So we have this question - Should I talk to my team lead about unintentional sexism within the team?

Lots of heated discussions. Lots of very sexist comments by a lot of women posters. One of them wrote an answer HLGEM. I found her answer very biased, very sexist, and with no research/documentation other than her personal sexist attitude.

Do I care that the answer was not deleted? Personally no. I believe in freedom of speech and I believe overall HLGEM has some good insight - although I don't personally agree with everything she says I respect her opinion.

However... Let's step into the way back machine and look at this meta question about an answer of mine (from another user wondering why it would be deleted)... Why is this answer with 43 upvotes locked?

So I had an answer with a ton of votes, in a nut shell it said that sexist behavior wouldn't be excused by most based on the excuse of religious beliefs. The mods (local mods who had competing answers teamed up and started the "tattling") and SE shut down the answer and still haven't given me a clear answer on what they didn't like - other than it didn't meet their guidelines.

On the link above the person who personally attacked me and deleted my answer - the great jmort253 (SE employee so obviously just and right) - left an answer that supposedly answered why my answer was deleted. Please please read his unanswer that looks like it was written by the Hillary Clinton PR disaster team. But also really read his bolded sentence, votes alone do not excuse content that does not meet Stack Exchange guidelines of answering the question objectively, factually, and honestly.

So we have a baseline of what gets deleted. My answer also had sourced information of why someone who did something sexist based on religious beliefs would be frowned on if their religion was not the predominant one in that region.

So whatever the mods let religion - mainly Muslim religion - trump the sexism that women face. (Note I was personally contacted by a SE employee. He was nice but I was not happy no action was taken. I was in serious discussions with my upper management of buying the corporate version of SE - which is $$$$ - for our company. There is no way that I could do this with this kind of cultural and employee risk. Just background on why I pushed this at the time.)

So now go to HLGEM's answer. I read it and was a little flabbergasted. It was basically just bashing men in general without any research or anything cited. I liked that she was being honest but the answer just really didn't fit the question. Several people left comments. I was actually surprised that most of the reaction was either bashing men more or pretty tame in the opposite direction. I actually left two comments - and believe it or not they weren't offensive! (yes I can be offensive as I joke and tease)

To my surprise Monica Cellio not only deleted many of the comments (but did leave two, of course by a mod and someone who has left a laundry list of anti-men comments on the question on different answers. I mean seriously this site's mods need mods. Either you delete all or the offensive one or you leave it alone. Got to be kidding me.)

But the kicker here is Monica deletes the comments, leaves two sexist comments, and THEN leaves the answer. This answer is clearly sexist, portraying that it is normal for men to react in a horrible way, a jerk if they want to ask others for advice after a woman gives them advice. I mean can you imagine if I had an answer that said, "Most women don't get technology so don't bother talking about it with them (and using sources about women's vs men's tech ability)?

What we have here is clear sexism - OK'ed and even encouraged by a mod. The same mods that ganged up on me and other users for similar things. It is ironic that this would happen on a question about women facing sexism at the workplace, when my answer was defending women from sexist behavior encouraged by certain cultures and religions.

Please tell me why a user wouldn't think that the SE community mods are biased/sexist/racist? They obviously have different rules for different segments of the population. Also tell me how I can't equate this behavioral bias to:

Muslim > Women > Men

For transparency of the discussion (I know I put aluminum foil over windows - yes I am a nut) why don't the real voters of the answers simply leave a +1 or -1 comment on the answer. Let's agree that the votes don't count without a comment.

