmly the other way, or they don't see why they should stop etc), and maybe sometimes can intersect with other stuff going on (having a bad day, etc) to make it extra hard to hear, and I know that can suck, so I'm sorry about that. There's a kind of doublebind in composing those emails, where it's easy to either be too brief and sound rude or peremptory, or be more diplomatic/tactful and give more explanation but that means being a lot more wordy or (it seems) sounding too forceful or insistent. So, the wordiness thing is good to be aware of, like the first-comment thing, since we've been more focused on avoiding the opposite problem (trying not to be too terse, or trying not to seem like we're ignoring a thread or conspicuously not responding).
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 4:24 PM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Regarding the kind of early-mod-intervention request that is the subject of this MetaTalk, I feel like this thread maybe could have benefited from a stronger hand at the start, to cut off the tiresome this-is-not-my-experience-so-therefore-not-a-problem derail.
posted by likeatoaster at 4:42 PM on September 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


by contrast, i think this thread has mostly gone very well and is getting better all the time (and i hope drawing attention to it won't shit it up).
posted by nadawi at 4:51 PM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yup, that fertility thing went badly pretty fast, while there were a few other things happening on the site, and then we got on it and deleted a bunch of comments and left three notes. Thanks to folks who are flagging stuff.

In general the "this isn't a problem for me" early comments are something we're going to be better about catching -- we didn't in this case, and it's a good illustration of why those comments just lead to badness and are worth nixing.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 4:54 PM on September 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


I absolutely get that you're trying to walk a hard line. Balancing between too brief and too long is hard. For reference, the length of the comment you just left feels about right to me.

And it's not that I feel like things need to go my way every time. Because there's a good reason I'm not a mod. But if more detail is needed or the answer is no, compassion and brevity.
posted by stoneweaver at 4:59 PM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


It seems to me that if a derail makes a thread go pear-shaped and the mods don't notice for a while, they very rarely go and nuke the entire derail from orbit. Is this due to some philosophical thing, or maybe some limitations of the UI for deleting multiple comments? I know the lack of threaded comments presents a challenge, but unless deleting each comment is significantly labor-intensive, I feel like it's worth a few extra clicks to de-louse the thread.
posted by tonycpsu at 5:30 PM on September 28, 2015


The answer i've usually seen is "too many people responded to it/interacted with it already" which always struck me as pretty weak.

Sometimes the block of cheese is so moldy you can't just cut the mold off, you have to throw the whole thing in the trash.
posted by emptythought at 5:35 PM on September 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


Also, frowner, don't beat yourself up too much. The amount of shit you got for those comment(s) was way, way, way outside of reasonable for anything you said.
posted by emptythought at 5:36 PM on September 28, 2015 [13 favorites]


What gets me, nadawi and likeatoaster, is that there was an early derailing dismissive "but what about me" comment made by the same person and with almost exactly the same content in both threads linked. Having seen the one on the time management thread before it got deleted, I mean (and I hadn't even flagged it, just side-eyed on my way to a meeting). I'm really happy that you guys have been trying to keep an eye on them, but just! Damn, it really does illustrate the effect they can have on a conversation.
posted by sciatrix at 5:43 PM on September 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


In most average cases (i.e. not stuff like racial slurs) we'll go back a short time, and prune in a way that's the minimum needed to stop things at the note we've left. In this case, that early comment was long enough established that it seemed weird to remove everything connected to the original comment (and cortex's initial deletions and note were connected to a different derailing comment because the first one wasn't flagged initially).

We're not trying to re-write history, or make it so that problem comments never exist on the site. It's more, we're thinking in the moment, how can we can we stop this derail in a way that will let a better conversation evolve from here, while not totally trashing the whole prior history of the thread. Sometimes we need to actually go back quite a ways, sometimes not. We try to err on the side of preserving thread continuity and not pulling the rug out from people who have commented in response to comments. If I had seen that first comment when it was posted I would have deleted it then, but I didn't, and the thread had several lines of derail happening at once, with several angry responders, coincidentally at a time when a few other things were on fire too. So, rather than nuke 80 comments and start the whole thing over, instead leave the initial things so people can see what they are, leave a first batch of responses, then delete all the followups and leave a note, is basically where we ended up. Every piece of it is a judgment call and I can respect if people think I made the wrong calls in there.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 5:53 PM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


I dunno, I think it might be worth experimenting with moving the slider a couple notches toward the "nuke and pave" setting. I've had my comments deleted several times where I was responding to something else that got nuked, and yeah, it's a bit frustrating, but if it improves the threads, I'm all for it.
posted by tonycpsu at 6:06 PM on September 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


I wonder: what about this Logan's Run thread, from 2014? Were there a lot of flags? At least 10% of the comments are "ha ha there's boobs" or "Jenny Agutter is hawt."

(I found this by Googling "rawr site:metafilter.com", by the way)
posted by escabeche at 6:22 PM on September 28, 2015


No flags on any comment in that thread.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:29 PM on September 28, 2015


Escabeche, down that path of Google lies a drawer filled with terror and embarrassment that we best not be rummaging 'round in, you catch m'drift?

(I keed! I keed!)
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:32 PM on September 28, 2015


Weeeeell. I'm not sure I should respond, I think there's some slippery stuff going on in that para you wrote, LobsterMitten, but I've said my piece and it's up to you all (or cortex really - where is cortex?) to take on that feedback (very, very similar experiences from two different users) or not. This thread isn't all about me and I threw it out there as another data point. You can memail me if you need any further input.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 6:35 PM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


(And thanks for the response.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 6:35 PM on September 28, 2015


cortex worked 16 hours yesterday and then 8 hours today and now he's off duty.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:36 PM on September 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


(Which is only to say, it's really important for mods to be able to actually sign off when we're off duty. I know that can be frustrating if you've started a conversation with one person and get it handed off to the next person, and I'm sorry about that.)
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:39 PM on September 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


I remember having conversations with jessamyn about being frustrated with the "moderator stance" on something (probably some spectacular shitty situation that's best left to the dirt pile of history) and saying to her "I don't know how the hell you can stay so impartial about this" and we had a pretty good discussion of how people who can moderate have talents and developed skills that are uniquely suited to being able to moderate a website.
So, I think in some ways there's an innate difference in perspective between the moderators and the moderated that creates and requires a certain amount of unresolved tension that most of us don't readily understand. We can engage and should, I'm not tying to put the moderators on a pedestal, I'm just trying to point out that the different roles lead to different perspectives that are hard to match up sometimes.
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:52 PM on September 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


(And that exchange led to me deciding that I needed to leave metafilter, and I spent about a year, maybe more, not participating here)
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:58 PM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


My mental image of a mod on duty is: strapped into an Aeron chair with big leather restraints, in front of three monitors and a keyboard, eyes pried open with those Clockwork Orange things, and a Xanax IV drip.
And to speak to what Annika Cicada just said, while I know I'd be a terrible moderator, I also think that if I suddenly *had* to play that role, I'd quickly adopt a new perspective, i.e. that of keeping the site functioning as well as possible as opposed to expressing my own opinions as a commenter -- I'd just be bad at it. I've experienced this kind of change in perspective once or twice myself. I think it's a good observation that "the moderators and the moderated" are of necessity coming from different perspectives. Keeping the house from burning down is going to override your special flambé dessert from time to time.
posted by uosuaq at 7:17 PM on September 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


Data point: I'm strongly in favor of long, detailed, circumspect mod emails and comments and think Cortex's verbose style is particularly nurturing and generous
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:38 PM on September 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


We just added flagging to Recent Activity. If you run into problems, please let us know.

The time it takes from "spur of the moment suggestion" to "fully implemented site change" can be ridiculously fast here. Thanks!
posted by Dip Flash at 8:30 PM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was just about to come in to agree with this. Having mods give a detailed response, and quickly, is something I very much appreciate about this site. Considering the way these threads go in wanting more moderation and participation, complaining about the effort put when it's addressed in this fashion feels like someone who's upset only because they were moderated the way they want everyone else to be.

This is my concern with things like Annika Cicada's list of recommended behaviours, or NoraReed's unpublished MeTa, or even The Master and Margarita Mix's complaints - they all demand, to a greater or lesser extent, with a greater or lesser degree of finality, that the users see comments, remember other users, and in general react to the site in the same way, and if you don't you are contributing to the demoralising atmosphere.

The big derail of the women in engineering thread should inherently demonstrate the flaw in that position. And also, incidentally, how in declaring an aspect or part of an FPP irrelevant and off-limits ignores anything other users might believe or feel in favour of declaring your perspective the only valid one.

What is unacceptable, after you deal with the more blatant comments, starts getting very individual very quickly, and comments can also be read differently by users being reasonable and coming from a similar perspective - as a woman, as queer, as nonwhite, and that's even skipping intersectionality, which causes its own set of perspective mixes. Having an angrier reaction than everyone else doesn't guarantee you are also more correct.

And also, 'two' isn't 'several'.
posted by gadge emeritus at 8:32 PM on September 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


(or cortex really - where is cortex?)

What LM said—part of the not-burning-ourselves-out thing that I feel pretty strongly about (partly in light of where Matt found himself after a decade and a half) is seriously trying to take time off off, and a random fit of busy scheduling circumstance the last few days has meant I've had more time on than usual which often leaves me crispier than I, or anyone else, would prefer for me to be when having difficult discussions.

I should probably not be thinking about MetaFilter at all this evening or tomorrow, but I am who I am so I'm gonna have to compromise at keeping it to a brief minimum here so I don't just keep thinking about it all night. But as a short sort of check-in and follow up, I just want to say that I hear you, jcifa, that you were bothered by that exchange, and I'm genuinely sorry that it left you feeling put out. That certainly wasn't my intention, at all. I also have I think a significantly different impression of the dynamics of it than you do, but we're different people coming from different directions on it and so it goes. If you want to revisit it over email some time I can talk it out with you, but I'm also fine leaving it as an agree-to-disagree thing if that's what you'd prefer.

Broadly, I want to just reiterate part of what LM said—we're often in a difficult position as far as preferred communication styles, because some folks want more detail and some want less, and some folks want clear directions and bright lines and some want broad guidelines and generalized nudges, and, well, there's thousands of people here. So the communication practices we've established over the years reflect the balance that comes with trying to find something that works reasonably well for most folks. I'll try to keep in mind personal preferences, and don't feel like it's a baked-in "we figured it out and it never needs to change at all" thing, but in practice I think probably there's always gonna be some folks who totally understandably prefer something different from our standard practice who are nonetheless going to end up a little frustrated because we really, truly can't make everybody happy just on account of folks varying. It's a bummer when that creates bad feelings, and I sympathize a lot with that, but we're stuck being somewhat pragmatic about things because there's a handful of us and a whole lot more members of the community.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:53 PM on September 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


Semi-serious suggestion: could moderators' logins be disabled when they are supposed to be be taking time off?
posted by Busy Old Fool at 10:58 PM on September 28, 2015


I am going to open a can of worms, maybe? Or maybe prop open the already open can?

I think the early mod-comment cortex made was defensive, and there's still some defensiveness getting in the way of addressing constructive criticism. Of course there is always plenty of room for Team Mod to disagree with suggested policy changes and to expand on the reasons an objection or slate of objections won't be changing the status quo, and I'm not suggesting that this is cortex's first time at the rodeo: you are all, at this point, experienced and skilled mods who've been MeFi community members since God was a pup. But we're all human and it is a difficult, learned skill to take constructive criticism in a detached way (detached in the good way Buddhists seek, not the bad way that shock or indifference bring on). Coming to MeTa to answer comments when you're off-duty (even by member request!) is a signal you're really not in a place of detachment, which in turn suggests maybe you're not in the best place to absorb and use criticism, or to explain from a purely rational perspective why that feedback doesn't pertain.

I genuinely don't want to shit up anybody's workday, or condescend, and I definitely don't want to insult your professionalism, Team Mod - I know I've made the diminishing and insulting error of thinking you were doing dirty thankless work that just sort of fell to you, when really you are highly skilled professionals with "an actual full-time job with dental benefits and stuff", as Jessamyn put it, doing work you (mostly) enjoy. You answer to a giant amorphous mass of users, and sometimes assholes gonna asshole, but sometimes reasonable segments of that mass are going to give some feedback that's painful to take on board, and detachment is essential to distinguishing between the two.
posted by gingerest at 11:39 PM on September 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


Data point: I don't register defensiveness in Cortex's comments (commitment, rather).
posted by Joseph Gurl at 12:11 AM on September 29, 2015


gingerest, that's a perfect demonstration of 'damned if you do, damned if you don't'.

I, at least, fall on 'cortex is trying to mod well to specific users who had specific complaints about interactions with him, rather than other mods' - but it gets characterised by you as not enough detachment from constructive criticism.

There's a number of things you didn't want to do that I think you did a very poor job of avoiding, there.
posted by gadge emeritus at 12:21 AM on September 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


Noted.
posted by gingerest at 3:15 AM on September 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


I guess uh. My recommendations were more geared to when someone in a position of privilege is in thread where they are getting frustrated at someone who is trying to speak to their lived experiences. I'm not seeking finality by any means, just trying to provide tools for people to avoid the damaging (yes damaging) flare ups of the past. Metafilter has lost extraordinary people forever because the way people have acted in the past and a lot of the people that drive those other people away are still here. Whatever we can do to reduce the eventuality of that outcome in the future is the preferred course in my opinion. In no way do I intend to set some sort of finality, but rather dial the tension towards growth and discovery and away from snarking tit for tat crap fests.

I hear you on avoiding trying to define panaceas and final solutions, I like the idea of managing tension.
posted by Annika Cicada at 4:55 AM on September 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


In general I think the mods do a great job at communicating. Sometimes people have to be told "no" and they aren't going to like it, no matter how it's delivered.
posted by grouse at 5:09 AM on September 29, 2015 [10 favorites]


When a lot of people start making conflicting demands of the mods, that isn't going to end well either.
posted by smackfu at 6:07 AM on September 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's still cool that they get feedback about their communication styles, though, even if it might seem as if they're in this Goldilocks situation of trying to get each mod note and individual communication just right. The fact that they're at least willing to engage with people on how they communicate is a key part of making the userbase feel heard, and even if it is true that they can't please everyone, it is maybe not so helpful to point that out, because it might tend to stifle some of the conversation about it.
posted by MoonOrb at 6:38 AM on September 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


In general I think the mods do a great job at communicating.

