How should the issue of non-racial slurs be discussed? July 27, 2020 6:48 AM   Subscribe

The thread on “Racial slurs that should never be written,” was focused on racial slurs. Several people brought up other types of slurs, but they were told that that thread was not the place to address those slurs. This is the thread to discuss where to address those slurs.

In the thread on racial slurs, Cortex said, “My takeaway from this thread was there was sufficient discomfort on some folks' parts about crowdsourcing the list-making even with clear warning and careful elision of the suggested terms in thread that this approach probably isn't one we should repeat, so aiming for a more back-channel list-making process would be worth trying.”

I think people from the various marginalized communities at least deserve to have voice in all of this. There is an advisory board planned for black, indigenous and people of color. I haven’t heard of any such board for any other communities. So what other forum is there, other than MeTa?

As a lesbian, I would like to say that I prefer to discuss LGBT slurs in the open.
posted by NotLost to Etiquette/Policy at 6:48 AM (197 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

Hey everyone!

This is the first proper policy-related MetaTalk since the new system was put in place, so I encourage everyone to go read that post.

tl;dr: Mod comments will happen in here once per weekday, rounding up the problems and proposed solutions. The next update post - scheduled for Friday - will incorporate them into the team's to-do list. I'll go back and update this comment daily with links to those summaries, so you can just flip through them if you want.

Thanks, and be kind to one another.

Summaries:
July 28, 2020
July 29, 2020
July 30, 2020
July 31, 2020
August 3, 2020
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 6:48 AM on July 27 [4 favorites]


(I think your "the new system" link is broken, but I'm guessing it went here)
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:04 AM on July 27


(Yes, thank you, fixed!)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:08 AM on July 27


I agree, NotLost, that I would prefer to discuss LGBT slurs in the open. What I would not like is for there to be a wide-ranging search for terms that could be slurs, if that makes sense. The prior thread felt a bit like it was indulging in finding edge-cases to argue about. As far as which slurs to add, we should remember anem0ne's suggestions in the prior thread. I would add the f-slur for gay men as well.
posted by mittens at 7:09 AM on July 27 [7 favorites]


One thing makes me nervous at the outset about discussing LGBT slurs and slurs against related groups is that there's a tremendous amount of LGBTetc-community infighting lately about what counts as a slur and what doesn't, both of the reprehensible "Terf is a slur" variety and of the reasonable-people-disagree "Queer is a slur"/"Dyke is a slur"/"Transwoman without a space is a slur" variety.

I think even private discussion of those cases is likely to lead to hard feelings and to expose community divisions based on age, era-of-coming-out, class, race, and region, since different subsets of our community have felt very different ways about them at different times.

I dunno. Maybe we should discuss them anyway. But I could see this getting very nasty and very unproductive even with the best of intentions, and I want us to be careful.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:24 AM on July 27 [35 favorites]


I agree with nebulawindphone that discussing LGBT terms raises a lot of potential for infighting. But I would rather discuss them here than to have the issues be decided, possibly arbitrarily and inconsistently, by individual moderators.

I also agree that "queer" and "dyke" might or might not be slurs, depending on how they are used and who uses them. In general, if a person is using the term to apply to themself or a group of which they are part, that is OK. And otherwise, not, for "dyke". "Queer" seems more fuzzy. I think it depends a lot on generation and other factors.

Even "gay" is not clear cut. It is very commonly used in a neutral way -- except for phrases such as "That's so gay."

"Homosexual" is probably another fuzzy case.
posted by NotLost at 7:46 AM on July 27 [3 favorites]


There are a lot of words I personally never want to see again — such as obese, overweight, lame — that I also realize will never been on a banned words list because there’s a lot of context dependent uses. I would love to see a (separate?) conversation for the words that won’t be automatically filtered out but which we want the community to be thoughtful about. I think a lot of the QUILTBAG language will fall under the latter.

e.g., I am a dyke but I obviously don’t want to be called one by a straight person. I think all (or at least the vast majority) of mefites understand that. On the flip side I am positive it’s controversial to say that we shouldn’t use the word obese to refer to higher weight individuals because there’s very little understanding of the roots of that word and the harm it causes. I’m not sure thread is the place for that conversation about being thoughtful with language versus what words we’d like to see coded into the banned words list? In any case, I’m already fucking exhausted at the idea of that conversation and want to preemptively give up on Metafilter ever banning concern trolls going on about glorifying obesity, so I’m not sure how involved I want to get into this conversation on a Monday morning.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 7:48 AM on July 27 [12 favorites]


cortex's match categories or Joe's categories might be useful frameworks? Indirect examples removed - you can check the original comment if you'd like.
  1. Words that can be treated as offensive in every context… Metafilter isn't the place for these words even if they are used internally without offense by particular communities.
  2. Words that are used self-descriptively by some communities but are offensive to others… This category will be tricky! I don't know what to suggest.
  3. Words that have innocent meanings but are potentially offensive. There's a spectrum here:
    1. Words that are offensive even when not applied to people, …
    2. Uncommon words that are potentially used by people being jerks. …
    3. Less common words that are offensive when applied to people…
    4. Common English words that are offensive when applied to people…
posted by zamboni at 7:56 AM on July 27 [5 favorites]


Before we talk about reclaimed slurs, it would be helpful for me to hear from a mod on whether is an option to make certain words automatically trigger a high-priority flag that will be immediately seen by whichever mod is on duty, but not block a user from posting.
posted by capricorn at 8:11 AM on July 27 [10 favorites]


I strongly argue against putting the word queer on a flag list. Partly because not every situation requires me to explain the ways I am a part of that community (many of us have intersecting identities) but also we really should not ask people who identify as genderqueer to find another word.

I know that queerness is a divisive concept within the LGBT+ community, but all of us in the “plus” already face a lot of silencing and identity delegitimization in spaces ostensibly inclusive of us. I’m not saying it’s never used in the slur sense, but it seems it should be kept as a “high priority flag” rather than a zero context delete.
posted by zinful at 8:32 AM on July 27 [52 favorites]


Sorry to double post here, but I agree the guidance of the other slur conversation seems like it should be the model here. There is a small handful of clear slurs, with one or two having no other use but to oppress, and those are great candidates for auto blocking. Determining what the short list of those are should be the priority, and edge cases (particularly those which are in common use by people with those identities) should absolutely be case-by-case flags.
posted by zinful at 8:41 AM on July 27 [3 favorites]


I am a dyke but I obviously don’t want to be called one by a straight person. I think all (or at least the vast majority) of mefites understand that.

A. I hope that is true and
B. I am glad you said it anyway because a lot of folks may not understand that, including folks here on MF.
posted by Bella Donna at 9:41 AM on July 27 [10 favorites]


Same thing. Would prefer not to see slurs here at all. Yeah, there is potential for "reclaimed" slurs to get chucked out and/or plenty of edge cases we could endlessly split hairs about, but there are definitely a few words we can all agree are slurs and generally have no place in conversations here. I'm actually on the "it's helpful to discuss things directly" side of things - meaning I find self-censoring slurs a bit silly when it's obvious what word you're using or referring to, but even so, I'd rather take that silliness over a place where slurs can roam freely. The forms racism takes on the site have traditionally been the more liberal variants, but part of that has been that in discussions like this people sometimes seem to take a little bit too much pleasure in getting to use some "forbidden" words. That's generally subtler in race threads but it's been very overt in trans threads. Removing the option to indulge that at all would be a positive. Forcing everyone who's reaching for agreed-upon slurs to rethink what they want to say and how best to say it without causing additional harm is a good thing.

Tangential thing: I dislike the defensiveness around the word "queer." Have you had that word aimed at you while being assaulted? I have! I can understand the political connotations that make the word appealing to some, but my overall impression is negative. Please take that into consideration. There is another word that is generally considered a misogynist slur here but is generally not in my real life or...anywhere else I'm online. While it's not a "nice" word or one I'm likely to reach for very often, I can respect people's feelings with it and only ask the same in return. I'm going to take this opportunity to bring up a related thing that has bothered me for some time (but let's not turn this into a long back and forth, please): please please please stop saying "queers." That is the dehumanized form I have only ever heard as a slur, but I've noticed it popping up quite a bit in the past couple years. "Queer people," always, if you're gonna. Have some basic consideration and caution when using "reclaimed" slurs, especially ones that are still pejorative in parts of the world. This one in particular is popular enough that it's not going to be on a slur filter, but please use it with empathy and be careful not to direct it as a weapon at your fellow LGBT+ folks.
posted by Lonnrot at 9:52 AM on July 27


So quite a lot of the folks who go kneejerk "queer is a slur" are members of the LG community that would really like to cut off the BTQ+ bits from the "respectable" folk and/or straight up TERFS- and while I'm certain you're not part of that understand that I'm not gonna stop calling myself or my community the Queer community when "we're here, we're queer, get over it" has been a chant since the 90's- 30 years ago. Queer has been reclaimed for decades and decades and while I do understand it's still used as a slur by bigots- It's crazy insulting to call me "defensive" on the topic when the reason I've become so is hate from my own community because I'm not "respectable" enough. I'm not about to call someone queer who doesn't want me to- it's a self-identifier. But "please use it with empathy and be careful not to direct it as a weapon at your fellow LGBT+ folks." In my experience- not accusing you of this- it's the folks who would deny me and my community the word queer who are the ones shooting weapons at their fellow LGBTQ+.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 9:59 AM on July 27 [68 favorites]


Just as an aside, as someone who researches in and teaches on Queer as well as Crip Theory with a curious eye towards Fat Studies (all of which also identities that I hold myself), I would find it confusing if I couldn't talk about these aspects of my work here. Granted, I don't do that a lot. But I think it's a relevant side note.
posted by katta at 10:21 AM on July 27 [15 favorites]


be careful not to direct it as a weapon at your fellow LGBT+ folks.

This is not happening on metafilter. On twitter, yeah there's some punching up by Black Trans Women who are pissed off at white trans women getting hung up in meaningless discourse and calling them "the word that is used to build houses" but that's not my lane to criticize. Yeah it can sting but conflict is not abuse and we need to discuss specific examples of what's occurring and draw some fuzzy lines.
posted by noiseanoise at 10:23 AM on July 27 [5 favorites]


Yes. My identities are all already “plus”, as if I am just an addendum to the “real” concerns of people who are in the LGBT spectrum. There are multiple people in this conversation who are out about being genderqueer, and having access to knowledge of that identity has been exceedingly valuable to me as I live this journey of identity intersections.
I have been called queer as a slur, as well as an alphabet person, broken, fake etc. I have been physically assaulted as a direct “corrective” measure for an identity almost always left out of the acronym (A does a lot of work in there, and pitting ace vs agender people does nobody any good).

It’s rare that anyone needs to get my full affiliation with the community, and I have been told that being a panromantic sapphic greyace maybe gender-q person is not L, G, B or T enough too many times by both those in and out of the acronym. I haven’t reclaimed anything, having “asexual!” spat at me as if it was something to be ashamed of doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be ok with being ace, and within our community one of our affirmations is that we are “queer enough” in the face of persistent exclusion.

On preview: also what katta said. The academic work I have done in Queer Theory is meaningfully attached to that word.

I feel like I’m talking too much in this thread, when I don’t usually participate much in meta. I’ll slow my roll.
posted by zinful at 10:27 AM on July 27 [15 favorites]


honestly I think everyone could just do a lot better to stop generalizing and flattening people here.

However you describe yourself, cool, as far as queer goes that horse left the barn decades ago and I'll talk about "queer people" and ID myself as queer and I'm not going to police how I use that language here because I know how to use it.

About the only word I don't like seeing is tr**ny but even then under circumstances it could be funny and okay. There are very few bright lines here. It's all fuzzy and contextual.
posted by noiseanoise at 10:30 AM on July 27 [6 favorites]


I think that ableism would benefit from its own MeTa, and the discussion here may become difficult to follow unless it includes the culture of dehumanization in rhetoric (e.g. recent FPP about AOC's groundbreaking speech, e.g. recent FPP about the ADA). The flat-text format can be challenging to follow, so to keep ableism from becoming marginalized, maybe it can recognized as the intersectional issue it is and be granted a forum where it is more accessible to discuss.
posted by katra at 10:31 AM on July 27 [9 favorites]


Yes, the original topic was about how to discuss in general, but I would not want any realm to be overwhelmed. I don't know whether other areas of slurs (including slurs against women) should each get their own thread.
posted by NotLost at 10:36 AM on July 27


Maybe it would be helpful for restless nomad to have a more active role in designing and facilitating these discussions, instead of leaving it to the community to try to figure out. If anything, it could help reduce the risk of misunderstanding about the purpose of a MeTa.
posted by katra at 10:50 AM on July 27 [3 favorites]


In other words, maybe other threads should be started, so similar topics are not lost in the shuffle.
posted by NotLost at 10:51 AM on July 27


I'm a white queer person and I strongly support the proactive ban on the n-word, and also want to say I think it may be a mistake to enact policy as if all slurs (I'm specifically thinking of ones that "apply" to myself, and do not want to speak for anyone else) carry that same kind of cultural weight and merit the same approach.
posted by dusty potato at 10:55 AM on July 27 [17 favorites]


There are some words relating to disability that I prefer are not used lightly, but in general the current flagging and commenting system works for me in challenging these.
posted by paduasoy at 10:57 AM on July 27 [9 favorites]


Yeah, using adjectives as nouns when referring to human beings is a generally dehumanizing thing that pisses me off.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:09 AM on July 27 [3 favorites]


I'm a queer dyke. No one will take those words from me in favor of more "polite" terms like lesbian which actually erase whole parts of my identity. If I can take Queer Studies courses and participate in a Dyke March, there's no way to hide those words away. It's all in the delivery. "I love ya, you big dyke" from a friend, totally cool. "LESBIANS" screamed from a passing car window at me and my wife, totally offensive. I don't think the structures for policing language that work for ethnic slurs work here, especially since someone has already insisted that I cannot call myself what I am.
posted by donnagirl at 11:15 AM on July 27 [47 favorites]


My two cents--I identify as queer, so I would have a big problem if that word were impossible to post. I also don't have a problem with straight people referring to me as queer as long as it is not in a derogatory way.
posted by zeusianfog at 11:35 AM on July 27 [5 favorites]


When you make the list of bad words, perhaps each can be associated with replacements that are acceptable regardless of the gender or sexual identity of the person using them.
posted by hypnogogue at 11:47 AM on July 27


From the Washington City Paper’s (extremely tongue-in-cheek) style guide (dated Oct, 2014):
queer
No longer considered a slur when used by decent human beings. Generally acceptable as a substitute for the other big umbrella term, LGBTQ (ex: “Whitman-Walker is expanding its health services for queer patients”). Avoid calling people queers (use it as an adjective, not a noun) unless you’re a queer writing in a colloquial tone, in which case, do whatever the fuck you want.
To be fair, I’m not sure I want that word on any kind of list, if only because it has the effect of automatically flagging many comments from members of the LGBTQ+ community (of which I am a part). I’m not sure that many of us are clamoring to have our own comments subjected to an elevated level of scrutiny on the site right now.

