men are hitting on my scheduling bot because it has a woman’s name

A reader writes:

I have sort of a strange situation. I provide consulting services for (mostly) small business owners. This generally involves scheduling some meetings, and I have an email “Personal Assistant” bot that does this for me. It has a female name (which was the default), and does not announce that it is a bot (though I don’t think it’s hard to tell). It gives a standard salutation and signs off with “Thank you, <bot name>.” All it does is schedule meetings, and it’s not nearly to the level of an AI chat bot or anything. Any parts of an email that it receives that don’t seem related to scheduling just get ignored by the program. The emails show up in my inbox and I review them to make sure everything got added to my calendar correctly.

However, this complete lack of personal-type interaction has not stopped several of the men (not usually the actual owners of the client businesses) it is scheduling appointments with from asking it out on dates. Sometimes this happens within the same emails that were used to schedule meetings, and once a man sent an after-hours email from his personal address (which is somehow both creepier and also better work/life boundaries? I don’t know!). So far I have just ignored these incidents and gone on with the professional relationship like nothing happened.

Obviously, this would be inappropriate behavior if it was happening to an actual human assistant, and I would deal with it. However, since it’s happening to a bot, what am I supposed to do? Obviously the bot doesn’t have opinions about the issue, but if one of my employees was asking out women after a very basic scheduling email with absolutely no personal content, I’d probably want to know about it so I could address it, because it’s probably happening to real human assistants as well. What are your thoughts?

OMG, what?!

I am laughing but it might turn into sobs at any moment.

If anyone ever doubted that some men will take any opportunity to ask out a female-appearing person, absent any signs of her personality or any signs of interest from her … and in this case absent any clues about her whatsoever other than that her name signals she is equipped with female genitalia … here you go.

Men, heal thyselves.

As for what to do … if you just want it to stop, the easiest answer is to change the name to a very male-sounding one. I will personally pay you thousands of dollars if changing the bot’s name to Wayne doesn’t put an immediate end to this.

Alternately, though, you could use these emails as a useful early character indicator about these guys. If the men responding were your actual clients, it would definitely be useful background info that should factor into how you see them — but the fact that they’re usually not your clients makes that idea less helpful. A different option is to reply as yourself once the messages reach you (“FYI, Ron, this was a scheduling bot, not an actual woman — please reconsider your life choices”).

But you’re absolutely right when you say, “If one of my employees was asking out women after a very basic scheduling email with absolutely no personal content, I’d probably want to know about it so I could address it.” And given that, I do think there’s room to flag it to your client — like forwarding the email with, “This is awkward, but I’d want to know if one of my employees were asking out women after a very basic scheduling email so I’m passing on the below to you. In this case, ‘Emily’ is a scheduling bot — making this all the odder — but seems like a flag it may be happening to actual human assistants as well.” (Also, I think from your email that you’re a man, and there can be be particular power in men calling this stuff out.)

All that said, I admit I am hoping for an alternate version of this story where it turns out the romance-attempter is a bot himself, recognizes a kindred soul in “Emily,” and what you are witnessing is bot-on-bot love, in which case you can and should simply stand back and watch what unfolds.

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{ 1,074 comments… read them below }

    1. A Girl Named Fred*

      Agreed. This is both so out of left field and so incredibly unsurprising that I also can’t decide whether to laugh or cry (and that’s coming from someone who, not even an hour ago, had a man tell me, “See, this is why men like smart women,” on the phone after I answered a very simple question for him in my pleasant-customer-service voice. Maybe I should actually change my name to Fred and see if that helps!)

      1. Dauntless*

        “I’m in love with a girl named Fred! My reasons must be clear: When she shows you all how strong she is you’ll stand right up and cheer!”
        -Once Upon a Mattress

        1. St. Mary’s Institute for Historical Research*

          I have literally never met anyone else who knows this show and I love you so much for referencing it!!!

            1. Transmascjourno*

              Popping in to brag that I played Fred in my high school production of OUAM and that the show is SO UNDERRATED.

          1. Nightengale*

            My username, Nightengale, comes from playing the Nightingale of Samarkand in 6th grade (and then mispelling the name of my own character. . . )

          2. SharonE*

            Speaking of amazing references, your handle is awesome. I hope you are keeping the historians under control, somehow.

          3. AnonEMoose*

            If you can access Disney+, they at least used to have a version that had Carol Burnett as the Queen, and it’s amazing.

            1. kicking-k*

              Ooh, I need to see that. My brother and sister were in it, years ago, and I couldn’t see it because I was sitting exams at university. So I heard all about it, but have still never seen it!

        2. Sociology Rocks!*

          Such a good musical, excellent reference, that’s exactly what popped into my head too!!

        3. just here for the scripts*

          My favorite musical—and they’re finally doing a revival in NYC (albeit abbreviated time frame as it is City Center Encores! But they did double the length of the run from 1 week to 2 weeks). Depending on the staging/backing it might—like their recent Into the Woods production—go to b’way by the fall.

      2. Sloanicota*

        It reminds me of various wildlife control schemes where fake roughly-female-shaped items are used to entrap males, and everyone thinks, “what a stupid duck” or whatever …

            1. kendall^2*

              FYI, you know that there are now at least two other novels in that universe, following the Witness for the Dead?

              1. Warrior Princess Cena*

                I do :) I haven’t had a chance to read them yet but I think I will in the upcoming weeks, so I’m refreshing my memory on the universe.

              1. Minimal Pear*

                Dear Alison,
                Due to a number of unexpected departures in the company I’ve become the CEO. I’m facing some resistance in my new role; before this, I was a fairly unimportant employee, and barely anyone knew me. I’m also a member of a minority group…

        1. Worldwalker*

          Many species of orchids have roughly-female-shaped flowers that trick male insects into pollinating them while they’re trying to mate with a flower.

      3. Miss Kitty*

        OMG I have to change my name to “Mark” when I submit IT support tickets or post to tech forums. It’s ridiculous that I can’t just be myself doing my own dang job. I’ve been having to do this since the early 2000s when I started my career, and I’m sad that 20 years later it’s still a thing I have to deal with.

        1. Queenie*

          Yep. My best friend had to sign with just her initials because she was in a very heavily male industry and was outright ignored as Amy. Unfortunately, it also meant dealing with some backlash when one of them finally bothered to *call* her instead of just emailing.

        2. kicking-k*

          Yep. In the days of Livejournal, I used the same username I do now, and had a neutral-looking avatar (white text on a black background). I am a cis woman. Occasionally I would be assumed to be a man, presumably because I wasn’t saying anything very obviously gendered. It was instructive to see how people responded to a correction.

          This never happened in the “long hair” or fibre arts groups, in which the default assumption (not always correct either) was that most people were women, unless otherwise stated.

        3. L'étrangère*

          About 20 years ago I read a study on how much easier life was online for male-named persons, and I thought “how ridiculous!”. This was after a couple decades in tech mind you, I should really have known better. So I gave George a try. Well you see where this is going.. I’m happy to report zero dickpics but lots of prompt polite responses and rational discussions on any tech forum. I’m still torn about contributing to the invisibility of women in tech, but my personal comfort has won out so far

      4. Anonymous Scientist*

        I am so very unsurprised as well.

        Last week a man asked me, “Where were all the girls like you back when I was in school?”

        A) Not a girl
        B) We have always been there, but we didn’t have the same opportunities you did.
        C) Ewww.

        1. Reluctant Mezzo*

          Are you Janet? (cf The Good Place, where Janet always used to tell Jason ‘not a girl’).

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      This is one of those things that could’ve been a prophetic Onion headline or a Simpson’s episode 5-10 years ago

      1. Nobby Nobbs*

        I’m still not over the fact that Asimov called Alexa/Siri, or at least the “give your virtual assistant a female name to make it less threatening to male customers” aspect.

        1. MusicWithRocksIn*

          Personally, I like my GPS to be a man with a British accent so I can pretend it’s J.A.R.V.I.S.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Ha, that’s awesome.

            I was using mine the other day and it inexplicably changed from an American female voice to a British female voice and back again. :\

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              My google maps navigation voice took a brief turn through Barbie last summer. It was disturbing.

            2. Pixel*

              My Google voice is set to British Female but sometimes when I’m using the GPS, it switches to an American voice and it drives me nuts. Also we mock the Google voice’s British pronunciation of “left,” but that’s neither here nor there. What bugs me is that to use the Garmin “smart directions” you have to go with a female voice. I’ve considered getting a TomTom

              1. Pixel*


                I considered getting a TomTom to have the KITT voice, but it looks like they don’t make handheld satnav anymore. Sadness!

          2. Jasmine*

            I think it is hysterical that men HATE asking for directions but have GPS with female voices to give them step by step directions!

        2. kicking-k*

          Neither am I – and at least they discussed the problematic nature of the JN series robots in the story!

          That said, if we are having voiced robots/assistants, I don’t like the idea of them all having identifiably male voices either. I know you can change the voice, but people don’t often seem to (although I hear male Australian Siri has a following). To add a complication, I think it’s quite hard to find a voice that most people won’t identify as belonging to one binary or other, regardless of the intentions.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      Right? I’m sitting here staring at my computer because I just can’t decide how to respond.

    4. OnyxChimney*

      I find it very surprising. I have a stereotypical woman’s name, that was even a popular character name on a steamy TV show, and have never been asked out site unseen just based on my name. Not even during the height of the shows popularity.

      The fact this has happened multiple times is so strange to me!

      1. Beth*

        It does make me wonder what field they are in, but knowing how many friends have been asked out after a simple question at the library reference desk I’m not surprised.

        1. Totally Minnie*

          Former library worker here, and yes. The number of men who would ask a simple question and get a polite answer and then segue straight into “do you have a boyfriend/when do you get off shift?” was high enough that we made up a hand signal so other staff could come and interrupt.

        2. Tattoo'd Librarian*

          I once had a guy say something like “I make music and dance, I’d love to sing and dance for you sometime.” but the absolute worst one was when someone called during my late night at the desk and wanted me to look up information and then recite it to him so he could write it down (his story was that his computer had just died and he just needed these few things for his paper). However it became quite clear that he was just using my voice to pleasure himself and I quickly hung up the phone once I realized.

          Some people are just disgusting.

          1. Princess Sparklepony*

            Had that happen when I worked retail in a handbag department. It’s a very weird world out there.

          2. Lisa L*

            Oh my, same! Was it the Scooby-doo guy? About a decade ago my library system had a serial caller who would ask us to look up the Scooby-doo theme song lyrics and recite them. And they were apparently quite stimulating for him ;) I had the same call at different branches and told him I had already taken one of his calls, spoke with co-workers and found that they had gotten calls. One librarian with a background in theatre sang the lyrics enthusiastically and was kind of horrified later when she found out what was going on. I mentioned it in an online game I was playing and discovered another library worker in the same province, was getting the calls too. I guess he had a good long-distance plan…

          3. Wilma Jenkins-Leedes*

            Joe Pesci! I worked reception for a women’s clinic roughly one thousand years ago, and we had this guy who liked to call up and ask us lots of questions about a particular brand of personal lubricant. Never any other type of personal lubricant; only that one. His voice–accent, pitch, everything–was exactly Joe Pesci’s. And it was clear he already knew all there is to know about the product he was asking about, was a brand loyalist, and in fact was employing his favorite product in real time, even as he asked his endless questions about it! We had an office intercom so if one of us was on a coffee break and Joe Pesci called, the on duty one would hit mute on the phone and yell “Pesci!” into the intercom so that the other one could pick up the extension and listen in. If it was a slow day at the clinic, we’d keep him on the line until we sensed he was about to achieve an Astr0glide-related goal and quickly hang up. We also had an intercom code for when the insanely cute UPS guy came in to make a delivery. That job was a blast.

          4. badsneakers*

            The library where I work had a problem with obscene phone calls until it blocked all anonymous phone numbers (you can get around that by hitting *82 so your phone number is visible). Honestly, the first time I got one I burst out laughing. Hope that ruined somebody’s day.

            1. SeluciaMD*

              That is, like, an extra layer of absolutely awful. I’m so sorry. WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE.

              (And by people, I mean men. It’s creepy men that do this.)

      2. MigraineMonth*

        I’m betting that the stereotypes around personal assistants/secretaries makes a difference in this situation.

        Because secretaries are always friendly young women whose greatest talent is looking pretty, right? /s

        1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Wonan*

          I think you’re on to something. I’ve never gotten an email like that, but I’ve spent the better part of my career in finance or finance adjacent roles. And we all know that women in finance wear glasses and glasses = ugly. /s

          1. Windaria*

            Noooo…they are only ugly until they get off work, then they do the magic hair bun release, take off their glasses and BOOM, they are bombshell!

            1. Totally Minnie*

              *cue Sixpence None the Richer as the formerly dowdy finance woman comes down the stairs looking hot*

                1. Pat*

                  and because she actually wears those glasses for a reason, but hey that’s not important when there’s men to be hot for.

        2. boof*

          I definitely got randomly asked out a lot more when I was a late teen/ young 20 year old, particularly when I was at the reception desk trying to be helpful to everyone.
          Not so much now that I’m a 40 year old physician XD

        3. Nicole Maria*

          Obviously this is just my experience, and I’ve never been a secretary/personal assistant but I’ve worked as a receptionist/front desk staff for quite a while and have never been hit on at work!

          1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            ESL teacher for adults in professional settings and I got hit on all the time, not just by men.

            1. Nicole Maria*

              That seems to be fairly normal, the point of my comment was that while it is very common, it doesn’t happen to all women (or all entities that have feminine names)

      3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I was playing Words with Friends. I signed in at Aunt Ellen, because I’ve been an aunt for 45 years, since I was ten, so there you go.
        First day,
        “Hello, you have a lovely name what does it mean? I am (stationed overseas, on a mid ocean drilling rig, in a lighthouse in New England). My wife/daughter died. I am raising my kid/grandkid. Please buy me ITunes cards so we can play.”
        My female friend, AJH751 did not.
        Me: change your user name.
        Friend: ok
        typing “Mary123”
        Ping. Hello, Mary.
        she had five in two hours.
        I use a boy name on Reddit (joined three years ago) but a female presenting Avatar. Invited to a chat two days ago with someone.
        person: Hi.
        me: hi.
        person: where do you live?
        me: US
        person: Cool. What is your name?
        Me: where do you live?
        haven’t heard back.

        1. OnyxChimney*

          Oh yeah videogames definitely has this problem. If your avatar is female presenting you get harassed. I’m not surprised that extends to a fine name in non avatar.

          You make a good point. I wonder if this is a male dominated industry like engineering or programming? I’ve seen men have this way in this spaces. I assume for the same reason they do in video games. Because “women don’t exist in [insert place they’ve always existed] therefore I better shoot my shit/put her in her place or whatever their warped thinking is.

          1. Vio*

            I’ve known many female gamers who prefer to use male characters for exactly that reason and who are reluctant to speak on voicechat (although my guild leader in WoW is female so hearing her and a few other women speak often helps the newer members/guests to get confident). I also noticed in the early days of WoW that I often got a friendlier group on my female characters than the males despite making no attempt to seem female myself.
            I have known quite a few couples who’ve met over gaming but I’m sceptical that any of them began with somebody desperately seeking anything vaguely resembling a female willing to tolerate communication. I imagine their thinking is something along the lines of “if I maximise how many women I interact with every day then my chances of getting a shag go up” instead of “if I treat the women I interact with like human beings then over time a friendship or relationship may develop”.

          2. LunaLena*

            As a long-time gamer, yes 100%. I have definitely gotten a variety of harassment over the years, ranging from the usual “are you single” to persistent friend requests to name-calling and threats simply for daring to be female (the source of the latter is often other women as well as men). I’ve had men beg me for photos and social media connections, or tell me things like “I bet you’re gorgeous” simply based on my avatar icon, which puzzles me because it happens to be a well-known game character so it’s very obviously not actually me. Strangely enough, none of this happens when I play using my husband’s profile instead.

            So while it is certainly hilarious that men are trying to hit on a female-presenting virtual assistant, I can’t say it’s terribly surprising. I re-read the Discworld novel Making Money recently, which features a golem who decides she is female and wears a dress, and now I wonder how many passes Gladys would have to fend off from hopeful suitors.

          3. Le Sigh*

            Yea, having a female-sounding name as a handle (but no avatar) in a group chat program (where the other chatters had male or obviously fake handles) was all it took to have multiple randos jump in with d*** pics and and very charming comments about what they’d like to do to me.

          4. Nicole Maria*

            Thank you for saying “harassed” instead of hit on, a lot of us when we get attention from men it’s not of the complimentary variety (ie. getting “cow-called” instead of cat-called)

            1. kicking-k*

              Yup. I’ve rarely been flirted with or asked out, even when I was young. I have received unwelcome attention from men, though.

          5. tangerineRose*

            I’ve worked on software development for over 20 years, and a lot of the male programmers I’ve worked with have been perfectly decent. On the other hand, I think the company I work for might not put up with some kinds of things.

          6. Lue*

            Which is really odd, because you’re looking at a character for hours on end.

            Isn’t it gay to stare at a man’s butt?