This has been my experience as well, but I am also a lot more experienced with bureaucratic systems than I think a lot of MeFites are, and I think it's reasonable for the mods to hear occasionally that they may want to consider more than just the information they are trying to give out when they do so. I mean, I've never felt backfooted by a mod comment, but a couple of posters say that they have, and that is not nothing. Really, it's just one more piece of information for the mods to consider when applying.

I think the comments a fair way above about the queue letting the moderators always have the first word is kind of interesting. I actually like that, as I feel it gives sort of a "mod context" to the MeTa -- ie Question, Mod Statement of "This Is Our Thinking Right Now," then Community Reply. Maybe if that first mod infoblock could be softened a bit so it gives the impression "here is our opinion and past practice to give some context, but we are open to community feedback" might give less of an impression of "asked and answered, move along" in threads where that isn't the desire.

I'll reiterate that I think the "asked and answered" approach is probably best in "why was this deleted" threads, where anything more than "Why was this deleted?" "X." "That's not fair!" "those are the community standards." tends to head down the drain really quickly, but that's for another thread.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:53 AM on September 29, 2015 [7 favorites]


This is my concern with things like Annika Cicada's list of recommended behaviours, or NoraReed's unpublished MeTa, or even The Master and Margarita Mix's complaints - they all demand, to a greater or lesser extent, with a greater or lesser degree of finality, that the users see comments, remember other users, and in general react to the site in the same way, and if you don't you are contributing to the demoralising atmosphere.

Eh, I dunno. I think these three things are really dissimilar.

Annika Cicada's list was a pretty simple description of useful steps that a privileged person can take to not shit up a thread about oppression. If you are even mildly on board with the idea of oppression and privilege, it's really hard to take exception to them, and, if you aren't on board, well, we have lost a lot of really good members over people being shitty to them out of unexamined privilege, so I don't have much concern for that point of view.

The problem with NoraReeds unposted MeTa, as I see it, is that she got into a sort of fork of "here are examples of shitty behavior that I think we need to discuss, but don't discuss those comments." And I'm like, how is that even possible? The thread would absolutely turn into a referendum on those comments (and those members) and would probably never get to the actual heart of the matter.

There are two angles I see on tMaMM's comments in this thread, both of which made it hard to understand what her points were, much less how to respond to them. First, she was lashing out with a large brush, so almost every point had multiple targets, and it was almost impossible to respond to all of them in a coherent way. This was not helped by making it about the Women in Engineering thread, which was not the subject of this post and (I think) really confused things -- it was probably a worthy discussion, but maybe in it's own MeTa? Secondly, the "Wall of Text" approach, especially when you are replying to multiple comments from multiple posers, is really hard to follow. You have to keep scrolling around and rereading multiple comments, and, of course, people will respond to the parts of the comment that target them, which means that the responses and counter-responses kind of make this hydra derail that can never be satisfactory resolved. Ironically, while I think shakespeherian and I are roughly in agreement, the wall of text at the beginning of this MeTA was a lot to swallow, then it was followed by cortex's large response, and it was like "holy crap! what is going on here?!" I think simplifying and making maybe more posts and more comments rather than single huge ones might make a difference, especially in a fast-moving thread.

As far as the "being required to know stuff to participate" angle, a couple of thoughts. First of all, this is MeTa, where we discuss the site. That assumes that people who want to participate here are a) familiar with the site and b) willing to do some reading of FPPs and comments if necessary. Secondly, as has been stated a couple of times in this thread, yes MetaFilter is a generalist site, but that does not mean every thread is open to every level of understanding -- music threads often assume familiarity with an artist or type of music; car threads assume familiarity with cars; physics and math threads assume familiarity with physics and math, and no one much complains about those threads or demands remedial training because they are understood to be areas of expertise. The problem comes in when we start discussing race or gender and people feel that they have some insight into them because they live in a world awash in race and gender and so it's all rally obvious, right? Other topics where well- (and sometimes ill-) meaning people put their feet in it is education and parenting threads, where plenty of people who are not parents or educators assume that, because they had parents and education, that they understand the terms of the discourse enough to participate with confidence.

Whew, that may seem like I broke my own "wall of Text" rule, and, if so, I will cop to it, I can only beg off that I focused on one particular comment and attempted to summarize some of my thinking over the last few days.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:18 AM on September 29, 2015 [12 favorites]


By the way, To really damn myself, the "applying" in the first paragraph of my first comment today should have been "replying," which would, you know, actually make some sense.

Also, to add to both of these comments, it's important to remember that we are responding to ongoing situations which have cost us a not inconsiderable number of very fine members and we have statements in this thread from members I, for one, value very much that they feel demoralized and have been thinking of giving up on the site. So, when objections to stronger moderation are cast in the light of "oh, but this might cost us theoretical members," the current situation is costing us actual members. And that's something we should try to address.

Sorry, I have a fever, I am having a little trouble seeing, and I am trying to avoid grading. So I am ranting on the internet. Go, me.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:25 AM on September 29, 2015 [12 favorites]


The problem comes in when we start discussing race or gender and people feel that they have some insight into them because they live in a world awash in race and gender and so it's all rally obvious, right?

It's like someone thinking, "Gravity affects me! I must be an expert in physics!" and assuming that every thread here about physics should use that knowledge as the starting-point, while hectoring anyone trying to have a higher-level conversation that they need to educate the gravity-affected people before talking about something other than gravity.
posted by jaguar at 7:25 AM on September 29, 2015 [22 favorites]


... along with all the people who claim not to be affected by gravity, or who post to let us all know that they don't think gravity's all that important.
posted by jaguar at 7:29 AM on September 29, 2015 [18 favorites]


I mean, actually, imagine that did happen. I would think that the science-y people here would eventually get fed up with people asking about gravity, even in good faith, because they'd just be so sick and tired of answering questions about gravity. Maybe one or two would post "Gravity 101" threads in an effort to educate people and head off all the questions about gravity bogging down threads about physics or astronomy, and then still kind of throw up their hands because commenters would still keep calling into question whether gravity exists, or is really that big of a deal.

I imagine they'd end up being frustrated and snappish and probably leave the site.

If people can imagine that level of frustration, double it when it's happening on topics of personal identity, because it's more like "Do scientists even really exist? That's not a real job. I think they're just making shit up all the time so that they can hector the rest of us."
posted by jaguar at 7:33 AM on September 29, 2015 [31 favorites]


MetaFilter: Do scientists even really exist? That's not a real job.

I think this should be the canned response to all of those sorts of questions.

Thanks, jaguar, for making me laugh hard enough that i started coughing again, and now my diaphragm really hurts. And it's worth every pain unit.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:48 AM on September 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


Gravity is a leftist fallacy. GOOGLE RON NEWTON
posted by Chrysostom at 7:52 AM on September 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


If people can imagine that level of frustration, double it when it's happening on topics of personal identity, because it's more like "Do scientists even really exist? That's not a real job. I think they're just making shit up all the time so that they can hector the rest of us."

Every climate scientist or friend of a climate scientist on this thread probably gave a heartfelt sigh.
posted by puddledork at 8:18 AM on September 29, 2015 [11 favorites]


gadge emeritus: I was just about to come in to agree with this. Having mods give a detailed response, and quickly, is something I very much appreciate about this site. Considering the way these threads go in wanting more moderation and participation, complaining about the effort put when it's addressed in this fashion feels like someone who's upset only because they were moderated the way they want everyone else to be.

No matter where a post is made on the site, first comments tend to set the tone of the ensuing thread.

This Metatalk post that contains a lengthy reply from the Head Mod right up front which didn't seem to wholly understand the problem being raised or why a solution was being requested. It's possible that cortex did, of course, and just didn't communicate that understanding well. But one phrase in his comment does stick out. Sexism as a "disliked or unpopular idea." For a mod to characterize it that way is Not Great for several reasons. But worse, after cortex said it, the community latched onto that phrase and ran with it. So now, not only was the tone set, but a door was also opened to multiple members of the community making comments that seemed lacking in perspective. Groupthink in action.

Is that entirely cortex' fault? No, I don't think it was. But the effect sure snowballed, didn't it? Eventually someone upthread literally had to (astonishingly) explain to someone else why calling women sluts is fundamentally different than say, declaring Scott Walker a bad political representative.

Mods explaining policy in verbose terms is a good thing, I agree. But in this case, the Word of Mod steered the conversation quite effectively, and I don't think in a good direction.
posted by zarq at 8:28 AM on September 29, 2015 [13 favorites]


I think that's a fair point. Not to be difficult, though, but - when should a mod ring in? Because I've also seen MeTa threads where people said, "Where are the mods on this? Are they even paying attention?"

It seems like a difficult decision on when moderators should weigh in.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:48 AM on September 29, 2015


I think the mods could pop in early and say "Will give a response shortly, but am interested in what the community has to say," just so it doesn't seem like "Questions asked/question answered" right at the very start of the thread.
posted by maxsparber at 8:52 AM on September 29, 2015 [10 favorites]


Yeah, I floated that idea upthread. But in general - I think cortex is trying to communicate more of what the mod thought process behind decisions, in part because mathowie wasn't always particularly good at that. Sounds like, at least for some folks, it's having the opposite of the intended effect.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:57 AM on September 29, 2015


Quickly is fine. But not in such a way that it feels like the conversation is over before it begins.

On preview, what maxsparber said. :)
posted by zarq at 8:57 AM on September 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


"... along with all the people who claim not to be affected by gravity, or who post to let us all know that they don't think gravity's all that important."

y dont u just use static electricity its what holds ur chair together
posted by klangklangston at 9:49 AM on September 29, 2015


About the gravity analogy: I feel like there's often a kneejerk skeptical response to many topics I have some specialist knowledge about. I think it's just that going negative (pointing out that the tone of an article is offputting, or the grammar/writing is bad, or the article generalizes too much, or you disagree about one of the examples it uses, etc) is easy. It's something we're encouraged to do in many contexts, and for a lot of us it becomes an automatic response: stimulus? note a fault! It's a quick way to participate, and it doesn't expose you to the danger of being uncool/too enthusiastic about something. (I have this impulse often too, hello grad school.) It's just that if you step back and look, in general it leads to worse conversations than we could be having. I'm hopeful that maybe pushing back more strongly on this in hot-button topic threads may pay dividends in other threads where people do the same thing.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:53 AM on September 29, 2015 [10 favorites]


I feel like there's often a kneejerk skeptical response to many topics I have some specialist knowledge about.

I agree, I just think it gets nipped by moderators much more quickly in non-social-justice-y threads, or maybe considered by the userbase as less of a derail in social-justice-y threads (I realize that, because of how flagging works, those two things are related).
posted by jaguar at 9:57 AM on September 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


So there was a "won't somebody think of the rapists?" type-argument in the Banned Books thread over whether RooshV is an activist or rapist, and whether his books (that include stories about him raping women) should be classified as 'rape manuals.'

LobsterMitten, your response was to tell everyone to stop with the side debate. But everyone isn't derailing that thread, just one or two people. Why not tell the person or persons defending the man to stop?
posted by zarq at 10:07 AM on September 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


The thread is about banning books. It's an example of a super objectionable book. I've tried to close down the possibility of people trying to defend it as non-objectionable; the whole relevance of it is that it is actually objectionable. I don't like the way it was raised in there, but I also think "don't bring up this example of an objectionable book, because it's too objectionable" would put the discussion into a weird place.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:14 AM on September 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


Because the details of Roosh's (vile) works are a complete and utter derail from the topic of book censorship, and it's more important to shut that derail down immediately than to publicly shame a user for being Outright Wrong? I'm happy with LM's moderation choices there.

I mean, for shit's sake, the last comment LM left up--the "last word" on the subject, if you will--is definitely zombieflanders' assertion that Roosh's book is a rape manual. Which it is! I'm completely on board with zombieflanders here, and the user pushing back on Roosh's book has a history of really making me side-eye their contributions on threads about women. But I think LM's moderation note and decision about where to stop deleting further points in the derail is perfectly good here.
posted by sciatrix at 10:15 AM on September 29, 2015 [12 favorites]


Link to LobsterMitten's comment, for reference and clarity
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:18 AM on September 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


the user pushing back on Roosh's book has a history of really making me side-eye their contributions on threads about women

Isn't this is one of the problems expressed in the OP, though? I feel like this user (BTW this is the same guy who, among other sexist behavior, started the argument that LBTs signified sexual availability) has certainly earned extra scrutiny for their actions. And it's not as if there's not a history of mods saying "[user], you're doing that thing you do, please stop" in threads, which I think does a good job of cutting down on said behavior in the future, or at least putting them on notice.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:24 AM on September 29, 2015 [11 favorites]


LobsterMitten: "The thread is about banning books. It's an example of a super objectionable book. I've tried to close down the possibility of people trying to defend it as non-objectionable; the whole relevance of it is that it is actually objectionable. I don't like the way it was raised in there, but I also think "don't bring up this example of an objectionable book, because it's too objectionable" would put the discussion into a weird place."

One wonderfully effective way to shut down the defense of something offensive as non-objectionable would be to tell the person doing it to stop. The people who brought evidence into the thread explaining why the book is actually objectionable are not the problem here.

sciatrix: "...and the user pushing back on Roosh's book has a history of really making me side-eye their contributions on threads about women."

My point is that if a mod publicly tells him to cut it out, perhaps we'll see fewer contributions regarding women in the future.
posted by zarq at 10:33 AM on September 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


My point is that if a mod publicly tells him to cut it out, perhaps we'll see fewer contributions regarding women in the future.

Sorry to be dense, but you mean from that user, right?
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:35 AM on September 29, 2015


I think that if we're going to discuss a user's behavior, we really should do so by name.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:40 AM on September 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


zombieflanders: Isn't this is one of the problems expressed in the OP, though? I feel like this user (BTW this is the same guy who, among other sexist behavior, started the argument that LBTs signified sexual availability) has certainly earned extra scrutiny for their actions. And it's not as if there's not a history of mods saying "[user], you're doing that thing you do, please stop" in threads, which I think does a good job of cutting down on said behavior in the future, or at least putting them on notice.

Yes, exactly. Why continue kicking the can down the road? If it's an ongoing problem, address it and maybe that will forestall future derails.

GenjiandProust: Sorry to be dense, but you mean from that user, right?

Yes.

But as this thread's post mentions, publicly enforcing standards could conceivably have a wider effect, too.

Chrysostom: I think that if we're going to discuss a user's behavior, we really should do so by name.