Abusive instances of the term should be extremely obvious in context, and I think it’s a common enough term that we probably shouldn’t have it on an auto-flag list either. Banning the term outright should be a complete non-starter for all of the reasons others in this thread have already stated.



Furthermore, language evolves. This discussion would have looked a lot different 20 years ago, and I don’t want us to need to open a MeTa and have a whole fucking debate whenever a minority community begins reclaiming/repurposing a once-pejorative word or phrase.

A block-list carries a sense of permanence and formality with it, and I’m not sure either of those are a particularly great fit for an evolving internet community.
posted by schmod at 12:17 PM on July 27 [17 favorites]


Broadly, I think it’s worth rethinking the frameworks we have for the proposed filter and that any future threads to discuss a slur filter have clearly-defined guardrails and goals.

I don’t think MetaFilter has issues with users slinging slurs at each other as insults. I think MetaFilter has issues with people using slurs to quote others when those slurs should not ever appear in plaintext even as a quote, issues with words that most users don’t know are slurs, and issues with non-slur hurtful and exclusionary language.

So, I propose these categories instead of the ones above:

1) words that are unequivocally slurs, have not or have almost never been reclaimed as-is, and should not ever appear fully spelled out on this site in any context including quotes (should be filtered/users should not be allowed to make posts or comments with these words)

2) words that are unequivocally slurs but often get used by people who don’t realize they are slurs, or are only slurs in some dialects of English but not others. An example here is the now former name of the DC NFL team. Almost any given use on MeFi will just be about NFL and not used to describe any racial group; nonetheless it seems right to say that we don’t accept that word’s usage here in any context. (should also be filtered, as above)

3) words that have been completely or partially reclaimed, but would be offensive in certain contexts if used by non-community members (auto-flag, maybe?)

4) words that are used to harm, but are not themselves slurs (rely on the community to flag, probably?)

5) words that have a lesser-known offensive meaning that is not the primary meaning (this is the trickiest one because of the overlap with category #2 and I think requires hashing out in the community)

I think the priority of the community going forward needs to be identifying words in categories #1 and #2, but it’s worthwhile discussing other types of hurtful and exclusionary language in the open because it can educate members of the community whose identities are privileged on MeFi and it (hopefully) signals MeFi leadership’s commitment to act on flags when something in categories #3-5 is being used hurtfully and offensively.
posted by capricorn at 12:30 PM on July 27 [7 favorites]


In the interest of seeing one example of what we're dealing with here, I put the homophobic "f-word" into the search bar. It actually appears only five times since 2015; the first page of results goes back to 2012; and then there are 14 pages (!!!!!!) of results prior to 2012.
posted by dusty potato at 12:36 PM on July 27 [8 favorites]


I wrote a really long post but I don't want to create or contribute to a derail so I'll try and condense it. This ended up long, too, but hopefully it's clearer and more empathetic, anyway.

1) No one is asking for the word "queer" to be removed from MetaFilter. I am critical of the word (I just accidentally wrote an essay [which I then deleted because it's totally not a rabbit hole I want to dig] on its history and contemporary use as a pejorative, and how its "reclamation" is as far as I can tell largely an upper middle class white academic thing that radiated outward a little bit, and that the people most likely to be passionately in love with the word are least likely to have been hurt by it) but I have used it and will use it again. Let's stop framing this discussion as if it were a moratorium on whether we get to keep that word. Obviously we do.

1.5) I don't like it, but I understand the appeal of the word. I dislike the alphabet soup also, and wish there were better words for both inclusive catch-alls and more specific identities that don't fit into easy categories. I even share the desire for "subversive" words to describe one's identity when society deems the same as subhuman. I've been around this block before. I was comfortable with neopronouns and ambiguously fluid identities like neutrois in the 00s. My opinions are not those of some random person who's only considering these things for the first time.

2) I also just shared that I associate the word with literal violence, so kneejerk defenses in which I am either condescended to directly or it is implied I am not BTIA+/nonbinary/genderfluid/"LGBT+-in-a-way-that-counts" hurts. Please don't.

3) Different people have different experiences of the same words. I'm asking that we be considerate of and empathetic about this. "C**t" is for many MeFites Literally The Worst Word. It is not in my real life nor in most online spaces I frequent actually employed as a misogynist slur. I can still understand that in certain contexts it is used that way and that people can receive it that way. Its etymological roots are fairly obvious. It's an emotionally charged word. I take this into consideration before choosing how or if I'm going to use it. It's not a word I reach for on a regular basis, but it gets thrown in there occasionally. I won't ever use it here, because I know it would be hurtful for many people here. Reclaimed slurs typically have a similar baggage. Be mindful about that.

4) As a general rule of thumb, self-identification is generally fine. Using slurs - however much you love them - to describe others, especially in explicitly dehumanizing adjective-as-noun forms is generally not fine. Defensively digging in and clutching pearls when someone tells you their experience around a word is painful is never cool.

5) This thread is not about any of this, really. There are sets of explicitly homophobic and transphobic slurs - which are not edge cases or reclaimed - that should be added to a general slur filter if doing so is a fairly trivial thing, as it appears to be. No, that doesn't mean they all carry the same weight; yes, there are endless edge cases we could get lost in the weeds with. But there are also overt slurs that have no place here. The homophobic ones are unlikely to be used at all, but the transphobic ones have definitely come up. The site has grown on trans issues, but I don't trust that people can handle these with care. See my previous comment on the dynamic where people are a bit over eager to play with "forbidden" words.
posted by Lonnrot at 12:37 PM on July 27 [3 favorites]


its "reclamation" is as far as I can tell largely an upper middle class white academic thing that radiated outward a little bit

I appreciate you sharing your personal perspective, but please be careful with this assumption. I recall reading survey data that Black people are more likely to self-ID as queer (vs. gay/lesbian) than white peers. I apologize that I don't have an actual source at hand for this, so I'm just saying in lieu of facts let's be careful about projecting here.
posted by dusty potato at 12:43 PM on July 27 [14 favorites]


Honestly, too, I want to say as a vulnerable human that the pedantic defensive digging in around the word "queer" has been disheartening and hurtful to read. I am aware of all of this. I have been called the word by people who assaulted me. I own the word more than those of you who have not.
posted by Lonnrot at 12:44 PM on July 27 [3 favorites]


I appreciate you sharing your personal perspective, but please be careful with this assumption. I recall reading survey data that Black people are more likely to self-ID as queer (vs. gay/lesbian) than white peers.

That's pretty accurate in my personal experience. That is also the "radiated outward a little bit" in the bit you quoted. It's also the context in which I've used the word - among peers who have also experienced it as a pejorative or are at least aware of its history that way. It's mainly "queers" that I object to, and then this endless condescending scrutinizing defensiveness that follows any critique of the word or any basic common-courtesy low-level ask to be aware of its use as a pejorative.

At this point maybe everybody who wants to weigh in on that particular word would do better to just shut the fuck up and move on because, again, no one has asked for it to be added to a slur filter and pedantic picking at the one person who's critical of it and associates it with trauma is really not going to be a productive direction for this thread.

Gonna follow my own advice on this, now.
posted by Lonnrot at 12:49 PM on July 27


Though I came in kinda hot to this thread, it looks like we have some clear agreements: f*****t and t****y should be auto-noped, b***h, q-pluralized, and c**t autoflagged for context (I would like the b word to be a nope, but that’s an uphill battle) and aggressive monitoring by mods for some shortlist we can determine.
posted by zinful at 12:52 PM on July 27 [6 favorites]


Autoflag applications including some clarity or promise of “less than an hour” and hopefully some indication under the comment that it has been flagged, so we know it will be checked out.
posted by zinful at 12:54 PM on July 27


I'm not sure we necessarily do have consensus on t****y/t***ie (as self descriptors at least), but I don't feel strongly about this either way.

If we're now getting into specific words, I think we should consider s*****e and l*****y (and plurals) for auto-nope.
posted by death valley compound at 1:18 PM on July 27


Defensively digging in and clutching pearls when someone tells you their experience around a word is painful is never cool.

A) not defensive and explained that being called that when not is super offensive also B) “pearl clutching” is a kinda misogynistic way to paint a communities wish to refer to themselves academically and personally. Its fine that its not a word you’re gonna use to describe yourself- no one is forcing you to use it- and I’m sorry it’s been used to attack you- but there have been some really thoughtful discussion on why queer as a word and umbrella term are here to stay and to describe that as “defensiveness” and “pearl-clutching” is just never cool.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 1:23 PM on July 27 [48 favorites]


My preference would be to cover the bases with a small list of "can not be posted without moderator input" words, a list of words that pop up a small reminder to be mindful and maybe flag the comment for a mod check, and a local, per-user list of words that the user can choose to never see.
posted by lucidium at 1:41 PM on July 27 [1 favorite]


Hmm should we establish a best practice for linking/defining the terms we are blacking out here? I've been racking my brain for the s-word death valley compound posted above and honestly it's moderately disturbing trying to run through every slur I've ever heard. We all have different intersections of privilege, so some slurs will be more obvious to some of us than others, but I'm not sure if we want to have links in thread or ask privately in memail or something else.

In thread seems best, for r_n's sake when the daily check in is put together as well as how this gets ultimately packaged for the mods, but also seems a little gross to have links to I guess urban dictionary?
posted by zinful at 1:44 PM on July 27 [6 favorites]


For now, I’m just going to add another request for careful consideration given to terms that are often reclaimed. My marginalized identities relate to queerness and disability and I feel strongly about reclaiming some words for myself, though I would not use them about anyone else without knowing how they feel about the terms in question.

I don’t know what a good process is here to identify true hard-nope-not-ever words, but I would like it to be a cautious one that respects reclamation. And I would also like users to be careful about not generalizing their own reclaimed words to others who share an identity. I hope this community can manage to do both.

I wonder if there is a list of words that have *actually* been cause for banning/warning/editing here before, or that people have seen used hurtfully here but not addressed appropriately before. Maybe we could start with considering that. I suspect that would give us plenty of material to work with and be a substantive improvement that could then be iterated on later if new terms start to be a problem.
posted by Stacey at 1:52 PM on July 27 [4 favorites]


Going to use details and summary html tags so people don't have to see stuff. I believe these work on mefi.

There are a whole bunch of older terms, including medical or legal terms for LGBTQ+ folks that aren't something I see as particularly powerful slurs, but more just outdated and wrong and implying some outdated and wrong understandings.
ExamplesSodomite, Transexual, and Hermaphrodite.
I think these can used sparingly to talk about historical context, but probably deserve some contextual warnings and/or auto mod flagging.
Q word discussionI've gotten assaulted while being called queer. I also identify as queer. I understand people have strong feelings on this. We aren't going to settle feelings on the word queer here, but this is about what metafilter should do. IMHO, Mefi should add contextual suggestions for alternatives in certain cases, but allow people to post with it (possibly with autoflagging for mod review).

Emasculating terms, while also applied to cis straight guys, often cross into anti-trans or anti mlm slurs.
Examples beta, sissy.
I think these terms probably need some discussion, if not here than somewhere.

I honestly think slurs are going to keep evolving, and would recommend looking at any LGBTQ+ slurs regularly every few years.
posted by Chrysopoeia at 2:11 PM on July 27 [3 favorites]


I believe these work on mefi.

Tech note: MeFi doesn't strip them out, but it's up to the browser to actually hide "details", so they won't be hidden for everyone.
posted by Jpfed at 2:28 PM on July 27 [1 favorite]


Can we please steer back toward NotLost’s original post?

We’re not crowdsourcing a blocklist here, and I think this thread is well on its way towards demonstrating that MetaFilter probably shouldn’t be on the hook for litigating what terms are and aren’t okay within every single minority community.

There’s simply too much breadth for us to possibly cover, and there’s often a legitimate lack of consensus within those communities.
posted by schmod at 2:43 PM on July 27 [9 favorites]


Many of us have faced violence along with identity words - slurs as widely understood, or acceptable terms used as a slur. Having faced violence along with queer does not make one own it more or less than anyone else; many of my own preferred terms have also been used against me or in conjunction with violence. Many of the non-queer identifiers, for example, have a long and vicious history socially and are or were used as slurs, with and without physical violence. The association of an identifier with homophobic or transphobic violence is a meaningless category for ascertaining if it is a slur.