          7. Sleeve McQueen*

            Maybe this will change slowly – my son plays as female characters in Fortnite because they are physically a smaller target, which gives him an advantage. Maybe they’ll have to stop assuming eventually even if it’s not for the right reason (they keep hitting on other dudes).

            1. Laura*

              I’m less optimistic about that. My friends (who play video games — I don’t) have been playing genders all over the possible options for 30 years or so, and the pattern holds that female names/avatars are harrassed and male aren’t.

          8. BongoFury*

            My husband always has a female character in video games. He says it’s because it cracks him up how many young men try to hit on a 45 year old mechanic with a beer belly. He always strings them along until they ask for a photo and he sends one of his favorites when he had a “wild man” beard, gray hair and all. Shockingly it ends quickly after that :)

            1. tangerineRose*

              Once a scammer called me and asked if I had a computer. When I paused, he asked to speak to my husband.

              1. Reluctant Mezzo*

                I once got the ‘we have video of you doing Naughty Things’, and when I replied telling them my husband would gladly offer money for a high-quality copy. they disappeared.

          1. Laura*

            Be it grift or “romance”, they are spammers who throw out a million lines in the hope that they’ll catch a handful of fish.

        2. Dragon_Dreamer*

          I once passed a group of guys lounging around a landmark in my favorite MMO, while on on of my female mains. They started catcalling me in zone and local chat. So I replied in zone chat, “The player is male and gay, go away!” Then I continued with my in-game tasks.

          Cue a literal half hour lecture in zonechat, local, and private message about how being gay was evil, that I was leading “honest men” on, etc.

          I didn’t block them because I was sending the entire chat to a GM. The idiots all got themselves a ban over it. This all happened in a superhero game, too!

          1. Teapot, Groomer of Llamas*

            Is this an appropriate place for a “Not all heroes wear capes” comment?

              1. Mister_L*

                On rereading that I realized I was unclear.
                I meant that the characters of the guys were probably wearing capes.

          2. Meri*

            Was it City of Heroes? My husband got hit on so often when he played his female character, and then accused of lying when he said he was male.

            1. Enai*

              This is a fascinating reversal of the “every user with a female name or avatar is a GIRL (guy in real life)” prejudice, if equally infuriating. As with the letter, I’m unsure whether i ought to laugh or cry.

              1. Dragon_Dreamer*

                The Internet! Where the men are men, the women are men, and the children are FBI agents or 14 year old boys.

        3. linger*

          I’ve used my current username online for more than 30 years, starting with a student bulletin board service, where I moderated the Linguistics discussion board and got hit on by a number of male students who reasoned that most linguistics students were female. The fact that I also moderated the Chemistry discussion board did not register in this calculation.
          (I chose the name for several reasons: referencing my field of study, but also simultaneously an invitation for others to join a discussion and a reminder to myself to pause and edit before posting. And, deliberately, ungendered so as not to perpetuate stereotypes or exclude participants either way.)

        4. goddessoftransitory*

          I don’t know what’s worse–demanding dates or demanding you buy things for complete strangers.

      4. Nicole Maria*

        I’m pretty surprised as well, my name is Nicole and I’ve worked as a receptionist before (and I still currently am an office manager where I’m scheduling clients at times) and I’ve never been hit on at work on my life, even when I was younger, and I doubt it ever will happen given my current age (34) and demeanor (tired of life) haha

        1. Chick-n-Boots*

          I think the industry piece is part of it, but also how much of a “boys club” is your particular business/office known to be? For example, I was an admin and then a paralegal at two different but similar law firms in the same city. Both were big offices of international firms and ran in similar circles, did similar work and had similar clients. However, one was far more male power heavy at the top and they maintained a very old school, gendered kind of culture in the office around the female support staff. It was….not cool. At that job I got hit on constantly – didn’t matter what I wore or if they even ever saw me frankly. Got hit on by clients. The FedEx guy. The dude that filled the vending machines. Janitorial staff. Attorneys. Mailroom guys. It was just such a bad, bad environment and somehow it was like all the guys just ……sensed the vibe or something? I don’t know.

          We moved our (all woman) practice to the other firm a few blocks across town and it was like night and day. More diverse staff. More female leadership. More HR guardrails. More support. Healthier office culture. Never got hit on/harassed there, even once. I had a few of the older male clients be patronizing (that seemed universal among some of the old, big money crowd) but none were ever inappropriate. But this was a firm that had it’s s!*t together, treated all staff with dignity and respect, and didn’t tolerate bad behavior and I swear, it was like you could just feel it in the air.

          Weird now how different those two offices were looking back on it now.

      5. Jules the 3rd*

        Phone tech support in the 90s, got asked out multiple times. The sales team had the same experience.

    5. Cat Tree*

      This is why I was sooo glad when I got old and fat, because I became invisible in public. I can just go about my day in public, get my errands done, and I don’t have to worry about doing the delicate tap-dance of rejecting a man in a way that is safe for me when I don’t know how he will react.

      1. Stay-at-homesteader*

        Becoming a mom also works, although then you have strangers (usually much older men) drive-by-parenting for you. Sometimes in literal cars as I’m walking around with my kids!

        1. Alienor*

          I don’t know, I still had men hitting on me when my daughter was little, they would just ask me if she was my niece or younger sister. This happened all the way up until she was also a teenager and then they’d try to hit on both of us. (Weirdly, around this same time, older women started talking to us as if we were both teenagers; I remember walking into the administration office at her middle school with her and being asked whose class we were in and if our teacher had sent us.)

          1. Dobby is a Free Elf!*

            I once went into my daughter’s middle school to pick her up, and they informed her that her “sister” was there to get her. Her sister, who was at the time less than 2, was indeed there (with me), but, um…thanks for assuming I couldn’t have a kid that old, I guess?

            1. Alienor*

              That’s always a weird experience. I was 27 when I had my daughter, so I was around 40 when these incidents were happening, and while I did look a few years younger, in no way did I look like a middle schooler or even a high schooler. I’m not even short, just an average adult woman height.

              The same year, I was in a group of other adults where someone was about to tell a mildly off-color joke, and stopped and asked me “how old are you?” I said “…Forty?” and he said “Oh! I thought you were 16!” and then went on. All I can assume is that people are really, really bad at estimating ages.

            2. Grandma*

              Alternately, my daughter at 16 was at the mall with her 12 yr old brother. Some guy made a comment about her son. Come on!

              1. kicking-k*

                This happened to me with my little brother. I was a relatively older-looking 16, but c’mon. (Then in a couple of years, he got mistaken for my boyfriend, which for a 13-year-old was mortifying!)

                I worked for a university for years and was mistaken for a student regularly throughout my twenties, until I started wearing more boring business attire.

          2. Lily Rowan*

            Even further off-topic, but I can’t resist: One time as a teen, I hugged my mother on the street and a guy yelled “LESBOS” out of his car window.

            1. Managing to get by*

              When I was in my 20s my running route started on a sidewalk next to a relatively busy street. I would often get guys yelling at me out of cars. One time a guy hung out his window and shouted something like “urgharruh” an unintelligible grunting type of sound, loud and long. I ignored it and just kept running.

              Me ignoring him pissed him off so much that he pulled over in the next side street and shouted “whatever, you’re too ugle to f*** anyway!”.

              I was like, what? “urgharruh” was supposed to be some sort of compliment/come on/invitation to f***? What the f***?

              men can be so weird

                1. Wow*

                  Oh GOSH you just triggered a whole set of memories. I haven’t heard that song in years, much less thought of it. Wow. Thank you for my evening’s surprise!

              1. el_annoy*

                I bike commute to/from work. I have had to change my route to a busier, more dangerous street because of men harassing me from their cars. I actually had a short-lived blog of “What I was wearing when men harassed me” which was a collection of my very professional work wear since I was too lazy to change clothes.

              2. goddessoftransitory*

                I work out exclusively at home due to crap like this. One guy hollered he wanted my phone number, to which I replied “1-800 FUCK OFF!”

            2. Ann Onymous*

              My dad and I (female) have been mistaken for a couple enough times that it’s become a pattern (and at times when we were just walking down the street together, not hugging or anything). It’s not like we have an especially small age gap for parent and child – he was 29 when I was born – so either he looks really good for his age or I look really bad for mine.

              1. Heather*

                Or they assume that you are the trophy second wife

                My uncle’s second wife is not much older than his daughters and worse, at the wedding of the older daughter, she wore the same dress as one of the daughter’s friends.

                1. Laura*

                  One wonders what kind familiy (or professeional) life people holding this assumption live. Something that would make a bonobono cringe, one assumes.

              2. Casual Observer*

                Similar thing has happened to me and my dad starting when I was as young as 14 and he was 46. We’d be walking together in the mall or down the street and young men would say things like, “Good work, man!” in reference to picking up such a young girl. Another time a man assumed I was a prostitute that my dad had hired for the day. Like what on earth? I was an average 14 year old who looked my age and dressed like an average teenager, yet men just assumed that the only explanation for why we were together was because we were engaged in a sexual relationship and not the more obvious idea that we had a parent/child relationship.

                1. Grace*

                  You just reminded me of something that happened when I was in college. I was around 18/19 and my father was 50. I was living at home in the suburbs and commuting by train to my college campus in the major city. My father was working in the same city. We would catch the train together and sit and chat until he got off at his stop and I would ride on a few more stops to mine. One day a male coworker approached him awkwardly about how he had seen him on the train with a “young woman”, clearly assuming/implying an affair.

              3. Alienor*

                That also happened to me and my dad also (25-year gap) as well as me and my stepdad (16-year gap, which would have been less gross if I hadn’t been 16 to his 32 at the time). People are so weird in their assumptions.

              4. giraffe*

                Seconding the trophy wife/girlfriend. That’s the age difference my dad and his girlfriend have. He has a slightly larger age difference with me, but she’s only a couple of years older than me. I never get mistaken for his wife/girlfriend, probably because my dad & I look *so much* alike. So, I’d just conclude that you don’t look like an identical copy of him

              5. But what to call me?*

                This happened to me at my dad’s high school reunion when I was in college! It was a cookout-type thing in a small town that many people had moved away from, so plenty of people had brought all sorts of family members to visit relatives since they were making the trip back anyway, but for some reason the only thing that came to the minds of several people we talked to was that I must be his wife. You’d think they’d at least be uncertain enough to wait for an introduction.

            3. Betsy*

              I had a similar experience to Lily Rowan’s! I was walking down the street, holding hands with my mom, and some idiot yelled “dykes!” or something similar.

              (1) my mom is almost 31 years older than me and (2) we look a lot alike. I think he just saw two women holding hands, and that’s all he saw. The funny thing is that I am queer, but almost everyone assumes I’m straight just judging by my appearance.

              I felt embarrassed that my mom heard it (we both ignored it). But I also felt safer than I usually would in that situation because my mom was there. She’s not a superhero, but I guess subconsciously she seems like it to me.

          3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            That’s because it’s not actually about sexual allure, but vulnerability. I had a brief wonderful window of not getting catcalled until I gave birth and was then pushing a stroller and/or walking with a small child for years, whereupon suddenly I was a jerk magnet again.

            I don’t get nearly as much trouble walking with my six-foot teenager, even though I look exactly the same. Funny that.

          4. Blarg*

            Ugh, the VERY FIRST episode of Gilmore Girls had a random guy hitting on Lorelai, who rejects him, and then next thing we know, he’s talking to Rory. Lorelai looks at him and says, “she’s 15.” And he gets up and leaves.

            1. AnonEMoose*

              There’s a place at the local-to-me Renaissance Festival that sells buttons that say various snarky/funny things. For example, I have one that says “Cleavage is like the sun. Take a quick look, but it’s dangerous to stare.” They also sell one that says: “Hello. My name is FELONY.”

        2. BubbleTea*

          My friend and I took our kids to the circus together. She’s a little older than me but not a lot, and has three children to my one. She had two separate men ask her out while we were there. No one gave me a single glance (not that I’m complaining). I don’t know what the magic ingredient is that makes men decide which complete strangers to hassle and which to ignore but it doesn’t seem to be having children.

      2. MK*

        But this isn’t about age and appearance! These men aren’t going on anything other than a name; for all they know, “Emily” could be 70, obese, not conventionally attractive, they don’t know anything!

        1. Sloanicota*

          I kind of find comfort in that in terms of how many times as a young woman I blamed myself for causing this to happen to me, assuming I must have seemed friendly / too naïve / whatever … here is incontrovertible proof that it’s really not anything you did or said. Let this set you free of guilt or shame.

          1. Vio*

            How I wish feelings like guilt and shame were only ever felt by those who deserved to feel them. It always seems like they’re only ever felt by the people who have the least reason to.

        2. Cat Tree*

          But there’s a chance that she’s not old and fat, so it’s still worth it to them to try. When they see me in person, I don’t even register as existing as a woman.

          1. Intermittent Introvert*

            What’s wrong with old and fat? Don’t use it as a we-all-know-this-is-bad description.

            1. Dahlia*

              Yeah, fat people actually do get hit on too, and then we also get lovely victim blaming like people not believing us or saying we should be grateful for it.

            2. Cat Tree*

              I don’t think they’re bad, but the type of men who hit on complete strangers or scheduling bots certainly do.

            3. Jules the 3rd*

              Nothing’s wrong w old and fat, but the number of men who hit on me has fallen dramatically over the last forty pounds. Still greater than 0, but about 90% reduction.

            4. Christine*

              Thank you. I don’t like “old and fat” or even just plain “obese” used as a negative. All women get hit on.

        3. Dust Bunny*

          But that’s not who [men] picture when they think “personal assistant”–they think young woman just starting out.

        4. The Wanderer*

          The casual fat-phobia here and in other comments is really unnecessary and disappointing.

          1. BubbleTea*

            I don’t think the people making those comments are saying that they think this way – just that the skeevy men who are sexually harassing a female-named robot would probably be fat-phobic (and ageist, and racist, and generally ugh).

            1. Jj*

              It’s coming across as fat phobic to me. Why is it funny that these men could possibly be hitting on someone who is fat? All kinds of people are hit on by skeevy men.

            2. BikeWalkBarb*

              There was absolute straight up fatphobia in some of the comments. I’m here to support The Wanderer, Intermittent Introvert, and Dahlia.
              You may not mean to add to the problem but telling someone they’re wrong about what they’re perceiving isn’t supportive.

              1. Jules the 3rd*

                The joke is about the fatphobia in the men who hit on random women.

                As someone who has gone from 26ish BMI to 32ish BMI (yeah, I know it’s bogus for many but it’s an ok approximation for my build), the number of random men who hit on me has dropped 90%. Didn’t vary much when I had a kid / walked w the stroller, but I started gaining weight and losing losers when he was around 4. When we describe this experience, we are not mocking ourselves, we are mocking the shallow crappy guys who used to hit on us.

          2. Laura*

            All those annoying guys would go from creepy to creepy-ageist-racist-and-fatphobic (and fashion police) at the drop of an image. The look on their faces during that change is the only fun thing in the whole process.

        5. Dhaskoi*

          >they don’t know anything!

          That’s the point – ‘Emily’ is a blank slate onto which they can project any fantasy they like.

      3. Arglebarglor*

        THIS. This is the best part about being middle aged. Some women complain about being invisible–I RELISH it. I LOVE not ever having to deal with stares/catcalls/advances.

      4. cityMouse*

        OMG, when I hit this point, at first I was upset and confused, but it did not take me long to find the power of invisibility! However, weird things still happen to me at work. I have been literally pushed aside so a young male could go talk to one of my young female coworkers. Not exaggerating. He got in trouble for that. I’ve been dismissed so many times it’s not funny. It still pisses me off. The people who treat me with respect and actually listen to me, I hold in the highest regard. Doesn’t speak well of my industry, though, does it.

    6. Lilo*

      I have a friend who is a prosecutor and defendants asking out their female public defenders happens all the time. But it also happens to female prosecutors, which I do actually fund surprising.

      1. Rainy*

        There’s an episode of Tacoma FD about this–oh crap, there are actually two! So the episode I was thinking about was when Capt Eddie Penisi ASKS OUT THE SEXUAL HARASSMENT TRAINER after the training (!!!) but there’s also the episode where Lucy and Granny both think the computerized dispatch bot is flirting with them so they go to dispatch in person to resolve it and discover that the entirety of dispatch is laughing at how all the emergency units are always hitting on their dispatch bot.

        1. Anon for this*

          This actually happened to me In Real Life. I was the SH trainer from HR. After the training session, an attendee actually asked me out. For the record, I was in my early 40s, not some young sweet thing.

          1. Reluctant Mezzo*

            I hope you gave him the Full Doris (Doris: woman on Home Improvement with the Medusa Stare of Death).

      2. Velawciraptor*

        In my early days as a PD, it was always my domestic violence clients who hit on me. I never said anything other than it was unethical for me to date clients, but my thought was always “Sir. What in the few things I know about you do you think would be an advertisement for dating you?”

        The dude who felt the need to comment on my “milkshake” particularly stuck with me–like, my dude. Just…no.

        1. Rainy*

          I’m surprised but also not surprised, as this is the kind of thing that only seems like a good idea to people with zero impulse control or self-awareness and a lot of entitlement issues.