I was trying not to call anyone out. Didn't want this to turn into an attack on anyone.
posted by zarq at 10:47 AM on September 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


Quickly is fine. But not in such a way that it feels like the conversation is over before it begins.

Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to
you, trippingly on the tongue: but if you mouth it,
as many of your players do, I had as lief the
town-crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air
too much with your hand, thus, but use all gently;
for in the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say,
the whirlwind of passion, you must acquire and beget
a temperance that may give it smoothness.
posted by octobersurprise at 10:56 AM on September 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


(zarq, briefly, we have talked to that user privately in the past, have taken various other actions to make it work out, and we're discussing the ongoing situation. I say this to defuse the appearance that MetaTalk requests can lead to someone being banned. That isn't the causal chain.)
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:05 AM on September 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


OK. Thank you for explaining. FWIW, I'd also hate for people to have that impression. I'm not asking for anyone to be banned.
posted by zarq at 11:09 AM on September 29, 2015


I think it's just that going negative (pointing out that the tone of an article is offputting, or the grammar/writing is bad, or the article generalizes too much, or you disagree about one of the examples it uses, etc) is easy. It's something we're encouraged to do in many contexts, and for a lot of us it becomes an automatic response: stimulus?...It's just that if you step back and look, in general it leads to worse conversations than we could be having. I'm hopeful that maybe pushing back more strongly on this in hot-button topic threads may pay dividends in other threads where people do the same thing.

Would you mind providing some further clarification on this, please? My understanding is that any aspect of an FPP is fair game for discussion, including, for example, how well the author of an FPP link articulates their viewpoint and that it is totally within bounds here to make a comment along the lines of, "I totally agree with this author regarding (BIG HOT-BUTTON ISSUE) but don't think this article does a great job arguing the case because of reasons A, B, and C". Is that not so? (I have some specific examples that I'm thinking of here, but wanted to make sure I was reading you correctly before I went down that road).

(To clarify, I look at this as a separate thing from straight up premise questioning in things like sexism threads where the initial comments essentially deny that sexism is a thing that happens, which I agree is bad and should be discouraged).
posted by The Gooch at 11:22 AM on September 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't mean you can't be critical about things. Just reflecting more generally, that many of us (me included) have the instinct to go negative/critical/nitpicky as our first response ("here's what I didn't like about this") and that's, in my observation, more prone to unintentionally spur a snippy fight rather than an interesting conversation. It's like the "yes and" rule for improv. (This isn't a new thing, just me repeating some thoughts about what the problems in sexism etc threads have in common with other threads.)
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:29 AM on September 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


Annika Cicada: I hear you on avoiding trying to define panaceas and final solutions, I like the idea of managing tension.

I cut a thing I was going to write about how it was a fine list, just originally positioned as being how everyone should approach the site, when it was later clarified as being only targeted at a certain level of response. The discrepancy between intent and meaning was just highlighted by the comments that immediately followed it. That was all I wished to highlight, and I apologise if it came off differently.

GenjiandProust: Eh, I dunno. I think these three things are really dissimilar.

I put them on a spectrum, with one being an unconscious position quickly clarified, where 'all users' was really 'a certain type of problem user', all the way to 'these offensive comments made me furious and if you disagree you're wrong and bad, let me tell you why at length'.

There's a spectrum with the gravity-type questions, as well. And again, disbelieving first principles of physics is one thing, but there's differing levels of knowledge that aren't all high school science class that can and do get lumped in with that level of questioning. I can't remember who or where on Metafilter someone posted the comment about first-year university students signing up for psychology, thinking, 'It's the study of the brain! I have a brain!' only to be badly surprised, but they're not the only types of comments that have received pushback.

Again, there's certainly comments and commenters that have done this, but the level of education on topics involving (for example) sexuality and gender required, and the terminology used, can vary wildly between members without being considered as derailing or bad-faith.

And these responses aren't about theoretical users that have left the site, it's cost actual users, users that weren't all 'How do you science?' types. Admittedly, these are often the type of user who don't publicly button so much as just stop visiting, so there's not as many times when there's a declaration. But there are a few definite concrete examples, and just because they didn't flame out doesn't mean they weren't useful contributors.

zarq: But worse, after cortex said it, the community latched onto that phrase and ran with it.

Did they, though? And, to me, just because there's a complaint doesn't mean it's valid, just like not all criticism is constructive. And frankly, when comparing the mods versus some of the users, it's no contest as to whose perspective on an exchange I trust more.

But I also come from thinking the site could do with people more often fleshing out their comments, because of how brevity and punchiness often leads to the other form of punchy comments, so...
posted by gadge emeritus at 12:31 PM on September 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


Did they, though?

Yes. Much of the conversation that followed became a discussion about diversity of ideas, popular and unpopular, and whether or not opinions people don't agree with should be allowed to stand. Which casts misogynistic sexism as "unpopular" and not, more accurately, disturbing to many people here.

And, to me, just because there's a complaint doesn't mean it's valid, just like not all criticism is constructive. And frankly, when comparing the mods versus some of the users, it's no contest as to whose perspective on an exchange I trust more.

I do not understand what you are trying to say here. What complaint are you referring to?
posted by zarq at 1:13 PM on September 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


Which casts misogynistic sexism as "unpopular" and not, more accurately, disturbing to many people here.

Well said. This is a problem.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:19 PM on September 29, 2015 [7 favorites]


But the effect sure snowballed, didn't it? Eventually someone upthread literally had to (astonishingly) explain to someone else why calling women sluts is fundamentally different than say, declaring Scott Walker a bad political representative.

That member hasn't returned to the MeTa to clarify his position on what "diverse" and "unpopular" opinions he thinks should be allowed, or what his ideal level of enforcement of the guidelines pertaining to sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. would be, but any time this comes up, most people arguing for laxer moderation of comments that are raising red flags or less vituperation from marginalized groups will say that they understand that these things are all against the rules, and will insist that these aren't what they're trying to protect. Unfortunately, given that MetaFilter more or less observes WP:AGF, we don't have much of a choice but to take people at their word on this until they've demonstrated some sort of observable and nearly-unambiguous bad faith effort to violate the spirit of these policies, or are judged by the mods to be falling into the "indistinguishable from trolling" category, which, if it's not a new point of emphasis from the mods, is one I've only noticed being discussed in the last year or so.

In my experience, some of these folks arguing for a more laissez-faire approach toward moderation of these "gray area" comments are free speech absolutists who want more of anything goes policy and are up front about that, but most will acknowledge the need for moderation of the blatantly offensive, but then talk about the perils of slippery slopes, or the existence of varying standards of what constitutes bigotry. They may vocally support bright-line rules about offensive words or specific lines of argumentation, but when there's any ambiguity, they'll insist that it's important to let people say borderline offensive things as long as they're not violating these bright line rules.

The real problem arises when we have members that seem to know where the lines are, and go right up to the edge of what's permissible without running afoul of these policies, making sure to back off and claim that's not what they meant when people call them on it. Observers who aren't following closely enough to notice the pattern might see nothing wrong with the comments in isolation, but others may pick up on curious points of emphasis across multiple comments, special pleading on behalf of dominant groups, skepticism toward marginalized groups, etc.

It's true that not every user will have a vivid memory of everything some other member has said, nor will all members necessarily agree on the precise interpretation of the comments in question even if they have been paying closer attention, but members need to be held accountable for the entirety of their participation on the site, and when other members are making comments that in isolation may look like mere misunderstandings or different political leanings or different styles of argumentation, but when looked at in the context of their previous comments constitute a pattern of flouting what other members believe the community guidelines to be, people are right to raise objections.

In my line of work, this kind of thing, when done maliciously, is called an advanced aersistent threat, or APT. An APT actor will generally prefer a "low and slow" approach that can avoid detection over a more severe attack that can result in getting caught and losing the ability to conduct further attacks. Finding APTs on one's network is very difficult, in part because (a) nobody has a complete enough picture of what "normal" activity is on their network to be able to find the anomalies, (b) actors are simply very good at designing their offensive capabilities to avoid detection, and (c) nobody wants to devote sufficient resources to doing the time-consuming leg-work of looking for patterns and correlating events.*

This doesn't mean that everyone should be maintaining a dossier on every other user with detailed footnotes, and we have to guard against being too quick to judge someone based on previous history, but it does mean that if you're just dropping by and aren't as familiar with what's going on, or haven't picked up on the patterns that someone else is, your abstract ideals of promoting free speech are less important, to me at least, than the claims of someone who has specific reason to believe someone else is fucking with them in a way that's too subtle to violate the bright line rules in a way that's obvious to everyone who's watching.

It's ultimately up to the moderators to adjudicate these claims, but when someone claims to be harmed by someone else's contributions on the site, I feel like the first priority should be to stop that from happening, after which we can then consider whether there's some important aspect of the discussion that's getting lost because of the moderator intervention / censorship / whatever you want to call it. The blue isn't some graduate level philosophy program where people are coming here to have their ideas challenged every day -- it's a community where we talk about stuff. If your talking leads to someone else's pain, you first should stop talking, and then try to find a way to talk about the issue that doesn't cause that pain. If no such way forward is possible, there's nothing wrong with walking away.** I know some people see that as the tip of the spear toward the eradication of all dissenting opinions, and I, too have reacted strongly in the past when I felt like I had a right to make a point because damn it, I knew I wasn't intending to offend anyone, but sometimes a bunch of people yelling at you to stop hurting them isn't a heckler's veto -- sometimes you're just hurting them. Good faith / bad faith doesn't matter when it's your foot being stepped on.

* I'm not saying this is a perfect analogy, but I am getting the sense that this dynamic might be at play in the recent talk about the Banned Books Week thread, where one user's comments set off red flags for many people, especially in the context of that user's other participation on the site (including one of the threads referenced in this MeTa.)

** This is a lesson I learned the hard way in a MeTa that The Gooch refers to above.

posted by tonycpsu at 1:21 PM on September 29, 2015 [19 favorites]


" I feel like there's often a kneejerk skeptical response to many topics I have some specialist knowledge about. "

It's been a recurring joke with many MeFites that I know in real life that there's no faster way to get pissed off than to read a MeFi thread on something you have expert knowledge about (most recently talking to another member about threads on tv production). While MeFi is usually better than other generalist fora, the combination of a huge userbase and listicle-level understanding of many complex topics means that you're practically guaranteed to see something infuriatingly wrong any time you actually know what you're talking about (or MeFi's "eternal September"). With e.g. sexism, what seems to make this particularly rough is that "expert knowledge" often just means "subjective experience living as a woman," and that the harms of sexism are both disproportionate and congruent with a big, shitty system that exists in nearly every other aspect of members' lives (i.e. the patriarchy ruins everything). It's also complicated because it's an identity issue — see similar comments from Southern or rural MeFites about how they feel when stereotypes about that part of their identity are uncritically regurgitated.

I don't think that contrarianism, skepticism or devil's advocacy are inherently bad and I think that they can be pretty generally a good thing even if it does lead to regular randos popping off about how a third party would be viable if not for corporations keeping 'em down — it's just that because the stakes are higher with e.g. sexism, that's worth more scrutiny, and that people can fuck up without realizing it. That's especially true when you recognize that people don't necessarily agree where the lines are in terms of what's a fuck up, at least outside of the egregious ones.

Traditionally, MeFi has handled a lot of that through argument, and there's legitimate criticism that the argument model hasn't worked to effectively ameliorate the harms that come from the clueless comments in this specific context. I also think that many members, especially newer members, tend to see moderators as primarily service workers paid to keep their MeFi experience humming, rather than seeing them as members first who have some specific expert knowledge on moderating within the MeFi community. That itself is a culture shift, though a long slow one that's been happening for some time — in part, I think, because in general the mods have gotten collectively better at their jobs. When it was just Matt, or even when it was just Matt on shift while Jess and Josh were elsewhere, it often felt like he was just trying to not get thrown off his board and dashed on the rocks, instead of the general ability of mods now to ride a wave. With more expectation that the mods will step in, it feels more like a failure when they don't, and at any given moment multiple threads can need triage in a way that current revenues and staffing just don't support.

I'm not sure what the answer is here — I'm a bit uncomfortable thinking about this as a problem that can be solved by having the mods do more codification of rules, since I tend to think that there ends up being more progress from increased community participation in threads like these where problems and harms can be discussed but I also recognize that being able to participate effectively and deeply in threads like this is itself a luxury in terms of time and effort, and something that I'm not sure scales effectively — like, in terms of something that I enjoyed reading and took relatively little work from me, I still had to drop the emotional labor thread after a while (like, 900 comments in) because I just didn't have time then to keep up with it and the volume of comments also came with a depth to them — it wasn't like a portobellos longboat — and I'd imagine that most members didn't even make it that far in.

Zarq said upthread that MeFi has always taken work, which is true, but how much work is reasonable to participate here shouldn't necessarily be normed by people almost 500 comments into a contentious MeTa thread or even 500 comments into a great thread on the blue. Making a real dent in the number of sexist comments will require more than just explicit mod notes and more participation than just those of us who have several hours to contribute to a game of MeTa Diplomacy.
posted by klangklangston at 1:37 PM on September 29, 2015 [9 favorites]


What complaint are you referring to?

Essentially all the ones where the complaint is that the mods - well, I suppose cortex, really - use too many words at the wrong time when doing their job.

And tonycpsu, I'll just say that your comment is both accurate but also representative of only one mindset on the issues involved, and 'indistinguishable from trolling' is a phrase I recall jessamyn using a number of times in her days as mod, so it's been around for awhile, as a datapoint.
Also, this isn't a complaint about anyone's specific behaviour, but surely there comes a point when one user is being referred to repeatedly that it's just easier to say who it is? You might not want a referendum on that user's behaviour, but if their contributions and their contributions alone are being discussed, it seems a moot point to only refer to them indirectly.
posted by gadge emeritus at 1:39 PM on September 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, this isn't a complaint about anyone's specific behaviour, but surely there comes a point when one user is being referred to repeatedly that it's just easier to say who it is?

Yeah, I've always been pro-naming, even if doing so includes shaming as a side effect. I also think posting history is fair game as long as it's germane to the underlying complaint, but I know this is itself controversial. In any event, when everyone is talking about one user's behavior, it's pretty silly to beat around the bush.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:56 PM on September 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Whoops, missed the part directed at me:

And tonycpsu, I'll just say that your comment is both accurate but also representative of only one mindset on the issues involved

Er, okay? I didn't claim to be speaking for anyone else, or to have any sort of monopoly on the truth. Your response reads to me like The Dude saying "Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man."
posted by tonycpsu at 1:59 PM on September 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


Zarq said upthread that MeFi has always taken work, which is true,

That does sound like something I'd say, but I didn't say it here. I agree tho. :)
posted by zarq at 2:35 PM on September 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


tonycpsu, I'll clarify - it's that your post was, I thought, a detailed and accurate summation of only one type of person who objects in these threads, and while good about that one type, once you get off free speech absolutists or persistent boundary pushers it doesn't add much that hasn't already been described in a number of comments above, or before.

