Recently on another meta question an answer contained the following line.

Finally, combat is the typical focus of young male writers. Nothing against being young, male and a writer, there is just no need to push gender-specific tags on the rest of us.

I, along with several others (including the asker) in the comments took exception to this statement. The post current has 6 downvotes and no upvotes.

As I felt this statement was sexist, ageist and unnecessary to the point of their post I flagged it for moderator review. I didn't expect deletion just an edit to remove the lines and a warning comment. I could of course edit and remove the line myself by I felt it was something mods should be aware of.

I would also have accepted a warning comment along the lines of:

Be careful with stereotyping in your post. Writing.se is an inclusive site.

However, instead of removing the line or warning the user, my flag was declined as a moderate didn't see the issue. I would like an explanation.

I am a male writer in my early 20s. I feel statements such as this are equally as damaging and stereotyping as saying:

Romance is only for middle-aged women. Don't push your gender-specific tags on the rest of us.

Is the message from moderators really that this sort of attitude and comments perfectly acceptable on this stack?

  • Any reason you didn't just cut out the intermediary and post that warning comment yourself? See also: writing.stackexchange.com/help/declined-flags
    – Shog9
    Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 19:00
  • @Shog9 I did. I just felt that it was something that should be backed up by a moderator. Other users had already objected and I wanted someone to make it clear that sort of attitude isn't welcome here.
    – linksassin Mod
    Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 22:00
  • 2
    I also posted a comment on that thread. But I wouldn't advocate to have the offending line removed. It is true that writers of military action (which is not the same as combat) are more likely to be male (which is part of why Galastel's book should be great; it's from a less common perspective). (I don't know where the "young" comes from and it's probably wrong.) I found the pushing gender specific tags bit to be odd, and your romance example is spot on as a counterpoint.
    – Cyn
    Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 23:26
  • @Cyn the "don't push your gender-specific tags on us" is the bit I have the most problem with. That was the main part I wanted a mods input on. This question is merely asking for an explanation as to why they chose to do nothing. If the answer is "removing it wouldn't have done anything downvoting wouldn't" I can accept that. I just want to know why.
    – linksassin Mod
    Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 23:29
  • 1
    And that's fair. Which is why I put my interaction with the post in to a comment and not an answer.
    – Cyn
    Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 23:52
  • I'm closing this question because the question (why was a flag declined?) can only be answered by a moderator, it has been answered by a moderator, and the asker has accepted that answer. There's nothing more to do here. (Sorry about the "off-topic" designation; not my intent, but I can't override it either.) Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 3:10
  • @MonicaCellio The designation doesn't bother me. Thankyou for doing that.
    – linksassin Mod
    Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 3:13

3 Answers 3


I am the moderator who declined the flag in question.

First, please put yourself in the moderator's footwear of choice for a moment. We get all kinds of flags. Most justified, some not. Many that the community can handle on its own, some that it cannot. Some that the moderator might actually agree with, but disagree with the type of flag raised. Now, I'm not saying that flagging is a bad thing; I myself have on several occasions encouraged community flagging. Moderators are supposed to look at each flagged post and try to come to some reasonable conclusion about what to do with both the post and the flag.

It's also worth keeping in mind that, as a general rule of thumb, at least for me the bar is higher on Meta, simply because Meta is where we're supposed to hash things out and come to some sort of agreement, if not consensus, on issues where different community members have different opinions. We can't do that if moderators go around deleting things willy-nilly that we disagree with.

In this case, what I saw was a singular flag on a Meta answer, saying "rude or abusive" with no context, and looked at the post thus flagged. That post seemed to me to be a statement of opinion in support of an opinion about what the question was asking; which is pretty much what Meta answers are supposed to be. The fact that people disagree with this opinion is not a reason to delete it, and certainly not via a binding moderator deletion with no other community input; in fact, one of the canned flag decline reasons is flags should not be used to indicate technical inaccuracies, or an altogether wrong answer. That's rather what downvotes are for.

A very common reason to downvote an answer on Meta is to indicate disagreement with what's stated in the answer, or sometimes even just how it is stated. Judging by the votes on the answer in question so far, that's basically what the community has done here. Nothing really prevents another user from posting another answer, coming to the same conclusion by a different line of reasoning (this is a slight difference from the main site, where new answers should add something relevant but not previously said, which isn't quite the same thing).

In the end, this is probably one of those cases where additional context might have tipped the scale. I'm not saying that a more descriptive flag would have made me delete the post by moderator fiat; it almost certainly wouldn't have. I'm not even saying that a more descriptive flag would necessarily have changed the outcome at all. However, a more descriptive flag could have drawn at least my attention more immediately to the final paragraph of the answer.

In general, the easier you (a non-specific "you") make the moderator's task of reviewing the flag, the more likely you are to get an outcome you're happy with.

  • Thankyou for the answer. I can understand that. I'll try to use custom flags more often in the future. One question, is deletion the only option after accepting a flag? Or can you mark it as helpful but choose to leave a comment instead?
    – linksassin Mod
    Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 7:56
  • 2
    @linksassin Exactly what counts as helpful dismissal depends on the type of flag raised. For "rude and abusive" flags specifically, I am always extra careful because of the severe penalties involved in having such a flag validated against one's profile. (For one thing, the -100 rep ding.)
    – user
    Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 8:02
  • Oh. Wow I wasn't aware of that. I'll keep that in mind in the future. Thankyou for explaining.
    – linksassin Mod
    Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 8:18
  • @linksassin writing.stackexchange.com/help/privileges/flag-posts
    – user
    Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 8:21
  • Honestly, my fault, I should have been less abrupt in my argument.
    – NofP
    Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 19:40

I certainly disagreed with that post, I downvoted it and I expressed my disagreement in three comments. However, I do not think deleting the "offending" lines is the right way to go.