  • 2
    I agreed with you back then, I agree with you now. Moderators here are totally unbiased as in "it isn't bias when we do it". Being an SE (or SO?) employee is rumored to come with this unwritten perk: rules can be bent to suit your actions. For instance, look here, the great Shog9 justifies chopping several paragraphs from an answer by "we are not hosting an open discussion forum". (Wait, what? Over a year later, it still doesn't make sense.)
    – Masked Man
    Jul 3, 2016 at 14:39
  • 3
    Do you have actual proof that "20+ SE employees then go to that meta and upvote his answer"? If so, that's not appropriate behaviour and should probably be escalated to Jeff and Joel. Jul 3, 2016 at 19:18
  • 2
    @PhilipKendall - What other explanation would there be? It got the upvotes almost instantly. The only comments left were generally negative of the answer - by actual users. Does workplace meta have so much activity that there is any other explanation? In general on all of the discussion around that and similar questions there were NO normal users that agreed with the mod/employee answers yet they are always heavily upvoted.
    – blankip
    Jul 3, 2016 at 19:55
  • 7
    For avoidance of doubt, I entirely disagree with any suggestion that "votes don't count without a comment" or anything similar. Voting is deliberately anonymous SE. You don't get to make the rules here. Jul 4, 2016 at 6:02
  • 1
    @PhilipKendall - No they don't count. Because the question/answers should be about the community not the SE employees and mods from other sites. This meta in general gets little to no traffic except for these types of questions, and then of course we see a spike in voting - always agreeing with the mods... but nobody ever comments agreeing with the mods. Someone at SE might as well be sitting there with a counter - as far as I am concerned. I agree with you on 99.9% of questions but this is specifically looking for input not from the mods or employees.
    – blankip
    Jul 4, 2016 at 6:52
  • 8
    If you have serious issues to raise, I suggest you do so in a serious manner. This wall of text lamenting the mods and digging up past slights is not the way to do so. Not many people are going to dig through something this chaotic and rambling. The mods are human and I wouldn't be surprised if they occasional handle things poorly in the eyes of some. If you want to bring to light a systemic problem then you can do so rationally and without inserting this much bias. I think you've ruined any chance of a reasonable discussion here.
    – Lilienthal Mod
    Jul 4, 2016 at 6:57
  • 1
    @Lilienthal - downvote it, don't read it. Another mod trying to censor.
    – blankip
    Jul 4, 2016 at 7:05
  • 3
    @blankip I'm sorry? I did read your post and I'm not a mod.
    – Lilienthal Mod
    Jul 4, 2016 at 7:18
  • 1
    @Lilienthal - And no, they never handle anything poorly. Because after you bring something up the mods and employees gang up on you, harass you, call you names, and suspend you. So obviously they are right and you are wrong. If someone even thought that something was handled poorly their would be a glimpse of discussion and possibly even an apology or even slight notice that "I could have been wrong". But as far as I am concerned - never have seen it here. So if the mods have always been right, then why would they care if something in the past was brought up?
    – blankip
    Jul 4, 2016 at 7:31
  • 7
    Are you being intentionally dense? I'm not saying that you're not "allowed to bring this up". I'm saying that you're not doing so properly. Every post and comment you've made here is just vitriolic stream of consciousness writing. You're coming across as a fool or half-hearted troll at best. You're on the Workplace. If you can't make your point in a professional manner perhaps this site doesn't suit you. Now, as for your more recent comment: do you even read what you're writing here? I'm not censoring anyone. I'm not affiliated with SE.
    – Lilienthal Mod
    Jul 4, 2016 at 7:57
  • 9
    I'm pointing out that your efforts to 'fight the system' are doomed from the start because of the poor way you raise or discuss them. Your remark on the length of my answers would be an ad hominem even if the comparison held water. And your reference to "mod type tasks" confirms that you have no clue how SE works. The community is supposed to participate, which is what I'm doing here. Mods are glorified janitors and their diamond doesn't make them any more qualified to address site culture: the fact that they're established users and contributors does that.
    – Lilienthal Mod
    Jul 4, 2016 at 7:57
  • 5
    @blankip You are free to assume whatever you want. I've clearly stated that I am not affiliated in any way with SE and I can't prove a negative. At this point I'm going to conclude that you have no real argument to make here so I'll leave you to your fantasies.
    – Lilienthal Mod
    Jul 5, 2016 at 18:08
  • 2
    If you agree with teh mods, you must be one of them. Confess, @Lilienthal!
    – Pekka
    Jul 5, 2016 at 19:25
  • 3
    This is getting ridiculous. First, your vote doesn't count unless you comment. If you do comment, you get accused of being a Stack Exchange plant. If you say you're not, you get told that you are and because you agree with the mods, your vote doesn't count. It's obvious that you're only to going to "accept" any views which agree with your own - personally, I'd suggest it's time for you to take a break from the site as I can't see how you're going to get any enjoyment out of it. But despite the accusation that I'm sure is coming, I don't have any ability to enforce that so it's in your hands. Jul 5, 2016 at 20:33
  • 2
    @blankip: It's known as community spirit. If you don't understand the appeal of volunteering to try to make the site work more smoothly, you are ****really*** on the wrong website -- it's a basic assumption in SE's stated mission and design.
    – keshlam
    Jul 6, 2016 at 0:29

5 Answers 5


I usually refrain from participating in sexism questions on Workplace for exactly this reason.