At least to me, it was like, 'That's good and all, but only adjacent to the concerns I'm interested in seeing addressed.'

I'm also looking at this discussion through the lens of the current 'fiction' MeTa, and find the Banned Books post relevant in the same way, in that so often these things are phrased as 'if someone objects, you listen, you back off, and you change'. I think the Banned Books thread is related in that there's lots of anecdotes and stories of people objecting, but how they're complaining about books for having material they don't think is suitable for their kids. And the great grand majority of MF agrees, because banning To Kill A Mockingbird, or Judy Blume, or a hundred other examples because you don't want your child exposed to other races/sexualities/anything non-Christian? Ha ha no.

So, objections aren't to be inherently to be listened to and worked around. And we can seemingly all agree on that. But it mostly, nearly always even, gets framed as 'they're upset, you've offended them, so it's on you to not upset them,' - that's how you, tonycpsu, phrased it, as if you're causing someone pain it's up to you to change or walk away - so it's really meant as 'they're reasonably upset'. Except because that's not how it's said, and it's equally rare for it to be argued in that way, it inevitably becomes, 'people are upset, that's all you need to know,' and also, 'you're making it worse if you don't agree (it's your fault)'.

The Book Banning thread also has instances where people might disagree about what is reasonable to be upset about. Elly Vortex talked about removing a 70s religious book on the grounds that, amongst other things, it depicted the prophet Muhammad. And I've no real reason to doubt she wasn't making the right call, there's a later clarification that there was also other questionable things, but I think there is definitely room to discuss whether a book shouldn't be available due to that sort of religious content. Or another example was Eyebrows McGee talking about 'The Blood-Hungry Spleen' being found objectionable, that she thinks it's perfectly fine for young children, she read it to hers... but then she also says she understands some parents might still be sex-positive and body-positive but not want their children to read about the body in that particular way, and that's perfectly fine, although that wasn't how the first complaint could be described.

They're both reasonable people dealing with objections to content, and there's reasonable discussion to be had around these points, I strongly believe - but if a parent who objected came into the thread discussing it like, say, The Master and Margarita Mix started discussing the women in engineering thread above and her objections to it, or someone with a strong position either pro- or anti- images of Muhammad... well, they're upset. And they're certain they're right. And there might be room to disagree, but look how well the disagreement went above. And this isn't some theoretical circumstance, these are circumstances that happen involving actual people, even actual users here, wanting their personal definition of a reasonable objection to be both more broadly accepted, and unquestioned.

So. Often, one of the main solutions to this real problem this thread is about is to just accept that if someone is upset by what you're saying that you accept you're at fault, shut up, and listen. But what is actually meant is 'if someone is upset in a way I find reasonable', and there's a lot of reasonable conversation, and users, that are lost in the subjective gaps between what some people think is acceptable vs. what they find as indefensible.

And with that, I'll walk away for a while to prevent further paragraphs.
posted by gadge emeritus at 3:16 PM on September 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


And at that point you've simply kicked the can down the road slightly towards a discussion on which objections and upsets are reasonable and which aren't. There's just no way to draw a hard and fast line on these things, including the line of "someone was upset".
posted by Justinian at 3:50 PM on September 29, 2015


The more certain we are that we are right, the less reasonable we become.

Down with certainty! Long live doubt!


(I think...?)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:11 PM on September 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've taken a few days to cool off after my previous comment upthread and I hope you all don't mind if I revisit that now.

To recap, things went off the rails in the first part of my post here. I'll paraphrase but please correct me if needed: I said that I felt Metafilter is an "extremely safe place" and as evidence that I believed this, I linked to a highly personal post I made. nadawi said she did not feel safe discussing a different sort of personal issue. I responded that I didn't think Metafilter could ever be 100% safe, that for 100% safety you need friends or therapy, and that regardless I hoped she was getting support.

My comment was interpreted as saying that she is too sensitive, crazy, and unfit to participate in a grown-up discussion on her own life experience. There is a long history of men sidelining women from discussions about their own lives and it seems my comment was understood as being part of this tradition.

However, if this were a heart-to-heart conversation between two close friends IRL, and one said "You know, I'm on a great website but I don't feel safe talking about my history of XYZ", and the other replied "Well even the best part of the Internet is still the Internet and you can never be 100% safe online, so since it bothers you then you should probably talk to your friends or a therapist", this would probably be perceived as supportive. I meant it more in this vein, particularly given my own recent challenges and experiences.

So we have a sort of Schroedinger's Sexist Comment situation. I'm sorry if nadawi felt threatened or belittled by what I wrote.

That said.

There was a strong response that indicated support for the first, negative interpretation: 1, 2, 3, 4. Even after I specifically tried to clarify my intent, people still assumed the worst: 1. There were also responses that were not about this exchange but were nevertheless about me in a negative way: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. These are all generally highly favorited responses so I assume they reflect the consensus of the group such as it is.

taz: "I would definitely recommend hanging back and learning more about the various issues rather than sort of jumping in to seemingly tell women how they need to act here. Additionally, I do hope that the therapy comment was a true mistake based on your own appreciation of its helpfulness to you, rather than snide suggestion, and once again, will just suggest you basically take some time out from commenting here and maybe relax and learn a bit."

I've been lurking and very occasionally posting here for several years, well before my immediately previous account. In recent years I've been particularly interested in gender issues on the site including on MeTa. Like everyone, I have more to learn but I don't think another couple years of lurking are going to help -- if I haven't figured out the basics by now then I'm probably a lost cause.

Here I tried to be careful and you can see in my earlier posts that more than one person referred to me specifically as "polite". What tripped me up was trying to be supportive to someone who just told me she didn't feel safe discussing personal trauma here. Do you feel that me doing this was not appropriate for Metafilter? As a mod advising me to learn more about Metafilter before posting, how would you have responded in my place?

tonycpsu's recent comment here is really interesting to me. In it he writes "Unfortunately, given that MetaFilter more or less observes WP:AGF, we don't have much of a choice but to take people at their word on this until they've demonstrated some sort of observable and nearly-unambiguous bad faith effort to violate the spirit of these policies..." By "we" here I gather he means the mods. Then later he writes "...sometimes a bunch of people yelling at you to stop hurting them isn't a heckler's veto -- sometimes you're just hurting them."

I think tonycpsu is saying that there is a disconnect between the rules the mods use and the rules the group uses. Consider that my comment had a good faith and a bad faith reading. He says that the mods assume good faith and err on the side of not deleting a questionable comment. However, if someone else is hurt by their own reading of that comment, even a bad faith reading, then that can turn into a dogpile ("a bunch of people yelling at you to stop").

Earlier I advocated for a quick deletion of iffy comments by the mods. Certainly I would have preferred to have my earlier comment deleted rather than be where I'm at now. In light of tonycpsu's post I would update my earlier recommendation to instead of asking mods to delete iffy comments, they instead read all comments with bad faith instead of good and delete accordingly. Assuming we want to avoid dogpiles, and since bad faith readings are more likely to result in dogpiles, then comments should be considered as written in bad faith when being considered for deletion.

Something else: how many of the 73 people who favorited this comment where jaguar wrote "[what you wrote here] is exactly the sort of thing that I think the moderators need to call out more often." actually flagged my offending post? If many of them, why wasn't the post deleted (which I would have preferred)? If few of them, why didn't they flag it? Did the mods not delete it because they were giving it a good faith reading while the group gave it a bad faith reading?

Overall I would like to know whether the way things happened with me is the way the mods and the group at large feel things should have happened. That is, is this the system working as intended? Because I'll tell you, as a new (more or less) poster but long-time reader with a specific and personal interest in gender and sexuality issues, I tried pretty hard not to offend anyone and instead I've been made to feel really unwelcome. It looks like this account is most likely a total loss, and possibly future accounts are out too given the comments on BNDs/sockpuppets upthread, but I hope this feedback is useful.

I visit some other online forums and Metafilter is an oasis as far as support for women and queer issues. I said earlier that Metafilter is as good as it gets as a public forum for these topics, but I'm happy to be proven wrong with the addition of another way to flag. Even Metafilter can improve.
posted by yes i am a bisexual man at 8:37 PM on September 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, two things:

Mods rarely delete anything in MeTa that isn't a grotesque personal insult or really out-there _____ist.

And, " I tried pretty hard not to offend anyone and instead I've been made to feel really unwelcome" is the kind of thing that's going to get slapped down, more or less, as "waah my privilege got bruised" and/or "where's my cookie?"

Right or wrong, it's likely to go that way.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:50 PM on September 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sometimes, yiaabm, you can't fix this kind of thing by getting into it further. The best thing you can do is to not retire your account, don't stop commenting on other threads, accept that there's always going to be things that can be taken in ways you didn't expect and, as hard as it is, try not take criticisms of your comments as criticisms of your own personal self.

I can think of lots of users who've had a similar experience to yours continue to be valued members of Metafilter.
posted by h00py at 9:13 PM on September 29, 2015 [7 favorites]


You could also take us at our word when those of us who are queer women state that, no, this is not an extremely safe space for us.

Your intentions mean little when your words have hurtful impact.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:13 PM on September 29, 2015 [20 favorites]


However, if this were a heart-to-heart conversation between two close friends IRL,

I think you mean well, but surely you can tell that this is a way over familiar assumption to make about someone you're talking to on the internet who doesn't know you right?
posted by supercrayon at 9:18 PM on September 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


Yeah, MeTa's deletion standard is really, really high, leaving aside the privilege question.

However, if this were a heart-to-heart conversation between two close friends IRL, and one said "You know, I'm on a great website but I don't feel safe talking about my history of XYZ", and the other replied "Well even the best part of the Internet is still the Internet and you can never be 100% safe online, so since it bothers you then you should probably talk to your friends or a therapist", this would probably be perceived as supportive. I meant it more in this vein, particularly given my own recent challenges and experiences.

This doesn't work as an analogy because you and nadawi aren't close friends, which means she's not going to interpret your comments through the lens of close friendship, where supportive intent can be reasonably assumed, but through the lens of MeTa arguments, where relations range from schmoopy to aggressively hostile - but it also doesn't work because she wasn't asking for a 100% safe space, online or IRL. You used percentages, which suggests you believe that there is a spectrum of safety in online spaces, and what nadawi and others are getting at is that MeFi is still not far enough along the spectrum for her or many other women who have spoken up here in MeTas past and present to feel they can contribute as fully as they would prefer. That doesn't contradict the fact you feel safe making yourself vulnerable, but you assumed that the level of safety she wants is unrealistic and unreasonable because it is more stringent than yours. That's going to get pushback no matter how you put it.
posted by gingerest at 9:23 PM on September 29, 2015 [27 favorites]


A woman saying that she would like to be able to have discussions in the public sphere about things that are important to her and to women in general is not asking for advice about how to have those conversations in private instead. The idea that women's concerns, and women's voices in general, should not be part of public discourse is a huge societal force that keeps women oppressed and isolated. The assumption that women who face pushback for talking about important things in public are the ones who have to adjust, rather than that the people participating in the sexist pushback should change, also perpetuates a sexist status quo.

I explained the problems with bringing the idea of therapy into the whole thing earlier.
posted by jaguar at 9:31 PM on September 29, 2015 [41 favorites]


It looks like this account is most likely a total loss, and possibly future accounts are out too given the comments on BNDs/sockpuppets upthread, but I hope this feedback is useful.

I've been screwing up on the internet as Deoridhe for almost twenty years. One thing I've found about a persistent pseudonym - it demands of me a higher level of self-reflection. I have screwed up - massively and in ways which hurt people - and I carried the memory of the pain I caused with me until I figured out a way to understand it and try to make amends. It has made me a better person.
posted by Deoridhe at 11:10 PM on September 29, 2015 [17 favorites]


yes i am a bisexual man, I understand wanting to sort of try to clear up the record, and I understand the spirit in which you wanted to comment in here originally. Yes, I think most of us agree that Metafilter is better than a lot of places online on these issues, but Metatalk is the place where we discuss that (sometimes in painful detail!) and where members can weigh in on what ways they feel things can be improved and moderators can work on how to be responsive to those ideas.

This kind of by definition means that we hear from members who are particularly concerned with the ways in which we've fallen short, on issues that are highly personal to them, in ways they've found hurtful or angering, etc., so to enter a relatively highly-charged meeting of people who feel that things are not fine, to say "I'm new, and it seems like things are fine" (and even, "things are fine for groups that I'm not part of"). No matter how nicely you put it, or how many disclaimers, you're riling people in a way that you probably didn't intend, but that reads as disrespectful and/or dismissive in exactly the way that people are currently discussing that some behavior on the site is a problem.

Complicating that further is the suggestion that you've had experiences here that were not well received earlier. I invite you to discuss that with us (moderators) because it's confusing things here to an almost comical degree, maybe in ways you don't understand. Repeated references to this mean people are not out of line for wondering if you are a person who has intentionally disrupted or trolled sexism/other threads in the past, and been banned. I don't think so, but at this point, I'd appreciate a private discussion with you so we can reach an understanding about that.

I'm sorry that this is complicated and you got what certainly feels like a harsh reception. It's definitely not a state that you can't come back from if you wish, but seriously, in this thread, I suggest taking h00py's excellent advice and stepping back. You can drop us (mods) a note at the contact form. That address is staffed 24 hours a day, and we can work through some of this together, if you'd like.
posted by taz (staff) at 12:01 AM on September 30, 2015 [14 favorites]


I said that I felt Metafilter is an "extremely safe place" [...]

... for women and queer people. I suggest to you that women are the world's leading experts on whether or not this site is a safe space for them. Many have spoken up in many threads that this site is not that, today.

I said earlier that Metafilter is as good as it gets as a public forum for these topics [...]

It's one of the better ones, certainly, and seems to be improving all the time. I've personally learned a lot from discussions here, in particular that I have a lot more to learn. But "the rest of the internet" is a rather low standard to exceed, I would say.

I responded that I didn't think Metafilter could ever be 100% safe, that for 100% safety you need friends or therapy, and that regardless I hoped she was getting support.