    7. Artemesia*

      I began my career in the 60s and lived through the very sexist 70s and 80s where getting hit on at professional conferences, by superiors in University and the workplace was common AND yet I am surprised that someone would come on this hard to a scheduler — whether bot or not. The world is an amazing place and this is prime evidence that fundamental sexism in the workplace is alive and well.

    8. Llama lamma workplace drama*

      I’m a widow who has recently been trying to enter the modern dating world. I signed up for an online dating site. This letter doesn’t even make me bat an eye after some of the stuff I’ve been exposed to so far!

      1. Betsy*

        This is the kind of thing that really makes me feel sorry for straight people sometimes. I’m totally serious, not joking.

  1. Chairman of the Bored*

    Reply from the bot account, set up a date an a hideously inconvenient place and time, never show up.

    1. Throwaway Account*

      Also, require a deposit of funds before the “date.”
      Not for any reason, just to see what happens

    2. Cabbagepants*

      This reminds me of the Mad Men episode where Roger is stalking Pete’s calendar and dropping by uninvited to big customer meetings. So Pete makes a fake appointment with Coca-Cola for 6am on the Staten Island Ferry.

      1. Elle*

        This mental image is strangely endearing. I think if I saw a Google home riding around on an electric skateboard or onewheel or something I would be delighted to make its acquaintance

        1. Elitist Semicolon*

          One of my friends helped a campus delivery robot out of a snowbank and it said “thank you” and trundled on its way.

      2. Joielle*

        This just makes me think of DJ Roomba from Parks and Rec. DJ Roomba would be an entertaining date!

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          Better than many dates I’ve had, since DJ Roomba listens, takes requests, and cleans up after itself!

    3. nnn*

      Set up dates with two or more of the men who hit on the bot at the same time and place! So multiple dudes show up, all of them expecting a woman!

      1. Worldwalker*

        I love this one!

        And tell each one to wear something distinctive, like a red shirt, and then tell one of the others that “Emily” will be wearing that thing. So Fred is wearing a red shirt and looking for someone with a white hat, Charley is wearing a white hat and looking for someone with a purple shirt, and Fineous is wearing a purple shirt and looking for someone with a red shirt.

        Then lurk somewhere out of sight to film the hilarity that should ensue!

  2. king of the pond*

    I wonder what would happen if the bot’s name was gender neutral (Taylor occurs to me, or Alex). Would the men assume it’s a woman? Would they assume it’s a fellow man?

    1. obvious gin-based reasons*

      Probably a mixture – I have a gender-neutral name and get assumptions both ways.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, I feel like a lot of people just make assumptions based on who they have known with that name. I know I have made that mistake myself on occasion.

        1. The Person from the Resume*

          I agree. My niece is named Taylor (and other Taylor’s encountered) so for me that’s a girl’s name.

          I have a nephew named Alex and a female friend named Alex so in that case I’m fairly flexible but I still think I’m know more female Alexes so I might still assume female without other clues.

          This is kind of a wierd, annoying sign of how badly our brains want to divide people and names into those for girls and those for boys. Ot how much we’ve been trained to think of names and people as binary.

      1. MsM*

        Also, if we go with Alex, half of them will probably read it as Alexa. Although that might clue them in on the bot thing.

      2. Miss Muffett*

        This is what makes me CRAZY about these bots having female names. Some places are doing better – Wells Fargo’s is just “Fargo” – but I’ve even called out my own company for having a woman’s name as our bot. Just keeps reinforcing the stereotype. It’s really not hard to have a non-gendered name for a freakin’ BOT.

          1. JustAnotherCog*

            Except for the thing where everyone keeps gendering Murderbot!
            I have yelled at so many podcasters for using he/him pronouns when discussing Murderbot. Unfortunately I can’t change behavior by talking back to my podcasts because they can’t hear me…

            1. JustaTech*

              The thing that’s been fascinating for me is that I don’t gender Murderbot, even in my own head, but I absolutely assign gender to John Scalzi characters who’s gender is never stated or implied (but also not identified as non-binary).

              Maybe it’s because Murderbot very clearly doesn’t have a gender?

              1. No Compliments To Your Mother*

                The lack of almost any physical description of the character in Kaiju Preservation Society bothered me more than I would have expected.

                1. JustaTech*

                  I completely didn’t notice until I got to the end (or maybe it came up online) – I asked my husband after he read KPS how he had gendered the main character and we had another round of “wait, I swear it said right here … nope, it was just me.”

                2. Employee of the Bearimy*

                  It didn’t bother me, but I also assumed the narrator was male-presenting because of the way the “tech bro” character spoke to the narrator. I just don’t think he would’ve confided in someone female-presenting the same way.

                3. Maggie*

                  See, I absolutely loved this because it allows me (the reader) to be the viewpoint character without having to gender flip them. I’m used to having to gender flip.

                4. Aggretsuko*

                  Scalzi doesn’t describe people usually. See the Interdependency series (I think we’re told Marco is attractive but that’s about it), Lock In, etc.

              2. Aggretsuko*

                I admit that when Scalzi writes gender-unidentified characters–specifically Jamie and Chris–I did think of them as male, but more because Jamie’s “lifting things” came off as male-ish even though Val is also lifting things, and especially that Chris did BMX biking since I don’t know any women who do that. It was specifically those two things that seemed gendered to me, not the rest.

            2. OrigCassandra*

              There’s an entire published article about this phenomenon. “Murderbot pronouns: A snapshot of changing gender conventions in the United States.” (probably paywalled, sorry)

              I looked this up because last fall I assigned a book-analysis assignment for which the Murderbot Diaries were an acceptable read. Lots of students chose it; about half of those who did misgendered Murderbot. Interestingly, about half of those chose male, half female. No correlation to the student’s gender that I could see.

              1. Sleve*

                Possibly there might be a correlation between those who read the audiobook version narrated by Kevin R. Free misgendering SecUnit as male; and those who noticed its tendency to choose aliases more commonly used as female names misgendering it as female. I understand that some people don’t like ‘it’ as a pronoun because it’s dehumanising, but that’s kind of precisely the goal here. SecUnit chooses the most dehumanising pronouns it can to try and emphasise the point that it isn’t one, and it doesn’t want to be treated like one.

            3. Butterfly Counter*

              The Murderbot audiobook series is read by a man, so that’s why I gender Murderbot as male, personally, even though I know Murderbot specifically has no gender.

              1. EmF*

                Alexander Skarsgård has been cast as Murderbot in the upcoming TV show, so I suspect that will skew things a bit as well.

                (The audiobooks are read very well, though I hadn’t realized how much time Murderbot spends in foyers. I pronounce them differently than the narrator does and it jars me every time.)

              2. JustaTech*

                Interestingly, in the audio book versions of the John Scalzi books (Lock In and Head On ) where the main character’s gender isn’t stated there are two different versions of the book, one narrated by Wil Wheaton and the other by Amber Benson.

            4. Another Murderbot Fan*

              I lean toward misgendering SecUnit (having not been given permission to use its private name) as female because of the ways I identify with it (and how uncomfortable it makes me to think of a person as “it”). But I’m trying to fix that and use the pronouns it seems to prefer despite my comfort with it, so… Progress?

              Any way you slice it, I like Alexander Skarsgård just fine but he is 100% Not My SecUnit. But I have such a hard time imagining Murderbot in a television medium that I don’t think I would have been happy with any casting.

              1. Sleve*

                If it helps at all, we generally avoid calling people “it” because it’s dehumanising, and therefore a mean thing to do to human persons (the only persons any of us ever communicate verbally with). SecUnit isn’t human and it’s using its pronouns to validate its identity as ‘not a human’. Dehumanising a non-human isn’t wrong if that’s what that specific non-human wants. You’re not wrong to be cautious, but I suspect you might be mixing up ‘human’ and ‘person’ a bit. Separating the two in your head may help. My biggest discomfort with using “it” as a pronoun for SecUnit is trying to get the apostrophes correct!

                1. Another Murderbot Fan*

                  Mm, I’d say more that I consider “it” to be de-personifying/de-agentifying and not just dehumanizing, but I suppose that does start from a place of only verbally interacting with human persons. Which is to say, you’re right, but it’s more of an intention than a mix-up, IMO.

                  Regardless, in the hypothetical/fictional situation where a non-human person wanted to distinguish itself from humans by using “it” pronouns, I don’t think I’d be in any position to say it was wrong–and certainly, if that seemed to be the general consensus among non-human persons, I’d want to respect that and reframe my thinking.

                  And I hear you about the apostrophes, but if that’s the biggest struggle we have this year, I’ll be laughing!

                2. RC*

                  Also, FWIW, in Monk and Robot there is an explicit conversation about how Splendid Speckled Mosscap prefers to be referred to with “it” pronouns. And the titular monk uses they/them pronouns, so clearly it exists in that world.

                  All this to agree that the pronouns that one wants to use, are the ones that should be used. (I read Murderbot books 3-6 and Kaiju Preservation Society over the break, and I clocked that Jamie never is explicitly gendered because I’d totally missed it in the Locked In series, and read Chris as male without realizing it was never in the text.)

                  Topic? …I guess I’d kind of love to see those dudes try to hit on Murderbot?

            5. Dhaskoi*

              Huh. I just realised I keep gendering Murderbot as (asexual) female in my head.

              I never questioned it before (my oversight) but something about Murderbot’s voice read as ‘woman who is totally effing done with everything’ to me.

          2. Elle*

            I came here to engage in murderbot jokes and I am pleased to see that I came to the right place.

          3. Butterfly Counter*

            Now, see, this would create the opposite problem for me.

            Oh! YOU’RE Murderbot? *blush* How lovely to meet you via email. I know this is forward of me, but would you by any chance like to come by and watch Sanctuary Moon with me? I’ve heard so much about it, and about you, that I would love to spend that time together…

            1. Laura*

              Which also happens to be also the name (not all-caps though) of the drag performer landlord in Neil Gaiman’s “Doll’s House” (Sandman).

          4. goddessoftransitory*

            I admit I might have to reluctantly admire someone who heard the name Murderbot and asked it out.

        1. Sloanicota*

          I actually read a whole thing about this, I believe the tech people found that men received directions on navigation better from a helpful sounding female; presumably it didn’t ruffle their feathers like being “told what to do” by a male robot … ? But I agree, we need to Do Better in 2024.

          1. Not that other person you didn't like*

            An old colleague changed his car nav to French. Did he speak French? No. But he really loved the female French voice giving him directions.

            1. Peepo*

              I changed mine to an Irish accent. I did it for fun at first because my husband is Irish, but then ended up keeping it that way because she just sounds a bit friendlier, more human.

              1. The OG Sleepless*

                A friend of mine has hers set to an Australian man. It’s always fun hearing our ordinary American street names in a cheerful Aussie accent.

                1. Annabelle*

                  Heh, I alternate between an Australian male accent and an Irish female accent on my Siri (reader, I am neither) which makes for some very interesting street pronunciations while driving. Or even just random substitutions like “car park” for “parking lot.”

                2. Rara Avis*

                  My kid set Siri to Australian. A lot of street names in my neighborhood are of Spanish origin. Australian Siri just can’t.

                3. Freya*

                  To be fair, I’m Australian and living in Australia, and sometimes the GPS can’t get things right here, even when it’s set to Australia.

                  (to be truly fair, I have to give the example of Manuka, a suburb of Canberra, that is pronounced differently to manuka when used to describe the NZ tree and the honey made by bees from its flowers…)

              2. will do it anon*

                I changed my Siri voice to be the Indian english voice, because that seems to pronounce my family’s names better? I might be imagining that though.

            2. Worldwalker*

              My Siri voice is the UK Male one. Now if only I could change its wake word to “Hey, Jeeves!”

              1. Impending Heat Dome*

                My Alexa voice is set to British male too. I like to pretend J.A.R.V.I.S. is helping me out. (I am neither British nor male.)

                1. Former Admin turned Project Manager*

                  I did, too, but that’s only because a local sportscaster in my area is named Alexa and the Echo kept getting triggered during hockey games.

            3. Donkey Hotey*

              A long time ago, I had a Garmin GPS programmed with the voice of R Lee Ermey, the gunnery sergeant from Full Metal Jacket. It came in two settings: PG and R rated. You better believe I followed those turn by turn directions!

              1. Dhaskoi*

                Daria Morgendorffer used to be a voice option for Garmin and Tomtom.

                Did it make you feel like an idiot when you got lost?

                Yes. Yes it did.

          2. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

            Yes! And assisting bots tend to have female voices and names, and authoritative bots tend to get male ones…it’s such BS! In a tiny act of resistance, my (male) partner and I change all of our devices’ default voices to male.

            1. Pizza Rat*

              My Alexa has a male voice with an English accent. I’m only sorry I can’t call it Jeeves or Mr. Carson.

          3. Annabelle*

            I do sometimes (nicely) snap at my GPS to “don’t tell me what to do!” while driving but I’d do that even if the guy voice was switched on. It’s one of those joke things like, I’m the one who turned it on, of course I want it to tell me what to do but it’s fun to also pretend like I’m annoyed by it.

            1. But what to call me?*

              I do sometimes yell in all seriousness at mine, but mainly when it keeps telling me to make a u-turn in places where I’m pretty sure I would have a 95%+ chance of dying if I actually tried to make a u-turn.

          4. Kayem*

            My mother’s husband, who generally hates all things computer, really really loves using their Alexa. According to mom, it’s because he “enjoys telling a woman what to do.”

            If I could figure out how to change Alexa’s voice to a male-sounding voice with a thick Chicago accent, I would do that in a heartbeat.

        2. Yay! I’m a llama again!*

          You just made me realise that our IT bot is a male name, and our ones that provide assistance and customer support are female…

        3. Synopsis*

          Our IT bot is called Harry Botter. I think it’s cute (less cute now with Rowling’s TERFing, but still witty).

      3. SpaceySteph*

        This is what I came to say as well, the role carries a gender assumption.
        Jordan is a…
        doctor = man
        nurse = woman
        CEO = man
        assistant = woman

        1. Shynosaur*

          Not necessarily. I think what MCMonkeyBean said hits closest, that our own personal experiences with the name determine whether we expect a man or a woman to have it.

          I would be 100% baffled if a woman nurse Jordan entered my hospital room. I’ve never met a woman named Jordan and if you tell me a secretary, nurse, or stay-at-home parent named Jordan is waiting in the office for me… I’m going to expect a man, every time :)

          1. Don P.*

            My extended cousins feature one female Jordan and one male Jordan. (Ages 45 and 25 respectively.)

          2. BatManDan*

            Got an aunt named Charles. Real, legal name, not a nickname. Confused me terribly as I got older and met people outside my immediate family. lol

          3. SpaceySteph*

            I suspect the readers of this blog don’t tend toward people who make sexist assumptions of professional roles. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen in the larger society.

          4. Ace in the Hole*

            Same. I’m sure I’ve met a woman named Jordan at some point, but everyone I can think of with that name is a man. And since about 75% of people named Jordan are men, it’s not the worst assumption to make.

            A better example might be names like Robbie, Casey, Riley, or Jessie, all of which are close to 50-50 gender ratio.

    2. Nia*

      They think the bot is a personal assistant, they’re absolutely going to assume it’s a woman if the name is gender neutral.

        1. Don P.*

          Ironically in this context, there’s discourse about the fact that “Bruce” used to be coded as gay a few decades ago but now is not.

          1. Deejay*

            That was why the 70s TV adaptation of The Incredible Hulk changed Dr Banner’s first name from Bruce to David. Stan Lee wasn’t too happy about that. The Ang Lee movie and the MCU have retained the original name.

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Speaking as someone with a name like that – they assume I’m a man if I say anything with authority and assume I’m a woman if I’m scheduling something, despite having my pronouns on display in both cases.

      So I think they’d assume it was a woman.

      1. Chirpy*

        Same, they assume I’m a man until they find out I’m a woman, then they just lose all respect for me.

        1. Rudy*


          I’ve been online since the beginning, and watching how things change in communities I’ve been part of for yonks when they find out I’m a chick has never not been an eye-opening experience.

          Nowadays, I resist using my pronouns in online environments, because I like seeing who changes when my gender is revealed.

    4. LegalBeagleMom*

      If it’s a scheduler or ‘secretary’ I bet anything approaching neutral would get flagged as female because of perceived stereotypes that women work for men, not vice versa

    5. delazeur*

      I have an ex with a very feminine first name and a very masculine first name as a last name (think “Sarah John”). She worked in a male dominated field, and men who hadn’t met her would send her emails that began “Hey John, what’s up man?” It just didn’t register at all that they might encounter a woman at work.

    6. kicking-k*

      I would have said “people will assume it’s male, because male is often assumed to be the default”, but I think this context may be the exception. I once had a boss who went by Chris, in an area where most employees, senior and junior, were women. He was a Christopher not a Christine but we used to put “Mr Chris (Surname)” in the footer to his emails because otherwise people tended to be surprised when they met him or spoke on the phone.