I am always reminded of a theorist I read who talked about these endless lists of words as a way for power to be further entrenched, by evoking the trauma of them, defense of them, and general lack of actual change resulting from words no longer being used. We acknowledge the bright line ones - but even those have counterpublic and inter-community use. The drilling down to plurals, or spaces, or acronyms, removes the bigotry from intent to technical adherence. Particularly if combined with technology fixes like bans and so on.

Noticeably, the use of those slurs is rarely the actual issue for mefi as it is now - it's the far less quantifiable elements of bigotry. Word lists cannot differentiate between my self ID, a keyboard fumble, and adjective-as-noun, and the word used as a slur. They certainly cannot catch the actual bigotry occuring.

So while I am happy enough with a lot of the bright line slurs being highlighted for extra mod attention, I rather feel like they should always have been so. And that the perpetual working over of trauma and words, particularly in this context, is one that is far more likely to do harm than to reduce homophobia and bigotry and transphobia on mefi.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:33 PM on July 27 [24 favorites]


[One comment deleted. We need to be able to have conversations without "fuck you"s. This is a topic that's really hard and hits close to the heart for a lot of Mefites. Everybody in here should be mindful of that and just try to speak to your own experience and respect that other people have their own struggles and their own reactions to these terms. Thanks.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 4:58 PM on July 27 [5 favorites]


If we are going to have a list of items to be flagged for moderator review, I suggest that include "lesbo."
posted by NotLost at 5:07 PM on July 27


In xtine's original post she had cited to specific, repeated incidents of usage of the n-word that led to mod deletions.

I am curious whether there is a similar citation here where there have been specific slurs being used with such a pattern that led to regular mod deletions. I did not get the impression that some of the words being debated here so far are regularly removed.

Separately I find the framing and timing of the post curious -

>"There is an advisory board planned for black, indigenous and people of color. I haven’t heard of any such board for any other communities"

This sends me the message that it's not that there's a specific slurs being used with regularity on mefi that required mod intervention that triggered this post, it's that simply because an initiative was undertaken to address the issue of racism on metafilter that's been a long-standing issue that's been repeatedly raised over time that triggered the need for a board representing other marginalized communities.
posted by Karaage at 5:55 PM on July 27 [13 favorites]


Did a search for Queer across Metafilter

All mentions on page 1 and page 34 were not problematic usage and by within the community. "Lesbo" was used only a handful of times and once in a problematic way.

I am also thinking intersectionally in wondering why this post was made as a response to the n-word meta plus BIPOC advisory board.

Right now trans folks have been marginalized on this site as well as off site, but this post doesn't mention this at all which feels odd.

I'm part of the LGBTQ+ community, and I don't know, this Meta feels lacking in authentic purpose. I didn't like the "let's list all the racial slurs we want to ban" Meta either fwiw.
posted by jj's.mama at 6:50 PM on July 27 [37 favorites]


For pluralising it, out of 47 results for askmefi and mefi, 3 were use of it as quoting homophobia, the rest were self-identified people using it to denote communities.

Homophobic slurs in particular, as opposed to race, are often highly mobile and grow out of the covert language of the community over decades and centuries - not always but often enough that there is difficulty in etymology and history. Racial slurs are almost all imposed by whiteness and racism. Similarly transphobia has some similarly contextual language but a MUCH higher occurrence of slurs generated by the cis majority. That changes the relevance and applicability of wordlists.
posted by geek anachronism at 7:13 PM on July 27 [5 favorites]


My guess is we would probably want to have a pretty focused list of words that should be totally forbidden, and a (maybe much) larger list of words that should be immediately-flagged-on-posting (if/when that becomes a technical possibility). If that is indeed what is desired, then hashing that out using MetaTalk posts might cause a lot of needless suffering (and buttoning). There might be methods to generate and vet sets of words to be forbidden or flagged that don't involve a lot of edge-case back-and-forth but still generate a comparable benefit.

One such method is to simply import an existing list or lists wholesale. Maybe this site would have difficulty accepting anything that wasn't invented here. In that case, there may still be a way to do this without trying to do it conversationally in MeTa.

An alternative workflow could involve two phases: a nomination phase (which is designed to make it easy to submit suggestions without having to immediately defend them) and a validation phase (in which nominated words are judged to determine whether they should be forbidden, auto-flagged, or not handled as special by the system).

Nominations for words could be done via a Google form or similar. Each submission should require a word, and everything else would be optional: explanation of (or source for) harm; what group is targeted by the word; etc. That way, we minimize the friction and personal risk of submitting a word. If someone feels like e.g. "queer" should be considered for filtering, they can just nominate it anonymously without having to make themselves vulnerable by having a discussion about it right away with a group that just expects to be able to use that word (as has happened with other language issues in so many previous MeTas).

Once you have a list of nominated words, they can be filtered down with e.g. an opt-in survey, paid work by a board of members, etc. This comment is long enough but the point is that if we want to, we may be able to design processes that allow us to get where we need without fighty buttony MeTas.
posted by Jpfed at 11:17 PM on July 27 [2 favorites]


I would prefer it if we did what was done in the previous thread and have an offsite list and then refer to numbers rather than have people talk about x*****phone (made up example) or the "Zz word" in this thread
posted by daybeforetheday at 2:38 AM on July 28 [2 favorites]


There is an advisory board planned for black, indigenous and people of color. I haven’t heard of any such board for any other communities.

From the original post. I have thought about this for a while now and it still sits squarely within me in ways that I can't articulate very well. Please let me know if I'm reading this wrong, but one of the core assumptions in this statement seems to be that, e.g., marginalisation along gender and sexuality and marginalisation along racialisation to be inherently separate when black scholars (particularly women!)* have repeatedly urged us to understand these issues as intersectional. In other words, I would assume, inherently, that an advisory board for black, indigenous and people of color also brings in perspectives of marginalisation on other axes just not from a white angle, which... to me sounds like it's a good thing?

Again, please let me know if I misunderstood.

*In the spirit of citational attribution, please consider engaging with the writings of Audre Lorde, Kimberlé Crenshaw, bell hooks, and Reni Eddo-Lodge (among others).
posted by katta at 2:51 AM on July 28 [9 favorites]


I would assume, inherently, that an advisory board for black, indigenous and people of color also brings in perspectives of marginalisation on other axes just not from a white angle, which... to me sounds like it's a good thing?

I'm not sure that is inherent. Surely it's dependent on who's on the advisory board and what perspectives the members can speak to? I think intersectional concerns are important and useful, but I also don't think we should look to the BIPOC advisory board to deal with every issue of marginalisation across Metafilter.

The idea of a trans advisory board came up in the recent trans thread as something that might be considered by the mods. There was some discussion, but the idea didn't gain much traction there. If people are interested in the idea of a wider LGBTQ+ advisory board or alternative initiatives I think that's worth discussing on its own merits.
posted by death valley compound at 4:21 AM on July 28 [4 favorites]


There is a dynamic I feel like I'm seeing in these threads, and I don't know if it's real or if I'm misinterpreting, but where LGBTQ+ issues are brought up and the answer is wait your turn. It happened in the original slurs thread explicitly, it feels like it is happening here with the mention of an advisory board--an issue on which I'm completely agnostic, except that sense of wait is nagging at me. Like death valley compound, I'm finding myself caught on that "inherently" in katta's comment. If there are LGBTQ+ members on the BIPOC board, great, but unless that is explicitly spelled out, why would we assume? And why would we want our issues to consume the time and labor of that board, when there are substantial racial problems to address? And why, after the explicit wait your turn that prompted this thread, would we answer the question of an LGBTQ+ board with another wait your turn or let someone else do the work?
posted by mittens at 5:45 AM on July 28 [10 favorites]


I've been racking my brain for the s-word death valley compound posted above

My guess is transphobic slur, older (problematic) porn term. Seven letter compound of a pronoun and a gender. Not a word that should be used outside of maybe academic discussions of the historical development of transphobia. Unlike the problematic shortening of transgender/transsexual,* it is not a commonly reclaimed term used for self-description (which is very context dependent even for most reclaimers).


*(which, a lot of people still identify as TS rather than TG, so it would not be on a ban list if I were in charge, despite my strongly disliking the word. Usually, though not always, it's coincident with a problematic HBSer/"true trans" narrative, and it's a deliberate attempt to distance from transgender/trans.)
posted by Dysk at 6:12 AM on July 28 [4 favorites]


In other words, I would assume, inherently, that an advisory board for black, indigenous and people of color also brings in perspectives of marginalisation on other axes just not from a white angle, which... to me sounds like it's a good thing?

If we read Crenshaw literally, then, yes, an advisory board composed of people marginalized on axis A will almost certainly have people marginalized on axis B, for some B. That does not mean that said advisory board will automatically be intersectional in its perspective, let alone when it comes to axis C.

By suggesting that a trans advisory board is unnecessary(?) given the existence of a BIPOC advisory board, you are suggesting that I expect a trans or queer BIPOC board member to take my experiences into account, ie, since I'm white, asking them to center white people. I'm already on the record in the other thread as feeling like a trans advisory board is asking trans people to shoulder a burden that should fall primarily on cis people. Why on earth am I going to expect that the BIPOC board worry about my needs as a white trans person in the name of intersectionality?
posted by hoyland at 6:13 AM on July 28 [7 favorites]


Another thing, when I originally submitted this post, was to invite discussion relating to any of the slurs about which people were told to wait from the previous thread. I don't know whether people from other marginalized groups feel welcome posting about those slurs in this thread, and if not, whether any separate threads would be helpful.
posted by NotLost at 6:36 AM on July 28 [2 favorites]


Morning, folks. I'm going round this stuff up slightly differently than I did in the previous thread - I'm trying to break stuff out into identified problems, suggested solutions, and questions/issues. Please do let me know if I've missed something or if my synthesis is losing important nuance.

Problems:
- There are a number of words that have hateful origins/have been used in hateful ways
- There are a number of words in the above category that are also terms of identification
- People sometimes seem to enjoy using "forbidden" words in edgy ways
- Adjectives as nouns are often/generally hurtful
- The contextual meaning of these words changes over time, making a hard-and-fast ruling impermanent
- Tech fixes/focus on these words gives them power and contributes to marginalization
- These MeTa threads cause harm and maybe don't do enough good

Solutions:
- Make mods aware of words that need heightened scrutiny
- Have the system offer suggested replacements
- Offer per-user filters so users can control what words they see
- Jpfed's nomination/voting process
- Develop a process of user education around hurtful words

Questions/Issues:
- Can we have a system that triggers an auto-flag for some words instead of a filter?
- What is the actual slur usage on Metafilter?
- Are advisory boards being planned for other communities?

Thanks for taking care with this one, everyone. I know it's a topic that covers a lot of painful history, both personal and global.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:23 AM on July 28 [10 favorites]


The idea of a trans advisory board came up in the recent trans thread as something that might be considered by the mods. There was some discussion, but the idea didn't gain much traction there. If people are interested in the idea of a wider LGBTQ+ advisory board or alternative initiatives I think that's worth discussing on its own merits.

it didn't gain much traction because of the utter and complete loss of faith in the administration here on the part of many members participating in that thread because of certain actions by certain moderators.

i have not noticed the same continual pattern/level of anti-lgb comments/behaviors on mefi in the past five years as a whole as i have anti-trans comments/behaviors, as i have racist comments/behaviors.
posted by anem0ne at 7:48 AM on July 28 [9 favorites]


as mittens and death valley compound referred to:
t—, def 1
l—
s—
- the first one is a term no cis person ever has business saying.
- the second one is a term no cis person ever has business saying, except in one very fringe edge case, and even in that edge case there's a distinct, horrid grossness to the whole affair. additionally, as i pointed out in the other thread, intersects with race in a very strong way.
- the third one is a vile term often used in porn, and while the tv show arrested development used it as a punchline, it was problematic then and definitely does not hold up.

there's one other four-letter slur that's often found in the western otaku/channer communities that is occasionally used by some as self-identification (but often times it seems to be coupled with internalized transphobia or a fetish), but it's also a very common word with a completely normal meaning; that one would have to be entirely contextual, and there's no simple way to do that with the current implemented system.

---

there's an additional element that needs to be considered when dealing with anti-trans comments/phrases, and that's the issue of dogwhistles. the language used by anti-trans activists online continually shifts with the tides.

it's this sort of thing that i've noticed often flies over the head of mods, and the users that use them often twig the antenna of many not-cis folk, but because of the very nature of dogwhistles, it often has to have an explainer, flagging, and loud pushback in the thread before it gets dealt with.

awareness of those dogwhistles would be nice to see more proactive action from the moderators, and perhaps a valid purpose of a trans advisory board, but of course, that's asking for unpaid emotional labor, so... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by anem0ne at 8:15 AM on July 28 [18 favorites]


one additional slur i'd like to make sure never gets used:

c-- w-- d--. while the last time it seems to have been used on this site is 2010, it's definitely in the "never" category.
posted by anem0ne at 8:58 AM on July 28 [12 favorites]


I'd like to propose that "OK boomer" be considered an ageist slur. Considering that it is meant to be dismissive and specifically targets older people referencing the years they were born, it could not be more ageist.
I have had very little luck getting the mods to care about the ageism on this site, but a post I recently flagged as ageist was removed, much to my surprise, so I am hopeful that at least one mod is willing to take this seriously.
(Geezer and biddie [which I once flagged - no response] are also ageist terms, but geezer, at least, is sometimes used by older people I know to describe themselves.)
posted by FencingGal at 1:22 PM on July 28


Uh comparing Ok Boomer to some of the slurs here which are so offensive we are trying to not spell them out is... breathtaking.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 1:29 PM on July 28 [77 favorites]


if you're going to flag "o* b**m*r" as a slur on par with any of the others listed, you might as well flag "karen", "terf", "racist", "bigot", and "white people".
posted by anem0ne at 1:44 PM on July 28 [19 favorites]


"Karen" is a slur against people named "Karen."

