Murrrrrrder? January 3, 2019 12:26 PM   Subscribe

Earlier today after a passing a family while walking down the street I said to my wife, "The interesting question to me isn't why some people murder their children. It's why anyone doesn't murder their children" - I didn’t think comments about murdering any types of people were allowed, but this one still stands.

A joke about murdering a political figure would be deleted right away, but this joke about parents murdering children (something far more common) stands. I’d prefer a hard-and-fast rule over case-by-case judgment on comments of this nature, but am curious to hear the community’s thoughts.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero to Etiquette/Policy at 12:26 PM (504 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

I stayed away from commenting on that thread because, as a parent, I am aware of the need for spaces for non-parents to talk about their lived in experiences without input from our lot.

However, I have to say that that comment bothered me too, as does the repetition of "I don't like children" (as opposed to "I don't want children," or "I wouldn't like my life with children," which is 150% legitimate always). It might be my issue, but children are as worthy of respect as any other "class" of people and it feels... odd, that in this case comments like that can stand as a given.
posted by lydhre at 12:46 PM on January 3 [28 favorites]


I don't care if anyone has kids or not, but that's a super-shitty comment.
posted by Aquifer at 12:51 PM on January 3 [7 favorites]


However, I have to say that that comment bothered me too, as does the repetition of "I don't like children" (as opposed to "I don't want children," or "I wouldn't like my life with children," which is 150% legitimate always).

Wow, yeah. I bet it's sort of like how annoyed we childless people get with repetitions of "How come you didn't have children?" and "I'm so sad for you that you won't have children" and "When are you going to give me a grandchild?" And as I bet you can guess, those comments aren't limited to a single thread on Metafilter. Nope, we get to hear them for our entire adult lives.
posted by holborne at 12:51 PM on January 3 [35 favorites]


I am in favor of expanding the list of categories of people or animals we cannot talk about possibly murdering.
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:55 PM on January 3 [16 favorites]


Holborne: I think those comments are shitty too? And would never ask anyone invasive and offensive question like those? And would challenge that attitude in public?

Doesn’t make jokes about parents murdering their kids any better, honestly.
posted by lydhre at 12:56 PM on January 3 [21 favorites]


I was actually referring quite specifically to your statement that it bothered you to hear repetitions of people saying they didn't like children.
posted by holborne at 12:58 PM on January 3 [13 favorites]


I flagged that comment, too. I have no problem with people saying they don't like kids, on Metafilter or in real life. But I don't think jokes about people murdering kids (which happens not too uncommonly) is any more acceptable on here than would be a joke about murdering wives, politicians, bosses, etc. Would those be deleted (I'm honestly asking)?
posted by Pax at 12:59 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


I also didn't like joking about kids being murdered, and I also also agree that it's extremely shitty and gross for people to repeatedly ask you personal questions that are none of their fucking business. I feel like these are orthogonal issues.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 1:03 PM on January 3 [19 favorites]


they are orthogonal issues, and one of them has nothing to do with this MeTa.
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:06 PM on January 3 [4 favorites]


Oh, well then, my entire comment stands and I still think it’s not cool to dislike a whole class of humans, even though some assholes tell you to have some.
posted by lydhre at 1:06 PM on January 3 [12 favorites]


As a non-children-having person the comment reads to me like dark humor. I imagine as a children-having-person I might be more offended. (I get that obviously some folks are or we wouldn't be here.)

That said: I feel like there's a difference between dark-humor-to-some-and-shitty-to-others comments and kill-it-with-fire, this-does-not-belong-on-the-site comments. I honestly don't know whether this particular example crosses the line or not but I'd be interested to hear a mod's take on it.
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 1:11 PM on January 3 [54 favorites]


I support all jokes about murdering people, except that ones that pose a credible threat to individuals or groups of people related by categories that they didn't chose and aren't common to every single human being on the planet. This clearly isn't one of those.

Watching my friends birth families has made it pretty clear that parenthood nearly universally deprives its participants of both reasonable perspective and a sense of humor. This thread hasn't changed that opinion.
posted by eotvos at 1:11 PM on January 3 [72 favorites]


Don't parents joke about killing their kids a fair amount? It's a macabre way of acknowledging the challenges and annoyances of being a parent. Paradoxically, such jokes are also used by parents to reinforce how much they love their kids -- a particular behavior might be murder-worthy, but fanciful discussions of murder can highlight how unthinkable actual murder would be for the speaker.

It's a little different in a conversational context where it's not taken for granted the speaker loves (their) kids, sure.

Still, it seems obvious that srboisvert's comment was meant without rancor.

Maybe Mefi should be a place where you can't talk in a positive way about killing people, even if such discourse would be acceptable in many outside settings, and even if a particular instance is neither hateful nor harmful. But that would be a new norm, and one that is observed in almost no place where wide-ranging discussion is allowed.

But I don't think jokes about people murdering kids (which happens no uncommonly) is any more acceptable on here than would be a joke about murdering wives, politicians, bosses, etc.

Try this. To be clear, I'm not against guillotine jokes. They're fine. My point is, a certain amount of imaginary violence is pretty normal and passes unremarked, as long as no one thinks it's serious or directed at them.

Maybe there was something else wrong with srboisvert's remark. But the problem can't be that you're not allowed to talk about killing people in a positive way.
posted by grobstein at 1:16 PM on January 3 [40 favorites]


I mean... if we're going to get lectures about a "sense of humor," maybe someone can explain what's so hilarious about that joke? Even as a person who does not have and never wants to have children, I don't understand what's supposed to be funny about it.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 1:17 PM on January 3 [11 favorites]


I'm generally of the opinion that it's dark humor about a life period that everyone experiences from at least one angle, so I don't class it at all under our usual policy of "don't threaten violence", but I am interested in and reading the range of opinions in the community.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 1:17 PM on January 3 [28 favorites]


Anecdotally, I don't know any parent who hasn't joked at some point about murdering their child. I agree with eotvos' statement above.
posted by Wretch729 at 1:18 PM on January 3 [31 favorites]


Watching my friends birth families has made it pretty clear that parenthood nearly universally deprives its participants of both reasonable perspective and a sense of humor. This thread hasn't changed that opinion.

This will probably be my last comment because there's no need to have more of me in here and I want to preëmptively stop myself from digging in but, um, I mean I get dark humor and I happen not to love "murdering kids" jokes but fine, whatever, but I think it's weird and kind of rude to say that virtually no parents have reasonable perspective or sense of humor. Like what an unnecessary and bizarre thing to say.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 1:19 PM on January 3 [85 favorites]


Is it still murder if you're just, y'know, eating them?

Asking for a friend.

I still can't eat a whole one by myself.
posted by loquacious at 1:22 PM on January 3 [30 favorites]


I think there's a difference between "that little...I'm going to wring his neck!" and referencing the horror that people have when they see on the news that someone has killed their kid and joking about that actual horror.

It didn't feel like dark humor to me. It felt like a non-parent joking about hating kids, without the solidarity/gallows aspect.
posted by Pax at 1:23 PM on January 3 [8 favorites]


Watching my friends birth families has made it pretty clear that parenthood nearly universally deprives its participants of both reasonable perspective and a sense of humor.

What an absolutely idiotic thing to say.

This parent's reasonable perspective is you can eat my farts*.

(that's a joke... in sixteen years I haven't yet lost my sense of humor.)
posted by bondcliff at 1:23 PM on January 3 [22 favorites]


Oh dear, I meant I agreed with with being fine with murder jokes that didn't specifically target people. I somehow missed the jab at parental sense of humor in eotvos' comment. That was mean. I think I'll just shut up now.
posted by Wretch729 at 1:25 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


I’m a parent and the joke seems moderately funny (and relatively harmless) to me, so I guess the experience can’t completely deprive all of us of our sense of humour.

Then again, I’ve never had any direct experience of violence against children, other than being the recipient of some fairly mild corporal punishment as a child myself. Maybe I’d feel quite differently if I had?
posted by chappell, ambrose at 1:27 PM on January 3 [6 favorites]


I’d prefer a hard-and-fast rule over case-by-case judgment on comments of this nature, but am curious to hear the community’s thoughts.

I would not prefer a hard-and-fast rule over case-by-case judgment on comments of this nature.
posted by Etrigan at 1:27 PM on January 3 [56 favorites]


I mean... if we're going to get lectures about a "sense of humor," maybe someone can explain what's so hilarious about that joke?

No one is saying that it's a good joke.
posted by betweenthebars at 1:28 PM on January 3 [10 favorites]


maybe someone can explain what's so hilarious about that joke?

I mean, explaining jokes doesn’t really work. It either strikes you funny or it doesn’t. I didn’t really find it hilarious, but to be fair, no jokes are hilarious to everyone.

We’re not voting on if this was funny, though, so that shouldn’t matter. Something can be funny but not acceptable to the community.

FWIW, I think this language is fine. It’s not inciting me to violence. I don’t think it’s more acceptable to kill kids after having read it. It’s dark humor, but not targeted at any specific group (everyone was once a kid), and there’s no way to read it as serious. I mean, if we had a bunch of 7-yos reading these threads, I’d worry that it could be misconstrued as threatening or cause them to have bad feelings about themselves, but... that’s not the case, so...
posted by greermahoney at 1:30 PM on January 3 [21 favorites]


there are probably people reading MetaFilter who have lost their seven year olds.
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:33 PM on January 3 [16 favorites]


There are also people reading Metafilter who are wealthy, yet we don't seem to have any problem making guillotine jokes.
posted by holborne at 1:35 PM on January 3 [22 favorites]


I would love to see the guillotine jokes retired, too.

for a community that has become so dialed in to hearing out concerns over how to use language that minimizes harm and offense to others, it's pretty fucking hilarious to watch the insouciant rules-lawyering over dead kid jokes.
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:37 PM on January 3 [35 favorites]


It seems we're veering awfully close to "well you can't criticise it because it's a joke and you can't criticise jokes" territory. That's circular logic - one can't just say any old shitty thing and then handwave it away by claiming it's just a joke. I'm sure I don't need to give examples since we all can think of plenty of crappy things that people have said and then dismissed criticism with "aw it's just a joke! You don't have a sense of humor!"

Also: many kids die in the US every day. How many tragic guillotine deaths do you see each day? That's just silly & disingenuous.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 1:37 PM on January 3 [5 favorites]


Childism:
Childism is defined as "a prejudice against children on the ground of a belief that they are property and can (or even should) be controlled, enslaved, or removed to serve adult needs."
I am all for giving children more respect and care, when too many tropes exist that are really anti-child and anti value of children.

I think this murdering children comment is in bad taste and would also prefer it to be removed. I'd like to think MeFites are better than that.
posted by jillithd at 1:37 PM on January 3 [13 favorites]


It jarred with me in a way that "why don't parents eat their young" or "why don't parents fire toddlers into the sun in rockets" wouldn't. I've heard plenty of jokes from parents about hyperbolically killing their kids along those lines; I've never heard anyone watch a news report on parents actually killing their kids and make a "why don't more of us do that!" crack after it.

(I am also not a fan of guillotine jokes, but there aren't regular cases of guillotine murder around to joke about, it's hardly the same thing.)
posted by Catseye at 1:38 PM on January 3 [18 favorites]


I also hate the guillotine jokes and would love to never read one again, if we’re tallying.

(But I might have lost my sense of humor when I birthed my eldest, you never know. Flowed out of me like afterbirth, never to be seen again!)
posted by lydhre at 1:42 PM on January 3 [14 favorites]


Can we not compare not liking children to not liking people for being members of marginalized groups? It is not the same thing to say you don't like children as it is to say that you don't like Mexicans or gays, and it acts to minimize the actual problems of racism and other bigotry to talk like they're comparable.
posted by Sequence at 1:42 PM on January 3 [93 favorites]


Parents joke constantly about how they don't murder their children or how their children deserve to be sent down the river or whatever. This seems to me to be more connected to people not liking that some people don't like kids, and who had their heckles already raised in the thread. I happen to be childless, worked in a child centered field for a very long time, and personally like kids. I don't think saying "I don't like kids" is in anyway analogous to "a prejudice against children on the ground of a belief that they are property and can (or even should) be controlled, enslaved, or removed to serve adult needs." (I will say I have known many parents who feel that way about their own and other children though).

The joke is maybe dumb, but it's an oft repeated dumb joke by people with and without kids.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 1:43 PM on January 3 [45 favorites]


Sequence, I strongly believe that children ARE marginalized, quite significantly, at least in common USian culture. Children are regularly beaten, killed, punished and discriminated against because they are often thought of and treated as less than.
posted by jillithd at 1:44 PM on January 3 [27 favorites]


Also: many kids die in the US every day. How many tragic guillotine deaths do you see each day? That's just silly & disingenuous.

In point of fact, it's not. If I were part of the one percent and I kept reading about people wanting to kill me violently, or having fantasies about it, I would take that very personally indeed, and I'm willing to bet others would too. But I guess it's easy to dismiss the analogy when it's not your ox being gored.

Anyway, what you're saying is really beside the point. No one here is objecting to srboisvert's post because they think he was actually, honest to god, inciting violence against children, or thinking about adding to the numbers of dead children, or wishing someone else would. He was making a dark joke about how hard it was to raise kids. The issue is that people think it's morally wrong to say mean things about children.
posted by holborne at 1:45 PM on January 3 [66 favorites]


Beautiful comment holborne, thank you.
posted by grobstein at 1:48 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


I would see "I don't like kids" on the same level as "I don't like people over the age of 80", in that it might be true for many but it is nonetheless a fairly mean way to talk about a whole group of humanity defined by their being in a totally normal stage of human ageing.

I think many who say "I don't like kids" mean it instead in the same sense as "I don't like risotto" or "I don't like jazz", in that it's not so much "I dislike every human in this particular group" but more "I do not find this group entertaining or interesting or to my personal taste." Which does seem like a fairly odd and dehumanising way to talk about a large subsection of humanity, but at least it's not actively malicious I suppose.
posted by Catseye at 1:50 PM on January 3 [14 favorites]


because they are often thought of and treated as less than.

By childfree people venting and talking among themselves about kids/living in a world where it's expected that you'll have kids?
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 1:50 PM on January 3 [13 favorites]


No one is mocking, demeaning, pressuring, treating people as not fully formed adults, etc because they aren't filling their homes with 80 year olds. Maybe if we can stop saying "it's like this" (because it's not) and just talk about what it actually is.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 1:51 PM on January 3 [18 favorites]


By childfree people venting and talking among themselves about kids/living in a world where it's expected that you'll have kids?

Being expected to have kids and actually treating children humanely are not related, really.
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:54 PM on January 3 [29 favorites]


No one is mocking, demeaning, pressuring, treating people as not fully formed adults, etc because they aren't filling their homes with 80 year olds.

And nobody here is justifying childfree people getting bullied for their choices.
posted by Catseye at 1:54 PM on January 3 [5 favorites]


A joke about murdering a political figure would be deleted right away

I definitely think comments about murdering politicians should go undeleted. Some of 'em just could use a good murderin'!
posted by Greg Nog at 1:57 PM on January 3 [32 favorites]


It's weird how often dedicated childfree posts end in metatalk threads, as if there is no real way to discuss it without some parents getting upset. Maybe if people know they feel a way about childfree people discussing their very real lived experiences they should find other things to do on the site that are less upsetting to them.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 1:58 PM on January 3 [79 favorites]


i too am pro-sun-launching for many parties named here and elsewhere
posted by poffin boffin at 1:59 PM on January 3 [32 favorites]


So, in a thread about the constant pressures the majority impose on childless people to conform, parents didn't like some of the things the childless people had to say in response. I find that entirely predictable. Feels to me along the same lines as men objecting to some of the more extreme comments in feminism threads. MetaFilter has taken the position in the past that when a thread is about a marginalized group talking about their experiences, the job of those not in that group is to shut up and listen, or failing that, to skip it. The comment in question was clearly not advocating for actual violence, so as a grandfather of 5, I believe it would be far worse to read comments in that thread from the outside, judge the ones that offend my majority sensibilities, and actively try to shut down those voices because I don't like the tone. That comment may or may not have been in questionable taste, but I personally find this thread far more disturbing.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:59 PM on January 3 [166 favorites]


greg please train your babies to be assassins
posted by poffin boffin at 1:59 PM on January 3 [13 favorites]


Also, saying "I don't like kids" on metafilter isn't "treating kids" in any way. I would hope people aren't assholes to kids and I would never condone that, just like parents are saying they don't condone the way childfree people are widely treated. But drawing the line before venting that someone doesn't like kids - specifically in a thread about the choice to not have kids - is absurd, frankly.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 2:01 PM on January 3 [36 favorites]


Feels to me along the same lines as men objecting to some of the more extreme comments in feminism threads.

I would object to a comment like "I'm just surprised more men don't murder their girlfriends!" in a feminism thread, no matter who was saying it.
posted by Catseye at 2:02 PM on January 3 [11 favorites]


I thought when I clicked through to the comment there would be more to it. That's a pretty tame joke.
posted by edeezy at 2:03 PM on January 3 [8 favorites]


I think comparing this thing to other things that are not this thing is going to go exactly as well as it ever does, i.e. badly.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:03 PM on January 3 [32 favorites]


saying "I don't like kids" on metafilter isn't "treating kids" in any way

I wasn't referring to saying you don't like kids (I don't really have an issue with that statement), I was just referring to the idea that children can't be treated shittily by a lot of people (people who, for instance, abuse children or the whole lot of people who desperately want to defund educational systems) in a society that at the same time has an expectation of child-bearing. Both things can happen simultaneously.
posted by soren_lorensen at 2:05 PM on January 3 [5 favorites]


in response to the idea that childfree people and parents exist on some sort of axis of privilege where the childfree people are the de facto 'marginalized' group, I'm just gonna go home and eat an entire bottle of rye.
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:06 PM on January 3 [19 favorites]


Making this a childfree vs parents thing is unhelpful, IMO. As I mentioned above, I'm staunchly childfree. I don't even like children very much! I'm 100% okay with talking about not liking children, but I'm not stoked about talking about murdering them. If you look at the staggering rates of child abuse, neglect, murder, etc, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that they're a marginalized group. Jokes about killing them are in a different category than other types of dark humor.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 2:07 PM on January 3 [26 favorites]


I wasn't referring to saying you don't like kids

Ok, well if you weren't responding to me then don't quote me?

Also, most of the people harming, abusing, defunding education for kids are parents (and most harming kid jokes also comes from parents) so I'm not sure why this is being put on childfree people talking about living in a world with a lot of parents and children.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 2:09 PM on January 3 [27 favorites]


I didn't find it delete-worthy or I would have brought it to the attention of the mod on duty, but I did find it viscerally upsetting, and it felt like a gut-punch. I understand it was supposed to be a joke, but it was a joke in very poor taste -- and not because I have children, but because I spent several years involved in child welfare work where I interacted with children who were neglected and abused and, yeah, some of them ended up murdered.

I tease my kids that I'm going to build a rocketship and launch them into the sun, but that's really really different than joking about the fact that parents murder their children and wondering why more children aren't literally murdered by their parents.

Maybe that's abstract to you because you've never known a child it's happened to. I do, and it's literally never fucking funny. Have you been to a funeral with a toddler-sized coffin? It's awful. It's the kind of joke that could only be made by someone who considers murdered children an abstraction, rather than a horrible tragedy that happens to real human beings, who are apparently easy to abstract and joke about because they are children and so don't register as "real" persons. Same reason I don't find prison rape jokes funny, really.

So yeah, I understood it as a joke, and I understand that some people will find it funny. But I thought it was ugly and in very poor taste and would have vastly preferred if the comment had not been made.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 2:09 PM on January 3 [96 favorites]


Personally don’t like being around most kids, and I read that comment as “kids frustrate me so much I don’t understand how parents tolerate them all day every day”. Yeah maybe not a tasteful way to put it. So maybe not a good comment by verbiage but not a vile thing to say by actual sentiment. That said, intention is one thing and effect another. Maybe we should agree not to casually talk about killing anyone.
posted by wellred at 2:10 PM on January 3 [3 favorites]


A joke about murdering a political figure would be deleted right away

I definitely think comments about murdering politicians should go undeleted. Some of 'em just could use a good murderin'!


POINT OF ORDER ordinary people get murdered, political figures are assassinated. And I'm not necessarily against it, in principle. I mean, case by vase, y'know?
posted by rodlymight at 2:15 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


I would object to a comment like "I'm just surprised more men don't murder their girlfriends!" in a feminism thread, no matter who was saying it.

That's literally the opposite of what I'm talking about. I'm talking about comments in feminism threads by women discussing how horrible all men are, and yes, sometimes openly kidding not kidding about violent opposition. And my point is not to object to those comments - they don't offend me - my point is that we specifically made the call here that it is not OK to tell marginalized groups how they are supposed to feel and talk in a venting thread. And this was clearly a venting thread, so for those of us who aren't in that group: that thread wasn't for us.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:17 PM on January 3 [31 favorites]


I have unfortunately seen many toddler sized coffins. I wouldn't make that joke (but don't see it as so different from other types of gallows humor) but to say that only people who don't understand or haven't seen the suffering of children and who don't see children as human could make that joke...it's honestly deeply offensive.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 2:17 PM on January 3 [55 favorites]


I don't like kids. I'm okay with saying that. I'm sorry you've interpreted that to mean "I actively dislike children and wish them harm." rather than "I can't relate to children and I find them, in general, to be extremely annoying and want them to stay far away from me." And if you think that the latter is unacceptable as well then I don't know what to tell you.

Please note that I care passionately about the health and welfare of children, especially when it comes to school nutrition. But don't ask me to go to a school cafeteria at lunchtime.
posted by elsietheeel at 2:36 PM on January 3 [61 favorites]


but to say that only people who don't understand or haven't seen the suffering of children and who don't see children as human could make that joke...it's honestly deeply offensive.

Yep. It's about *this far* from the old "You don't really understand what love is until you have children." It's more othering of childless people -- as though they're missing some fundamental thing that makes them human, like the ability to understand tragedy, if they don't have children of their own.
posted by holborne at 2:39 PM on January 3 [77 favorites]


I think murdering children is actively forbidden at such a deep level in the human psyche that the specific impulse to do it can arise in some extremely disordered mental states, and that this is what gives a casual reference to it in a context which wasn't quite jokey and obviously hyperbolic enough such power to shock.

It surprised me how much that comment bothered me even though I realized it wasn't meant seriously in the slightest; it just didn't fully feel that way, somehow.
posted by jamjam at 2:41 PM on January 3 [5 favorites]


my point is that we specifically made the call here that it is not OK to tell marginalized groups how they are supposed to feel and talk in a venting thread

Honestly, as a woman who has posted in many feminism threads, I've never felt that the MeFi convention is "you can talk however you like and nobody can object". But I don't think it is particularly useful to frame this discussion as Marginalised Group vs. Not-Marginalised Group, lest it end up a 400-post debate on who's got it worse on a broad societal level, where everybody ends up feeling wronged and nobody ends up feeling heard. (Presumably children themselves aren't a massively powerful group in anybody's societal analysis anyway.)
posted by Catseye at 2:42 PM on January 3 [3 favorites]


I don’t think intentionally childfree people are systematically marginalized. Some of them are women who deal with sexism. But it grinds my gears to treat that like it means that women who have children are privileged in comparison.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 2:44 PM on January 3 [23 favorites]


my point is that we specifically made the call here that it is not OK to tell marginalized groups how they are supposed to feel and talk in a venting thread. And this was clearly a venting thread,

Is that the case? When did that happen? And what makes something an identifiable "venting thread"?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:48 PM on January 3


I tease my kids that I'm going to build a rocketship and launch them into the sun, but that's really really different than joking about the fact that parents murder their children and wondering why more children aren't literally murdered by their parents.

There's not really any distinction here. The comment in question and you teasing your kids are the same joke, just aimed at different audiences.
posted by edeezy at 2:48 PM on January 3 [31 favorites]


"Yep. It's about *this far* from the old "You don't really understand what love is until you have children." "

Certainly not how I meant it. I think people can only make prison rape jokes if they don't consider prisoners as actual people, but as an abstract so they don't consider the harm is real. Similarly, I think jokes about parents murdering children come from a place where that is abstract; if it were concrete, I don't think people would be making that joke.

If you (general you, not you personally) DO know someone who was raped in prison, or someone whose child was murdered, and you still think those jokes are funny, well -- I honestly don't know what to do with that. I can't conceive of it. If you tell me there are such people, I believe you, but I'm going to sit here with my eyes wide in shock and dismay because I find that very distressing.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 2:48 PM on January 3 [14 favorites]


Maybe learning that people have different reactions than you to trauma is a good lesson to sit with for a while.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 2:49 PM on January 3 [88 favorites]


And I agree with restless_nomad:

I think comparing this thing to other things that are not this thing is going to go exactly as well as it ever does, i.e. badly.

Throwing around prison rape is doing exactly that.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 2:50 PM on January 3 [44 favorites]


Also, the comment in question didn’t bother me but I also didn’t read it as a joke. I’ve read a lot about infanticide, the precursors of abuse/neglect, the psychology of parents, etc. so I thought it was an actual expression of surprise at the willingness of parents to subordinate their interests to their children’s interests.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 2:52 PM on January 3 [13 favorites]


But I don't think it is particularly useful to frame this discussion as Marginalised Group vs. Not-Marginalised Group,

We don't need to frame that here. That's literally what that thread is about. Is it your contention that the marginalization the thread is about doesn't exist? Because otherwise, this callout just comes across as tone policing, which again, we have taken a pretty strong stance against.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:56 PM on January 3 [5 favorites]


A) I’m extremely uncomfortable with the ongoing prison rape analogy.

B) I don’t think a non-mod would ever be allowed to make such an analogy (not on 2018 MeFi) and I’m not comfortable with a mod being allowed to do it.
posted by A god with hooves, a god with horns at 3:00 PM on January 3 [45 favorites]


It was a dumb joke.

I consider myself empathetic and fairly PC, and very open to monitoring and changing my language to avoid inadvertently hurting someone. But this thread is crossing the line for me in terms of ridiculousness.

I sometimes think there is too much groupthink in MeFi, particularly with 'liberal' causes. As a bleeding heart liberal myself - and a parent, and a woman, and in a same-sex relationship, and an immigrant, and a few other minority boxes - I usually agree with the positions but sometimes think we are too quick to condemn words and ideas around here.

I don't have a definition for when comments go from being a bad/tasteless joke to being offensive. But an outright ban on them can't be the answer.
posted by widdershins at 3:00 PM on January 3 [45 favorites]


Parents joke constantly about how they don't murder their children or how their children deserve to be sent down the river or whatever.

I'm childfree*, but man, if ever I hear about someone doing that, then they go so many notches down in my estimation. And yes, it does hurt me on an empathic level. I thought the original joke was bad, but yeah, comparing it to people who say shit like that doesn't help with contextualising it.

*and just starting to realise that it's too late to change that within the parameters I'd find acceptable for my life or those I'd bring into it. So it's pretty raw right now.
posted by ambrosen at 3:01 PM on January 3 [12 favorites]


I usually agree with the positions but sometimes think we are too quick to condemn words and ideas around here.

we are indeed, but worse is creating unequal tiers of who we're allowed to joke about murdering or not.
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:07 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


For the record I do like kids in general, I don't wish them harm, and in a different timeline I'm probably a parent and in to it. While huge unplanned or poorly cared for families irk me (I survived a version of one) I don't begrudge people's children and the real love and bond that is there.

I'm also astonished anyone makes it past three or four years old. Toddlers are so incredibly dangerous and curious little humans.
posted by loquacious at 3:13 PM on January 3 [3 favorites]


Is it your contention that the marginalization the thread is about doesn't exist?

My contention is that not every single social dynamic can be understood in terms of a marginalised groups vs a non-marginalised group, and that trying to do so often leads to lengthy and increasingly vitriolic arguments which don’t actually do anything constructive for anyone involved. That isn’t the same as me denying that childfree or childless people are ever treated badly, or me saying they shouldn’t get to rant about that.

My other contention is that children, as the subject of that joke, wouldn’t be the powerful group doing the marginalising anyway no matter how you sliced up societal power dynamics.
posted by Catseye at 3:13 PM on January 3 [19 favorites]


I don't know. Ever since we got life insurance, my husband and I make jokes about murdering each other for the life insurance money and running off into the sunset. That's funny to us, and not because murdered spouses are some abstract concept we've never bumped into and think nobody is really harmed. It's not a lack of empathy, it's just a different sense of humour.

On the other hand, I think of those as "indoor jokes." There are some jokes that just don't play well in public, with a cold audience who don't know you personally. I don't know if I personally feel that particular joke crosses the line, but it does seem rather tasteless. I'm glad I'm not the mods.

(equating "I don't like children" with "I don't like gay people" or whatever the hell else is ridiculous though. And I would say I mostly like children, but I went on an adults-only holiday and I loved that there was no screaming at the pool, and that is absolutely nothing like going on a straights-only or whites-only holiday. I sit upstairs on the bus because I'm less likely to be sitting near screaming children, which is not like sitting upstairs to avoid gay people. C'mon.)
posted by stillnocturnal at 3:14 PM on January 3 [79 favorites]


[Couple comments removed. I am trying hard to catch up on this right after shift change but in the mean time: absolutely go elsewhere if what you're interested in contributing to this thread is random shitty ablist humor, for fuck's sake.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:27 PM on January 3 [7 favorites]


I think that we could do without jokes about murdering children. But more than that, I do raise an eyebrow at the vociferous defense of jokes about murdering children, which like - if you're not an edgelord, what do you lose by not being able to joke about dead [insert group here]?
posted by corb at 3:29 PM on January 3 [24 favorites]


This is a weirdly over the top thread. People are pretty obviously raw from surviving 2018 and things are hitting hard. Everyone needs a hug and some empathy. No need to ascribe the worst possible opinions to each other. People read something were hurt and are acting out of that. It’s understandable. It’s also ... well. Someone pointed out above how often childfree threads end up in MetaTalk, and I think it’s possible that many people would be happier if they didn’t read threads about how some people are very happy not to have kids and don’t understand wanting them.
posted by stoneweaver at 3:31 PM on January 3 [37 favorites]


disclaimer: I don't have children & I don't know anything about the person who made the comment
This has been enlightening to me because when I read that comment, I read it as something a parent would say as a sort of dark humor, maybe because i have heard/read things like parents saying "and this is why some species eat their young," when venting. So I was kind of like "oof, that's dark but hey, parenting probably makes you feel that way sometimes."

Now seeing this MeTa and how it made some parents (& non-parents!) feel, and reading the comment differently, yeah it seems maybe a bit not good for metafilter.
So I guess my point is - maybe other people read it like I did (or maybe I am just weird) and also thanks for this post & the comments for helping me see something I didn't before.
posted by pointystick at 3:32 PM on January 3 [9 favorites]


The joke is dark because it is close to a truth, being that our species kills children by degrees to accustom them to needs of our society, and so their vibrancy is abraded from the inside and out by hunger, abandonment, acts of war, acts of intolerance, cultural activities that make no sense to the growing young forced into harmful activities which do not feed, do not comfort, do not warm, cool or house, or make safer, entertain, or reward, do not offer a clear path to any of these, life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness kinds of things we allegedly value. It might be said the murder of childhood, is one of our most common activities as humans. Child brides to strangers, child soldiers fighting for strangers, anyway, nothing particularly funny about it, and the epidemic of parents with narcotic and central nervous stimulant addictions, leaves a huge hole in the fabric of good human continuity.

I got to hold a one year old, around the fire the other night, after assuring her three year old sister, that I would always consider her the cuter of the two, 'cause reversion strategies were front and center, lucky kids around the fire pit, with every pair of legs on the ready to keep them at the proper distance, when they came out of laps. Lucky times, lucky parents lucky me.
posted by Oyéah at 3:34 PM on January 3 [6 favorites]


At risk of painting myself as a horrible no good person and enduring a pileon:

I honestly don’t understand how more children don’t end up murdered. I didn’t read that as a joke, I read it as genuine wondering. I’m not defending the right to make dead children jokes (because I don’t find humor sacred). But I also know a lot of really horrible people have kids and kids are epically draining, and it really does surprise me that it’s as rare as it is.