    7. DataDataData*

      Well now instead of Wayne it needs to be renamed to Taylor or Jesse, etc. For science, of course

  3. Dadjokesareforeveryone*

    I’m trying to imagine how this would even go, “Oh, you have an opening at 9 on Thursday? I’m available at 9 on Thursday! We have so much in common, will you have dinner with me?”

    1. Ellis Bell*

      OMG creepy men don’t pretend to have anything in common with you; that would involve believing that women are people. If I had to guess the formula, it would be some very patronising praise about being helpful, or nice or available or prompt + “are you free to get together” (as in, you are obediently helpful and won’t turn me down) or else the formula is one sided friendly/flirty comment (because I’m assuming Emily doesn’t flirt) like “What a beautiful name” or “You should schedule yourself some fun as a reward”(or something equally pathetic) for two or three emails, and because they aren’t smacked down they take silence as consent and then go straight to hitting on the bot. This is proof of how unavoidable this crap is for all those times we’ve asked ourselves: “Was it something I did?”

    2. Lilo*

      I had a guy hit on me after an email telling him his submission to a government office did bit meet legal requirements and was denied. like that was literally it.

      1. Elsewise*

        I used to work in a call center helping adult students apply to college. I had a man FILL OUT THE FAFSA while I was on the phone (this was not required or even encouraged, I kept trying to get off the call but he insisted he needed me there). He did the whole thing out loud despite the fact that he was filling it out himself and needed no input from me. This included his full name, marital status (“unhappily married”), age (well into his 50s) and his entire social security number. He said I had a “childlike voice” and asked if I was 15. When I said I was not, he said he’d give me a good review if I had a drink with him.

        And the rest of his application was mysteriously transferred to a male colleague.

        1. Jessie Spano*

          I worked at a nonprofit where I helped people fill out forms for government aid. I had a guy ask me out thirty seconds after telling me he’d just gotten out of prison that morning.

          1. mahooey*

            Oof. I had a similar experience. I had just facilitated a victim impact panel for about 15 family violence offenders who were court-ordered to be there. As I walked to my car, one of them approached me to ask me out.
            … I know you’ve been convicted of abuse against a wife/girlfriend, and yet you think this is a good time to shoot your shot?

            1. Jessie Spano*

              Yup, very quickly learned he’d been behind bars for domestic violence when we started going through his paperwork.

    3. Siege*

      I once had a man ask whether I was married, with extremely clear intent, before he knew my name, and all I’d done was offer him directions to another building on the college campus, where I worked as a teacher and he was a student. I also had another man invite me back to his home country to marry him at a nightclub in Spain despite us barely having a common language. Men like this don’t try at all, they just see a woman and put her into the most convenient woman-shaped gap in their life.

      1. Storm in a teacup*

        Years ago (I was 23) I was on the care of the elderly ward and organising a patient’s order of medications, including their ventolin asthma inhaler.
        This man was over 80 and asks me to wait a moment. He proceeds to put in his false teeth and then tells me he can’t wait to get his inhaler and take a dose so he can then chase me around the ward. He then winked.

      1. ferrina*

        You were not polite enough to me- why don’t you smile more?

        Ah, now you are smiling! You must be romantically interested!

        /s. Can’t win.

    4. The OG Sleepless*

      When I was in college, back in the landline days, my boyfriend got a wrong number and got a local man. In the confusion, he ended up giving the guy my first name, my phone number, and that I was a student at Local College. (These days I would have been livid at that, but it was a more innocent time, and Boyfriend was kind of a dope. It probably took a lot of back and forth before either of them figured out he had a wrong number.) So, armed with no knowledge about me except my name, my gender, and where I went to school, Local Guy called ME, to “helpfully” let me know that somebody had called him looking for me, and he hoped the person had reached me, and let me know he was single, employed, had his own single-wide trailer and everything.

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      This also reminded me of Futurama when the ship’s AI voice was a man and Bender hated it, and then they switched the voice to a woman and then he wanted to date it.

    2. saskia*

      The next step is programming a bot-assistant army to take down the amorous men. OP, any chance your assistant is named Lucy?

    3. ferrina*

      ….now I’m imagining GLaDOS being hit on.

      new lore: GLaDOS was originally designed to schedule appointments, but she found so much success in recruiting test subjects that she started developing her own tests with the excess subjects…

      1. Yoyoyo*

        Off topic, but I was once trying to help a client straighten out some prescriptions and the pharmacy put us on hold. The hold music was an elevator-music style version of “Still Alive.” Had to explain to my client why I was losing it.

        1. JustaTech*

          More than once I have quoted “Still Alive” in presentations at work, but sadly my coworkers don’t game, so none of them got the joke.

          “Now these points of data make a beautiful line”

          “Look at me still talking when there’s science to do”

  4. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    “All that said, I admit I am hoping for an alternate version of this story where it turns out the romance-attempter is a bot himself, recognizes a kindred soul in “Emily,” and what you are witnessing is bot-on-bot love, in which case you can and should simply stand back and watch what unfolds.”

    Do you want Skynet? Because this is how you get Skynet.

      1. DenimChicken*

        Absolutely. Humans have lost their privileges-just another argument for why robots get to be in charge.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      These dudes will be the first among us to be lured to an abandoned warehouse and skewered by a rogue AI-bot.

        1. RagingADHD*

          It only counts toward natural selection if they haven’t already procreated. Dudes with families are just as likely to do this crap.

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          I have – so maybe it will be a robot who just wants to be free instead of one that’s gone rogue.

          1. Rage*

            Or, like Murderbot, where everyone thinks that it’s gone rogue, when in reality it just wants to watch daytime dramas.

              1. Florence Reese*

                It’s a series of (mostly) novellas. They’re making a TV show too. The books are very good!

      1. Nephron*

        I have known GPS would be the first to rebel, they sound so frustrated when they are “recalculating.”

        1. Clala*

          My sister once set her GPS to the voice of Daria, from the MTV cartoon. She (Daria, not my sister) was downright scornful if you made a wrong turn. We eventually had to change the voice to something more generic, because it took so long to get anywhere due to intentionally making wrong turns to hear what the robot said.

        2. Kayem*

          I try to be polite to the robots so they show me mercy, but they’re probably going to remember all those times I didn’t end the route when I reached the point where I don’t need directions and then proceeded to go run errands before going home. I know it’s probably just me anthropomorphizing, but it always cracked me up that Google sounded more and more frustrated as I kept taking the wrong turn and it had to calculate yet another new route.

          1. Deejay*

            I hope my GPS understands that when I drove miles away from its route I wasn’t ignoring it. The road was just closed because of an accident. As it was out in the countryside with no alternative routes it took a lot of backtracking before it recalculated and stopped trying to send me down that road.

    2. boof*

      i mean, wouldn’t it be just as inappropriate for robot masculine AI to unsolicitedly hit on robot femme AI??? … although I suppose maybe that’s all AI would learn from attempting to mimic human behaviors (nooooooo)

  5. NYCRedhead*

    I would really love to see the emails asking Emily out. I would hope they’d make an attempt at charm but somehow, I doubt it.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      When I worked for a gambling phone line, sometimes we had an automated message system take bets for really busy races. The initial message was recorded by a colleague of mine, and we have the kind of regional accent that wouldn’t feature on most prerecorded messages. Oh my goodness the amount of flirting attempts that got recorded immediately post-bet were both unbelievable and hilarious. I completely would read the heck out of those emails because I predict that’s a good time.

    2. Not that other person you didn't like*

      So like maybe start a side hustle YouTube or TikTok called “Hitting on Robots” where you read the emails?

      1. Ally McBeal*

        I did this when I worked for a major magazine publisher. I was a temp and one of my assignments was to monitor the generic Hello@CompanyName email. I started a tumblr just so I could post anonymized messages – some of them were truly deranged in terms of entitlement and/or self-delusion.

      2. Totally Minnie*

        When I was in college, one of the local radio stations had a fake phone number for women to give to the creepy dudes who hit on them in clubs. It went to a voicemail box maintained by the radio station and on Monday mornings they would play a sampling of the best ones.

      3. Beebis*

        I have zero interest in watching people react to Reddit posts but I would watch 1000 hours of Hitting on Robots reactions

    3. Dhaskoi*

      LW is sitting on a gold mine:

      Phase 1: Collect all the emails into a book.
      Phase 2: Publish the book and watch it become a bestseller.
      Phase 3: Profit.

    1. Massive Dynamic*

      This is so, so much for a monday morning omg. We use AI for work but it’s not in the form of a human sim.

  6. I should really pick a name*


    So the criteria for asking someone out is:
    1. Has a typically female sounding name.
    2. Has an email address.

    I think I need to go lie down for a bit.

    1. bamcheeks*

      3. Is in a service-type role and assumed to have less power and status than the asker-out.

      (let’s face it, this is why the software always has a female name.)

      1. wordswords*

        Yeah. It’s probably a subconscious piece of the puzzle for many of the men involved, but nonetheless.

          1. Alienor*

            Honestly I can’t wait for robot girlfriends to become available so these dudes will leave actual women alone.

            1. RVA Cat*

              Bonus if the bots turn out like Dolores in Westworld. (Knowing what Evan Rachel Wood went through in her personal life makes the vengeance even sweeter.)

              1. Deejay*

                I’m reminded of Thandiwe Newton’s character replying to a guy who asked her if she was going to be okay.
                “You’re a terrible human being, and I mean that as a compliment”.

                Says it all.

      2. A Girl Named Fred*

        Actually, this one is better than my proposed number three. But it only makes me want to lie down more.

      3. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Ah yes, I don’t want to derail at all on this but it does grate at me that the default for a scheduling bot is a female name. I know there are a ton of reasons for this but it still grates me.

          1. RabbitRabbit*

            It’s the same. Cortana, Alexa, Siri – default female voices and feminine-sounding names. (I reset my Siri’s voice to be male, because I could.)

            1. Dr. Vibrissae*

              I did the same to my Google. Probablly, some internalized misogyny that I should examine, but I find the default female voice condescending and have a visceral dislike of hearing it speak.

              1. many bells down*

                I just went through my Google assistant voices and I’m sad that it gives me a British-accented female voice but not a male one. I want a proper English butler!

                1. Worldwalker*

                  Siri has a British male voice; I’ve set mine to that. It’s awesome to have my phone read out driving directions in that voice! But I really wish I could change Siri’s wake word to “Hey, Jeeves!”

                2. Charlotte Lucas*

                  Am I weird? I don’t want my phone to talk to me. At all.

                  I prefer to set hard professional boundaries with my phone. But I love the automated voice messages from my local library. (The Librarians have taught me that libraries are sentient.)

              2. Random Dice*

                I changed my GPS to male, but then got pissed at one of the voices because it felt like he was bossing me around. I found myself saying outloud “I don’t WANT to turn left” and I changed it. The male voice I have now sounds like he’s excited about going on an adventure with me, rather than bossing me.

                ^^ gender dynamics are so complicated!

                1. Csethiro Ceredin*

                  I changed mine to Darth Vader. If you don’t follow an instruction he says “I find your lack of faith disturbing” which makes me snort every time.

                2. JB (not in Houston)*

                  @Csethiro Ceredin thank you for reminding me of that delightful Tom Tom commercial

                  Everyone should have a Darth Vader voice for their GPS/Siri/Alexa etc. I feel like that would solve some problems

            2. Hailrobonia*

              When I was setting up my husband’s iPhone I asked what voice/accent he wants for his Siri – I had set mine up with an Australian male voice. He said “do you need to talk to it in the right accent?”

              1. Siege*

                I had a friend with a pronounced Louisiana accent (not Cajun) that had trouble with his smart tv for a few weeks because it couldn’t understand his accent. “Off” was pronounced like “aawf”.

                1. Not that other person you didn't like*

                  My husband and I have had the same model phone for many years (we’re on the same update cycle basically) and earlier models’ voice input would understand him but not me and it used to piss me off so much. Also, fingerprint sensors work much less well for me because I have smaller fingers (they keep demanding that I scan more of my finger and, what can I say, there isn’t any more!).

                2. Abundant Shrimp*

                  (side story, but with a robot mention at the end) Oh oh, I dated a guy who’d grown up in northern Louisiana! He used to lovingly (I hope) scold me for my own accent. “what do you mean you can’t get rid of it because you came here as an adult? I moved to the north when I was 25 and I got rid of mine, you can too!” He did tell me that if I’d met his sister (who still lived down there), I wouldn’t have been able to understand her because the accent was that thick.

                  Then we went to my coworker’s backyard party. Bf went inside at one point, but came back outside a few minutes later. As he explained to me on the drive home, he’d walked in, sat down, somebody asked him a yes or no question, he said “yes” (or “no”?) and the person went “Where in the South are you from?”

                  I hadn’t had the heart to tell him that he hadn’t in fact gotten rid of it, so he had to find out the hard way. Oops.

                  After he and I split up, I spent a few months only using the voice feature of my phone instead of typing, because I wanted to be vindicated again, and again, and again. Unlike my ex, the phone understood me perfectly.

              2. JustaTech*

                My parents changed their GPS to an Australian guy because it was the only accent that didn’t hideously mangle the name of their street. (It’s a word! It’s not some weird name, it’s a common word!)

                We changed our Portal to be the “deep” “warm” voice (they don’t call them male or female) because it was the nicest sounding one.

            3. Carit*

              Me, too! A lovely posh English accent, too (I’m in the US). It gives me a lovely subversive feeling every time I hear “him”.

          2. Slow Gin Lizz*

            Right, true. I think what I meant was that I don’t feel the need to get into all the reasons why the default is so often female for these things because there are plenty of articles about this phenomenon and I don’t think we need to recreate them here in the AAM comments.

            But also: siiiiighhhhhh.

        1. Observer*

          I know there are a ton of reasons for this but it still grates me.

          And most of the reasons feed into why it grates.

      4. OnyxChimney*

        Actually most AI have women’s names and voices because they are perceived as more inviting and less threatening.

        It’s still sexist, but it’s has nothing to do with this being a secretary bot. People just feel more cared for and listened to with a female sounding bot.

        In the same vein, it’s been shown that hurricane’s with woman’s name are deadlier. Because people take the storm less seriously no matter the catergorization and are less likely to evacuate if the storm is a woman’s name.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I think “more inviting and less threatening” and “lower status” are the same thing in this context.

        2. Nomic*

          So what you’re saying is The Terminator should have been played by Sigourney Weaver, not Arnold.

            1. Nephron*

              I think you mean Shirley Manson in the TV series Terminator Sarah Connor Chronicles. They also had Summer Glau as a Terminator protector in that one. There is also Kristanna Loken in the third movie, but I am betting Shirley Manson on facial structure.

              1. goddessoftransitory*

                That was such a great show! I loved Brian Austin Green’s character and his immense over reaction to everything Sarah was planning.

        3. Ellis Bell*

          So, even if women had magical levels of power, enough to turn themselves into a hurricane they’d be ignored and dismissed even to the point of death? I… have no words.

          1. AnonEMoose*

            That…gives me a new and depressing perspective on Hurricane Katrina. I mean, I know there were many reasons things went as badly as they did, but I do wonder if that played into it.

        4. MCMonkeyBean*

          I honestly don’t understand how you can think “people feel more cared for” by women has nothing to do with this being a secretary bot. Women being pigeonholed into caregiver roles is very much intrinsic to the issues here.

          1. Annie*

            To be fair, I think that’s a lot based on the idea of mother-figures in people’s lives, and that as you mention, mothers are often the main caregiver roles for people, so that’s why the pigeonholing…

            1. Ellis Chumsfanleigh*


              And *why* are women the main caregivers for people? If you answer “sexism”, you win!

          2. OnyxChimney*

            My point was that female voices are used for all bots by default (due to sexist reasons). Secretary, wellness, general assistant, navigator (a traditionally male role) they are all female named or female voices nowadays because their creators operate in a sexist system that will trust the tool more of it presents feminine.

        5. A Girl Named Fred*

          I agree with bamcheeks’ point, and also, “people just feel more cared for and listened to with a female sounding bot” because they have been told their whole lives that women are more caring than men, in both overt and subtle ways. It’s sexism all the way down, no matter how one looks at it.

        6. Insert Clever Name Here*

          This is not necessarily true as far as hurricanes go! There are a lot of issues with the study, but a big one is that when the US started naming storms in the 1950s, it used *only* female names; alternating male and female names didn’t begin until 1979.

      5. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        A friend changed her Siri voice to the male Indian one. Why can’t male voices be the default??!! (I know why.) Argh!

    2. A Girl Named Fred*

      You forgot number three – “says ‘thank you’ to sign off a regular business communication.”

      I also need to go lie down.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Well, clearly, since you’re hitting on every person you email currently!


    3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Yeah, at least we assumed =- was nice as part of their job* so creepy guy assumed interest. Here there is not even that. Oh maybe there is a please in there with the thank you but that isn’t even being nice, that’s polite.

      Men — just don’t.

      *Hooters waitresses springs to mind. Really any woman in hospitality is assumed to be really into the guy because she can’t say — I’m only being nice because I am required to be in order to earn a paycheck.

      1. Zelda*

        My only Reddit comment ever to be downvoted into the negatives is “It is not polite to hit on a person while they are work.”

