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In this question: How should I tactfully let my coworker know I'm uncomfortable being alone with someone else in a closed-off room?

The OP is promoting a blatant sexist stereotype of "All men are abusers", and under the new code of conduct, why shouldn't this be deleted for bigotry and sexism?

In the post, the OP clearly states that her coworker has never done anything to cause any feelings of doubt, her post is solely about him being a man, and her being afraid of being assaulted because he is a man.

Given the recent deletion of a post by Kilis, where he said that if you see a woman attacked, step in, otherwise don't, was deleted as being sexist, as this is blatant misandry, shouldn't the same standards be applied?

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    I have to agree as well, since promoting baseless stereotypes of any kind is problematic. Though I don't think downright deletion is the solution since it already has answers, I do think something should be done (at least an edit). I have flagged the linked question. – forest Mar 27 at 22:31
  • What's the new code of conduct? – user70848 Mar 28 at 14:11
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    Also, it's not clear in this question that the people being discussed are different sexes. It could be two men alone in the room together. – user70848 Mar 28 at 14:14
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    OP in that question did a good job leaving sexism out of it. There's more sexism in this question than in that one; that one's just pure paranoia. – Agustín Lado Mar 28 at 15:39
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    I'm going to call BS on that, Agustin. There is nothing sexist about my post, and you shouting "J'accuse" does not make it so – Retired Codger Mar 28 at 18:06
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    I've read the Q&A here. Maybe it's good to remind people: Don't assume and then base your responses on your assumptions. (I'm not addressing someone specific here - under the question is just best place to leave this comment). – Jan Doggen Apr 9 at 8:32
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The post is not about gender dynamics at all (though it's easy to imagine that those underlie the post, and such a guess probably has a decent chance of being correct).

I will agree that the OP made an error in framing the question as being about informing the coworker that the OP does not want to be alone with him. By this I mean that the identity and characteristics of the coworker seem totally irrelevant to the question as asked. I tried to address this in my answer, though that obviously doesn't have any impact on the nature or appropriateness of the question.

I've submitted a suggested edit which removes all gender information from the question, as they seem irrelevant.

As originally written, the question strikes me as being more similar to something like:

I'm seriously allergic to the venom of [some spider native to the OP's area], but I see those spiders in the server room all the time. I'm uncomfortable being in there because, if I were bitten and needed help, the noise of the machines and soundproofing of the room would make it hard for me to alert anyone.

It's not a perfect analogy (especially as the presence of a second person in the spider example would necessarily address the spider bite problem), but it highlights the real intent of the question: the OP feels unsafe in that particular environment, not necessarily because a problem is more likely there but because if a problem occurred it would be particularly difficult to address.

I think that an honest reading of the question as originally written clearly indicates that the problem is the effective isolation of people in the server room from everyone else, even if that particular concern is heightened due to gendered concerns (reasonable or otherwise). In other words, there seems to be a real concern which could exist independent of any gender bias, and that concern is worthy of a question here (even if the concern may be overblown in some particular case).

To dismiss that concern in favor of a different one which is orthogonal to the question as currently written strikes me as unreasonable, even if the OP included something really blatant like "P.S., I am afraid of all men because I assume they'll assault me". That would be an issue, but not one that touches on the specific concerns outlined in the question.


Even if we were to assume the worst possible interpretation of the OP's post (that they are specifically afraid of assault due to the presence of any man in the server room with them), I'm not sure that that makes the question out-of-bounds. The OP may or may not be disproportionately fearful here, relative to the actual risk they are encountering, and it's a fair answer to suggest that their fears might be overblown and accommodating them in this instance would be unreasonable.

I suppose that it's possible that the OP does have a misandristic streak, and that that is 100% responsible for their preferences in this situation. It is further possible that the OP is aware of this and has intentionally written the post in such a way as to obscure that, and is looking for advice to plausibly pursue their bigoted agenda under some other guise and avoid the Workplace.SE rules.

But it's every bit as possible that the OP has been assaulted in an area where they could not expect calls for help to be answered, was traumatized by that event, and is currently undergoing therapy to help but hasn't overcome the trauma yet.

It's also every bit as possible that the OP is aware of the well-established statistical evidence that men are more likely to commit assault than women, that being alone in a room where help is not available makes assaults safer to commit and more likely to be successful without consequences, and that a random man's seeming likelihood to commit assault against a person (in that person's judgement) is far from a guarantee that that perception is accurate (even in the case of a man known to that person for a long time).