I’ll also note that I have done a lot of work around making it a whole lot less common through activism for gun safety and regulation, specifically because children are likely to be accidental victims. So it’s possible to care deeply and passionately to the point of dedicating years of labor and not be viscerally offended by this comment.
posted by stoneweaver at 3:37 PM on January 3 [36 favorites]


It's the kind of joke that could only be made by someone who considers murdered children an abstraction, rather than a horrible tragedy that happens to real human beings

what an awful (and totally untrue) thing to say about a community member.
posted by lalex at 3:43 PM on January 3 [77 favorites]


That said: I feel like there's a difference between dark-humor-to-some-and-shitty-to-others comments and kill-it-with-fire, this-does-not-belong-on-the-site comments. I honestly don't know whether this particular example crosses the line or not but I'd be interested to hear a mod's take on it.

My take is: dark humor is tricky stuff and doesn't lend itself to clean categorical decision-making. So I think there's less to be gained from trying to unambiguously define The Line as being crossed or not than from looking at something in context and saying, yeah, I don't think that's gonna fly in this case.

Accordingly, I've gone ahead and removed the comment quoted in the post here from the original thread. It's not doing anything useful in there and it's bothering a lot of people in a way that I doubt very much it was intended to, and with a crystal ball I'd have deleted it last night instead to avoid causing people the extra discomfort.

For my perspective, I read it as, unambiguously, a joke, if not a particularly great one; it's the kind of thing my parents would say, it's the kind of things a lot of my parent friends would say, and it landed for me like just that: collar-tugging vaudeville riffing. That was my feeling when I saw a lone flag come in on it last night several hours after it got posted; I muttered a little oof, decided to leave it be, and here we are.

But my perspective isn't everybody's perspective, and that I have friends with kids who would make that joke doesn't mean that everybody would make that joke, and even at that I know my friends would choose their moment and context for it. And that comes back around to: dark humor's tricky, and the difference between elbowing your friend and muttering a joke to them and elbow-muttering to an entire undifferentiated crowd is a big one. The latter case is a lot more likely to land with a thud.

This one seems to have gotten around to landing with quite a thud indeed, and we don't need to keep that around to prove a point or to preserve the more general notion of tackling stuff case-by-case when the next one comes along. So, nah, nixed.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:46 PM on January 3 [11 favorites]


I honestly don’t understand how more children don’t end up murdered.

I really would rather we not suddenly dive hard into an examination of that question in here.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:48 PM on January 3 [12 favorites]


if you're not an edgelord, what do you lose by not being able to joke about dead [insert group here]?

We lose the voices of those who need (or choose for whatever reason) to vent in sometimes troubling ways that challenge us. Maybe that's okay sometimes. But I'm pretty sure we wouldn't all agree on which voices we think should be silenced or when or why. So all I'm saying is I think we should be as consistent as possible, and look very, very carefully at suggestions to police the tone of groups we are not a part of. A point I'm quite sure I've made by now, so I'm going to stop cluttering up this thread and take my snotty, germ-riddled self back to bed.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:51 PM on January 3 [26 favorites]


Language is so incredibly nuanced. What I say at home to my husband, things that can make him laugh uncontrollably, are not always things that I would/could/should say in public. I spent many years working with at-risk youth, with a group of motivated, compassionate staff. Seeing trauma, violence, and abuse on a daily basis often manifested itself in dark humor (while I didn't always like it, I definitely understood it). Hearing a co-worker make a crack about a particular situation was completely different than my uncle at Thanksgiving thinking he knew something about my job and could joke about my students (p.s. he didn't and he couldn't).

I grew up in a very religious family and spent my childhood attending church. While I am now more spiritual than religious and do not regularly attend church, I still find it harsh and off-putting when folks on MF use the name Jesus Christ (typically accompanied by some form of "fuck") as an exclamation, a humorous interjection, or a way to make their point. I sometimes wonder how the community would respond if some members began using the name Allah in a similar way. Or if they began taking cheap shots at the faith of my Muslim friends. It's one of those little things that makes me a bit uncomfortable when reading a comment. I don't, however, think it means that no one should be allowed to use this language - it's just not something I prefer.

So, maybe that's my question: who decides what is good, bad, or gray? Humor is not only complicated, it's so utterly dependent upon intent - something we don't always get through a computer screen.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 3:52 PM on January 3 [10 favorites]


Yikes, same! And hadn’t considered my comment could lead to that. (My crystal ball is significantly hazier than yours in your modly duties) Wouldn’t take it wrong at all if you axed it just not to open that door.
posted by stoneweaver at 3:52 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


Always glad to see It's Raining...
posted by Oyéah at 3:53 PM on January 3


For me, the joke was emblematic of the reason threads about being childfree often seem to go pear-shaped. And that is that it assumed something about one group (here, parents and children) that is, at its core, sort of offensive—namely, that we’re all super unhappy because children are awful.

But that's the same reason that those who are childfree often—and rightfully so—feel lambasted for their decision to be childfree. Because it’s offensive and rude and really just terrible for anyone to tell someone who is childfree that their decision is the wrong one and they’ll regret it later and that they’ll never be truly happy or fulfilled without children. But that means it's also offensive and rude and pretty terrible to tell people with children that [their] children are awful, that living with children must be the worst thing ever, and that they are surprised they don’t just chuck it all and kill their kids.

If the non-childfree are going to be asked to treat the childfree in good faith—that is, assume they are grown adults, capable of making that important decision without harassment from others—shouldn’t the childfree do the same for those of us with kids? I think that disconnect is a lot of what really bothered me about that comment. It was clearly a joke, but one that paints the non-childfree with a really broad brush.

(And for the record, I think mine was the lone flag that came in late last night because I dithered about even dipping into the thread! And when I did, I found it was going pretty well—I was surprised and sad to read so many comments talking about how crappy people treated the commenter for not having kids, and there was a notable lack of comments in the vein of “kids, man, aren’t they terrible, and why would anyone want ‘em.” Except for that one comment, that one bad joke, that stuck out and really bothered me.)
posted by devinemissk at 4:01 PM on January 3 [21 favorites]


If the non-childfree are going to be asked to treat the childfree in good faith—that is, assume they are grown adults

Yeah, the kind of problematic thing about this whole subject is that extremely often the assumption is that we're not.
posted by ambrosen at 4:08 PM on January 3 [5 favorites]


If that comment had shown up in a thread about the difficulties of being a parent from someone who doesn't have kids, I think it should be immediately deleted (although I'll say again, if you object to any form of send kids into the sun jokes - don't hang around parents because they are absolutely the ones who tell them the most). I'm not upset it was deleted in the childfree thread, but, i do think people who routinely get upset by reading childfree threads should maybe find a different hobby instead of continually policing the way we discuss our lives, our experiences, the way the world treats us.

And to go way back up thread for a minute - drawing distinctions between "willingly" childfree and not isn't a stark line, pushes people to disclose or not whether or not they feel "willing" (whatever that means) in their decisions, and comes off like 'if you have a sad enough story you can be this percent bitter but if I determine you "chose" this than you actually get this percent more privilege.'

honestly, the have kids/don't have kids line is obviously an intersectional one with lots of moving parts. Which is where I return to, some amount of leeway should be given for venting in childfree threads towards childfree people and the same goes in parenting threads for parents (lets none of us pretend like 5yr olds are reading the site and getting offended). I would like a site that respects and understands both of those lines - which returns us right back to, if you get upset about how people without kids talk about not having kids, why go into a childfree thread other than to get pissed off?
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 4:09 PM on January 3 [18 favorites]


Wow, I really cant believe people are sincerely arguing that being childfree is an oppressed class. People without children have serious economic and social advantages over people with. And people say mean things to you? Try being pregnant! I got told i looked huge every damn day! Smdh
posted by likeatoaster at 4:10 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


Perhaps read the many threads and articles about why people feel that way. There are a lot.
posted by stoneweaver at 4:12 PM on January 3 [77 favorites]


More broadly and kind of more at the heart of some of the conversation that's tumbled out in this thread: parenting, parenthood, childlessness, and social pressures bearing on all of the above are both pervasive and often intense in lots of people's lives, and also often deeply personal in how they are experienced.

And on the one hand it can look at a glance like a much less fraught set of topics than some of the stuff we tend to think of as bright-line social justice issues. On the other, that combination of omnipresent social pressure and personal experience means that this sort of universal-seeming, low-heat thing—lots of people have kids; lots of people don't; it's just normal everyday low-stakes stuff, right?—can actually be pretty strongly felt in a whole variety of ways, for a whole variety of reasons.

And I think people have (in general) a bit easier a time recognizing that e.g. a conversation about a racial or sexual minority experience other than their own isn't about them than they do about the kind of more seemingly universal societal bucket that parenting-and-not-and-etc falls into. Which is part of why parenting, and non-parenting, and childlessness, and etc. threads end up being a little more fraught than I think they'd otherwise be.

The question of whether the thread that the now-deleted joke was in is a venting thread per se came up a little above, and the fact is I don't think there's a clean line for it here or often a lot of the time on MeFi. If there's no sign on the door (and there generally isn't) saying This Thread Is For Folks With Experience X To Vent, the general audience of MetaFilter is gonna be the assumed readership; on the other hand, reading the room and deciding whether and when to steer the conversation from the prevailing topic of the links and the discussion over to "okay but here's MY contrasting experience/opinion/rebuttal" is an important thing to do and helps keep stuff from going off the rails. It can definitely be good to choose your moments and just sometimes step back and let a thread that isn't Formally A Venting Thread still just be a place where folks who are already doing some topic-specific venting do that.

My main thesis here is, I guess: threads about all sorts of aspects of parenting, childlessness, etc. are something it'd probably serve us well as a community to continue to try and be self-aware about our own reading of and participation in. It's come up before in MeTa and maybe this is a good, if sort of roundabout, reminder for that. Because the greatly varied personal experiences people have had on this cluster of subjects means that treating every discussion of any aspect of parenting or childlessness or etc. as a general free-for-all on the entire cluster is probably where most of the friction we see comes from.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:12 PM on January 3 [11 favorites]


If I could ask the mods, since we do have a queue, to just keep an eye on how many parenting threads end up over here and how many childfree threads end up over here and examine the tone policing if you find it happening.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 4:16 PM on January 3 [7 favorites]


Seems like there have been a lot of childfree threads lately.
posted by likeatoaster at 4:18 PM on January 3 [5 favorites]


Wow, I really cant believe people are sincerely arguing that being childfree is an oppressed class. People without children have serious economic and social advantages over people with. And people say mean things to you? Try being pregnant! I got told i looked huge every damn day! Smdh

Yeah. People are shitty to women if they have kids and shitty to women if they don't have kids. Being pregnant is often awful (I hated it), but so is constantly being bombarded with messaging that something is wrong with you if you don't want to procreate. So while childfree people might have economic advantages, there is definitely a social cost.
posted by kendrak at 4:18 PM on January 3 [37 favorites]


You are able to make your own threads about whatever interests you. If this topic isn't interesting to you, you can skip them, and I think you can even block certain topics but that's maybe just on Ask.Me?
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 4:19 PM on January 3 [5 favorites]


Nothing in the deleted side of the metatalk queue in the last six months looks like it has had any bearing on the topic either way; I'd have to do more digging to go back farther than that. So it's probably sufficient to say that whatever is in the actual MetaTalk archives is what's been brought to the subject.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:19 PM on January 3


People without children have serious economic and social advantages over people with. And people say mean things to you? Try being pregnant!

I'd fucking love to be pregnant, thanks for spreading the mean.
posted by kimberussell at 4:20 PM on January 3 [39 favorites]


And, yeah, there's threads on the blue about parenting and threads about childlessness and there's gonna continue to be more over time on both. I don't think we're gonna get any good out of general jousting on that either way; if someone wants to pull together specific links bearing on a concern about something about that, go ahead and do the work on it, but as a general thing how about we ease things down some at this point instead of finding new stuff to argue about.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:21 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sensitive when it comes to crass jokes, but I really do read this as "dark humor" that is about coping, and the context is well understood. The reason that these comments are funny is because the word "murder" takes on a different modality (sort of an optative rather than a subjunctive mood) and is used as a stand-in for describing high levels of frustration that result in hyperbolic and over-the-top statements that surface in normally loving relationships that aren't really at risk of being lost. To use murder jokes for people you really do dislike entirely do not lend themselves to this kind of humor at all, and don't come across as a joke. Wanting to "kill" a president that you hate and wanting to "kill" your kids you love very much isn't even in the same semantic universe, because they are actually expressing two entirely different propositions that happen to use verbatim language. I'll be sad if we decide that we need to conflate uses like this together under the same judgment because we are worried that we can't be refined enough to know the difference.
posted by SpacemanStix at 4:22 PM on January 3 [22 favorites]


I'm genuinely sorry that I hurt you, kimberussell.
posted by likeatoaster at 4:23 PM on January 3 [18 favorites]


It's okay, likeatoaster. I shouldn't have snapped like that at you. I'm extra raw after the holidays and I should have walked away. It's all good and if everyone could ignore/unfavorite my statement up there I'd love it.

(hug)
posted by kimberussell at 4:25 PM on January 3 [25 favorites]


This is exactly why I suggest people don't make mental lines about the "choice" of childfree/childless or not. It makes assumptions, it ascribes more choice to especially women (or people AFAB) than actually exists, and it hurts.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 4:26 PM on January 3 [29 favorites]


> Earlier today after a passing a family while walking down the street I said to my wife, "The interesting question to me isn't why some people murder their children. It's why anyone doesn't murder their children"

Was this the entirety of the comment? If so, the usual caveats about reading the room and understanding how your comment can be read in an atonal and asymmetrical format probably apply here. It's easy to read "murder" there as a dark humor "why I oughta murdalize 'em!" kind of joke, but it's also easy to see that and think a serial killer posted it. Without context and especially without things like inflection and emphases, that could be a well-meaning comment that still gets read flatly and without any disarming affect.
posted by Arson Lupine at 4:33 PM on January 3 [3 favorites]


Accordingly, I've gone ahead and removed the comment quoted in the post here from the original thread.

Your site, your decision, but this has to be one of the stupidest deletion decisions I can remember. Totally inappropriate and tone-deaf prison rape comparisons are good to go, apparently, but not the kind of old joke that parents and non-parents make all the time? (I won't quote it since evidently it's beyond the pale, but there's a similar joke in this recent profile of Greenwald in the New Yorker, just to pick a random example.)

It's the kind of joke that could only be made by someone who considers murdered children an abstraction, rather than a horrible tragedy that happens to real human beings, who are apparently easy to abstract and joke about because they are children and so don't register as "real" persons.

Why bless your heart.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:44 PM on January 3 [58 favorites]


I can't conceive of it. If you tell me there are such people, I believe you, but I'm going to sit here with my eyes wide in shock and dismay because I find that very distressing.

Not to bring prison rape back into this, but the ongoing effort to eliminate sexual assault in prison and administer the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 is a significant part of my job. Being inside a prison is an absolute mindfuck for *everyone* and gallows humor is a coping mechanism that is heavily relied on to deal with the potential for trauma that exists daily. But you can almost always tell when the person who is making the joke is doing it out of a hateful "inmates are animals" place or out of a "fuck I can't deal with this situation logically" kind of place. Most of the time it's the latter.

So yeah, there are such people, and they're not bad people, they're overwhelmed and trying to cope.

And yeah, there are people who are fucking inhumane assholes. But that's not the case here. I also don't understand how parents manage having kids,; one of the reasons I never had kids was because I was fucking terrified that I would harm them, due to the generations of abuse and mental illness in my family.

So maybe reframe the comment to acknowledge that gallows humor is a thing, it's a way that traumatized people cope with things that scare them, and that just because you don't understand something doesn't mean it's wrong or bad.
posted by elsietheeel at 4:52 PM on January 3 [60 favorites]


And to go way back up thread for a minute - drawing distinctions between "willingly" childfree and not isn't a stark line, pushes people to disclose or not whether or not they feel "willing" (whatever that means) in their decisions, and comes off like 'if you have a sad enough story you can be this percent bitter but if I determine you "chose" this than you actually get this percent more privilege.'

Sorry, what comment are you talking about? I can't find anyone saying "willingly"?
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 4:56 PM on January 3


For me, the joke was emblematic of the reason threads about being childfree often seem to go pear-shaped. And that is that it assumed something about one group (here, parents and children) that is, at its core, sort of offensive—namely, that we’re all super unhappy because children are awful.


I don't just assume this. I hear it from parents all the time. All my parent friends, including my parents, tell me I'm smart to not have children.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 4:57 PM on January 3


So wait...childfree people are both being harangued for their decision to be childfree and congratulated by parents who all regret their decisions? I suppose that’s possible, but I’m just with devinemissk on this: it seems like both side are telling they other they are wrong (and stupid?) for their very personal circumstances. Easy to see why hackles are up.
posted by CMcG at 5:03 PM on January 3 [6 favorites]


Actually yeah. They say stuff like "Oh you're so smart! But...who will take care of you? You won't ever know love!" It's really strange and confusing.

I am looking at the other thread and see:

I have learned that if somebody is tacky enough to ask me why I don't have children there is no answer I can give that will satisfy them.

a fool: but don't you want CHILDREN
me: oh gosh no thank you, i already ate

posted by poffin boffin at 7:05 PM on January 2 [54 favorites +] [!]


Do children survive being eaten or is this not the same joke that everyone is mad about but with lots of favorites?
posted by masquesoporfavor at 5:10 PM on January 3 [50 favorites]


it's also easy to see that and think a serial killer posted it

Oh good grief. This thread is so fucking weird but this? Wow.
posted by billiebee at 5:10 PM on January 3 [47 favorites]


cromch
posted by poffin boffin at 5:14 PM on January 3 [57 favorites]


Sorry, what comment are you talking about? I can't find anyone saying "willingly"

Oh, I'm terribly sorry, I should have said intentionally instead of "willingly" and you should remember the comment because you are the one who made it.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 5:17 PM on January 3 [22 favorites]


Oh, I'm terribly sorry, I should have said intentionally instead of "willingly" and you should remember the comment because you are the one who made it.

So I should assume that when you use quote marks you are...not quoting a comment but instead referring to a different comment, and instead of asking for clarification before responding, I should engage with someone who may not even be talking to me? Cool, cool. Thanks for the tip.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 5:24 PM on January 3


Do children survive being eaten or is this not the same joke that everyone is mad about but with lots of favorites?

No, it's not. It's an absurd joke about eating babies. It's not literally musing about why more parents don't murder their children, which is a thing that parents actually do.

We do not need to do the thing here where we pretend that context and nuance do not exist, or that any request to temper language must be rejected if an ironclad inviolable rule cannot be crafted on the spot. We know this song and dance well. The MeTa poster sought the community's thoughts on these types of jokes, and it turns out that some people find them disturbing, upsetting, a gut-punch. We all get to decide what to do with that information.
posted by prize bull octorok at 5:25 PM on January 3 [10 favorites]


[Y'all, again, please cool it. Anyone who is basically just looking for a fight at this point needs to please go look elsewhere; I am tired to the bone of people getting up to reflexive sniping exchanges and this thread is not going to be improved by it.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:34 PM on January 3 [10 favorites]


We do not need to do the thing here where we pretend that context and nuance do not exist,

You mean like where we pretend someone was literally inciting people to murder their kids by making a joke that parents also make? Awesome!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 5:41 PM on January 3 [37 favorites]


Cool, cool. Thanks for the tip.

I purposefully didn't call you out and tried to describe the general issue instead to not make it personal. Then you insisted I point to the source so I did because you pretended to be confused? So, yeah, it is your choice to keep it cute and move it on or make me quote your obvious bullshit directly. I have gone out of my way in this thread to be general and not accusatory - unless pressed - so people could past it by if they felt the urge. If you're dissatisfied with this, I keep my memail open and you are welcome to be angry at me directly.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 5:42 PM on January 3 [14 favorites]




Ultimately what it comes down to is that the comment was that they didn't understand how parents don't murder their kids, not that they thought that all kids should be murdered. There was no murderous intent to their comment and, more importantly, there was no murderous IMPACT from the comment.

And I'm pretty sure that poffin boffin hasn't eaten any babies lately.

Although I will never be entirely sure...
posted by elsietheeel at 5:46 PM on January 3 [23 favorites]


I purposefully didn't call you out and tried to describe the general issue instead to not make it personal.

dude I was legitimately confused. I appreciate that you are trying not to make it personal but I would not take you thinking my comment sucks or is wrong personally TBH & I thought something got deleted so yk
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 5:46 PM on January 3


Super disappointed by the prison rape comparisons and general tone of Eyebrows McGee's comments as a mod in this thread.
posted by Dysk at 5:47 PM on January 3 [57 favorites]


Maybe that's abstract to you because you've never known a child it's happened to. I do, and it's literally never fucking funny. Have you been to a funeral with a toddler-sized coffin? It's awful

I thought this joke, which was one of my mom's go-tos, was funny: "I figure if the kids are still alive at the end of the day, I've done my job." I still think it's a basically funny joke underpinned by how stressful parenting is, and thinking about lowering that stress by lowering expectations to the most basic level. And then the daughter of some friends of mine died after an accident at daycare. She was fine, and then she was not "still alive at the end of the day," and I was too close to the reality of that possibility for the joke to be funny to me. It's been 18 years (it happened when I was pregnant with my now-17yo), and I wouldn't flinch at that joke anymore, but I also wouldn't make that joke.

I made a similar low-expectation joke when our youngest of four learned to read: I was like, "Well, they are all toilet-trained, and they can all read. Our work here is done." But I have a friend whose daughter is almost ten and, due to disability, not toilet-trained. She may never be. My joke is funny unless you're too close to the reality that the so-called minimum standards being alluded to are unreachable for a lot of people's kids.

I've been talking and thinking about this a lot since reading the Meta and starting into the comments--I left the original thread to the child-free to frolic in at will. I don't have a strong or clear opinion on this one.
posted by Orlop at 5:50 PM on January 3 [35 favorites]


Rock 'em Sock 'em - memail me if you have any actual questions. I respect you enough to not find you so jerky or dumb to not consider the things you say when they're pointed out in abstract. If you want me to be more pointed I'll take that into account.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 5:50 PM on January 3


I am interested in and reading the range of opinions in the community

thanks. the comment was gross and bad.

Accordingly, I've gone ahead and removed the comment quoted in the post here from the original thread.

thanks. the comment was gross and bad.
posted by mintcake! at 5:50 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


You mean like where we pretend someone was literally inciting people to murder their kids by making a joke that parents also make

You are beating the stuffing out of a straw person! Nobody is claiming that the comment was a literal incitement to murder. Very few bad/offensive "jokes" are literal. The entire point is that one can figuratively say a crappy thing and it is still crappy.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 5:59 PM on January 3 [5 favorites]


Rock 'em Sock 'em - memail me if you have any actual questions. I respect you enough to not find you so jerky or dumb to not consider the things you say when they're pointed out in abstract. If you want me to be more pointed I'll take that into account.

Yeah, respectfully, I don't feel comfortable sending people argumentative memails and given that this criticism of my behavior is here I would rather address it here. The reason I asked is because I was fairly certain you were talking about my comment but in a thread w/deletions I wasn't actually sure. It matters because I feel like there are substantive differences between my comment and the way that you represented my comment. That only matters (if it matters at all) if you were actually talking about my comment b/c I'm not going to argue with someone about their response to a comment that got deleted. If you think that only someone dumb or jerky would take this approach then that is fine, but I was certainly not pretending, lying, trying to mock you, trying to take jabs, or whatever. I'm sorry that it came across that way. If you want to be more pointed, direct, quote me, etc. in the future that is fine with me.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 6:05 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


Fwiw I think the prison rape analogy was a bad idea too. EM mentioned to me that she was really frustrated and was stepping out of the thread, which I think was the right move; she's as prone as anyone to have a hard time with some of the personal-stakes impact of these subjects, but it gets stickier when it's a mod getting raw and hitting the brakes sooner there would have been better.

In addition to poffin boffin's unsettling child cannibalism "joke", there are still two other references to murder in the thread that I hope will be deleted ASAP:

So I did my best to try and characterize the subjective difficulty with dark humor, and the thing driving my specific decision with the original cited comment as one of something landing with a big thud. If that wasn't clear enough, about my reasoning and about the inherent case-by-case difficulty of sorting this stuff out such that just well-what-abouting stuff that's structurally similar but not identical isn't usually super useful, I can elaborate if that's what you are after, but I'll be straight here that I'm wary of what reads like just kind of a gotcha.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:06 PM on January 3 [10 favorites]


The reason I asked is because I was fairly certain you were talking about my comment

It's your choice to be upfront or not. Pretending to be confused isn't a great look. Speak to me directly here, or in private, and I'd respect that. Pretending to be confused isn't a great look, IMO.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 6:10 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


So, I did contribute to my baby’s death by asking to have her taken off life support. (After a decade of infertility and dealing with many remarks of the type described by childfree folks, since I didn’t talk about it much.) Some of my spouse’s family considers that murder.

No, I don’t find the joke funny. But I wouldn’t have flagged it either.

I think for me this falls into the category of please be mindful, but we’ve all sometimes made an insensitive joke or not thought of an angle on our words. I did a one-week intensive residential novel writing course the summer after my daughter died and so. many. writers. refer to their novels as babies, gestating, giving birth to them, bad novels “dying a-borning.” Metaphor has power precisely because it is evocative. Maybe it’s a good idea to keep in mind.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:11 PM on January 3 [54 favorites]


[Rock 'em, I'm Not Even, both of you please drop this entirely at this point. You have no obligation to talk privately but the alternative should not be to have a lengthy private-public conversation in MetaTalk.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:14 PM on January 3 [4 favorites]


Also, and at this point I'm removing this thread from my activity and anyone can talk to me about it privately if they want, but you and all the other mods know that no single member who isn't a mod would be able to speak that way. I have gotten admonishing emails for far, far less. At some point I hope the mod team together recognizes the real issue of mods speaking as mods while pretending they're speaking as members - and how certain mods abuse this distinction over and over again. Mods ~should~ be held to a higher standard if they insist on commenting under the mod tag both as mod and as community member. Most of us aren't being paid to be here. Those that are being paid should consider how it looks when they trot out toddler caskets to make their shitty points.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 6:17 PM on January 3 [38 favorites]


lol ok. I try here, I really do. Ban me if you think that's in the site's best interest but suggesting that I shouldn't respond to people refusing to engage in public or private with me while calling me out? You know that's fucked up.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 6:19 PM on January 3 [3 favorites]


but it gets stickier when it's a mod

That is hopefully synonymous for "taking some time off"? Because that is what I'd expect to happen to a user who made such an offensive and shitty comment, even in MetaTalk.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:23 PM on January 3 [10 favorites]


The mods, especially Eyebrows, is never held to that standard. I'd hold my breath for it, but I'd surely suffocate.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 6:25 PM on January 3 [11 favorites]


So, I've been following this thread, and part of me feels like we've reached what Josh Marshall (the reference is to talkingpointsmemo.com, if you don't follow the politics threads) would call "Peak MetaFilter". The bit where it can almost seem self-parodying. Where "everyone" finds something to be offended about and no reason to be charitable. Where I start to ask myself: what if I said, "I practically had a heart attack when I read Trump's post this morning"...would someone else say "you're clearly not a heart attack survivor or you wouldn't say something so callous; your comment harms me"... But then will someone else say "I'm a heart attack survivor and I don't mind remarks like that at all"...and on it goes?

That's a bit over the top, of course, but so are parts of this thread, to me.

On the bright side, it's nice to see how many people here don't just have differing viewpoints, but hugely different (life/work) experience to speak from, which underscores how much you can learn when a few thousand people get together on the internet.

So, I'm partly annoyed by this thread...which might well mean that I *am* callous (I didn't find the deleted comment objectionable, for starters) or at least privileged (I'm certainly that), but I've managed to find some silver linings -- which, having a negative cast of mind, I try to look for.

In summary, land of contrasts, etc.

I'm making this comment in case someone else might actually agree with some of it and think "oh, it's not just me", even if they don't feel like getting involved in a thread like this.
posted by uosuaq at 6:30 PM on January 3 [97 favorites]


I am really astonished that this thread exists at all, and even more astonished that it resulted in the comment being deleted. I am in favour of removing comments that wish death on a specific person or group of people, but this was not that, not in any way.

One of the reasons on my list of reasons why I'm never having children is that I'm not sure I would have the patience to deal with them long term *without* hurting them. I see how frustrated my family members get with their own children, and I know how easily and quickly I get angry about things, and I imagine how much worse it would be if I were sleep deprived and exhausted all of the time, and I genuinely worry that if I had kids, I would hurt them.

So, I read that comment, saw in it something that I related to -- the very real fear that I couldn't actually handle being a parent -- taken to an extreme and I laughed.

And now I have read this thread, and discovered that I am a horrible child-hating person who thinks children should be treated like inhuman chattle slaves, and I guess I'll spend the rest of the day feeling like absolute shit about myself, so thanks for that, MetaTalk.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:32 PM on January 3 [57 favorites]


If you feel like shit about yourself then that is not on those of us who objected to the comment, and it's unkind to imply that. I thought it was a bad comment and a good deletion. I also do not think that people who feel otherwise are bad people.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 6:41 PM on January 3 [5 favorites]


Ban me if you think that's in the site's best interest

What? I told you two to drop it in here, and that's all. Going back and forth at length at each other is tiring and is doing no one else any good. I don't care if you do or don't talk in private, I don't care if you guys can't stand each other or are just having a weird day or what. Regardless, just let it be in this thread at this point. You can be mad at or dissatisfied with another user without making it the whole community's business, is basically the whole thing.

That is hopefully synonymous for "taking some time off"? Because that is what I'd expect to happen to a user who made such an offensive and shitty comment, even in MetaTalk.

So: I think the comment was some poor judgement. I think the idea that it's an automatic day off for anyone is grossly exaggerating expectations. I think wanting mods to be more cautious than the average user about what they post is pretty reasonable and I get that that informs folks' reactions here. I also think it's absolutely ridiculous to expect to export random-user-flying-off-the-handle praxis to mod team internal management praxis and I'm super not going to get into some public thing about it. EM stepped out of the thread, we talked some and will talk some more, and that's the whole of what I'm getting into about it here, about her or anyone else on my team; anybody wanting more red meat than that is gonna have to reassess whatever the hell kind of throwing-under-the-bus action they expect from me.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:42 PM on January 3 [48 favorites]


I also think it's absolutely ridiculous to expect to export random-user-flying-off-the-handle praxis to mod team internal management praxis

It is ridiculous, but I can see how rhetorically it might be seen to help one win internet argument points? Which is surely the motivation here.
posted by axiom at 6:49 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


this is truly one of the most insane threads i have ever seen on this site
posted by JimBennett at 6:54 PM on January 3 [117 favorites]


I'm with jacquilynne and uosuaq - it wasn't a funny joke, for me at least, but it clearly wasn't a call to go out and harm children. Not everyone is a wordsmith, some people can fumble finding the right way to express an idea, and jokes about how much of a pain in the ass kids can be to the point where you want to eat them/fire them into the sun have been accepted here previously.

I'm not surprised this thread is here in metatalk, but I wish it wasn't. Poor call-out and poor choice by the mods to delete the comment.

Sure, let's all try not to purposefully offend people with our internet ramblings, but the street goes both ways - let's also try not to take the most uncharitable reading of a comment and use it as cause to delete it. Obviously there will be comments that sit on the border between purposefully offensive and poorly phrased and the border itself is subjective and therein lie trolls, but in this case I think the mod action was wrong.
posted by dazed_one at 6:55 PM on January 3 [27 favorites]


If you feel like shit about yourself then that is not on those of us who objected to the comment, and it's unkind to imply that. I thought it was a bad comment and a good deletion. I also do not think that people who feel otherwise are bad people.

Plenty of people -- including a moderator -- were clear that they view the person who made that comment -- and by implication someone like me who related to it and liked it -- as someone who doesn't care about child abuse and doesn't even view children as fully human. I have not yet achieved the zen-like level of emotional detachment that would allow me to read something like that about myself and not take it personally.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:57 PM on January 3 [37 favorites]


I'll reiterate, I didn't delete the comment because I thought it was a call to go out and harm children. I deleted it because it was a dark joke (one that I personally got while rolling my eyes at it a little) that wasn't on the balance important to the thread and was bugging a bunch of people. I don't think the original commenter was trying to be a jerk or a troll; I think their joke ended up landing with a dull thud. It happens.