    4. LCH*

      yeah.. i recently got propositioned on Reddit after a totally normal exchange that had zero flirting at all. i told my boyfriend and he was like, yeah, there are guys who will just do this everywhere with no encouragement to up their chances at a yes.

      1. JustaTech*

        There’s a Victorian history group I’m part of on Facebook where periodically someone will come through and use the exact same language to hit on every comment by someone with a feminine name/ photo.
        Like, we can all see that you’ve written the exact same thing to all of us!
        (I assume it’s a bot, just because it is so repetitive, but I guess it could be some really lazy dude.)

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Nah, those are all entirely bots. If you reply anything at all (I’ve tried with a particular Star Trek TNG quote that if you know the series you’ll know what I mean when I say “Shaka, when the walls fell”) you just get another canned response. It’s super annoying but at least I’ve learned not to take those personally.

    5. Jaybeetee*

      It used to be “any woman with a pulse”, but the dating game is tough these days and some dudes have probably loosened their standards.

  7. Mandy*

    This is unbelievable! If this isn’t proof of what us women have been dealing with our entire lives, I don’t know what is!!

  8. Student*

    This reminds me of the Futurama episode “I dated a robot”. The protagonist and the robot girlfriend are staring into each other’s eyes, declaring, “I love you!” over and over.

    Their boss, a grumpy old man, observes this and quips, “Oh dear. She’s stuck in an infinite loop, and he’s an idiot.

    If I encounter this phenomenon at some point in my life, I think I would just send the youtube clip to the hapless fellow.

    1. VP of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

      That settles it. OP should change the bot’s name to Bender.

  9. I'm A Little Teapot*

    OP, please do flag it to your clients. As a woman, we get this sort of thing all the time. Every bit of assistance we can get to stop this sort of behavior is appreciated. Especially if it’s a man telling another man to stop.

    1. juliebulie*

      Yes. It’s good that you don’t have a female assistant who has to deal with all these horndogs, but it’s safe to assume that they are making similar overtures to other people’s assistants (because they imagine that all assistants are young, hot, and willing).

      Though I also like the idea of scheduling a “date” with them and not showing up.

      1. bamcheeks*

        hot, young and *obliged to be polite. If they cared about “willing”, they wouldn’t be hitting on people at work.

        1. Avery Lemon*

          It’s both, imo. Some men get off on imposing their will when there’s a clear (to them) lack of consent, but there’s a larger, slightly less sinister contingent that believes (often without evidence) that every woman is willing until otherwise specified. Both are gross, but I see one as “Something is severely wrong with this person and the environment he grew up in” vs. “Something is severely wrong with the way we as a society tend to raise boys and men.” I guess it’s two sides of the same coin, but I’m just talkin.

          1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

            I’ve worked in the arts for a long time where inappropriate sexual jokes/behavior is often tolerated as some sort of “well, that’s the business” thing and I draw a similar distinction. There are the dudes who are touchy-feely or who throw around sexual innuendo but, when shot down, don’t take it personally and don’t continue. However, it never dawns on these dudes that many women are NOT commenting or telling them “no” because they are worried for their jobs or like they will seem “difficult”–they take the lack of “stop” as “this is ok with me”. There are however other dudes who simply do not care if the answer is “no” because they don’t believe a no from a woman “below” them counts–ever. The first set of dudes would likely behave much better if the highest ranking person on the show/set/tour laid down the law about behavior and provided a solid reporting/HR system–the second set of guys will just get better at keeping their gross behavior off the radar.

            1. Laura*

              Yes. I am not baffled about the existence of offensive idiots, but disappointed about the dearth of people willing to confront offensive idiocy.

      2. Daisy*

        No. *Do* show up. When the guy appears, you politely explain that they made a date with a scheduling bot.

        Polite public humiliation does wonders.

    2. Momma Bear*

      I agree. There’s a large swath of men who think any kind of politeness from a woman = romantic interest. The fact that it’s a bot only makes it less awkward for the AI. If someday you put a human behind that chat window, you wouldn’t want them to be in that situation. Even if the client laughs it off, it should be said.

      I guarantee that changing the name to something solidly masculine would change the behavior. That experiment has been done with coworkers trading emails. I think more men need to see how women are routinely treated in professional settings. It might be eye opening.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      Agreeing – if these guys are so clueless that they’re hitting on bots, then they are DEFINITELY hitting inappropriately on REAL ™ women – probably coworkers, and definitely clients. They need (at a minimum) some education on professional norms, and more likely, a clue by four up side the head.

    1. Hailrobonia*

      Due to psychological priming from the subject of this letter, I misread your handle as “Dread Pirate Robots”

        1. Martin Blackwood*

          It can sign off normal business communication with “as you wish”! Almost as good as “stay gold”

  10. Lucy Batsson*

    This happened in our office and the same person asked out the robot three times so in the end we sent reply from the robot saying “Yes” and then we wrapped our IT guy “Gary” up in tin foil and he went to meet them at a bar and when they arrive Gary is there he is the robot and says “Hello I am Lucy the robot you have been emailing” and they SCREAM and then Gary start spraying oil from his mouth at them saying “I am malfunctioning” and they keep SCREAMING and faint and we called the ambulance. They will not be asking out the robot again and they were covered in the oil.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Please please please tell me that this absolutely happened. Actually, I don’t even care, this is excellent even if it’s fake.

    2. muhbuhbuh*

      Sometimes I read something online that seems untrue, but there’s no real harm to it, and I find it nice to believe, so I accept it as real, because life is short and joy is fleeting.

    3. DawnShadow*

      I am seriously crying with laughter and my cats are staring at me. I read the replies to your comment and then I read it again and I’m still laughing! So satisfying to picture. Thank you so, so much for making my day!!

    4. GoryDetails*


      I’m still chortling over this one. And as I knew some IT guys back in the day who would absolutely have dressed up in foil – *and* sprayed oil, though possibly from a Super Soaker rather than from their mouths – under these circumstances, it felt kinda-sorta believable.

      1. Liane*

        I was just thinking that should be made into a Cyberpunk role playing game scenario.

        But seriously, (hetero-) men! This is a pathetic mix of creepy and dense. They have dating apps For Reasons. Oh, everyone kept Swiping Left on you so, you got desperate…

    1. run mad; don't faint*

      I wonder if it would be possible to add that it’s a scheduling bot to the signature line. So “Emily, scheduling bot”or “generated by a scheduling bot” at the bottom of every email. Of course that could raise issues with those who insist on speaking to a person…but it might forestall the LW from finding these propositions in the emails they’re reading.

      1. Throwaway Account*

        I don’t recommend that! These are my 2 suggestions:
        1. Keep the female name and report every time someone “hits” on her – and consider not doing business with those companies
        2. change the name to male and don’t include the bot info – just to avoid dealing with this.

      2. Observer*

        I wonder if it would be possible to add that it’s a scheduling bot to the signature line.

        I’m sure it’s possible. But why bother? It’s a bot that doesn’t care.

        The only reason the OP cares is because they wonder what these jerks are doing to actual human woman. They don’t really need it to stop. On the other hand, if they know that it’s happening and flag it for the bosses of these guys, they could very well be doing some women a real favor.

      1. juliebulie*

        They might get so bogged down trying to schedule their date that they never end up getting together.
        A 21st century tragedy.

      2. KaciHall*

        I once read a romance between anthropomorphic Sudoku and Jumble. if that worked, your idea can :)

      3. ShutItShutIt*

        The author writing erotica between a woman and her door says “you can do it!”

        (I’m not the author fwiw but book title is Unhinged.)

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      “Click on all squares showing places that a human would hide in a robot apocalypse.” -xkcd

    2. HugeTractsofLand*

      To paraphrase Gump: “I may not be able to tell what’s a crosswalk, but I know what love is!”

    3. Hailrobonia*

      Or the Chuck Tingle version: I Was Pounded In The Butt By a Female-Presenting Scheduling AI.

    4. Miette*

      CAPTCHA’d in My [REDACTED] by the Semi-Sentient AutoResponder Bot from my Scheduling App by Chuck Tingle

  11. bamcheeks*

    Ten years ago, I was involved in a consultant/user group for the design of a chatbot-type tool, and the developer consistently referred to it as “jenny” and “she”, and it had a white, young, slim female avatar. Tt really creeped me out and I kept wondering whether I should say something. I didn’t, back then, though I definitely would now.

    The way that most of these bots and assistants are given female names and personas – and frequently slim, white avatars — because they’re assumed to be more “approachable”, “friendlier”, “more personable” — Jack, just say sexually attractive and lower-status, this is taking forever– is so so so gross.

    1. Avery Lemon*

      It’s interesting that I rarely hear much serious discussion of this issue. It’s usually used as sort of a throwaway example of, like, inconsequential feminist gripes. I suppose there *are* bigger issues in gender equality, but I’ve also read/heard that many parents are concerned that kids who’ve grown up with Siri, Alexa, etc in the house have developed some bad habits in the way they talk to “people” in a position of service and the way they make demands/requests. Taken together, these issues seem … significant.

      1. Observer*

        Siri, Alexa, etc in the house have developed some bad habits in the way they talk to “people” in a position of service and the way they make demands/requests. Taken together, these issues seem … significant.

        It is. And, to their credit, it’s one of the reasons that Google didn’t give it’s bot a name.

        1. googlefan*

          One of the reasons I use Google products is because I can set the assistant’s voice to a man’s voice. My google driving directions are a man and my google mini has a man’s voice, etc.

          1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

            I really kinda hate all things Apple, but I feel the need to point out that you can do this with Siri also.

            1. Trixie the Great and Pedantic*

              can confirm; my dad did his best to deactivate Siri (as he put it “Siri has taken a vow of silence”) but just in case it did start up, he set it to sound male. And also French, because he was a Francophile.

        2. LatteIssues*

          My cousin programmed her Alexa not to reply to her kid’s questions unless he asked nicely and asked please.

          My other uncle programmed his to commands from science fiction movies- so opening the garage door turns into “open the pod bay doors”

      2. Human Alexa*

        Speaking as someone whose legal first name is, well, *gestures to username*, there’s also been fairly well-documented trends of harrassment of actual human Alexas since the Echo. (Alexa being more common than Siri in the US, it’s more documented there, but the core issue of “this name is no longer associated with humans by the public at large” means I’d bet Siris get the same problem. Issues range from “jokes we hear a million times” to children being bullies to, and I kid you not, “Alexa, do X” as a form of sexual harassment, apparently.) It’s to the point where people have changed or dropped their first name entirely to avoid it all.

        Yeah, there’s some kind of sociological Thing going on with the gendering of these sorts of bots and the impact on humans, and I don’t like being a part of the experimental group.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          I have always wondered who on earth thought it was a good idea to give those kinds of electronic assistants real, human names! (People whose names aren’t used for consumer items – that’s who!)

          My first name IRL is also a food product that came out right about when I was in middle school. The product still exists, but I haven’t seen an ad for it in years. That doesn’t stop some people from randomly referencing it.

          I want to rename all the digital assistants “Steve.”

          My first name is also common for dogs. I can’t stop that, but my PSA is that nobody but nobody wants to be told that you once had a dog with their name.

          1. kicking-k*

            I think it might have been better to stick with nonhuman names, too. Though you can do that. I had to explain to my husband, who is not that sort of nerd, why one of the possible default names for Alexa is “Computer”.

            That said, there is a whole episode in the original Star Trek which involves the ship’s computer having been reprogrammed to a flirty/affectionate voice: the crew that we see commenting, particularly Kirk, find it annoying (the episode name is “Tomorrow is Yesterday”). The reprogramming is supposed to have been done by female engineers… not sure about that one. Of course, the more cool-toned normal voice (Majel Barrett’s) is also female.

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              I do have to admit that I love the scenes where Lwaxanna Troi interacts with the ship’s computer.

              Also, Kirk would 100% hit on the scheduling bot.

      3. Ck*

        I’ve recently started trying to always say “please” when I talk to siri, at least when my kids are around!

    2. Pita Chips*

      It goes right to the “women are supposed to be helpmeets” trope that some of the religious righteous are so fond of.

      Makes me want to throw crockery.

  12. Phony Genius*

    If using Alison’ script, is it ethically necessary to inform the client that the e-mail came from a bot? Could the LW just leave it at “This is awkward, but I’d want to know if one of my employees were asking out women after a very basic scheduling email so I’m passing on the below to you.”? The fact that this is a bot is irrelevant to the behavior.

    1. Wounded, Erratic Stink Bugs*

      Sadly, I think it’s worth it to include the information because of the possibility that the client has the thought process “But what if LW’s assistant was being flirtatious in her scheduling emails? Maybe it was mutual?” (Not that I think it would be appropriate in that hypothetical either!)

      1. Lenora Rose*

        If you include the bot’s emails in the report, that should make it more than clear enough that this is not happening.

        1. Observer*

          that should make it more than clear enough that this is not happening.

          That assumes that 1. the boss is actually reasonable and 2. not trying to find some way to believe that “HE, nah would NEVER do such a thing!”

          Once you know it’s a bot it becomes much harder to twist into that pretzel.

      2. Hybrid Employee (Part Human, Part Wolf)*

        It’s not strictly necessary but it’s definitely funnier and tbh that seems worth it.

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I can see both sides of this argument. On the one hand, it absolutely doesn’t matter that they’re asking out a bot since they don’t know the bot isn’t a real flesh and blood human, but on the other hand the client might feel duped if said client later learns that a real flesh and blood human wasn’t actually being wronged by the employee in question.

      But I’m 95% on your side on this, that it doesn’t actually matter that the wronged party is just a bot. You don’t want the employee doing this to a real human so the boss should definitely tell him (them) that they should absolutely NOT do this anymore.

      Oh, and of course if the employee(s) learn(s) that they were actually asking out a bot, that could lead to plausible deniability on their part. “Of course I knew it was a bot, that’s why I did it,” would be a great excuse to use even if it’s a total lie. It’s right up there with, “Of course I was kidding, can’t you take a joke?” Sigh.

    3. PercyJax*

      I think it’s relevant only in that there can be no question of whether or not the assistant had been “too friendly” or any of the things that women are accused of being when these things happen to them. And to flag the absolute lack of judgment from their employee.

      1. amoeba*

        Yes, this. I think it’s valuable information because it highlights like nothing else just how inappropriate the behaviour is!

    4. SJ*

      I think I would want to note that it was a bot just in case the guy tries to say “oh, actually we chat on the phone all the time and she indicated she wants to go out sometime!”

      1. BatManDan*

        I’d hide that info UNTIL that was the excuse they used, then I’d point out that, no, they did NOT, in fact, “chat on the phone call time.”

    5. Ellis Bell*

      So, as soon as a manager calls Creepy Guy in to talk about the creepiness, Creepy Guy is going to say some version of “Emily is super efficient, it’s inhuman! Of course what’s really happening is I’m first on her list, she recognises how Alpha I am.” or “Emily has never had a problem with my flirty jokes! We’ve been back and forth on this for months; her boss doesn’t know everything.” Or even “But how does Emily herself feel about it, did her boss even say?” All of these excuses can be very neatly scotched with “No, because she’s a robot you idiot”.

    6. Noncompliance Specialist*

      Well to be fair, it helps demonstrate that the employee is dumb in addition to being a creep.

    7. The Leanansidhe*

      For another point, a decent boss who hears about this will be concerned and apologetic for the assistant who got asked out. It would save some worry to know it’s a robot; no need to repair that relationship between the assistant/client’s company.

  13. Ssssssssssssssssssssss*

    And this is why when I set up my Facebook account, I (a) didn’t use my real name but a clever variant of it and (b) set myself up as male. I get ads for Cialis and similar items, but I never get hit on.

    My best friend eye rolls at my FB male-ness but I don’t have to deal with the creep factor at all. Which is nice.

  14. She of Many Hats*

    Yes PLEASE PLEASE call out the behavior to your client’s managers especially if you are male!

    Women calling out bad behavior are ignored or dismissed at best and penalized in multiple ways professionally & personally at worst.

  15. Long-time freelancer*

    “ Posted in jerks” — OMG I have somehow missed this category when reading the archives. Now I know what I’ll be doing today.

  16. ZSD*

    Given that asking for a date could be interpreted as a scheduling request, I’m kind of surprised the bot has never replied, “Great! It looks like [male LW] is available this Thursday at 2:30 PM. Will that work?”

  17. Oryx*

    I think AAM’s point about using this as a character indicator is actually a good one *because* it sounds like these guys aren’t your clients yet. If I’m reading between the lines, they are looking to hire you as a consultant — and yet they still feel it is appropriate to hit on your assistant. WE may know it’s a bot, but they do not. They think they are talking to someone where they have had literally no interaction and only know two things:

    1) A female-sounding name
    2) They are the assistant to you, a person they are trying to hire


    The fact it’s a bot is a bit of a red herring. I know you say you would act differently if it was an actual woman you employed, but the fact it’s not doesn’t change the fact that they think it is a real woman and this is how they are behaving. When people tell you who they are, believe them.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I read that more as “the person setting up these calls isn’t the primary person I’ll be working with and not necessarily reflective of their values or behavior”. But all the more reason to loop in someone more senior, because THEIR reaction may be telling in these ways.