Even if the OP's absolute risk of being assaulted increases by only 0.0001% in the circumstances described, that level of risk may be more than they are willing or able to tolerate. Again, answers suggesting that that threshold is inappropriate seem like valid answers to me, if uncharitable ones, but it's not clear to me that the OP is tarring all men with the same brush due to concern about a situation where risks are heightened.


You seem upset about the treatment of one of Kilisi's recent posts. I've not read it, so I can't comment directly on it. But, if its deletion strikes you as unjust, it seems like a puzzling reaction to demand that that injustice be repeated elsewhere.

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    I'm not upset. Just trying to see if the standards are enforced across the board – Retired Codger Mar 29 at 19:05
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    I'm just wondering if this had been about a black, or muslim coworker, if the response would have been the same – Retired Codger Apr 1 at 13:57
  • @RichardU To the extent that there existed the valid, independent problem with the server room which did not at all depend on the identity of the other people, probably largely yes. I might lean more strongly towards the "that concern is irrationally intense" as an element of the answer for a variety of reasons. But the concerns about the room would still exist and there is no reason for the other parties to be disadvantaged or injured in any way by the OP pursuing some way to address those concerns-- the best solution quickly becomes the OP not working in that room, under any circumstances. – Upper_Case Apr 1 at 14:52
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    I'm starting to suspect, as gnat mentioned, that this question may have been asked specifically for the reason to stir the pot. – Retired Codger Apr 1 at 14:55
  • @RichardU Definitely possible, though not definitively demonstrated to be true. I will mention that the OP has done very little here: I've not seen any activity on the thread after posting, including to roll back my edit removing the offending information or to fan flames in any way. All of the pot-stirring action seems to be from the vigorous reaction of some of the regulars here, responding to a pretty oblique provocation (if that even is what the post was, which again is far from proven). – Upper_Case Apr 1 at 15:15
  • Again, I'm just trying to figure out what the standards are here. I'm finding it hard to divine them. I just don't see how advising to step in if a woman is attacked is sexist, but suggesting that all men are abusers Is not. It would help if we had concrete standards, or at least less vaporous ones. – Retired Codger Apr 1 at 15:19
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    @RichardU It might help your investigation to not use the most inflammatory exaggerations you can think of. All men are abusers is not an element of the question, and never was. The question is identical with all mentions of gender removed and in no way depends on the presence of your assertion. Neither of us can speak to the OP's intent, so that's all we have to go on. And, as I mentioned elsewhere, it's possible that Kilisi's answer was improperly judged and deleted-- hunting for other postings to close on the same grounds is a point-making spectacle, not a practical investigation. – Upper_Case Apr 1 at 15:26
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    What constitutes a practical investigation when all efforts to do so are dealt with either vacuous obfuscations, or a simple "I don't care". You must admit that it does limit the options to less than subtle ones. – Retired Codger Apr 1 at 15:40
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    @RichardU I don't know you well, and so I don't consider these to be very meaningful opinions on my own part. You are claiming that you want to "figure out the standards", suggesting that you want to be able to faithfully follow them in the future. I think that you don't approve of the standards, as you understand them, whether they are consistently applied or not. It seems, to me, that you really want to force an admission that the deletion of Kilisi's comment was wrong and (possibly) reverse it. The current approach of shoehorning this question into the same category as that answer (and – Upper_Case Apr 1 at 15:46
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    admittedly, that's not hard to do with this question) doesn't strike me as having anything to do with improving understanding. I also don't think that it will be effective in forcing any changes or admissions of mistakes, even if your most damning assessment of events is in fact correct. So, to the extent that my interpretations are at all accurate, this seems like an example ginned up to allow for some noise to be made and no other purpose. I'm not commenting on the validity of your position on site standards, but it's a tough sell to suggest that the question is as you've characterized it. – Upper_Case Apr 1 at 15:50
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    I'm autistic, and tend to see things in black and white, so the finer granularity I can get, the more I like it, and it disturbs me greatly when I can't see a pattern or guidelines. I know it often gives the impression of me being like a dog with a bone, or overly belligerent, but that's just the nature of autism, and why we are seen as having poor social skills because we tend to hold onto an issue until we get concrete answers. I'm not one to gin up trouble. If I were, I would be playing an extremely long game to wait until I hit 100k rep to do it. – Retired Codger Apr 1 at 15:59
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First off, I would assert that this question is not making any clearly sexist arguments. The OP consistently states that they are uncomfortable being alone in the room with "someone". To quote (emphasis mine):

How should I try to politely tell him I'm uncomfortable being alone with someone else in a closed-off room, in case of an assault?