I can totally understand thinking that's not sufficient reason to nix it; like I said above, the subjectivity of dark humor is part of why its tricky to use in mixed company. But that's the call I feel best about, in the muddled context of the actual comment, thread, and community reaction.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:01 PM on January 3 [11 favorites]


I can't control how people on the internet parse every little thing I say, nor would I want to try. I don't see who got hurt by deleting that comment, and if it had been mine (certainly I can see myself making such a comment) I wouldn't be making a federal case out of its deletion, either.
posted by axiom at 7:03 PM on January 3 [3 favorites]


It’s incredibly disappointing that mods don’t get held to the same commenting standards that users do. The prison rape jokes are trash and should not have been allowed to stand.

Additionally, I’m Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! has buttoned. Great job, everyone.
posted by bibliogrrl at 7:04 PM on January 3 [32 favorites]


I don't see who got hurt by deleting that comment

I know - it's a few words on the internet, a dumb joke. Might as well delete it. Who cares, right?

Except now a user has buttoned and our community has lost one more voice.

This is a ridiculous call-out and it was a bad deletion.
posted by dazed_one at 7:08 PM on January 3 [32 favorites]


EM stepped out of the thread, we talked some and will talk some more, and that's the whole of what I'm getting into about it here

Please do. This isn't the first time this has happened.

My wife and I are close with couples who lost young children. To a traffic accident. To cancer. To birth defect. To premature birth. I've been to funerals for babies and toddlers. There are no words that can adequately express how deeply, deeply traumatizing actually losing a child can be. As a parent, they inhabit my nightmares.

It is profoundly wrong to conflate or equate such actual horrors with jokes. Everyone, as "I'm Not Even Supposed" noted, deals with trauma differently. Everyone's coping mechanisms are different. It's also wrong to use such things as a cudgel, to imply that people who make jokes are some kind of sociopath: accepting of abuse, dehumanizing children or worse.

We each cope in our own way. I don't make those kinds of jokes because they're my worst fear. I have enough trouble with the fears I don't give voice to. But condemning those who do? When you haven't walked their path and lived in their shoes? That's not right.

When that condemnation comes from a mod who has that little "staff" tag next to their name, it carries with it the imprimatur of an official statement. It shouldn't.

I hope you both will take that into consideration. I really think you need to. Mods shouldn't be making those kinds of public pronouncements about the site's users. Not if they give a damn about us.
posted by zarq at 7:12 PM on January 3 [65 favorites]


That line of thinking cuts both ways. Would you be making the same complaint if the OP had buttoned over a lack of deletion? I'm not saying either behavior seems particularly defensible (reads to me as I'm-taking-my-ball-and-going-home internet drama from here, frankly) but honestly I would've been fine if there hadn't been a deletion as well.
posted by axiom at 7:12 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


To be clear, I was mostly responding to dazed_one, there. And at the risk of thread-sitting I'm going to go do something else now.
posted by axiom at 7:13 PM on January 3


Well, to be fair, they weren’t supposed to be here today. [ducks].
posted by rabbitrabbit at 7:14 PM on January 3 [16 favorites]


Great job, everyone.

um... thanks, I guess? At this point, everyone who objected to the comment has been accused of:

* Believing that anyone who doesn't want to delete the comment literally supports murder (?)
* Causing people to feel like they support child abuse (??)
* Forcing people to leave the site (?!?)

Also, fyi, weaponizing someone leaving the site is shitty, especially in defense of a dumb child murder "joke." If you truly believe that deleting one comment is going to cause mass buttoning I don't even know what to say to you.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 7:16 PM on January 3 [9 favorites]


I also think it's absolutely ridiculous to expect to export random-user-flying-off-the-handle praxis to mod team internal management praxis

It is absolutely ridiculous to have mods behave like random users flying off the handle, yes.

It's not good praxis.

Of course it's ridiculous to expect all the same rules to apply to mods as to users. But that doesn't mean mods should be able to wade into threads and toss off rhetorical firebombs without consequence. It means mods should avoid participating in that way in the first place.

Funny thing, cortex. Before you started working here, you were kind of a shitposter! I don't mean you were a bad poster; you were mostly a lot of fun. But you did a lot of ribbing and sniping and general anarchy. When you joined the mods, that stopped -- and it had to stop. This reflects well on you, I think -- you saw the need to adjust your participation to your new role and you did it.

For the site to run, the mods need to hold themselves back a little from some of the forms of participation that make the site fun for the users.

When one of the mods comes into a thread and starts piling on someone in a contentious discussion, that user's gonna wonder if they'll be treated fairly on the site. If one of the mods fires off sarcastic zingers at another user in a thread, everyone reading has the right to wonder if that mod is also gunning for the user behind the scenes, when it comes to moderating their posts and comments.

And, as in this thread, if one of the mods comes into a heated argument and says something so hurtful that it has both sides shook -- and nothing happens, not even an apology? Then users are gonna wonder what (if anything) the rules and standards of behavior around this place really are, and who they apply to.
posted by grobstein at 7:23 PM on January 3 [49 favorites]


The joke didn't land for me because I had to think about it to follow it. Too many steps, I think.

First, what does he mean about understanding why some parents kill their kids? When is the response to that actually understanding? What is this talking about? Ah, it's about children being annoying! And parents losing patience and killing them! 'Oh, like shaken babies,' my brain fills in, accompanied by flashes of memories of news stories, and thud, there went the joke. Anything funny or relatable long gone, because instead then all I'm feeling is horror - the tragedy of a killed child and parent that has to live with something unthinkable.

FWIW, I don't have children, by a combination of choice and circumstance.

I think this thread could have gone very differently if instead of starting from a "jokes about killing children should not be allowed" perspective, it started from a "this is how this joke in specific made me feel." "I-language," if you like. That would have created room for actually interesting conversations about how often actually yeah, talking about sending kids into the sun or eating them or whatever can be a cultural trope that seems harmless, what is different about different incarnations of the trope, what is prudent for a general audience site, etc.

I think it was starting from the 'how is this even allowed' place that set the stage for this conversation setting up parents against non-parents - when I can see from the comments here (and it doesn't surprise me at all) that parents *and* non-parents come down on every 'side' of whether it was a joke, whether it was funny, whether that matters, whether it should stand. But it subtly centered the *assumed* position of parents as the obvious and correct one.
posted by Salamandrous at 7:27 PM on January 3 [8 favorites]


I deleted it because it was a dark joke (one that I personally got while rolling my eyes at it a little) that wasn't on the balance important to the thread and was bugging a bunch of people.

All still bad reasons to delete it.
posted by dazed_one at 7:29 PM on January 3 [11 favorites]


I don't think that a regular user would be punished in any way for Eyebrows' comments in this thread. I'm not saying they were the greatest comments in the history of moderation, but I also think Eyebrows basically does an excellent job, has done so for years, and has earned the benefit of the doubt. Focusing the conversation on them is a distraction.
posted by Kwine at 7:37 PM on January 3 [93 favorites]


Seconded. I personally don’t think the comment was that far outside the realm of some others in this thread tbh. She realized she shouldn’t be participating and tagged out and that’s that as far as I’m concerned.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 7:41 PM on January 3 [28 favorites]


You know, the "boy, Metafilter was better in the old days" crowd loves to pine for the fight-y MeTa threads of old, but now we've had like two in a row, and I'm just reminded of how shitty it was when this happened every week.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:45 PM on January 3 [58 favorites]


A dynamic that's puzzled me before:

- Someone makes a MetaTalk post reproducing language from a comment/post they find objectionable, asking if this is the sort of thing that should be allowed on the site.
- There's a big fight about whether it should stand. Others reproduce and allude to the language to interrogate its use.
- A mod deletes/edits the original text while specifying that this is a case-by-case decision.
- There's a big fight about it having been deleted.

What's the takeaway?

- Was the language inherently problematic, in which case much of this thread should be deleted (or closed to comments)?
- Is it important to delete the original use to head off argy-bargy in the MetaFilter post (but it's okay to continue here)?
- Or because the original wasn't academic (even if no one actually believes it was actual incitement)?
- Is this lesson for mods to adjust their mod practices going forward (though it seems hard to generalize to other comments)?
- Is it for users (though most aren't reading through this thread)?
- Are these threads mainly just a release valve, which I shouldn't overthink?
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 7:47 PM on January 3 [4 favorites]


though most aren't reading through this thread

I think this is key. MeTa participation is quite low relative to MeFi or Ask.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:52 PM on January 3 [6 favorites]



You know, the "boy, Metafilter was better in the old days" crowd loves to pine for the fight-y MeTa threads of old, but now we've had like two in a row, and I'm just reminded of how shitty it was when this happened every week.


The mods are a bit rusty at modding them. This one probably should have been closed up a while ago, for example. And people are aggressively getting more general unrelated complaints in while they can because metatalks have been limited commodities, leading to less of a natural spot for the thread being closed.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 7:54 PM on January 3 [4 favorites]


I think the mods might be trying a lighter touch with the MeTa queue. I personally am appreciative.
posted by floam at 7:57 PM on January 3 [5 favorites]


One might conclude that the thread is not so much about whether the comment (which I doubt the author sees as an essential contribution, central to their oeuvre) should stand, but whether it was acceptable for the author to think to make it in the first place. But, again, hard to generalize beyond "tread lightly, always be sincere and never facetious as a precaution." And most MeFites either won't read this thread or think it pertains to them.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 8:00 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


Focusing the discussion on moderation seems prudent to me. I was pretty shocked to see a mod talk about community members this way. A mod should "tag out" well before that happens. They're paid to approach the site with a different countenance than a regular user. It's what makes Metafilter a great place--the moderation, which is often very steady and careful here, unlike most places on the web. Slip-ups happen; mods are human, but I hope that things happen behind the scenes to help prevent this in the future. And by that I mean I think the mods should work out a more robust system for tagging out and, in Metafilter's parlance, taking a walk when they feel upset. This is not just because of what happened today in this unfortunate thread, but because of an overall pattern that seems to be forming. I'm trying to say this kindly and fairly, but I'm a bit worried lately.
posted by sockermom at 8:08 PM on January 3 [40 favorites]


I think you make some good points, sockermom. I'd be interested in hearing more about the overall pattern that you see.
posted by Kwine at 8:12 PM on January 3


Great gobbering fuckfilch what has gotten into people?
posted by Burhanistan at 8:14 PM on January 3 [16 favorites]


Mucus and fever. Buckets full of mucus. Too much fever. Speaking purely for myself.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:21 PM on January 3 [9 favorites]


The phrase/joke(?)/sentiment was expressed in my father's time and no doubt my grandmothers time. I've enquired, the rationale so to say, is interesting ya see, say in the depression, leather tough times and one member consistently puts the family at dire risk on numerous occasions with no end in sight. Work, beatings, isolation do not work. So. Yeah.
Don't use it.
posted by clavdivs at 8:21 PM on January 3


FLO!
posted by clavdivs at 8:21 PM on January 3 [5 favorites]


I don't know, man. I didn't blink an eye at the original comment but my jaw dropped when I read this thread. I realize its a relatively small number of mefites participating here but it feels like the WWF Royal Rumble of my childhood. I feel like I should watch out for flying folding chairs.
posted by Gray Duck at 8:22 PM on January 3 [22 favorites]


(And if that’s your thing, may I recommend the Mean Gene obit thread.)
posted by Barack Spinoza at 8:27 PM on January 3 [3 favorites]


I am amazed that this thread is still open, what is even happening in here.

Folks you realize that there are actual bad things in the world that you could be upset about, right? If you're this determined to be upset about something?

I guess maybe everybody's feeling frayed around the edges, maybe it was a rough holiday, but sheesh. Bad joke or not, bad deletion or not, this issue does not deserve all of... *waves hands vaguely* ...this.

Maybe an old-timer can come along and post a recipe or something so we can end out the meta on the right note? Or are we waiting for more folks to button first? (where's that cut-off-my-hand guy when you need him)
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 8:39 PM on January 3 [5 favorites]


Here's a video from Bon Appetit where the charming drag performer Miz Cracker demonstrates her latke recipe.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 8:43 PM on January 3 [10 favorites]


(walks into MeTa, hangs up hat, looks at the room, picks up hat, walks out)

I'll check back in on ya in a few months.
posted by cmyk at 8:49 PM on January 3 [9 favorites]


OmG, mean Gene. I can hardly conceive of my childhood were it was D&D Saturdays with The animated Hobbit and 'sword and the Sorcerer' playing till the tape stretched out... to WWF. WTF, Rick Flair.
posted by clavdivs at 8:56 PM on January 3


I think it was starting from the 'how is this even allowed' place that set the stage for this conversation setting up parents against non-parents

I think that's a very good point, Salamandrous.
posted by soundguy99 at 9:01 PM on January 3 [6 favorites]


I no longer recommend this site to others. At this point the learning curve for safe participation is essentially vertical and I cannot ask friends to risk it. This thread is a distillation of my reasons.
Even by the standards of fucked up MeTa threads this one is utterly incomprehensible - passive aggression turned in on itself so hard that most of the comments here are just lists of trigger words loosely strung together with spite.
Did we reach any usable conclusion here? Or should we just keep talking about the indestructible solidarity of the MeFi community while simultaneously calibrating more and finer ways to place each other in a moral hierarchy?
posted by thatwhichfalls at 9:09 PM on January 3 [53 favorites]


During the height of the #MeToo revelations, when those posts and the news they contained seemed damned near relentless, "I'm Not Even Supposed to Be Here Today!" was a voice of kindness, knowledge and reason towards those whose sexual assaults and abuse are normally marginalized, ignored or dismissed. Minority women. Trans women and men. Childhood survivors of abuse. Male victims. Even just publicly acknowledging that they exist and saying their traumas should be part of the overall conversation is out of the box for this place.

"I'm Not Even Supposed to Be Here Today!" consistently tried to debunk toxic myths about victims of rape and abuse. It made those threads much less hostile and more clear-headed and I'm very grateful for that.

Consider how much we lose when someone like that gets driven to close their account.
posted by zarq at 9:20 PM on January 3 [67 favorites]


I'm not saying their leaving isn't a loss for the site. But it mostly seemed to be a "well, fine then!" reaction when cortex made the pretty reasonable request to take the spat they were having with another user out of the thread?

We've lost lots of good people over the years, and that makes me sad. But I do think there can be a weaponizing of people leaving - "Well, look what you've done, now X has left!" Leaving doesn't necessarily mean you had the moral high ground.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:25 PM on January 3 [28 favorites]


Except that they offered to take it out of the thread first and the other poster declined.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:31 PM on January 3 [21 favorites]


"I think it was starting from the 'how is this even allowed' place that set the stage for this conversation setting up parents against non-parents..."

Well, cultural norms have set up a situation where childfree folk and parents are inevitably set against each other. To the degree that it becomes all about impersonal class generalizations and resentments against people as a class. Even when they're right there in the conversation as an individual.

I have the privilege as a man to not have experienced the whole treated-as-a-baby-machine "when are you having children?" thing. I've been aware of this behavior most of my life, and listening carefully to women discussing their experiences with this -- but it's something I can only understand, at best, abstractly.

Likewise, as a childless person, I can only understand in the abstract the stuff parents endure, most particularly women (for the same you're-just-a-baby-machine reason), but I pay close attention to it.

I mean, I have deep empathy for women on both sides of this; and for my fellow men, too, though we escape much of the toxicity.

So it deeply pains me to see people here that I know and respect fall so easily into these opposing camps and to stop thinking about how the things they say might hurt someone else because obviously they're the aggrieved party.

If we're strictly talking about characterizing childfree folk or parents (in most cases women) unfairly or hurtfully, then I strongly think both groups have very valid and strong grievances and, sadly and predictably, they all arise out of the patriarchy. Surely it's really the case that both sides have a common enemy and they should resist being pitted against each other?

That said, I want to defend this post and Eyebrows McGee a bit because children are not either of these two classes of people and whatever the fucked-up patriarchal system is that pits mothers against non-mothers is almost entirely separate from how we, as a society, treat children as a class and how we talk about them. As with the elderly, as a class they are institutionally abused and we both ostensibly venerate them even as we dehumanize them. It seems to me there are good reasons -- good social justice reasons and good being considerate reasons -- to be careful about how we talk about children, especially language that evokes violence and dehumanization.

It feels to me like there's been a very powerful reductive tendency in this thread to conflate ideas and groups of people in ways that are unintentionally hurtful.

In many of these difficult Meta threads, one thing I believe I see repeatedly is that, having identified the group of those other "bad people" -- even if it ends up dividing the community into mutually accusing groups -- we end up finding it so, so easy to avoid asking ourselves if maybe, just maybe, I've been the baddie here at some point. If only a little. I sometimes think that the more certain I feel aggrieved, that I'm right, and that this other person or group are hurtfully wrong ... maybe that's precisely the moment I should take a hard look at myself. And a more generous look at others.

I say this as someone with a long record here of arguing against the piety of always taking people in good faith. Often, people have demonstrated that we shouldn't indulge them. So I'm mostly not saying that. Rather, I'm saying we should try to avoid indulging ourselves.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:47 PM on January 3 [32 favorites]


Another joke bites the dust.
posted by valkane at 9:49 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


According to my mom, my brother and I survived childhood because she "didn't know where she could hide the bodies". Given that I was an especially smartass teenager, I'm not going to begrudge her dark sense of humor re murdering her kids.
posted by she's not there at 9:50 PM on January 3 [13 favorites]


Perhaps this is for another MeTa, but I hypothesize it would be tremendously helpful if MeTa posts asking for some change/action were written in a standard format. You know, like how GitHub has issue templates. For instance:

1. What action are you proposing?

Develop and institute a standard template for MetaTalk posts that request mod action or a change to the way MetaFilter functions, technically or as a community.

2. What is the motivation for this action?

Currently it is hard knowing how to make requests in a manner that conveys a problem clearly, allows constructive deliberation with mods and users, and leads to concrete conclusions with a clear plan for implementation.

3. What do you envision to be the outcome?

Improved user engagement with MeFi decision making processes, less rancor on MetaTalk, less staff time spent managing drama and/or parsing amorphous requests, simpler yes/no decisions.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 10:03 PM on January 3 [8 favorites]


Except that they offered to take it out of the thread first and the other poster declined.

So cortex should have just let it carry on perpetually? I didn’t even get the last word in and I’m not that mad about this shit. We weren’t exactly painting the Mona Lisa.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:13 PM on January 3 [7 favorites]


Chrysostom: But it mostly seemed to be a "well, fine then!" reaction when cortex made the pretty reasonable request to take the spat they were having with another user out of the thread?

Uh no.

Building off what elsietheeel pointed out, They didn't just offer to take it out of the thread first. They offered to take it to memail three times.Then after cortex' 'take it to memail' mod note, "I'm Not Even Supposed to Be Here Today!" again said that anyone could take it up with them privately if they wanted to.

Their actual response was "lol ok. I try here, I really do. Ban me if you think that's in the site's best interest but suggesting that I shouldn't respond to people refusing to engage in public or private with me while calling me out? You know that's fucked up."

Which is clearly not "well, fine then!"

There's quite a bit more to their stated interactions and concerns throughout this thread than your description of them here.

Chrysostom: But I do think there can be a weaponizing of people leaving - "Well, look what you've done, now X has left!"

Well, when you see me actually doing something like that feel free to point it out directly, rather than passive aggressively.

Leaving doesn't necessarily mean you had the moral high ground.

Of course it doesn't.
posted by zarq at 10:30 PM on January 3 [15 favorites]


I've enjoyed reading this thread and comment from both sides. I might have missed a few of the last comments, sorry if being redundant.

I'm a parent of 1.8 kids and my deepest existential fear is that anything bad will happen to them. The level of vicarious vulnerability I feel 24 hours is weird and I wonder if previous generations felth them same when the world was a more dangerous place.

Anyway, I hope we don't change any policies to prevent this kind of language. That was an obvious, but dark joke. It doesn't align with my sentiments but we can't start policing this kind of stuff. Those kind of comments rattle me a bit, hell I can't watch war movies anymore because I imagine my children storming normandy, but please let's not make this an enforceable offense on Metafilter.

This next comment isn't meant to be entirely facetious, maybe it's actionable:

We can't protect people from every uncomfortable comment on metafilter. Or maybe it's just time for a new metafilter site. We can have a special, parallel metafilter that consciously avoids all unpleasant ideas and language. No negative comments about populations or individuals. No links to offensive comedy sets, no sad stories about global warming or politics, no ____ shaming of any kind.

If people post something on that site then mods can say, "Take this to Metafilter! This is MetaSpace, we only allow links to videos of baby corgis playing ukuleles."

When creating an FPP the poster can select: MetaFilter, MetaSpace or Both. Posts inappropriate for MetaSpace will get bumped down to MetaFilter.

OR.... maybe keep Metafilter, go full on heavy modding and then create MetaBackAlley. Any post that smells of controversy can be carried by oompa loompas to Metafilter's seedier counterpart where people make off color comments and join a social contract that allows for posts that they might find personally odious.
posted by Telf at 10:30 PM on January 3 [11 favorites]


Most growing open source communities eventually arrive at a point where they have to formalize processes or they'll fall apart. That takes the form of codes of conduct, issue templates, public timelines for feature implementation, etc. Obviously MeFi is a private entity, but it has commonalities with open source projects in that it:

- Has a body of mainly uncompensated contributors and stakeholders.
- Encourages a sense of community ownership by inviting feedback in governance matters.

But it sure seems like there's a reluctance to formalize and a preference to play it by ear, talk things out as though we're a family, and depend on MeFites deeply understanding historical and often unstated site norms. It leads to a lot of unnecessary drama and dissatisfaction. This thread is a case in point.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 10:38 PM on January 3 [11 favorites]


Perhaps this is for another MeTa, but I hypothesize it would be tremendously helpful if MeTa posts asking for some change/action were written in a standard format. You know, like how GitHub has issue templates. For instance:

I get that making lists and trying to restrict the bounds of a given discussion so they (supposedly) function more efficiently is your thing. I really do. But asking people to so drastically narrow their questions into a template that they are:
a) required to practically define the entire conversation in advance
and/or
b) do so in a way that the only possible responses to given posts will be extremely limited

...strikes me as a terrible use of an area of the site where members are being encouraged to come together as a community.

This is a discussion site and most MetaTalk posts are not straightforward "this isn't working" bug requests. They're requests for community input and discussion that don't necessarily have a specific end goal in mind. That's a feature, not a bug.
posted by zarq at 10:42 PM on January 3 [10 favorites]


Building off what elsietheeel pointed out, They didn't just offer to take it out of the thread first. They offered to take it to memail three times.Then after cortex' 'take it to memail' mod note, "I'm Not Even Supposed to Be Here Today!" again said that anyone could take it up with them privately if they wanted to.

man I am not regretting that decision at all. this repeated push, from INESTPH and now from two other people, to frame my only options as "be called a liar in pubilc or be called a liar in private" is creepy as fuck and my initial read of the request as likely to be coming from a fucked-up place seems to have been 100% correct.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:42 PM on January 3 [5 favorites]


Having an increasingly acrimonious argument about someone buttoning seems like an especially unpleasant way to make a difficult thread even worse.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:42 PM on January 3 [17 favorites]


I'd like to ask that, yes, folks just set down all around this whole relitigation of a buttoning thing. It's shaping up as some weird bonus ouroboros of recriminations for its own sake and I see literally no good coming from it.

I'm butter scraped over too much bread and need to go to sleep and I'd rather folks collectively just make an effort to chill than to have to hand off a "who fucking knows where this is going" power keg to the next mod or go back to the erstwhile basically retired stopgap of closing threads. If there's productive shit that bears talking about, talk about it and get this back on some sort of even keel, but let's let the rest be.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:00 PM on January 3 [8 favorites]


"But it sure seems like there's a reluctance to formalize and a preference to play it by ear, talk things out as though we're a family, and depend on MeFites deeply understanding historical and often unstated site norms. It leads to a lot of unnecessary drama and dissatisfaction. This thread is a case in point."

This is a long, firmly established site-preference that didn't come about by accident or neglect, but by careful deliberation, design, and discussion.

Not only is this not going to change, but speaking as someone who's been participating in online communities for 35 years, I promise that your preferred approach comes with its own set of awfulness.

In a whole bunch of situations in life, defining and setting hard boundaries is necessary and failing to do so a recipe for disaster. And, yeah, there's a scaling thing where as a group/institution becomes larger, the need for clearly defined rules increases. If Mefi got much larger, this would definitely be the case.

However, MetaFilter is of a particular size and with a particular, deliberate allocation of resources such that this more informal mode works better. At our size and type of community, strict rules would merely result in an explosion of rules-lawyering and related argument. The debate or workload for the mods would be no less dire.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:00 PM on January 3 [24 favorites]


Y'know, there's a long-standing thing in philosophy where we argue about things that could be proof of the existence (or nonexistence) of God.

...

This thread (and preceding threads) are the latter.
posted by aramaic at 11:06 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


> zarq:
"I get that making lists and trying to restrict the bounds of a given discussion so they (supposedly) function more efficiently is your thing."

I didn't make that suggestion because my ideal MetaFilter involves 27B/6 forms and KPIs and product management jargon. That stuff is so far away from my personal inclination. But I do believe something really isn't working well here in terms of decision making.

Others have brought up how this post's framing negatively impacted the discussion. There's been anger about a mod commenting in a manner more befitting a regular user. There was a seemingly expedient decision by cortex to make a deletion (I'd probably have made the same choice, just to calm things down). Quite a few of us are unsure of what to take away from this thread (Was it really just about this singular joke? Sure seems like a flag and move on situation.).

And I think it bears repeating that most users aren't here. Not even most who care about the site and the way it functions. So if this is a community discussion, it's a qualified one.

Another example: I made a small, technical pony request in October to fix an anchor link. The thread had total consensus in support. Frimble agreed it was an easy fix. Others have brought it up in the "what's one change you'd like to see" thread. And still there has been no thumbs up or down. Something feels broken.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 11:21 PM on January 3 [4 favorites]


You know, I can think of a very specific time when we had a thread like this several years ago, I won’t bring up the specifics, but I was very firmly on the “Jesus Christ, what’s the big deal, no harm was intended, why doesn’t everyone lighten the fuck up about [comment some members found offensive]?!” I dug in enough to get personally attacked and I flamed out and disabled my account.

Then I realized that whether people who are hurt by certain language I use isn’t up to me, it’s up to them. Avoiding hurt feelings isn’t the same thing as policing speech and if my comment is pointless and harmful, then I’m an idiot and I ought to either be mindful and shut up or say what I have to say in a more constructive way.

I’m dark, irreverent, and offensive as fuck. It doesn’t matter how “some people” or “the majority” or the original poster interprets the comment. It matters that some people have expressed feeling shitty about it and if you feel really strongly that some people ought to just feel shitty about some dumb thing someone said, I’d say you deserve a bit of a time out from the site. It did me a world of good.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:25 PM on January 3 [20 favorites]


I'm grateful for people who take the time to post threads and comments saying when something is bothering them, because I like the opportunity to gradually change my behavior for the better. I wouldn't have known that the instigating joke would bother anyone, before this thread.
posted by value of information at 11:28 PM on January 3 [5 favorites]


Let's lighten the mood. It's towards the end of the thread and I want to hear about something not related to child murder.
posted by ericost at 11:28 PM on January 3


Let's lighten the mood. It's towards the end of the thread and I want to hear about something not related to child murder.

Well, we just went up another number.
posted by value of information at 11:31 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


Oh, and that proposal was for MeTa posts that do have a specific goal in mind. I'm not saying the "what's one change you'd like to see" post or Fizz's "chatfilter" posts should be shoved through a questionnaire. Or that responses should also use a template. But people who do want to post requesting a site change may find it helpful for effectively framing their wishes.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 11:34 PM on January 3 [3 favorites]




As a former child who was nearly killed by family I really take offense to the mod reaction that such humor is.. well beyond the pale or whatever was said exactly since i'm disassociating cause it made me feel yet again that I am too ugly a trauma survivor since dark humor is how I keep breathing.. it demeans how trauma can be dealt with differently..between this and mod reaction to a trans thread it really feels less only good well off proper people are meant to be here. People who aren't actually ugly in their healing, or different in their bodies. That's all I say about it cause i'm too afraid of the responses. But it is a pattern i'm noticing lately in the modding.
posted by kanata at 12:58 AM on January 4 [38 favorites]


"...since dark humor is how I keep breathing."

But that's a super-difficult social thing, isn't it? That one survivor's coping dark humor can be another survivor's trigger. And in this case, we aren't talking about a situation where you, the survivor, made a morbid coping joke, but one made casually by a non-survivor.

The example I can relate to is being disabled. Or as a survivor of child-abuse. I very well may make a joke about one of these things in a way that's very dark and part of my coping mechanism. And I would be upset if someone claimed I shouldn't make such jokes within my own private context.

But if I made such a joke publicly with a general audience, I'd feel especially bad if another survivor was hurt by it. I wouldn't feel defensive that somehow their taking offense negated my own right to joke about my life. But I don't have the right to joke about theirs. Unless I had made it clear I was speaking only of my own experience, why wouldn't they naturally feel like I was joking about them?

And, again, furthermore, this apparently wasn't even someone making this joke who had any personal experience. I sure as hell don't want to hear an able-bodied person make an apparently ableist joke and have them or anyone else tell me it's okay because I've made such a joke about my own life. Nor would it be fair or right for another disabled person to tell me I had no right to be offended simply because they were not.

With people's very difficult, traumatic lived experiences, it's always hurtful to tell them that how they feel about it, and how they feel about other people talking about it, is "wrong". None of us have that right about someone else. That I, as a disabled person do or do not take offense at something deemed ableist, in no way gives me the right to say that other disabled people should feel the same about it as I do.

I try to err on the side of overly avoiding being hurtful. Dark, morbid humor is very much a reading-the-room sort of thing and, also, pretty much exclusively the province of people who actually have some skin in the game. Not some random unaffected observer. If it's not something you really have lived experience with, that's more like just being a callous jerk.

With my sister, about our father, I have to be quite aware of the particular emotional context of the conversation, where her head is at in that particular moment. Because she's much more grieving at his death than I, and because she wasn't a target nearly as much as I was. But she was, sometimes. And she'll surprise me sometimes with a darkly ironic sidenote comment about one of his abusive episodes or characteristic behaviors. I'm able to say those things to her, too. But even between us this is fraught territory, where a dark joke can unexpectedly evoke intense pain. Even with people we know very well, even when we share the pain, we have to be sensitive and careful.

Likewise, with the illness and disability she and I share, there's a whole bunch of morbid things we can and do say to each other that other people can't understand, not even our mother. But that's part of our private, shared experience with a whole lot of pain -- hearing some of those quips from someone else, especially someone who doesn't even have a clue -- that would be very hurtful to me.

Maybe I've belabored the point. But some topics are self-evidently very delicate and sensitive and require discretion. Others, it's not self-evident but they nevertheless are and do as well. I'm a bit baffled at why it seems so onerous to some people to be expected to be considerate about these things and to be aware that their personal standard isn't universal.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:52 AM on January 4 [23 favorites]


My favourite number is 99.

Also, everyone here has some value. Be kind to each other.
posted by Fizz at 3:13 AM on January 4 [6 favorites]


“This is MetaSpace, we only allow links to videos of baby corgis playing ukuleles."

I’m in!
posted by billiebee at 3:49 AM on January 4 [3 favorites]


Well, good morning. As the mod on whose shift this MeTa came in (not Eyebrows, as was implied above) I think I have a better understanding of where we are on this than I did. And that is this:

Talking about dead children is triggering for a lot of people.

Not in the "hurf durf are you triggered" sense, but in the sense that it causes people to have strong emotional reactions based on actual trauma. Not everyone, obviously, and clearly a lot of people who have trauma around harm to children don't have this particular trigger, but for the people for whom it is a trigger, it causes an overwhelming negative response. That makes it a pretty bad subject for jokes.

I loathe comparisons, but I'll make one: we mod discussions of and jokes about rape pretty heavily. In part because that is where we want our site norms to be - as a society, I think we'd all be better off if we got to the place where dark humor about rape could actually be funny, but we're a very long way from there - but also because we have an awful lot of sexual assault survivors on the site and the psychic harm done to them by playing around with potentially triggering discussions just flat isn't worth it.

It's clear that we have a lot more people - a LOT more people - who have triggers around harm to kids than I would have guessed. It's such a common kind of black humor among parents of my (and other people's) acquaintance that it didn't occur to me that we'd have as many or more folks with real, serious trauma in that area. And it's also clear to me that, as a community, we need to know this. We need to let it guide our collective sense of what might be funny and what might be not worth the damage.