What if your name was used pejoratively?
posted by NotLost at 1:49 PM on July 28 [2 favorites]


And there we have it.
posted by anem0ne at 1:52 PM on July 28 [35 favorites]


I manage fine, and people use my name (John) for the bathroom.
posted by thoroughburro at 1:52 PM on July 28 [16 favorites]


are u asking anem0ne how she would feel if people used hateful slurs against her bc uhh
posted by sunset in snow country at 1:55 PM on July 28 [17 favorites]


"Karen" is a slur against people named "Karen."

I don't think satire belongs in this thread.
posted by JenMarie at 1:58 PM on July 28 [27 favorites]


And there we have it.

Regardless of the fact that "ok boomer" and "karen" are both terms that are used by marginalized folk to typify a particular mindset and behavior (the former being that of older, more conservative, usually well-off folk who have classist, racist, homophobic/transphobic beliefs, particularly towards younger folk; the latter being of a fragile, entitled white woman that tends to use her white tears to leverage force and authority against marginalized folk), some of you think that it's the same as slurs that have been consistently used to denigrate, harm, and destroy marginalized folk because of their very identity?

*k k*r*n
posted by anem0ne at 2:01 PM on July 28 [42 favorites]


There is an advisory board planned for black, indigenous and people of color. I haven’t heard of any such board for any other communities.

Everyone who went “uhhhhh...hmmm” at this adversarial framing sure just had their concerns validated, huh.
posted by bettafish at 2:04 PM on July 28 [12 favorites]


Look, I'm sorry if Karens and people with the first name Karen feel bad that the name, like "Becky", or "Candi", or "Chad" or "Brad" has become shorthand for a specific type of white person. Especially because white people never seemed to feel bad about having used names as offensive shorthand for racial and ethnic minorities for decades, especially when white people judge people for jobs, in jobs, at jobs, based solely on names that aren't theirs.

Two wrongs don't make a right, no, but neither "Karen" nor "OK Boomer" are remotely near the level of harms of the slurs discussed previously, and it's fragility and entitlement to even suggest that.
posted by anem0ne at 2:05 PM on July 28 [37 favorites]


I cannot believe this "Karen is a slur" shit is still something anyone is saying and not being a total troll. How about you read one of the previous conversations that have happened here and the comments from POC explaining how privileged and shitty it is to be calling something a "slur" that grew out of Black and brown communities having basically no power in these interactions. Interactions with white women that often end up with people of color hurt or KILLED. The fact that this is happening in a thread that is ostensibly about helping members of marginalized communities on the site not have to deal with slurs and microaggressions, yet BIPOC are still having to deal with those microaggressions RIGHT HERE. Good times, love this place, never change
posted by primalux at 2:07 PM on July 28 [41 favorites]


one might want to focus particularly on conspire's comment here. if you're an "ally", anyway, it's the reading you should be doing.

but many of us already know that those who think "ally" is a state and not a continual action aren't the type to try and educate or better themselves in terms of anti-racism and anti-bigotry.
posted by anem0ne at 2:12 PM on July 28 [9 favorites]


Other folks have already said it better, and maybe it will do no good to say this, but there is such a vast unbridgeable gulf between "word that internet people use that I don't like" and "slur that the people who want to beat you to death are shouting." Like, I am totally willing to sit through another debate on queer because although I love the word, I know other people have been hurt by it, abused with it, and even if I disagree with them, I want to hear their voice. But the current direction the thread has taken is different. Nobody has been abused by the use of the word Karen. Nobody has been abused by the use of the phrase ok boomer. These things are not in the same category, and I cannot believe they have been brought up in this thread.
posted by mittens at 2:24 PM on July 28 [28 favorites]


I did not say nor did I mean to imply that "Ok Boomer" is comparable to the other slurs listed here. The thread said it was to be used for non-racial slurs. "OK Boomer" is a non-racial slur. If there was something I missed that said we were only supposed to discuss the most egregious slurs and only those directed at people who are at risk of serious physical harm, then I apologize. Of course, hurt feelings are not the same as physical harm. But hurt feelings have often been referenced on these threads, which made me believe that people thought they mattered.
But honestly, this has just verified my belief that ageism is a serious problem on this site. In fact, it's worse than I thought. If you don't think older people are marginalized in this culture, you aren't paying attention to that issue (which makes sense - I didn't notice it until I became an old person). The COVID virus has been called "Boomer remover." Do you not see that as a cultural problem?
This is when I start to wonder if I belong on this site.
posted by FencingGal at 2:39 PM on July 28 [6 favorites]


I also did not mean to cause pain to trans or other marginalized people on this site, and I apologize if I did so.
posted by FencingGal at 2:41 PM on July 28 [1 favorite]


I can absolutely believe they have been brought up in this thread for the same reasoning I discuss in my previous comment up thread. The framing of this Metatalk was problematic from the get-go. Like, let's not play oppression Olympics. Let's be intersectional. Let's see who is in danger right now.
posted by jj's.mama at 2:41 PM on July 28 [14 favorites]


"boomer remover" absolutely should be flagged and deleted.

"ok boomer" is still nowhere near as brutally awful as another vile term for COVID-19.
posted by anem0ne at 2:44 PM on July 28 [7 favorites]


I'm not disputing that ageism is real and hurtful. But the list being compiled is for words that are not okay under any circumstances, is my understanding. I think "OK boomer" is condescending but I don't think think the phrase needs to go on the "never allowed under any circumstances" list.
posted by JenMarie at 2:44 PM on July 28 [8 favorites]


I think the discourse with "ok boomer" is similar to some of the pushback you see on the concept of white privilege. Like, "ok boomer" is aimed at the boomers that control our society and the people that got rich and benefited from a healthy social safety net and then pulled the ladder up behind them leaving the rest of us to drown. But many boomers hear it and say to themselves, "but that's not me! I'm struggling! I'm discriminated against in the workplace and trying to eke out a living on insufficient social security payments!" and I feel like that's a very similar energy to responding to the privilege discussion by saying "I'm white and I'm living below the poverty line while Oprah is out here living it up!" That may very well be true, but it completely misses the point of the power differential that's getting called out. If you're a boomer and those things don't apply for you, congrats, but don't whip out "not all boomers" for the same reason you wouldn't say "not all men."
posted by zeusianfog at 2:46 PM on July 28 [27 favorites]


Honestly, if I could just delete my comment, I would. If the mods wanted to delete it, I'd be thrilled.
posted by FencingGal at 2:49 PM on July 28 [1 favorite]


The COVID virus has been called "Boomer remover." Do you not see that as a cultural problem?
By who? And where on this site?
The only spot I can find it was in the first Pandemic "Fucking Fuck" thread,
I feel like “boomer remover” is gonna be the next “knock-out game” cable news panic where a bunch of older not-canny people force-multiply a social media shitpost into a perceived youth violence, uh, pandemic.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:18 PM on March 13
Which, I mean, it looks pretty prescient now. Something that isn't actually a thing, spun up to be compared to things actually harmful, in defense of an unforced error, with racist overtones.
posted by CrystalDave at 2:51 PM on July 28 [11 favorites]


We don’t need to conjure up sympathy for white women named Karen. I hope we can shift the focus away the hypothetical feelings of white / cis / straight people — which covers the karens and boomers in question. It’s really shitty that this thread led to a bunch of heavy lifting by people of color...again, again, again. I really appreciate jj's.mama talking about intersectionality being missed in the framing of this post. I’m sorry to have been blind to it before you did, jj’s.mama.

I’m a white cis queer person in the United States, to be honest, Metafilter feels tailormade for those aspects of my identity and the perspective I bring to this thread isn’t particularly helpful in the purpose stated as: various marginalized communities at least deserv[ing] to have voice in all of this, and this derail by NotLost didn’t promote that either.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 2:54 PM on July 28 [10 favorites]


Well I feel like my comment above was also completely unhelpful as I started it before I got a phone call and didn’t preview when I finished it up, so I apologize for restating what’s already been said beautifully above.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 2:56 PM on July 28


i'd like to go back to the problem of dogwhistles. While honestly, having a list of "these slurs against marginalized folks have no actual value or use except to harm" is all well and good, the problem i've found is that often, those who espouse transphobic/racist/homophobic/bigoted beliefs in a community such as this one, which prides itself on its intellect/decorum/culture, are often "clever" enough to know not to use obviously offensive slurs.

which is why so many often resort to said dogwhistles. examples like "sex is real" and "gender ideology" are so common that these days everyone knows what they're talking about, but the problem is bigots often change these around frequently; i don't know how many people would be as familiar with, say "TIMs" and "TIFs", or "safeguarding" (an older dogwhistle, fading away and a newer one, being used more frequently).

i definitely think that for something like this, there isn't a technical solution--machines aren't really capable of understanding subtext right now, regardless of how "advanced" their algorithms are, which is why i'm wondering whether there's an effort on the part of the mods to be more aware of these and more proactive in both removing them and learning of them as we move forward as a community?

what would need to be done to help that along?
posted by anem0ne at 3:17 PM on July 28 [23 favorites]


> and I apologize if I did so

I’m so, so tired of hearing this kind of conditional “apology” in response to someone being told that they have in fact done harm. If you’re not sure what you have to apologize for, then you’re not ready to apologize yet.
posted by this one sparks joy at 3:19 PM on July 28 [14 favorites]


Nobody has been harmed by the suggestion that "ok Boomer" is an ageist slur. And if this thread was only allowed to be about LGBTQ+ slurs then that should have been made clear from the get-go.

There have been comments above regarding slurs that are less serious than "those which cannot be typed out". Just because ageist slurs happen to be in style right now doesn't make them not worth discussing in a civil manner, such as has been afforded to most everyone else's comments.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:32 PM on July 28 [9 favorites]


OMG. “ageist slurs” are not a fucking thing. Are there phrases that are rude against older people- yes. Is ageism a thing? Yes. But like when folks are taking about slurs and hate crimes and identity to throw the derail bomb of “this thing that makes me feel bad is CLEARLY on the level of racism/transphobia that KILLS PEOPLE” Is exactly the sort of bullshit dogwhistle that anem0ne is talking about. Hey we’ve banned the n-word- maybe someone can start a MeTa about how we should ban the word “cracker” next because clearly that’s the most important thing to talk about with the same amount of energy! Ok boomer is not a slur.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 6:06 PM on July 28 [24 favorites]


Look, my understanding is that we're trying to eliminate insults used to punch down. "ok boomer" is not punching down. It is decidedly punching up, as elucidated by zeusianfog. We can all shed tears for the sad rich boomers targeted by "ok boomer" when they give us a functioning climate and financial system.

I dunno whether this should be the exclusively LGBT+-slur thread or not, but it sure as shit should not be the privileged-group-slur thread.
posted by schroedinger at 6:08 PM on July 28 [13 favorites]


Look, my understanding is that we're trying to eliminate insults used to punch down. "ok boomer" is not punching down. It is decidedly punching up, as elucidated by zeusianfog. We can all shed tears for the sad rich boomers targeted by "ok boomer" when they give us a functioning climate and financial system.

I dunno whether this should be the exclusively LGBT+-slur thread or not, but it sure as shit should not be the privileged-group-slur thread.


This is a good point and I appreciate that you made it without hystericalizing over the fact that the suggestion was even made.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 6:18 PM on July 28 [1 favorite]


OMG. “ageist slurs” are not a fucking thing.

Are ableist slurs a thing? Are sizeist slurs a thing? Are we here to gatekeep which demographics deserve to be treated with respect and empathy, and which don't? If you think "OK Boomer" is not a slur that should be discussed in this thread, fine. But do we need to jump down someone's throat just because they think ageism should be taken more seriously on this site?
posted by Crane Shot at 6:19 PM on July 28 [11 favorites]


without hystericalizing over the fact that the suggestion was even made.

Hey you know what is a thing? Misogyny.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 6:30 PM on July 28 [24 favorites]


Wow. I hope you're proud of yourself for that.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 6:40 PM on July 28 [1 favorite]


O* B****r.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 6:43 PM on July 28 [6 favorites]


Wow. I hope you're proud of yourself for that.

What does this even mean? Descriptions of people or things being hysterical are basically always rooted in misogyny.
posted by hoyland at 6:53 PM on July 28 [12 favorites]


I didn't agree with their idea, but I'm bummed about how FencingGal was treated in this thread. I recognize that username as a regular contributor in good faith and take their idea as a good faith contribution.
posted by Kwine at 6:57 PM on July 28 [26 favorites]


Of course. I did not remember that when I said it and you can be sure that I will retain awareness of it going forward. But HN was just going for a cheap gotcha because they were mad about what I said. I'm sure they were thrilled.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 6:59 PM on July 28 [3 favorites]


This place is not a place of honor... no highly esteemed deed is commemorated here... nothing valued is here.

🐬
posted by anem0ne at 7:08 PM on July 28 [15 favorites]


I agree, Kwine, and while I disagreed with FencingGal, others were already making the same point, and I think all I contributed there was more stress, by opening my mouth at that particular moment.
posted by mittens at 7:12 PM on July 28 [2 favorites]


It is a rich source of internet drama though!
posted by Brain Sturgeon at 7:13 PM on July 28


What is here turned out to be dangerous and repulsive to us. This message (and the thousand others before it) is a warning about danger. 😞
posted by this one sparks joy at 7:14 PM on July 28 [6 favorites]


I'm sure they were thrilled.

