I asked a question looking for resources on a specific case of gendered language: using the generic masculine for female individuals in different sentence constructs. A moderator closed this question because he believes it will lead to discussion and opinion based answers. Since I did not solicit opinions, he used the "duplicate" close reason with a somewhat related question about the idiom "ich gehe zum Arzt".

Under what circumstances can I use the generic masculine job title for a woman

Since this is clearly not a duplicate, I assume the reason he gave in comments, i.e. that it would generate a familiar discussion, is the actual close reason.

It is true that some comments and answer attempts have expressed opinions on gendered language in general and not on the question, but a good answer is clearly possible.

Should we have a policy to close any question about gendered language at all, because it attracts opinionated answers, even if the question is clearly answerable? If not, could we reopen my question?

  • 1
    I am happy to hear the community's opinion on this.
    – Takkat
    Commented Mar 6, 2018 at 10:10

3 Answers 3

  • While you explicitly try to solicit objective answers in most of your subquestions, others (“if it's just a perfectly acceptable stylistic choice”) also attract opinionated answers. This is not exactly your fault, as avoiding this requires knowing the intricacies of this problem to an extent where you probably wouldn’t need to ask questions about it anymore. Still, this does justify closing a question, since closing avoids opinionated answers.

    Now you may say that if the some answers are the problem, we should delete them instead of closing your question. However, this requires a clear policy as to what answers should be deleted under such circumstances, which is something that we do not have yet. I asked for and made a suggestion for a policy and hopefully we can reach consensus on this soon.

  • Another problem with your question is that if we ban opinionated answers, there is not much to answer beyond: “no, there is no consensus”. While this is a legitimate answer on Stack Exchange, this is pretty much what an answer to the former duplicate question already says (and that’s the main criterion for duplicates on Stack Exchange: identical answers). One conceivable alternative would be to describe all paradigms for gender in the German language, but arguably there are as many as speakers of the German language.

To address this, I suggest that you do the following:

  • Edit your question to make it even more clear what kind of answers you are looking for, and in particular that you do not care about answers that tell you what paradigm is the best, what you should do, etc. (Note that your question will be locked for another few hours, but you can prepare an edit now.)

  • Remove subquestions that can only be answered with “no, there is no consensus” or similar, i.e., question that are already addressed by the former duplicate. Alternatively, make more clear why the answers to the former duplicate does not help you (focus on the answers, not the question). The same applies to other suggested duplicates.


That specific question has, with the given constraint the questioner explicitly didn't want an opinionated answer, only the possibility of a non-answer in my opinion (because any possible answer will be opinionated). I have tried to cover that in my answer, think I succeeded quite well and received opinionated comments - Not much of a progress. The problem with this sort of question is that they don't have one single, unbiasedly "correct" answer other than "grammatically correct, but will raise opinions" and so don't fit into the SE concept.

  • Yeah - your answer showed nicely why this sort of questions are not a good fit for a Q&A format. However as Christian said - language always is opinion based. So what we would need is some agreement on how much opinion we tolerate and a much clearer guide when to close such an opinion based question.
    – Takkat
    Commented Mar 6, 2018 at 15:03

In a comment I pointed to several related questions that also discussed the issues we have with using generic masculine forms when adressing a woman. At the time then the answers on your question and the votes they had indicated that again we will end in an (unsolvable) discussion on gender-neutral language. Therefore I was happy to read your comment:

@Takkat Only this one covers part of what I'm looking for: german.stackexchange.com/questions/18744/… , the other questions are only related in that they are also about gendered nouns.

This made me believe that this question answers you concern and I closed your question as a dupe to the other one. Sorry to hear that this was not the case.

We will not be able to solve the general issue people have with gender-neutrality, neither with answers to your question nor with votes on them. Please understand that for this reason, and to avoid an additional discussion on this topic, we had to close your question a primarily opinion based instead.

Just to have said this as it may not be clear to everybody: a closed question will not be removed if is was upvoted or has upvoted answers. Closing will also not affect the reputation in any way. Votes on closed questions will still count. We can even earn badges from a closed question. In your case it is just to say that we prefer to not have any additional answers (you already have a good one!). In the case of closing for being primarily opinion based it is also a measure against provocative additional answers that may not only lead to unsolvable debates but also lead to considerable clutter when people feel like having to add their own Senf even years later.

  • Ah I see. Personally I don't care much about what is being written here or not. I'm here to watch on this Q & A site's standards and to keep people from rude behaviour. Opinion based questions can be much better answered in a forum or in German Language Chat but they don't fit well to this site's design where a single best answer evolves by voting. Sadly voting will not lead to good results on an opinion based question (proof: votes on the answers you got). And, if it were for the grammar only you probably would not have needed to ask it.
    – Takkat
    Commented Mar 6, 2018 at 11:29
  • So, if the community decides to reopen that is fine with me but I might not be too happy to do the clean-up later.
    – Takkat
    Commented Mar 6, 2018 at 11:31

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