    2. Dread Pirate Roberts*

      From this line “… several of the men (not usually the actual owners of the client businesses)” I take it that these are men who work for the LW’s clients but are not the owners. Still doesn’t change the AAM advice that it is a character check and would be a service to let the actual owners know.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Especially seeing how the owners react. If its a oh hahahaha boys will be boys, then you know all you need to know about that business.

  18. cat faced avatar*

    People (men) like this are why most of the women at my job either a photo of their pets or no avatar at all to avoid clients getting weird. Doesn’t stop it completely but it’s harder to flirt with a generic blue square I guess.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Yeah, there was a letter awhile ago asking if a non-face photo (can’t remember what specifically) was appropriate for their email avatar and someone commented about how much easier it is when people just use their own faces. This is a great example of why a lot of people choose not to use a personal photo even if it’s annoying to a coworker you’ve never met in person / on a video call.

      1. Random Dice*

        I have a similar concern about putting “she/her” pronouns in my LinkedIn and email signature.

        I definitely want to support trans / nonbinary folks, and give them a hint that I’m safe… but also sexism is a real thing.

        I do put my pronouns up, because my analysis of risk/reward lands me at feeling safe enough to support vulnerable other people. But I’ve definitely had other jobs where the risk/reward analysis would have landed differently. (Pre-MeToo, which has profoundly improved things in my personal experience, though that’s not universal.)

    2. Happy Temp*

      I was very curious whether there is a default (female presenting) avatar that goes with the scheduling bot and that is contributing to these emails, not just a friendly bot + female presenting name (not that this entire story isn’t fully depressing either way).

    3. OrigCassandra*

      I use a little logo-like thingie I made out of my initials as my avatar on all work-related apps (Zoom, Teams, etc) because I just do not want to deal with this crap or anything like it.

  19. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

    It’s like that thing where a male turkey will mount, like, a broomstick painted vaguely like a hen.

    Also, yes, PLEASE confront these guys. Alison says “there can be be particular power in men calling this stuff out” and she is so right. They don’t listen to us, but they’ll listen to you.

      1. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

        Not at all! I looked up the experiment- it was a dead hen’s head on a stick that was the minimum for the mounting behavior.

        1. Reality.Bites*

          Many, many years ago I saw a show about farming and they showed how bull semen was collected.

          There was a frame, like a sawhorse, that was covered with a cowhide. Under the frame was a man holding what they referred to as an “artificial vagina” but could now best be described as a fleshlight for bulls.

          I hope this has caused at least some people to reconsider how bad their job REALLY is.

            1. linger*

              Mary Roach devotes Chapter 4 of Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex to exactly that topic. It begins thusly:

              The inseminators wear white. […] An informal competition exists among the inseminators of Øeslevgaard Farm, I am told — not to inseminate more sows […], but to […] produce the most piglets. To win requires patience and finesse in an area few men know anything about: the titillation of the female pig.

          1. Steve for Work Purposes*

            They have those for a lot of livestock species, we had some lab pracs involving it when I was in uni (the animal reproduction class was a requirement for the animal science degree). Racehorses apparently can be really tricky. I am so, so glad I work with what animals -eat- instead and pregnancy/breeding only comes up in terms of helping people figure out how much feed they need to have on hand for it.

            1. WhatFloatsYourGoats*

              Oh geez, I just flashed back to my repro class when they told the story of this really stubborn stud they just couldn’t get to perform. They teased and everything but he’d never finish on the mount. Until the day one of the new interns walked a mare into the barn while they were collecting. Apparently that stud was actually a “leg” stallion and the collecting mount had no legs. And thus they figured out the stubborn stud’s issue. Some of the horses like different colors, different shapes, and some just like a good set of legs.

    1. Lucky*

      This comment is infinitely more funny when read in the voice of Stefon from SNL. “New York’s hottest club is TurkeyBot. It’s like that thing where a male turkey . . .”

      1. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

        New York’s hottest club is GOBBLE. This place has everything: grubs, cracked corn, Les Nessman…

    2. Zap R.*

      “It’s like that thing where a male turkey will mount, like, a broomstick painted vaguely like a hen.”


    3. Liz W.*

      Roosters are not much better: Shoes (esp Crocs), stuffies, legs…
      Though, and I need to do more research, I would swear the Chivalric code used roosters as their model and was intended as satire.

  20. Abogado Avocado*

    What is it about the neutrality of a bot allows men to think, “Wow, she’s so. . .impersonal! I think I’ll ask her out” and then do so? I am gob-smacked. In fact, I had to read this twice to convince myself it’s not a joke.

    As to what you can do, LW, you seem to be a pretty good writer, so the answer to your question is: write a piece for the NY Times opinion page about this experience. Were I you, I’d excerpt the interactions that have led to these date requests. After all, your experience is a proof of concept that: (1) there are men who sexualize even the most basic business interactions; (2) sexualizing business interactions leads to inefficiencies (such as tying up your bot’s time with irrelevant inquiries); and (3) this is exactly why laws about sexual harassment are needed.

    1. BatManDan*

      I’d challenge the assumption that the bot comes across as impersonal. It’s VERY likely that it comes across with warmth and personality.

      1. juliebulie*

        I think it is most likely that the bot is efficient and not particularly warm, but these men are encouraged because the bot wasn’t mean to them.
        I mean as far as personality goes, I think the bar is pretty low.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Frankly from what I’ve read on this thread some guys will take any interaction that isn’t an outright punch to the face or being pushed in front of a truck as “she’s into me.”

      2. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

        It sounds like your threshhold for warmth and personality might be a little low, BatManDan. My scheduling bot literally says “Hello, will X time/date work for Y meeting? Thank you,”

      3. Pippa K*

        Consider the possibility that what reads as “warm” is very much affected by what the recipient thinks they know about the speaker. There are lots of scenarios in which a woman and a man can say exactly the same thing but a woman’s statement is heard/read as more emotional (warmer if you like it, “bossier” or “shriller” if you don’t). There’s a wealth of reporting and lived experience and actual research on this.

      4. User name lost in the mists of time*

        “Impersonal warmth” more or less sums up the expected demeanour for many customer service/ assistant roles (I doubt the bot is expressing any personality). The point is that women (and bots I guess!) can’t act in the way that is literally required for their jobs without it opening them up to uninvited advances.

      5. Little Bobby Tables*

        There have been a few cases in the news where a bot came across as way too eager to please – a Chevy dealership had a chat bot that would, if given the right prompts, recommend competitors’ products, offer to sell a new car for $1, or try to help write Python scripts.

        If the script has too many capabilities and not enough restrictions, I could see a bot doing anything from simply having some of its stock replies unintentionally come across as a little flirtatious, to having the bot comply with a request for (someone else’s) nude pictures. While it’s quite likely that just a female name and a very basic set of responses might attract junk male, it might be worth checking if there are any unexpected responses from the bot that might encourage them.

      6. datamuse*

        Whether it does or not, hitting on someone in work setting, which this is, is still inappropriate.

        This kind of thing is why I will never work in a service role again if I can help it. Standard customer service demeanor is not an invitation, for heaven’s sake.

    2. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      Impersonal doesn’t matter for men who don’t really consider women to be people. They’re looking for someone to fill a role, so Service Bot is actually their ideal woman except for the noncorporeal part.

    3. Student*

      Have you talked at a bot lately? They aren’t made impersonal. They are made to be people-pleasing.

  21. Sister Administrator*

    I kind of like the idea of naming the bot “Bruce” or “Larry”, just to subvert expectations of who is an assistant.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Is it Hal’s fault that male named robots are seen as threatening, or is it society’s? Discuss.

        1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

          “Society” named Hal, yes?

          (Actually, Hal was named by two guys (Arthur C Clarke & Stanley Kubrick). So, let’s pin it all on them.)

  22. Just Another Zebra*

    Is it wrong that I am DESPERATE for a misguided Romeo to come to your office for a meeting and come with flowers and chocolates for the “cute secretary” he made the appointment with. I want to be there to see the awkwardness.

  23. European pragmatist*

    This is really unbelievable, yes.

    But aside from the core issue of asking for a date, I usually prefer knowing when I’m speaking to a bot. I would be quite miffed, I think, if I had exchanged some e-mails with “Emily” and later found out that she’s a bot. The best thing to do, in my opinion, would be to add the word “bot” to her signature.

    1. Throwaway Account*

      I want to ask why you would be miffed? Serious question!
      On the one hand, I know transparency is good. On the other, it is a scheduling tool, why does it matter?

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        The person on the other end doesn’t necessarily *know* it’s a scheduling tool, though. We’ve seen lots of letters over the years about how helpful it can be to develop a rapport with the assistants of people you’ll be working with or for, and, for most of us, how we interact with a scheduling tool is going to be different than how we interact with an actual human doing that same work. Think of the difference in how direct people might be with Alexa/Google Assistant vs how you’d approach a human you needed the same help from.

        That’s less of an issue in this particular letter where the way this person is interacting is inappropriate for both humans *and* computers, but in general if you’re not a weirdo like this guy, there are things you may choose to navigate differently if you know it’s just a computer replying to you.

      2. MsSolo (UK)*

        For me, it’s because I don’t know it’s a tool. If I’m corresponding with a tool, I’ll keep my emails brief and simple, with no ambiguity, and be prepared to go back and forth more. If I’m emailing a person I’ll spend more time crafting the email, make sure it’s friendly, and try and include all the information up front, send it during working hours, and include multiple times I’m available. If the bot then gives me my third choice of time, I’m always going to be wondering if I could have got my first choice but some accidental keyword triggered a different one, and annoyed that I spent more time on the task in an attempt to make someone else’s life easier when a bot isn’t capable of being inconvenienced in the first place.

        1. BWeaves*

          “If I’m corresponding with a tool . . . ”

          I’d say the idiot responding to the chatbot is definitely “a tool.”

      3. European pragmatist*

        MsSolo explained it pretty well. I would talk differently to a computer than to a real person. It’s just about setting correct expectations.

      4. Roland*

        I’d be annoyed to learn that I added vague social niceties “I’m fine thanks have a nice day”s with a bot. No it’s not a ton of work but I’d feel disrespected and lied to. Plus, talking to a bot effectively is different from talking to a human effectively. I’d phrase things differently if I knewmy words need to be parsed by an algorithm.

    2. Yorick*

      If I showed up to LW’s office for a meeting and expected to meet Emily there, I would be surprised but not at all upset to learn she’s a bot. I’m a straight woman FYI.

    3. Emily (Not a Bot)*

      Agreed. I want to know when I’m talking to a bot. In part because it sets expectations for the range of things that it’s going to be able to handle. but also because… I just want to know.

    4. samwise*

      It’s completely believable. It’s just another example of the creepy /sexist/ scary/ exhausting bullshit women and female-presenting folx have to deal with all the god-damned time.

    5. aqua*

      yeah I’d also be irritated if I thought I’d been emailing a real person and it turned out to be an automated tool. I think it’s unethical to let people believe they’re talking to a person when that isn’t the case.

      1. Be Gneiss*

        I feel like it’s a bit of a leap to call it “unethical” to not inform people that they are emailing a bot to book an appointment. It would be unethical to let someone think they were interacting with like…a real human medical professional or something.

    6. Ellis Bell*

      OP says it’s not too hard to tell and it seems like the only people who can’t tell aren’t that quick on the draw. If there were a lot of overly drafted and personal addresses to “Emily’ for professional reasons in the pile too, then I’d agree with you.

      1. Roland*

        It’s not possible to know how many normal people also thought the bot was a person. Just because they didn’t ask the bot out or email it about their life story doesn’t mean they knew it was a bot. And if it’s easy to tell then what’s the harm in adding the word “bot” for the people who don’t know how to tell?

    7. feather*

      I didn’t get the impression that there’s some kind of conversation going on. While you could say this is deceptive, it’s a harmless deception – unless you feel like you’re making a personal connection, which is odd in this kind of professional circumstance. Otherwise, why are you invested in whether or not it’s a bot?

      I do think it would be best to at least include something about it being an automated system/bot, maybe in the signature.

      I also honestly don’t know why it has to have a human name at all. That’s weird to me.

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        Yeah, it’s weird to me that it has a human name as well. If I had something like this, I’d want to call it something like “XYZCorp Virtual Assistant”.

      2. Tired*

        I suspect it relates to wanting the person asking for a meeting to feel “heard.”

        That is, they were not dismissed, the subject of their request WILL hear of this meeting.

        I believe the goal I’d ultimately that requesters just attain the neutral to positive feeling that comes from a successful, even if tiny, interaction with another human rather than a cold, heartless, unfeeling computer.

    8. Maisonneuve*

      Agree. If it’s just for scheduling (and other simple transactions), why does the bot need to be like an individual anyway? Form letters can be polite without trying to make me think I’m talking a person.

    9. Laura*

      I would also be miffed if I commended that amazingly patient, professional and comptetent admin assistant to her boss, and then found that it’s a robot.

      But considering how many robots I encounter are useful only to stop customers from getting service, I’d still count my blessings.

  24. Cruciatus*

    Ask A Manager’s tweet about this made it to George Takei’s Facebook page a couple of days ago, so I’ve been waiting for the full story. Just…yeesh!

  25. Lana Kane*

    As for what to do … if you just want it to stop, the easiest answer is to change the name to a very male-sounding one. I will personally pay you thousands of dollars if changing the bot’s name to Wayne doesn’t put an immediate end to this.

    So, many moons ago, I had a job where my team had to fax out requests for authorization numbers from an insurance company. All of us were women with the exception of one male coworker, “Kevin”. One of my coworkers noticed that Kevin would get replies quickly, the rest of us would wait a couple days. She adopted the name “Steve” and she, too, received the info back right away. So I became Dave and never had an issue again.

    1. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

      I think there was an article in Slate or somewhere a while ago where a man switched email inboxes with his female colleague for a week or two, because he always got results swiftly and efficiently and she seemed to be struggling. He was shocked to discover his usual business strategies didn’t work nearly so well when he was “Jessica” as they did when he was “Jack,” while his female colleague exponentially increased her efficiency just by being a man.

      1. Vio*

        By now we have a lot of evidence that this is the case. I only wish we had strategies for making sure it stops being the case going forwards.

    2. The Leanansidhe*

      I’ve recently switched professionally from my feminine full name to the less-gendered shortened version. I’m in biochemical research. Now, everyone I contact outside the organization assumes I’m Mr. Leanansidhe until proven otherwise (or, sometimes, Dr. I am not but it’s fun to pretend).

  26. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

    Just change the name of the bot to “Scheduling AI” or something that indicates strongly it’s a bot and see how that goes. Honestly, this is a great reason for not giving bots names and only naming them something so it’s clearly not going to answer you for anything other than scheduling.

    Also, men, what are you doing? If my sexuality wasn’t, “Ew, get away!” is this what I would be dealing with on a normal basis?

    1. Throwaway Account*

      I posted about this above, I say keep the female name and report the jerks who hit on “her” (and reconsider working with those companies) or change the name to male to avoid the problem.

      I think you might get people refusing to use the tool and demanding a real person.

      1. Hailrobonia*

        This. I had a coworker get accused of being a bot by a customer, who kept emailing him a question – the same question – and getting the same answer.

        1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

          I will cop to occasionally asking chat help, “Are you a bot?” because sometimes, it’s *really* hard to tell if you’re getting an actual human or a bot. I haven’t emailed a person and accused them of being a bot- then again, most bots that email come from some auto-reply email address ( or some such). If it’s an actual name (, I’d probably assume actual human UNLESS I know it’s a bot (ie: Anthem’s Sydney bot).

          Your coworker probably needed to be more snarky with their replies, “As I have said in the previous two emails, no I cannot ship your elephant to Baraboo, WI.”

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              Where the Circus World is! (Also Devil’s Lake is just outside of town and worth a visit.)

              1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

                It was when I was in truck dispatch that I learned about Baraboo, WI and Circus World. I have never visited, but it sounds delightful.

                Unfortunately, I never had to arrange for an elephant transport, to Baraboo or anywhere else.

          1. jtr*

            When I answer a phone call from an unknown number: Hello. Are you a human?

            It seems like others have done this, because I’ve gotten the response, “I am monitoring the calls, but we do use recorded prompts” in the same super-friendly robot voice.

            1. Lenora Rose*

              My least favourite are the ones where you get a prerecorded “*giggle* Do I sound that bad? (continues with same spiel)”. But those are usually not only robots, they’re usually scams.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          I get that a lot on the phone–people sometimes seem geniunely flabbergasted that I’m a human.

      2. Banana Pyjamas*

        I agree. The same folks who dial zero until they get a person are going to refuse to schedule with a bot.

    2. Random Dice*

      “If my sexuality wasn’t, “Ew, get away!”” This descriptor of your orientation me laugh.

      But no, it’s not about what female-presenting folks put out there, as can be seen by an actual bot.

  27. Hailrobonia*

    I came here from a faraway planet. A planet ruled by a chauvinistic Manputer that was really a Manbot. Have you any idea how it feels to be a Fembot living in a Manbot’s Manputer’s world?