I don't think the goal of the site is to be a place where there's no chance one might see a sexist comment, and that's not what people are asking for in threads like these. What people are asking for is increased moderation of such comments to make it clear they're not acceptable here, quicker action against repeat offenders, and similar steps. As opposed to, say, pre-screening new users to ensure they're not the sort of people who would make those sort of comments in the first place.
posted by FishBike at 5:47 AM on September 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


Sometimes listening to what people are saying can be difficult when you have already decided something. That's a skill this place has helped me with enormously. Other people's experiences, even if they differ from your own, are no less valid. If lots of people are saying the same thing it's incredibly important to remember that it's not your place to argue against it. It may never be your experience but that doesn't make it any less real.
posted by h00py at 6:06 AM on September 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


Something I am trying hard to be better about is to allow people on the internet to be wrong. My input of the "you are wrong and this is why" variety isn't necessarily what is called for in all situations, and I'd hope to be getting better at reading the room in terms of what kinds of comments make for a better discussion.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:19 AM on September 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Overall I would like to know whether the way things happened with me is the way the mods and the group at large feel things should have happened. That is, is this the system working as intended?

I don't know if "the system is working," but I just read your comment to nadawi and I thought it was pretty shitty, even after your defense of it in your last big comment. One thing that stands out to me about your extended comment just upthread is that you spend much more time explaining why people were wrong to react to you as they did than you time showing that you understand the issues that people raised. You don't even say the most basic thing which you should have learned: men, bisexual or not, don't really get to tell women how safe they should feel anywhere.
posted by OmieWise at 6:23 AM on September 30, 2015 [24 favorites]


I typed out a big thing, but I guess what I want to say, yiaabm, is that, as I know pretty well, people with good intentions and basically decent politics can say really tone-deaf and/or hurtful things - sometimes when we quite literally know better. You said something that was kindly meant but poorly phrased (and, if you're like me, based on some incoherent thinking).

It's so easy to feel "I tried really hard and still offended someone and now I feel unwelcome". I have felt like that so often in so many places.

If I can give you a piece of really, really hard-earned advice: let that feeling go and move on. It's your wounded ego that's talking - your sense of yourself as a good person has been damaged and you're trying to restore it. [Assuming that you're a basically decent person] it's important to have a stronger sense of self, so that one call-out or criticism doesn't trigger this kind of ego-wounded talking [or ultimately nitpicking or flouncing]. You can be a good person who said something ill-considered, and you can move on.