We can't route around everyone's triggers all the time. Triggers are funny things - they're not always where you'd think they'd be, and they're not always predictable or avoidable in a large community. In general, they need to be managed, communicated, and routed around by the people who have them, because we just can't manage the sheer variety and volume. But we can learn to be sensitive around widely-shared ones and give people space to do that management.

I'm sorry for the folks who have had to deal with the strong negative emotions the joke, and this discussion, have brought up. And I think folks would do well to add this to the list of things that people who are not-you might have genuine personal reactions to that very much don't match yours.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:44 AM on January 4 [64 favorites]


It says something about how clean cut Metafilter's become if you think this is a horrible fight thread. I remember the old Metafilter when foul language and personal attacks were allowed, peppered with images of an elephant peeing. I still remember when Jessamyn posted the chicken fucker picture.

Calm down. Take a breath and do a lap around your living room. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Go find something to post on the blue.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 5:49 AM on January 4 [10 favorites]


We have Disability Day of Mourning because of the regular occurrence of parents killing their disabled children because they were “too much” to handle, so even as a childless person who finds children terrifying (once I had to ask a 5 year old to do something and he said no and crawled under a table and my brain just stopped working?) jokes about murdering them are not, will not, cannot ever be funny to me.

I am not going to go so far as to say these jokes are inherently ableist, but know that they will make many disabled people flinch because it could have been me/I was one of the lucky ones/how many of the next generation of disabled kids is going to die/etc.

Just something else to think about re: triggers, trauma, and the like.
posted by brook horse at 6:22 AM on January 4 [16 favorites]


Calm down. Take a breath...

Please rethink ever doing this again ever.
posted by Etrigan at 6:24 AM on January 4 [25 favorites]


Maybe it would be useful for mods to be able to toggle their own "staff" tag on and off as appropriate on the grey?
posted by sockermom at 6:46 AM on January 4 [12 favorites]


I think that's a good idea. Or maybe the mods have a different user name without a "staff" tag when they're posting as a member instead of a mod?
posted by LizBoBiz at 6:58 AM on January 4 [3 favorites]


Talking about dead children is triggering for a lot of people.

I’ll put my hand up as one of those people. I don’t say anything when these sort of jokes or comments are made and I wouldn’t flag them, but they make my day a little shittier that’s for sure.
posted by supercrayon at 6:58 AM on January 4 [7 favorites]


I'm gonna just push back a bit, now that things are a little calmer, on the assertion that it's super-common for parents to joke about killing their kids. I have never done this, my spouse has never done this, and I have literally never not once heard any of my parent friends do this. My parents, and other baby boomers, said these kinds of things a lot. But among my own peers with children, I have not heard a single joke, not even a very oblique one, about causing harm to children. Not even any jokes about eating their young or flinging them into the sun. I realize there are other people in the thread who say they do it or hear it a lot, but I just wanted to raise my hand and say "Really? Like, for real?" because that is just so incomprehensible to me, and so outside my own lived experience.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 7:11 AM on January 4 [13 favorites]


Calm down. Take a breath...

Please rethink ever doing this again ever.


Now we're jumping on anodyne wishes? Go look at some puppies, for goodness' sake.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:19 AM on January 4 [4 favorites]


To be really clear, telling someone else to calm down is about the least calming thing you could possibly do.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:20 AM on January 4 [54 favorites]


Now we're jumping on anodyne wishes?

Okay, I'm having one of those fucking mornings, so I'll push back. Take another look at that "anodyne wish". It is expressed in the imperative form. It is telling people, and I quote, "Calm down." That is not a wish, it is an order. And so is the rest of that paragraph. Five straight orders, all of which add up to "Anyone who's 'mad' about this is having incorrect emotions."

And my "jumping on" was in the form of, I again quote, "Please rethink". I purposely made it like that because the "anodyne wishes" were in the form of fucking commands, and I didn't want to respond in kind. So no, I'm not going to go look at any fucking puppies, for goodness' sake. I'm going to anodynely wish that you please take a goddamn step back off my fucking porch, neighbor.
posted by Etrigan at 7:30 AM on January 4 [36 favorites]


That's the received wisdom around here but I'm not sure it's actually true. There have been many instances in my life when being told to calm down has made me realize that I'm being a bit ridiculous and need to chill out. I've seen it work on other people too, lots and lots of times. I get that it is sometimes weaponized and used as a way of dismissing someone's distress or even gaslighting them, and that many people (particularly women) have suffered abuse that has included that phrase as a component. I don't think that it's universally true that this is what people are doing when they tell someone to calm down, though.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:30 AM on January 4 [13 favorites]


What is going on? Isn't it a standard thing here to remind people to go for a walk if they're feeling upset about what's posted here? That's been a thing on Metafilter for as long as I can remember. Is there something in the water, or something lodged in our collective scanners? If so, how, and why?
posted by sockermom at 7:37 AM on January 4 [19 favorites]


I think the actual answer is that we’re all suffering the collective trauma of the last year or two, which have been awful. Awful. And while I would never be the one to say who has what trauma, I am seeing some conversations on Metafilter that are starting to look like what happens when groups of veterans get in arguments - a lot of adrenaline and not as much compassion and thoughtfulness.

This thread is fighty as fuck, and seems much more aggro than previous threads about “can you not make X joke, it hurts real people.” I almost want to make a meta-MeTa about how we are talking to each other in MeTas recently. Like - older users are correct that it’s not as rough as the “X User Sucks” days of yore, but it also seems, at least to me, to be getting nastier than it has been, and the reaction to Eyebrows’ comment - a mod I would have said is pretty universally loved - is mind boggling to me.

Yes, the mods get paid, but this is hard, hard fucking work to give us a home away from home. It’s important even if it’s hard to hold onto our scraps of kindness for those who make our home.
posted by corb at 7:46 AM on January 4 [41 favorites]


Reminding people to take a walk and telling them to calm down are very different things. People who are suffering as a result of various bits of language used over and over in this thread, of which for once I am not one, likely do not want to be told what to do about it.

This thread has become a spiderweb and lost its purpose. Yes I realize I am contributing to that right now. But we're talking across one another in a much more unwieldy way than usual.
posted by wellred at 7:51 AM on January 4 [9 favorites]


a mod I would have said is pretty universally loved

huh. One of the problems here is that especially now that we have the MetaTalk queue, there's no good public or private space for a user to be like "hey, nobody's perfect but [moderator] is engaging in [problematic moderator behavior] again, maybe they could get a nudge?" and so the problematic behaviors run unchecked and become more and more annoying. Metafilter could use an ombudsman.
posted by lalex at 8:13 AM on January 4 [11 favorites]


One of the problems here is that especially now that we have the MetaTalk queue, there's no good public or private space for a user to be like "hey, nobody's perfect but [moderator] is engaging in [problematic moderator behavior] again, maybe they could get a nudge?"

I believe most of the mods leave their MeMail turned on and/or have their email addresses in their profiles. Is there a reason why neither of those will work?
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:15 AM on January 4 [2 favorites]


Note also that there is a huge difference between someone saying "Calm down" and implying that emotions are out of place or unwarranted... and someone empathizing with someone who is upset and asking them to calm down and move through that upset anyway. It matters, especially in what corb is, I think, correct in pointing out as a trauma influenced context.

Those are generally received pretty differently. Aaaand both of them are super different to "take a walk" or "your behavior is making things worse right now, I need you to do X" which is not really about validating or rejecting an emotional state.

Tie that to a discussion in which both childless and parenting people are not treated well but I'm different ways, and in which childless and childfree people get conflated and people's desires don't always match their lived status and emotions, grief, and tension runs high. I would suggest that dismissing people as too sensitive is not a particularly good look in this thread.
posted by sciatrix at 8:17 AM on January 4 [11 favorites]


Maybe it would be useful for mods to be able to toggle their own "staff" tag on and off as appropriate on the grey?

That has been talked about before (with general vague approbation from the mods) and I think it is really essential to implement.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:18 AM on January 4 [4 favorites]


That has been talked about before (with general vague approbation from the mods)

I don't remember it this way. We added staff tags on the blue to make mod-style comments more visible and official, since the style itself is trivially replicable and its meaning isn't obvious to new users, but I don't at all remember even a discussion of an option to *remove* them from the grey. It doesn't solve the problem of someone getting their triggers landed on, anyway.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:24 AM on January 4 [1 favorite]


Like - older users are correct that it’s not as rough as the “X User Sucks” days of yore, but it also seems, at least to me, to be getting nastier than it has been, and the reaction to Eyebrows’ comment - a mod I would have said is pretty universally loved - is mind boggling to me. Yes, the mods get paid, but this is hard, hard fucking work to give us a home away from home. It’s important even if it’s hard to hold onto our scraps of kindness for those who make our home.

I don't this statement is fair. First of all, and I'm speaking only for myself, I don't think I was being unkind when I took issue with Eyebrows' comment. I thought it was way out of line; I said so and said why I thought so, criticizing the comment and not the speaker, and that was it. And in any event, there has to be a right to criticize mods' behavior, even ones that are "universally loved," without being accused of unkindness or meanness or what have you. Saying in an even-tempered way that your feelings were hurt by something someone said isn't per se unkind.
posted by holborne at 8:27 AM on January 4 [37 favorites]


Please, please mods, can we just shut this thread down?

Absolutely in agreement with wellred that its become "a spiderweb and lost its purpose": we've accomplished two good things I hope (deleting the original "thud" of a joke and gaining some insight into how jokes intersect with trauma differently), but now we're just flinging out ponies and painful arguments that are straying pretty far from the original scope of discussion. I can't see anything more to be gained, and everyone who has a separate point (and there are a lot of valid ones being raised!) can surely post their own MeTa instead of tagging into this one.

The year has only just begun - can we not start it by ripping each other to shreds?
posted by Ten Cold Hot Dogs at 8:29 AM on January 4 [3 favorites]


I don't at all remember even a discussion of an option to *remove* them from the grey

Not removing them entirely, but making them toggle-able site-wide, to allow mods to make comments as users without it seeming like a statement of site policy. I suspect the reaction to Eyebrows McGee's comments in this thread would not have been as strong if it was clear that they were not Mod Comments. I think the discussion I am remembering was as a part of brainstorming ways to make Official In-Thread Mod Announcements more prominent, but I could be wrong entirely.

I believe most of the mods leave their MeMail turned on and/or have their email addresses in their profiles. Is there a reason why neither of those will work?

I'm generally pretty fearless about confronting authority, and I know that y'all are generally some of the chillest folks around, but that seems like a very intimidating way to bring up the subject, even to me. I think some sort of formal process, like submitting a form, would be easier for most users.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:30 AM on January 4 [8 favorites]


Look. I'm a mom of a disabled child in a community that has killer parents. I get being offended by a child-killing joke. I've also made jokes about wishing my kid into the corn field when he's buttered the cat because it's make a joke or cry.

I'm saying calm down and take a walk because we have two threads now of arguing and every position is stated at least twice, someone's buttoned, and people are still sticking it at each other because they want Lobster Mitten to apologize, and I frankly don't see that happening. All it's going to do is rile up the mod team because they feel they have to defend their staff.

So calm down, take a damned walk, and find something to post on the blue because we all including me at this point are wasting each other's time here otherwise.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 8:31 AM on January 4 [3 favorites]


We're talking about some moderation issues. Please do not shut threads down.
posted by lalex at 8:31 AM on January 4 [7 favorites]


I believe most of the mods leave their MeMail turned on and/or have their email addresses in their profiles. Is there a reason why neither of those will work?

Stifling public discussion about mod decisions and behavior isn't the way things are supposed to be done around here.
posted by zarq at 8:33 AM on January 4 [18 favorites]


I think some sort of formal process, like submitting a form, would be easier for most users.

We've got the contact form and it goes to all the mods at once. A contact form with the ability to send it to only some people is a recipe for confusion the way our single-mod shifts work. Right now the way to complain about a particular mod is to either do it in a way that they can see it or use a private channel, and those seem like pretty reasonable options to me.

Stifling public discussion about mod decisions and behavior isn't the way things are supposed to be done around here.

The public option remains an option, as it always has - I was specifically addressing the private side of lalex's question. I don't believe we've ever declined to put through a MeTa about a specific mod - they don't come up often at all. In fact, I only really remember one about me early in my tenure and one about taz early in hers.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:37 AM on January 4 [1 favorite]


I think the discussion I am remembering was as a part of brainstorming ways to make Official In-Thread Mod Announcements more prominent, but I could be wrong entirely.

This is probably the thread I was remembering.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:38 AM on January 4 [1 favorite]


I believe most of the mods leave their MeMail turned on and/or have their email addresses in their profiles. Is there a reason why neither of those will work?

Yeah, at this point I would never in a million years email a mod about another mod. Your group posture in this public space is extremely defensive with very rare acknowledgement of fault or error.

In some ways this is a good thing - it's good to feel like the people you work with have your back! - but not very conducive to user reporting and observation. This is entirely normal and why organizations have outside systems like HR departments or ombudspeople.

Mods have also, with a couple exceptions, grown increasingly tense and snappish around here. I think this mirrors the zeitgeist and I'm not sure what would be helpful and I feel bad about it but I don't want to engage.

Over the years I've had some pretty surprisingly not-great private conversations with mods and so have a lot of people I know. I've also had some really great private conversations with moderators and so have a lot of people I know. But it's a crapshoot (and definitely somewhat depends on which mod is on shift) and this idea that the mods are so easy and pleasant to contact! is just not true for everyone all the time.
posted by lalex at 8:47 AM on January 4 [32 favorites]


We're social animals, we judge our own feelings based on how we think others feel. That means that having a public taboo on certain feelings can be self-reinforcing -- everyone thinks X is "universally loved", so they don't raise their own concerns, so there is never a public ripple to disrupt the presumption that X is universally loved, even though it might be far from true.

Because of this, groups can come to have radically wrong beliefs about the feelings of their members.
posted by grobstein at 8:54 AM on January 4 [7 favorites]


The public option remains an option, as it always has - I was specifically addressing the private side of lalex's question. I don't believe we've ever declined to put through a MeTa about a specific mod - they don't come up often at all. In fact, I only really remember one about me early in my tenure and one about taz early in hers.

At this point, I have grave doubts that a MetaTalk post documenting an ongoing concern with any mod's actions wouldn't just be quietly killed in the queue.

In the past, I've been yelled at by cortex over memail for privately noting similar concerns to those raised in this thread. In light of that, the idea that you'd all allow such a conversation to be made public seems extremely unlikely.
posted by zarq at 8:55 AM on January 4 [15 favorites]


At this point, I have grave doubts that a MetaTalk post documenting an ongoing concern with any mod's actions wouldn't just be quietly killed in the queue.

There is literally nothing we can say or do that would counter this belief, except perhaps removing the queue, which we can do when we're fully staffed again. Which is hopefully not never, but not foreseeable at this time.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:57 AM on January 4 [1 favorite]


Submit one right now, see what happens.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:57 AM on January 4 [4 favorites]


I'm gonna note again that the existence of the MetaTalk queue is not the same thing as critical MetaTalk posts being yanked upstream as a matter of course. Almost all MetaTalks submitted go through; the ones that don't come down to a mix of 1. this is a bad idea [generally for the poster], 2. this is a contact form question that we can directly answer, 3. this is someone flipping out and would have been deleted immediately if there wasn't a queue, 4. this could use some clarification or reframing to be most useful or avoid a distracting derail. In those latter cases it's usually possible to edit or reframe the original post to be doable, and that's what ends up happening much of the time.

This is something we went through in detail a couple years back. There was a bunch of agita and round-and-round about how the queue was being used and what for and in what volume, and then I sat down and spent an afternoon chunking through the entire queue deletion history and put together a list of what sort of stuff actually did end up dying in the queue and it was pretty bland stuff and people were like "...oh". The current list has basically the same profile.

I know there's folks that would really rather there be no queue, and I'm on the record as liking the idea of the situation feeling like ditching it would be doable. But we're not using it to silence dissent or hide criticism of the mods; in practice I think the main thing we actually miss out on without the queue is intentionally shitty driveby posts (which, though both are in the mix, have historically have been more "this guy is an asshole!" or "you other MeFi people are wrong/cowards/terrible!" than "the mods are bad") and unintentionally awful tirefires where some reasonable intention got married to some bad framing or a tinderbox situation on the site and things spun way out way fast because we didn't have time set aside to be ready to really actively mod the thread from the get go.

I don't have a general solution to the problem that it can feel hard or intimidating or unsatisfying to use the contact form, mefimail, and metatalk tools available to talk with the mod staff when you're already in a position of feeling unserved or done hard by or etc. It can feel inherently like a conflict at that point, and one with an aspect of power imbalance. I'm sympathetic about it. But I also think there's a lot of problematic ways in which personal dissatisfaction or unhappiness with MeFi stuff, or past interactions with the mods, or a presumption that nothing will or can be done, leads to a kind of pre-dooming that dismisses the actual possibility of using those tools and assumes that the mods are just wanting to stonewall or out to get people. That's really, really not the case. I don't know how to talk someone out of it, but it isn't.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:59 AM on January 4 [10 favorites]


"Stifling public discussion about mod decisions and behavior isn't the way things are supposed to be done around here."

You're absolutely correct about this, but how much is there left to discuss? EM voluntarily stepped away from the thread when she realized she was upset and cortex agreed that she should have been a bit more aware of this and done it sooner. And while it was needlessly provocative to make a comparison to a hugely triggering issue, she was obviously correct to make the general point that people are hurt by some of this talk. She shouldn't have specifically brought in that other thing to the discussion, but we've already agreed she was upset and should have backed away earlier.

I really don't like the idea of raking her over the coals about this because, for one thing, I'm of the opinion that we've learned this is a super-sensitive issue for many people.

For another thing, speaking for myself, I greatly appreciate that the mods here are allowed to be people, not robots -- it's too much to expect they won't sometimes cross some lines because we all do, occasionally, that's being human. It's true about all of us in this thread -- including the mods. It's important to acknowledge mistakes, but that's been done.

Gosh, I'm about as sensitive as anyone to getting upset when authority figures abuse their power or are hypocritical. Bullying by authority figures pushes my buttons like nothing else. But re-reading the comments, I don't see that so much as I just see someone being upset and trying, not entirely successfully, to express it diplomatically. I don't know what we can gain by making a big issue of this.

As noted repeatedly by many people here, it's obvious we're all on edge and there's an excess of free-floating anxiety and aggression -- I don't think we should go along with the temptation to release it upon specific people. I've been upset by a few comments, sure, but I don't think I see any reprehensible people deserving serious public censure.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:03 AM on January 4 [32 favorites]


I’ve stayed out of this thread, but, if it’s going to become a discussion on mod practice, that should be shunted to a new MeTa. It’s too separated from what the original theme of the thread; that makes it hard to participate in and hard to find later.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:07 AM on January 4 [26 favorites]


I said LM and meant EM. Sorry, LM.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 9:08 AM on January 4 [3 favorites]


Submit one right now, see what happens.

I don't make stunt posts.

I also don't see the point. Why make a separate public call-out of a mod when we're already discussing the issue here? When we've said much of what would need to be said? I mean, I addressed the current incident upthread and am hoping that won't be dismissed by the mod team when they discuss. I've also discussed a couple of past incidents privately with the mods and cortex via memail when they happened.

If I think a meta is needed in the future, I'll make one and see what happens.
posted by zarq at 9:12 AM on January 4 [3 favorites]


Why make a separate public call-out of a mod when we're already discussing the issue here?

Because the topic of this thread has been thoroughly hashed and people are now talking about something totally different, and I’m guessing the mods are totally painted into a corner right now where if they close this thread up, people will be like “SEE! THEYRE SHUTTING DOWN CRITICISM!” and this thing is going to spiral into a general pile on?
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:16 AM on January 4 [13 favorites]


Why make a separate public call-out of a mod when we're already discussing the issue here?

I think discussing the issue here needlessly conflates the two issues of deleting a particular comment vs talking about mod behavior, especially because it's starting to feel like people are using attacks on Eyebrows McGee as a proxy for attacking people who agree with the deletion. Crossing these two highly charged streams will only make things even more fraught. (I also think people are being uncharitable to Eyebrows, which makes things thornier.)
posted by Frobenius Twist at 9:23 AM on January 4 [2 favorites]


Yes, but surely if y'all are wanting another thread, it should be y'all who make it? Why should zarq make a thread he doesn't agree is needed?
posted by thoroughburro at 9:27 AM on January 4 [3 favorites]


Slarty Bartfast: Because the topic of this thread has been thoroughly hashed

Has it? Comments discussing whether or not jokes are triggering were made in this thread about an hour ago.

and people are now talking about something totally different

It's not "totally different." On the contrary, up until we started talking about the queue a few minutes ago, it's been quite relevant.

and I’m guessing the mods are totally painted into a corner right now where if they close this thread up, people will be like “SEE! THEYRE SHUTTING DOWN CRITICISM!” and this thing is going to spiral into a general pile on?

Are you seriously arguing that people are trying to somehow entrap the mods by voicing concerns in this thread?
posted by zarq at 9:28 AM on January 4 [2 favorites]


I just mailed everyone LSD. Happy New Year!
posted by Burhanistan at 9:31 AM on January 4 [38 favorites]


I do think having the ability to toggle off the staff tag would have been helpful here: Even though I thought it was fairly clear Eyebrows wasn't on duty based on her initial comment, I can see how the tag makes her comment seem more like a formal remark/rebuke rather than personal. People who found the comment out of line* likely would still have been bothered by it, but the added perceived formality of it is a bit like rubbing salt into the wound.

Considering that mods are also the ones who have to tell people "don't do that," I can also see how it'd feel hypocritical: you're doing that thing you tell us not to do! I more perceive it as mods, especially off duty mods, are human and will make mistakes just like regular commenters do, but I can understand why people would have a stronger reaction than that.

I think having the tag stuck on probably made her comments stick out a bit more than it otherwise would have, which I don't think was great for anyone including her seeing all that's followed.

*For the record, I wasn't overly fond of Eyebrow's comment but wasn't mortally offended by it either. My family has had a rough week and some of the jokes we made sure as hell weren't about something abstract, but not everyone copes like we do. I generally agree with Ivan Fyodorovich's sentiment: She probably could have handled things better, but it's also clearly a sensitive topic for many people (unsurprisingly) and a less than perfect reaction is understandable.
posted by ghost phoneme at 9:34 AM on January 4 [5 favorites]


Are you seriously arguing that people are trying to somehow entrap the mods by voicing concerns in this thread?

God no. I always try to assume positive intent on everyone’s part. I’m saying this discussion is already deep into Uglytown and people are digging in. I’m not exactly understanding what outcome is being hoped for here, and I’m not understanding how this thread gets to any outcome. And no mod is going to shut this down, so the only rational thing for anyone who doesn’t want to spend the next few days angry and potentially flaming out is to step away.

I’m going to take down my Christmas stuff now and take my kids (who frustrate me enormously but whom I emphatically do not wish to kill) for ice cream. Have fun with your Getting Mad but please don’t fuck up the Metafilter, I still like the other parts of it and hope it remains an interesting place to exchange ideas.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:52 AM on January 4 [6 favorites]


> This thread has become a spiderweb and lost its purpose. Yes I realize I am contributing to that right now. But we're talking across one another in a much more unwieldy way than usual.

Theory: It's difficult to write a comment that can't be misread in some way, and that presents a dilemma for the reader. If you're reading an honest comment uncharitably, you risk (at worst) hurting feelings or causing a spiralling argument. But if you're reading a dishonest comment charitably, you open yourself up to (at worst) concern trolls, JAQ-offs, and other types with a tendency to toxify the discussion and/or drain emotional labor from others.

Things usually fall short of those worst-case scenarios because MeFi consists of mostly decent people, but results still vary depending on the type of error you're willing to make and the degree of (un)charitableness attributed. Add in variables like the sensitivity of the topic, the status of the user, and people's current moods, and yeah, you get something resembling this thread.

TL;DR: Coming to an understanding on the Internet resembles a comet that can loop around a star several times before it eventually burns up on entry or leaves the planetary system entirely. Or it gets smashed by some other object and comes to an early end. (This is not an endorsement for any option regarding the current discussion; I'm just a stargazer who likes to extend metaphors.)
posted by Arson Lupine at 9:53 AM on January 4 [2 favorites]


In the past, I've been yelled at by cortex over memail for privately noting similar concerns to those raised in this thread.

Really? That's not good.
posted by lalex at 10:01 AM on January 4 [3 favorites]


So the retconned deletion reason is that the comment wasn't actually against site policy, but might be triggering for some. But that's not how we manage other possible triggers, so long as they don't violate policy (actual hate speech, etc.). Why not put a trigger warning at the top of the thread, instead of deleting comments? Honestly no offense to anyone who was triggered by the comment, but if dark comments about children are triggering for you, perhaps a thread on an FPP that is literally nothing but personal venting from people who don't want kids is best entered with extreme caution.

Not trying to be an asshole (which doesn't mean I'm not succeeding anyway), just still trying to understand what makes this case so different that we're basically making new policy around it. At least 3 mods looked at the comment and decided to leave it, then reversed course because it bugged some people and wasn't important to the thread. Neither of which reason meets a standard we normally apply (nor is that a standard that would scale at all).

So now we're saying the real deletion reason is that it's a potentially triggering comment, which, fair enough, is a much better reason for special handling.

And luckily, we already have a method for handling those. Trigger warnings provide Mefites a way to have difficult conversations while also giving Mefites a way to avoid conversations that are likely to trigger them.

I don't expect the mods to reverse course yet again - in fact, I'd rather they didn't. It would be too disruptive. But I would like to remind them that in the future, there are other tools in their belt aside from deleting comments that may be triggering, particularly when those comments are in threads consisting almost entirely of people venting about their lived experience.

In that same vein, I would respectfully request that the mods edit this MetaTalk thread to put the pull-quote below the fold and include a trigger warning in the subject line. Triggering language should always be below the fold.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:04 AM on January 4 [25 favorites]


I'm kind of baffled by your position, IRFH. "It bugged some people and wasn't important to the thread" is probably in the top three reasons why we ever delete anything on the blue. In this case it didn't immediately derail the thread, so the feedback mechanism was somewhat delayed, but when people made it clear that it was a big problem for it, we pulled it. This is well within the normal course of business for us.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:15 AM on January 4 [9 favorites]


You can have a site where people have to just roll with freeze peach and dark stuff or you can have a site where users' objections are taken seriously and there's an expectation that certain standards of respect and decorum are adhered to. If you're going to take the latter path, you can't halfass it and be all "can't you take a joke?" when you don't care about the ox that's getting gored.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:17 AM on January 4 [6 favorites]


How is asking for a trigger warning not taking the objections seriously? How is asking to treat this trigger the same as other triggers and sticking the pull-quote below the fold disrespectful?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:27 AM on January 4 [10 favorites]


And while it was needlessly provocative to make a comparison to a hugely triggering issue, she was obviously correct to make the general point that people are hurt by some of this talk. She shouldn't have specifically brought in that other thing to the discussion, but we've already agreed she was upset and should have backed away earlier.

I don't think people are reacting only to the prison rape comparison, but also to the overall tone of Eyebrows's participation in this thread as a mod. Ex. People also complained about EM's suggestion that the original comment could only have been made by someone who didn't consider children to be real humans worthy of moral consideration. Remember?

Maybe this behavior wouldn't be over the line for a regular user. But mods are not regular users. I think it's important for the mods to focus their criticism on what a user has done, not on what a rotten soul the user has. This is especially the case when the user's transgression is a one-off, not a recalcitrant pattern of troll-y behavior.

Furthermore, I don't think what's happening is that people are overreacting to one particular incident. Rather, the reaction to this particular incident is prompting people to express feelings that they've had before but haven't expressed publicly. Ex: 1, 2, 3.

I don't usually spend a lot of time here anymore, so I didn't come into this thread with a lot of opinions about individual mods. But this thread has influenced my opinions, and it has made it clear to me there are a bunch of people who think what we've seen here is not entirely anomalous; rather it is somewhat representative.

We don't see a lot of public criticism of the mods, because it risks antagonizing the mods. If I was a mod, I would dislike users who intensely criticized me or signal-boosted intense criticism of me. I would be more inclined to see them as "problem users," or, if they were scrupulously careful and polite, I would see them as cleverly concealing problem-user tendencies, and I would be extra-alert to their occasional slip-ups. I don't expect the mods to be much more angelic and self-effacing than I am. Most of us don't want to be problem users, so we aren't eager to criticize the mods.

Because of this dynamic, we can't really rely on users to police the mods. Instead, we have to rely on norms to avoid and mitigate conflict between users and mods. These norms are accepted and internalized by the mods themselves, as well as the users.

What norms prevent the development of enmity between users and mods? Well, some users will feel antagonized when the mods are just doing their job -- enmity can't be avoided entirely. But hostility between mods and users is a bad enough problem that reasonable steps should be taken to minimize it. In particular, the mods should avoid participating in ways that risk creating hostility -- even if those behaviors might not be all that objectionable by themselves, and even though that might make it less fun for mods to participate in the site.

I have a few rough ideas for guiding mod participation in public threads. I should say, I am basing these ideas mostly on the good job the mods have been doing for years. I don't see myself as trying to lay down the law. Rather, I am mostly trying to codify the good behaviors I have seen modeled by the Mefi staff. I hope these ideals will be pretty uncontroversial, even if some might wonder where I get off saying them.

Proposed ideals for mods conducting themselves as users:

1. Don't wade into heated debates unless they're about the site. Moderators will have to moderate heated debates, so they shouldn't join them as participants. Moderators are people, and as people they can have opinions on all the issues of the day. Accordingly, they may want to wade into heated debates. But this is unhealthy for the site. Bruises from these debates can lead to hostility, and, while hostility between regular users may be okay, hostility between users and mods is harmful to the site.
2. In a heated debate about the site, stick to the points relevant to site policy. When a heated debate is about the site, then moderators may be forced to wade in, but this is still risky. When moderators participate in a heated debate about the site, they should frame their participation so that it is just about the site, not about any other issues that may also be part of the debate. Further, it may be better to frame their participation as explaining how and why the mods have made a decision, rather than arguing for one side or another.
3. Criticize behaviors, rather than users. Do this even when you are not talking directly about a particular person. For example, don't say that people who do X behavior are lacking in empathy. Instead, criticize X behavior.
4. Don't be sarcastic or insulting. If you are responding to a user you think is behaving badly, it is better to call out their behavior than to fire back (even if it would be fine for a regular user to fire back). If a user is just being a little irritating, and it is not part of a larger pattern of misbehavior, consider letting it go. In considering whether one of your comments will read as sarcastic or insulting, be more cautious than a regular user and err on the side of more neutral language.
posted by grobstein at 10:30 AM on January 4 [17 favorites]


Metafilter is a feast of ideas, comments, asides, alliances, dalliances, observations both solitary and raised in unison. It is an accurate map of this medium, and a well moderated area, well, does not imply perfect. What perfection that exists comes from much communication and consideration. We each bear a piece of the place and a responsibility to consider what comes to the table. Metafilter is a house, not a mad house, not a personal residence, not a fiefdom, but a resonable terrain. We can come here shredded, as long as we say so, Metafilter is not Whack A Mole. We all suffer what we suffer, each unique and not to be compared, rated, serrated, eviscerated, judged, prodded, buffed or rebuffed. If we don't know this by now then time will fix that. Metafilter is fine and well, it changes in every waking or sleeping nanosecond. just like everything else. This thread is not all that, it is so soft by comparison to the gravelly past. Gravity has been turned up, it is hard on everyone.
posted by Oyéah at 10:33 AM on January 4 [4 favorites]


In the past, I've been yelled at by cortex over memail for privately noting similar concerns to those raised in this thread.

zarq, if you've sent me mefimail specifically about eyebrows I'm not finding it. I could be failing to guess more indirect search terms so if I am missing something there, let me know the date and I can look more directly.

We have had a couple of non-mefimail email conversation about you and her in the last three years. I can certainly get hollery sometimes but I wasn't in either of them; I was definitely critical of some of the specific ways you were making an otherwise okay complaint, and I told you flatly to cut a couple things out that you hadn't understood were out of line. The main crux in the earlier of those two conversations was that you'd made EM genuinely uncomfortable by mefimailing her out of the blue with an I think basically well-meaning but still pretty yeesh-feeling "you're new at this modding thing, so let me tell you how to do your job" sort of note after you disliked one her comments. I don't think you had meant to do so, but you did, and I told you as much, and you apologized, and beyond that we basically came to a place of agreement on where your concerns about community and moderation stuff were at.

