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Being that we live in a post-binary-gender society, the oxford dictionary states that it is grammatically correct to use non-gender specific pronouns, such as "they", as stated in the oxford dictionary post https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/usage/he-or-she-versus-they.

However, some users get as far as upset when correcting their use of binary-gender pronouns as seen in the deleted answers of this question Having an employee move teams because you feel they're better suited elsewhere, but they want to stay?.

In Workplace posts, would it be considered offensive, and therefore flag-able, to use gender specific pronouns?

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    I would assume non-binary-gender pronouns would be correct at least. Not sure if binary-gender pronouns would be considered flaggable though. – user49733 Nov 1 '16 at 21:42
  • Do you mean would it be a violation of the Be Nice Policy? – IDrinkandIKnowThings Nov 1 '16 at 21:50
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    @IDrinkandIKnowThings I think that would depend on context. In the context that you assumed a software engineer was male due to their position, yes. But if in fact the person is male then that's not an issue. Laughin about gender identity and making light of it like what was going on in the deleted answers to that question posted above, yes that is a violation. – user49741 Nov 1 '16 at 21:52
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    "In Workplace posts, would it be considered offensive, and therefore flag-able, to use gender specific pronouns?" - it doesn't offend me. But then I'm the tolerant type anyway. I tend to agree with some of the commenters on that linked question that the use of "they" and "them" was very confusing and made the question far harder to read than it needed to be. – Joe Strazzere Nov 1 '16 at 22:37
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    Your question is offensive to me, please remove it. – Lilienthal Nov 1 '16 at 23:32
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    'Being that we live in a post-binary-gender society' not a great idea to project this on everyone as a fact. – Kilisi Nov 2 '16 at 3:01
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    @JoeStrazzere I joke about it a bit, but it is, in fact, very difficult for many of us on the autism spectrum when we are faced with this confusing language. I had to reread one post three times to figure out that "they" meant only one person. – Old_Lamplighter Nov 2 '16 at 3:13
  • 'Being that we live in a post-binary-gender society' Who is this "we" and what is this society? Such an assertion would not be well received in the Islamic world. Clearly such an assertion is Islamophobic – Old_Lamplighter Nov 2 '16 at 3:20
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    @RichardU - confusion over the post likely had nothing to do with autism. I also had to reread it several times. Sometimes it seemed that "they" was an individual, sometimes it seemed that "they" referred to a team. IMHO, clarity should trump all here. If a writer can't communicate what they (see what I did there?) actually mean in gender neutral terms, then what good is it? – Joe Strazzere Nov 2 '16 at 10:57
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    @Lilienthal - I don't understand. What is offensive here? – Joe Strazzere Nov 2 '16 at 11:01
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    @JoeStrazzere I was making the point that anything can be offensive to anyone. I settled for a sarcastic comment instead of submitting a two-page rant/answer on how I feel about the grammatical abomination that is the singular they. Frankly, I'm guessing the entire thing here is a troll since it's coming from a new user. – Lilienthal Nov 2 '16 at 12:01
  • @Lilienthal - ah, I see. You may be right. – Joe Strazzere Nov 2 '16 at 12:02
  • @Lilienthal my comment was deleted, but I'd like to point out that if you look in the right hand corner of my profile, I've been a member for 6 months – user49741 Nov 2 '16 at 17:49
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    @Walle Maybe if you drop the ad hominem attacks for a second you'll realise that I'm not referring to your account age but to the time that you've been an active member on the site, which isn't very long at all. This site has an established pattern of new users like yourself jumping on meta to fight a perceived injustice or question the way the community handles certain things. – Lilienthal Nov 2 '16 at 19:36
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    Not only has this question been done to death (fancy me saying that), but "we live in a post-binary-gender society" is a bad assumption. – user30031 Nov 2 '16 at 20:36
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I tried to craft an honest, well thought out response that doesn't violate the "be nice" policy here. It was a Herculean effort, make no mistake.

The short answer is a resounding NO.

The longer answer is a bit more involved. While this question is put forth in a logical way, it is built several false premises, namely asserting opinions as fact, then building the argument on those opinions as if they were facts.

Being that we live in a post-binary-gender society

This is a sweeping generalization asserted as fact. There is no "we" and there is no society. SE is comprised of people from all over the world with differing customs, base languages, and societal norms. This false assertion alone makes the answer a NO. on the grounds that the assertion that there are as many as 63 genders is not accepted as even scientific fact, much less universally accepted in various cultures around the world.

the oxford dictionary states that it is grammatically correct to use non-gender specific pronouns.

This is an irrelevant appeal to authority and again, not the only dictionary of record. If we accept it as absolute, then all Americans, for example need to start spelling aluminum as "aluminium" defense as "defence", armor as "armour" et cetera ad nauesum. More to the point, the assertion that one thing may be correct does not negate the correctness of another thing. The fact that the dictionary asserts that the word hiccup is spelled "hiccup" does not negate the fact that hiccough is also a correct spelling for the word and even passes a spell-check.

However, some users get as far as upset when correcting their use of binary-gender pronouns

Again, this point is creating a false assertion as I outlined above. The assertion that one thing is correct does not mean that an alternative is incorrect. the so-called "corrections" being referenced are not actual corrections, but assertions of political opinions under the guise of correcting grammar which is not incorrect to begin with.

In Workplace posts, would it be considered offensive, and therefore flag-able, to use gender specific pronouns?

Again, a resounding NO! and for the following grounds.

