Now that The code of conduct has been changed, I found myself wondering to what extent non/gendered pronouns are a concern for people on Academia.SE. Do we have any data/rough idea about how many users of this site state preferred pronouns?

(Maybe the percentage of such users will skyrocket with the new CoC, but that also might be interesting to know.)

The reason I ask is that I wonder how much of a concern pronoun usage is on our site. In the event we have no data, I would be happy to hear anecdotal evidence (preferably from current or former moderators) about to what extent gendered pronouns and more generally language is an issue for our users.

  • 3
    Note that this raw number may mean nothing: more than half of our users have 101 reputation or less, which is the amount that you get just by subscribing with the "has reputation on other SE sites" bonus. Essentially this means that they never made a post, or that made only posts with negative score. More interesting is "what percentage of the posts here was made by users with stated pronouns?" Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 6:37
  • 1
    Not a dupe, but linking an old, related, discussion for reference: academia.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/3484/…
    – Flyto
    Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 17:34

2 Answers 2


@Laurel's idea was excellent, but the specific query checks only for the three most common pronouns and gets a bunch of false positives. If you query specifically for "pronoun", it checks for neopronouns as well:

select aboutme, id as [User Link] from users 
where aboutme like '%pronoun%' 

From this, as of this writing one finds the following 46 results:

  • False matches, generally profiles talking about pronounciation: 7
  • He, she, they, or "don't care" preferences: 25
  • Preference for a neo-pronoun: 2: 1 ze/hir, 1 ne/nim/nir
  • People being obnoxious, mostly clearly because they are upset about the recent code of conduct changes: 10
    • "englishisnotaconlangyoudontgettoinventnewpronounsanymorethannewtenses"
    • "we" (evidence: post about CoC change)
    • "the one who respects LGBTQ++, lavander, pink, blue, green, and everybody else, but considers the new SE CoC rules on gender pronouns an absurd and harmful stupidity"
    • "His Most Eminent Gracious Majesty"
    • Spivak pronouns, but "I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter"
    • "His majesty, the infallible genius"
    • "–æ–Ω, –µ–≥–æ, –Ω–µ–≥–æ, –µ–º—É, –Ω–µ–º—É, –∏–º, –Ω–∏–º, –æ –Ω—ë–º"
    • "old fart"
    • "My third-person pronouns are I/me/my/mine. Use them or get banned, twansphobes."
    • "Voi use voi/void/voids/voids/voidself as pronouns" (evidence: comments about CoC change)
  • Confusing statements: 2
    • "Preferred pronouns: none. Please use alternative sentence structures to avoid gendered and gender neutral language when referring to me."
    • "Preferred pronoun: The gender-neutral "it". As I'm an alien and my race doesn't have any sexes ..."

Furthermore, of the obnoxious or confusing profile statements, precisely one has any significant activity on this site.

Bottom line: respectful pronoun use on Academia.SE should currently be easy.

  • 2
    Thanks for looking into this, and for giving a detailed breakdown of the types of professed preferred pronouns. BTW, I don't find the first of your two listed confusing statements confusing---while I of course don't know that user's motivations, I think it's an understandable point of view.
    – Kimball
    Commented Oct 13, 2019 at 20:29
  • @Kimball I think that what confuses me about the statement is how to refer somebody without either being gendered or gender neutral in the language that I use. That seems like a logical exclusion to me, so either I'm not understanding something or else it is a deliberately impossible request.
    – jakebeal
    Commented Oct 13, 2019 at 21:02
  • 6
    I understand that avoiding 3rd person pronouns may be inconvenient in some contexts, and more so for some people than others, but I personally do this often without much thought for the level of 3rd person user references I make on this site. Often names (e.g. user1234) and descriptors (e.g. the OP) suffice, and they can be supplemented with other relative references (e.g., that user, that person).
    – Kimball
    Commented Oct 13, 2019 at 22:25
  • That said, I completely agree with a widespread sentiment that SE could help with this a lot by more open discussion with users to find out how they are comfortable interacting with each other, and clarifying what is deemed to be acceptable and reasonable to a sufficiently large fraction of users. In particular, clear guides for how to interact with people with various preferences.
    – Kimball
    Commented Oct 13, 2019 at 22:28
  • Thanks for this. To avoid any doubt we should be clear that every single user deserves proper treatment, so this CoC policy is important even if only one person is affected. However, these numbers indicate that the specific scenario being hotly debated around SE is very hypothetical. And I think that partly explains why it is so hard for people to agree.
    – Thomas
    Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 4:50
  • FWIW, aboutme like '%pronoun[^c]%' should take care of most of the false positives related to pronunciation. Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 15:28

If the about me is the only thing we look at, then not very many (~64 although I’m not sure if any are false positives or if I’m missing anyone). Run (and feel free to modify) this query:

select aboutme, id as [User Link] from users 
where aboutme like '%she/%' or aboutme like '%her/%'
or aboutme like '%he/%' or aboutme like '%him/%' or aboutme like '%his/%'
or aboutme like '%they/%' or aboutme like '%them/%' or aboutme like '%their/%'

I’m sure some people mention their pronouns in their posts and comments, but it’s unlikely to be formatted as conveniently. And quite a few people people heavily imply what their pronouns are (e.g. by saying that they’re a woman).

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