It's a very minor case which prompted my writing this question, but it's one that is likely to come up in the future. I'm sure it's come up in the past as well, but I didn't see any existing threads on it and the effective decision on the question in question made me curious about how we're going to handle things going forward, and where the line is.
So that there is no confusion, I want to say upfront:
- I believe that this is a valuable question
- I 100% agree that manspreading exists. While many people take up more than their share of space on public transit, in my observation it does seem much more common for men to do so in the manner described in the question
My concern with the question is that it seems to be written to a standard that I think we're unlikely to use in the future.
The question itself describes a pretty common situation, but seems to be a bit off in the gender angle. The question describes people, in general, but the activity being asked about is clearly scoped for men only. Only men can manspread, after all. So this isn't a general strangers-on-public-transit question, it's specific to men.
That's sensible-- it's a problem that does seem to have a gendered component, and strategies to deal with the general case problem of spreading might differ if talking to a man or a woman anyhow.
My concern is around the word manspreading. It's a marginally loaded term, and I don't really see what it adds to the question. Swap out manspreading with taking up too much room or spreading out (or similar) in the question-- no content relevant to the question is lost, since men are referenced throughout. The only function of manspreading that I perceive is to tie this behavior to men's behavior generally. Again, not a huge deal as this is legitimately an issue with a gender component, and the asker is looking for solutions when dealing with men, specifically. The word may not be required to talk about the problem, but it fits.
But there are going to be other cases where the word might be considered less... anodyne, but the complaints raised about them will be the same. If a user posts a question about a woman complaining, I really doubt that we'd let a word like "b**ching" stand, and would demand that the question be rephrased or closed. Other words to describe the situation exist, and that particular one offers nothing beyond them except some gendered scorn. I certainly hope we wouldn't allow a racial epithet in a question, even if its meaning is understood and is congruent with what the question is asking.
So what would we say to a user posting a question containing words like that? The definitions are commonly accepted, so they aren't "wrong" words for the intended meaning. And whether or not they are intended to offend, the asker presumably felt that there was some nuance or other reason to use that word in particular, rather than another. In chat about this post, the asker mentioned that manspreading is a correct word for what they wanted to express and that they had no interest in changing it to avoid "male tear".
The effective conclusion I draw from all of this, in sum, is that the word manspread is technically accurate for what the asker wants to convey, and that other users being offended by the term is not a reason to change it. But that seems to me to be similar to reasons not to use words like the examples described above, and I would absolutely expect removing those words to not be optional.
Since we all work together to moderate the site (if to varying degrees), what standards should we be applying to words which attach undesirable behavior to broader groups, offend some who identify with those groups, and are not necessary to convey the problem being asked about?
I'm not looking to get into a discussion about what makes a word a "bad word" here, or anything similar. I'm asking about what practical guidelines we, as a community, want to apply when it comes to suggesting (versus requiring) that certain words be changed or softened in a question.
Update, which may or may not affect answers:
The OP of the linked question indicated in chat that they did not see other users being offended by the word as a valid reason to change it. In such a case, how do we want to handle mods and/or high rep users making edits over the objections of askers in situations like these?