It seems to me that the more concerned that some folks are with systematic injustice and promoting tolerance, the less likely they are to reflect on their own biases and how they might be contributing to a different sort of intolerance. You shouldn't assume because your intentions are noble that your unexamined biases aren't affecting your judgment. Just because you're convinced you're on the right side doesn't mean you are automatically right in all situations.

If a woman was told that she couldn't complain about her perception that she was being discriminated against because she didn't phrase it in a constructive way, would that be OK with you?

I don't understand how so many promoters of tolerance can refuse to acknowledge that there is a growing sense that misandry is cool. Men can actually be the target of sexism, and be unable to defend themselves from it. If you think otherwise, you should check your own gender bias.

From what I've seen, the guys have a legitimate beef with the way that they're being represented in media lately and treated when they try to participate in the dialogue about gender. If we can't entertain the possibility that some people use accusations of discrimination as a defense mechanism or to deflect attention from their own shortcomings, we're lost.

In my opinion, answers should never be deleted because they have an unpleasant viewpoint or tone. Deletion is for spam, extreme vulgarity, threats and the like, not for unpopular view points stated rudely. Even if they are factually incorrect, that should be corrected with down votes, comments and competing answers. Suppressing a view just makes it fester. Let it out in the open where people can look at it and see it for what it is.

  • 3
    "In my opinion, answers should never be deleted because they have an unpleasant viewpoint or tone. " - agreed! I disagree that there is some sort of growing sense that misandry is cool though. IMHO, that's nothing more than a myth, at least in my part of the world. Jul 5, 2016 at 19:17
  • 2
    @JoeStrazzere - It's (misandry) not a myth. I've seen it. I've experienced it. However, I'm not so thin-skinned or myopic to think that the overall gender-bias isn't heavily tilted to the male side, so I generally write it off as, "The world isn't fair, but it's not always unfair against me." - Not to imply you do, at all. Jul 5, 2016 at 19:27
  • 2
    @WesleyLong - Nobody was dissing me. I brought this up because I see it. Not because it wrongs me or hurts me. It is simply something that is there. I am saying it is there, prove to me it isn't. The comments that I am "fighting the system" are funny and maybe I shouldn't rile those people up but it is simply too much fun. There are clearly biases involved when humans are involved, some are fun to point out because they are so inconsistent. The mods know they are wrong that is why they asked HLGEM to provide sources and haven't whispered here. Glad I don't work with these peeps.
    – blankip
    Jul 6, 2016 at 1:25
  • Plus a million for this.
    – user41761
    Jul 6, 2016 at 6:38
  • @JoeStrazzere misandry is not a myth. I too have seen and experienced it, I just go where it is not. Jul 6, 2016 at 14:00
  • 2
    I never said misandry was a myth. I said that a "growing sense that misandry is cool" is a myth. I see absolutely nothing to support a "growing sense of coolness".. Jul 6, 2016 at 19:10
  • @JoeStrazzere slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2014/08/08/… It may be "ironic" but that doesn't make it less hurtful. If you don't get the sense that more guys are getting frustrated by the tone of the conversation lately, we must run in really different circles.
    – ColleenV
    Jul 6, 2016 at 20:09
  • 2
    @ColleenV - I'm certain we run in different circle. You chose to post an article from 2014 as evidence of "lately". Jul 6, 2016 at 20:14
  • 1
    @JoeStrazzere Maybe when I think about societal trends, I think in time frames longer than 15 minutes ago. Regardless you don't see it, I do.
    – ColleenV
    Jul 7, 2016 at 0:54
  • good answer, although I don't care much either way
    – Kilisi Mod
    Jul 8, 2016 at 5:02

I wasn't originally going to answer this because of the fact that I'm a moderator and a woman, my answer will probably be automatically assumed to be invalid. However, there are some points that I think can be addressed here.

