I'm a little disturbed by the edit history of and comments on the question originally titled Male seinor [sic] architect bullying junior female developer. What to do?

Edit #4 has the comment "Took out gender from the question. Based on quotes given, no basis for the assumption that it is a sexism problem." However, the questioner clearly felt strongly enough that this is a gender issue to put that in the title, and which is absolutely basis for assuming that it is a gender issue.

To put it bluntly, it looks to me like: a junior female developer came here for help addressing a workplace problem she perceives to have a component sexism as described, and then people showed up and said "that doesn't look like a valid description of your problem from here, so we're making it into a different question and answering that instead". And, while I'm not saying that the people making the edits and comments to the same effect are doing so from intentional sexism — it does seem relevant that they have male names and avatars.

How disheartening for the questioner! Not only is she experiencing a problem in the workplace, but when she asks for help, her concern is dismissed like that.

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    How would answers differ if it was a male senior/female junior vs a female senior/male junior or some other gender combination?
    – enderland
    Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 21:56
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    From the sound of it, there's no actual reason to believe it's a gender issue (eg. a comment she made: "When a man is rude to a woman of course she will think it has to do with gender"). Including that information is likely a red-herring, and narrows the scope of the question to be less useful to future visitors. Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 23:23
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    @BlueRaja-DannyPflughoeft Whether it sounds like it’s a gender bias issue and it’s not a gender bias issue is not the job of any of the non-involved editors here to take. Always assume good faith unless proven otherwise. In my case I answered the question but addressed my personal POV that somehow this was not gender related. That is how things like this should be addressed. If anything the title should have been edited to add the concept of a personality conflict at the core with gender being a possible motivating factor. Which it is at this point thanks to this edit I made. Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 23:45
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    Note that the OP accepted an answer that mentioned nothing about sexism. That tells us something. Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 13:06
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    That the original version of the question included something about the senior person's desire for more women in the workplace, and that the OP is having trouble reconciling that with his behavior, suggests to me that the OP did consider it potentially relevant. Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 16:24
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    It seems the right solution to this would be to have the OP clarify, rather than go edit happy and inject a gender issue into a non-gender issue, or remove the gender issue if it was one. As it stands now it looks more like junior vs. senior issue rather than male vs. female, but if that was really due to OP input, who can tell?
    – Brandin
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 9:21
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    @Brandin the OP has spoken (edit 14)
    – enderland
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 15:04
  • I remember originally reading the question and thinking to myself that the premise of sexism had no evidence to back it up. I was actually happy when it was edited to remove that aspect, and did notice the subsequent tug-of-war over it. In the end, even without the OP's support for the move, I still think that it was the right move.
    – AndreiROM
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 14:24

8 Answers 8


I made the edit to the question. Here's my viewpoint.

If it's a sexism thing, show evidence. As a result, the question will be closed because it's an HR concern, which is out of scope of The Workplace.

If it's not a sexism thing, take gender out of the question, since it will only muddy the results.

It was a simple change, I specifically mentioned it in my edit to the question. It's definitely worth discussing, though.

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    The only explicit sexism (prejudice or bias) was the OP's comment "When a man is rude to a woman of course she will think it has to do with gender". Not to say that sexism isn't playing a part (and I disagree that if there is gender bias happening that the question should be closed), but if that is part of the problem, it should be explicitly mentioned and described -- we can't suggest ways to deal with prejudice or bias without knowing how it is being exhibited.
    – jmoreno
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 1:06
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    If a person perceives sexism, than the topic sexism is relevant regardless or not of whether there is real sexism going on. No further evidence should be required.
    – gerrit
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 12:41
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    "If it's not a sexism thing, take gender out of the question, since it will only muddy the results." Agreed. Imagine if everyone chose to include gender, race, religion, etc in all of their questions. We'd get endless dogmatic answers as to why male Caucasians who were Catholic should give more notice when resigning. If the question is fundamentally about sexism in the workplace, then we might be able to answer that. But if the question is about a junior developer dealing with a senior developer, then let's just answer that. Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 12:50
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    Questions about sexism in the workplace are out of the scope of this site? What?
    – Yozarian22
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 16:25
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    In my opinion, yes. Because answers will devolve to "talk to HR" which is specifically mentioned as a close reason. Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 16:33
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    @GarrisonNeely "Talk to HR" is a close reason when the question is about company policies that we can't possibly answer here. Good questions about workplace issues can still be answered with "Talk to HR" when the answerer believes that the best way to solve the problem is to involve management.
    – David K
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 13:10
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    @GarrisonNeely - I think you made a good call, as there was no evidence supporting sexism - as the OP herself has now come forward to state.
    – AndreiROM
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 14:26

My answer to that question unequivocally states that I did not—and do not—see any gender bias in the meat of the question.