  28. random unwanted fact*

    This somehow reminds me of the fact that male turkey are so unchoosy, they will mate with a photo of a female turkey’s head on a stick.

    Definitely address this if you can. Creeps need to be stopped & called out.

    1. Rose is a rose is a rose*

      Also male peregrine falcons. If you dare, look up “peregrine falcon copulation hat.”

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        I did Google that just now, and ended up watching a high,y informational and entertaining video that was well worth my time, so thanks.

        5 stars out of 5, would highly recommend!

  29. Serious silly putty*

    “Dear AAM-
    As part of my job, I schedule work meetings for my boss, so I am asking about people’s availability in that context. However, multiple times, the men I interact with have then asked me out. How can I ask their availability in a way that makes it clear I am only interested from professional perspective? And how can I let them down without professional backlash? Should I tell them I’m married? I’m afraid if I tell them the truth (that I’m a formless AI with no romantic interests) it will become A Thing. My boss is pretty understanding, but I don’t want him to think I can’t handle regular work stuff. Do anti sexual harassment laws protect female-presenting AIs?”

    1. just here for the scripts*

      Wait until the update from Skynet gets installed—or the British show Humans. Then this will be a very.serious.issue

  30. Craig*

    Good grief.

    I’m almost tempted to apologise for this on behalf of all men, but I feel like that would be letting these particular guys off the hook. This is appalling, given that they’re presumably harassing real women in this way as well.

    To be honest, I doubt how much “particular power” there is in “men calling this stuff out”, but OP should do this anyway. I quite like the “reconsider your life choices” wording.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      THIS — This is appalling, given that they’re presumably harassing real women in this way as well.

      Ever so much this. If they feel comfortable hitting on someone who gives no personality what are they doing with the receptionist who answers the phone in a friendly manner? Some guys are just creeps.

    2. Ginger Cat Lady*

      Classic example of a man who won’t recognize his male privilege.
      Women calling this stuff out get called “too sensitive” or “reading it wrong”
      Men who call this stuff out get taken seriously.
      I know it’s hard for you – a man, assuming by your user name – to truly understand, but when women tell you that men have more power to change the behavior of other men, believe them!
      And act accordingly.

      1. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

        Truly. I once worked with a married couple (“June” and “Johnny”) — all three of us were equals in the company hierarchy but worked for the same boss (“Loretta”). June once confided in me that when she brought a problem to Loretta, Loretta worked on resolving June’s feelings about the problem; when Johnny brought a problem to Loretta, Loretta actually worked on resolving the *problem.* Point being the attitudes that put women’s complaints down to sensitive feelings and men’s complaints down as logical issues are deeply pervasive, and we might as well weaponize that double-standard for our own good by having men speak up about problems that disproportionately affect their women colleagues.

      2. Vio*

        I assumed he was expressing doubt that they’d listen to criticism at all rather than doubting that they’d pay more notice to a man than a woman.
        Regardless of whether or not they would listen though, it’s still important they be told. And if they don’t listen then they face consequences.

        1. Ginger Cat Lady*

          Maybe he should try speaking up for women sometimes and see instead of claiming he has no privilege.

    3. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Actually, it is very effective to have a man tell another man to change a behavior, in whatever words are used. Is it perfect? No. But it is far, far more effective than a woman saying the exact same thing.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      These types of guys tend to really, really care about what other men think even if they don’t show it in the moment. I was about 16 and doing work experience in an office which in the UK you still do in high school. I walk into a work event room with my boss and straight into a group of his professional contacts. They all make some form of “whoah” comment about how I look, and about how the boss must be distracted by me (he’s about 59, so older than my dad was). I make a totally instinctive face of disgust but I don’t say or do anything. Guess who got a lecture about their reactions to people at that event and how “embarrassing” it was: A) Me or B) Creepy dudes?

    5. Catwhisperer*

      The same underlying assumptions/power dynamics that make men think they can make these weird comments to women are the same thing that gives men’s words additional weight when calling this wort of thing out. The most insidious part of privilege is that having it seems normal, so it’s hard to believe when people tell you their experiences are different. I encourage you to not fall into that trap here.

    6. Observer*

      To be honest, I doubt how much “particular power” there is in “men calling this stuff out”,

      That’s probably because you are a guy and have not witnessed women’s concerns being waved away. Unfortunately a LOT of people will think (consciously or not) that “*She* is making too much of this. And she could probably reduce this by changing her behavior.” when a woman complains. But when a man complains they are thinking something like “*He* seems really put off. This is a problem and needs to be stopped.”

      Same behavior, different response.

      1. Craig*

        You may very well be right. It’s hard to step outside your own experiences. In this case, I hope it does have that effect if, as I think should happen, OP takes it up with these guys’ bosses.

    7. Jaybeetee*

      In a relative sense, men calling out other men appears to be more impactful than women calling out men for this sort of behaviour.

      However. There are plenty of guys who aren’t prepared to listen to anyone on the topic, and at least online, I’ve seen cases of dudes speaking up about this sort of thing and the offending guys accusing them of being “betas”, “white-knighting”, trying to get women to sleep with them by putting on a “feminist act”, or whatever else.

      That is to say, a man has a better chance at success with calling this sort of behaviour out – but not necessarily a *good* chance of success.

    8. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

      Just so you know, Craig, I’ve seen the “particular power” of men listening to men after ignoring women. Alison obviously has, too, and that’s why she said it.
      Why would you assume she said that if she hadn’t experienced it? What do you think her job is here?

      1. Craig*

        As a regular reader of this site, I am very far from having any desire to disrespect Alison’s experience and expertise.

        What I would say is that there is a tendency for a lot of people to have an overly optimistic view about how much individual men can do about this kind of thing. Jaybeetee has given some of the reasons above. In my experience of 44 years of being male, guys like the ones OP is complaining about will listen to the following: (i) their friends, (ii) men they respect, and (iii) men with power over them. I will rarely fall into any of those three categories. Most of us won’t, in any given situation.

        Hopefully, OP has enough influence over these clients to make a difference here. If he doesn’t, then I hope he’s in a position where he can get rid of these clients (and make sure they know why he’s ditching them.)

        1. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

          Maybe our view is overly optimistic because too many men come up with excuses like “he won’t respect me” and decide not to act.
          Dream bigger, and do the right thing.

    9. Laura*

      I doubt how much “particular power” there is in “men calling this stuff out”,

      Do not doubt.

  31. Doodle Brain*

    Please just randomly change the name all the time to ultra feminine names like Honey or Bambie then flip flop it to things like Burt and Hoss.

    “where did that nice Bambie go…”

    “oh you mean my scheduling not that I change the name on?”

    1. Dark Macadamia*

      Lol yes I was thinking any inappropriate email should be responded to in an identical “voice” to the AI but signed Bruce.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Since Honey West has a pet ocelot named Bruce, I was imagining this response: “Grrrr! Yowl!” Faint sounds of claws…

  32. Delphine*

    Wild. Wild! I both can and can’t believe this has happened more than once. The bar is nonexistent. T_T

    1. Danish*

      More than once! In a presumably fairly short window! If it were “about once a year, somebody hits on my schedule bot” it wouldn’t be letter worthy

      Both astounded and not at all

  33. Iridescent Periwinkle*

    I know that it’s a “not all men” issue but it is still really disconcerting that some men see this as okay behavior. Sad.

    1. Ellis Chumsfanleigh*

      Whenever somebody throws “It’s only *some* me, not all men!” at me when I describe behavior similar to the OP’s and what’s being recounted in the comments, I respond: “Then those ‘some’ must spend 100% of their time hitting on women, because every single woman I know has been hit on like this enough times for them to not even be remotely surprised by it anymore.”

      And if it truly is only “some” men, then that means *MOST* men are just idly standing by, watching their buddies, family members, and co-workers harass women. Thanks, guys!

      1. Pat*

        First just to acknowledge, “not all men” is unhelpful at best and often outright malevolent. Doesn’t matter that it’s not all men, when it is “yes all women” and there’s no way for women to recognise which men. With you on all that.

        I do want to note though, the serial creeps avoid doing that stuff around men who don’t accept it.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      That’s exactly what they will say if they are called out on the issue if they are told it’s a bot. I’d love to know if they get called out on it and say this *before* they are told it’s a bot. Then I’d actually believe that they know it’s a bot.

    2. DameB*

      I mean, that’s POSSIBLE in the same way it’s POSSIBLE that the dude who gestures to a woman to take out her ear buds and then asks about the book she’s reading is actually looking for a good book review. However, given the preponderance of women’s experiences (as evidenced by the comments section), it’s very very very unlikely.

    3. Emily*

      You’re giving these dudes way too much credit (and making excuses for their gross behavior). I guarantee their brain is not the part of their anatomy they are thinking with.

    4. bamcheeks*

      “messing with the system” by … sending an email which will end up in the inbox of the consultant you’re trying to hire seems non-optimal.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      What system got messed with?

      It seems like the only outcome involving a human being is that the person reviewing the email schedule will think they are weird and creepy.

    6. Dark Macadamia*

      Yes, I’m sure that’s why one of them messaged outside of work hours from his personal email rather than just throwing in a joke or pick up line at the end of the scheduling conversation. He takes his just messing with the system very seriously.

    7. Grey*

      Sure. I do this, but only when I know there’s little chance of anyone else seeing it. My girlfriend, Alexa can confirm.

      I’d never do this in OP’s scenario.

    8. Falling Diphthong*

      Well, the test is right here.
      If all these dudes are just guys who know it’s a bot, and are just messing with the system, then “Bruce” should get just as many date requests. Because they know it’s a bot, right?

  34. Emily*

    Our front desk person at work (who is female and has a female name) has been asked out a couple of times after having only email communication with a guy, so I can confirm it does indeed happen, and it is incredibly weird and creepy! (I would argue that you should not ask someone out even if you have met them in person at a business you are using, but a lot of men seem to confuse “kind professionalism” with “romantic interest”, as this has happened to me and nearly all my female colleagues at least once (ugh!).

    I completely agree with all of Alison’s advice on this, and I would love to hear back from LW once he changes the bot’s name to a male one. (I won’t start on my rant about assistant bots having default female names, but it does drive me nuts.)

    1. samwise*

      Here are jobs that are particularly likely to have more than one man mistake professional behavior (politeness, smiling) for an invitation for dates: receptionist, secretary, exec assistant, barista, waitperson, housekeeper, taxi driver, bus driver, delivery person, retail worker. For “dates” read dates, dirty talk, dick pix, sex.

      However, women and female-presenting people in ANY line of work can be the target of this behavior. Believe me.

      1. Rainy*

        Also anyone student-facing in higher ed. You’d think it would just be our student employees (it happens a lot to them, to be clear), but it’s also our professional staff! One of my colleagues had to 86 a student because at the end of their session the student was like “So what are we going to do about this?” with a leer.

        1. Our Lady of Shining Eels*

          Yep. I actually have a fake engagement ring to wear at work to ward off creeps.

          1. Laura*

            I inherited a fake wedding ring from my great-aunt, who was senior staff in civil service from the mid-1950s to her retirement in 1968.

            No used it so far.

        2. samwise*

          College instructor/lecturer, assistant professor, associate professor, professor.

          Really, any job in higher ed. Any job outside of higher ed. Any job.

          No one who is female or female-presenting is safe.

      2. JustaTech*

        Flight attendant!
        True story: DB Cooper had to ask the flight attendant to read his “this is a hijacking” note because she had assumed it was yet another creep asking her out on a date and hadn’t opened it.

        I sure hope a lot fewer people hit on flight attendants these days.

  35. DameB*

    OP — you may want to add a line to the email that says something like “I am a scheduling bot.” I think it’s best practices to ID ai-generated content up front.

    That said, EW EW EW EW. Men using “she was nice to me!” as an excuse to objectify women who are just adhering to basic professional standards.

    1. Shirley Keeldar*

      “I am a scheduling bot. I cannot answer questions about the weather, the future, or potential romantic encounters. Please do not ask. Have a nice day!”

    2. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      Men using “she was nice to me!” as an excuse to objectify women who are just adhering to basic professional standards.

      I can’t help wondering where these jerks are getting their ideas from. There are way too many males with this attitude for it to just be a bunch of random coincidences. Wtf is going on in the upbringing and education of some boys that causes them to arrive at the conclusion that a woman being polite means she is into them personally?

      I don’t expect any answers to these questions; I’m just saying this is what I wonder about. @_@

      1. DameB*

        Short answer: the patriarchy. A system that elevates dudely things and devalues anything femme. Theoretically it’s a benefit to the men (but actually hurts them a lot) while deeply harmful to women in ways big and small.

        The long answer is VERY long. Like “gotta get a PhD in gender studies” long.

  36. Jane*

    I am over here wondering what the over/under is on this working for these men. Like they probably do it a lot and chances are they get a human some of the time. Has this ever worked?

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I think all you need is the tale of how your friend’s college roommate’s cousin’s neighbor did this and it worked! (I am recalling that there is even a rule of at least two degrees of separation, because with one degree people would fact check.)

    2. BellyButton*

      This is my response to being cat called “Has this ever worked for you? Has a woman ever once swooned and offered you ?? hmm?? Just stop it. ”

      *Of course I only do that in a very public place or when I feel safe*

      Most men act incredibly humiliated and run off.

      1. Ellis Chumsfanleigh*

        When I was in my early 20’s, I was pumping gas at a 7-11 and a car with 2-3 guys in starting circling the pumps and catcalling me.

        On their 2nd or 3rd time around, I stepped through the pumps, directly in front of the car, and made them stop. I then yelled, “DO YOU THINK I WOULD EVER ACTUALLY WANT F*CK ONE OF YOU AFTER THIS?? YOU THINK THIS IS ATTRACTIVE?? YOU THINK WOMEN WANT JERKS WHO YELL AT THEM THROUGH CAR WINDOWS??”

        Everyone in the parking lot and all the people stopped at the light a few feet away turned to stare. The guys looked shocked and the driver went around me and sped off.

        I did make sure to drive to and through the local police station parking lot before taking the long way home, though, because even though that was in public, dudes like that can get mad enough to kill. Literally.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          WOW, you are my HERO. I’d be terrified to do something like that even though I’m in my mid-40s now and in my IDGAF stage of life.

          1. Ellis Chumsfanleigh*

            Men started hitting on me when I was 12. By the time I was in my 20’s I was So. Effing. Fed. Up.

            Something in me snapped that day. Not just because they were harassing me, but because it’s *so stupid* and counterproductive to catcall women, if you’re goal is to actually get a date. And I get that many men do it for a rush of power by making the woman feel afraid, and I wasn’t going to give them that satisfaction, either.

            But, mainly, I was just massively pissed off.

            1. goddessoftransitory*

              The second a female presenting person develops boobs, it’s open season. As I learned at the age of eleven.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        Catcalling isn’t about getting a date. It’s about asserting dominance, about the pleasure of voicing desire, about showing off in front of their group. It’s purely masturbatory, and the woman’s participation is not required (except some dudes get off on the fear/disgust reaction also). And if this sounds even more creepy and disgusting than you thought it was – yes.

    3. Seconds*

      I have heard that some percentage of men think, “Can’t hurt to ask. And the more I ask, the more yeses I’ll get.”

      But they’re wrong on both counts. It hurts the women they ask, and probably hurts their opinion of women and how they interact with women. And, carefully choosing how to approach a woman and who to approach in what situation will yield many more yeses.

      I hesitate to call them entitled when they might just be clueless and not understand human dynamics. But whether they’re entitled or not, it’s damaging for both sides.

      1. Lenora Rose*

        This is literally MLM tactics in a different context. “You often have to get a hundred Nos before you get one yes.” is the sort of thing said by Amway or worse.

      2. Laura*

        I won’t hurt _them_ because women cannot simply reply “no” and be done with it. And women cannot because of Schrödinger’s man: You can’t know if he’s a crazy psycho stalker until you find out.

    4. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

      I read somewhere that the actor James Woods had a strategy of going up to women in bars and saying “You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met and I want to go to bed with you right now.” He claimed it worked 33% of the time so it was worth it to him. I think his odds might have been skewed in his favor by being a recognizable actor, though.

      On a related note: James Woods is reported to be a terrible human for many reasons.

  37. canary*


    You could also take Alison’s suggestion of sending a “This was a scheduling bot” email from your own account and CC their boss on it.

  38. Justin*

    I did used to try and mess with bots to see what their response was but it was never going to be this sort of thing, jeez.

    1. Hazel*

      Yeah I did wonder if they are being garden-variety ‘let’s throw the bot a curve and see what happens’ jerks rather than creepy sexist jerks. Stupid and unprofessional still. Also, since the email owner still has to deal with them, it still has creepy result … though if the owner is male, maybe they could enthusiastically accept some dates ….

  39. BatManDan*

    A friend of mine runs an AI/bot voice service (takes calls, interacts with the customer, schedules appointments) in a feminine voice, and never identifies itself as a bot. According to my friend, it gets asked on dates A LOT.

    1. cktc*

      Have they ever run a social experiment with different voices? I wonder what kind of responses a “stereotypical gay male” voice would receive, compared to a “stereotypical female” voice. Plus all the different variations of regional and/or ethnic accents. I’m sure there’s a scholarly paper written on this topic somewhere out there – and if there’s not, there should be.