First things first

The primary goal that we as moderators try to achieve here is an environment that is tolerant of diversity. People are people, and people are different. Nobody is trying to put anyone above any other demographic. What we want is to allow everyone to be able to be afforded the same respect, irrespective of our physical attributes or belief systems. If I were sight impaired, of course I wouldn't be expecting to be offered a job as a pilot, but if I were fully qualified and capable of fulfilling the duties of a role, then I would want to know that I would have an equal chance of being offered the role regardless of my gender, religion or any other attribute.

The point is to understand that we are all different, and what we need to ensure is that evaluation and capacity is measured the same for everyone, not that we all become clones.

You have said that you feel there is bias of Muslim > Women > Men. What we believe is People == tolerance.

What do I mean by "tolerance"?

Please understand that this is my understanding (or at least a part of it) of tolerance. Others may having varied views.

Tolerance is:

  • Not automatically assuming that everyone that is or may appear Muslim is a terrorist.
  • Understanding people who move to different cultures shouldn't have to give up all of their own cultural heritage.
  • Realising that LGBTI people are just trying to get on with their lives, just like everyone else.
  • Accepting that sexism and sexual discrimination does occur.
  • Understanding that you have the right to be who you are. And so does everybody else.
  • Accepting that sometimes to accept diversity, we have to bend a little.

Tolerance is not:

  • Condoning the actions of terrorists or terrorist organisations, because they are the embodiment of intolerance.
  • Abandoning your own ideals if they are in conflict with the actions of others.
  • Automatically assuming that any discussion of sexist behaviour by one person in any way reflects on you.

My grandmother used to say "Everything will be so much better when we're all beige!" She was in most ways a highly insightful, well educated and intelligent woman, but this was one of the few times I actually disagreed with her. Instead of everybody conforming to one stereotype, we should embrace the differences between us. Differing viewpoints and experiences give us so much more capacity to learn and grow.

Conspiracy theories

If there is some conspiracy between mods and SE employees going on, then apparently I didn't get the memo. I've been a moderator for almost a year and I'm yet to have been told the secret handshake. We don't go synchronising voting patterns with SE employees. In fact, during my tenure here I can recall only two times I've interacted with SE employees; the first time was around a long term ban of one of our high profile community members, the second was about the community logo.

Side note: jmort253 is not a Stack Exchange employee. He's an elected community moderator, just the same as me.

Freedom of speech

Lillienthal's awesome answer here describes far better than I about the meaning of freedom of speech.

Something to note about bias is that the highest voted comment on the thread, which (correctly) raises that you cannot necessarily attribute the behaviour to sexism has been left in situ.

Final thoughts

Despite the accusations, the moderators here aren't man-hating, feminist, radical-Muslim sympathisers who wake up each morning wondering how to oppress the oppressors. I have kids, I didn't exactly make them on my own! :)

What we want to to is to try to maintain a tolerant community. Sometimes that goes against you, sometimes in your favour. It isn't a systemic attack on you or anyone else.

I think what many find confronting is that while not all cases or perceived sexism against women are indeed sexism - or perhaps not even most cases. But the story that many of us tell are so consistently similar that there are cases when it is sexism. We can't all be imagining it now, can we? That isn't saying that you behaved in a sexist manner, it's saying that someone did. It's not an attack on you or males in general. It's calling out that some men sometimes act in a sexist way, just as some women do too.

And because you can't post something this long without a reference to xkcd, here is one :)