This is shitty and in bad faith.
posted by schroedinger at 7:23 PM on July 28 [10 favorites]


That's exactly what I thought about about what they did.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 7:25 PM on July 28 [1 favorite]


Thrilled? No. Sad. The fact that a person who’s had slurs thrown at them their whole life- K-words to S-m- to F- has to make the point that maybe just fucking maybe ok boomer isn't even remotely in the same category and gets misogyny thrown in their face for Defending themselves and the others on this site who are far more marginalized than I- at this point- what are you even doing? Stop digging the hole.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 7:26 PM on July 28 [11 favorites]


I'm noping out of this thread because it's too far gone from a constructive conversation and I think it's entirely because it was a poorly formed meta to start and lacked the clarity of intent.

If you can't even define what specific problem you're seeing repeatedly happen on mefi that you can cite to, no meaningful solutioning and collaboration can happen here.

If the thread was started as a reaction to seeing movement on the racism metas as stated in OPs post, and not rooted on an actual problem on mefi then it's not surprising to me it's turned into a free for all where people argue over whether some term is or isn't a slur based off of personal views and not based on irl commonly accepted definitions of slurs.

It's time to refocus on a narrow, actual problem on mefi, otherwise close the thread and rethink it.
posted by Karaage at 7:29 PM on July 28 [27 favorites]


I'm sorry, are all of the mods off tonight? WTF.
posted by TwoStride at 7:30 PM on July 28 [10 favorites]


Good job everyone, we drove off more long-time members who've spent a lot of time trying to make Metafilter better despite itself.
Was it worth it? Was it worth letting this thread drive so far off the rails from a single comment made in questionable-at-best faith & people's dogged determination that "No, we need to treat this like a very serious proposal that deserves equal weight to the people opening themselves up above"?

Maybe if we keep treating masking functions for white supremacy as if nobody's allowed to see past them or use context, we'll be left with the cold, dead white dwarf that is a site where there's no complaints because there's nobody left who would complain.

for fuck's sake. I'm not going anywhere, because I figure someone's got to keep putting their shoulder in, but this is disgraceful.
posted by CrystalDave at 7:34 PM on July 28 [9 favorites]


That's exactly what I thought about about what they did.

Look, you literally shoehorned a misogynistic term into a word you invented for that comment, I am not sure why you are shocked and appalled that someone called you out on it.
posted by schroedinger at 7:37 PM on July 28 [8 favorites]


Okay, so the "hands off" modding approach clearly isn't working here, given that this thread has devolved into shouting....
posted by schmod at 7:37 PM on July 28 [3 favorites]


I would ask, please, that nobody go off and button because of this. The mod hands off aspect is a new implementation and people need to adjust expectations. And maybe we learn that this doesn't work, or that we have to behave differently in this new setup.

The idea here was that we can all give input and be heard, I agree that some of these suggestions have more validity than others but really guys, we do not need to argue why "no, your idea sucks", it is not like there are a limited number of fucks we can give and you need to elbow your way to a space on the lifeboat.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:44 PM on July 28 [6 favorites]


It is straight up vile to take the legitimate anger of marginalized Mefites and condescendingly talk down to them for being "uncivil" and "hysterical" for daring to, I don't know, point out that an older white person's mildly bruised feelings are not equivalent to the trauma caused by hate crimes. I don't think you actually know what civility means, Serene Empress Dork.

I didn't agree with their idea, but I'm bummed about how FencingGal was treated in this thread. I recognize that username as a regular contributor in good faith and take their idea as a good faith contribution.

It's not that I want FencingGal to be hounded off the site, but Kwine (and on preview, mittens), I urge you to ask yourself why you're speaking up to say you're bummed about how FencingGal was treated, but not about how anem0ne, Homo neanderthalensis, primalux and others in this thread -- plus trans and/or PoC MeFites in general -- have been treated by FencingGal (not to mention NotLost and Serene Empress Dork). Is it because you empathize with FencingGal more for whatever reason, regardless of whether you agree with their position? Do you think someone's good intent matters more than their harmful impact? Do you perceive the anger of commenters who were harmed by FencingGal's derail (as well as the follow-up comments from NotLost and Serene Empress Dork) as more violent than the derail itself? Are those commenters somehow less in good faith than FencingGal because they're angry? Seriously think about these questions and sit with them for a while.

Because from my perspective, it is absolutely buck fucking wild that multiple commenters in this thread are being accused -- not have been accused, but are still being accused, present tense -- of being simultaneously too mean, overemotional, and also trolling, but the person whose good faith we're supposed to care about is the person who has yet to construct an apology without an "if" in it.

On preview:
The idea here was that we can all give input and be heard, I agree that some of these suggestions have more validity than others but really guys, we do not need to argue why "no, your idea sucks", it is not like there are a limited number of fucks we can give and you need to elbow your way to a space on the lifeboat.

Meatbomb, you are not actually hearing if this is your takeaway.
posted by bettafish at 7:48 PM on July 28 [34 favorites]


My only objective here is that people do not get angry and frustrated and leave (again). Maybe that is unrealistic, and I will shut up now.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:53 PM on July 28 [1 favorite]


I urge you to ask yourself why you're speaking up to say you're bummed about how FencingGal was treated, but not about how anem0ne, Homo neanderthalensis, primalux and others in this thread -- plus trans and/or PoC MeFites in general -- have been treated by FencingGal (not to mention NotLost and Serene Empress Dork).

Could it be because of the incredible pile on? She apologized twice and asked that her comment be deleted and people STILL wouldn’t let it go.
posted by Brain Sturgeon at 8:02 PM on July 28 [9 favorites]


Karaage: anem0ne, mittens, and death valley compound have repeatedly articulated the specific actions that they wish to be taken. (I agree with them.)

So far, they’ve earned one “wait your turn,” multiple derails, and one “is this even related to an actual problem?” Message fucking received.
posted by this one sparks joy at 8:04 PM on July 28 [8 favorites]


I find it interesting that when I think about my use of the gay f-word on MetaFilter (which I've done), it's usually directed toward me and is usually meant to elicit a specific kind of hackle-raising that will draw attention to the point I'm making about being gay. I've also linked to a great piece of literature here that has that word in the title, and there are respected gay plays which have that as part of the title.... I entirely believe that word can be used as a throwing knife with incredibly painful accuracy for the target, but I don't think it's not useful. So, can there be some kind of "look at the context" sort of system for use of that word? I don't use it often, but when I do it is very deliberate, as it is with authors and playwrights and essayists, and has been for a while.
posted by hippybear at 8:32 PM on July 28 [10 favorites]


I think returning to anem0ne's discussion of dogwhistles would be a good idea. I think having a short list of never-on-metafilter list of words is great and agree that a more salient problem is people saying plausibly deniable things that may not be recognised immediately as prejudice by the moderators.

To some extent these require flagging by community members, but I would be interested to know if the moderators do maintain any sort of internal documentation to assist in understanding and identifying this stuff. If not, perhaps they can start doing that. It seems to me that we already crowdsource marginalised people's advice on dogwhistling comments through the flag system, so it would seem sensible for the information gained to be compiled somewhere for moderators to reference.

Perhaps there could be some simple additions to the flag system to enable this? Would a 'dogwhistle' reason be helpful, or in the mods experience is the freeform text sufficient to provide context and understanding?

Other than the flagging system, providing context and advice on dogwhistles does seem like the kind of thing that direct advice would seem helpful for. I'm not sure a formally constituted advisory board is the best way to do that, however.
posted by death valley compound at 8:36 PM on July 28 [10 favorites]


Hippybear, your use of that word (and similar functions of speech using slurs by trans and queer friends alike, on intersections I am not) is one of the reasons I spoke up. And why I said what I said. The desire to create these wordlists for slurs, regardless of social, historical, or emotional context for the marginalised population as an enormous non-homogenous community, is one that simultaneously further directs harm to the communities AND erases the clear difference between language imposed by (white) hegemony as a slur, and language used by members of a community as signals that are also used as slurs.

And does not a whit of good for identifying dogwhistles and the 'civilised' discussion that further marginalised people. It serves a purpose for what I called bright line slurs that a majority white space and majority hetero space and majority cis space cannot use with care and nuance. But it also removes the capacity for those communities to use them - it is a technological fix for a social issue that goes well beyond use of a word or a phrase, and is at its heart the careless prioritisation of hegemonic normativity and feelings, that position highly contextual and memetic phrases aimed at the hegemony as harmful as slurs aimed at marginalised communities.

No, I'm not gonna button either. But there is a good reason I drew back from this space, and the ignorant and careless insistence that the hurt of no longer being centred in a space is as harmful as systemic bigotry is a big part of it.
posted by geek anachronism at 9:10 PM on July 28 [25 favorites]


I’m disturbed that a thread started explicitly in reaction to the many trans people speaking out against both specific harms as well as a general attitude on metafilter has devolved into a weird fighty concern pile about whether rude phrases are equal to dehumanizing language that those of us who (if anyone has a right to say them!) they are applied to wont even write the words because they are so hurtful. We had a discussion earlier about whether a collective community word is one of those terms!

Ageism is an issue, but Ok Boomer doesn’t even register. It’s not used to further marginalize the elderly, deny their limited agency—it is a way to point out a power imbalance going the other direction. Same with “Karen”ness, misogyny is real! But we are more than just our single axis of dominance or oppression.

I’m worried that a conversation started as a chum bucket of all possibly hurtful language will end up drowning out the smaller community of those with an immediate concern, and our conversation about whether it’s a solvable technical issue/what that would look like is not benefited by defensive posturing over terms exclusively applied to cis white people.

If there are specific terms used to denigrate women-qua-women (like b***h) or elders-qua-elders, those should be registered as flag priorities, sure. But (assuming auto flagging is even technically feasible) “Karen” is just never going to be autoflag-able in the same way that f* can be because it’s not a damn slur used to specifically oppress those already socially vulnerable, it’s just a flag and move on situation based entirely on context (or an “evaluate-my-own-privilege”, as the case may be)
posted by zinful at 10:54 PM on July 28 [14 favorites]


I think the initial framing is quite clear: "How should the issue of non-racial slurs be discussed?"

Instead of discussing the how, we jumped to discussing the what. In different ways and with different understandings.

I think it's clear that this kind of format is not great for discussing slurs.
posted by freethefeet at 12:37 AM on July 29 [11 favorites]


Instead of discussing the how, we jumped to discussing the what.

This is your first comment in this thread, so by 'we' you seem to mean 'you', as in the people who did that jumping.

This is frustrating. Trans-related slurs (one of which has a distinct intersection with race) were first proposed in the Racial slurs that should never be written thread. And the response was that consideration of these would happen at some later time.

So, they get raised again here and discussed in a completely reasonable and productive way by trans people before the thread gets derailed by people proposing "OK Boomer" and "Karen" and the resulting, utterly predictable pile-on. Attempts to refocus the thread back onto productive discussions seem to have failed.

It's worth talking about whether the trans-specific slurs should be blocked. It's worth talking about the nuances of queer and how the use of the f-slur by people entitled to use it can be valuable.

So I'll say this: 'we' are not the reason the thread has gone badly. Framing cannot solve the deep problems MeFi has with marginalised groups speaking clearly about what we need.
posted by death valley compound at 1:50 AM on July 29 [15 favorites]


Sorry, I retract my comment. I've been reading along since the thread launched and should have done better.

I apologize without trying to explain myself.
posted by freethefeet at 1:56 AM on July 29 [4 favorites]


If the post was specific to LGBTIA slurs, I'd understand the "off-topic" objection, but it wasn't and so I don't. I do understand, to be sure, the sensitivity about discussing things willy-nilly, as I'll elaborate in a moment.

I agree that presenting "ok boomer" as an example of an ageist slur was very risible — though I think the comment reads pretty clearly as being in good-faith.

I disagree with the argument that there are no and cannot be ageist slurs, and especially that targeting the elderly is necessarily "punching up". American culture, specifically, does not value its elderly and, in fact, often discards them. However, I wouldn't put all "boomers" in that class, as many are just middle-aged and still socially empowered. Nevertheles, there are a hell of lot of elderly people in nursing homes that have been and are presently having their very lives sacrificed on the alter of "the economy", which I think we should see as indicative of the seriousness of anti-elderly ageism.

With regard to slurs specific to LGBTIA, clearly there's a need to form a consensus on those which are universally unacceptable and always disallowed and to act on that consensus. As has been emphatically said many times, some of these slurs are used in conjunction with hate-motivated murder — this really matters and frustration and short-tempers in this context are justified.

The post was not limited to that subset of slurs and, in fact, doesn't appear to have been intended to focus on specific slurs per se, but seems to have intended to raise the general issue that we need to talk about other slurs as we've already discussed racist slurs — the post asked how we should go about that. Should we have separate discussions about slurs that target different groups? Discuss pretty much everything else in this thread? That is proving problematic insofar as it's happened in this thread because it unfortunately implies all such slurs are comparable and invites such comparisons, which is disastrous.

We can discuss everything in one thread, but we'd need to be scrupulous about avoiding such equivalencies and comparisons. For example, speaking as a disabled person, there are some slurs I believe should be prohibited, but I will not attempt to compare how they hurt me to how other slurs hurt other people — in fact, I won't presume to compare my hurt even to that of other disabled people. I can only speak to my own pain.

I don't expect every disabled person to draw the lines exactly where I do, but I'm certainly willing to listen to other people experiences and opinions, take them seriously, work to form a consensus about standards for MetaFilter, and adhere to those standards even if they don't precisely match my own sensibilities.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:01 AM on July 29 [26 favorites]


With regard to slurs specific to LGBTIA, clearly there's a need to form a consensus on those which are universally unacceptable and always disallowed and to act on that consensus. As has been emphatically said many times, some of these slurs are used in conjunction with hate-motivated murder — this really matters and frustration and short-tempers in this context are justified.