In the later conversation, there was as far as I can tell zero heat at all; it was coming off of a heated thread where you two had butted heads a little in a non-moderation context; I said I basically thought both of you could have handled it better but that I understood where you were coming from, and we talked it out a little.

I really dislike revisiting and summarizing stuff like this because I really don't like digging through and re-upping past correspondence, and I understand that the where "x happened like this" summaries not fitting tightly with the paper record is generally an artifact of memory and personal perspective getting in the way, not malice or intentional misrepresentation.

But I'm super uncomfortable with the idea of just trotting out "yeah, well, [deeply oversimplified summary of a past conversation]" as way to engage on this stuff, especially in an already tense situation where we have a basic responsibility all around to not dangle something like that in a potentially fire-starting way. It ends up putting me in precisely this position where it's either do an hour of research to suss out the details all over again, or let a flat accusation just sort of hang there with a silence-is-assent charge to it.

I think your past statements of concern are genuine, and I don't think you are, like, out to get EM or anything. I know you come at this place from a pretty genuine position of caring about it and wanting it to be good, and I take that at face value even when I am frustrated with your approach. But I also think you are implicitly excusing yourself, however unintentionally, of any possible bad behavior here in the process of pursuing that existing set of negative feelings about her and her work, and that kinda sucks and is hard to know what to do with.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:34 AM on January 4 [18 favorites]


Can a mod tell us exactly what the site policy currently is for any jokes about murder? I find it weird that this has spawned a big sprawling debate about this joke and other jokes and I still don't know.

Considering that the OP of this MeTa said I’d prefer a hard-and-fast rule over case-by-case judgment on comments of this nature, but am curious to hear the community’s thoughts,

I wish we had gone that route. As a community, we'll never be able to avoid any topic or comment that's upsetting to some people. Ad-hoc deletions, as I think we're seeing here, lead to some ugly real-time questions about biases and courts of opinion. I would much rather have seen the commentary in this MeTa framed as "here are some comments that bothered me in that post, can we discuss how to set future guidelines around this language?"

There's a big cognitive dissonance within this thread about whether/when it's OK for parents to joke about harming their kids, and whether/when it's OK for non-parents to joke about harming kids. It's obviously a tricky subject and I'm really uncomfortable with letting ad-hoc deletions like this go on without a MUCH bigger conversation about which contexts are acceptable for jokes and why.
posted by nakedmolerats at 10:42 AM on January 4 [4 favorites]


Now that i'm more grounded..I understand people handle trauma different ways and wasn't objecting to the deletion.. more the mod comment that people who laughed or made such a joke had no empathy for children. I assume anyone with a mod tag is acting as a mod. I was unaware they couldn't turn it off. I have other problems with mod behavior in trans metas but don't bring any of these up as it's scary as fuck to do that. I just don't want people to think I was dismissing people's emotions towards that comment. I know that those who cope in dark ways do need to read the room. I'm sorry if my words hurt anyone.
posted by kanata at 10:43 AM on January 4 [15 favorites]


Nakedmolerats, it's generally a rule that threatening or fantasizing about violence is a delete. It gets a little blurry the more clearly hyperbolic/metaphorical it is (we've had conversations about why we don't really classify quoting "First, kill all the lawyers" as an instadelete, although it can be a shitty comment in context) but as a general rule, it's not useful rhetoric and we strongly discourage it.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:49 AM on January 4 [2 favorites]


We have had a couple of non-mefimail email conversation about you and her in the last three years. I can certainly get hollery sometimes but I wasn't in either of them; I was definitely critical of some of the specific ways you were making an otherwise okay complaint, and I told you flatly to cut a couple things out that you hadn't understood were out of line.

One of the things that I quickly learned when I used to have a very similar job to yours is that all critical comments from people in authority come across an order of magnitude louder than the same kind of comment from someone not in authority. So while you might not have intended to come across as hollery, I don't think a user describing a situation where they were flatly told to stop a certain behaviour as getting yelled at is some kind of disingenuous self-serving summary on the part of the user. "Zarq got yelled at for memailing EM about her modding" is about how I'd summarize your summary.

The main crux in the earlier of those two conversations was that you'd made EM genuinely uncomfortable by mefimailing her out of the blue with an I think basically well-meaning but still pretty yeesh-feeling "you're new at this modding thing, so let me tell you how to do your job" sort of note after you disliked one her comments.

Can you explain a little more about how these messages were over-the-line? Were they more attacky than your description suggests? Was the very act of sending a MeMail instead of a Contact form submission the problem? Because otherwise that seems like it's pretty par for the course in terms of providing feedback on moderator actions.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:57 AM on January 4 [17 favorites]


Indeed, it's been explicitly advertised as an appropriate method of contact by a mod in this thread:
I believe most of the mods leave their MeMail turned on and/or have their email addresses in their profiles. Is there a reason why neither of those will work?
posted by thoroughburro at 11:04 AM on January 4 [6 favorites]


Because otherwise that seems like it's pretty par for the course in terms of providing feedback on moderator actions.

Right, so zarq emails EM with some feedback on her modding which is apparently unacceptable enough to garner a response from cortex, generating an apology. Then zarq rather reasonably takes his concerns (which he is not alone in) to cortex instead of EM, and gets picked on for how he makes the complaint even though it seems like the complaint was "okay" and valid? Yeesh.
posted by lalex at 11:11 AM on January 4 [14 favorites]


Honestly no offense to anyone who was triggered by the comment, but if dark comments about children are triggering for you, perhaps a thread on an FPP that is literally nothing but personal venting from people who don't want kids is best entered with extreme caution.

This would normally be quite spot on advice but the issue is this: the title of the thread and post wording are

“8 Women on Choosing Not to Have Kids

We talk a lot about the many shapes families take. So, what about those of us who choose not to parent?”

I thought this FPP was really interesting for a lot of reasons. The article was great! However nothing about it indicates to me that the thread might include jokes about murdering children. And I doubt when the OP made the thread they would have guessed kid killing jokes were likely either so why would they have thought to put a trigger warning in the post?

Like if the FPP was “Why I don’t want kids - because they suck!” I might have known better but my bad I guess.

I guessed the thread would be filled with people sharing their experiences, and I would expect there to be some venting sure. I would have guessed that would mostly been about either the patriarchal society that insists that women are baby lachines. Or venting about how we treat having kids like some kind of necessary “being an adult” activity that everyone must participate in. Or venting about how heteronormative and narrow our frameworks for child bearing and raising are. Or venting about how busybody people always will get up in your business about having children. Or even some venting about kids in general. Or lots of other things.

But like why would I have assumed “murder children tho amirite jk” would be something I would need to look out for? Maybe I was being super naive? I guess I should avoid discussions about being childless in the future as I should assume they may also contain jokes about killing kids? I’m not being sarcastic - I actually will avoid these threads in the future if I was operating on stupid assumptions.

As I said before, I didn’t say anything about that joke and didn’t flag it at the time. I’m not trying to be a pain in the bum, I’m happy to take responsibility for myself and peace out of topics that aren’t going to be something I want to read. I just didn’t assume that being childfree would have to be one of those topics.
posted by supercrayon at 11:13 AM on January 4 [12 favorites]


why is this memail exchange now a topic for general discussion in a MeTa about murder jokes? this isn't transparency, this is just gossipy and weird.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:14 AM on January 4 [20 favorites]


Parents joke constantly about how they don't murder their children or how their children deserve to be sent down the river or whatever. This seems to me to be more connected to people not liking that some people don't like kids, and who had their heckles already raised in the thread.

I came here to say this, basically. I think the thread, like all childfree threads, annoyed some parents. And this is the retaliation to show how "unacceptable" people who don't want kids are.
posted by agregoli at 11:24 AM on January 4 [22 favorites]


This is a good illustration of why we try hard not to discuss private correspondence and get frustrated when other folks bring it up in ways that make it very difficult to talk about concretely.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 11:25 AM on January 4 [7 favorites]


"It bugged some people and wasn't important to the thread" is probably in the top three reasons why we ever delete anything on the blue.

Certainly true in the politics threads and at the very beginning of potentially contentious threads. This was neither of those. And I feel that deletions of comments in the venting threads should meet a higher bar. This comment was essentially downvoted, and mostly by the same people the thread was at least partially complaining about. Parents. Parents who feel entitled to force their voices on the childless (that's what the thread was about, to be clear, I'm not suggesting that the parents here are that crass). So if the real reason for the deletion is flags and complaints, I've already said more than enough on the subject.

But if it's because the complaints were made by people who were triggered by the comment, then the comment above stands. Treat the comment, similar comments, and this very thread as triggering. Which we kind of already have processes for. If it's a combination of both- which I suspect is the case- then I suggest treating it as a trigger by default.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:26 AM on January 4 [11 favorites]


Indeed, it's been explicitly advertised as an appropriate method of contact by a mod in this thread:

Ah, perhaps I wasn't clear - if you want to complain about a mod to someone who isn't that mod, using a private channel to, ideally, cortex, or one of the other mods that you feel comfortable talking to, is a reasonable option. If you want to complain about a mod and you want them to see it, it's vastly more appropriate to just use the contact form - that's the official channel, cortex (who is all of our boss) will see it, and the conversation will be in the general mod record. It also avoids any whiff of an attempt at private harassment, which is seldom but not never what's going on there.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 11:29 AM on January 4 [3 favorites]


Agreeing that there isn't much here, but also... The context of a) EM having recently stepped up as a mod and b) email being from zarq, who is a very old school member with a lot of social capital and experience on the site....

...combined with the characterization of that email as not being so much a complaint as advice on how to do the job, especially coming from someone who has never done it, especially coming from a male member to a junior female mod?

I don't think I would have reacted well either. I certainly don't think I would have felt as confident in my presumed power as y'all seem to think, either.

I think I am still the only person who has had a MeTa on a substantive problem held up indefinitely in the queue. I know that the last time we had this conversation--I would dig up the link if I wasn't on mobile--I pointed out that the fault there was as much on me as anyone, and as the only non mod person in that conversation I would like it if y'all would trust me on that, especially given that folks at the time were describing the incident as some kind of conspiracy as opposed to bad timing and a distracted attention span primarily on my part. The MeTa went up a little while after that conversation, and it went well enough; it will be the one in my profile about US residents outside coastal cities.

I agree that this thread needs to not become the "is our modding okay" thread, though, because it is pure chance that I happened to have it in my activity and I imagine that if we need to have that conversation that more people would like to know it is happening.
posted by sciatrix at 11:29 AM on January 4 [9 favorites]


Yeah, in re this particular part:

I don't think you had meant to do so, but you did, and I told you as much, and you apologized,

There's a power imbalance here that you (cortex) may not be entirely appreciating (or, for that matter, that I may be overstating). Your version of it seems to be zarq was wrong, and he eventually admitted that; it could easily be read as cortex bullied zarq into believing that he had to apologize or suffer some form of official or unofficial sanction.

Also, I am (again) pretty uncomfortable with the mod team punching down* on this sort of thing publicly, by name.

This is a good illustration of why we try hard not to discuss private correspondence and get frustrated when other folks bring it up in ways that make it very difficult to talk about concretely.

I wish the collective you would try harder.

* -- Yes, I'm intentionally using that term. Y'all are in charge of this place. You are, in every conceivable way, "up" from the rest of us.
posted by Etrigan at 11:30 AM on January 4 [12 favorites]


I think the thread, like all childfree threads, annoyed some parents. And this is the retaliation to show how "unacceptable" people who don't want kids are.

it's better to assume that people are engaging in good faith, and aren't making up the fact that thinking out loud about murdering kids is upsetting to them, rather than making completely unfalsifiable claims that they're just trolling out of spite.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:33 AM on January 4 [21 favorites]


I wish the collective you would try harder.

I wish people would not put us in this position by broadly paraphrasing private conversations with us in such a way that we have to clarify or let people be misled.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 11:33 AM on January 4 [10 favorites]


I don't want to be the one to try and make the MeTa about moderator behavior, but I kinda feel like we need one. I agree pretty wholeheartedly with what grobstein said a little ways above. What I am about to say kinda terrifies me but I'm just going to go ahead and say it because I feel like we've been circling around this for a while now.

I feel like Eyebrows inappropriately mixes personal and professional participation on this site, and that her conduct as a moderator is sometimes colored more by her personal values than by site guidelines. I don't feel that she is as dispassionate and respectful toward users as the other moderators are. I don't trust that she is always able to separate what is good for the site from what makes her feel good personally.

I feel really shitty for saying that publicly, but I feel somewhat heartened by several comments upthread which lead me to believe that I may not be the only user who feels this way. If someone braver and more energetic than me wants to make an actual MeTa about it, I don't think it would be a bad thing.

For now though I'm going to go busy myself with other things. People can do what they like with my comments, I'm not going to defend them. They're just how I feel, for better or—more probably—for worse.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 11:35 AM on January 4 [40 favorites]


Adding my voice of agreement to everything Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The says above. And also expressing my fear of, not retaliation, but uncomfortableness in doing so.
posted by cooker girl at 11:39 AM on January 4 [7 favorites]


I don't want to quash this discussion but it's really getting to the point where there's a different MeTa to be had, and if someone will write one up, I think we'd all be better off splitting out the convos.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 11:40 AM on January 4 [6 favorites]


And this is the retaliation to show how "unacceptable" people who don't want kids are.

Since some people with children have said that they are not bothered by such comments, and some people without children have said they are bothered by such comments, I think your assertion here is unfounded, factually deficient, and consists of you simply assuming the things you want to be true.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:45 AM on January 4 [8 favorites]


it's better to assume that people are engaging in good faith, and aren't making up the fact that thinking out loud about murdering kids is upsetting to them, rather than making completely unfalsifiable claims that they're just trolling out of spite.


I agree, but I also think- NB that I have not dug into archives - there has not been a metatalk in my memory about parents making jokes about "I could just kill" my kids for x,y,or z, and I know those types of comments have appeared on this site, and I think there is a recognizable gulf between the contexts in which this is OK because "we all know it's a joke", and contexts that lead to upset and deletions and Metatalks. I don't think it's unfair to acknowledge both that people are truly upset about some comments, AND that there's a cultural context in which childfree people's comments tend to be more heavily flagged and modded in this department, and that IMO is a problem that requires a more hard-and-fast rule that applies to everybody.
posted by nakedmolerats at 11:49 AM on January 4 [5 favorites]


I am INCREDIBLY uncomfortable with cortex sharing modmail correspondence in this thread that was from a longtime user.
posted by bibliogrrl at 11:49 AM on January 4 [22 favorites]


I'm with bibliogrrl on this one. I am afraid people will be less likely to use the contract form if there is a risk that what they share privately could be pasted publically.
posted by 4ster at 11:53 AM on January 4 [8 favorites]


And thanks to etrigan, we have a new MeTa about moderation, so if we could fork the conversation, that'd be excellent. Thanks.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 11:57 AM on January 4 [3 favorites]


I'm with bibliogrrl on this one. I am afraid people will be less likely to use the contract form if there is a risk that what they share privately could be pasted publically.

Especially when, in the middle of a discussion about the authority of the mod voice, someone making a valid criticism about the contact form method of communication is characterized by the mod team lead as, more or less, a well-meaning but clueless mansplainer.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:58 AM on January 4 [11 favorites]


Okay, so what are the best practices for mods with a long time user bringing up correspondence into a public conversation and using it as evidence to make a point?

I am genuinely curious about this. What would people be most comfortable with in that situation? My personal general preference is to believe all of my private discussions are potentially public, but that's my own fucked up history with alluded and mischaracterized conversations: I do not really feel safe in private, and I gut-level believe that I am safest when other people have all the context on my behavior and can judge for themselves. This is, to be clear, a belief I hold irrationally and without evidence, one that is the result of extended emotional abuse and gaslighting. I don't expect anyone else to share, but it's a belief anyone might reasonably have.

I am personally incredibly uncomfortable with anyone being not allowed to discuss both sides of private correspondence and possibly post it publicly in response to public discussion initiated by the other party. That gives me screaming hives to the point that I would be considering walking from any community that expected that from any member up to and including mods. I cannot overstate how much that feels abusive and toxic to me, and if that's the policy people want--which sometimes feels to me as if it's being demanded when members allude to probate correspondence with mods to make a point and onlookers express discomfort with mods--I will seriously consider leaving.
posted by sciatrix at 12:00 PM on January 4 [16 favorites]


(However, I do take the point that humor is different for all and that if someone is honestly triggered by such a joke, I am not going to cling to the argument that it should be allowed to stand. That said, the comment was mild and like many other comments that ARE allowed to stand, daily, on this site, and this entire MeTa did surprise me)
posted by agregoli at 12:03 PM on January 4 [2 favorites]


there has not been a metatalk in my memory about parents making jokes about "I could just kill" my kids for x,y,or z, and I know those types of comments have appeared on this site

The primary objection I have to the joke is that I know parents (I'm not one myself) for whom it would immediately and viscerally cause them to imagine the death of their children. That's an incredibly shitty thing to inflict on another human being and that's a reason, to my mind, to delete them regardless of who makes them. That said, I think in other contexts we freely acknowledge that who's making a joke is an important piece of context. Me making a joke about killing my kid is incredibly different than someone else making a joke about me killing my kid, even if I would delete both because I think they cause way more harm to people reading them than the (absolutely minimal) good they provide as comments.

In my experience, these jokes also aren't particularly common among parents; I don't think I've ever heard one personally, but obviously other people have different experience there.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:03 PM on January 4 [7 favorites]


I think a lot of this thread is happening in the territory of accusations and defensiveness, and a number of old wounds are being reopened which is generally a sign of a long-standing situation where trust is missing somehow.

I think it is important for people to be able to voice their concerns relatively openly, and it seems like maybe some folks don't feel like they have space to do that. I also think it would be useful for the community to drill down into those concerns a little bit more to try to get to solutions.

To that end, some questions for both the mods and the users to reflect on:
-What are your unmet needs in this situation? What are the community's unmet needs? Example off the top of my head: users need a clear understanding of the expectations, which is not always easy to come by because we talk about a lot of difficult topics and there are gray areas. Another example: people need to feel that their contributions are recognized and appreciated. The mods seem to be asking for users to assume a little more good intent on their part.

-If you could make a request from the mods or the community about something you'd like people to do differently, what would it be? My general rule about making requests of other people is that I try to frame it without snark. This is not to say that anger is out of bounds, rather for myself I try to express the feeling separately from expressing what I want the other person to do.
posted by mai at 12:06 PM on January 4 [2 favorites]


I am personally incredibly uncomfortable with anyone being not allowed to discuss both sides of private correspondence and possibly post it publicly in response to public discussion initiated by the other party.

Note that this isn't what happened. No correspondence between the user and the mods was posted, the user said their piece and the lead mod just went ahead and gave their own summary and interpretation within several paragraphs of "...and this is why it's a bad idea to go ahead and give your own summary and interpretation."
posted by zombieflanders at 12:07 PM on January 4 [11 favorites]


Look I'm fine with what you savages want to do to each other, but if it starts affecting ME, well then, that just won't stand!!
posted by some loser at 12:10 PM on January 4


supercrayon: I don't disagree with you. That's exactly why I think the mods should have added a trigger warning when things went dark. To protect the voices and still give readers fair warning. They went a different route at the time, which I get. Most of the conversation about triggers happened after the deletion.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:14 PM on January 4 [2 favorites]


AND that there's a cultural context in which childfree people's comments tend to be more heavily flagged and modded in this department

I think there are a few things going on here and they are contributing to what is becoming a problem interaction.

First: people who choose not to have children often face a lot of societal pressure that they should have them. I think most of us agree and have seen instances of this, this piece isn't that controversial. Many users have shared upsetting experiences of when they were encouraged to have children after expressing their preference not to have children.

Secondly, in response to that societal pressure, I think a lot of people who choose not to have children get defensive about even the smaller instances of it (for example, other people talking about how much they enjoy their kids), and respond to that defensiveness by arguing that rather than a preference, it is the morally correct response to not wish to have children, because children are awful and draining and a danger to the planet etc etc etc. Some of those comments stray into the area of outright meanness about how 'terrible' children are.

Thirdly, people who love children and child-havers, understandably, do not respond well to seeing flatly denigrating comments about the entire age group, and about their feelings of parental love to their children, because these comments are insensitive, even if not maliciously intended.

Fourthly, folks who prefer not to have children, already facing societal pressure for that choice, seem to react really badly to any sort of additional social pressure against the defensiveness for that choice.

And that's how we get to this entirely avoidable screaming match.
posted by corb at 12:20 PM on January 4 [10 favorites]


Comparisons are odious, but it's interesting to compare this joke-language callout to the "garbage person" callout earlier this year.
posted by Miko at 12:21 PM on January 4


Since some people with children have said that they are not bothered by such comments, and some people without children have said they are bothered by such comments, I think your assertion here is unfounded, factually deficient, and consists of you simply assuming the things you want to be true.
posted by the man of twists and turns


I didn't assert it was true, I said "I think" when I could have said "I suspect." Factually deficient - wasn't trying to say it was a fact. Nor do I want it to be true - maybe don't make assumptions about my intent? And honestly, surprised to be treated so uncharitably for stating my opinion, maybe take it down a notch?

AND that there's a cultural context in which childfree people's comments tend to be more heavily flagged and modded in this department, and that IMO is a problem that requires a more hard-and-fast rule that applies to everybody.
posted by nakedmolerats


^ They said it better than me. I do believe that this thread, if the topic was about ANYTHING ELSE but childfree people, wouldn't exist. The joke was mild, I've seen many other similar jokes about many other groups on this site. Like, this week, even.
posted by agregoli at 12:23 PM on January 4 [9 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos, your experience differs significantly from mine; I have heard many parents make darkly humorous remarks about children.

My issue with deleting anything that may be triggering is that almost anything can be triggering. Some things, clearly, are beyond the pale, but this one wasn't, in my opinion. The same joke has been made previously (perhaps better worded) and been allowed to stand.

This isn't a hill I'm going to choose to die on (apologies to anyone who knows someone who died on a hill), but this thread and the mod response smacks of an overly heavy-handed, unnecessary response to a comment.

In terms of being charitable to people and giving them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their comments, why was the benefit of the doubt not given to the original comment? With absolute sincerity, it sucks if you were triggered by the dark humour. It really does. But deletion shouldn't have been the response. Increased recognition and avoidance of a subject that could be triggering, or, failing that, a trigger warning, seem like a far more appropriate calls.

If one has issues with child mortality/childlessness, perhaps a post about people discussing not having children should be avoided instead of deleting remarks about not having kids to protect one's sensibilities.
posted by dazed_one at 12:24 PM on January 4 [20 favorites]


Thirdly, people who love children and child-havers, understandably, do not respond well to seeing flatly denigrating comments about the entire age group, and about their feelings of parental love to their children, because these comments are insensitive, even if not maliciously intended.

So, if one says they don't like kids, in a thread about people who don't want kids, they are being insensitive to people who want or do have kids? How is that even possible? It's their personal preference, in a room with like-minded folks, discussing a topic that includes that opinion.
posted by agregoli at 12:25 PM on January 4 [19 favorites]


So, if one says they don't like kids, in a thread about people who don't want kids, they are being insensitive to people who want or do have kids? How is that even possible? It's their personal preference, in a room with like-minded folks, discussing a topic that includes that opinion.

There's a strong difference between saying "I don't want to have children" and "I don't like children because they suck", just as there's a difference between saying "I don't want to date women" and "I don't like women because they suck".

Children are not the oppressors, children are not the power-havers, children as a class are not personally harming anyone. We would not accept a thread full of reasons why any other group of people are terrible simply by reason of being born, and I don't think that we need to accept a thread full of "man, children suck and are terrible" rather than "societal pressure of people's reproductive choices sucks and is terrible."
posted by corb at 12:36 PM on January 4 [12 favorites]


Children are not the oppressors, children are not the power-havers, children as a class are not personally harming anyone.

Nobody has said that. This is goalpost-moving.
posted by Lexica at 12:39 PM on January 4 [26 favorites]


Many people in that thread simply said "I don't like kids." You were stating that is insensitive. It is not.
posted by agregoli at 12:40 PM on January 4 [17 favorites]


We've got strawmen, we've got no true scotsman, we've got goal-post moving.... one more and I've got BINGO!
posted by some loser at 12:40 PM on January 4 [3 favorites]


I do think it worth thinking how that statement compares to "I don't like women" and whether we are ok with that as a statement here. Maybe we are, which is fine, I am genuinely interested why disliking a class of people is considered ok when we generally frown on prejudice toward a class of people who cant even help they are in that class.
posted by xarnop at 12:41 PM on January 4 [11 favorites]


And now the ENTIRE THREAD is on trial, and new analogies that don't fit are being presented. Please stick to the topic of this MeTa.
posted by agregoli at 12:43 PM on January 4 [4 favorites]


Jesus no, we should not be equating "not a fan of children" with institutional misogyny.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:44 PM on January 4 [51 favorites]


In terms of being charitable to people and giving them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their comments, why was the benefit of the doubt not given to the original comment

I would absolutely give the benefit of the doubt to the comment; I don't think it was intended to upset anyone, I don't think it came from a place ill-will, even to children. I don't think that means it should stand, though, when we know it's going to hurt people who read it.

If one has issues with child mortality/childlessness, perhaps a post about people discussing not having children should be avoided instead of deleting remarks about not having kids to protect one's sensibilities.

Child mortality and childlessness are totally different things and conflating them with a / is wrong. I don't think it's reasonable to expect a lulzy joke about child death in a thread about childlessness; they're not the same thing. I read that thread, because plenty of people in my life are childless and those perspectives are helpful to me in navigating the world. I'm not going to comment in the thread, and I didn't flag anything there because it felt inappropriate for me to do so. That said, I don't think it's wrong to keep that space one that, at a minimum, is not going to be viscerally upsetting to a large number of people on the site. I also feel like "protect one's sensibilities" is an uncharitably trivializing way of describing how I know that comment made some people feel.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:45 PM on January 4 [3 favorites]


"I don't like children" is NOT the same as "I don't like children because they suck." One can dislike people and things that are perfectly fine but not to one's own taste.

This is all heated enough without arguing against points that haven't actually been made.
posted by Stacey at 12:47 PM on January 4 [15 favorites]


Some people are rather proving agregoli's point that this is about (some) people finding it unacceptable to not want or like kids.
posted by Mavri at 12:48 PM on January 4 [22 favorites]


This thread has fart-launched itself over the bean plate.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 12:49 PM on January 4 [4 favorites]


Child mortality and childlessness are totally different things and conflating them with a / is wrong.

Speaking of charitable readings, the point of my comment wasn't to conflate child mortality and childlessness but to say that if one finds certain subjects triggering, perhaps one should avoid them.
posted by dazed_one at 12:49 PM on January 4 [4 favorites]


Okay, I took my kids out to lunch and came back to a public examination of my memail exchanges with cortex. That's... jarring.

You're right. Our interactions happened by email. I don't remember them perfectly. I did come away from at least two of them feeling I'd been pretty forcefully told off by you. Which yeah, felt really unpleasant.

I think your past statements of concern are genuine, and I don't think you are, like, out to get EM or anything.

For the record, I am not out to get EM. I'm not out to "get" any of the mods. I don't have negative feelings about EM personally. I like y'all. Have defended the mod team in other metas. I'm sympathetic to how difficult your jobs are and generally do not want to make them harder.

But.

I've said this before in public here and in private: Metafilter mods aren't regular users. What you say has more authority and carries more weight with the userbase. Criticisms of individual users are taken more seriously by the rest of us and by those being criticized. When y'all make off-the-cuff comments about site norms, it invariably leads to people wondering if you're setting guidelines. It's a catch-22 that I don't envy. It also means you have to by hyperaware of how the things you say will be perceived.

That is really basic modding 101. No one here should be surprised by those sentiments. No one here will think they're particularly revelatory.

But I also think you are implicitly excusing yourself, however unintentionally, of any possible bad behavior here in the process of pursuing that existing set of negative feelings about her and her work, and that kinda sucks and is hard to know what to do with.

I can be abrasive. I'm aware of and open about that. By all means tell me I'm being abrasive or uncharitable or rude or that I'm out of line. I'll always listen.

I do feel strongly that mods should not be making blanket statements about the humanity and ethics of groups of people who are members here.

I also feel strongly that mods should not be speaking to users in a thread in ways that would be unacceptable if a normal user did so. Not unless they're calling people out for behavior they have to actually moderate.

I'm gonna say this because you brought it up in public. The incident I'm pretty sure you are characterizing as non-moderation was (to me) about moderation. It was one-sided because one of the people involved is a mod. When you and I discussed it a couple of days later, I had calmed down and given up. You acknowledged that her response to me was not good. I acknowledged that I shouldn't have lost my temper. You offered to delete her comment. I said no. I was and am still okay with that. I don't see a point in rehashing this. It was resolved at the time.

Do I have "an existing set of negative feelings about her and her work"? Not about EM personally. Not about her work except for this stuff.

By your request, I don't interact with EM privately. I also don't participate in her weekly MetaTalk threads. I don't respond to her comments on the Blue and I make it a point not to interact with her anywhere on the site. Why? I found being told by you that I made someone on your staff uncomfortable very upsetting. I don't want to be that person.
posted by zarq at 12:49 PM on January 4 [34 favorites]


I do feel strongly that mods should not be making blanket statements about the humanity and ethics of groups of people who are members here.

Yeah, this is what bothered me, more than anything else.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 12:51 PM on January 4 [22 favorites]


Me too, that was all that bothered me, actually.
posted by agregoli at 12:53 PM on January 4 [5 favorites]


By your request, I don't interact with EM privately. I also don't participate in her weekly MetaTalk threads. I don't respond to her comments on the Blue and I make it a point not to interact with her anywhere on the site. Why? I found being told by you that I made someone on your staff uncomfortable very upsetting. I don't want to be that person.

wait- so because of a disagreement with a mod a long time user is removing himself from conversations to avoid being punished or making a mod "uncomfortable"? That's not good is it.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 12:54 PM on January 4 [5 favorites]


Can we take the sidebar around zarq to the other thread? Thanks.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:55 PM on January 4 [4 favorites]


I posted my previous comment with 40 unread (by me) comments in the thread. I don't have a problem carrying the conversation to the new meta, but would appreciate it if what I just said remain in the thread where it is an appropriate response. I would very much prefer that it not be deleted. Thank you.
posted by zarq at 12:55 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


Nothing's deleted, just making the request so we don't step on the main conversation.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:56 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


Nobody has said that. This is goalpost-moving.

It appears there is a fundamental breakdown between how I understand the comparisons to "extreme comments in feminism threads" and "violent opposition" that have been put forward in defense of the comment that started this MeTa. I do not know how to bridge this gap, so I will simply say that I strongly and significantly disagree with you about "Nobody has said that."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:56 PM on January 4 [3 favorites]


Thank you, restless_nomad.
posted by zarq at 12:57 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


Speaking of charitable readings, the point of my comment wasn't to conflate child mortality and childlessness but to say that if one finds certain subjects triggering, perhaps one should avoid them.

And the point of my comment was that you can't read a thread about "choosing not to parent" and expect jokes about children being murdered in it. If the topic was about child mortality, which is a totally reasonable and even somewhat common topic of conversation here, the people who shouldn't read about that will know to avoid it; they don't know that if the topic is just choosing not have children. Expecting people to know to avoid that thread, because it's also going to involve jokes about children being murdered, sounds totally unreasonable to me.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:58 PM on January 4 [7 favorites]


Yeah, litigating and parsing a private exchange like this is flat out 100% a losing proposition, especially with the tendency people have to point and cry foul just on imagined principles without being steeped in the actual exchange.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:58 PM on January 4 [2 favorites]


My only conclusion from this thread:

Literally every group is a land of contrasts. Take that, people who say MetaFilter is a bubble!
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 1:00 PM on January 4 [5 favorites]


In general we can dislike a group of people but saying it openly is pretty cruel. If I say I don't like elderly people, if I say I don't like people in a certain weight category or of a certain physical appearance, that would be kinda crappy, right? If I say I don't like people with certain disabilities that cause certain behaviors I don't like- it's like- sure it's fine to not like being around such and such type of person but we generally don't vent about that. (Or maybe we do? I don't see much of the type of complaining about how gross and unpleasant children are that happens on metafilter about other groups of people here, but I genuinely might have missed that.)

