Regarding the recent CoC changes on SE meta, I came across a post that argues gender has no place on SE - and I largely agree, yet this site is a little different because everything IS personal, and sex / gender can definitely play a role in how questions are answered (rightly so, in my opinion)

This comment raises an interesting point that would help make pronouns less relevant - phrasing questions just a little differently:

If you think about it, why would [gender] be relevant on IPS? The gender of the OP doesn't matter, even if the question is about gender. Consider the difference between "As a woman, how could I get X to happen?", and "How could a woman get X to happen?". They're both the same question, but the latter removes the irrelevant detail of the OP's gender.

Personally, I think this change would at the least reduce potential problems and at best help prevent them, yet I'm wondering if this is at conflict with the help centre, which states:

"To prevent your question from being flagged and possibly removed, avoid asking subjective questions where … you are asking an open-ended, hypothetical question: “What if ______ happened?”".

I suspect the above is focusing more on a question type than my language question, but would like to ask for clarification anyway

1 Answer 1


The reason we don't generally like hypothetical questions on IPS is because it's difficult to keep them from getting too broad.

The "don't ask" help page you were looking at does mention "You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face." This is explained a little more in the "What topics can I ask about here?" help page:

Questions must be specific enough to be answered

Because interpersonal interactions are very complex, we require that questions be specific - and preferably that they relate to a situation you are actually in.

Most purely hypothetical questions have too many unknown variables, so there are many possible solutions which would all need to be addressed in a good answer. This doesn't work well with the StackExchange goal of focused Q&A. Our most recent meta discussion about hypothetical questions lists some criteria to keep them focused:

Here are some restrictions I think could make a hypothetical question a good fit:

  • They should be held to the same standards as other questions, e.g. regarding detail.
  • It should be about a problem the OP is personally worried about having or likely to have.
  • They should be reasonably likely to happen, either in the nearby future to the asker or to many people over a longer time.

"How could a woman get X to happen?" sounds odd and impersonal, like it's only theoretical, and is likely to get close votes for that reason. If you would like to ask a question where gender is relevant, but without revealing your own gender identity - my suggestion is write as if you're asking about or on behalf of someone else. We've gotten "asking for a friend" questions before - that's totally fine, so long as you know enough about your friend's situation that you can provide any necessary details. If we changed all the instances of "my friend" to "I", it shouldn't make a difference - we can't know for sure if your "friend" is actually you, anyways! The important part is whether or not there's enough information to get good, reasonably-scoped answers.

The post quoted above gives another example of hypothetical questions that are okay: asking about situations that you think might plausibly happen in the future. For instance, we have questions like "I'm planning to do something, but I think my partner/friend/parents/etc. will be upset because (reasons), how can I handle the ensuing argument?" The reasons are really important here - questions that don't clearly explain why you anticipate problems, or what sort of problems you might face, may be closed as "unclear what you're asking", because we don't understand what the thing is that you're trying to avoid. (This is probably less relevant to gender-related questions, but I figured it was worth mentioning for completeness!)

  • 1
    Adding some links: a quote from help center: You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. As for hypothetical questions, most recent meta post on policy is here. As Em said, that means we hold hypothetical questions to the same standards as non-hypothetical ones, and require you to be able to provide enough detail :)
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 17:05

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .