The original question about the lingerie joke made in an elevator was controversial leading to a lively meta discussion. The consensus appeared to be to ask a new, but related, question on issue. This has been done but the initial reception has not been positive. What is wrong with the new question and what can be improved?

  • Looks like a little bit of time has been sufficient to rescue it... for now at least. :-)
    – jakebeal
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 22:42
  • @jakebeal it already has 4 down votes compared to the first question which only ended up with a total of 5 down votes. People tend not to down vote.
    – StrongBad
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 22:45

7 Answers 7


Having just read the new question, there are two things about it that currently bother me/signal a poorly-formed question.

(1) The double negatives in the title. "How can I avoid being intolerant and unsupportive ...?". This has the flavor that something is getting bent or overworked in an attempt to take something trashy and make it marginally acceptable. Imagine if the title instead was, "How can I be tolerant and supportive ... ?" That's shorter, clearer, more direct, and doesn't have the "odor" of some ulterior motive being masked. It's also a totally different question, of course.

(2) The line after the quote about the OP's deep-seated fears, "As a male member of academe, I am worried. I feel bewildered and fear that I might also offend someone some day." That seems ridiculous; it's hard to imagine someone so oblivious as to be terrorized at not understanding that mentioning ladies' underwear is a faux pas; or that some amount decorum must essentially be practiced. Rather, this has the scent of a propagandist. I don't think this line adds anything to the question.

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    I'm not so sure that he may be oblivious necessarily but more that inadvertently a bad joke might slip out and he's worried his career might be ruined too. Women do make bad sexual jokes like this too you know right? Have you never made a bad joke before that you regretted? The difference is the woman he offended didn't handle this situation maturely. She should have confronted him personally and he would probably have said I'm sorry. Instead she was trying to go after his job which was stupid over something that obviously didn't have the intent to be offensive. Commented May 22, 2018 at 15:41
  • @LateralTerminal It may be news to you that things that are obvious to you are not obvious to everyone. Besides "didn't have the intent to be offensive" does not mean "was not offensive." || After someone makes a demeaning, sexualized comment to you, I think it is fair to immediately involve a third party. Who knows how they'd react in private? || Third, their professional organization has no power over the rude professor's job. Commented May 22, 2018 at 16:24
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    @AzorAhai 1. I never said the joke wasn't offensive. 2&3. How he'd act in private are you serious? Maybe if he would have said "I'd love to see you in women's lingerie" But he didn't say anything offensive to her directly. He just made a slightly taboo joke that wasn't funny and honestly not appropriate. It was something he shouldn't have said obviously but overall not a big deal at all. She could have said, "Hey I find that a bit offensive" He would most likely say "Oh I'm sorry it was a bad old man joke at my expense" There was no reason at all to involve a 3rd party. Commented May 22, 2018 at 16:49
  • @LateralTerminal I never said the joke wasn't offensive. ... But he didn't say anything offensive to her directly. Please explain how these two statements are congruous. || What is the point of having codes of conduct if violations of them are not reasons to involve the committee? Commented May 22, 2018 at 16:55
  • @AzorAhai The joke is offensive because it's taboo. It's inappropriate among strangers. He didn't say anything offensive to her directly because he never specifically said anything bad about her or bad about women specifically. It was just an old elevator pun. The point of codes of conduct are to resolve real issues plaguing men, women, and race. Real issues are actual mean statements against people like "I'd love to see you in the lingerie department" not "lingerie department please" Again his statement was offensive but not grounds to involve a committee followed by an unequivocal apology Commented May 22, 2018 at 17:02
  • @LateralTerminal One would think a culture that allows men to make demeaning jokes about women to women would be a real issue. Commented May 22, 2018 at 17:06
  • @AzorAhai Yes I agree. I also agree that it could be interpreted that he would be a pervert for wanting to go to the women's lingerie department. But it's also painfully obvious that he never intended the joke to sound that way. That leads to my point that "OP's deep seated fears" may or not be legit. Commented May 22, 2018 at 17:08
  • @LateralTerminal Did not intended the joke to sound demeaning != not demeaning. I think I said that already? We're going in circles here, I'll leave you to it. Commented May 22, 2018 at 17:16
  • @AzorAhai Well that's where I'd argue that it's not really clear at all that it's demeaning. That's just how you personally interpreted it. Technically anything can be offensive if you say it's your opinion that it's offensive. Commented May 22, 2018 at 17:20

Regarding the close-vote due to the question being allegedly off-topic, because it better fits in the workplace or interpersonal skills: If I member correctly, our policy is that relevance on another site does not imply irrelevance on this site. I've voted to reopen.

