I flagged a comment because it referred to somebody as a

known, rabid male-hating feminist

which seems rather rude and offensive to me.

The flag was declined. Anybody have any insight on this?

  • Well, that won't happen no more :)
    – F'x
    May 21, 2014 at 9:30
  • @F'x - Ha! The times, they are a'changin'.
    – eykanal
    May 21, 2014 at 12:23

3 Answers 3


To answer my own question, I remain convinced that this comment should be deleted.

Our help center says that we expect users to

Be nice.

Civility is required at all times; rudeness will not be tolerated. Treat others with the same respect you’d want them to treat you because we’re all here to learn, together. Be tolerant of others who may not know everything you know, and bring your sense of humor.

A comment calling another individual (whether a member of Academia.SE or not, it doesn't really matter in my opinion) a "known, rabid male-hating feminist" has no place in respectful discourse. It seems to me like a clear violation of the above policy.

StackExchange is different from many other "communities" on the Internet because we enforce certain standards of behavior, and I believe we are better for it. Offensively worded ad hominem attacks (to borrow a phrase from Mad Scientist) should not be tolerated here.

  • 1
    I fully agree with you here. If "known, rabid male-hating feminist" is not offensive, then what is? What good can come out of keeping such answers around?
    – xLeitix
    May 21, 2014 at 7:34
  • +1: As you may know, I favor a light hand in moderation of comments in many cases. But of course this comment is offensive. If it is not offensive to compare people to morbidly diseased animals....You have my full support in deleting comments which target specific groups, especially minority groups. May 22, 2014 at 1:39
  • I disagree with the degree to which you find it offensive; I also respect your right to find it as offensive you say you do. If similar phrases and notions are to be flagged and removed, I think the policy on such phrases should be made more clear. In particular, a list of phrases taken out of context that might be flagged should be part of the policy. I don't mind having to follow special rules at a party I am going to, but I want to know those rules in advance, and I think it only fair that the policy be so modified. I might go so far as to suggest the comment be edited, not deleted. May 29, 2014 at 20:57
  • @NotQuiteAnOutsider The official SE policy on comments is that they are intended to be disposable, so if they are objectionable there is a lower threshold for deleting them. If it had been posted in an answer instead, I would see the case for editing rather than deleting it.
    – ff524
    May 29, 2014 at 23:36
  • @Not Quite An Outsider: this is a site populated by anglophone academics of one type or another. It seems reasonable to enforce, broadly, the standards of conduct that one would encounter across anglophone academia. Something which would be taken as offensive in, e.g., most American universities is well avoided here. I don't see this as a matter of "special rules". Jun 3, 2014 at 5:55

It appears that you flagged that multiple times. I cleared one of those flags because of the discussion we had here. The comment is borderline offensive, but personally (and, apparently, the other mods agree) I didn't find that it was so bad that it warrants deletion. We have a rather open attitude towards commenting here, and to be deleted I think we've generally held that the comment has to be more directly and blatantly insulting.

Edit: Do note that the mods clearing the flags are just acting based on essentially "statutory law", which is what we think we've done in the past and how the community wants us to behave. As always, if we'd like to act differently please post here, as @ff524 has done.

  • Sorry if there were multiple flags, was trying to use full site on phone (there's no comment flag in mobile version)
    – ff524
    May 20, 2014 at 19:04
  • @ff524 - No worries :)
    – eykanal
    May 20, 2014 at 19:05
  • 1
    The post you linked refers to "chatty" flags. I would imagine name-calling directed at an individual falls squarely under "rude or offensive," which we haven't really discussed on meta
    – ff524
    May 20, 2014 at 19:07
  • @ff Sorry if I'm being difficult. I'm not trying to be overly process-based, I just didn't think that it was offensive enough to delete, as it seemed to me only was mildly offensive and definitely on-topic.
    – eykanal
    May 20, 2014 at 19:12
  • 2
    @ff524: I also cleared one of the flags, and my thoughts on this are pretty close to eykanal's. It was a razor's edge case for me, and in those situations, I have to lean towards not deleting. (In part, it's the "slippery slope" argument: if we automatically delete anything flagged as offensive, how far does that go?)
    – aeismail
    May 20, 2014 at 19:28
  • I should also mention that the user in question followed up with an ad hominem attack, which I have deleted.
    – aeismail
    May 20, 2014 at 19:57
  • 1
    @aeismail This is very confusing to me, because I consider them both to be ad hominem attacks; the first (aimed at femalecomputerscientist) was worded offensively, and the second (aimed at me) was not particularly offensive, yet the second is deleted and the first is not.
    – ff524
    May 20, 2014 at 19:59
  • Going after fellow community members is against SE guidelines.
    – aeismail
    May 20, 2014 at 20:07
  • 7
    @aeismail I don't see anything in these guidelines that differentiates between being nice to community members vs. being nice to non-members. I don't really agree with this distinction.
    – ff524
    May 20, 2014 at 20:13
  • I've always interpreted it as an intra-community guideline; I could see how it could be interpreted globally.
    – aeismail
    May 20, 2014 at 20:21
  • 1
    Now that I can see the post flag history, I can say based on the timing of the flags that only (the first) one was mine... so somebody else had a problem with this comment as well, even before this meta post brought attention to it.
    – ff524
    May 21, 2014 at 4:53
  • 3
    I fail to see why whether the insulted person is an academia.SE member or not should make any difference (and yes, the answer is certainly hateful and in no way constructive).
    – xLeitix
    May 21, 2014 at 7:36
  • @ff524 - Thanks for deleting the comment, and I hear your point. I guess I wasn't as insulted by the comment. Next time we can definitely clear those types of comments out as well. Thanks!
    – eykanal
    May 21, 2014 at 12:25
  • 1
    Actually, it wasn't me (what, you thought my first action as a mod would be to overrule another two? give me some time to spread my dictatorial wings ;))
    – ff524
    May 21, 2014 at 12:38

While I think this comment can be considered offensive, I'm approaching this from a bit of a different perspective. I think that "not constructive" is the more useful argument in this case.

Criticizing the sources of a specific answer is certainly something that should not be discouraged. There is a rather large spectrum between pointing out a bias of a certain source and a plain ad hominem attack, and while the former can be very valuable information, the latter is not useful at all.

I would personally hold the users of this site to a higher standard than the one exhibited in this specific comment. So I think deletion of this comment would be warranted as it is not a constructive way to criticize this source, but a rather offensively worded ad hominem attack.

  • 1
    I'm not a huge fan of this approach, as it's not the place of the mods to impose any moral standard on anyone. If you think higher of a user, let them know via downvotes and reply comments, as was done in this case.
    – eykanal
    May 20, 2014 at 19:31
  • 1
    @eykanal It's not a moral standard, but I do think it is the duty of the moderators and the community to enforce a certain level of civil discourse here. Replying with a comment is not an option here, I don't argue with unreasonable people, that never leads to anything useful. May 20, 2014 at 20:13

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