The particular co-worker in this case is a man, but when talking in a general sense, the OP never says they are only afraid to be alone with men. If the OP later clarified that they would be comfortable being in there with a woman but not a man, that would change the situation, but so far it has all been fairly gender-neutral.

Second, and I think more importantly, there is a difference between encountering sexist arguments in questions and in answers. When we encounter sexism (or another -ism) in a question, we as answerers have the opportunity to post and explain in what ways the OP's views are problematic and how they should be approaching the situation instead. We even have specific guidance on how to properly tell someone "Don't do that!". The problem with sexism in answers is that instead of asking about a situation in which I am being sexist, I am now advocating for behavior that is sexist. We are supposed to be the experts here, so when we are giving out harmful advice, that is a problem.

The entire point of a Q&A site is for us to help and educate the asker. Oftentimes that means giving them the benefit of the doubt that they don't realize or don't intend to be saying or doing something offensive. Now that's not to say offensive questions aren't possible. If the OP is using rude language, or is arguing in comments when people try to explain why they are wrong, that's a problem. And if in the question the OP makes blatantly sexist assertions, that's also a problem. For example, consider these two statements:

  1. Every guy I've met wants to sleep with me, so there's a good chance he's going to try something at some point.

  2. I always see stories about women getting assaulted at work, so I worry the same could happen to me.

The first sentence is something I would consider offensive and should be edited out of a question, while the second would be okay. The main difference in my mind is that the first focuses on making assumptions and placing blame on the other person, while the second focuses on the poster and their own feelings and perceptions.

Before deleting we should always try to edit and remove offensive language from posts if we can, but only in such a way that will retain the poster's original intention and viewpoint. If the OP says they are afraid of being alone with men, we need to leave that in so that answerers can address the underlying problematic viewpoint. We are usually much more hesitant to edit answers around here, but if offensive language can be removed while still retaining the core answer, that's acceptable. One of the things that contributed to Kilisi's deleted answer, partially due to his writing style, was that once you removed the sexist portion, there was no answer left.

  • There was nothing sexist about kilisi or his answer – Retired Codger Mar 28 at 14:59
  • @RichardU Yes, there was as far as the answer your referring to goes. – Mister Positive Mar 28 at 14:59
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    @RichardU That debate has already been had in this thread, and I don't see the need to rehash it here. – David K Mar 28 at 16:35
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Let's leave Kilisi aside for a second.

OP specified the reason (he? she?) felt uncomfortable is because, if someone wanted to attack (him? her?), the server room would be the perfect place to do it.

It's by the skin of their teeth, granted, but I see no evidence of this all men... you mention.

Another point: We have many genuinely sexist questions here. For example, the one about not shaking hands with women because they are women. They are still good questions because it's about navigating the workplace.


Lastly I don't like the fact this question has been so heavily downvoted (not that you had anything to do with it) because OP is genuinely facing a problem which severely hinders their work.

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    The OP is facing a problem of their own making. The OP specifically says "I don't have any reason to think my coworkers would assault me". – DaveG Mar 28 at 19:32
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    The question about not shaking hands wasn't sexist. Not all mentions of gender differences are sexist. Sexism is negative; that question was about somebody with religious restrictions about opposite-gender touching trying to find a professional (not sexist) way to handle the situation. – Monica Cellio Mar 28 at 20:16
  • @MonicaCellio I don't disagree with that. Still, some would call the behaviour sexist, even when religiously prescribed. The point is, as you mentioned, we're here to help people navigate these situations, not delete their posts because if -isms. – rath Mar 28 at 23:25
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    Your labeling that question as "genuinely sexist" prevents me from upvoting an answer that I otherwise agree with, BTW. That some call the behavior sexist doesn't make it so. – Monica Cellio Mar 29 at 0:33
  • @DaveG - would it be "of their own making" if the OP has a psychological condition causing this unwarranted fear? – Joe Strazzere Mar 29 at 11:23
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    @JoeStrazzere What I mean is that there's no external cause or reason, this is internally generated in her mind. – DaveG Mar 29 at 11:55
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The question isn't sexist; so far as I can tell, the implication is that the author is uncomfortable being in an enclosed space - that is, there's no suggestion that the issue is the sex of the person that they're with. Honestly... It kinda sounds like agoraphobia, though of course we should resist the impulse to diagnose anyone.