I guess the idea is that we assume no children are present on the site so therefore they are fair game to vent about disliking and making dark jokes about in a way we wouldn't do about other types of people? I genuinely don't understand why this is considered ok, I am trying to listen and understand.

It seems like I'm being asked to give empathy to people who need to vent about the ways they dislike children but I'm being told it's silly to expect empathy for.. children? Is it the fact that children are assumed to not be able to hear what's being said about them that makes it ok?
posted by xarnop at 1:00 PM on January 4 [10 favorites]


Fair enough, Bulgaroktonos, but in my experience, choosing to not have kids is sometimes a result of finding kids irritating, and finding kids irritating often comes hand in hand with dark humour about, say, building a rocket and launching them into the sun.
posted by dazed_one at 1:02 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


My .02, which you were all desperately waiting for:

--Original comment is fine, deleting it is silly and is indeed "peak metafilter,"
--Love the mods, love EM, think her comment was inappropriate for a mod but would just merit an eyeroll if it were coming from John Q. Metafilter. I definitely don't think further action or punishment is merited beyond the heaps o' scorn dumped on her in this thread already.
posted by zeusianfog at 1:02 PM on January 4 [15 favorites]


I was waiting for zeusianfog to weigh in because I agree with them entirely.

This is one of those classic Metafilter bite-your-own-nails-till-they-bleed threads and nothing would now be lost by closing it down.
posted by Rumple at 1:07 PM on January 4 [10 favorites]


Society-wide misogyny towards mothers is, for me, the only reason I really care about this stuff. People are very willing to make negative generalizations about women and when those women have kids it’s seemingly not as obvious to people that misogyny plays a role in many of those generalizations. This kind of misogyny may not be apparent to everyone and was shocking for me after I had a child, so I don’t expect people to be 100% up on it. Nevertheless it adds a lot of friction to the conversation when it’s completely unacknowledged in a conversation about power, privilege, etc. Many mothers likely have good reason to be skeptical of assertions that they are privileged when those assertions are broad and don’t acknowledge the huge and relevant issue of sexism.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 1:07 PM on January 4 [9 favorites]


In general we can dislike a group of people but saying it openly is pretty cruel.

I feel there's much more nuance to the subject than that. For example, as a human, it's generally ok for me to say that we're selfish assholes, as a species. I'm a member of that group that I'm commenting about.

We were all children at some point.
posted by dazed_one at 1:09 PM on January 4 [10 favorites]


How about the misogyny that's directed towards women who don't want to be/can't be mothers?
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 1:09 PM on January 4 [17 favorites]


My community member input on the subject of this post: The joke was dark humor which won't be funny to all. It was a little funny to me, the funniness diminished by the fact that it's a really old joke. I don't think it should have been deleted. The fact that it was deleted is not a huge deal.
posted by lazaruslong at 1:11 PM on January 4 [11 favorites]


I'm a male and my wife has been on a business trip, so it's entirely been me taking care of the baby alone for a couple weeks, like a single mother. Everyone actually treats me super awesome compared to when I'm not toting around a 7 month old so I am pretty sure there is no such thing as misogyny against mothers. QED
posted by floam at 1:22 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


the older I get, the less I care for commentary that embodies the attitude that children are disposable, the property of their parents, less than human, inherently annoying and gross, whatever. I get where it comes from but it's not like it's just this over-the-top venting that has no relation to how kids actually get treated.

way too many children are suffering through neglect, abuse, and exploitation right now and even the ones who are loved and cared for are having to grow up in a society built by people who mostly care about fighting the battles and indulging in the wants of their own youth and give little more than lip service to actually listening to what kids need and fucking delivering it.

I'm not going to compromise the privacy of anyone in my offline life by discussing the extent to which these things affect me personally, and I don't agree with the OP that murder jokes need more clearly defined deletion rules, but I wish people had listened to where this request was coming from instead of rushing in to defend lazy jokes. it makes me feel like a lot of the pride we take around here in our inclusiveness and sensitivity isn't much more than an agreeable flavor of tribalism.
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:23 PM on January 4 [21 favorites]


Stating a personal preference for not hanging out with kids because you don't enjoy their company is definitely not contributing to child abuse.
posted by agregoli at 1:26 PM on January 4 [25 favorites]


yeah and I didn't say anything of the sort. I said that posing questions about murdering kids contributes to making me feel shitty.
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:30 PM on January 4 [5 favorites]


Stating a personal preference for not hanging out with kids because you don't enjoy their company is definitely not contributing to child abuse.

This.

And claiming that dark humour from those who have been children about the irritating qualities of children is an indicator of an "attitude that children are disposable, the property of their parents, less than human" is a very uncharitable reading of a person's words.
posted by dazed_one at 1:30 PM on January 4 [22 favorites]


he older I get, the less I care for commentary that embodies the attitude that children are disposable, the property of their parents, less than human, inherently annoying and gross, whatever. I get where it comes from but it's not like it's just this over-the-top venting that has no relation to how kids actually get treated.

I had assumed that this was the connection - that saying anything disparaging about kids contributes to child abuse. Apologies for misunderstanding.
posted by agregoli at 1:33 PM on January 4 [5 favorites]


it makes me feel like a lot of the pride we take around here in our inclusiveness and sensitivity isn't much more than an agreeable flavor of tribalism.

I get that. I honestly do. And in my opinion, the best way to avoid tribalism is to defend inclusiveness and sensitivity even for those we strongly disagree with. Obviously there are limits to that approach and everyone will have different opinions on what the limits should be. So we have these conversations and we hash it out. And some people won't be happy with the results, whatever they are. But at least we discuss it openly.

And I'm officially done in this thread. Tylenol and bed awaits. Right after I finish coughing up a pint or two of... whatever this shit is. Pro tip: don't get the plague when you have a hernia (or three).
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:48 PM on January 4 [8 favorites]


I'll 100% stand by saying that the quoted joke expresses those attitudes. I don't think the commenter is genuinely anti-children or whatever, and I have no ill will towards them, and when I read the comment in the thread on the blue before this MeTa was posted, my reaction was basically "yeesh, that's a bit much," and I considered flagging it, but I didn't, and I moved on and forgot about it. I make jokes based on dark humor too. A lot of them! But I do so knowing that I'm running the risk of those jokes landing wrong or upsetting people -- it's on me to assume the responsibility of possibly coming off poorly rather than asking people to be extra-charitable in how they interpret my words.
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:50 PM on January 4 [16 favorites]


I said that posing questions about murdering kids contributes to making me feel shitty.

You said more than that. You said "it's not like it's just this over-the-top venting that has no relation to how kids actually get treated." That's not a statement about your feelings; it's a statement connecting words with action -- actions that you then specify as "neglect, abuse, and exploitation."

It's this kind of bullshit escalation that's making this stupid thread go on forever.
posted by neroli at 1:55 PM on January 4 [15 favorites]


it's on me to assume the responsibility of possibly coming off poorly rather than asking people to be extra-charitable in how they interpret my words.

Understood.

I suppose that's where we differ, especially on an internet forum where people may not all have the same level of writing ability and the reader may have some difficulty parsing the nuance of the written word. Personally, I'll take a little of column A and a little from column B: I'll assume responsibility for what I write and try to choose my words with care so as not to offend, but I also hope that people understand that I'm trying to do so and will grant me some charity while they read what I've written.
posted by dazed_one at 1:55 PM on January 4 [8 favorites]


How about the misogyny that's directed towards women who don't want to be/can't be mothers?

It is bad. I am happy for it to be centered and remain the focus of the conversation as appropriate and agree (I think) that such discussions should not be derailed to center women who have children. I don’t think this is because there is a no-children/children privilege relationship, though, but instead because women deserve spaces to talk about how misogyny works and affects them.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 2:00 PM on January 4 [9 favorites]


Stating a personal preference for not hanging out with kids because you don't enjoy their company is definitely not contributing to child abuse.

There are a ton of comments along those lines that are perfectly reasonable and that no one is upset about. People saying "I don't want children because that's not the family I want" or what have you - no one is complaining about that. In the current thread about ways people can create families without children, there are 136 comments, and only three of them read as child-disparaging. Two out of the three were arguing that the 'normal' human response would be to murder the 'needy' children. The third was saying that children were a "horrible life suck".

If these comments are less than 1% of the commentary on the subject and they make people feel bad, why push to keep them?
posted by corb at 2:03 PM on January 4 [3 favorites]


If these comments are less than 1% of the commentary on the subject and they make people feel bad, why push to keep them?

Because silencing someone you disagree with isn't good (and can also make people feel bad)?
posted by dazed_one at 2:05 PM on January 4 [18 favorites]


I'm not pushing to keep anything. I am responding to comments, some made by you, corb, that are trying to expand the scope of this MeTa.
posted by agregoli at 2:15 PM on January 4 [3 favorites]


I am glad the comment was removed.
posted by mmmbacon at 2:17 PM on January 4


It's this kind of bullshit escalation that's making this stupid thread go on forever.

I'll just say that I don't say relation when I mean to say causation, then.
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:17 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


From a statistical point of view, I suspect that parents are responsible for many more deaths of children, definitely both own and likely other people's children too, than non-parents. So from that perspective it makes sense for people to feel much more uneasy at child-harm jokes from parents than from non-parents. .

I don't have a problem with the deletion or the deletion process. I don't really see a need for a site policy about humor that relates to child-harm based on this one example.

As others have pointed out, there are lots of ways that one can talk about children in controversial ways that have nothing to do with jokes about killing them. A larger conversation about how we talk about children could be interesting, but this is definitely not the context for it.
posted by Salamandrous at 2:25 PM on January 4 [5 favorites]


So... I am childless by choice, and I have an intense dislike of children due to various reasons (one of which is trauma and abuse during my own childhood, which I am not about to mention as a qualifier every time I snark about kids). I am constantly having to police my reactions (and dark humor!) to my family, my coworkers, strangers in the supermarket, etc. I very rarely post here anymore, and definitely not about anything kid related because, well... *gestures at everything*

I am usually terrified of letting something negative slip through and being thought of as a monstrous human being by those around me. Sometimes I feel like a monster because I'm so at odds with what the world expects me to be. I vent lots to my husband, who shares my intense feelings, but that's about it when it comes to outlets. And my sister is now 7 months pregnant and I am already overwhelmed by the emotional responses that will be expected of me for like, the rest of my life.

I guess all this is to say that if I were a more frequent participant in threads here, if I got comfortable and felt like this was a place with less judgment than what I experience elsewhere, I could very well make these kinds of jokey comments. And like I said earlier, there would be no "But I'm an abuse victim also!" preamble to let other people know that I get it. (Except for this post now living in my history, I guess.)

I'm still here and I read just about everything on all parts of the site. I just wish getting more and more things potentially wrong wasn't keeping me from posting.
posted by erratic meatsack at 2:27 PM on January 4 [42 favorites]


But here's the thing, if we can't help those we dislike and we need to be able to vent about it, then in a public forum, people are allowed to also have strong feelings they can't help about the things you say. I'm all for it being ok to say mean things about kids if that's a deep need people have, but if in turn you feel like it hurts for people to say they are hurt by that or dislike that.. it's a very complicated argument to make and it assumes the people who need to vent about disliking kids are in a position where their feelings needing to vent are more important then the feelings people have in reaction to that venting.

I'm cool with all of us trying to have more empathy for each other, that means understanding that some people do not like being around kids, but it also means understanding that many of us have to bring our kids into public and community spaces and DEPEND on our community to not hate our kids or push us out because they dislike us so much.

I feel like kids can tell when they are disliked and kids need access to community spaces and community support, services and inclusion. It's not like wanting to eradicate kids from your life is something that happens in a vacuum- it impacts families, especially low income or single ones, who get pushed out of public spaces when they can tell they aren't welcome.

We are all dealing with different types of marginalization and oppression (of course some more than others)- including children who have to share the world with us and depend on us. I personally wonder when I hear group so people saying they need to vent about how much they dislike kids how that impacts kids need safe communities that welcome them and their needs. I think it's fair that people have mixed emotions on this topic from all sides. When I feel the most sympathetic to the idea that people who choose not to or otherwise don't have kids are a marginalized group who need a safe space to vent without judgements- I just can't help but also think that in building a world that regards the needs of all it's members- that children are also part of the groups that need more respect and empathy and for their needs in communities to matter.


I'm trying to reconcile my own differing responses because I am sympathetic to needs of safe spaces and venting spaces, I just don't get why the sentiment of caring more about marginalized groups wouldn't also make us feel called to express more empathy for children as well. Maybe venting about kids helps some people be far better to the children they are forced to interact with, but I also do wonder if reinforces the idea that it's ok to completely dislike a group of people who are extremely vulnerable and genuinely need a world that looks out for them.
posted by xarnop at 2:45 PM on January 4 [12 favorites]


But here's the thing: either I keep all of this inside (which is an option, I've been doing it for a long time and have come to realize this is what is expected of me) or I qualify every "I don't like kids" sentiment or variation thereof with "I'm a childhood trauma victim myself and I recognize kids need protecting and I also do my very best to support the needs of new parents and their children so no one has to go through what I did - HAVING SAID THAT - boy do I hate kids sometimes!"

Neither of these options are realistic or healthy, to be honest, but I'm back to the first - I just shut up about it and grow more bitter about my place in the world.
posted by erratic meatsack at 2:51 PM on January 4 [17 favorites]


I feel like kids can tell when they are disliked and kids need access to community spaces and community support, services and inclusion.

A thread about people talking about not having children, the pressure they've experienced to have children, and how they're happy without having children is not an appropriate "community space" in which kids should be seeking "support, services, and inclusion".
posted by Lexica at 2:53 PM on January 4 [62 favorites]


erratic meatsack- I'm so sorry you have had to grapple with so much. I agree that we all need have spaces we can share feelings of anger or irritation about others. I still think in public spaces those needs can conflict with the needs of other humans who can be impacted by that venting and matter too.

Trauma and deep feelings can be very difficult to navigate for all of us.
posted by xarnop at 2:55 PM on January 4 [3 favorites]


Lexica-I think that's a fair point. My experience with people in majority groups making jokes about marginalized groups has lead to feeling like "locker room talk" trickles out into how we treat people in the real world. However I also agree that venting can, for those who use it that way, allow people to get emptions out so they can then tap into their empathy. It's complicated because dark humor and humor that reinforces dislike of certain people can be such a mixed bag in terms of how it's used whether it's reinforcing dislike of a group and mistreatment of that group outside the discussion- or just allowing feelings to get out so that we can be better to each other.


When I hear people say that kids are annoying and aweful and why should anyone help provide service to those who stupidly choose to have them and need help (a sentiment OUTSIDE metafilter) it's hard not to feel they may be related sentiments. But we all have our emotions- I don't have a decision on whether dark humor or violence related comments should be deleted, but I think it's a worthy community discussion and I'm listening to people's ideas.
posted by xarnop at 3:02 PM on January 4 [7 favorites]


To the best of my knowledge, erratic meatsack, nobody is making the poster of the original comment out to be a bad person, directing any anger or nastiness their way, or expecting them to apologize or qualify their future comments. Not in this thread, anyway. Hell, I'm not even sure if they know this MeTa exists.
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:02 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


i'm not sure why It's Raining Florence Henderson's proposal for trigger warnings has been dropped but it seems like the only clear solution to me here. not to be reductive but there are two opposing camps here. the childfree camp is on record that metafilter is one of the only places online where they can feel comfortable having open and honest discussions about being childfree. there is another camp that (again, not to be reductive) doesn't want to see mean comments about children. allowing the childfree threads to continue the way they have been with a trigger warning up top seems the best way to handle this? not to say that "if you have children and/or are sensitive about their general welfare you cannot participate in this discussion," but to say "this discussion is coming from a different way of viewing the world, please keep that in mind and understand that this thread isn't necessarily FOR you."
posted by JimBennett at 3:07 PM on January 4 [8 favorites]


Well this all went about as well as expected. Having read the thread in this entirety, I'm convinced the best response from the mods would have been a "flag it and move on."

This is one of those topics that MeFi is just not very good at.
posted by aspersioncast at 3:07 PM on January 4 [2 favorites]


prize bull octorok, it's not really about the original poster at this point. There have been quite a few comments in this thread wishing to restrict the kind of public statements people make about having kids and being a parent, down to questioning the humanity and levels of empathy that a human being who holds these negative opinions can have.

I am all for trigger warnings on posts related to being childfree, it just... sucks that my life needs a trigger warning, I guess? I'll take it as a solution.
posted by erratic meatsack at 3:12 PM on January 4 [18 favorites]


I have never, ever, seen a discussion involving people not wanting kids that wasn't objected to, publicly, for some reason. Even the most mild threads, like this one. I've seen it happen dozens of times.
posted by agregoli at 3:13 PM on January 4 [41 favorites]


I am all for trigger warnings on posts related to being childfree, it just... sucks that my life needs a trigger warning, I guess? I'll take it as a solution.

I don't think we really do the requiring trigger warnings thing here. The FAQ is pretty explicit that in general, Metafilter is not and does not try to be a "safe space".
posted by floam at 3:16 PM on January 4 [4 favorites]


I'm trying to understand how this joke demeans children. I thought the point of the joke is to make a self-deprecating comment about the difficulties of raising a child. The implicit premise of the speaker making such a joke that they love their child and wouldn't harm them on purpose. I can imagine this level of wry social comparison made in a piece of English literature. To me, the joke makes more sense as saying something about the parent and social observation/perspectivizing, not the violent action that is literally being mentioned.

I guess my view at the moment is, you can delete such comments for containing mature and triggering/disturbing content in a shared public space. But that's a different reason than saying the joke encourages violence or demeans children any more than any film or literary work that mentions violence wants people to use violence, which would only make sense if you're committed to a certain literal reading of what was said.
posted by polymodus at 3:38 PM on January 4 [11 favorites]


I got the impression that the teller of the joke was not a parent - he described walking with his wife and passing families with children as prompting the comment.
posted by Pax at 3:54 PM on January 4 [3 favorites]


In other words, not “man, this parenting thing is hard, I’m gonna wring your neck,” and more like - “man, those kids are awful, haha I’m surprised their parents - and all parents - don’t murder them!”
posted by Pax at 3:56 PM on January 4 [3 favorites]


The pressure, judgement, and all the shit the childfree have to endure -- particularly women, because behind this is the entire weight of patriarchal oppression -- is really awful and ubiquitous and creates an atmosphere of constant alienation; and this creates a lot of entirely justified anger, resentment, need to vent, and safe spaces to do so.

But how does it make sense, how is it right or justified, that this resentment ever gets aimed toward children themselves? They're not the oppressing group. Often, their parents are. But they aren't. "I don't like kids" has been a somewhat socially acceptable shorthand for "I have good reasons for not wanting children, and I have a right to those reasons", but this is really because it's a natural response to this societal messaging that only bad people don't want children. It's a natural response, but it's distorting in that it unwittingly accepts the unjust framing that this is all about children themselves. But it's not about children, it's about adults, particularly women, and the role they are pressured to play with respect to children. The children themselves are bystanders in this conflict.

But they are hurt by it. Yes, it's definitely not the childfree who are abusing children -- in general, it's parents. But so? Children are deeply and institutionally disempowered and it's certainly the case that they are targeted for abuse and dehumanization in vast numbers in most societies. The mistargeting of the class judgement "I don't like children" implicitly accepts the disingenuous framing that pressure on women to have children is about children when it's really about women. In accepting that context, it allows for extensions of this where children are sainted or vilified, where all these unjust social pressures get vented toward children themselves. And this is what the regressive patriarchs want! It's no accident that the same people that value women as property similarly tend to value children as property. This is their whole framing, and this is their rhetorical trap. None of this should be centered on children themselves and allowing that framing creates all sorts of possibilities for toxic discourse.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:57 PM on January 4 [9 favorites]


So...people who honestly don't like kids are mistaken somehow? That...isn't going to help the convo.
posted by agregoli at 4:03 PM on January 4 [19 favorites]


the childfree camp is on record that metafilter is one of the only places online where they can feel comfortable having open and honest discussions about being childfree.

Man ... this thread, I feel bad even posting in it at this point but I guess I'd like to be on record as a childfree person (who likes kids! And who would never declaw a cat!) who does not feel comfortable having open and honest discussions about being childfree on Metafilter. I did eventually post in the original thread but that was after avoiding it for several days and waiting for my wife to look it over because I was sure it would be full of predictable posts chiding people for saying they don't like kids or want kids - both of which seem to me to be very good reasons to not have kids, and therefore relevant to the thread. I guess most of the chiding has ended up over here instead but still, threads addressing not wanting/having children are among the ones I generally try not to delve too deeply into on the blue or the green.

As a woman, the fact that some posters are equating someone saying they don't like kids with someone expressing anti-woman (or other marginalized group) sentiments is pretty fucking foul to me, especially when I consider what the unstated "therefore" might be of each statement: "I don't like kids, therefore I won't be having any" (or "therefore I try to avoid places that are full of kids") seems most likely in one case; "I don't like women/gay people/etc, therefore I won't be hiring them / therefore I will be working to restrict their rights / therefore I am going to actively cause them harm" seems more likely in the other case. Let's not pretend to think that most harm to children comes from people who say they don't like them (or from people who choose not to have them).

I dunno, I feel like I'm venting in a thread that already has too much heat and I apologize about that, but I'd like to circle back to my initial point in the hopes that the mods do hear: as a childfree woman, Metafilter really doesn't feel like a great place to talk about being childfree.
posted by DingoMutt at 4:08 PM on January 4 [53 favorites]


I'll just say this is not the first time someone has gotten defensive about their decision to have children and has hurt other members of the site as a result, for whatever reason (guilt, doubling down on a decision that has already been made, retconning the reasons for the decision, etc..)
posted by some loser at 4:18 PM on January 4 [2 favorites]


I mean, not wanting children IS about the children themselves? "I don't like kids" is a very good reason not to have them! I think some people really feel that way, and that should be OK. In fact, I said upthread that I mostly like kids, but I do not in fact like babies. That is not a distortion of how I feel, I just actually don't like them, and it is not in fact hurting any babies because I am not kicking them off buses or disputing their right to public spaces.

Can we please avoid painting people who don't like children as monsters, or tools of the patriarchy, or somehow enabling child abuse on a social level by other people? That is not productive and I don't believe it's true.
posted by stillnocturnal at 4:20 PM on January 4 [51 favorites]


It's a natural response, but it's distorting in that it unwittingly accepts the unjust framing that this is all about children themselves. But it's not about children, it's about adults, particularly women, and the role they are pressured to play with respect to children. The children themselves are bystanders in this conflict.

This is kind of frustrating for me, and I'm having some difficulty expressing myself here, but... Sometimes it IS about the children. It's about the poop and the snot and the noise levels and the walking on eggshells in case you fuck up another life. It's about having to deal with a person who is awkward, sometimes mean and violent before they can self-regulate. It's about the constant messes they leave behind. It's a lot! And none of this has anything to do with the role I am pressured into, it's just about the thing (having kids to take care of) itself.

People don't have kids for lots of reasons. One of those very legitimate reasons is not liking children and having anything to do with them. In a thread discussing people not having children, hearing this particular reason explained should not come as a surprise. But if childfree people get told over and over that this reason cannot be voiced, is not the real reason they're childfree, or makes them a worse person than other reasons, it'll mean less people will participate in discussions. This seems like a bad outcome in a situation where lots of folks, including engaged and active parents, said they are curious and want to learn more about the decisions of childfree individuals.
posted by erratic meatsack at 4:25 PM on January 4 [53 favorites]


Yeah. It’s pretty verboten for women to say they don’t like kids because we get told what horrible awful people we are. It is really unpleasant and jarring and frankly gross to find that happening here. People are allowed not to like children. Choosing not to have kids because you don’t like them is a very good way to avoid abusing or neglecting them. It should be encouraged for people to know this about themselves and for it to be ok to say in public that you just don’t like them very much. Normalizing that it’s ok to structure your life around not encountering or being responsible for children is a good way to protect them. And the idea that people who don’t like them won’t pay into education or other child protection and welfare services is close minded and generally false. I have mostly encountered those attitudes from rich parents who pay for their private school and don’t want to also pay for public schooling. It’s totally possible even to think that kids should be more integrated into public life and still not like them.
posted by stoneweaver at 4:30 PM on January 4 [67 favorites]


This is very fraught for me, because one of the reasons that I split with my husband was his belief that our non-verbal, disabled daughter would be better off dead. I 100% support my child-free friends and I'm now a person who cautions others about the toll that the responsibility of parenthood can take on individuals and relationships. But I do think there's a limit to appropriate venting, and this comment crossed a line for me, even as I'm sure the poster was not a bad person in any way.
posted by mmmbacon at 4:37 PM on January 4 [14 favorites]


Personally, as a dude who doesn't have and doesn't want kids, I just stayed quiet in that thread because it was framed as being about women discussing their perspectives on not having children. I am aware that being childless carries a very different cultural weight for women than for men. It occurrs to me that if the guy who made the comment which sparked this MeTa had had the same thought and decided to take a backseat rather than slipping in a zinger, we wouldn't be here right now.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:38 PM on January 4 [13 favorites]


Choosing not to have kids because you don’t like them is a very good way to avoid abusing or neglecting them.

This is a point that I really, really wish parents would internalise more. Sometimes people just have the self-awareness to know that they will not be good parents. Like, not just, not good parents, but actively BAD parents. Sometimes that gets expressed as "I don't like kids".

And the thing is, just saying "I don't like kids" lets both parties save face! The person saying they don't like kids doesn't have to get into their visions of how neglectful and abusive they would be and be judged for that, AND the parent doesn't have to picture their own kids being neglected and abused in that detail (as I find generally happens with parents).

Is expressing it as "I don't like kids" potentially an issue? Sure, on multiple axes. But I really notice parents just not recognising the ACTUAL dynamics that might be underpinning "I don't like kids".
posted by E. Whitehall at 4:39 PM on January 4 [20 favorites]


I also think some people still don't realize how much judgments like this affect childfree individuals on like, a daily basis. I had a coworker, doing the same job I do, who felt very much like I did but was open about it. He didn't fawn over baby photos and quite frankly told one of our directors that he's not interested in hearing any stories about kids. Later this coworker was let go and not hired back when we needed more people for this position.

I now work with this same director, who told me that my coworker expressing absolutely zero interest in children made him difficult to be around and it created a "personality conflict." So here I am, pretending very much to care about my director's children because oh my god, I could lose my job.

What even is this world.
posted by erratic meatsack at 4:56 PM on January 4 [71 favorites]


"So...people who honestly don't like kids are mistaken somehow?"

Not mistaken, but it doesn't need to be said because no one should be forced to justify their choice not to have children in the first place.

There are similarly unfair pressures on women to take care of sick family members, for example, and "I don't like sick people" is a non sequitor to what's really behind this pressure -- which is oppressive gender roles -- and it's a toxic place to center the discussion, or even just to say, because it's a fact that the ill are discriminated against as a class. For a variety of reasons, people find them (us) unpleasant ... just as is the case with both children and the elderly. It's okay to privately not "like" some kinds of people, but expressing this publicly and doing so in a charged debate about social justice is incredibly problematic. It centers the discussion on the merits of that class of people, as if the oppressive forces expecting someone to subordinate themselves unjustly can or should be decided on the merits of that other class of people. Which is a fucked-up, coercive framing.

I really do get that society and many people have weaponized the supposed preciousness of children and that this is pervasive and suffocating. I don't have children. But it makes things worse to accept the implicit premise that the issue is whether we like children, because that's misdirection.

More importantly, this isn't academic and about whether an argument is valid or invalid: it's within this -- our -- social context that children are regularly treated as property, and are beaten and murdered. We really really ought not be talking about the merits of children as people. That's one of the most harmful places this discussion could go.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:15 PM on January 4 [7 favorites]


We really really ought not be talking about the merits of children as people.

absolutely no one is saying this!
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 5:19 PM on January 4 [21 favorites]


But it makes things worse to accept the implicit premise that the issue is whether we like children, because that's misdirection.

It doesn't have to be the one issue or anything, but I don't agree that people don't need to talk about it, or that there is anything wrong or misdirected by saying "I don't like kids." It's totally fine to say, and should be uncontroversial in a thread about choosing not to have them. Regardless, once again, people who choose not to have kids are not supposed to be the issue here. At all.
posted by agregoli at 5:28 PM on January 4 [13 favorites]


"absolutely no one is saying this!"

Expressing like or dislike of something can be just expressing a matter of taste, but it also can be a normative value judgment. Usually this is a low-stakes thing, but this is one of the cases where the stakes are quite high. Flirting with a value judgment with ambiguous language opens the door to unambiguous normative judgments like "children really are unpleasant", which then makes it pretty clear that somehow the argument has turned into one about the merits of children, which it wasn't or shouldn't be about.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:36 PM on January 4 [2 favorites]


Someone get that plate of beans an AARP card.
posted by Drastic at 5:40 PM on January 4 [6 favorites]


Then people who are sensitive to that sentiment should probably avoid reading or participating in threads about choosing not to have children.
posted by Lexica at 5:41 PM on January 4 [23 favorites]


It's not misdirection to consider whether I like a thing when I am deciding whether I want to spend years and years of my life with the thing. That's true if you're talking about a job or a hobby or a place to live or children. (Please note that I am not saying children are things.) Parenting, especially motherhood, is also subject to the pressures of the patriarchy, but it is simply untrue to say that liking children is a misdirection when one is deciding whether to have them. Why would I spend years of my life on something I do not like or want?

And I am amazed that people keep bringing up abuse and murder and children-as-property in this discussion about people who don't like kids. That is some serious bullshit, and way more offensive than the joke that started all this.
posted by Mavri at 5:42 PM on January 4 [45 favorites]


Expressing like or dislike of something can be just expressing a matter of taste, but it also can be a normative value judgment. Usually this is a low-stakes thing, but this is one of the cases where the stakes are quite high. Flirting with a value judgment with ambiguous language opens the door to unambiguous normative judgments like "children really are unpleasant", which then makes it pretty clear that somehow the argument has turned into one about the merits of children, which it wasn't or shouldn't be about.

So like, never say anything about anything that could be construed as a critisisim or people will read into it bad things and that's your fault for saying something not the person who's reading something in bad faith?

Like isn't the point of metafilter "assume good faith"? You seem to be reading really bad faith into people who aren't saying anything remotely offensive!
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 5:46 PM on January 4 [18 favorites]


In what universe is saying that you dislike children the same as saying you dislike a different race? Every one of us has been a child at some point, and, barring a tragedy, children grow up and are no longer children. Some people don’t like children. It doesn’t mean they want to see children tortured or abused or that they are systematically treating them as chattels of their parents.

Disclosure: woman, childless, though not entirely by choice, love kids, don’t see anything wrong with the comment that sparked this thread. Tone is important.
posted by jonathanstrange at 5:49 PM on January 4 [22 favorites]


Yes, the sheer condescension, the ponderous self-congratulation in this thread is really something. Children are killed and murdered, you say? And that's bad? You yourself are anti-murder and I should be too? Why, I never would have realized that if a dozen people hadn't dialed up their rhetoric to ten and let me know. Thanks for the intel!
posted by neroli at 5:50 PM on January 4 [40 favorites]


This thread actually illustrates why I will pretty freely say that I don't like kids. The norms against it, especially for women, are so strong that people will start talking about abuse and child slavery to justify how much they do not want to hear that. I don't like or want kids, and I should be able to say that, not have to justify it, not be pathologized for it, and definitely not be tied into the abuse and murder of children for it.
posted by Mavri at 5:51 PM on January 4 [51 favorites]


Not mistaken, but it doesn't need to be said because no one should be forced to justify their choice not to have children in the first place.

Then why do you keep insisting that women in this thread who say they don't like kids should justify that to you?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:52 PM on January 4 [8 favorites]


Here's why I say I don't like kids: because I do actually want it to be a conversation-ender.
Other people do not need to know any personal/medical/financial/trauma history that may inform my desire to not become a parent. I do not owe it to anyone to give a detailed explanation for my lack of children.

Saying things like "I don't enjoy children" or giving detailed reasons just invites bullshit condescension ("You'll love your own, you'll see!") or completely uninvited/inappropriate problem-solving ("You get used the sleep deprivation!" "Your body will bounce back!"). Fuck off with all of that.