On a practical level, I think that on a large and fast-moving site like metafilter, saying the occasional unintentional problem thing really isn't the end of the world. People learn, change and grow; people have ideas about all kinds of things; sometimes someone whose opinion I really value on one topic has opinions I think are a bit off on another topic. I think that you actively have to work to burn your bridges here.

~~~~
On a related note: for the record, I want to say - since my comments were discussed upthread - I am not upset, or buttoning, or whatever. I wrote some foolish stuff in the engineering thread - when I knew better, no less - and now I've done some thinking about what led me to write it, and I know myself better, and I won't write fool stuff like that in the future. [Leaving a whole field of new fool stuff to write, I'm sure]. Edited to add: also, I am sorry that I didn't act better and avoid hurting people by writing the fool stuff.

I just want to state clearly for the record that no one needs to feel that this was a thread in which people jumped on me unfairly or jeopardized my fondness for the site or anything.
posted by Frowner at 6:35 AM on September 30, 2015 [18 favorites]


You're arguing one that metafilter's the safest place on the web (so metafilter doesn't need to change and get better) and two that it's a scary un-navigable swamp where you keep blundering off the invisible path and sinking under fathomsdeep dogpiles that make you feel unwelcome and sad (so metafilter needs to change and get better). I think you're mostly right except about a few things. One is that you are not unwelcome and you don't need to be sad when you get pushback about your arguments. I for one learn by doing--so my blatherings get nuked all the time, and I occasionally get into arguments. You don't have to feel terrible about it. You can do as Deoridhe does and tweak and think and get better at it and make new internet friends. It's not particularly safe, but it's a ton of fun.
posted by Don Pepino at 6:53 AM on September 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


yeah, I don't even wanna think about how crappy a person I used to be, but I was so alas. A lot of life seems to be a continual process of learning how to suck less and feeling really embarrassed at how ignorant we used to be.
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:31 AM on September 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


And the great grand majority of MF agrees, because banning To Kill A Mockingbird, or Judy Blume, or a hundred other examples because you don't want your child exposed to other races/sexualities/anything non-Christian? Ha ha no. So, objections aren't to be inherently to be listened to and worked around.

There's a world of difference between comments being deleted on MetaFilter and books being banned in libraries. Setting aside any differences with respect to the nature of the content, the effect on free expression writ large of having a few comments deleted on a privately-run website is negligible compared to that of books being banned by government. It's a big Internet, and if MetaFilter isn't free speech-y enough for you, then you have a very wide range of choices for other places to express yourself. No such dynamic exists with government short of moving (in the case of municipal/state government) or emigrating (in the case of the federal government.)

Furthermore, the notion that only certain viewpoints that align with the MetaFilter consensus fall into the category of "reasonable" objections to free speech isn't actually true. I've seen discussions squashed when people were doing LOLREDNECKS when someone complained, and I've seen requests in multiple religion threads from mods to dial back discussions that were offensive to a person of faith who claimed to be offended. I'm not suggesting these occur in equal proportion, but nobody should expect such parity given the demographic and ideological makeup of the site's population.

Even the US's robust First Amendment protections only speak to what speech can be limited by government, not by private entities, and even those protections are subject to exceptions regarding time, place, and manner. MetaFilter is not the United States, and it's not even a government, so I don't find the comparison between government censorship and deletion of comments on a single Internet site compelling at all.

But what is actually meant is 'if someone is upset in a way I find reasonable',

Yes, by definition, your reasonable speech may be someone else's unreasonable attack on their identity, ideology, etc. My point is that, without deciding who's correct, we can always err on the side of "stop when someone claims to be hurt." If I make a case against supply-side economics and someone insists that this hurts them personally, I will stop. If I don't, I invite the mods to delete my comments or give me a time out. When in doubt, stopping conversation when someone says they're harmed doesn't create any further harm.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:39 AM on September 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


This mod note from cortex is another example of the problem. A guy waltzing into a thread about how women discuss actual miscarriages and comparing it to talking about hypothetical dick problems isn't "epically misplaced." It's pretty goddamn horrible, mean-spirited, and gross. He has at least quadrupled down on this, which means he's not approaching the topic in good faith (and in all likelihood never intended to), and seeing as he's kept on going after the mod note, a softball "oh, you" response solved nothing.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:39 AM on September 30, 2015 [14 favorites]


I dunno zombiefanders, it's not like gman has a history or anything. He could just be a clueless noob!
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:56 AM on September 30, 2015 [16 favorites]


To my eye that doesn’t seem like a particularly soft response in practice. That is, all of gman’s comments seem to have been deleted, and he’ll (hopefully) be given quite the side eye for the rest of the thread. Since the quadrupling down has been deleted, can you elaborate? That really seems like useful meat for the discussion, because so much of the history gets lost.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:58 AM on September 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


The comment was dumb and happened while I was looking at something else, and so some replies stacked up. Per what some folks have expressed a preference for in here, I went ahead and nuked more of that chain than I might have previously, to prioritize unfucking the thread over keeping the conversational record intact. I left a note explicitly saying the original comment was super out of place. The thread carried on.

That the dude came back is a separate issue, and I nixed that and am watching the thread closely; that that particular dude has a history of digging in on stuff is a bigger problem but not one that had manifested itself all that clearly when I first did the clean up in there. I've subsequently sent him a note being really fucking clear that it's he can either cut that shit out forever henceforth or he's gone.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:59 AM on September 30, 2015 [12 favorites]


Yay! Up with scorched Earth un-fuckings!
posted by tonycpsu at 10:07 AM on September 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


...being really fucking clear that it's he can either cut that shit out forever henceforth or he's gone.

It will be closer to a recalibrated nearness to more ideal when nth-chances become at least n-2 chances. The inner bit of me that's my younger internetty-fighty self really feels the urge to dig into histories to find gotchas about previous times it's been made really clear to cut the shit henceforth-from-that-past-point-or-face-consequences, because it feels like there are. But a) that's entirely possibly just confirmation bias and conflating this latest example with other problematic users (to put it charitably), and b) not likely to be productive. So I guess my individual plea here (which by the power of projection, I declare to be widely shared!) is that the next time he pulls that shit, this henceforth-warning is remembered, and acted upon, preferably without being brought up in a MeTa first.
posted by Drastic at 10:19 AM on September 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


His account is disabled.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 10:24 AM on September 30, 2015


And to reflect a little more generally on this: I can appreciate a desire to see mod communication resemble some ideal of performative ethotic righteousness or what have you—every mod note and deletion reason and MetaTalk comment landing a clean and explicit blow for the side of right is a nice and empowering image—but in practice I think it's easy to go past reasonable aspiration on that front (and I have no problem with the reasonable aspiration and it's something we're making an effort on) and into a kind of untenable situation of expecting things consistently to fit tightly to any given person's specific mold regardless of the complications of the situations (timing, priorities, multiple channels of communication, other intersecting bits of site policy and practice) and regardless of the fact that different folks on the site who otherwise have a similar sense of ethos have their own differing molds that can't be cleanly reconciled.

I'm really goal-oriented in my approach to a lot of stuff on MetaFilter, and I think I and the rest of the mod team have pretty similar goals to most folks in this discussion about what we want to work better on the site and how we want to mitigate some of the systemic issues MetaFilter discussions sometimes have, even if we disagree about the details of the methods sometimes. And I'm coming from the perspective of sizing up the practicalities of us managing this site with a small team, which I understand is necessarily a different perspective in a lot of ways from looking at it as a user, and so most of the disagreements about details are something I can totally understand arising as a natural result of those somewhat different perspectives. But sometimes we're just going to have to agree on the goal and disagree on the details a little, and part of that is being practical about how much constant surgical precision to expect in on-the-fly mod communication.

That doesn't mean not talking about the details—this whole thread is basically for that—but I want to acknowledge a sense of damned-either-way frustration with the degree to which "okay you did what folks asked but not to my total satisfaction, so we have A Problem" applied on a per-note level in liveblog fashion and to the exclusion of a ready acknowledgement that there's usually more going on on the site, and in a given situation, than the one thing being given a close reading. And balancing that real and taxing frustration against our erstwhile need and want to be really communicative about this stuff is one of the actual, real costs of us having these lengthy conversations.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:24 AM on September 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


So I guess my individual plea here (which by the power of projection, I declare to be widely shared!) is that the next time he pulls that shit, this henceforth-warning is remembered, and acted upon, preferably without being brought up in a MeTa first.

That is, or I should say was, the plan, yeah, made explicit both in an admin note to the team on his profile page and in the email I sent him. Ended up turning quickly into a You Can't Fire Me, I Quit sort of situation in this case which mooted the point but didn't make it an less applicable to future situations dealing with warned users.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:27 AM on September 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


MetaFilter: You can't button me, I button.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:29 AM on September 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


If I make a case against supply-side economics and someone insists that this hurts them personally, I will stop. If I don't, I invite the mods to delete my comments or give me a time out.

That's fine as a personal preference but needless to say I don't think it is appropriate as a mod policy.
posted by Justinian at 10:46 AM on September 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I was actually coming in to this thread to say that I thought those deletions were a perfect example of what should be happening. So thank you for that, cortex.

But cortex, I'm really curious, is there a reason you are hesitant to say "these things were deleted because they are sexist" and use that word? I think that would really make a huge difference. I don't think they need to be perfectly righteous or anything like that. I just want to see them actually use the word "sexism".
posted by capricorn at 10:48 AM on September 30, 2015 [13 favorites]


That's fine as a personal preference but needless to say I don't think it is appropriate as a mod policy.

Why not? You said:

And at that point you've simply kicked the can down the road slightly towards a discussion on which objections and upsets are reasonable and which aren't.

So let's make all objections reasonable unless there's hard evidence otherwise. It avoids the thorny questions about what kind of complaints are legitimate based on membership in some class, beliefs... whatever. If someone's doing it in bad faith, the worst thing that happens is that a contentious discussion doesn't happen on MetaFilter. The world continues to turn, we all go on with our lives. I would not advocate this as a general rule for, say, people using religion to get out of things that offend their conscience, but the stakes are a lot smaller here, so I don't see the point of getting bogged down in debates over whose claims are legitimate.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:57 AM on September 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Because it's the very definition of the heckler's veto. And I don't think you even actually believe we should do that. If one of those men's rights weirdos says they are offended by, say, the miscarriage post you think we should stop talking about it? Naaah.

The mods make judgments about what objections are reasonable all the time That's their job. If you're just going to say "let's treat all objections as reasonable" you might as well replace the mods with an algorithm which deletes comments when they are flagged.

The entire idea is completely antithetical to Metafilter's origins, history, purpose, and culture.
posted by Justinian at 11:39 AM on September 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I mean, feel free to live the change you want to see but I think it's obviously a complete non-starter as actual policy.
posted by Justinian at 11:40 AM on September 30, 2015


But cortex, I'm really curious, is there a reason you are hesitant to say "these things were deleted because they are sexist" and use that word?

A lot of the time that's just not the specific part of cleaning something up that's at the top of my list, I guess, and I hear folks that they'd like for it to be higher on the list on average. I'm trying to actively think about that as I go about doing stuff on the site, but it's a work in progress.

I've also got, and this falls I think pretty heavily to that above-mentioned moderator-rather-than-user side of the experiential equation, some heavily-ingrained habits about what I do and don't want to hand someone whose behavior I'm already taking action on as a point for immediate argument on some additional disagreement-about-intent-or-definition hook to argue on. "Stop it" is unambiguous; "stop it, because x" is asking for "but not x/intended-as-x" instead of stopping it.

Which, as a practical detail of picking my battles is pretty boring standard stuff. You spend a few years trying to navigate disagreements and bad behavior and hurt feelings and intention/effect mismatches with a really broad group of people, and all the flaring tempers and rhetorical sinkholes and desire for personal justice that comes with that, and you develop a lot of basic habits tuned to keeping that manageable and avoiding throwing extra gas on a fire that you're the person primarily responsible for containing. Long-learned pragmatism.

But I see the conflict between that and folks wishing stuff was more often called out in explicit terms. And I don't know if I'm ever going to agree fully with the most aggressively staked out new positions on what that should look like, but I don't think the idea in general is bad, and it's something I'm working on and something we have been and will continue working on as a team. Changing habits and redrawing lines is tricky and often slow work, as much as I can understand slow steady progress from our side looking like Just Not Enough from a different perspective.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:41 AM on September 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


Thanks, cortex. I totally see where you're coming from on this: "stop it, because x" is asking for "but not x/intended-as-x" instead of stopping it. I also see how it might create the danger of making it look like your job as a mod (and one who happens to be a dude) is to be the arbiter of sexism. I also think the fact that "offensive/sexism/racism" is a flag also helps to give the message that sexism is against the rules on MeFi.

But yeah, I would definitely stand firm on the point that it is really helpful for mods to be explicit in some way or another in saying certain lines of discussion/behavior are not OK not just because they are deraily but because they contribute to a culture of ambient sexism. Because at the end of the day, we get all these people saying "my opinions are being silenced because of their political leaning" and the real answer to that is, if you [general 'you'] really think 'are women people or objects?' is a political question, you've got bigger problems than your comments getting deleted on MeFi.
posted by capricorn at 12:35 PM on September 30, 2015 [10 favorites]


Just fyi, from my point of view as a moderator, I'm not okay with the idea of making/pronouncing a judgement about someone's inner self or state of being. I may have my own ideas about that, but I need to do the job as what is okay/not okay for the best (and most humane) functioning of the site rather than mind-reading someone's personal beliefs or psyche and making a public statement that they are [x]-ist (or otherwise something specifically damning or diagnostic about them as a person). If that were part of the job description, I wouldn't have been able to take this job, because that's way out of bounds for me ethically, and not a position I would accept. If it ever became part of the job description, I'd have to quit.

I understand that the argument to that will be that then maybe we should say "this sounds [X]ist," but I think that "comment deleted because it sounds sexist" is not as effective as saying what, specifically, is not okay ("comment deleted because it's not okay to say [specific sexist thing]"), which is what we've been asked to do, and which I'm fine with doing*. But I don't want to be weaponized as a employee or human being here.

* though people will obviously disagree about exactly what was stated and how forcefully, etc. Some analysis paralysis difficulties there whenever making a mod note, but we have to power through and do the best we can.
posted by taz (staff) at 1:01 PM on September 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Just fyi, from my point of view as a moderator, I'm not okay with the idea of making/pronouncing a judgement about someone's inner self or state of being.

Did anyone even suggest that, though? I didn't see anything talking about mods calling people sexist, just comments - e.g. capricorn's phrasing "these things were deleted because they are sexist".
posted by dialetheia at 1:08 PM on September 30, 2015 [11 favorites]


I dunno, my attendance has been spotty, but I figure it's true and "folks" do probably want "stuff" to be called "explicit terms" around here all the time. I know a little bit more about this case, where the folks in Q are women and they want sexism to be called sexism. Against that group of folks we have a mixed group of other folks: folks who don't agree that sexism is stuff that exists; folks who don't know what stuff sexism is; and then a few folks who agree that sexism is stuff that exists and who know what that stuff is but who think sexism is not special stuff that needs to be treated differently from other stuff.

But if sexism is not special stuff that needs to be treated differently from other stuff, why is there a "sexism" flag?

Given that there is a sexism flag, could not folks who are moderators use that stuff? I figure it could go like this:
"Hey, folks, a few comments deleted. The sexism flag keeps getting waved. Maybe rephrase your stuff; thanks."
posted by Don Pepino at 1:10 PM on September 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


(I tried to edit out "are women and they," since it's not true that only women are asking for this, but then I realized that using the edit that way was cheating.)
posted by Don Pepino at 1:16 PM on September 30, 2015


I've been following this MeTa since it started, and unless I've badly missed something, nobody has suggested that the mods should be mind-reading someone's personal beliefs or psyche and making a public statement that they are [x]-ist (or otherwise something specifically damning or diagnostic about them as a person)..

People have requested that when things get deleted because they're expressing unacceptably sexist attitudes, the deletion reason include "this is deleted because it's sexist" rather than a vague, non-specific "eh" or "don't make it personal" or something like that.
posted by Lexica at 1:17 PM on September 30, 2015 [13 favorites]


...but I think that "comment deleted because it sounds sexist" is not as effective as saying what, specifically, is not okay ("comment deleted because it's not okay to say [specific sexist thing]"), which is what we've been asked to do...

..."Stop it" is unambiguous; "stop it, because x" is asking for "but not x/intended-as-x" instead of stopping it....

This kind of intra-mod-team philosophical disagreement risks suggesting that there isn't a hive mind! (Bodysnatcher _alarmshriek.jpg goes here).
posted by Drastic at 1:18 PM on September 30, 2015


But I don't want to be weaponized as a employee or human being here.

Think of the super hero costumes though! Masks! Boots! Capes! Caaaapppeeessssss!!!

posted by Celsius1414 at 1:19 PM on September 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


*Pours one out for gman.* I'll miss his posts, he consistently spotlighted interesting things that people were doing. His most popular comments were similarly fascinating for view into some of the odd things people and countries do.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:27 PM on September 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


taz, I think we are kind of talking at cross-purposes here because I don't think the mods need to determine whether someone's intent was sexist in order to call something out as contributing to ambient sexism. I think on the backend, it's certainly worthwhile to take people's perspectives into account when mods talk with them one-on-one, but not in terms of whether it's behavior that is not allowed on the site because of how it impacts women.
posted by capricorn at 1:27 PM on September 30, 2015 [11 favorites]


Yeah, that's part of the practical difficulty of "deleted for explicitly being xist": as much as I think there's a ton of philosophical (and sometimes very practical) value in the Jay Smooth concept of e.g. not saying you're racist, just saying that thing you said was racist, there's also a whole lot of difficulty in making that distinction actually stand out in someone's mind when they're on the public receiving end of it. Like it is an obviously enormously difficult social maneuver even on a totally leveled-out peer-to-peer basis, to say nothing of a perceived voice of authority putting it out there.

Consider the couple anecdotes in here about people being bothered because my private and at least somewhat sympathetic correspondence was intimidating; public "I'm gonna delete your comment and invoke x-ism" callouts are a whole other thing beyond that for most folks.