As has been discussed in this thread, almost every LGBTQIA+ slur has been used violently, in conjunction with hate crimes and yes, murder, and simultaneously remains an integral form of speech within the community itself, as a self-identifier, in-group indicator, reclaimed slur, or one of our own damn words used against us. And a consensus (of who, everyone, just those affected, just those who can prove they have enough skin in the game?) disempowers a community for the sake of...a technological word matching performance that does not address the most egregious acts of bigotry that are causing issues for the current mefi community.

A consensus, and word banning, that would certainly lead to marginalised members being unwelcome. I said I wouldn't button but good god, if a consensus vote decided certain identifiers weren't okay regardless of context and nuanced careful use by the very people marginalised by use of it as a slur, I'd have to think real hard.
posted by geek anachronism at 4:29 AM on July 29 [9 favorites]


A consensus, and word banning, that would certainly lead to marginalised members being unwelcome.

You're talking over marginalised members who feel unwelcome right now.
posted by death valley compound at 4:49 AM on July 29 [1 favorite]


I'm horrified by this thread. We're hurting each other worse here.

Why are we proposing word bans in conversation? A committee of hundreds (?) is not productive, that's why voting exists. We should be using the Google Sheet with notes, or a wiki perhaps, to gather this information directly from the community.
posted by wellred at 5:41 AM on July 29 [5 favorites]


And then what? We put the humanity of others up for a vote?

You're talking over marginalised members who feel unwelcome right now.

There are multiple opposing camps in this thread who feel the same way about the other side. Your comment could also be construed as "talking over."

I genuinely don't know how we're going to advance this conversation any further, because we've reached the point where we have diametrically opposing viewpoints coming from within a single community.
posted by schmod at 5:50 AM on July 29 [5 favorites]


"Vote" by contribution, not a show of hands per se. I see your points, for sure.
posted by wellred at 5:54 AM on July 29


Consensus, for me, means we find a solution that works for everyone, and unless absolutely and regretably necessary, doesn't come to a vote- it's not about the majority over ruling the marginalised (or a subsection of the marginalised.) Is this the same definition others are using for consensus? (My understanding comes from being part of a collective run restaurant when I was at uni.)

I agree with wellred. This is painful. I'm sad that many here are hurting- not to point fingers or say there shouldn't be hurt, but a probably poorly worded attempt at solidarity.
posted by freethefeet at 5:56 AM on July 29 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry, I'm not being clear. I'm not saying people can vote "no, that's not a slur" - I'm saying, if you make your additions and points on the Sheet/wiki, you've participated in the process.
posted by wellred at 6:00 AM on July 29


Your comment could also be construed as "talking over."

To be specific, I'm asking someone who isn't trans to not talk over the trans people here.
posted by death valley compound at 6:01 AM on July 29 [2 favorites]


Maybe we can all agree that this thread has generated more heat than light.
posted by NotLost at 6:03 AM on July 29 [2 favorites]


You're talking over marginalised members who feel unwelcome right now.

As someone who is trans and has issues with site culture more broadly, In firmly of the opinion that not being able to use words to identify myself in contexts where that is appropriate, would emphatically not help. It would feel like trying to sweep the problem under the rug without addressing any of the broader substantive issues.

Banning words that are predominantly not used as slurs on this site anyway would disproportionately affect people in the groups being targeted. You're not going to see f*gg*t used as an insult if mefi these days (at least not for long, I would expect that to pretty much be an instadelete) but you will see gay people using it in art, as a provocative form of self-identity in version contexts, etc etc. Banning the word will have virtually no effect on straight people (who by and large do not use the word anyway, certainly not without moderator intervention, except perhaps in discussions about the word/homophobia, where there is perhaps an argument for encouraging people not to just fling out slurs with wild abandon even if it's too discus rather than actually use them) but outright banning the word would disproportionately affect gay people.

Similarly, banning eg tr*nny would disproportionately affect teams people (and maybe ask threads about electrical issues or cars, what with it also being a common shortening of transformer and transmission in those contexts). I know there are a bunch of projects I am or have can involved in that I could no longer talk about under those circumstances. I wouldn't be able to link to wonderful punk projects like this (cw: reclaimed slur).

The hardcore, slur-using bigots who would be affected by this are already not on mefi, and not welcome here. It would disproportionately affect members of marginalised groups who want to reclaim a word in certain situations. This isn't to say that mefi doesn't have problems with bigotry, but that out-and-out slur flinging is not the form it takes.
posted by Dysk at 6:19 AM on July 29 [48 favorites]


But like, all that had already been explained in thread. Does it make any difference that the exact same argument is now being made by a trans woman? The argument is the same.
posted by Dysk at 6:23 AM on July 29 [4 favorites]


Not meaning to be glib, but trying to look back at the title of the thread – maybe the answer to "how should slurs be discussed" is at minimum "not in a standard metatalk thread".

I like the suggestion of some sort of more private or anonymous way to gather community feedback. Not a vote of any sort, but a google form or something with some open ended questions.
posted by lucidium at 6:54 AM on July 29 [4 favorites]


But like, all that had already been explained in thread. Does it make any difference that the exact same argument is now being made by a trans woman?

Yes it does. Because you're speaking from your personal and informed perspective, describing harms that would affect you.

In fact, a way back I pushed back against the idea that there was a consensus about using the nope-filter on the t slur. I'm in agreement that it can be a useful reclaimed term.

I'm less convinced that applies to the other two transphobic terms that have been discussed and I think that's useful to talk about.

I also think that we need to address the broader issues and have been actively trying to talk about it, particularly around the related issue of dogwhistles.

So yeah, I think a slur filter on certain words might be be nice. I think we should consider the harms of implementing it carefully. I don't think it's a massive win, but might be nice to have in some cases.
posted by death valley compound at 7:50 AM on July 29 [2 favorites]


Morning, everyone. I'm going to round up the new bullet points and then talk a little bit more about how this process is working from our end.

Problems:
- dogwhistles are more of a problem than individual words
- poorly-framed MeTas do not lead to productive conversations
- people do not distinguish well between "harmful slur against minority" and "word that makes me feel bad" and blurring this line, even unknowingly, makes conversations hostile to minorities

Solutions:
- start/maintain documentation/education on dogwhistles for the moderators
- offer private/anonymous ways to collect slurs for the filter
- (four words for the filter, one a possible self-identifier)

So, a couple of notes on the way the thread went yesterday. First, we're going to be chatting on the team about how much moderation we should expect to be doing on this kind of thing. There's tension between letting intra-community disagreements play out, because we're not necessarily part of those communities and stifling them actively hinders our efforts to be guided by the community on relevant issues, and keeping discussions constructive and sufficiently civil that everyone is feeling heard.

Another tension is that between letting people use MetaTalk freely and without excessive moderatorial control, and letting poorly-framed MeTas play out in predictable ways. The last several years we've focused on avoiding the latter, and that has some virtue, but it is risky in that it is an inherently conservative strategy. Points of view that we as a team don't understand or don't agree with are more likely to be stifled than ones that we feel more comfortable with, or that we anticipate the community will feel more comfortable with. (I think this has manifested more in MeTas that were never written than MeTas that were refused publication, which has been a subtler problem to spot.) I would like to swing the pendulum a little further back towards letting things play out and seeing what value they generate.

That, necessarily, leads to high-heat threads that often illuminate problems by demonstrating them. One dynamic that has been a problem in the past, and that this system is set up to try to avoid, is that we have tried to resolve inter-user disputes in policy threads by joining the debate. Then both sides feel like they need to persuade whichever mod is responding, and whatever the mod says in response (or fails to say) is used to further the debate. This is a problem for two reasons: one, that a lot of these debates are ones that we have no business participating in, and that we often need to absorb, research some context, and do some self-education and reflection on before we have any chance of having an informed opinion, and two, that the perception ends up being that these threads are forums where in order to have your policy position considered, you need to win the debate.

That's not the case here. I'm reading the thread, noting the issues, scheduling things for research and education, and taking in as much information as I can. I'm also paying attention to inter-user conflicts, tracking patterns, and doing my best to spot things that aren't explicitly being debated but that can inform moderation in the future. If someone says something that you want to rebut, by all means, rebut it. If someone says something that you want to rebut but you don't want to actually join the debate, I am reading flag notes as well as comments as I go through these threads, and that's a fast way to add your opinion in a mod-only view. If the topic interests you but you don't want to join the thread at all, you are absolutely welcome to use the contact form or my direct email and tell me your thoughts, and they'll go on the overall list as well.

I know this is hard, and I could wish that the first thread of this type weren't one that touched on so many open community wounds. Please take care of each other, folks.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:51 AM on July 29 [42 favorites]


But like, all that had already been explained in thread. Does it make any difference that the exact same argument is now being made by a trans woman?

Yes it does. Because you're speaking from your personal and informed perspective, describing harms that would affect you.


I believe that geek anachronism was speaking about slurs that are relevant to them and to this thread, and was also speaking from their own personal and informed perspective as a marginalized person.
posted by jb at 8:02 AM on July 29 [1 favorite]


I believe that geek anachronism was speaking about slurs that are relevant to them

I'm not the one making pronouncements about "almost every LGBTQIA+ slur". Glad that was the part of my comment that was important to you.
posted by death valley compound at 8:25 AM on July 29 [1 favorite]


"Let's come up with lists of slurs together on MetaTalk" is such an obviously ill-fated idea that I'm astounded it got off the ground at all. I think this speaks to the site leadership's lack of breadth and/or depth when it comes to these issues; that there is a lack of an organic engagement with thinking about this, and the only modes appear to be "ignore everything / explain why nothing can happen yet" or "react react react". If you don't have your own framework/compass and a more rooted approach than "people seem mad", you're going to end up constantly yanked back and forth. Listening to those affected can't mean doing everything that is suggested, because individuals will suggest things that are at cross-purposes.
posted by dusty potato at 8:36 AM on July 29 [16 favorites]


If you don't have your own framework/compass and a more rooted approach than "people seem mad", you're going to end up constantly yanked back and forth. Listening to those affected can't mean doing everything that they suggest, because people will suggest things that are at cross-purposes.

The Metafilter staff are at an impasse: if they don't do everything that people suggest (even when contradictory), they are terrible people, this is a terrible site and it's their fault when people choose to leave. If they create their own framework, they are "ignoring marginalized members", though, of course, some of the moderators are themselves queer, trans and/or racialized - and there is no agreement among queer, trans and/or racialized members, as noted (and demonstrated) above. I happen to agree with you that reacting swiftly can be counter-productive; I find that demanding immediate reaction is also unproductive, but I don't expect that people will stop doing so.
posted by jb at 8:48 AM on July 29 [34 favorites]


I'll take a strong disagree there. I don't think site members have a grievance alliance based on coming together to hector site leadership. I think diversity of perspective leads to plurality and differences in opinion. Wisely addressing these differences and moving forward is a rare skill and requires both de-prioritizing one's own feelings about being criticized and divesting from personal narratives about how people are never satisfied and you can't do anything right.
posted by dusty potato at 8:57 AM on July 29 [16 favorites]


Exhortations to read the room or pick up on subtle, unwritten, indirect or hidden material are not accommodating to autistic people, of which I am one.
posted by NotLost at 9:12 AM on July 29 [5 favorites]


Using Autism as an excuse to excuse repeated bad behavior in threads despite multiple rounds of pushback instead of committing oneself to do better and learning better social skills that don't hurt vulnerable people is incredibly insulting to your fellow Autists, of which I am one.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 9:14 AM on July 29 [24 favorites]


dusty potato: I didn't mean to suggest any alliance or plan; it's an emergent phenomenon and obviously involves only some members. But you're right that it's a rare skill - which is why I don't expect that any human could exercise it perfectly all the time, including the Metafilter staff.
posted by jb at 9:30 AM on July 29 [1 favorite]


Yes, sorry jb, I didn't mean to sound like you were implying a nefarious conspiracy. :) I just wanted to reframe some of the ideas around potential "damned if you do damned if you don't!!!" thinking, because I have seen that frequently emerging as a cudgel and an obstacle elsewhere in MeTa.
posted by dusty potato at 9:40 AM on July 29 [1 favorite]


I said "almost every" for a reason as well because as I mentioned in a previous comment, trans people have a greater occurrence of slurs-created-by-hegemony. And that, as Dusk points out, some of those slurs are used within and by community members in important ways. I have referred repeatedly to bright line slurs, ones that cannot be used by the majority here in any useful way. And that increased scrutiny of those words is still unlikely to catch out bigoted comments and more likely to affect marginalised people using their own language and identifiers.

But yes, I am a queer woman, I was absolutely referring to my response if words I use to identify myself were put on a list for extra mod attention, and that this response is not a unique one due to how language actually functions in subaltern communities. I am cis, and while my position is formed by readings by trans writers and by my friends who are trans, I am speaking from privilege still. Which is why I pointed out the differences in slurs for queerness vs trans-ness, and that it isn't all LGBTQIA+ slurs that occupy that space I named.

Because right now I am struggling to work this out. My comment about lists of words making me feel unwelcome was directly speaking about my queerness (and gender non-conformity), and that many other marginalised people are similar in the way the language they use for themselves is also used as a slur, is following on from comments where I directly talk about the differences for transphobic language, and in that comment itself I make it clear that it doesn't apply to all slurs anyway.

And my point still stands, in terms of actual usage here on mefi currently - is this actually going to help moderation and welcoming people, if words are already not being used, and in the most contentious threads recently that lead to trans people leaving, weren't used? That the transphobic rhetoric is deeply rooted in more than just lists of words that, if banned, would not have changed those negative experiences?