  • That is my understanding also. There is overlap between the sites and just because it can go someplace else doesn't mean it has to. Also, at least for the original version, it was clear the other sites did not want it.
    – StrongBad
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 13:32

I'm happy about the efforts to rescue the essence of the question.

However, I felt that the question needed some sharpening of focus. I'll explain here what my thinking was in the edits I've proposed.

The quote from the linked article showed that this was a gender issue -- yet the title and the tags were a whitewash. So I proposed an edit to the title.

I also added two additional paragraphs from the cited article, so that readers will understand that Prof. X didn't just make an insensitive, silly "joke" in the elevator -- in fact, he dug himself in deeper by emailing the complainant and calling the complaint "frivolous." It will be easier to explain to the original OP (and people in his shoes) what was wrong with Prof. X's actions, and how to avoid doing something similar, if this information is included.

And I made the asker's gender explicit.


I was initially skeptical that edits could address my concerns about the original question: not specific to academia, bad subjective (all answers equally valid, no problem to be solved, and rant like), too broad, and likely to lead to tangential discussion. I was surprise and think the new questions addresses all of my concerns.

Academics blur the lines between professional and social interactions. Further some academics are hypersensitive to issues of harassment while others are socially oblivious. The actions we can/should take are sufficiently different from the actions that should be taken in other workplaces that it seems reasonable to ask here.

By asking for actions that can be taken, not all answers will be equally valid. Some actions will be more effective and others will be easier to implement. There is clearly a problem with harassment in academia and hence knowing how to avoid it is important. The question does not imply that the behavior is not offensive and does not seem like a rant in disguise.

While the question is still broad, it is clearly a topic some members of the community wish to tackle. Any discussion that arises from the question and answers seems like it will lead to better answers as opposed to simply disagreements.

  • It seems like some of the issues with the response to the original question have persisted nonetheless.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 22:51

I think the question would have been improved if it removed the citation of the original article to keep focused.

Instead, the answers seem to be based on a reading of that article, and so the intended refocusing of the question has been lost. For example, the question says nothing about the process of apologizing nor about the way Prof Y responded, and the answers and discussion in the comments has become largely a discussion about those topics.

However, I am wary to suggest an edit to the question at this point since it already has several answers and a lot of attention.

  • 2
    The context of the response is necessary to answer the question since the "problem" the asker is trying to avoid was largely caused by the response, not the initial action described in the question. A response based solely on the question would likely be a strawman since it is missing necessary information.
    – Barker
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 23:42
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    @Barker That wasn't how the amended question was originally asked.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 0:29
  • 3
    Sure, but the question was basically "How do farms burn cows for electricity?" and the answer is they don't, they capture methane from the cows and burn that. If you are saying we can't bring in the external information of the methane capture, then we can't answer the question. Similarly, if we can't address what the guy actually got in trouble for the answers won't be any more relevant than speculations on the combustion of cows.
    – Barker
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 0:36

The original question was fine.

People just didn't like it because it looked like the original question was invented just to get rep on the site. I'm honestly not sure. OP could have been a troll but we can't know that. The original question could have been the legitimate fears of someone.

The new question is just bad because it's a totally different question!

The original question asks this:

  • Help me understand why this is offensive?

The new question is mostly heavy pandering. The new question asks this:

  • How do I not accidentally say something offensive?

Both questions are not great but the new question is awful and removes all intent of the original question.


lingerie–elevator question is exculisivly a gender issue question.

It is a perpetual struggle of females in academia to be taken seriously.

Lack of female moderators and female members of academia SE, made the question about something else. This, as I suppose, is coming from the male members. Most of the people here feel irresponsible to female struggle in academia, they fail to recognize assaults that are sex-based.


Why men cannot recognize their fault and appologize?

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    Poor questions and mismanagement are not the result of a lack of female moderators. Commented May 22, 2018 at 15:48
  • The question was made about something else because the original question was not a good fit, but the community thought there was a piece of the question that was/is a good fit. Apart from bringing it to the attention of the community and cleaning up comments, we didn't really moderate much. Finally we have a woman on the moderation team.
    – StrongBad
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 13:30
  • @StrongBad when willl be plural and not singular!
    – SSimon
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 14:49
  • @SSimon probably not for a long time since elections are not held on a regular basis and as far as I know no women ran in the last election. Then again, as far as I know we have elected every woman that has ever run. I am not really sure where this is going as clearly woman are underrepresented at academia.se.
    – StrongBad
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 15:07

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