Which... Brings me to the real problem with that question: they go on and on about how passive-aggression hasn't worked out for them, and then... Ask us how to politely convey an already-polite admission that they have a fear of being alone in an enclosed space.

IOW, they haven't described a problem; they're just telling a story. Maybe it's cathartic; maybe they just got so wrapped up in the story they forgot the question; maybe it's something else.

I've closed the question as Unclear and left the following comment:

Hello and welcome to The Workplace Stack Exchange! Please try to edit this to specify a specific goal that we can address. For example, if you suffer from anxiety and need accommodations from your employer, then you can ask about that specifically. Open-ended questions where we must guess at both the problem and the solution are unlikely to help either you or us.

If the asker is unable to clarify in a reasonable amount of time, then we can remove the question from the site.

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    The author was saying that they were uncomfortable being alone with this person for fear of being attacked by him, even while admitting said person wasn't being a creep or anything. It doesn't seem anything like a fear of enclosed spaces (which is claustrophobia, not agoraphobia btw). See a direct quote from them: uncomfortable being alone with someone else in a closed-off room, in case of an assault?. – forest Mar 27 at 23:35
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    Good thing I'm not trying to diagnose anyone, eh @forest? ;-) – Shog9 Mar 27 at 23:37
  • Especially since an claustrophobic person would hate doing what an agoraphobic person needs. :P – forest Mar 27 at 23:37
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    I have a cunning plan – Shog9 Mar 27 at 23:40
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    you forgot to mention that an hour after question was posted system pushed it to HNQ where it got bunch of upvotes from entertained readers which naturally disincentivized asker from changing anything. No newcomer in their sane mind will change post that got score above 10 and "nice question" badge – gnat Mar 28 at 9:16
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    ...or maybe they didn't plan any changes from the very start and simply wanted their trolling to gain 70 hours of fame. Just like that recent guy with fabricated story about patents – gnat Mar 28 at 9:17
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    Yeah... Y'all really gotta stop taking the bait. – Shog9 Mar 28 at 13:47
  • comment above sounds like you accuse site regulars of being gullible. That's not very polite. And not very fair if you recall that similar issue at Stack Overflow was resolved not by blaming site users but by tweaking the system to make it push SO questions out of the hot list... – gnat Mar 28 at 19:40
  • ...have you considered dropping that double standard? Really, justification for that tweak protecting SO questions doesn't work anymore: they can't dominate HNQ because of new hard limit of 5 questions. So just turn off that old tweak and let SO questions run like at all other sites. And if they start complaining, just go to their meta and tell them to stop taking the bait. Then get back here and tell us how it went – gnat Mar 28 at 19:40
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    @gnat please take your complaints about the hot network questions list elsewhere. This question is about an accusation of sexism. – Monica Cellio Mar 28 at 20:18
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    Apples and oranges, @gnat. If this question had been posted on Stack Overflow it would've been deleted before I'd have even had a chance to read it. I expect you know that. The solution for HNQ amplification is probably to delay non-SO questions by some significant period of time - a day or more maybe - to give folks time to perform the sorts of cleanup and moderation that necessarily take longer here than on SO... But that'll still have to be done. This question got 4 answers before it hit the network - and lots of upvotes and comments. It would have been an issue without the HNQ. – Shog9 Mar 28 at 20:20
  • @MonicaCellio this answer is about how asker was supposed to edit the question to better shape and my comments are about reasons why this didn't happen. If you believe that matters of editing the question don't belong, consider removing this answer – gnat Mar 28 at 20:20
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    each garden grows own fruits Shog. It is entirely natural that trolls adjust to site topics, they arrange their plots differently at Workplace than they did at IPS. And if they had the chance to pollute SO they would adjust accordingly (do you remember croissants?) – gnat Mar 28 at 20:24
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    I do remember! I went & bought a dozen chocolate-filled croissants to honor that event... Then ate 6 of 'em at once... Then felt very sick. But I also answered that meta thread... Let's see what I recommended! – Shog9 Mar 28 at 20:26

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