  • 2
    I appreciate your answer. I don't think there is a conspiracy theory. I don't think there is a mod confederation out to get me. I simply think the mods on this site have done some very very questionable things. Then instead of talking about it rationally other mods and employees jump in and defent the mod's incorrect point and belittle users - it is that behavior that is more worrisome (to at least me) than how biased I believe they are. cont...
    – blankip
    Jul 4, 2016 at 0:29
  • 2
    And it is not a tolerant community. The mods tolerate what they want and throw away what they want. You mention that it isn't systematic - IT IS EXACTLY THAT. It is the same reaction over and over and over. Your answer and words really mean nothing because it is the actions that really matter. You can say you are fair and try and that you don't team up, but actions and history say the exact opposite. Again the answer lays there in sexism with no sources when mine with credible sources was deleted. ACTIONS not words.
    – blankip
    Jul 4, 2016 at 0:34
  • 1
    Also at the top of your answer why don't you ask people who vote for or against your answer to simply leave a comment. I would like to see how many non-mod/employees agree with you. I would say any upvotes you get without a comment are crap - we all know how the meta voting goes on questions like this.
    – blankip
    Jul 4, 2016 at 0:37
  • 1
    -1 from me for this "You have said that you feel there is bias of Muslim > Women > Men". I did not say this was the bias - the mods have proven it through their actions. Please find any proof contradictory. Also what does people == tolerance mean? Does that mean we should tolerate people who do bad things? Does SE tolerate ISIS (serious question)? As the answer is edited more and more it says less. I am sure anyone could decode what the phrase people == tolerance means. Obviously the mods here aren't tolerant or they wouldn't delete things based on their views.
    – blankip
    Jul 4, 2016 at 6:58
  • 1
    @blankip I've updated my answer to try to clarify what I mean by "tolerance". I might have rambled a bit in some places, and also probably missed lots of other things, but I hope that it helps to get the idea :)
    – Jane S
    Jul 4, 2016 at 9:31
  • I have never had a problem with your personally Jane. Out of all of the mods you are probably the one that will engage in dialogue and have a conversation. But I think you need to recognize that there at the very least is "corrupt looking" behavior. Seriously why would I write this question. I didn't even write an answer for the question. I am just a bystander watching a community being manipulated. People are upset at me because I recognize the behavioral issues. I did not have any personal beef with what happened - no one slapped my wrist.
    – blankip
    Jul 4, 2016 at 18:33
  • And Jane probably the biggest issue I have with your answer. Is that I know it has a few downvotes - which means it has at least 8-10 upvotes. So here we go again. A question about mod behavioral all of a sudden has an answer defending the mods - and the answer has an inordinate amount of upvotes in relation to what a normal answer would have in Workplace Meta. Since no one has left one comment defending your answer every Workplace community member has to assume that these are mods/employees. Don't you see the issue?
    – blankip
    Jul 4, 2016 at 18:37
  • 13
    Maybe the community just doesn't want to play your "you must comment when voting" games? And even if it were only them voting - what are they supposed to do? Herd other users to this question at gunpoint?
    – Pekka
    Jul 4, 2016 at 22:43
  • @Pekka웃 - Then we don't know they are part of the actual community. Let me know of another way around making sure that voters are part of the community and its not just mods/employees rigging things? Also not asking for people to be herded here - asking for votes from people in this community.
    – blankip
    Jul 5, 2016 at 14:56
  • I appreciate your extra comments on your answer. At least you are willing to put your name next to something. On the idea of mods/employees they are one in the same. Mods are representatives of SE, just not paid. If a mod did not represent according to SE standards, they wouldn't be a mod. Also you have turned my question into a witch hunt on HLGEM's answer, which it is not. My question is derived from the mods having different standards of what bias is based on their personal beliefs. I believe the mods are sexist/racist in their actions so I wrote the question.
    – blankip
    Jul 5, 2016 at 15:03
  • +1 for a good answer from a solid viewpoint, even though I disagree with half of it
    – Kilisi Mod
    Jul 8, 2016 at 5:05

I'd like to contribute the following:

  • For about the last year (maybe longer), the moderation on this site has been outstanding. I haven't always felt this way, and I don't feel this way about all StackExchange sites, but I feel this way about this site today.
  • However... @blankip is 100% correct about the following:

    Then instead of talking about it rationally other mods and employees jump in and defent [sic] the mod's incorrect point and belittle users...

I have always detected a certain "circle the wagons" mentality from the mods on this board, and I'm not sure why. The next time that Workplace.SE mods disagree will be the first time that Workplace.SE mods disagree. You don't need an M.B.A. to appreciate that groupthink is bad and that mods should consider minority opinions on Meta too. It's extremely unnatural for four people to agree on everything all the time; so don't do it! Keep your thinking caps on at all times! Keep Workplace.SE evolving in good ways, and always consider outsider opinions even if they include constructive criticism or call for change.