  1. The assertion that gender specific pronouns are incorrect or offensive is entirely a subjective matter guided by personal politics.
  2. We have multiple cultures and multiple opinions on the matter, thus negating the entire assertion/
  3. It is an abuse of the flagging function
  4. It is a waste of moderators' time
  5. It has already been established that editing posts to change pronouns has, and will offend people, as acknowledged by this very question.
  6. Deliberately causing strife is a violation of the "be nice" policy.
  7. Cultural standards are not a cause to flag a post
  8. If we start making being offended, based not on the poster's intent, but solely reliant on the mindset of the one making a claim of being offended, literally nothing will ever be achieved in Workplace.
  9. It's an attempt to make an end run around the policy that the OP has final say in, and can reverse edits.
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    Pretty much covers all the angles – Kilisi Nov 2 '16 at 12:53
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    I tried to craft an honest, well thought out response that doesn't violate the "be nice" policy here. - I applaud your effort and think you did well. Bravo, To be clear I do not necessarily agree with all of your points but they are reasonable and constructive in a post that could easily turn in the opposite direction. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Nov 2 '16 at 16:10
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    +1 for agreement. Well said sir! – Lumberjack Nov 2 '16 at 16:25
  • @IDrinkandIKnowThings I always enjoy reading your posts. – Old_Lamplighter Nov 2 '16 at 17:31
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    Well-said Richard, particularly the parts about deliberately creating strife & flagging based on personal politics being abusive. Further, if somebody asks a question about coworker "Joe" and you change "he" in answers to "they" or "she" or any other pronoun, you are making things actively worse. Finally, bringing issues up sensitively ("I'm bothered by X; could we talk about doing Y?") will be much more productive than coming in on the attack ("your use of the wrong pronoun is an offensive attack against people of other genders everywhere!"). Don't be surprised if people ignore that stuff. – Monica Cellio Nov 2 '16 at 17:50
  • @MonicaCellio thank you. I tried to put a good deal of thought into this one. We all have our sensitivities and I know that too often passion rules reason. For example, many people on the autism spectrum bristle at the word "idiot" from the days those of us with savant skills were called "idiot savants". While I will never use that word, I can't expect people outside the ASD world to know it's meaning within it, nor do I have the right to shout "J'accuse" every time someone uses it, regardless of intent. – Old_Lamplighter Nov 2 '16 at 18:05
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If I'm reading your post correctly, you want to know if flagging somebody for using gendered pronouns (I'm assuming an implicit: "where they don't need to") is appropriate.

I'm also going to assume you're not trolling, and just say.

No

It's not something you should flag for. Flags are for situations that require moderator intervention. This hypothetical situation is not one of them.

I refer you to a recent meta: Are edits to answers that address gender bias constructive.

Not 1 but 2 moderators answered that question to say that edits to, for instance, change unnecessarily gendered pronouns are not ok. In light of that, and until such guidelines are superseded in the future, such answers as the situation you describe are On-Topic.

If there are *other* reasons why a post might be flaggable, which would probably apply to the deleted answers you mention, then please feel free to flag appropriately, but peoples' use of pronouns, in and of itself, isn't one of them.


I would like to end on this quote from said meta:

The Internet is full of people who write differently than you or I do, and trying to sanitize the Internet to one's own personal taste is a doomed proposition.

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  • But in the situation that they are making light of gender identity or presuming an identity? – user49741 Nov 1 '16 at 21:56
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    Making light is opinion. Presuming an identity is not that big a deal. What is a bigger deal is intentionally using the wrong identification once that's been established. – Chris E Nov 1 '16 at 22:03
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    @ChristopherEstep Maybe. I err on the side of "I would like to live in a world with more gender-neutral language, but I don't presume to force it on anybody who disagrees with it". – Kaz Nov 1 '16 at 22:13
  • @kaz to me that's reasonable. – Chris E Nov 1 '16 at 22:20
  • @Kaz a reasonable take indeed. – Old_Lamplighter Nov 2 '16 at 3:15
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In Workplace posts, would it be considered offensive, and therefore flag-able, to use gender specific pronouns?

I think it would be ridiculous to flag the use of gender-specific pronouns.

Take a look through the questions that exist. Read through the first page or so. Do we really want to flag that many? I don't.

That said, I'd invite everyone to write their own questions and answers in a gender-neutral style if they prefer and if they are capable. If they can make the question and pronoun references clear, everyone will be happy. For most English writers, that probably means making references almost exclusively plural and using the pronoun "they", although very careful sentence construction can avoid that.

For those interested, I recommend reading this Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singular_they. You will see that writing in this style is not at all simple, and will see some good examples of alternative sentences written in gender-neutral variants.

I still absolutely want to prioritize clarity over grammar though. So I am very much against flagging questions or answers that aren't as gender-neutral as some might prefer. I don't want The Workplace to devolve into a Gender Grammar Nazi force.

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This is wholly location dependant. When I grew up (I'm old) it was perfectly normal and taught that when referring to people as a whole you can call them 'man' and even when referring to group it was ok. In some places it still is. I often refer to a group as 'guys' even though it may contain some females. But I'm not meaning it in a bad way, so intent makes a difference as well.

In my own country in our language we have a recognised third gender which has a specific name, but we also use that name for homosexuals (which is incorrect) no one complains.

So I see no need to flag these issues.

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  • Just curious, what is your native language? – Old_Lamplighter Nov 2 '16 at 12:44
  • @RichardU I don't really have one, I grew up in Nauru but I'm not Nauruan, and the language is pretty useless with only 1000+ speakers, I haven't used it since I left. All other languages were learnt formally or by living somewhere they spoke it.. – Kilisi Nov 2 '16 at 12:48
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    That's fascinating, thank you. – Old_Lamplighter Nov 2 '16 at 13:29

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