That said, I do not believe it is anyone’s role but the original poster to address that issue/discrepancy. The reason being that there might be some gender bias but in the desire to post the original poster forgot to add those details. So comments encouraging clarification are worth making.

But the idea that someone else—and let’s face it, mostly men—would take it on their own to wash away the gender aspect without true consent from the original poster is past face-palm-worthy. To attempt to bring “balance to the force” so-to-say, I re-edited the question to bring gender back into the mix.

I believe the title as it stands now works to focus the issue on the conflict with the added “icing” of the potential gender bias mixed into the whole thing.

And in general I believe that when it comes to claims of gender bias—or any race bias—we all need to assume good faith and trust the original poster might have a good reason to mention such a detail unless they prove otherwise in comments or replies.

And again, I do not believe that the issue is gender biased based on current evidence prevented, but just jumping in and wiping away gender from the question is a slippery slope that none of us should be on.

Always assume good faith and always be faithful to the original poster’s intent; washing gender away conflicts with the original poster’s intent.

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    As a woman, I would have edited it out as well. Knowing the gender of either participant in the conflict in this particular case is irrelevant. It's not uncommon for individuals to perceive any slight they receive is because of their status as a minority. When you hear all the time how "[minority class] is treated badly in [industry X]", its easy for individuals to believe they are the victim of whatever -ism applies here.
    – cimmanon
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 14:30
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    This site is a Q&A site not a dear abby site. The edit removed information that was not necessary. The OP can always edit it back in if they feel strongly about it hopefully clarifing why they think it is a gender issue. Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 20:59

Don't jump to conclusions please. Sexism in the workplace is an insidious and pervasive problem. But suggesting that the Patriarchy is trying to hide the problem by "washing away gender bias" is ludicrous. Stack Exchange has a policy of editing questions, sometimes drastically, to focus them on a core question, clean up the language and cut out fluff. The OP identifying the gender of the people involved and even her mention of his comment on wishing "there were more women in this industry" is not at all an indicator that there's a gender issue at play.

There is no reason to believe that the gender of the individuals involved contributed to the problem or is in any way relevant for potential answers.

As BlueRaja says, including gender, especially so prominently in the title (which I've since edited again), risks making it a red herring.

If sexism is truly relevant, then that should be clarified in the comments. The OP can provide more detail and that can then be worked into the post. In the absence of evidence that gender was really important for the question, these edits are perfectly fine because they make the post easier to read and cut out elements of the story that aren't truly relevant to the situation. These edits should be made quickly and drastically to ensure that we don't leave poorly formatted or ill-defined posts on the site. As expected this ended up on HNQ and I would much rather see a polished question with a clear scope there instead of yet another poorly written, unedited mess that every answerer interprets differently.

All this in mind, I've reverted JakeGould's edit. And please remember that the OP is a woman or female but she's not "a female".

Edit (2015-12-11)

The OP has been active on the site but has so far not truly commented on whether sexism is at play here. The fact that she actually uses "lol" in her comments alone is enough to assume that her word choices in the original version of the question are not well thought out and should not be taken as gospel that she feels discriminated against. Besides that the only gender-related comment I've found by the OP is here:

When a man is rude to a woman of course she will think it has to do with gender especially if it's an irrational reason to be rude.

People are rude. Sometimes irationally so. To ascribe sexism to a person just because he has a short fuse or is growing annoyed by a junior hire's constant questions interrupting him is downright foolish. Given that the OP has no actual sexist remarks to reproduce and has, in fact, not made any allegations of sexism in her post, I'm going to assume that sexism is not a factor here.

Edit (2015-12-12)

The OP has just updated the question herself to remove all references to male/female from the title and added an edit to explain that gender bias was not part of the issue. Given that she accepted an answer and took the time to return to the question with an edit I'm assuming that she didn't feel "disheartened" by our supposedly callous removal of gender from the question, but I can only imagine what she must think of the resulting edit war and bickering on meta.

  • @JakeGould I posted a question regarding the "a female" issue on English SE
    – March Ho
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 9:32
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    @JakeGould, Lilienthal, please make your cases in your respective answers rather than an argument in comments. This thread has gotten heated and is attracting flags, and I am going to flush it now. Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 23:53

All our work relationships are modified by social context. Gender is not an arbitrary piece of irrelevant information: in many human contexts, it has real effects on how we interact even if we'd like it not to.