I, personally, don't and won't use any of the trans slurs listed in this thread. I also know trans people who do use them. That informs my comments but mostly? I'm talking about me and my queerness and how that manifests. And disagreeing with people about the whole process.
posted by geek anachronism at 10:35 AM on July 29 [2 favorites]


It feels like there's a strong analogy here with a "product management" function, the role in a commercial business that's responsible for figuring out what products or features to build next.

Listening to and empathising with the users/customers/audience is crucial to good product management, as is understanding who is and isn't the target audience. But "product management" doesn't (hopefully) only consist of adding all the user requests to a big list and prioritising them. It consists of zooming out to the bigger picture, understanding the organisation's values, having a clear and focused long term vision, figuring out what that might look like in practice, and then building a roadmap to get there, quite possibly comprised largely out of things the userbase has requested.

Being overly driven by "what's causing strong emotions at this moment" is a good way to end up starting everything and completing nothing, or prioritising things that conflict with each other in the wider context. That's not to say, of course, that there's no correlation between emotive topics and urgency. In larger organisations you often see a demarcation between people working on "something is on fire" and people working on the longer term roadmap, for this exact reason.
posted by quacks like a duck at 10:35 AM on July 29 [5 favorites]


Add me to the "let's come up with slurs as a group has been an extremely unproductive strategy" tally. Some of the terms for trans people above could (and should) be added to the list, but there should have been a better way (considering anem0ne already posted them in the previous slurs thread).
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:58 AM on July 29 [5 favorites]


I said "almost every" for a reason as well because as I mentioned in a previous comment, trans people have a greater occurrence of slurs-created-by-hegemony.

OK, I misread you and I apologize.

My perspective is that a slur filter exists (or is in development), so it's worth considering whether the trans slurs that were suggested should be included in it. I wouldn't have called for it to be created and I don't think use of trans slurs on MetaFilter is our most pressing issue. Since a set of trans slurs has been proposed, it's not unreasonable to discuss these slurs from a specifically trans perspective without people who are not targeted by those specific words suggesting that because other words have been reclaimed etc., there is no value in the proposal.

I'm not sure how frequently comments or posts with these slurs are used or how long on average it takes for them to be deleted, but there's undeleted (and problematic) examples of the s- slur from only a couple of years ago and the l- slur from 4 years ago. So it's not like these are issues from the distant past.
posted by death valley compound at 11:06 AM on July 29 [4 favorites]


there should have been a better way (considering anem0ne already posted them in the previous slurs thread).

Yeah, that would have been just adding them at the time.
posted by death valley compound at 11:07 AM on July 29 [3 favorites]


"Consensus, for me, means we find a solution that works for everyone, and unless absolutely and regretably necessary, doesn't come to a vote- it's not about the majority over ruling the marginalised (or a subsection of the marginalised.) Is this the same definition others are using for consensus? (My understanding comes from being part of a collective run restaurant when I was at uni.)"

That seems about right to me. It's not "majority rule".

Consensus comes from a process of respectful, sensitive discussion which recognizes that the process itself is educational — that people learn from listening to the perspectives of others — and which strives to find a compromise that almost everyone will accept. It doesn’t have to be complete agreement and it doesn't have to be the final word.

For example, there are two sticking points in the discussion up to this point: slurs automatically excluded from usage or otherwise universally prohibited, and slurs that have been (partly) reclaimed. We don't all have to completely agree about all of these, and any sort of agreement we do reach needn't be set in stone. We can revisit the issue. After all, the reason any of us are investing effort in the discussion is because we want actual improvement, and that requires action in addition to discussion. Whatever we decide now, we're likely to modify in some way in the future. This is a work in progress.

If we believe ourselves to form a community and we're attempting to find a consensus about something to the benefit of the community, then when the topic is sensitive — and few things are more sensitive and personal than the bigotry of slurs — then I think we have to work extra hard to be sensitive to and forgiving of each other and recognize that we're not all coming to this with the same set of experiences, even when we belong to the same marginalized group.

I mean, it's my observation that disagreements in-group about such things can be the most heated and hurtful.

In my experience as a disabled person it's been difficult to speak up and I know it's difficult for other disabled people to speak up — I very much wish to avoid my difference of opinion with other disabled people ever acting as silencing or minimizing in any way whatsoever. While there are things I disagree with other disabled people about, more important to me is that we retain solidarity with each other in our opposition of ableism and support of each other. Given that, "consensus" to me implies a compromise that most of us believe furthers the interests of us as a class, even if it's not my ideal.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:19 AM on July 29 [10 favorites]


Maybe, building on capricorn's suggestion, we could have another category of flag such as “this contains words I never want to see on the site”. This would start a dialogue between the user and the mod on duty about the content, what happens to it, and how it can be avoided for the next time. I know that the current flag mechanics are troublesome, and unfortunately this method would still expose users to harmful words, so it's far from ideal. It might, I hope, start to allow a means for building more nuanced block lists of dog-whistles and emerging slurs.
posted by scruss at 1:15 PM on July 29 [5 favorites]


My local age+geographic cohort does not bat an eye at using "queer" as a totally neutral word that is more or less synonymous with "LGBTQ+." But I'm sure I could encounter contexts in which it was clear it was being used with more malicious intent.

When you create a post with one or more links that are similar to ones that have been used in other posts, Metafilter asks you to confirm that your post is not a duplicate. It doesn't block the post's creation, it just asks you if you're really sure this is what you want to post. On a technical level, then, I think a similar system could be set up that asks a question along these lines:
Your [post/comment] contains one or more words [a, b, c, d...] that function as slurs when applied to members of a marginalized group or community, yet have also been reclaimed as positive ingroup identifiers when used by members of that same group or community. In order to create this [post/comment], please confirm that your use of these words falls solely into the second pattern of use.
posted by one for the books at 1:55 PM on July 29 [2 favorites]


one for the books, love the intention behind that but I worry that something like that would flag mostly false positives, and make it a hostile experience to post here as a member of one of the marginalized groups, having to continually jump through a hoop to post about your community. That feels much more like something that needs to be monitored by mods and users and flagged when it's done in an out-group, othering way.
posted by capricorn at 2:29 PM on July 29 [8 favorites]


I wanted to really sit with the question of authentic purpose before responding. I think, on reflection, it was wrong to frame this meta around the fact that there is no BIPOC board, but it is right to say that there is no place right now to bring these concerns up publicly with the mods other than a meta. I apologize for not recognizing and acknowledging that sooner.

(Side note, I'm going to use Trans below as an umbrella term for people who are two spirit, intersexed, agender, non binary or otherwise gender diverse members of the LGBTQ+ community, since I don't know a better term that doesn't center cis people, but suggestions welcome.)

Some people are both BIPOC and LGBTQ+; that means that any Trans or general LGBTQ+ issue advisory board in the future should be diverse and those perspectives should be honored and that board members should be aware we live in an intersectional system of oppression, not that the BIPOC board should also be responsible for general Trans or LGBTQ+ issues.

LGBTQ+ people or Trans people don't deserve an advisory board because BIPOC people have one; If we get one, it will be for the same reason there is a BIPOC board: because the site staff acknowledges it needs to improve how it handles issues related specifically to that community or set of communities, the mods acknowledge that such board would help and agree to it, and there are people who have agreed to be on such a board. I'm not sure any of those are true at this point.
posted by Chrysopoeia at 7:01 PM on July 29


[One comment removed; we don't need to spend time figuring out what someone meant by an ambiguous or indirect reference to a slur. If it's a mystery, it's a mystery; someone can clarify it more directly when e.g. suggesting something for inclusion on a hard-stop word list if necessary.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:35 PM on July 29


Summarizing cortex's answer to one of my questions to the mods, currently the n word is simply banned, the ban list is being expanded with suggestions from Mithrael's racial slur thread, a more flexible solution with this will roll out shortly after testing, additional words will be easy to add to that, autoflagging or contexual suggestions are possible but not implemented so any discussion of them is speculative, RN will likely have more friday. If I got anything wrong cortex, feel free to say so.

So maybe it would be good to talk just about words and phrases that need to be fully banned?

I do want to state my strong feeling that contexual suggestions and/or autoflagging (preferably both) should be added to the site.

Capricorn and one for the books both pointed to why and echo several of my thoughts, but I'd add that LGBTQ+ liberation has often been about transgression and reclamation of words, space, and discourse generally. Even if it's words that were shouted at me as I was assaulted, if it's being used by one of us in the LGBTQ+ community, I don't want to see them silenced.
posted by Chrysopoeia at 9:07 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


cis people do not get to reclaim slurs referring to trans people, regardless of whether they are LBGQ+.

Of the four trans-specific slurs listed, I've only seen *one* that has a convincing argument of being reclaimed.
posted by anem0ne at 10:10 PM on July 29 [8 favorites]


This isn't to say that mefi doesn't have problems with bigotry, but that out-and-out slur flinging is not the form it takes.

Your whole post really resonated with me. I feel like, in an understandable attempt to reduce ambiguity, we may be trying to address less overt issues with rules, but they might not be the right tool for the job. Are these slurs readily used and bandied about on MF? I don't think so? Does MF still have challenges with racism, transphobia etc? Most certainly.

I'm not opposed a blacklist, but mefites do seem to really like digging in on edge cases or hypotheticals that - if they happen at all - happen infrequently, and are often caught very quickly by the moderators.

I think many of the challenges that occur are around values, and value-driven behaviours - especially with regards to how allyship is construed here. A hard set of rules, I dunno if it will address those challenges. I understand the appetite for the perception that moderators (and the community) are doing something, but I feel like blacklists are most effective for black and white cases. I feel that some of the other initiatives underway might be more effective at addressing values issues.

I guess, I'm saying, rather than focusing on what people could and might do, we should keep the focus on behaviours that are happening right now.
posted by smoke at 12:04 AM on July 30 [19 favorites]


I understand the appetite for the perception that moderators (and the community) are doing something

I don't know, have you considered the effect that being constantly told that you want the wrong things in the wrong order at the wrong time has on people's perception of this site and its user base?
posted by death valley compound at 2:32 AM on July 30 [5 favorites]


But mate, I think some of that is inevitable: as this thread amply demonstrates, there is nothing in the way of consensus once it gets past the most obvious cases. I.e. someone is going to get told that, regardless of outcome.

I understand the frustration, as many mefites have not felt heard or seen by the mods. I just don't know about the prescription, is all. Feels very circular. I get why charity may be thin on the ground, but I'd like to see moderators initiate some pilots, then we can see what if any effect different solutions have on current problems in the community. Otherwise it's mostly speculation around activities that may not be present or problematic on the site, eg some of the terms above that haven't been used here in years
posted by smoke at 4:04 AM on July 30 [2 favorites]


the most obvious cases

Yeah, let's do those ones.

Specifically, the second and third of the slurs that anem0ne refers to above. We've had useful discussion about the first, which is a reclaimed term for some people, so likely shouldn't be a never-on-mefi term.

some of the terms above that haven't been used here in years

Here's some undeleted examples of problematic uses of these terms from recent years. Not intending to call anyone out.

(CW: transphobia)

AskMe answer, October 2016

FanFare comment, April 2017

FanFare comment, February 2016

AskMe answer, April 2018

Like, I don't think this is an important thing that will solve all our problems with transphobia on MetaFilter. If there's a discussion to be had about legitimate uses for these terms (as happened with the other one), I'm totally for that. If anyone wants to engage with the more serious issue of dogwhistles, please do so. But, in fact, my current main problem is actually the sheer amount of reflexive pushback, JAQing off and reasonable concerning that happens in every thread that touches on transphobia here.
posted by death valley compound at 5:33 AM on July 30 [8 favorites]


I think it's absurd that people keep coming back to "but why ban words" as if some of us haven't been trying to point out the problem is more often the dogwhistles, and only pushing for a few, specific, obvious cases of words to prohibit.
posted by anem0ne at 5:48 AM on July 30 [13 favorites]


Yeah. You don't ban the obvious, no-to-few-edge-case slurs because it will fix transphobia on Metafilter. You ban them because it indicates that the community and the staff of this site are taking transphobia seriously at all. You ban them to indicate that the presence of our trans members is valuable and that their constant labor on this site doesn't go straight into a void.

It's a gesture of good faith and respect. A tiny foundation to indicate that further, more effective action might just be possible. If not this one, little, obvious thing, then what hope is there for harder, subtler change?
posted by thoroughburro at 6:22 AM on July 30 [11 favorites]


If the situation is that there are a few words that consensus says are never ok on a general site, and many more words that are dogwhistle-y and problematic but are also used positively by members of the LGBTQ+ community, then I think it's ok if to start off with, we put the few words on the outright block list, and find a different approach for the many more words.
posted by plonkee at 6:31 AM on July 30 [3 favorites]


Which might include adding further words to the outright block list in the future.
posted by plonkee at 6:32 AM on July 30


thoroughborro, plonkee, pretty much that

it's what death valley compound and i have been saying.
posted by anem0ne at 6:57 AM on July 30 [1 favorite]


Morning, folks. It looks to me like we're approaching the point where we've identified a lot of the issues in tension and the limits of the utility of the slur filter as it currently exists. If there are angles that haven't been covered, I would love to hear more about them!

New stuff today:

- suggested: warning messages on contextual slurs
--however- -
- warning messages on words that could be both slurs and self-identifiers make the site feel unwelcoming to people using them in the latter sense

At this point I have not seen any objections to adding the three words anem0ne has proposed to the filter, so if anyone has concerns with that specifically, please speak up either here or directly.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:41 AM on July 30 [7 favorites]


No objection from me, and those three terms are definitely not what I was talking about re: reclaimed words and in-group community terms. /nonbinary person
posted by capricorn at 8:44 AM on July 30


to clarify, the three words are:
l--
s--
c-- w-- d--

there were persuasive arguments (to me) for not prohibiting t--.
posted by anem0ne at 10:18 AM on July 30 [4 favorites]


Thanks for the links anem0ne, a lot of this thread is like playing super offensive hangman.
posted by biffa at 12:16 PM on July 30 [9 favorites]


anem0ne, my apologies, that was awkwardly written but I meant being able to use slurs that apply to oneself like what capricorn said. And even then I wanted two different built in safety rails that remain hypothetical.