And the thing is: that doesn't mean that it never makes sense to specifically say "hey, that's not okay and comes off as sexist/racist/homophobic/etc". But there's a lot of charge there, and it's a lot of charge in the face of what a lot of the time (not always, but a lot of the time) is very much just clumsy phrasing or a one-off stumble from someone or a failure to communicate intent.

It's easy to look at the case of someone you're already firmly convinced has an unrepentant problem with x-ism and say, well, they're clearly x-ist and so they can lump it if they don't want to be called out on it, and base thinking about the need for more explicit callouts on that kind of fairly justifiable furstration; but, I think per what taz is talking about there, that doesn't generalize well at all, and even saying "you were de facto behaving like an x-ist" is some harsh social medicine to suddenly be getting. And would if we universalized it mean mostly dosing that out to people who have zero history on the site of being willful dickasses or whatever.

Sexism is still sexism even if it's unintended or unconscious, even if it's the first time, even if it's a matter of jumbled phrasing. I don't disagree with that at all. But proportional response is pretty important to me as someone running a community where a lot of people have a lot of different communication skills and backgrounds and so on, because I don't want to end up in the position of bringing a gun to every wiffle-bat fight that breaks out.

unless I've badly missed something, nobody has suggested that the mods should be mind-reading someone's personal beliefs or psyche and making a public statement that they are [x]-ist (or otherwise something specifically damning or diagnostic about them as a person)

Sure, but I think taz is making a totally reasonable personal point in identifying that as something that ends up existing along the spectrum of these kinds of expectations. I don't think it's what folks are talking about here, or what shakes' post was about, but I'll also note frankly that it's *not* a wholly unprecedented sort of expectation from private conversations we've occasionally had with members. "User Z is obviously a terrible x-ist, your failure to acknowledge that publicly is the problem", etc. Which, maybe that's muddling it to get into the broader set of conversations and venues where we've talked about this, but from the mod side that's territory we've actually had to navigate more than once and it's going to inform how we each think about this stuff.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:33 PM on September 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


taz: I understand that the argument to that will be that then maybe we should say "this sounds [X]ist," but I think that "comment deleted because it sounds sexist" is not as effective as saying what, specifically, is not okay ("comment deleted because it's not okay to say [specific sexist thing]"), which is what we've been asked to do, and which I'm fine with doing*. But I don't want to be weaponized as a employee or human being here.

Let's take an example from recent mefi history.

Someone says that having a lower back tattoo means that a woman is a slut.

Some of us would like the mods to call that statement out for what it is: sexism.

Why?

Because history has shown us quite clearly that if offenders aren't told why something they have said is problematic, they will keep doing it, in some cases incessantly. Again and again and again in many subsequent threads -- a pattern of alienating behavior. Because Team Mod has not set a standard for them to follow beyond "don't attack each other."

A related mod note doesn't have to be complicated. It doesn't have to open the door to a greater argument. All it has to say is something along the lines of: "Don't call women sluts here." or "Comments deleted. Please try to make your points without sexism."

No one is "weaponizing" you, Taz. But if one of Team Mod's tasks is to make sure that threads go smoothly and people treat each other with a minimum of respect, then telling people why what they have said is degrading to other site members would seem to most certainly qualify.
posted by zarq at 1:38 PM on September 30, 2015 [17 favorites]


cortex: but, I think per what taz is talking about there, that doesn't generalize well at all, and even saying "you were de facto behaving like an x-ist" is some harsh social medicine to suddenly be getting.

Why should their feelings take priority over women mefites who feel attacked by their comment(s)?
posted by zarq at 1:53 PM on September 30, 2015 [17 favorites]


Sexism is still sexism even if it's unintended or unconscious, even if it's the first time, even if it's a matter of jumbled phrasing. I don't disagree with that at all. But proportional response is pretty important to me as someone running a community where a lot of people have a lot of different communication skills and backgrounds and so on, because I don't want to end up in the position of bringing a gun to every wiffle-bat fight that breaks out.

cortex, I feel like in these sorts of cases where someone doesn't actually hold awful opinions about women, letting someone know that their comments are being deleted for a specific reason ("not okay because it contributes to a culture where women feel objectified") rather than a vague one ("not okay") would help them to feel like they weren't just being randomly targeted or personally attacked by the mods.

I mean, I would personally like to know when this happens, in case it's something I'm not aware of. The thread about the "explaining technology so even your mom could understand" construction was a great experience for me, in that same vein. (And I am female and a very strong feminist! It just escaped my attention completely because whee, that's how ambient sexism works.)
posted by capricorn at 1:57 PM on September 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


I think LobsterMitten has been doing an excellent job of navigating the line between calling out specific behaviors as problematic while being (as much as is possible in these situations) diplomatic. Some examples: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, etc, etc.

Personally, these are the kind of mod notes I'm looking for when thinking about the issues raised in this MeTa (and in similar MeTas). It would be interesting to know if she's been getting different feedback behind the scenes as a result of her mod notes/deletions than other mods who prefer a more vague note style.
posted by melissasaurus at 1:58 PM on September 30, 2015 [20 favorites]


Some of us would like the mods to call that statement out for what it is: sexism.

Yes, this. This also isn't a new idea; there's plenty of precedent for this.
[Good lord, don't be totally awful here. There's a huge internet where you can be as sexist as you want, but this site has people of many genders and proclivities and make an effort to pretend like you are having a conversation with all of them. Love, your female mod.]
posted by jessamyn at 8:04 PM on March 13, 2013 [6 favorites −] [!] No other comments.
--
[Folks, just because Esquire is sexist, we don't have to be. Feel free to go to MeTa instead of just rapid fire complaining here. The mostly female mod team thanks you.]
posted to MeFi by jessamyn at 7:32 PM on April 5, 2012
--
Sorry, should have been clearer. I deleted a shitty lulzy sexist comment that was maybe trying to be ironic. Please do not do that anymore in this thread. Thank you.
posted to MeFi by jessamyn at 11:36 PM on October 29, 2010
--
Man I was hoping no one would post this here. Anyone else considering making lulzy sexist jokes and then claiming you're just being ironic, please don't. Or save us some time and post them directly to MetaTalk.
posted to MeFi by jessamyn at 10:45 PM on October 29, 2010

posted by shakespeherian at 2:13 PM on September 30, 2015 [26 favorites]


Why should their feelings take priority over the women members who feel attacked by their comment(s)?

Again, if we're not assuming some chuckling villain as the norm, then the "they" there is another member of this community who generally wasn't actually trying to attack someone. Which doesn't make problematic things unproblematic, and it remains something we can keep working on how to address and when in the interest of trying to guide stuff a little more in terms of problematic ambient sexism and so on. But it does mean that it's goddam complicated in a way that doesn't fit well with a binarization of all situations to a degree where the top priority must always be explicitly calling out something as sexist and to hell with the less-important feelings of someone who wasn't trying to do harm.

And I want to be clear: I don't think that that binarization is the general request. I don't think people here are generally saying "always call out sexism, nothing else ever matters as much". But the actions and prioritizations that could be applied to among the worst comments that have been made and worst patterns of user behavior we've had to deal with aren't going to translate all that cleanly to a broader pool of comments and behavior that aren't comparable, and my concern is that that distinction in kind and degree and context can get lost in the (totally understandable) desire to argue against the recurrence of some of the crappier stuff that's happened in the past.

So to say "isn't calling someone with a LBT a slut sexist? Isn't that worth calling out?" is a totally comprehensible thing to me, and I think that it is among other things a weird sexist thing to assert and that we wouldn't have been wrong to more explicitly call out the stuff related to that in that tattoo thread. We talked about that stuff a bunch at the time in the related MetaTalk.

But there's a huge, understandable charge to that scenario that isn't going to apply in a lot of not-comparable situations of someone just stumbling a little. So the idea of flatly saying "yes, always we'll declare sexism in action" for the actual wider case doesn't scan for me. Even for stuff that may seem like it's a little problematic in that way. Because we're going to be accounting for everything else involved in the situation, including to the degree that is practical everybody's feelings. Because we can try and reprioritize things somewhat but not in a way that involves deciding that it's a sole priority and other important parts of managing a community space no longer apply.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:16 PM on September 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


LobsterMitten is a true diplomat. I appreciated this gentle re-railing of the "you suck at cooking" thread. Many people seem to have watched about 15 seconds of a couple of the videos and totally misread, so it was a wall of "Bah! Brochef has crap knifeskillz." Had I been the OP, I'd've been really happy to read LobsterMitten's comment and see that not everybody missed the cool thing I was trying to show them.
posted by Don Pepino at 2:20 PM on September 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think LobsterMitten has been doing an excellent job of navigating the line between calling out specific behaviors as problematic while being (as much as is possible in these situations) diplomatic.

there's plenty of precedent for this.


Yes! I think these examples make it really clear what people want when they ask for slightly more pointed mod notes. While I guess I can see where some of the objections are coming from in this thread, it feels like mods are addressing some strange straw man argument where people are asking for Everything To Be Perfect All The Time, when all anyone really seems to be asking for is more broad adoption of e.g. jessamyn's or LM's approaches (which seem to work pretty well for the site already).
posted by dialetheia at 2:25 PM on September 30, 2015 [16 favorites]


cortex, I feel like in these sorts of cases where someone doesn't actually hold awful opinions about women, letting someone know that their comments are being deleted for a specific reason ("not okay because it contributes to a culture where women feel objectified") rather than a vague one ("not okay") would help them to feel like they weren't just being randomly targeted or personally attacked by the mods.

I agree that could totally be the case sometimes. I've had a number of gentle, positive interactions with folks over e.g. a poorly-considered choice of words or phrasing where their response was entirely in the "oh, geez, that didn't even occur to me that it could be a problem that way, thanks!" vein, and that's great when it happens. It's a super positive outcome all around.

And I agree that it can be worth pointing out even if it doesn't turn out to be the case, which from experience I can say it often doesn't because people have a really widely varied set of reactions to moderator communication, and more generally to being told by others that something they did was e.g. potentially hurtful or contributory to a bad system or so on.

I think my whole thesis here is that it's just a lot easier to posit a "you should just always do x, because x is important" rubric than it is to fold one into a broad and complex situation. Even if doing x is a good idea; even if you agree that x is important. And so I feel like we end up in this position, as mods, where even though nobody is trying to set us up for a no-win situation, the mismatch between the attractive simplicity of the request and the thorny reality of implementation forces us to have to say "hold up a little" in a way nobody wants to hear. Even as we're generally agreeing about the general intention.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:27 PM on September 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Cortex, it seems like you're expounding a lot of energy on arguing against always, and I totally hear and understand those arguments and explanations and think they make sense. But just as you are describing grey areas and nuance and etc., I think it's worth pointing out that no one is really asking for always.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:29 PM on September 30, 2015 [15 favorites]


On the question of whether we should make a point of using the word 'sexist' in notes:

For my part, I think saying something like "don't be gross about women" is actually likely to be clearer and less debatable as a dictate for many people to follow. Declaring something Is Sexist is (in most borderline cases) opening a debate. Declaring something is gross, is ugh, is a bad way to go, etc. doesn't open a debate in most cases, because mostly people know when they're near a line on this stuff even if they wouldn't agree about its being Sexist per se.

Writing notes that more closely identify the specific behavior we're talking about is something we're trying to do more of. But making a habit of always labeling which things are sexist and which aren't is a recipe for just spending forever rules-lawyering about that ("But it isn't really Sexist-sexist, that's too harsh, maybe it would be better to say....." And the flip side: "Why didn't you use that word in the note this time?"). Putting mods in the position of the Labeler isn't necessary or productive in most cases. We don't need to label comments Sexist or Anti-semitic or Racist to say they have a bad effect on conversation here or on our fellow community members, or to try to identify what the comment is doing that causes the bad effect.

People disagree very widely about what's sexist, and people care a lot about whether that label applies to something they've said. It's much easier for people to see how "bringing in appearance where it's not necessary isn't a great direction to go" applies to the specific conversation they're in. People will usually back off gracefully in the face of that and conversation can continue; they'll often email us and say "oh crap, you're right, sorry about that" or whatever. If we say That Was Sexist, that's often not how it will go, and then we get to have a fight which (at a minimum) sucks up mod attention that could be more usefully applied elsewhere.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:30 PM on September 30, 2015 [14 favorites]


it feels like mods are addressing some strange straw man argument where people are asking for Everything To Be Perfect All The Time, when all anyone really seems to be asking for is more broad adoption of e.g. jessamyn's or LM's approaches (which seem to work pretty well for the site already).

I hear you, and I really don't think anybody is trying to come at this as as a Be Perfect All The Time thing. But what we end up having is a string of "okay but this one time wasn't perfect", "also this other time wasn't perfect", "this time was better than it would have been before but why wasn't it even better" as a kind of voyage under the microscope that ends up taking any observable failure to be perfect as a cause for concern.

I'm down with that broader adoption, and have been, and that was part of what I was trying to communicate in a positive "we hear you, we value this, it's something we're working on" sense as part of my early comment in the thread. Again not to say "we're done, stop talking about it" but just to acknowledge that it's something we're on board with. But if we're going to talk about perception vs. intent of communication as part of how things play out weird sometimes, this is part of my mod-side perception of parts of how this conversation has gone, regardless of what I basically universally presume to be good intentions.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:33 PM on September 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Look, this isn't hard. Just all of you be Jessamyn, and it's fine.

(Yes, of course I'm kidding.)
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:37 PM on September 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


That "you suck at cooking" post had some good links btw. Some of them only get good halfway through, so be sure to watch past the normal beginning part.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:40 PM on September 30, 2015


maybe we could throw some kind of big data at this thing, like splitting text into n-grams and training a classifier, maybe with word mover's dict or something so that we can preemptively predict what kind of comments will get flags? I just feel like we should be getting on the big data band wagon is all.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:54 PM on September 30, 2015


Worth remembering that jessamyn got plenty of criticism in her time as mod, and not just from the members of the He-Man Woman Hater's Club. I think jessamyn was an excellent mod, but nobody is perfect all of the time.
posted by Chrysostom at 3:02 PM on September 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


What I'm hearing here is that Cortex is not comfortable calling sexism out explicitly, but is comfortable identifying specific things that shouldn't happen here. I think it's worth it for us to argue for the value of specifically naming sexism, racism, homophobia, etc... in mod notes, but I think when and to what degree different mods do so has to vary depending on their personal comfort with that sort of language.

Personally, I prefer the more specific and inarguable the better. I hope that mods who currently aren't comfortable with calling out various -isms by name get more comfortable as time goes on, but it seems a bit beyond reasonable to ask them to do so on my timetable (even though, of course, I am always right and if everyone just did what I thought they should we would all live in a Utopia).
posted by Deoridhe at 3:21 PM on September 30, 2015 [12 favorites]


There was this one time jessamyn deleted a comment I made about mopping. It was something along the lines of, "if you use anything other than vinegar and water in a spray bottle and a Swiffer you got at a garage sale and a re-usable rag to clean your floors it pretty much means you are the most profligate wastrel idiot the world has ever known." I was just trying to help some people who were mopping wrong, is all I was doing. Now those people will never learn. They probably all starved. That's what can happen.
posted by Don Pepino at 3:27 PM on September 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Are you sure it wasn't because you typed "moping," and jessamyn just didn't want to encourage that sort of thing?
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:58 PM on September 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


nobody has suggested that the mods should be mind-reading someone's personal beliefs or psyche

I was thinking it.
posted by homunculus at 6:08 PM on September 30, 2015 [10 favorites]


Count me in on the side of

"This was deleted because it's sexist. Making ___ comment about women is not okay."

"This was deleted because it's homophobic. Making ____ comment about sexual minorities is not okay."

"This was deleted because it's transphobic. Making ____ comment about trans people is not okay."

I want to see the mods do this, I want to see the mods ditch AGF in these circumstances (add "racist" to the list please), and not do the "oh hey well this thing isn't cool but like carry on."

I want to see flat out "this is ____ist and doesn't fly here." Which leads me to: when flagging, we need a freetext field to AJAXmagic its way into being so we can explain why. Having to go to the contact form and fill stuff in is an impediment from a UX perspective. Flag, big reason, freetext reason--the last needs to be available.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:50 PM on September 30, 2015 [12 favorites]


I could also get behind "This was deleted because it came across as ____".
Might be just a tad less confrontational and still carry the same meaning.
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:15 AM on October 1, 2015 [7 favorites]


>I know a little bit more about this case, where the folks in Q are women and they want sexism to be called sexism. Against that group of folks we have a mixed group of other folks: folks who don't agree that sexism is stuff that exists; folks who don't know what stuff sexism is; and then a few folks who agree that sexism is stuff that exists and who know what that stuff is but who think sexism is not special stuff that needs to be treated differently from other stuff.

You leave out what I think is the largest group of people: those who agree sexism exists but disagree with each other about precisely what is and is not sexist.

The obvious stuff shouldn't be a problem--it should be nuked from orbit without second thought--so the arguments are usually about "edge cases," the kind of "not quite over the line" stuff.

It should come as no surprise that there are serious, deep, and unreconcilable differences of opinion on precisely what is and is not sexist. People who have dedicated their whole lives to fighting sexism, who write books, sit on panels, teach university courses, and show up in bibliographies of other books on sexism disagree with each other about what is and is not sexist as well. We on Metafilter are never going to agree on where those lines should be drawn.

This is not to support or undermine any policy changes or statements, but it's something worth remembering, and something I remember a lot whenever I see a user here write with the kind of unshakable conviction that has become so common.

Oh, and tonycpsu's suggestion, if made into a policy (and I'm sure it won't be), would be absolutely disastrous from start to finish.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 1:36 AM on October 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


The full context, including my comment before that one, makes it clear that all I'm suggesting is that individual members to take other members' claims of offense at face value and to not do anything to continue that offense. I'm not asking for algorithmic moderation as Justinian's caricature above suggests -- all I'm saying is that that there will be fewer instances of moderators having to step into threads where people have irreconcilable differences centered around one side taking offense if the other side simply recognizes that there's no prize for winning the debate, and therefore no reason not to take the offended side's claims at face value instead of challenging or ignoring those claims.

I say this as someone who might not be a regular poster here were it not for the spirited debate on many issues, but also as someone who is willing to stop a line of argumentation if someone takes offense to my argument, because whatever positive value my comments might have in the discussion is negligible if I'm hurting someone.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:27 AM on October 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


all I'm suggesting is that individual members to take other members' claims of offense at face value and to not do anything to continue that offense