The question could equally have been edited to remove the reference to the technology industry and make it a question purely about seniority. But it wasn't, and the job titles etc were rightly left in.

The question was about how to deal with condescending behaviour - which could plausibly be attributed in part or in full to a sexist attitude on the part of the senior developer; in practice, most of the answers attributed the behaviour in part or in full to the inclinations of senior developers (although the interaction between male socialisation and developer culture might be worth pondering, it's perhaps beyond the scope of a useful answer here).

We should welcome OPs providing potentially relevant contextual information, and leave it open to answers to identify the crucial pieces. We certainly should not be removing information the OP thinks is relevant without very good reason.


I can see where Garrison is coming from. I don't believe that her question adequately explained why she believed it to be a case of sexism. Everything in the body just indicated that it was a condescending senior developer. She never said anything about him making sexist remarks or him acting differently toward her compared to her male coworkers.

That said, I disagree with the edit on the grounds that it removed something from the question that OP felt was important enough to include. Comments and/or answers should have been used to address the issue, not an edit.

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    “That said, I disagree with the edit on the grounds that it removed something from the question that OP felt was important enough to include.” Bingo! Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 23:46
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    I agree that commentary may have been useful. I was concerned that without adequate proof of a sexism concern, the comments would degrade into a mudslinging fest. Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 1:00
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    "That said, I disagree with the edit on the grounds that it removed something from the question that OP felt was important enough to include." - but doesn't that argue that questions should never be edited in any way (since we assume that words in the original question are important enough to be included)? Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 12:36
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    @JoeStrazzere - In most cases, I think that edits should be restricted to grammar, spelling, formatting, and fixing broken links. Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 21:33
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    @Pikamander2 That is not how SE Works. We edit questions to stream line them and make them on-topic. That is how SE has worked for almost 10 years Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 21:06
  • @Pikamander2 - I agree with you. But as Chad says, that's not how The Workplace works. Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 23:52
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    @Chad And sometimes "how it works" is not so great.
    – Dronz
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 21:18
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    @Dronz - Well then go start your own site... Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 21:22
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    @Chad What I'm getting from your comments is "because you've got 27,000+ points on this one, and are clearly an overlord and so i should not make waves and should not express my opinions?" Seems to me that is one of the worst sides of the SE system, and it definitely does discourage my participation.
    – Dronz
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 21:30
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    I am not an over lord, but I have been here since the site first started and we built this site up because we like the way the SE system works. These are the rules set out for us to keep the site most useful to everyone. If you do not want to participate you are not forced to do so. Alternatively you could purchase SE and implement the rules the way you like. Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 21:37

When a person perceives behaviour as sexist, this perception is relevant regardless of any evidence of sexism. Sexism is not a black and white issue. The OP is not required to provide statistical evidence that her colleague is statistically significantly more condescending toward young females than toward young males. Her perception of sexism does not mean the colleague is guilty of sexism. Even if she perceives sexism where there isn't any, her perception affects the workplace. Therefore, her perception alone is enough to make it sufficiently relevant for inclusion in the question.

The Workplace SE is not a tribunal. If the OP believes sexism is relevant for the situation then it is relevant for the question. Xe is not obliged to provide evidence at this point.

The same applies to discrimination based on race, disability, age, religion, sexual orientation, neurological configuration, etc.