  • 1
    You've been here a fair bit longer than I have so I'm inclined to trust your experience but I'm not sure I've seen much evidence of the "circle the wagons" mentality you describe. But maybe I've been avoiding these kinds of threads.
    – Lilienthal Mod
    Jul 4, 2016 at 7:09
  • 1
    The first red flag that I noticed within a few weeks of being a member on the site was the comments being deleted all the time - well it was actually the comments that are left. Very very very often I see a question that has a bunch of comments that are upvoted. Then they do their comment sweep. But they leave other mod comments that are upvoted heavily or comments that support their answers. Please tell me I am not the only person seeing this - almost daily? Now they get to go back and forth on what is racist/sexist/biased? And they all agree like they are one robot...
    – blankip
    Jul 4, 2016 at 7:13
  • 1
    @Lilienthal: This happened many times in the early days when we were shaping this community. I don't remember the last time when I really thought that a minority opinion deserved more weight, so perhaps things have changed.
    – Jim G.
    Jul 4, 2016 at 7:13
  • Well if this happen really early whe Workplace was still being shaped, it was probably to set up a clear way about how things works in Workplace.SE. You don't start something by having the most important protagonist going in all ways.
    – Walfrat
    Jul 4, 2016 at 7:19
  • @Walfrat: When you start something, things are volatile. Decisions haven't been cemented yet. On the other hand, when things have been agreed upon, the community should keep a united front and be willing to try things, even if for just a short duration.
    – Jim G.
    Jul 4, 2016 at 7:23
  • 6
    @JimG. That makes sense, though I want to point out that people being of like mind about a topic or (re)acting similarly isn't necessarily a case of groupthink. The scientific community can laugh away the conspiracy nut with the 500-page manifesto proclaiming a flat earth because "space is a lie" without having the same hostile reaction to a well-reasoned paper that contradicts the status quo. I just feel like this thread is closer to the former than the latter and because of that it's unlikely to make for a useful examination of moderator behaviour.
    – Lilienthal Mod
    Jul 4, 2016 at 8:48
  • 1
    Jim look at the hits and voting patterns already. What is funny is that the mods/employees either feel they are so above reproach that they don't even need to recognize your point of view or they simply don't get it. But they went in and downvoted your answer and then displayed the exact behavior your answer explains by teaming up to upvote Jane's. It is this comical behavior that lead me to write the question. Do I care that much about their behavior... not really. But I know that since they can't explain being unfair it makes good TV.
    – blankip
    Jul 4, 2016 at 19:00
  • 1
    Please list who you believe "the mods/employees" are, if you're going try to make that broad accusation. One can support the site's stated lines without being either, and sometimes despite disagreeing with those lines.
    – keshlam
    Jul 6, 2016 at 1:42
  • @keshlam: Are you talking to me or blankip?
    – Jim G.
    Jul 6, 2016 at 11:28
  • Was directed to BlankIP, since there's strong evidence here of not understanding who moderators are and aren't, how they differ from other experienced users, what SE's relationships are with its users, how the SE crowdsource model is intended to work, and other basic contexts.
    – keshlam
    Jul 6, 2016 at 12:37
  • 3
    I have always detected a certain "circle the wagons" mentality from the mods on this board, and I'm not sure why -- One thing to keep in mind is for nearly anything controversial or unclear, moderators here never unilaterally act - we almost always discuss as a team prior to any "public" decisions. This means a lot of public facing posts about "issues" have been discussed prior to posting. Also, interesting and related: literally as I was typing this comment I got a ping about another question from one of the other moderators (unrelated to all this).
    – enderland
    Jul 6, 2016 at 15:13

If folks really want to run a census:

"In writing/upvoting this answer, I am asserting that I have no business relationship with Stack Exchange, am not a Moderator, am not recompensed in any way for time I spend here -- gods, if only I was! -- and despite this spend an excessively large number of hours participating in Stack Exchange's cloudsourced community editing mechanisms, from Answers to Flags to Voting to Editing to (when I remember) reviewing proposed changes and votes."


What I have noticed is that when certain subjects come up, people don't vote on the quality of the answer, but instead vote their bias.

Now, IMO there is nothing wrong with putting a counter opinion up on a controversial subject, but to down-vote an opinion because you have a differing one is abusing the vote system here, and YES, certain opinions are favored over others.

I have also seen the circling of the wagons and a bit of blindness to issues raised. The stock answer I've seen to any criticism has been "We're doing a great job".

Sorry, but there is always room for improvement.

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