I think that suggestion is reasonable when the offense clearly goes in one direction and several members of the community recognize it, like with the Taylor Swift thing, and that's mainly what this thread concerns. But there are times where that's not the case, and I wonder what the correct action to take is-- not in a policy sense, but in an individual poster sense-- when that happens. I'm still kind of upset at the engineering discussion above, because in the course of her argument TMAMM managed to say several things I find pretty deeply offensive (and there was some of that in the original thread as well). It seems like the mature response would be to ignore all that and just acknowledge the meat of the callout, but is that reasonable? That seems to place more burden on users who are less confrontational and back down easily. I honestly don't know.
posted by thetortoise at 8:00 AM on October 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


as someone who is willing to stop a line of argumentation if someone takes offense to my argument, because whatever positive value my comments might have in the discussion is negligible if I'm hurting someone.

I have to say, I think this part is a very good policy.
posted by maxsparber at 8:05 AM on October 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


It should come as no surprise that there are serious, deep, and unreconcilable differences of opinion on precisely what is and is not sexist.

In theory, this appears to refer to differences of opinion between any and everyone, but in practice, it all but exclusively refers to differences of opinion between women and men. This is partially because differences of opinion between women and other women on the topic of sexism rarely take place in generalist (non-feminist) spaces, but it's mostly because men are so shocked and offended whenever they're forced to confront their own misogyny that their first line of defense is always going to involve telling women we simply don't have the right to call out misogyny for what it is.

To that end, men who feel the need to opine about irreconcilable differences of opinion when it comes to what sort of language or behavior can be considered sexist depress the hell out of me. I'll listen to a woman talk about it for days, but I can't bear to listen to a man talk about it for a second, because the overwhelming majority of men purposely ignore what women say about sexist language or behavior in order to give themselves plausible deniability. They believe maintaining that ignorance effectively immunizes them from self-examination or ever having to admit that they've been guilty of recreating sexist dynamics themselves. (A clear mirror of this behavior can be found in something that is pretty much universally engaged in by anyone whose usually-unspoken racism is put under the spotlight: white fragility.) Men have never experienced sexism and never will, which makes their opinion on the matter completely irrelevant, but thanks to our culture's passionate embrace of the notion that women are innately irrational and prone to overreacting, their belief in their own rectitude is reinforced at every turn.

Despite what they like to tell us, untold millions of men will never agree that there is any such thing as "obvious" sexism. Ever. They'll push the "reasonable minds can disagree" line right back to "srsly tho, the world really was a better place when women were legally considered property." At best, they'll occasionally get pressured into making some hand-wavey pseudo-admission that, like, telling a woman she straight-up deserved to be raped for dressing like a slut is probably sexist (as long as they don't think her attire was THAT slutty, and have ascertained that what happened was Actually Rape), but anything remotely short of that? Hey, I guess we're just gonna have to agree to disagree.

There are a not-insignificant number of those men here, so I honestly don't think eliminating "you're not allowed to consider what I said sexist" pushback is a solvable problem. I don't think mods will ever be able to leave a note that a comment has been deleted for being sexist (using the word "sexist") without the man who made the comment getting upset. Shit, these dudes regularly get upset for having their gross misogynist comments deleted without any kind of note at all. And since we live in a patriarchy, our entire society basically hinges on trying to balance the feelings of self-important, aggrieved men with the existence of women as a class. I'm just disgusted whenever men try to point out that a consistent refusal to listen to the only people on earth who actually experience sexism (women) can and should be considered the result of mere differences of opinion. Women are human beings. We see you talking about us and our lives like we're faceless phantoms trapped in a thought experiment, but we're real, and we're right here.

MeFi doesn't see a whole lot of arguments that any other dominant class must be given the opportunity to decide what can reasonably be considered offensive by a subjugated class, but we see a hell of a lot of men pontificating about how their voices must be heard in every conversation about what kind of behavior women are allowed to consider sexist. I don't have a solution, I don't think there is one, I just think it's illuminating and sad as hell.
posted by divined by radio at 8:09 AM on October 1, 2015 [68 favorites]


We see you talking about us and our lives like we're faceless phantoms trapped in a thought experiment, but we're real, and we're right here

This. This. So much. Good god that's the one thing that can pass all my defenses and go straight to the most hurt and infuriating places at the weakest parts of my character. It's happened here, on metafilter so, so many times in so many threads over the past three years since I began to advocate for myself as a trans woman. I can't stress how much this discussion tendency absolutely, horrifically sucks, and needs constant reminding against. I could go back into my comment history where I've expressed my disdain at this in all the shitty trans threads we've had over the years.

Please, if anything, make a note of this comment by divined by radio and try to learn something about yourself from it. (all of us! not just men!)
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:34 AM on October 1, 2015 [27 favorites]


In theory, this appears to refer to differences of opinion between any and everyone, but in practice, it all but exclusively refers to differences of opinion between women and men. This is partially because differences of opinion between women and other women on the topic of sexism rarely take place in generalist (non-feminist) spaces

Not to be the "Well, actually..." guy, but I think the relitigation of the #LookLikeAnEngineer discussion that took place in this very thread is a great example of the "gray area" that can be present in determining whether a comment is guilty of sexism/misogyny without it always being an eye-roll worthy "Let me, a man, explain to you why this thing you think is sexist really is not". TMATMM thought Frowner's comments in that thread were "appallingly" misogynistic. Several other members jumped in to defend Frowner's comments as anything but.

From a moderation standpoint, what is the appropriate action to take in a case like this? Delete Frowner's comments, possibly give her a warning and/or time out or ban for making a series of comments about another woman's appearance that another user saw as blatantly crossing the line into misogyny, since if they don't at least one user will see it as an example of Metafilter's moderation policy giving tacit approval of misogynistic comments? Or give it a pass since there is not universal agreement that the comments were problematic?

Speaking personally, there have been several times where I have passionately complained about what I saw as obvious anti-Semitic comments being allowed on the site without consequences to the users who made them, while other Jewish members jumped in to say, "I'm Jewish and don't have any problem with those comments". Whose word do the mods take as correct in a case like that?

Without at all denying that some of the pushback against explicitly calling out sexism (and other prejudices) are based more on bruised egos and hurt feelings (which I agree should not be a consideration), I do think there is a legitimate gray area here and I think it is fair to discuss.
posted by The Gooch at 8:47 AM on October 1, 2015 [11 favorites]


I think we'd all be much the wiser if we could differentiate between our authority on a subject matter versus our privilege to expect an uncontested opinion.
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:59 AM on October 1, 2015 [16 favorites]


Men do experience sexism. Sometimes it's of the "men are bad at [parenting so the kids go to the mother] [home decor so DH is relegated to a tiny basement "mancave"]" variety and sometimes of the "We perceive you to be like a lady more than like a man so we're going to treat you like a bitch and [curbstomp you] [deny you opportunities in the workplace]" variety. There are myriad other varieties, causing much pain for many people of both genders. Sexism causes a great deal of human suffering and therefore it needs to be argued against and not merely "meh-ed" at.
posted by Don Pepino at 9:03 AM on October 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


Sometimes it's of the "men are bad at [parenting so the kids go to the mother] [home decor so DH is relegated to a tiny basement "mancave"]" variety and sometimes of the "We perceive you to be like a lady more than like a man so we're going to treat you like a bitch and [curbstomp you] [deny you opportunities in the workplace]" variety.

Stay at home dad here. Any sexism I experience is an outgrowth of sexism against women.

Yes the patriarchy hurts us all, but there's no reason to bring that fact up now.
posted by Gygesringtone at 9:09 AM on October 1, 2015 [28 favorites]


Yes, there is the sexism experienced by beta males from alpha males. And, while that is harmful and needs to be understood and addressed, I feel it should be added here that all males need to understand that women don't experience different types of sexism from either type of male, it all has the same impact. Furthermore, in some instances the hurt caused by beta males is greater because they tend to be the "nice guys" who build up levels of trust and then turn into hurtful jerks when they are say, friend zoned or questioned.

So it's fine to say to sexism is experienced by men too, but please don't apply it to conversations where women are discussing how they experience sexism.

( caveat: I don't think that Don Pepino has said anything wrong at all with his comment. I agree with it and I'm only trying to highlight how sexism is experienced differently by the two types of genders that I personally have lived as)
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:16 AM on October 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


(I'm trying to head off a "whatabouthemens" avalanche of protest of this awesomeness.)
posted by Don Pepino at 9:18 AM on October 1, 2015


Well, crap. I misread that as "men-ed" not "meh-ed" I though it was the a variation of the "whataboutthemen" in response to divined-by-radio that you were trying to head off. Completely a misreading on my part. Sorry.
posted by Gygesringtone at 9:25 AM on October 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I can't even with someone seriously using the terms beta males and alpha males here. Please don't.
posted by Squeak Attack at 9:25 AM on October 1, 2015 [17 favorites]


I think the conclusion I'm coming to is that there aren't a lot of good spaces for talking about transmasculine and nonbinary experience, even on a generalist site, because feminist discussions try to prioritize the experiences of women and guard so strongly against toxic masculinity that non-feminine stuff can be treated as a major intrusion, and because discussions about men's experiences are rarely coming from an explicitly feminist framework. Sorry, this is off topic. I guess this is a thing I need to figure out personally or make my own MeTa or whatever.
posted by thetortoise at 9:26 AM on October 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


Sure thing squeak attack, can you can give me a better alternative to use, having experienced for a long damn time what looked to be exactly that?
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:34 AM on October 1, 2015


tried to head it off, instead I'm headin' it up! Behold, I am Don Pepino, this millennium's Iron John! Rally 'round my manfire, brothers, with your drums and ridiculous oversized shepherd's crook things! Aroooooooo!
posted by Don Pepino at 9:36 AM on October 1, 2015


In all seriousness I ask. I really don't like the idea of alpha and beta anything, but I've never been able to find a good way to describe "dudes who are extra bro-like and aggressively bully the ever living shit out of other dudes who are not as extra bro-like".
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:38 AM on October 1, 2015


It's the enforcement of toxic masculinity.
posted by griphus at 9:42 AM on October 1, 2015 [20 favorites]


In all seriousness I ask. I really don't like the idea of alpha and beta anything, but I've never been able to find a good way to describe "dudes who are extra bro-like and aggressively bully the ever living shit out of other dudes who are not as extra bro-like".

I don't know what a good word would be either. I'd just ask folks to keep in mind that the only guys who use the terms "alpha" and "beta" seem to be the ones who think "bullying the ever living shit out of other dudes who are not as extra bro-like" is how the world actually should work. If that helps understand why some people are giving those words the side-eye right now?
posted by FishBike at 9:42 AM on October 1, 2015 [7 favorites]


"Men who don't live up to all the patriarchal norms"? "Men who eschew patriarchal norms"? "Men who are judged to fall short of patriarchal norms"? And maybe "Aggressively masculine men"? I think the general "policing of masculinity" might cover the general concept.

On preview: What griphus said.
posted by jaguar at 9:42 AM on October 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's misogynistic sexism against men with traits considered too feminine, is all. I understand how the alpha and beta terms are somewhat useful as shorthand, but it's adopting the damaging rhetoric those misogynistic men use to denigrate other men they consider feminine. It should probably be avoided, if only to avoid the appearance of aligning with them.
posted by gilrain at 9:43 AM on October 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


Pushy/aggressive/jerky men, bullies, aggro assholes, whatever fits the bill I figure. I get the attraction of a tight shorthand for some of those ideas and a non-toxic one may come along to fit the bill, but the alpha/beta thing is so skunked by associate with PUA and related gross stuff that it's just gonna get in the way of whatever otherwise good point you're trying to make.

It's like SEO. Nothing wrong with wanting to talk about non-sketchily optimizing how a website interacts with search engines, but, well, "I am an SEO expert" isn't really something that can be reclaimed as a non-worrisome way to refer to it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:44 AM on October 1, 2015 [7 favorites]


Gotcha, I'll work on a way to better frame up the mechanics of toxic masculinity as I experienced it while simultaneously not accidentally reenforcing it.

Thanks for the clarifications!

(I'm also reading stuff on google about the multiple dimensions of masculinity and toxic masculinity. I need to also remember that my disdain for masculinity stems from being CAMAB and to keep that disdain in check for the NB and transmasculine people who are here as well)

Hugs all!
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:48 AM on October 1, 2015 [14 favorites]


using divined by radio's amazing comment to focus on men's treatment towards each other is either hilarious or heartbreaking, maybe both.
posted by nadawi at 9:54 AM on October 1, 2015 [16 favorites]


Part of my feminism is to strive to not be reductionist about anyone, including men, so I'm opposed to thought patterns that put people into a strict hierarchy with only two roles. My life experience with a spectrum of men not of the toxicly hyper-masculine type cannot be contained in the word "beta."

Thanks everyone for explaining so nicely what I wasn't able to articulate. And thank you for listening, Annika Cicada.
posted by Squeak Attack at 9:59 AM on October 1, 2015 [9 favorites]


"And since we live in a patriarchy, our entire society basically hinges on trying to balance the feelings of self-important, aggrieved men with the existence of women as a class."

Thanks for your comment, divined by radio. It was great.
posted by OmieWise at 10:02 AM on October 1, 2015 [20 favorites]


Thanks for your response squeak attack. I feel a lot better now. I don't like it when something I say puts another person in the "I can't even" space. Extra hugs for you if that's something you're cool with:-)

( if you all will bear with me here, I'd like to add that this whole exchange has had a pretty profound affect on me just now by exposing a few blind spots I'm realizing I need work on, that's what make this place awesome and keeps me around)
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:13 AM on October 1, 2015 [14 favorites]


divined by radio, thank you for saying that.
posted by zarq at 10:20 AM on October 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ditto. I'd like the pull quote OmieWise posted on a bumper sticker. I mean, that's it, distilled and crystiallized.
posted by mudpuppie at 10:45 AM on October 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


I haven't said anything in this thread--just finally finished reading it, and there is a lot to think about, and I appreciate the discussion.

But I did want to say to Annika Cicada, thanks for modeling how it is possible to acknowledge a blind spot in an incredibly gracious way... no expression of hurt or defensiveness or taking it personally, just a simple "Oh! interesting point, I'll take that on board."

Thank you, AC!
posted by torticat at 11:32 AM on October 1, 2015 [27 favorites]


[Couple of comments deleted. corb, I appreciate the place you're coming from, but opening a debate over the whole subject of who's a bad person or who should be made to feel like a bad person is just going to take us to bad places that we don't need to go.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:14 PM on October 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


Gotcha! No worries, thanks for the note and also how engaged you and all the other mods here are at finding solutions to some really difficult and entrenched problems.
posted by corb at 2:22 PM on October 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also chiming in to give props to Annika Cicada for grace, circumspection, and no small amount of charm. Hear, hear.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:44 PM on October 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thanks for trimming the farming thread of the "But is this really sexism?" derail. I also want to register, though, that it would be nice if "This was deleted because of sexism" was made explicit. That's why I flagged the comment that was deleted, and the comments responding to it called it out as sexist. I really appreciate the mod responsiveness (and I'm having a little trouble phrasing this, so I apologize if it's not as clear or concise as it could be). It seems like sometimes the premise of threads like this one is called into question when people ask "But is misogyny on metafilter actually a problem?" When comments which were clearly coming from misogynistic places, it alleviates that problem! But by removing any reference to the fact that there was misogyny (and that people called it out as such), it papers over that history and gives mefites at large plausible deniability. "There is no problem here. See? No evidence in any of these heavily pruned threads." I realize the mods don't want to invite commentary or arguments about whether something really is ---ist, but by removing things without referring to why, or by pointing to other aspects of the comment as the reason for deletion (sarcasm, language, whatever), it makes conversations like this one at the community scale seem unnecessary or overblown, even if they really do need to happen.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:06 AM on October 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


Thanks for trimming the farming thread of the "But is this really sexism?"

It didn't read to me as an "is this really sexism" derail nearly so much as a "I think people are being hypocritical about their second-degree judgementalism" derail with a heavy complicating dose of mefi-specific metacommentary and totally needless sarcasm.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:12 AM on October 2, 2015


OK. Well, it read to me as "This isn't sexist, people are just applying their fancy liberal ideas about offensiveness to this interaction which takes place in a different context." And, if I recall correctly, the comments responding to that pointed out that this is, in fact, related to sexism and is offensive regardless of the context.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:15 AM on October 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


people are just applying their fancy liberal ideas

The vibe I got was not so much a complaint about "fancy liberal ideas" so much as about "urbanites routinely being dismissive of rural and religious people". Which certainly is a thing sometimes but is sort of a weird derail to toss into a thread not about that and was framed really badly to boot, and so it got deleted to keep the thread from spinning off into an argument about that.

That a couple folks responded by saying "no, that's not what it's about, it's about sexism" (which was fine, they only got nixed because of the response-to-something-deleted angle) isn't the same thing as the comment itself being deleted particularly because of sexism, and it would feel really weirdly overt to me to have suggested otherwise in that mod note.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:32 AM on October 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Fair enough.
posted by ChuraChura at 9:57 AM on October 2, 2015


I understand and appreciate that the mods have many, many times stated that it is not a goal of Metafilter to be a safe space, but I’d like to think that the general tenor of the community with regard to various -isms is clear enough that the mods would feel secure in making deletions and assertions & in imposing time outs and bans specifically because of violations of such community standards, not simply because of long-term inability to get along or general fightiness against the mods or whatnot.

Would it be correct to say, OP, that you would like to see Metafilter be more of a safe space (putting aside what the mods have said on this issue)?
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 11:36 PM on October 15, 2015


i didn't realise this thread was still alive. but anyway... i was reading this thread (from 8 years ago). it was eye-opening to see how far metafilter has come (to save you reading it, there's a comment "some women get the vapors..." when jenny diski (a pretty respected writer / commentator where i come from) tries to assert herself (she kills her account after this thread) that is defended as being "only a joke"). these days i think / hope that kind of thing would be jumped on pretty hard.

anyway, it made me revise what i feel of the "changes" here - apparently i had quite a rose-tinted idea of how things used to be. credit to those that did the hard work.
posted by andrewcooke at 1:08 AM on October 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


it was eye-opening to see how far metafilter has come

Gotta say, it's been rewarding to see the sexism and gender-related insults that used to be commonplace around here become more of a rarity.

anyway, it made me revise what i feel of the "changes" here - apparently i had quite a rose-tinted idea of how things used to be. credit to those that did the hard work.

Big kudos to you for checking and thoughtfully re-assessing. Many people don't bother, or dig in if they are concerned about / threatened by change. It's impressive of you and nice to see.
posted by zarq at 7:12 AM on October 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


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