Our only option at the moment is ban or not ban. We should ban the three words anem0ne cited. I also think we should ban the word mittens cited that starts with f, even if it's been used in group sometimes on here.

Getting back to hypothetical site changes to deal with words that have both good and bad uses or are ok in group but not okay outgroup: Warning messages that pop up a click through every time you post or comment with a potential slur are one possible implementation, but if that's to much of a barrier, with javascript it doesn't have to work like that. It could simply be a note or a note and checkbox between the live preview and the post button.
posted by Chrysopoeia at 4:59 PM on July 30


In the last thread I'd recommended letting comments with ambiguous words appear to post from the user's POV, but then place them in a private mod-side queue for rapid approval/deletion. That way people who post innocently don't get put out by automated false-positive rejections, while mods can still prevent truly problematic usage from being published and engage with the poster about why it's not okay. Cortex said it was too technically complicated for the initial roll-out, but it might be worth looking at as a broader long-term solution.
posted by Rhaomi at 5:39 PM on July 30


I really have some concerns about effectively placing a barrier in place that means people who use their preferred language to discuss their own identities are put on hold for further review while the conversation moves ahead without them. Especially if it's not clear to the poster that's what's happened.

We don't need to dig in on that now but if in the future it comes up for serious consideration, I'd like to request we have an opportunity to discuss that before anything of the sort gets green lit.

I appreciate the intention but I think the harm to marginalized people would outweigh the good.
posted by Stacey at 6:03 PM on July 30 [14 favorites]


Morning folks! Looks like we're starting to circle a little. I'll be posting the site update later today, so I'll plan to leave this post open to capture reactions to that stuff, but just as a general process note, this is the stage in a thread where I'd be starting to consider closing it.

One new proposal:
- Hold comments with problematic words without warning the user until a mod approves or deletes it.

Thanks folks!
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 6:54 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


There has been no facilitation of this discussion, the hands off model has resulted in a ton of work for marginalized people, and now you’re ready to close it up. Cool. This new moderation style is the exact opposite of anything that has been asked for. Love that you decided to let it play out on an ill conceived and ill framed meta. Really illustrates right off the bat just how much this is the mods giving up.
posted by stoneweaver at 7:40 AM on July 31 [9 favorites]


Looks like we're starting to circle a little.

i mean, i guess? without actual facilitation, it circles to "but banning words!!!" instead of possible helpful, illuminating discussion regarding the actual issues, which... i'm glad it was acknowledged that dogwhistles are a bigger problem, but...
posted by anem0ne at 9:28 AM on July 31 [8 favorites]


I'll address the process question now, because this is new for everyone. The site update is in progress and will go up today - it's got a section about the slur filter that I'll preview here now for folks, since it'll end up getting discussed here anyway:
  • Metafilter now has a system that prevents publishing posts and comments that contain one of a list of egregious slurs; read more here [FAQ] (The FAQ item is one of the in-progress things; that'll be live when the post is.)
  • This list was generated based on a few MetaTalk threads; however, that has proved to be a disproportionately harmful process
  • A number of alternatives have been proposed and are being considered; in the meantime, if there is a word you think should never appear in plaintext on MetaFilter, please let us know via the Contact Form
  • frimble is currently polishing the existing implementation; if you notice any bugs, let us know!
  • Next Steps: determine a healthier process for adding words to the filter while prioritizing the input of relevant communities
  • Scope and discuss adding more nuanced possible systems including providing alternative words, automatically flagging-for-moderation certain context-sensitive words, and offering per-user filters
I'd be delighted if the conversation spins up again here based on the next-steps stuff; we've had some suggestions in the thread already, and more discussion of pros and cons would be enlightening. In terms of "how to add words to the filter", I'm pretty confident at this point that we have identified a bad way to do it and I'd like to stop doing it for new categories.

On the technical side, scheduling further expansions to this system needs to fit in with the bigger picture of our development capacity and will take significant time; getting the current iteration up pushed back some important and somewhat time-sensitive server work and there's only so far we can risk doing that. It may not be super productive to spend a bunch of time in community discussion of feature expansion until we have development resources available to allocate to it. (Part of the reason we're moving away from a lot of live back-and-forth about features in MetaTalk is that we really, really need the process to include the big-picture development capacity conversations.)

Does that help clarify things? I'm totally happy to let this thread run as long as it's productive, but I'm also happy to say that we've come to some conclusions and further discussion would be most productive happening a little later or with a different focus.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:06 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


restless_nomad: "One new proposal:
- Hold comments with problematic words without warning the user until a mod approves or deletes it.
"

Specifically, not telling the user only if it ends up being approved -- if it is deleted, then the mod on duty can ping the user with an automated message explaining why their message was removed (with a link to the guidelines), plus maybe a copy of the original message so they don't have to write it from scratch. I definitely wouldn't want problematic usage to be silently filtered.
posted by Rhaomi at 11:28 AM on July 31


Yeah, echoing stoneweaver's comment. This was an absolute mess. I see the point on mods not wanting to intervene in inter-community conversations in communities they are not part of (though we do in fact have multiple mods who are part of the LGBTQ community), but this thread was scoped to be "how should the issue of nonracial slurs be discussed" and instead turned out as "let's discuss nonracial slurs". There were a couple of comments in this thread that were incredibly distressing to read; because I was too stressed out to comment in here myself at those times I flagged this thread with notes multiple times begging the mods to intervene and got radio silence. Completely bewildering. Makes me wonder if mods can even see my notes.
posted by capricorn at 2:21 PM on July 31 [7 favorites]


I've worked with language professionally for years, and I've noticed repeatedly that programming with the intent to create language parameters for parental controls, translation programs, plagiarism checkers and job matching services are nearly always riddled with error. That's partly because the nuances and permutations of English can't be mapped with the rigidity computer code encourages, or even requires, and partly because English is a highly flexible language and to get a large enough sampling of all its possible permutations and nuances in context from all over the English-speaking world is beyond the scope of most programs. As one who believes in free speech, I'm also a little leery of the whole process of creating a forbidden word list, even for the very best of reasons. Having said all that, there's no way I would have any notion of just how frequently usage is a problem for affected individuals and for the mods. So take this as a grain of salt, but it seems to me a hybrid system of language oversight might be your best bet.

Thus:

1. I wonder if a warning system shouldn't warn the mods rather than the writer. If the system works, the mods will learn on the fly what to look out for, and patterns of problems. If it doesn't work, they can either tweak or discard it as they see fit.
2. The mods should have a master list of vocabulary to look out for, which can be updated on the fly by users, and maybe at regular intervals by the BiPoC Board or some other oversight body.
3. Per user filters seem like a good idea too, especially when what triggers one person may not trigger another.
posted by Violet Blue at 5:49 PM on July 31 [3 favorites]


"because I was too stressed out to comment in here myself at those times I flagged this thread with notes multiple times begging the mods to intervene and got radio silence."

You aren't the only one. I know I did this multiple times, and I would be surprised if others hadn't, as well. It was pretty unacceptable.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:32 PM on July 31 [6 favorites]


There seems to be a strong tradition that comments in MeTas are almost never deleted. That would be a good thing to reexamine, I think.
posted by Lexica at 8:39 PM on July 31


I flagged more than once, and did not want to comment without some indication that there was a mod around. I have also been working on MeTas, and it's not a coincidence that I tried to redirect a multifaceted discussion about ableism away from this thread. At this point, I would appreciate hearing some feedback from moderators or restless nomad about whether this is what we should expect from MeTas, because I am not sure how we can have a constructive and safe discussion about important issues without moderation that is willing to enforce the Community Guidelines.
posted by katra at 9:48 PM on July 31 [5 favorites]


Exactly. In very plain language, what we've been asking for is to not have to fight for our own humanity. All the POC, Trans and Disability MeTas have been "Hey, can y'all have our back here and not make us fight about whether or not we're real people and could you do that in an informed and intersectional way?"

And the answer is apparently "No, but we'll summarize your arguments for you."

Oh my. What a very useful service. And because the comments are off on the new post criticism of this modding decision is now spread out over how many different metas? Extremely effective at fracturing the conversation and preventing a coherent reaction from people.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:06 PM on July 31 [19 favorites]


I would encourage folks to submit MeTas and/or flag things to voice opinions about this change.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:08 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Since, "Policy MeTas will probably not be posted on Friday/Saturday/Sunday", the big Friday Update would have been better if it was any other weekday.

I think instead of deciding by fiat how the new process was going to look, it would have been better to engage with users as community stakeholders about the proposal first. Also, the one week on discussion being applied retroactively came across badly, especially in the context of past early closures of metas touching on trans issues .

RN could have help frame the issues at the start. Maybe something like: How slurs are being managed currently with the site, upcoming guaranteed changes, and what's possible in the near term, given the limits on frimble's time. Lay out limits, IE don't suggest tech solutions here, don't offer words here. Include questions like: Which are the communities which feel there are slurs against them worthy of being banned? How do those communities think the slurs against them should be gathered, and who should participate? Probably worth linking back to past relevant Metas and suggesting they are required reading, and might deserve a reread would have helped.

This Meta has been tiring. I haven't had the spiritual fortitude to start other policy Metas. There are other issues.
posted by Chrysopoeia at 3:10 AM on August 1 [8 favorites]


This Meta has been tiring.

I only read, and didn't comment. It was draining to even just read, and overall really disappointing and a poor focus for people's time and energy.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:21 AM on August 1 [2 favorites]


Exactly. In very plain language, what we've been asking for is to not have to fight for our own humanity. All the POC, Trans and Disability MeTas have been "Hey, can y'all have our back here and not make us fight about whether or not we're real people and could you do that in an informed and intersectional way?"

And the answer is apparently "No, but we'll summarize your arguments for you."

Oh my. What a very useful service.


Active listening in terms of summarizing what was understood is a necessary part of the process, but it's only part of what the mods need to be doing here.

These threads can't be an unmoderated free for all. Like the fact that the Ok Boomer/Karen derail was allowed to stand even when the original poster asked the mods to delete it? I know the mods have gotten criticism in past threads for controlling the conversation, but the response shouldn't be to abandon the conversation entirely.

I am picturing the mods as like a city council. Before, it was like a group of people having a heated conversation in a bar with their city councilperson. Now it's like having a crowd of upset people outside city hall, with a clerk trying to write down messages for the city councilperson. What we are looking for is a town hall meeting with someone leading and moderating the discussion.
posted by JDHarper at 8:39 AM on August 1 [12 favorites]


Hey all. I just wanted to reiterate, as I said in the site update, that we will absolutely be enforcing the Guidelines in MetaTalk. There was some mod-side miscommunication that led to the problems in this thread, and those were entirely my fault. We're all on the same page now, and that won't happen again.

Noting up a couple variations on warnings (mod-side and user side) for us to think about. Thanks!
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:49 AM on August 3 [4 favorites]


If folks have more stuff specific to this thread, bring it on! Otherwise I'll close it up tomorrow and we can revisit the topic when we have the available development time to talk seriously about improvements to the tool.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 6:42 AM on August 4


This thread went pretty negative in fairly short order, probably with the best of intentions but there’s a lot of ground that wasn’t covered as a result of both that and the possibly overly-broad framing of “non-racial slurs” (that’s...a lot of topics for any single post to address). In particular I’d like to see some discussion on ableist speech from the community; we all know to avoid using potentially hurtful words like “dumb” or “lame” in our comments (although unlike the r-word which is fully a slur I do actually see both used here occasionally), but how can we have a coherent conversation about the latest outrages from the Trump administration without dipping into cognitive ableism in our speech? I’m honestly uncertain whether that’s a reasonable expectation to place on marginalized users who have been deeply hurt/personally impacted by the latest round of pointless cruelty, and yet...

I’m less interested in the filtering side of things because even as one of the more severely neurodivergent users here I’ve never had anybody throw “crazy” at me
(the only term that has ever bothered me even slightly IRL and again not fully a slur, but...), at least not that I can recall. Metafilter userbase self-selection largely ensures that stuff like this never rises beyond what mild community pressure can address. But I want to figure out how we discuss or vent about willful, deliberately counterfactual statements and hate-based actions by our government without hurting each other, what sort of words are preferred when seeking to express justified anger at bigotry thinly disguised as ignorance or lack of intelligence, etc. There’s also an overlap here with ageism (casual assertions of senility/dementia) that occasionally rises to the level where some users might be legitimately hurt by good-faith comments, and possibly merits more direct action or at least more consistently applied community pressure to address.

I wasn’t planning on making such a thread myself, just noting that I was disappointed we didn’t really cover the topic and would like to see/participate in a discussion like this down the line during an otherwise slow and generally calm week.
posted by Ryvar at 7:43 AM on August 4 [5 favorites]


Hey all, I don't have power today (or an ETA) so I'll leave this open and check in probably tomorrow.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 6:44 AM on August 5


Ryvar, that sounds like an excellent post topic and I encourage you (or anyone else who is interested) to make a post on it.

I'm going to go ahead and close this up now. Once frimble's worked through a couple of items on their list, we'll start talking again about the state of the slur filter and I'll keep y'all updated. If anyone has other topics they want to cover, especially ones that aren't dependent on development time, by all means feel free to make a post. We'll be leading some of those over time, but right now, we've got enough catching up to do that it doesn't make sense for us to initiate right now - that doesn't mean that the community doesn't have things to talk about.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:53 AM on August 6


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