"I don't like kids" is tidy and maintains my privacy. It's not about secretly wanting child slavery or infanticide, and those who assume so... I can't even.
posted by TwoStride at 5:57 PM on January 4 [35 favorites]


People often say, in one form or another, that they don't want children because they don't like children and I understand them to mean exactly what y'all are saying it means and I understand the myriad reasons why they're put into the shitty situation of discussing this at all.

But aren't we forgetting that the context of this thread was a joke about most people supposedly wanting to murder children, and that in that thread and this one there are actual examples of people going beyond the matter of taste and into objective arguments that children really are bad in some sense? This didn't occur in a vacuum.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:08 PM on January 4 [4 favorites]


I definitely feel like part of what's going on here is minority substitution. "This is what it would mean if the phrase "I don't like ___" were applied to another group, so it must be the same".

For me, when it comes to children, in the context of a conversation about not having children, "I don't like kids" is a fair statement. Personally I never say it outside of that context and I would feel I was being rude and weird to bust out with "I don't like kids" unprompted, the way it would be rude and weird to bust out with any other statement like that unprompted, because there's no context so you're just being a garden-variety shithead airing arsehole opinions for no reason. To me it is in context in this thread and the one this thread is about to say, 'I don't like children'. It's a fair statement in the context of that conversation. It's not busting out an arsehole opinion unprompted.

But for some people there is never an acceptable context to say 'I don't like kids', and so every occasion of it is busting out with an arsehole opinion unprompted. I think some of these people are in both threads! But it would be great if they would recognise and say that that's what they mean, rather than going around talking about prison rape and child abuse.
posted by E. Whitehall at 6:09 PM on January 4 [9 favorites]


in that thread and this one there are actual examples of people going beyond the matter of taste and into objective arguments that children really are bad in some sense

No, there aren't. This is something you are making up to justify your self-righteous pontificating.
posted by neroli at 6:19 PM on January 4 [29 favorites]


Anyway, just to say that I think everybody here is sort of right and everyone is coming from a place of good-faith and, also, really shitty lived-experience stuff and I certainly didn't intend to give the impression that I was angry at anyone or think they're a bad person or any of that. Again, I'm not a parent, I'm not coming from a defensive place and I'm by nature and deliberation very much on the side of folks who are angry and fed up about having their valid life decisions constantly judged.

But I do have a very strong protective instinct regarding children. I understand some of why this is the case, and other parts of it are a mystery. But when you come down to it, there's probably not an issue that's more of a hot-button for me. It was one thing for me to be abused by my father, but when he hurt my little sister ... well, I can't talk about it. I have been triggered some in this thread (not so much the one this is about) and I've been trying really really hard to not be angry and to be careful and even-handed and empathetic. Because those of you who are triggered on the other side of this, you have good reason to be. I just thought that we both could be right. I do still think that. I think well of everyone here and I'll step away now.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:25 PM on January 4 [12 favorites]


in that thread and this one there are actual examples of people going beyond the matter of taste and into objective arguments that children really are bad in some sense

Please provide citations to comments stating that "children really are bad", or drop this line of false argumentation.
posted by Lexica at 6:27 PM on January 4 [9 favorites]


Please provide citations to comments

Given your prior incorrect characterization of goalpoast-moving, I dont think you are even capable of recognizing this comment as asserting that children really are bad in some sense.

I understand that you will continue to insist that no such comments have been made, even when the evidence is staring you in the face.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:37 PM on January 4


I just knew my comment would be trotted out for this.

I personally feel like there is a difference between not wanting to deal with the day to day sticky, messy, noisy, and stubborn nonsense kids put other people through, and stating that kids are objectively bad. I also think that there is a lot of wilful ignorance happening in this thread on top of uncharitable readings, and this is exactly why sharing my thoughts and feelings on parenthood is a masochistic exercise.
posted by erratic meatsack at 6:47 PM on January 4 [59 favorites]


Whaaa? You and I read that comment really differently, the man of twists and turns. They listed a pile of things about kids that they don’t like. This is not saying that children are objectively bad. But reasons, valid ones, that that poster doesn’t like children.
posted by jonathanstrange at 6:50 PM on January 4 [33 favorites]


Wow it's pretty weird to see MeFites whose opinions and comments you normally find quite objective and thought-out get all squishy about this subject.

"I dont think you are even capable of recognizing" is some . . . pretty problematic phrasing, tMoTaT.
posted by aspersioncast at 6:55 PM on January 4 [30 favorites]


Yeah, it's interesting to have someone I've considered thoughtful and interesting based on their comments tell me "I dont think you are even capable of recognizing this comment as asserting that children really are bad in some sense" based on me (and apparently others) disagreeing about that comment and others.
posted by Lexica at 6:58 PM on January 4 [18 favorites]




That comment was obviously erratic meatsack's opinion and did not purport to be some sort of objective truth.
posted by Mavri at 7:00 PM on January 4 [6 favorites]


I hope I'm wrong, but tMoTaT, you're coming across as really trying hard to read the worst in some folk's comments.
posted by dazed_one at 7:00 PM on January 4 [13 favorites]


[I'm really gonna need everything to come down like ten degrees, please. The fact that this topic is obviously hugely charged for folks in multiple directions is a good reason to take extra care, not to take extra shots. I want there to be a space for folks to have a useful conversation about some of the stuff roiling in here but this either is or isn't gonna be it and it's veering toward "isn't" in a way that I need to see stop one way or another. Let's try and be at least minimally kind, or, if that's not in the books, be doing something else right now instead.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:04 PM on January 4 [5 favorites]


I feel like this thread should end now or soon. I have now read this all, as well as all of the new thread. I feel like this one has already gone in at least a dozen bad directions, many of which are entirely unrelated to the original topic, and people keep continuing disputes about new or old topics in the thread. For my part, I've favorited comments I think make good points and flagged comments I think really should be removed. That's about all that feels prudent to me at this point.
posted by limeonaire at 7:08 PM on January 4 [6 favorites]


(To be clear, this has also gone in some useful and productive directions, and I feel like some food for thought has been obtained, some of which is now being discussed in the new thread. That's also why I think we should end this one here.)
posted by limeonaire at 7:09 PM on January 4 [2 favorites]


If it helps, I've been working on a revised Gashlycrumb Tinies we can swap into the next Edward Gorey thread:

A is for Amy just lying in bed
B is for Basil well-dressed and well-fed
C is for Clara who’s out of harm’s way
D is for Desmond, completely okay...
posted by neroli at 8:18 PM on January 4 [35 favorites]


IME, "I don't like kids" is shorthand for "I don't like [this set of behaviors, irritations and inconveniences I associate with being in their presence]. Since being a child is a transitory state, it leaves open the idea of liking them later, when those factors are eliminated, much as an obnoxious puppy can become a wonderful dog (not that kids are animals) or ice becomes water (not that kids are things). It's therefore completely different from denigrating a group of people for a trait they cannot change.

It's the inverse of seeing someone who was an adorable child become an insufferable adult, a concept with which few people have issues.
posted by carmicha at 9:07 PM on January 4 [18 favorites]


At least the thread title keeps making me laugh. Thanks, TPS.
posted by ctmf at 10:46 PM on January 4 [4 favorites]


Arguing that childfree people who say “I don’t like kids” must therefore seek the wholesale abuse and mistreatment of children has about the same amount of credibility as arguing against trans people in public bathrooms, or that voter fraud is rigging US elections.

It’s just not happening. And we know this because we know exactly which groups ARE seeking the wholesale abuse and mistreatment of children, and it is 1000000% not individual childfree people who get together and rant about tantrums in the Target checkout line.

I mean sure, think whatever you want about people who don’t like kids. But deleting their posts and impugning their humanity and personal code of ethics? That’s a pile of bullshit.
posted by Autumnheart at 11:15 PM on January 4 [25 favorites]


i mean one time in a "talking about how we don't want kids" thread, another user made a joke that i should be forced to have a lot of children specifically because i always openly say here that i don't ever fucking want to deal with a child, and it was hands down the most disgusting and alienating thing that anyone has ever said to me on mefi, angry/aggressive deleted personal comments included. so. you know. my own personal extremely strong protective instinct is for that to never happen to me or anyone else.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:26 PM on January 4 [49 favorites]


Forced birth is super duper funny! And the people who advocate such things, even in jest, are fine, upstanding people who care lots about family welfare, and want to make sure all kids have parents who are invested in parenting. That’s why all the pro-lifers stand outside clinics, and lobby Congress for a comprehensive social safety net while telling single mothers that they are strong, wonderful people.
posted by Autumnheart at 1:11 AM on January 5 [16 favorites]


this is truly one of the most insane threads i have ever seen on this site

God yes. One of those threads that really makes me feel differently about the site, or at least some part of the people here.

But aren't we forgetting that the context of this thread was a joke about most people supposedly wanting to murder children

It's amazing that so many people are so upset and framing the joke this way, as if they original poster said that more people should murder children, when what they said was they were surprised more people didn't. That's a pretty huge difference and it's kind of stunning how many are ignoring it and making the rage about what they want it to be.

And I am amazed that people keep bringing up abuse and murder and children-as-property in this discussion about people who don't like kids. That is some serious bullshit, and way more offensive than the joke that started all this.

It's really fucking weird, really offensive, and...well I'll just leave it at that.
posted by bongo_x at 3:00 AM on January 5 [40 favorites]


Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” is 290 years old this year.
posted by spitbull at 6:01 AM on January 5 [12 favorites]


what they said was they were surprised more people didn't. That's a pretty huge difference

Sums it up for me.

Most importantly: it's a gag playing on the tenet that we all know to care for children, and thus any importations otherwise are transgressive, and therefore humourous.

Those professing to not understand this strike me as humourless (perhaps because they are or perhaps because they have another agenda). If I'm wrong in this regard, I'd ask those who believe this is a call for child-murder (or -abuse, or -exploitation) to stand up and do something more than a MeTa.

MeMail me at the least. I'm not much use, but I know some people (and I'd be obliged to report it).
posted by pompomtom at 6:18 AM on January 5 [1 favorite]


Whenever someone refers to some awful/stupid thing someone said on mefi years ago I'm 93% sure it was me. There's no bigger relief than when someone links to an old mefi thread full of bad behavior, and I search to find 0 comments.
posted by fleacircus at 7:29 AM on January 5 [11 favorites]


>>>Most importantly: it's a gag playing on the tenet that we all know to care for children, and thus any importations otherwise are transgressive, and therefore humourous.

I think for a joke like that to land successfully, the subtext should likely be “I like/love/care about kids/my kid, but...” and this didn’t seem to have that. I’m not saying the joker hates kids or by any stretch thinks they should be killed, abused or neglected (and I don’t think anyone is saying that about this joker), it just lost the gallows/dark humor for me without that sympathetic/solidarity aspect.
posted by Pax at 7:33 AM on January 5 [4 favorites]


Maybe it’s that it loses the hyperbolic feel coming from someone who we think might actually dislike children - and I’m emphatically, again, not saying the joker is advocating child violence.
posted by Pax at 7:35 AM on January 5


Cortex explained the comment was deleted for three reasons; that it was dark humour, that it didn't add a whole lot to the conversation, and that the joke bugged some people. It's a disappointing precedent.

Dark humour, humorous comments in the exact same vein, have been permitted before.

Comments that don't add a lot to the conversation happen all the time on this site and are generally only viewed as an issue in really huge threads.

Metafilter, as the FAQ states, is not a safe space; one may read things that bug them on this site and it is up to the reader to be aware and avoid subjects they may find troublesome.

On top of that, the excuse that it was only one small comment and that people shouldn't care so much about the deletion has been tossed around, disenfranchising the opinions of those who think that it was a bad decision, as if we are concern-trolls. The mod decision to delete the comment was rash and misguided, but, unfortunately, there isn't much of a precedent for the mods admitting they made a bad call and un-deleting a comment.

I think it's a damn shame to see the moderators on a site I like so much make that call. I also think it's illustrative of an unfortunate trend - the pandering of the mods towards a vocal few in the hopes of preserving certain sensibilities. We are seeing fewer comments and less participation in threads on metafilter these days. It's possible that mod actions such as this one contribute to that dip in participation, that such actions stifle the willingness of people to join the conversation and the community.

I could, obviously, be wrong about my concerns. I hope I am. That said, I also hope the mods will think a little longer in the future about whether to delete a comment, especially one as harmless and insignificant as the one called out here.

An error in judgment was made here. Maybe, in the future, we can err on the side of not deleting people's comments.
posted by dazed_one at 7:42 AM on January 5 [11 favorites]


Also, the comment in question didn’t bother me but I also didn’t read it as a joke. ... I thought it was an actual expression of surprise at the willingness of parents to subordinate their interests to their children’s interests.

Agreed. And, importantly, I think this is the most charitable reading of the comment. It boggles my mind that so many people (including, to my skimming of this thread, at least two moderators here) would assume it was a shitty joke rather than otherwise.
posted by exogenous at 7:53 AM on January 5 [5 favorites]


Maybe it’s that it loses the hyperbolic feel coming from someone who we think might actually dislike children

I don't like kids. I also don't believe in killing or harming anyone. Just because you cannot feel the sympathetic/solidarity aspect of a joke doesn't mean that all of the childless/childfree people participating in that thread in sympathy/solidarity did not. Suggesting otherwise is incredibly insulting and dehumanizing.
posted by elsietheeel at 7:56 AM on January 5 [18 favorites]


comments about murdering politicians should go undeleted. Some of 'em just could use a good murderin'!

how ELSE are they ever gonna LEARN
posted by flabdablet at 8:13 AM on January 5 [2 favorites]


elsietheeel, I emphatically said that I’m not implying anyone wants to harm a child or thinks harm to children is actually funny.

I also didn’t mean that childless/childfree people wouldn’t understand, sympathize or appreciate a dark joke about the difficulty of wrangling or raising kids. I just meant the joke felt unfunny to me coming FROM someone other than someone the audience knows likes or cares for a child or children.

I in no way think people who are childfree/childless are less-than. My latest comment was just about what felt like an ugly and unfunny comment in the original post and why it didn’t feel like true dark humor (in response to the comment above).
posted by Pax at 8:21 AM on January 5 [1 favorite]


Cortex explained the comment was deleted for three reasons; that it was dark humour, that it didn't add a whole lot to the conversation, and that the joke bugged some people. It's a disappointing precedent.

So, part of what's throwing me for a loop on people reacting strongly to the deletion as a matter of some troubling precedent or matter of principle is that...it's not a new precedent? We've made judgement calls about stuff the entire run of MetaFilter's history.

"Eh, you didn't mean ill but that's not going over well" has been a recurring part of the moderation toolset for a very long time. It's a judgement call in context; it's balancing things and making a call in that specific context. It's also why I've been specific that this is an issue of deciding, without condemnation, that this one wasn't worth it, not an issue of declaring dark humor over.

I can't stop folks from treating it like some line in the sand or new absolutist principle, but it's not. It was true before, and it will remain true, that borderline stuff that goes over badly may get deleted. There's not really anything more to draw out of this about actual mod policy; it's fine to disagree with the decision to delete here, but that's about the start and the end of it. Extremely heated metatalk thread notwithstanding, the actual mechanical thing involved here was small potatoes and isn't demonstrative of anything more than "eh, that joke bombed after all". Jokes are gonna do that sometimes.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:22 AM on January 5 [9 favorites]


I didn't like the comment, but the MeTa discussion about it feels weird to me because it seemed to be users who weren't participating in the thread who were expressing the most distress about the comment; it didn't seem to do much to derail the actual thread. Is that common?
posted by lazuli at 8:26 AM on January 5 [3 favorites]


Yeah, when folks successfully flag and move on it ends up not turning into a derail in the thread. In that sense, it's the system working!
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:27 AM on January 5 [4 favorites]


It boggles my mind that so many people (including, to my skimming of this thread, at least two moderators here) would assume it was a shitty joke rather than otherwise.

It boggles my mind that anyone would think it wasn't a joke, even if it was an unfunny or unwelcome one. If someone says something about killing people more often, I assume it is a joke or hyperbole and they are not actually a psychopath, unless there is significant evidence to the contrary.
posted by Mavri at 8:32 AM on January 5 [10 favorites]


But in this case it was a MeTa leading to a deletion pretty far after the comment had been posted, not a flag. That's what I mean. I get that flagging leading to deletion is common.
posted by lazuli at 8:34 AM on January 5 [2 favorites]


lazuli, I hear you, and I was reading the OP but keeping my mouth shut because it wasn’t about me. It was an interesting link and discussion for childfree/childless folks to be able to have. I FIAMO. As someone who flagged, I chimed in a few times here as to why. Maybe it wasn’t my place, as the childfree OP was not about me?
posted by Pax at 8:35 AM on January 5


Pax that really assumes a lot about the poster and asserts only people with X characteristics can say Y. (on preview I meant your comment previous to the most recent one).

cortex I guess I sort of already said this, but IMO it was the biggest mistake here - this whole MeTa could have been a "flag it and move on." If there are really a ton of child murder jokes happening on MeFi I haven't seen them. I understand why R-N let the post stand, but it sure went nowhere productive fast. RE the actual deletion, whatever, it's always going to be somewhat ad hoc by design, and that's fine. I agree with dazed_one that it did seem a vocal few were really pushing the envelope there.

it feels weird to me because it seemed to be users who weren't participating in the thread who were expressing the most distress about the comment; it didn't seem to do much to derail the actual thread.

This - I can't help but feel like someone threw some chum in the water and then backed away. Maybe they just didn't want to derail the original thread? Most of this conversation would have been a lot more productive and a lot less agonizing for the mods if it had just happened in the thread that started it.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:37 AM on January 5 [2 favorites]


Sometimes stuff comes up slower; sometimes it comes up in MetaTalk; sometimes it comes up in the contact form. The most common pipeline is prompt flagging -> deletion, but in practice it can play out in a whole variety of ways, including discussion after the fact on one or more channels.

cortex I guess I sort of already said this, but IMO it was the biggest mistake here - this whole MeTa could have been a "flag it and move on."

It could have, and in a fair number of parallel cases that's all that happens. I don't know what to say beyond, hey, sometimes someone wants to start a MetaTalk. Some concern to the contrary up thread not withstanding, basically what happens when someone wants to start a MetaTalk is we have a MetaTalk. Sometimes they're bumpy; I'm surprised at how exceptionally so this one has been, but here we are.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:47 AM on January 5


And I tried to not cast aspersions (heh) on the joker or anyone else in the Meta by being careful to specify in my follow up that it was just that it was coming from someone other than someone the audience knows likes or cares for a child or children - nothing about the actual joker or anyone else. That said, I took elsietheeel’s comment seriously and perhaps I was careless when I first said “someone who we think might dislike children.” Either way, i FIAMO and only wanted to explain why, per lazuli’s comment.

I think we’d agree, though, that it’s pretty common for people to believe that jokes can be contextual, based on the speaker and audience (in-group jokes, etc.).
posted by Pax at 8:57 AM on January 5


(On non-preview.)
posted by Pax at 8:58 AM on January 5


If nothing else, this thread has given me many ideas for oh no-comic parodies.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 8:58 AM on January 5 [4 favorites]


So, part of what's throwing me for a loop on people reacting strongly to the deletion as a matter of some troubling precedent or matter of principle is that...it's not a new precedent? We've made judgement calls about stuff the entire run of MetaFilter's history.

I think you are getting such strong pushback on this because for many people this stands out as a bad deletion. That's the problematic precedent, not that this specific joke was totes amazing or that anyone wants to die on the hill of defending jokes about kids. The joke was appropriate and in context in that thread, and the pushback seems to have come mostly from people outside of that thread (and not entirely, but significantly, from parents rather than from people most engaged with the subject of the thread, for whatever that is worth).

That, layered with EM's super offensive comment, leaves a really bad taste in my mouth about your staff's approach on this. It's your site and you can take the approach you want, but it isn't because people misunderstand the deletion policy that there is being a lot of friction here.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:03 AM on January 5 [39 favorites]


Yes, Dip Flash articulates very well how I feel about this deletion, too, and the same sense contributes to what I was feeling in my earlier comment that this site doesn't feel like a good place to talk openly about being childless/childfree without getting blowback. The fact that such a protracted argument has happened over the moral valence of saying you don't like kids in a thread about not having or possibly wanting children is part of the same thing.

In general I really like the moderation on Metafilter and I have a lot of respect for the mods and the difficult job they have, but I've been disappointed by the lack of response to this particular aspect of what is being said in this thread. It would be nice to get mod confirmation that what some childless/childfree people are saying is being heard - specifically, that MF can be a very uncomfortable place to speak honestly about childlessness - and that this part of the context will also be considered in future threads about this subject.
posted by DingoMutt at 9:21 AM on January 5 [14 favorites]


I mean, it partially is a source of friction, at least for me. Because I thought we mostly removed things that landed with a thud because they derailed threads, and this one completely did not derail the thread, but still got deleted and I found that pretty confusing. Not that I want to encourage people to derail threads as a way of getting shitty things removed, but the alternative of removing things that aren't clearly shitty and which didn't derail threads has its own problems.

Cortex's recent post:

Yeah, when folks successfully flag and move on it ends up not turning into a derail in the thread. In that sense, it's the system working!

Makes the deletion make more sense in the context of flagging rather than derailing, but at the same time, Cortex said earlier that it got almost no actual flags:

That was my feeling when I saw a lone flag come in on it last night several hours after it got posted; I muttered a little oof, decided to leave it be, and here we are.

This is making me thing about the performative nature of Meta threads and whether the chance to be righteously angry about something out loud makes people more angry about it than they actually were. Like, according to this Meta, there are a whole bunch of people who saw that comment and it made them feel super sad or triggered or punched but only one of them even hit the flag button until someone started a Meta and then they all had lots to say about how it hurt them.

And I'm not excluding myself from this -- I posted upthread about how I was going to feel like shit for the rest of the day as a result of this Meta, even knowing that I was already in bed when I wrote that comment and the rest of the day -- had I not then got caught up in the argument in this Meta -- would have been about 10 minutes or so. I ended up feeling shitty longer and feeling more shitty because I was involved in this Meta and as I wrote things (and deleted most of them) I was winding myself up.

This probably belongs over in the MetaMeta moreso than here but it seems like something we should be thinking about -- how much does a Meta thread artificially rile people up about something over something they're not actually that upset about? You might read something and think 'Ugh, that's not a great comment" but then when you get to Meta, you have to have paragraphs explaining why it is not a great comment, so you come up with reasons and drill into them and examine them and maybe in the process, raise your initial thought to "UGH! That is a super terrible bad comment and the person who made it is a bad person" without quite noticing.

If this is what's happening, I don't know how we escape it, really -- it's not like "be less thoughtful about things" is a good approach. But "be mindful of whether you are getting more angry as you write things" seems pretty difficult in practice.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:21 AM on January 5 [31 favorites]


"be mindful of whether you are getting more angry as you write things" seems pretty difficult in practice

That's how you can tell when a practice is worthwhile.
posted by flabdablet at 9:28 AM on January 5 [6 favorites]


I think for a joke like that to land successfully, the subtext should likely be “I like/love/care about kids/my kid, but...” and this didn’t seem to have that. I’m not saying the joker hates kids or by any stretch thinks they should be killed, abused or neglected (and I don’t think anyone is saying that about this joker), it just lost the gallows/dark humor for me without that sympathetic/solidarity aspect.

But THAT'S THE JOKE: we don't have kids because the task of raising them looks so miserable we are worried we would hurt them. Like you know, PARENTS DO? It's really strange how a joke about protecting children from harm by NOT HAVING THEM has somehow been misconstrued to be about wanting to give birth specifically to then murder a child.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 9:41 AM on January 5 [21 favorites]


If anyone asks me why I don't comment often, I can really just point to this MeTa.
posted by dogheart at 9:47 AM on January 5 [18 favorites]


But THAT'S THE JOKE: we don't have kids because the task of raising them looks so miserable we are worried we would hurt them. Like you know, PARENTS DO? It's really strange how a joke about protecting children from harm by NOT HAVING THEM has somehow been misconstrued to be about wanting to give birth specifically to then murder a child.

Nailed it.

Unfortunately, it seems that some are being deliberately obtuse, getting riled up and high on their misplaced outrage and, to make matters worse, where the mods should have been the voice of moderation they instead sided with those misguided objections and deleted the comment.

Now, the heels are dug in and the hackles are up and there's no backing down - from both the mods and the people who refused to give the subject of this post the benefit of the doubt.
posted by dazed_one at 9:52 AM on January 5 [27 favorites]


It would be nice to get mod confirmation that what some childless/childfree people are saying is being heard - specifically, that MF can be a very uncomfortable place to speak honestly about childlessness - and that this part of the context will also be considered in future threads about this subject.

I was trying to get at that a bit in this comment, but to elaborate: I think this thread has, whatever else aside, been good for making it clearer that there's some sore spots and blind spots we can work on as a community about how people are feeling heard or not, or feeling uncomfortable, about some of the schismatic stuff that comes up around childlessness, parenthood, social pressures around all of that, etc. Part of that clearly is that, yeah, folks coming from a perspective of childlessness, by whatever of varied circumstances, feel like they don't have as much opportunity to just voice feelings about that on the site. It's probably doable to work together to carve out a little more self-aware space for that; I'm happy to talk about it a bit more.

As a basic thing I think it's something for folks to try and be aware of more going forward; that includes the mod team trying to keep an eye on these dynamics more, and folks reaching out to us in real-time when it feels like there's an issue coming into play, and just in general folks in the community trying to do the self-checking of "is this conversation really about me, and if not what is my motivation for interjecting" about this stuff as much as we'd expect folks to do it about other more well-established known-difficult topics.

I think we can have good discussions about all of those different aspects of childlessness, parenthood, etc. on the site; I'd say in fact we have had 'em at times. My general perception of the original blue thread here is that it, in itself, actually went pretty okay there, though I'll admit my attention has been heavily loaded over to the metatalk aftershocks so I won't claim to have read it top to bottom. But I get that as a MetaTalk discussion touching on the issue there's more coming out in this than just the specifics of that discussion. I guess my hope is we can also ground some of this in the fact that that stuff can basically go well, and try to keep that in our sights as the thing to work for.

I also think that that has not very much to do in practice with the joke at the notional center of this, which feels like it's structurally basically an off-to-the-side blip to all of that, and I think it'd be easier to talk about the more general set of concerns about e.g. boundaries of parenting and childlessness discussions separate from that one thing than trying to bring it back around to being The Thing That Needs Settling.

Makes the deletion make more sense in the context of flagging rather than derailing, but at the same time, Cortex said earlier that it got almost no actual flags

To be clear, it got almost no flags immediately, and then picked them up steadily overnight. The site has a kind of 24 hour heartbeat, sometimes stuff becomes an issue immediately and sometimes it builds up over time. Immediately is more unambiguous and so easier to deal with promptly, but that's not always how it goes. The feedback we have to work with is always going to be kind of unevenly distributed and often requires some sorting through and reevaluation over time.

But THAT'S THE JOKE

As someone who has, apologies to anyone who has been stuck around a campfire with me, gone a mile and then some to explain a joke more than once, I completely get the instinct to push back on misreading of the structure or intent or so on of the joke, especially if there's some perception that that alternate reading is what doomed the thing. But I'll reiterate one more time that sometimes a joke just doesn't land as well as one hoped.

I got the joke and didn't personally mind it; it's a dark joke and a bunch of people were bothered by it. Those things aren't mutually exclusive, and there is what feels like a dynamic here of some people trying to argue that it can only be one or the other—some folks who find it in such fundamentally poor taste that they don't see any value in recognizing it or defending it as humor, some folks who feel that something that is clearly a joke shouldn't be taken as actionably offensive period—and so kind of skipping past the middle ground where a dark joke can just land bad in a general audience context while still, sure, being a joke that wasn't ill-intended.

There is a ton of energy fueling this thread that's tied to various strong feelings about parenthood, childlessness, social pressures and social judgement about both along a bunch of different vectors. I get that and understand how that happens. But I don't see a way forward that involves folks pushing hard for the nth time in either interpretive direction (it's about harming children VS no, it's dark humor about coping) as if it's going to collapse down to a single correct answer what's actually a juxtaposition of readings informed by different folks' personal experiences and perspectives. A whole bunch of people are gonna keep disagreeing with each other about how that interpretation should fall, and that's...basically how life goes, and it's frustrating but we also have to accept it and move on, because an endless tug-of-war about the merits of this particular joke isn't going to suddenly cleanly resolve itself.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:13 AM on January 5 [12 favorites]


This probably belongs over in the MetaMeta moreso than here but it seems like something we should be thinking about -- how much does a Meta thread artificially rile people up about something over something they're not actually that upset about?

I can't speak for other people (and the joke didn't bother me, I assumed it wasn't a joke and also wasn't about wanting to kill children, but instead was wonderment about the ability of parents to tolerate children, which makes sense since wonderment about parenting seems like a normal emotion for non-parents). BUT generally there were things in that thread that I intentionally ignored even though I guess I could have disagreed with them because it's not my space / not my business and generally it's better to let people have their space to discuss stuff. Given that, I think it's very possible that a lot of people who were genuinely bothered did the right, considerate, thoughtful thing and consciously avoided disrupting the conversational space.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:20 AM on January 5 [8 favorites]


cortex, since you (and previously l_n) have expressed bafflement at the response here, let me try one more time.

Have you read all of the comments in this thread? There are Mefites right here in this thread telling you they don't feel welcome to speak their truths here on MetaFilter. That even in a thread about them, they'll be forced to either justify their very humanity or be silenced. There's plenty of evidence in this very thread, so I have to believe their fears are justified.

So along comes an FPP where childless people speak their truths. In typical MetaFilter fashion, Mefites in that group share their stories. One of those stories includes a dark joke that had been shared between a childless couple. It didn't break any rules and it didn't cause a derail so you left it.

Then this thread opened up. There were complaints. There were comments in support. So you listened to the complaints and weighted them more important.

But who was complaining? Mostly parents. Who was in support? A lot of people, actually, but especially the childfree people that thread was providing a space for.

And who says the comment was unimportant? Well, you do, obviously. And of course the people who objected to the comment in the first place. But I know you don't actually believe that humor has no value or that dark humor can't reveal truths or even that anyone here should feel entitled to never be offended by what they find here.

So when you say the comment wasn't important, you're just adding insult to injury. It doesn't feel unimportant to have unique voices silenced in one of the few places they have to express themselves, especially when the objections are largely coming from outside. From people who basically have everywhere else in the world to say, "But what about the children?"

And then you briefly trotted out the trigger argument, only to abandon it as soon as I suggested treating this like other triggers. Is this joke still above the fold in this Meta? It shouldn't be. You see, I believe the people who say the comment was triggering. You should believe the people who are telling you the comment was important and your decision feels like privileging the voices of parents over the voices of the childfree in a thread about the voices of the childfree.

You're bewildered because you insist the comment was unimportant. That insistence is part of the problem. The thread was to some extent about how exhausting it is for the childfree to have to constantly justify their words, their thoughts, their selves.

And every time you insist it wasn't important and it bugged some child lovers, I suspect you alienate the childfree a little bit more.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:53 AM on January 5 [60 favorites]


I had a longer response typed up, but IRFH said it better than I.
posted by dazed_one at 10:56 AM on January 5 [8 favorites]


cortex: " A whole bunch of people are gonna keep disagreeing with each other about how that interpretation should fall, and that's...basically how life goes, and it's frustrating but we also have to accept it and move on, because an endless tug-of-war about the merits of this particular joke isn't going to suddenly cleanly resolve itself."

Which is why it is well past time to close this.
posted by namewithoutwords at 10:57 AM on January 5 [5 favorites]


Keeping the comment bugged child lovers. Deleting it bugs the childfree.

In a thread about being childfree, the mods acted on the desires of those the post wasn't even about.
posted by dazed_one at 10:59 AM on January 5 [25 favorites]


But I know you don't actually believe that humor has no value or that dark humor can't reveal truths or even that anyone here should feel entitled to never be offended by what they find here.

For sure. That just doesn't make dark humor sacrosanct. Sometimes it thuds! It's dicey; some of its value comes from it being dicey, but it's a rhetorical dice roll and sometimes you don't hit your number.