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    The OP said in a comment "When a man is rude to a woman of course she will think it has to do with gender". If the question is really about sexism, then it needs a ton of editing to make it read as a question about sexism, rather than relying on a comment for emphasis. Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 12:54
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    It does need editing, but preferably based on what the OP considers relevant rather than what others deem to be relevant. The question was initially poorly phrased, but only the OP can clarify whether she perceived sexism to be relevant. My point is that she does not need to provide evidence of sexism to include it in the question. This is not a tribunal.
    – gerrit
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 12:56
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    this is always a problem when the community is free to edit the words of the original poster. It often changes the emphasis in ways the author didn't intend. We aren't mind readers. Perhaps the question should be rolled back to the original words and not "improved". Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 12:59
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    She didn't attribute the problem to sexism in her post. In a comment she at most either exhibited sexism or assumed it, but I think it was meant to say she had considered sexism as a possible explanation for his behavior. IMO both the comment and gender details were irrelevant, not because she later came back and said that her problem wasn't sexism, but because neither the body of her post nor the comment showed that sexism needed to be addressed. "I have a sexist boss that demands a kickback from all employees (male and female)" doesn't need to address the sexism, and neither does this.
    – jmoreno
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 21:49
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    @gerrit - while overall your comment seems sensible, I have to point out that in this day and age far too many people feel that their feelings on a situation constitute valid and rational arguments. This is a trend that is sweeping colleges and universities, and which I fundamentally do not agree with: just because something offends a person does not automatically make it a micro-aggression, bullying, sexism, or racism. Thus, someone being rude is not automatically sexism - proof of some sort must be provided for such a serious allegation. Feelings of sexism do not constitute such.
    – AndreiROM
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 14:33
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    @AndreiROM To look into an allegation in a tribunal sort of way, I agree there is a need for evidence. But if someone reports that they experience a behaviour of sexism in the workplace, then this affects the workplace and deserves to be addressed in some way, regardless of whether the sexism is really there or a figment of the persons imagination.
    – gerrit
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 14:52
  • @gerrit - there's no point reviving a thread almost a week old, I suppose, especially since the OP has now clarified the issue. My initial impression when reading the question was that the gender issue was blown out of proportion, and I agreed with the edit. I also understand your concern though, and I agree that dismissing people's concerns is a bad precedent. However, in this particular case I felt like the sexism accusation was a knee-jerk reaction.
    – AndreiROM
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 15:03

Edit: The OP has now edited the question, so this answer no longer applies. The OP gets to make these decisions; I just don't think the rest of us do.

(I am speaking as a user with editing privileges, not speaking for the mod team. I haven't consulted them.)

This edit made too big a change and we have no evidence that the OP approves of the change, so I have restored the original title and the sentence about possible gender motivation.

Whether we think there is gender bias does not matter. The OP perceives possible bias and made that part of her question. It's fine to challenge the premise of a question in an answer, explaining that that doesn't look like bias because (reasons) and maybe instead it's (alternative interpretation). And of course it's appropriate to ask clarifying questions in comments (e.g. asking if he does this to everybody or just her). But deciding that we know what the OP should have asked and rewriting the question to ask that instead goes too far.

I have not reviewed all the answers to see if my edit invalidated any of them. Since the edit should not have been made in the first place, I'm willing to live with that. As it turns out, nothing was invalidated.


This happens all the time on every SE site. Someone comes in and asks:

I want to clean my toilet with my toothbrush. Should I use cleaning powder or gel?

And he will get answers revolving around cleaning options out there, but none of the answers will really tackle the original question, because it makes no sense: it's unhygienic and impractical. Eventually the original question may get edited to reflect the actual problem the OP is facing, not the one he asked about.

It's up to the OP to argue and prove that his original question makes sense, if he wants that exact question answered. For example, he may state that he's trapped on an isolated island with a toothbrush plant and a limited stock of cleaning products, so answers about cleaning companies in NY are not helping him. But unless a reasonable explanation is given, none of the questions' statements should be considered set in stone.

Should we decide that questions are sacred and should only be answered as is, the whole SE network will soon be busy figuring out how to install Windows 10 on EXT4 partition, power up a laptop using hamsters, or where to download a compiler which can solve the halting problem.

Accepting without proof that the OP suffered from gender discrimination would lead to terrible advice, like filing a complaint to HR or starting a lawsuit. It's just like suggesting that someone should soak their toothbrush in Domestos and rub his toiled with it.

  • IMSHO, if this were true, and as common as you say, no one would ever ask a second question. And for the record, the only non-author edits I've noticed have involved formatting, or, occasionally, tags and/or grammar. But perhaps the workplace site is different from other Stack Exchange sites. Commented Dec 18, 2015 at 23:49
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    "It's up to the OP to argue and prove that his original question makes sense," - not really. Virtually no question authors are actually held to this standard. Just a few, and just when a bunch of folks decide that something in the question is offensive. Read through a few questions and you'll almost never find that anyone is forced to "prove" that their situation is really as they claim (assuming there is actually a way to prove anything here). Commented Dec 19, 2015 at 13:13
  • This topic is about use of editing privileges to remove OP concerns. Of course, guesses/hypotheses/assumptions can and should be challenged - and it's perfectly possible to do that usefully and effectively in comments and in answers. It's a less heavy-handed approach than editing, and it's far more transparent.
    – user52889
    Commented Dec 19, 2015 at 19:52
  • The question here is not about whether it's okay to challenge the premise of a question. It's about whether it is okay to remove gender information from a question when it is unclear whether the OP believes it to be important or not. Regardless of what actually happened, it is extremely important if the OP perceives discrimination (which, in this case, she did not).
    – David K
    Commented Dec 21, 2015 at 14:52

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