Do we delete any opinion we disagree with? Forbid any thought we do not like? That is, I believe, a dangerous path. An important saying is attributed to Voltaire: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." I think we should remember it a bit more, before flagging thoughts and calling for their deletion. Surely there are other ways we can express our disapproval? Surely we, writers, can use words to fight our wars, rather than the sword of deletion?

(The above statement does not apply to obvious deliberately-offensive trolls. Those don't express an opinion - they deliberately attempt to cause harm.)

Of course, I am no moderator, I can't answer about what their motivation was. But this is rather too long for a comment.

  • I did already comment on the post. However I don't think it was likely to get much response after your attempts. I would have been fine with a comment from a mod along the lines of "be careful assigning stereotypes to genre, writing.se is an inclusive site." I just don't want to think that that sort of opinion is allowed to be openly expressed without repercussions.
    – linksassin Mod
    Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 0:15
  • 1
    @linksassin That's exactly it - to me, writing.se being an inclusive site means it is also inclusive of opinions I disagree with. And it got its repercussions - it got piled in downvotes, expressing the strong disapproval of peers. What more is required? I think the person got the message. Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 0:27
  • 2
    That's a pretty valid point. Perhaps I'm overreacting but since it was a meta post the votes don't matter. To me 'inclusive' doesn't mean 'tolerant of offensive comments'. By that logic I could say "women should only write romance" and because its a different opinion I should be allowed to express it.
    – linksassin Mod
    Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 0:34
  • 1
    TBH I think the main reason the situation diffused was that attacking your position based on your gender, and being wrong about it, significantly weakened their position. That said. The situation was in fact diffused. I'm not sure it needs dragged out any further.
    – Summer
    Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 2:30
  • 1
    @bruglesco I deliberately did not include links to the answer in this question. I'm asking for a response from the mod who handled the flag not trying to drag this out. Monica has since commented to the effect I wanted. If that had been the initial response I wouldn't have asked this.
    – linksassin Mod
    Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 2:58
  • 2
    @linksassin I didn't mean to sound as dismissive as I did. My point was that it is easy to overlook that what was said was problematic because it was so glaringly wrong. That doesn't make it okay.
    – Summer
    Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 2:14
  • @bruglesco Ah, in that case I agree with you. They were both wrong and rude hence why there is so many downvotes. I just feel that a mod could have prevented it with an early response. Not that the poster has come back to reply to the comments anyway.
    – linksassin Mod
    Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 2:16

What's the issue? So the answer was wrong. That is why you downvote the answer, say "Hey, I don't think you're considering these factors when answering," and then move on until the answer-giver replies to you.

That said, while I am not about to agree or disagree with the quoted text, I will ask what did they say that is offending? They aren't saying all men write about combat. They didn't say all young people do either. They didn't even say all young men do so. They said that topic (combat) is a typical focus of young, male writers. (For clarity, it reads more like they're noting a strong correlation, not necessarily a causation.)

Now, what's the distinction? Well, read the word choice.

Finally, combat is the typical focus of young male writers.

First, the wording does not exclude older writers nor does it exclude female writers. It doesn't even exclude young male writers from writing about other topics, as seen by the word "typical". The worst thing it does is it purports that young male writers will write about combat more frequently than other genres and it implies that writers in other demographics (whether older male writers or female writers of any age) wouldn't be so quick to write about combat.

Is this sexist? Maybe it shows a bit of the author of the answer's bias in regards to what people tend to write, sure... but the comment itself is presumptuous and lacks citation; not necessarily sexist. If it was based on data, then the same statement wouldn't be able to be seen as sexist at all since it's supported by data. Who knows, the claimed statement may or may not actually be correct. (I don't think it's right, but it could very well be correct. We just may never know since the user didn't provide citations to support their claim.) The person leaves enough elbow-room for exceptions, though, and while it may still be wrong, it doesn't claim to be exact, nor does it claim "Only young male writers can write about combat" or "Young male writers can only write about combat".

Personally, I think the quoted text isn't unfounded, I just think it lacks the support to push so assuredly. Don't get me wrong, even if correct, it is still wrong for a few reasons. The problem with it is the fact that "combat" is such a wide term that it can include romance stories like Inuyasha which include combat for the sake of combat (written by a woman) and it can include battle shounen like One Piece (which is being written by a 44 year old man... not old, but not young either). It can also include a slice of life series where the main character gets physically bullied and into fights. One-off instances are still combat. Then you have Detective Conan, a Mystery Thriller series that includes combat scenes as well, which was written by, at the series's start, a 30 year old man. Again, not young nor old. Now, if the quoted text backed up its claims with citations or narrowed down what it meant by combat: maybe it would be correct. It's just, right now, really wrong due to the lack of provided-reasoning and the moral implications of wording it in a way where correlation and causation can be potentially muddied.

Now, the question is this: Should a mod erase that text? No. Let the answer receive punishment by going through downvote hell. The answer isn't being supported, meaning the inferred bigotry isn't being praised. He didn't call anyone a slur, nor did he try to say it was a requirement for that to always and only be the case. No harm is being done, so just voice objections. Case closed.

  • xD I wasn't expecting a downvote removal, but thanks. xD And yeah, I have no problem with that. Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 3:39
  • 1
    Well I didn't vote it up because it wasn't as useful as the mods reasoning. But I usually reserve downvotes for things that are blatantly wrong, after adjustment this no longer is.
    – linksassin Mod
    Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 3:41

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