I think the general question, of how people feel about being heard or not or having space or not to talk about issues related to childlessness and so on, is a good one and worth us trying to be more aware of; I talked about that a little in my previous comment, and I think it's a good outcome of this thread for us to have that more on the radar. My perception is that that's the driving energy behind much of this, and I want to pay attention to that. I don't think wrestling more about that one joke is going to make any progress on that; I hear y'all that you disagree with the deletion, I hear you that you feel like it's emblematic of something larger, and I respect that point of disagreement. But if the actual concern is the something larger, let's focus on the something larger.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:04 AM on January 5 [1 favorite]


Why not just restore the damned comment.
posted by dazed_one at 11:14 AM on January 5 [5 favorites]


But if the actual concern is the something larger, let's focus on the something larger.

How many more times are you looking for people to try and find just the right way to restate the “something larger” that might just provoke substantive engagement and a change in direction? It’s been said and resaid; maybe clarify what you are looking for here so people can help you out?
posted by Dip Flash at 11:15 AM on January 5 [11 favorites]


I thought the comment was somewhat unimportant (like most comments), somewhat offensive (*unlike* most comments), and I don't have children, though I'd like to.

I haven't been vocal in this thread because I have a lot of other things going on. I find the childfree/parents angle with regard to that comment to be especially unhelpful and reductive. As a childless person who finds the comment somewhat offensive, there's not space for me on either side of that discourse. It's not an important discourse to me, so that's fine. But the issue of moderation on Metafilter is important to me, and insofar as that discourse is being driven forward by some to push for moderation changes, that's unhelpful.

People on one side of this issue are painting it in a certain way, and I'm just trying to represent what I see as a moderate position that's getting erased-a similar moderate position to the line that I see the moderators holding. When you're in my shoes, there's not a lot of motivation to show up and say where you stand. I'm showing up to say where I stand, since I see the moderators being painted as holding some kind of extreme position. I don't agree with that characterization. I'm not going to stick around and argue about it-stuff to do!

EM's comments were unfortunate but they've been gone from the thread quite a while. It would be good if EM apologized, as some are suggesting in the other thread. I think that it would be helpful if some re-read through the comments by the other moderators that have happened in the meantime with a more charitable spirit.
posted by Kwine at 11:15 AM on January 5 [3 favorites]


MeMail me at the least. I'm not much use, but I know some people (and I'd be obliged to report it).
Well, that should kill participation in threads about children by parents, so problem solved then.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 11:20 AM on January 5


Here's why the deletion bothers me. A huge chunk of this thread, from the very first comment, is about some parents being unable to tolerate it when people don't like children. Deleting the comment, then, seems like some very successful concern trolling. So, we have a deleted joke about parents killing their children, and a bunch of wildly offensive comments about people who don't like children are allowed to stand. (And, yeah, deletion standard are different here, but the look is not good.)
posted by Mavri at 11:34 AM on January 5 [21 favorites]


Thank you for your thoughtful and detailed response, cortex. I would like to just be a little more clear on one element you responded to in particular:

Part of that clearly is that, yeah, folks coming from a perspective of childlessness, by whatever of varied circumstances, feel like they don't have as much opportunity to just voice feelings about that on the site.

I just want to state that framing it as "not having as much opportunity" to discuss the topic isn't quite accurate. I don't have as much opportunity as I would like to discuss, I dunno, my deep and abiding love for that giant rubber duck that goes around the world to different harbors, because it (alas) just doesn't come up that often.

With the topic of being childfree/childless, it's that I actively feel uncomfortable reading about or posting about it on Metafilter because of the inevitable blowback that occurs. I don't disagree that the thread on the blue did go reasonably well this time, but the dynamics in this thread which people have already addressed, especially (for me) pertaining to the extensive and at times hyperbolic criticism of people expressing a dislike for children in a thread about not having children, is exactly the kind of thing that makes me uncomfortable to see this topic arise on the site.

I appreciate your remark that this is something we can talk about more, and my apologies if I'm speaking to a word choice that may or may not have reflected exactly what you meant. Just wanted to be sure that it's coming through that there's more to it than whether or not there's enough opportunity to discuss this topic.
posted by DingoMutt at 11:36 AM on January 5 [18 favorites]


Who says the joke landed with a thud? Who did the joke land with a thud with? You privileged their objections, so it's an important point. You got complaints, I get that.

Certainly dark humor isn't sacrosanct. But it isn't less than, either.

And when it is in the service of a group who already feel marginalized, it is especially incumbent on you to pay very close attention to who is trying to get a thing deleted and why.

And maybe show more care when describing your deletion reason. To me, your initial statements came across as cavalier and dismissive. Your more recent comments are a huge improvement. If you'd started from a place of acknowledging that the comment might actually have had value to the people it was meant for, this all might have gone very differently.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:43 AM on January 5 [22 favorites]


With the topic of being childfree/childless, it's that I actively feel uncomfortable reading about or posting about it on Metafilter because of the inevitable blowback that occurs. I don't disagree that the thread on the blue did go reasonably well this time, but the dynamics in this thread which people have already addressed, especially (for me) pertaining to the extensive and at times hyperbolic criticism of people expressing a dislike for children in a thread about not having children, is exactly the kind of thing that makes me uncomfortable to see this topic arise on the site.

I hear you. And I think trying to find ways to help reduce that discomfort and let people have conversations like the thread on the blue where things go basically well is a really good goal. I'm down for talking about strategies for helping make space for more of those good conversation and for helping folks signal concerns in real time effectively so we can help keep an eye out of if a bad dynamic is spinning up. Just having had this conversation in here is helpful for having the issue more on our radar, all else aside.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:54 AM on January 5 [5 favorites]


For all the "close the thread now" people; Please take your own advice.
posted by banshee at 12:09 PM on January 5 [18 favorites]


I have to say "close the thread" comments are a pet peeve and always have been.
It comes across very patronizing.
posted by bongo_x at 12:13 PM on January 5 [26 favorites]


long thread, about which I've got a pile to say. Or at least I did because after much writing and rewriting, cutting-pasting-deleting-rereading -- this is all I've got ...

METAFILTER: We weren’t exactly painting the Mona Lisa

or maybe ...

METAFILTER: sometimes a joke just doesn't land as well as one hoped
posted by philip-random at 12:16 PM on January 5 [1 favorite]


Did the joke get more flags after the MetaTalk was opened? Or before?
posted by agregoli at 12:25 PM on January 5


Before.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:32 PM on January 5 [1 favorite]


I have to say "close the thread" comments are a pet peeve and always have been.
It comes across very patronizing.


God, me too. I don't even understand it. If you don't likes arguments or fights or however you want to characterize them, don't read the thread. I don't know, it seems kind of simple to me.
posted by holborne at 1:00 PM on January 5 [13 favorites]


(Please bear with me, this is turning out to be lengthier than even I anticipated, but I thought it might be helpful to explain my evolving thinking from since first seeing this post, especially because I don't fit the stereotype of one or the other side, but even so ended up being perceived as extremely antagonistic to the childfree and became, in fact, quite hurtful to many -- which, for me BTW, is so unexpected and upsetting because I agree with and share those grievances!)

So I read the thread in the blue only because it was posted here. And, in fact, when I read the post here and the linked comment, my thought was and is that the Meta poster was extra-sensitive about something that I didn't think was good, but even so wasn't a big deal. I read the blue thread and, again, didn't see anything I expected or thought terribly objectionable by the site-wide standard, though a few things made me uncomfortable because I'm very sensitive to disparaging (perceived or truly) comments about children as a class. At no time in that thread or this thread have I felt that parents, as a class, have been mistreated -- it's always been clear to me that it's the childfree who have the main grievance here.

So you're probably asking, with justifiable irritation, how did I end up where I did in this thread?

Well, one big thing that I'm grateful I've learned from MetaFilter is that things I think aren't a big deal can be very hurtful for other people and I should by default take their concerns seriously, at least initially and with further research and consideration to come. So I thought, "okay, maybe there's some merit to finding child murder jokes more problematic than I've thought". Put another way, definitely that blue thread is a childfree space where hyperbolic venting is appropriate but this MeTa post for me posed the more general question about something distinct. I kind of took the childfree concerns as a given -- I've thought a lot about how childfree folk are treated (note that while I'm one myself, I'm not a woman, and I do enjoy children, so I've escaped most of this scrutiny) and I think it's a big problem and there's definitely a justified need to vent. So, instead, I thought about the other issue posed by this post. This thread to me was effectively posing the question "maybe we should think about the implications of comments/jokes about violence against children?" And that concern does resonate with me because I'm kind of triggered by issues involving child welfare and the general issue of how we think about and treat children in our society.

I was one of the folk who strongly defended the" kill all men" hyperbole jokes in a feminist venting thread years ago. On the one hand, this case seemed like that. But on the other hand, in that prior case, men are actually the threat, where the privilege lies -- definitely "punching up". But I have a hard time thinking of how it's ever more definitively "punching down" when the target is children, even in jest. So as I considered, I started being more persuaded by the complaint of this post even though I began from a sense of it not being a big deal and that I'm solidly behind the rights of the childfree to be able to talk honestly and vent.

Again, for me this is how a lot of this goes here with MeTa complaints: I'm a person with relative privilege on many axes and so I've become accustomed to questioning my "not a big deal" initial responses to MeTa complaints.

Then, in this thread, one of the very unfortunate things that happens in these MetaTalk threads happened: people dug-in, took stronger positions, and used intemperate language. And while on the parent side, Eyebrows McGee was a potent example of that escalation, I also started to feel that whole digging-in, defensive, denial, angry, aggrieved, "this whole complaint is absurd or even an outrage" from the childfree side.

In my experience here, that is a warning signal. In two different ways, actually -- here (as long as it's not coming from cishet white men), it often indicates that the defensive folk do have a long-standing grievance in a different or related context. And in this case they definitely do! The childfree have many reasons to be upset! But, in the other direction, it also often is the case that I've seen this be a thing where that group in their defensiveness sees this the whole discussion only as about their grievance and they're blind, in a motivated way, to the other party's grievance. This is an extremely unfortunate and unpleasant dynamic to watch, because it often ends up being a conflict that's really an intersectionality situation and everyone is both right and wrong and everyone feels hurt.

A huge difference here is that while, in practice in this thread, the two groups were the childfree and parents, I never saw parents as a group with a legitimate grievance: to me, it was the childfree and children, with adults necessarily speaking on their behalf. Again, children are a profoundly powerless group and I was thinking in terms of language about them vis a vis the hurt they experience as a class.

I now completely see that my approach to this infuriated many childfree and seems obtuse at best or disingenuous at worst. After all, the people arrayed against them were mostly parents, quelle surprise, and isn't that a perfect example of this anti-childfree dynamic?

Well, it is. And I guess the one important learned lesson here I forgot is that it does matter who one finds oneself allied with in these debates -- it's a clue to how to interpret what's really going on. In retrospect, the correct response for me and others like me would have been to object to the "model" supposedly anti-child comment being drawn from a childfree venting thread on the grounds that it poisons the well, so to speak. If we're going to have a discussion about how we talk about children, drawing from that thread is the worst way to do it.

So, mea culpa: I'm totally in the wrong for missing that and making the wrong decision in light of missing that important context and the mistakes I made following from that.

Everything else follows from that mistake -- which is to say, I read and became involved in this thread as if it were really (mostly or only) about child welfare and how we, on MetaFilter talk about them. I began mistrusting the vehement defensiveness, which is usually a sign that there's a there, there. I thought in terms of the profound relative vulnerability of children. I thought about -- given past MeTa threads -- what are we implying and endorsing when we use certain language, even though or especially when it's common? And I was especially struck by the defense built around (paraphrasing) well, let's be honest, children really are awfully unpleasant. In the context I (incorrectly) thought this (as contrasted with one in the blue) discussion existed within, that really set off alarm bells for me.

Also, in the spirit of openness, I'll say I had at the forefront of my mind what I think is a very comparable situation with the elderly and I couldn't see how "but they really are unpleasant" could ever be okay in a discussion that ostensibly was about how we talk about the elderly (and I thought it was comparable because there are unfair social expectations for women caretaking the elderly). I only barely alluded to this, though I was thinking a lot about it, because I fully understand how using such analogies in these discussions does more harm than good. I'm not mentioning it now as a sideways attempt to get it in the thread, but rather as an explanation of what I was thinking. The point is, it became increasingly difficult for me to question whether this was the right thread to have this discussion -- because I felt like I kept seeing evidence that it was and that there really is a significant problem.

At the same time, and which should have been a clue to me, I also became more confused, conflicted, and very emotionally distressed as it seemed like I found myself in a role I emphatically didn't want and emphatically disagree with: hurting the childfree.

Initially, I thought I could keep mentioning that I agree with those complaints, later I thought people were just strongly motivated to resist believing that I meant it because they were uncomfortable with what I was saying, and then finally without fully understanding where I had gone wrong, I vaguely understood I had, and wrote a very heartfelt comment that I was upset and confused by the whole conflict and wanted everyone to know I meant no offense.

Also, I guess I ought to deal with what I wrote in my last comment. I recapitulate here my thought process as if it were a careful analytical excercise, and it was, but from what I wrote in my last comment, it's obviously also the case that I have a huge emotional investment in what it was I thought we were discussing. I disclosed that because I felt it was important context. I don't know exactly why I wrote specifically about my father's abuse of me and my sister and how seeing her hurt was so awful, but having written that and posting the comment, it just about broke me. I've never felt so vulnerable revealing anything on this site, I don't know if anything goes more to the core of who I am and the things I feel. I don't drink much, but I clicked "post", then drank an entire bottle of wine at once and then sat and cried. So please try to be gentle with me.

I write all this because some of the people hurt in this thread feel I'm one of the worst offenders. And I see now that I am, but please believe me when I say I wasn't coming from the place you think I was while doing so. It was a colossal misunderstanding that regardless of what this MeTa post claimed to be about, the thread was about the childfree, not children, and could never have been anything other. Because that's where the objected-to comment was drawn from.

And let's be super-clear (which was to me, but I totally failed to emphasize this): it's not the childfree who are largely the threat to children, it's their parents. If I had recognized that this thread, regardless of how it was intended, was about the childfree, then this fact I was quite aware of would have made it clear we shouldn't be having that discussion in this context. But I missed this crucial dynamic of the thread and so I didn't recognize the significance of something I well knew and the childfree mentioned themselves repeatedly.

I suspect that a different post about how we talk about children, unrelated to a childfree thread, would go better, but there would still be difficulty. In the end, the childfree have a genuine and severe grievance, but also many of us are incredibly invested in issues of child welfare. Those two things might inevitably collide. But it should have been obvious to me that this thread was a tremendously damaging minefield within which to have that conversation, and I apologize.

Talking at length about what I was thinking and where I was coming from -- well, I'm not making excuses or even asking for forgiveness. Rather, in addition to the things involving my issues that really hurt me, I also was left very sad and upset that people, beyond just me, who were mostly like-minded and well-meaning hurt each other so much and so, no, I don't want forgiveness but if my whole run-through provides insight and empathy, my hope is that it can be sort of a lesson for all of us about how good people can stumble into being very hurtful in a discussion here.

On preview: it does seem significant that the comment got more flags before the MeTa than after in that it indicates there's a genuine problem with that comment, regardless of the thread it appeared within. But, still, I think that thread as a starting point for this discussion irrevocably poisons this discussion. This post and much of the commentary might then be unwise, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the deletion was. Best would have been that it silently disappeared after it got a bunch of flags, and we had seen no post about it.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:47 PM on January 5 [27 favorites]


I appreciate your candor, Ivan Fyodorovich. That was well thought out and well written.

Best would have been that it silently disappeared after it got a bunch of flags, and we had seen no post about it.

This, however, I disagree with. It would have been best if the comment had been left where it was. Sure, if it had silently been deleted, people may not have noticed. But the problem isn't that people noticed a comment about being childfree getting deleted. I objected to the possibility of it being deleted before I knew it was gone.

The problem is that someone expressed a joke (well written or not, it doesn't matter) about being childfree and that expression and the motivations behind it were read in the least generous terms possible, almost willfully misconstrued, and then held up by an outraged mob to be deleted by the mods.
posted by dazed_one at 1:57 PM on January 5 [12 favorites]


Yeah, when folks successfully flag and move on it ends up not turning into a derail in the thread. In that sense, it's the system working!

Then why delete the comment? I mean, I get when you head off a guaranteed train wreck, but that didn't seem to happen. (Until the MeTa)
posted by ctmf at 2:30 PM on January 5 [2 favorites]


I'd like to see people stop blaming only the mods for this deletion. The reason it was deleted was because a lot of people, myself included, objected to it. If you want to smear me as part of a "mob" then go off I guess, but this kind of absurd and bad-faith hyperbole only makes me more convinced that deleting it was the right decision.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 2:33 PM on January 5 [5 favorites]


i don't think it makes you part of a mob. i think it means that you value your participation in this site more than you value the participation of people who were in that thread, talking amongst themselves, who have expressed in this thread how this site isn't a safe space for them to discuss being childfree.

the solution to this from my perspective is that we as a site say "maybe people who get offended at jokes about kids shouldn't participate in childfree threads, and that's okay," but nobody seems willing to concede that point for whatever reason.
posted by JimBennett at 2:37 PM on January 5 [25 favorites]


I'd like to see people stop blaming only the mods for this deletion. The reason it was deleted was because a lot of people, myself included, objected to it. If you want to smear me as part of a "mob" then go off I guess, but this kind of absurd and bad-faith hyperbole only makes me more convinced that deleting it was the right decision.

Ironic that you see fit to condemn what you perceive as "bad-faith hyperbole" in my words but you're a-okay with the bad-faith hyperbole that got the original comment deleted in the first place.
posted by dazed_one at 2:41 PM on January 5 [20 favorites]


Please direct me to the bad faith hyperbole in my comments in this thread? I've said a decent amount here - which I'm not going to repeat - but my comments have all been made in good faith. This is bizarre.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 2:45 PM on January 5


Yeah, generally I think it'll go better if we can avoid the accusations of bad faith. That kind of mind-reading, telling other people that they don't really believe what they're saying, is really hard to respond to in any productive way. We can take people at their word that either the joke or the deletion (respectively) genuinely upset them, and then just deal with each other on those terms.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:48 PM on January 5 [8 favorites]


Since we're all still here and it keeps coming up, I want to address the "children aren't oppressors"/"punching down" aspect of the comment (fine if you don't personally consider it a joke).

No one is saying that children, the people, oppress adults. We all know and understand that adults are the ones with power, especially since until a minor is a legal adult they are well, minor. However, as a woman especially, the idea of HAVING children IS oppressive. It is an erosion of freedoms, it is the death of our current lifestyle as we know it (not to mention potentially actually killing us!), and it is a huge burden of responsibility both emotional and financial. The basis of most women's rights are specifically built around the fact that we could have babies, and men in particular seem to want to make us have babies we don't want. The idea of having babies IS OPPRESSIVE to some women, and probably would seem so to more if we were allowed to talk about it more without being called hateful or unnatural.

Pregnancy is oppressive. Motherhood is oppressive. Women have those huge emotional labor threads because so much of the maintenance of life (even LITERALLY LIFE) falls to us and it's exhausting. So when these "jokes" are made, the joke isn't "ha ha children themselves are responsible for this awful world", but " ha ha how does anyone do that, the entire slog seems completely awful with the messes and the screaming and the no appreciation for at least 18 years or ever!" which I think is an important aspect to consider when framing this in punch up/punch down terms.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 2:51 PM on January 5 [49 favorites]


Please direct me to the bad faith hyperbole in my comments in this thread? I've said a decent amount here - which I'm not going to repeat - but my comments have all been made in good faith. This is bizarre.

A mob is a large group of people. Outraged is a descriptor for their anger towards the original comment. I believe in everything I've said in this thread; I do not argue in bad faith. Please show me where I have before you accuse me of such.
posted by dazed_one at 2:53 PM on January 5 [9 favorites]


Speaking as someone who's had a reasonable number of comments deleted, I'd like to point out that I'm extremely happy with yeah, that was kind of not great, didn't add anything, and some people credibly said it upset them as being a reasonable standard for deleting comments.

And I would be extremely upset to be in a MetaFilter where people were particularly fragile about low-value comments being deleted, because in my view that would have pretty bad knock-on effects of lowering the level of thought people put into their comments.

I liked the original blue thread a lot, it was important to me, and I'm really worried that people are making the topic into a “MetaFilter doesn't do that well” area when I'd like it to be very supportive.

On preview - In particular, I think you need to chill out a lot on the “we're being censored” schtick, dazed_one.
posted by ambrosen at 2:57 PM on January 5 [9 favorites]


On preview - In particular, I think you need to chill out a lot on the “we're being censored” schtick, dazed_one.

I think I've been pretty chill, tbh. I like metafilter. Been reading here a long time. But there's a lot about this community that's come to light via this discussion that's drastically affecting my views of the place.
posted by dazed_one at 3:01 PM on January 5 [16 favorites]


Ivan, you are always so thoughtful, that, as childless by choice myself, I felt more confused than attacked by your earlier participation. I’m encouraged to hear your arguments came from such a compassionate place.

I only speak for myself, but please be easy with yourself. I see your pain. I’ve long admired how you turn that pain into healing and hope for others, here.
posted by thoroughburro at 3:14 PM on January 5 [8 favorites]


dazed_one, I really hope if it’s a choice between leaving the site and leaving these two metatalk threads, you’ll choose the latter. I’m really starting to worry that we’ll lose even more valuable voices and great people because tempers flared. I have strong options on all of this, but I don’t want anyone else to button over it.
(Hugs if you want them.)
posted by greermahoney at 3:23 PM on January 5 [3 favorites]


But there's a lot about this community that's come to light via this discussion that's drastically affecting my views of the place.

I know you’re not asking for advice, but you’d probably be happier basing your judgment of the site on the discussions that happen on the blue, and/or the answers on the green. My understanding is that Metatalk is a very small segment of MF participation as a whole.
posted by JenMarie at 3:30 PM on January 5 [4 favorites]


And not to abuse the edit window, no community is perfect. This community is made up of people who have blind spots and triggers and may be unbelievably kind in some circumstances and downright mean in others. I still believe this community (including mods) tends towards the kind, usually. I understand if that’s not enough for some, but for right now, it’s enough for me.
posted by greermahoney at 3:30 PM on January 5 [11 favorites]


Before I posted my "close the thread" comment, I did consider how some might take issue with that and feel like I should mind my own business, and who was I to say we were done or should be done, etc. But it's what I was feeling and I wanted to say it. I had just read the entire set of threads in one sitting at that point and felt like I had a pretty good sense of how the narrative was going, it felt like things were winding down, and yet I was still seeing people jumping back in with notes only responding to other people's notes that were themselves responding to a whole string of notes before that, and it was starting to feel like it was all ad hominem all the time down at this end of the thread. It didn't feel productive to me to continue that way. I think there's been some productive discussion since then, so cool. But it's how I felt at the time, after reading everything to that point.
posted by limeonaire at 5:05 PM on January 5 [2 favorites]


I had also hoped on some level that that would be a c-c-c-combo breaker to get people to think twice before continuing to argue, like a firebreak. I love MetaTalk best when we can talk to each other like people, and that's not entirely what was happening at the time I posted those notes above.
posted by limeonaire at 5:07 PM on January 5 [1 favorite]


Pregnancy is oppressive. Motherhood is oppressive

This whole comment is a really weird, low-key insulting mess of blanket statements to make without qualifications, and its rousing reception certainly doesn't lend much credence to the argument that Metafilter is a place where parents' (especially mothers') voices are privileged to the oppression of the childfree.
posted by animalrainbow at 5:12 PM on January 5 [3 favorites]


You think because I am a woman who has been told that I will only find happiness in motherhood, but I know that to not be true means that I'm unqualified? Maybe parents could stop acting like everything is a judgment ON THEM and instead understand all of us are allowed to have opinions on parenting as a general thing that we have all been involved in in some way or another in our lives.

"You really need to BE A MOM to see how unoppressive it is" is not really a great argument I must say.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 5:16 PM on January 5 [31 favorites]


Qualifications like "for me" or "in my experience and that of many others," not qualifications like a Ph.D. Sheesh.
posted by animalrainbow at 5:22 PM on January 5


But there WAS a qualifier in there, did you miss it? The part about how SOME women experience pregnancy as oppressive? Or are you saying that every single sentence needed a qualifier in order to be understood properly?
posted by palomar at 5:28 PM on January 5 [29 favorites]


I need to prove my proximity to mothers to state my opinion? And you wonder why childfree women feel marginalized? Hoo boy.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 5:29 PM on January 5 [26 favorites]


because, honestly, that's some "not all men"-level language and tone policing. ew.
posted by palomar at 5:30 PM on January 5 [13 favorites]


animalrainbow, the “Sheesh” really doesn’t help your comments come across as less offensive and argued in bad faith.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 5:35 PM on January 5 [8 favorites]


i'm stepping away now, but the repeated practice of conflating childfree people with actually marginalized classes in society is fucking embarrassing and gross and y'all should really do some self-examination of why that framing is so valuable to you
posted by animalrainbow at 5:36 PM on January 5 [4 favorites]


Yeah, we’re all bad and should feel bad. Thanks for the pearls of wisdom.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 5:37 PM on January 5 [29 favorites]


translation: hi I'm a parent and I'm feeling rather defensive about my status
posted by some loser at 5:38 PM on January 5 [31 favorites]


but the repeated practice of conflating childfree people with actually marginalized classes in society is fucking embarrassing and gross and y'all should really do some self-examination of why that framing is so valuable to you

No one is doing that!
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 5:39 PM on January 5 [27 favorites]


Qualifications like "for me" or "in my experience and that of many others," not qualifications like a Ph.D. Sheesh.

so a little something like: "The idea of having babies IS OPPRESSIVE to some women " is what you were looking for, then. that is what she said. in the comment you quoted.

and she is correct. the idea of having babies is oppressive to some women. the reality of having babies, on the other hand, is oppressive to most women, including the ones who knew that beforehand and think it's both temporary and worth it, even including the ones who positively like the physical experience.

my source is firstly every mother and onetime pregnant woman I have ever met, both the ones I liked and agreed with and the ones I didn't, and secondarily the last seventy years of feminism and general history as practiced and recorded by women with children, and thirdly the last seventy years of feminism and general history as practiced and recorded by women without children, and fourthly my anatomical and practical knowledge of my and other womens' internal organs, sleep needs, pain receptors, pay scales, and general life circumstances.
posted by queenofbithynia at 5:42 PM on January 5 [52 favorites]


So uh... in the name of site and mod transparency I am darned curious as to whether animalrainbow buttoned or was given the day off for her repeated awful comments in both threads?
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 6:01 PM on January 5 [5 favorites]


translation: hi I'm a parent and I'm feeling rather defensive about my status

I thought we were not ok with restating someone's words in a way they didn't mean. "FTFY" isn't okay and neither is this. I would suspect they buttoned because this is unpleasant directed abuse.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 6:19 PM on January 5 [3 favorites]


I would suspect they buttoned because this is unpleasant directed abuse.

Considering the abuse they were heaping on other mefites in both threads, coupled with the fact that every accusation they made was followed up by multiple people going "uh that never happened?" I think they were given the night off- but I'd like to know from a mod to be sure.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 6:23 PM on January 5 [13 favorites]


I am darned curious as to whether animalrainbow buttoned

This was not a mod action.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 6:32 PM on January 5


I agree, it was wrong of me to charitably re-state their intentions in a way that might garner sympathy for them. I apologize.
posted by some loser at 6:48 PM on January 5 [9 favorites]


Homo neanderthalensis: No one is doing that!
Lexica: Nobody has said that. This is goalpost-moving.
masquesoporfavor: No one is saying that children, the people, oppress adults.


I think at least one person is doing/saying that.

Upthread, It's Raining Florence Henderson says that:
"So, in a thread about the constant pressures the majority impose on childless people to conform, parents didn't like some of the things the childless people had to say in response. I find that entirely predictable. Feels to me along the same lines as men objecting to some of the more extreme comments in feminism threads. MetaFilter has taken the position in the past that when a thread is about a marginalized group talking about their experiences, the job of those not in that group is to shut up and listen, or failing that, to skip it. "
Following that, It's Raining Florence Henderson clarifies, saying that :
"I'm talking about comments in feminism threads by women discussing how horrible all men are, and yes, sometimes openly kidding not kidding about violent opposition. And my point is not to object to those comments - they don't offend me - my point is that we specifically made the call here that it is not OK to tell marginalized groups how they are supposed to feel and talk in a venting thread. And this was clearly a venting thread,"
Later on, IRFH responds to a a statement that this does not concern "Marginalised Group vs. Not-Marginalised Group" by saying: "We don't need to frame that here. That's literally what that thread is about. Is it your contention that the marginalization the thread is about doesn't exist? "

To my understanding, IRFH is saying that, in the past, on MetaFilter, threads in which marginalized groups of people makes jokes and "kidding not kidding" comments about violent opposition to their oppressors, have been acceptable. To my understanding, IRFH also says that, because of this prior standard, childfree people, as a marginalized group, should be allowed to make jokes or other comments about doing violence to children. To my understanding, the only way that this comparison works is if childfree people are marginalized - which they are - and also if children are their oppressors. Otherwise, the comments would be about doing violence to the other people who enact the oppression (parents, co-workers, family members, et al.)

So, to my understanding, IRFH is absolutely and unequivocally doing the thing that several people have insisted that no one whatsoever is doing.

Clearly, some people do not understand It's Raining Florence Henderson's comments in this way. How do you understand them?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:57 PM on January 5 [4 favorites]


I suspect that a different post about how we talk about children, unrelated to a childfree thread, would go better, but there would still be difficulty. In the end, the childfree have a genuine and severe grievance, but also many of us are incredibly invested in issues of child welfare.

In a post about child welfare I can guarantee you no childless/free person would come in and make jokes about harming children. The comment was a joke in a thread about people without children, their decisions and feelings, and the societal pressure they face.

And then it was taken out of context and then used (BY A MOD) to imply that anyone who was okay with the comment, made in a thread populated by childless/free people, was somehow a shockingly horrible inhumane monster.

In this instance? I wouldn't have even said FIAMO. Close that tab and find another thread to read.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:13 PM on January 5 [36 favorites]


To my understanding, the only way that this comparison works is if childfree people are marginalized - which they are - and also if children are their oppressors.

The *children* are not the problem/oppressors, the *society* and *other people* that treats (mostly women) as broken/dangerous/untrustworthy for not wanting/having children is the problem/oppressors.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 9:26 PM on January 5 [14 favorites]


The *children* are not the problem/oppressors, the *society* and *other people* that treats (mostly women) as broken/dangerous/untrustworthy for not wanting/having children is the problem/oppressors.

Yes, I agree completely.

And yet, to my understanding, IRFH has said that because joking about violence to oppressors is allowed, joking about violence to children should be allowed; that the classes of "oppressors" and "children" are, in a significant way, the same thing - that they should be treated as having the same relationship to a group of marginalized people.

So, to me, when you say that "children are not the ... oppressors," I understand that you strongly and significantly disagree with IRFH's analysis.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:36 PM on January 5 [2 favorites]


jeez this is a really patronizing way to make the point you're getting at!
posted by JimBennett at 9:38 PM on January 5 [16 favorites]


You seem to be purposefully misinterpreting IRFH for some unknown reason and until they return to this thread I'm not comfortable continuing to engage you.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 9:47 PM on January 5 [18 favorites]


I'm gonna go ahead and close this up at this point. I think despite a hell of a lot of rockiness there was some pretty useful explanation and elaboration in here of where folks are coming from with concerns about how discussions about childlessness, parenting, and the intersections of (and problems with intersections of) the two general topics and all their specifics go on the site.

I appreciate having the chance to better be aware of and understand that stuff, and it's something the mod team will try and be more aware of going forward and I hope the community likewise, and I think it's possible for us to have more discussions about in the future. Probably ones that start from a better starting point and have more of an explicit goal to communicate and collaborate so we're all better able to talk stuff out without it getting so hot so fast.

But this one did start from a weird place, and went in a few different directions from there, and I feel like we've been around in circles a few times and it's descending again into arguing about comments about prior comments about prior still comments without any obvious way to get out of that bad loop.

I'm not up for the stomach ache of letting that go around even further. I'm fine revisiting some of the "hey, let's make this work better as a community" aspects of this another time, so folks who want to discuss that more are welcome to plan for something like that accordingly. Happy to coordinate mod-side to help make it happen. But I'm calling it on this one.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:58 PM on January 5 [26 favorites]


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