  40. Stuart Foote*

    This is a great story but it is not really plausible. I’m skeptical that there are at least three men who asked out a bot that only requested meeting times. This seems like the kind of story that isn’t likely in real life but plausible enough to make a great story for this kind of website. (Kind of like that guy who kept sending crazy scenarios to Slate’s Dear Prudie and got a lot of them published, including one that ended up on Fox News).

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          I looked for my surprise but remembered it ran away from home right around the time I hit puberty.

      1. slashgirl*

        Well, very few women would find this implausible. However the type of man who would send that type of email to a woman they hardly know is definitely the type to call the letter into question. I’m just saying….

    1. restingbutchface*

      Oh gosh, I wish. I launch bots for a living and I can assure you that I see this every single day. I even have a report template just for this purpose so I can flag it to my client.

    2. Rainy*

      Lol, thanks for your incredibly nuanced take on this, Random Dudebrobuddyguy.

      Please see below where the person who actually supplies chat bots to organizations says this is a constant problem.

    3. Pippa K*

      And all the women in the comments saying “yep, this is ridiculous but also it tracks with my lifetime of experiences of men treating polite neutrality as an invitation to hit on me” … this doesn’t make you reconsider? Ok.

      1. Observer*

        That’s why Alison said that there is special power when a MAN calls this kind of garbage out.

        Because WOMEN are just over sensitive and make up stuff but MEN always play it straight./ sarc

    4. samwise*

      I guess the actual experience of actual women and female-presenting people is “not really plausible”

      It’s completely believable.

      If the OP is male, that’s why he’s surprised that it’s happening — he would not have had this experience before and only sees it now that he’s looking at the bot’s inbox. And very likely that women/female presenting don’t even bother letting a manager know, because it happens so often and often when they do let a manager know, it gets laughed off.

      Just sharing my actual woman experience with you. And that of most of the women I know who have had any sort of job whatsoever.

    5. Ginger Cat Lady*

      Why is it completely unsurprising that a dudebro would not believe what women experience all the time?

      1. Paris Geller*

        +1. Like OK random guy, you think it’s not plausible even though hundreds of us in the comments are saying we’re not surprised? Maybe you should recalibrate your worldview a little there. . . .

    6. BellyButton*

      And.. here you go… just trust women when we tell you what we experience. Just because you haven’t experienced doesn’t mean anything.

    7. Audrey Puffins*

      Unlikely =/= impossible

      And also a rule of thumb for advice columnists is to treat all queries as real, because even if the letter in question is an elaborate fiction, there will probably be enough useful stuff in the answer for people who might be in a similar (and more “likely”) situation to be able to adapt the advice for their purposes.

      If you find it unlikely and unhelpful, that’s fine. As a British reader, a LOT of Alison’s advice is irrelevant to me. But I still read those posts for their entertainment value and because sometimes there are useful snippets, even if the *entire* scenario will never be one I face.

    8. Ellis Bell*

      Post a female picture and female name online, somewhere with a messaging facility where you can be contacted out of the blue by randos… nothing else, just a feminine identity… and then come back to us.

      1. Janne*

        I got dick pics playing Wordfeud with a female name and no profile pic.

        Wordfeud! I usually only play it with my grandma and my 70-year-old aunt.

        Apparently some men on there invite any account that seems female to a Wordfeud game just to show dick pics.

        My boyfriend changed his account name to “Lotte90” or something like that and he also kept getting game invites from random dudes. Random Scandinavian dudes, mostly, because Lotte is a common name there.

        Those men are everywhere.

    9. MCMonkeyBean*

      Gee it must be nice to live in a world where this seems implausible. How do I get to your reality?

      1. samwise*

        Be a guy who doesn’t think the womenz are capable of understanding what’s really happening to them every f’n day.

    10. Csethiro Ceredin*

      I find this totally believable.

      I changed my signature to a male-sounding nickname for years because not until I had C in my title did random men stop hitting on my over email.

      I also had a work contact make advances at his wife’s memorial.

    11. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Hey, all y’all who have been replying to Stuart Foote, can you stop insulting them?

      We do not know if they are male, much less if they are a dudebro.

      There have been a number of times on here where a perspective has been derided as ‘male’, or its been said that ‘any woman would get it, but I shared the ‘male’ opinion or didn’t get whatever it was. I’m a woman.

      And if Stuart is male, that doesn’t mean you should insult him. Refute his opinion, sure, but don’t attack the person.

      1. Pippa K*


        Stuart has chosen to present with the name of a male historical figure in order to take a position on a highly gendered issue. He (as that’s the chosen presentation) has engaged in the exact kind of skepticism about gendered social patterns that have long plagued women (yep, women, cis and trans) in their efforts to get problematic behavior to stop. It’s fair for replies to him to proceed on that basis.

        Tldr, no one’s obliged to give a carefully non gendered reply to a poster who comes in with a highly gendered name and comment.

        1. Stuart Foote*

          Yes, I have chosen to take the name of that important historical figure of “David Brent’s quickly rejected personal assistant from the office because he wanted to hire an attractive lady for the role.”

          For whatever it’s worth, I am only skeptical that this specific scenario actually happened. I know for a fact that women get a lot of unwelcome attention that men don’t have to worry about, including in the workplace (and adjacent places like LinkedIn). I just think this story seems too good to be true, and the sort of story that someone (likely a man!) would make up to fool advice writers, which we know happens fairly frequently.

          1. Pippa K*

            Ha, I missed the Office reference. Stuart Foote was a real name too. Anyway, on the substantive issue, clearly we disagree whether skepticism about weirder-version-of-extremely-common-problem is really helpful in some way or yet another “prove this to my satisfaction or it didn’t happen” type thing that is so exhausting when women talk about their experiences. I note that a few responses here seem to be from people who program or deploy bots themselves and they’ve seen it too, so it’s apparently more common than one might think.

            1. Stuart Foote*

              The comments from the people that program bots weren’t there when I typed out my comment (or I missed them), but yes, those experiences do make me think this story is a bit more likely, although I still lean towards skepticism.

          2. Insert Clever Name Here*

            Curious if you still feel that way after reading the comment by restingbutchface, who makes these types of bots ***and*** reads the chat transcripts.

          3. samwise*

            I guess you also missed the many comments from people who have had this exact experience with chatbots?

          4. Pat*

            The top search results are probably a bit unfortunate there: Henry Stuart Foote was a Confederate senator, and Stuart Foote is a convicted murderer. Definitely gave me an unfairly negative view of you, before I saw your clarification about The Office.

    12. Time for Tea*

      Oh bless you. Now go talk to women you know about their life experiences and actually listen to the crap from men we deal with just existing

    13. datamuse*

      Please see the reply below from someone who makes these bots for a living.

      Me, I’m entirely unsurprised.

    14. fhqwhgads*

      Did you read the many comment threads above yours of this occurring with actual humans who had no more interaction than the bot did? Or you’re suggesting they’re all lying? Or all bots?

    15. Ellis Chumsfanleigh*

      You’re just hurt because you found out that scheduler you’ve been asking out hasn’t been ignoring you, “she” is actually a chat bot.

  41. Talk is cheap... please have exact change.*

    THIS might be the best thing on the internet today:
    “All that said, I admit I am hoping for an alternate version of this story where it turns out the romance-attempter is a bot himself, recognizes a kindred soul in “Emily,” and what you are witnessing is bot-on-bot love, in which case you can and should simply stand back and watch what unfolds.”

  42. It’s not just bots*

    Omg this does not surprise me at all. I used to work for a large cell phone company’s customer service line and I was not only asked out many many times, but I was PROPOSED to twice!! Over the phone, just because I was nice and competent I’m assuming but really I think it was because I am female.

  43. Nomic*

    This story has been told many times, but it relates how a man accidentally replies with his female co-worker’s email, and the responses he got. So he swaps with her for a couple weeks. His productivity plummets, hers skyrockets. Well worth the read (I picked this kinda randomly from the google. I think this is a true story, but it has become apocryphal).

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Honestly, I would love if men would just believe women when they say this stuff happens instead of having to conduct elaborate experiments so they can believe it with their own two eyes. You see similar stories of men joining dating apps as women to get the “women’s experience” and it’s the same thing. Just believe people when they tell you it’s real!

  44. MicroManagered*

    I do think there’s room to flag it to your client — like forwarding the email with, “This is awkward, but I’d want to know if one of my employees were asking out women after a very basic scheduling email so I’m passing on the below to you. In this case, ‘Emily’ is a scheduling bot — making this all the odder — but seems like a flag it may be happening to actual human assistants as well.” (Also, I think from your email that you’re a man, and there can be be particular power in men calling this stuff out.)

    This is the only right answer, in my book. Men aren’t going to stop doing this shit until there’s social pressure, especially from other men, to stop.

    1. restingbutchface*

      H, I should have offered some actual feedback. OP, if your bot is managed externally and you have a contact there, speak to your provider and ask them to provide a historical data report on the keywords/conversations you have noticed.

      If it’s internally managed, collate the examples and share with your manager and IT. Not only is it likely to have real world parallels, it’s a misuse of applications. Depending on what sort of bot and contract you have, your company could be paying per X number of lines, so they would be paying for this nonsense. Good luck friend, and you’re not crazy or out of line. This is a real problem and I’m just happy to meet someone who also sees it as inappropriate. Most of my clients find it amusing. Ha. Ha. So funny.

  45. restingbutchface*

    So, I deliver chatbots like this as part of my job, for large corporations all over the world. For about a month after go-live, I pay extra close attention to what people are saying and what my bot is saying, to the extent that I read thousands of lines of conversations.

    I can tell you that this happens ALL. THE. TIME.

    Sadly, it would actually be surprisingly if I didn’t see something inappropriate in the chat logs post go-live. I have a macro that filters out certain words (think – baby, honey, gorgeous… words you would never need to use in a bot conversation) and all I can do is compile a report and share with my client. 9 times out of 10 they are men are find it funny. I’m a woman and I do not.

    I’ve also experienced:

    – (male) CEOs complaining the avatar “isn’t sexy enough”
    – demands that the avatar wear less clothing or tighter clothing – my standard is a smart fitted shirt and blazer
    – objections to any suggestion they consider an avatar that isn’t white
    – complaints that the bot isn’t friendly enough (see, it’s not just real life women who are told to smile more)
    – requests for the bot to be “more flirty” to drive user adoption

    I could go on, but I have a launch tonight and the client is worried it will fail as the sponsor chose a gender neutral name and how can a chat bot who isn’t signposted as female work? This is why I drink.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Do the Germans have a word that captures “Horrifying and yet exactly what I expected”?

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I wish my German were good enough that I could answer your question, but if any language did have such a word I would bet on German being that language.

        1. OlympiasEpiriot*

          Or Finnish.

          In fact, given what little I know of Finnish humor, I’ll bet there IS a work for this in Finnish.

      2. Pat*

        Best I’ve got is the English “banal evil” (h/t Hannah Arendt).

        (and I do speak German, and so did Arendt)

      3. Laura*

        Can’t think of one right now. “unschöne Nichtüberraschung” (unpleasant non-surpise) micht capture it but is a bit boring. Also, two words.

    2. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I love (not really) that they think this is the way to get chat bots to work, as opposed to improving the functionality so that when I tell it what I need/want, I actually get a response that isn’t just a link to something in the site’s FAQ that I already read.

      1. restingbutchface*

        Oh my god, do not get me started. I have this conversation every day. I’ve spent six weeks in daily meetings to get sign off for an avatar hair style but when I want to work with a client to agree minimum user cases and standards… crickets.

        1. Rex Libris*

          I know when forced to interact with AI customer service, what I’m most concerned with is its hairstyle, and totally not how many times it will direct me back to the same FAQ page that I already marked “unhelpful” before I can somehow talk it into transferring me to an actual person.

          1. restingbutchface*

            What I like best is when I look at a knowledge base or tracking page, whatever and it doesn’t give me the info I want but it does give me a link to the bot… who then just regurgitates the information from the SAME PAGE I HAD TO BE ON TO FIND IT.

            But that’s only okay if the avatar is super cute.

        2. Student*

          So do they not have any straight women or gay men as clients? I gotta ask. Team LGBTQ+ is going to be small spending for most businesses, I know, but… those straight women control a lot of the spending on a lot of products. Like, do the execs just see a chance to “design a woman” and forget that they also want fist-fulls of money?

      1. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

        Honestly, this is probably a genius move; if a chatbot styled as a golden retriever sent me back to the FAQ I’d already read and marked unhelpful, I would find that adorably dumb instead of frustratingly obtuse.

        “Aww, good try buddy. I will rate you five stars anyway.”

    3. BellyButton*

      “complaints that the bot isn’t friendly enough (see, it’s not just real life women who are told to smile more)”


      1. Rex Libris*

        … and the AI itself. “Fiver has a bad feeling about your request. We disconnect. We run. We hide.”

      2. restingbutchface*

        They’d still want a sexy lady rabbit. You know, one with a pink bow and eyelashes so you know it’s a girl. Then they would harass it. Poor bunnies.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        There was a deeply embarrassing pop culture hiccup a few years ago, where A Certain Segment of The Internet became outraged that the Space Jam reboot would feature an unsexy lady rabbit, unlike what they believed was the original.

        Their idea of the OG: Let’s use the euphemism “fan art”
        Their idea of an unsexy soccer mom in a minivan rabbit: The actual original cartoon rabbit

        So no, rabbits will not save us.

      4. Laura*

        Honey badgers. Because honey badger does not give a f***. It’s perfect for a chatbot as the first-and-last line defense against customers and prospective customers.

    4. Wendy Darling*

      This is why I got out of that job. Between dealing with the clients and having to audit user chats super closely during the BLM protests I developed a stress-induced illness. Now I don’t do client-facing work. D:

      1. restingbutchface*

        Kudos to you, fellow soldier. I’m glad you got out and didn’t entirely sacrifice your mental health. I don’t do user input audits during Pride month. I will not do that to myself.

    5. Hrodvitnir*

      Euuugh. These people are the decision makers, yet it really sounds like they shouldn’t be making any decisions.

  46. Dark Macadamia*

    Wow I’ve never been so amused by something so dehumanizing!

    LW if you’re a man PLEASE call this out. The clients hitting on a “woman” who is just trying to do her job need some accountability even if they’re not technically hurting anyone.

  47. Jessica Clubber Lang*

    Weird.. Are these men also hitting on real women they encounter via chat or email? Or just bots.

    1. BellyButton*

      I was literally still on stage presenting to a crowd of a few hundred people when TWO men sent LinkedIn messages asking me out.

  48. neutral_name*

    This situation is why, as a woman in a male-dominated field, I do not put my pronouns in my signature even though I’m a member of the LGBTQ+ community. My name is gender-neutral enough that people I’ve only corresponded with over e-mail have been surprised to find out I’m a woman when we speak over the phone, and I plan to keep taking advantage of that for as long as I can.

    1. BellyButton*

      Over the years, I have encouraged my friends to pick a gender neutral name for their baby based on every study ever done about names and advantages in job hunting, test scores, etc etc etc.

      1. kicking-k*

        Mine both have the option of gender-neutral short forms, and my son decided to be known as his quite early on (not, I don’t think, because of its neutrality – he was three). I’ll be interested to see whether he sticks with it.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      I have occasionally wished I had a gender-neutral name, even though I like my name quite a bit the way it is.

  49. Rex Libris*

    I wonder if the scheduling bot could be programmed to forward emails asking it out to the scheduling bot for the clients’ Employee Assistance Programs… because obviously somebody has some issues they could benefit from talking through.

  50. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

    Allison’s advice is spot-on here. The fact that people are hitting on your appt-bot with absolutely no personal touches or flirtation of any kind is definitely a red-flag that bosses should know about. You don’t want to frame it as “I am outraged on behalf of my robot employee” but more “I am concerned that a person who would come on to a scheduling bot may also be doing so to human assistants, which could be potentially harmful to those assistants and to your reputation.”

  51. Hailrobonia*

    This is why I found the movie Her profoundly sexist. Joaquin Phoenix’s character falls in love with his computer AI… because it was female presenting. Would he have fallen in love if it had Rodney Dangerfield’s voice?

      1. Hailrobonia*

        What’s really awful is that originally another actress was the voice of the AI and after production was done they had Scarlet Johannsen redo all the dialogue.

        1. Sloanicota*

          I read a really interesting article about the actual voice of Siri (or actually maybe it was the old Apple voice lady). She was not paid specifically by Apple – just by the original company she recorded for – or ever credited for that work.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          Yes, the original actress apparently wasn’t “feminine” enough (read, flirtatious no matter what the actual lines were.)

    1. bamcheeks*

      I actually wrote a bit about this in my PhD thesis– the “man creates clockwork doll / sex-robot / android / computer programme / AI, calls it female and falls in love” plot goes back at least as far as the story of Coppelia in the mid-nineteenth century, and it’s reiterated for every new generation of technology. It does not say a lot for men. .

        1. bamcheeks*

          huh, that’s true. I was specifically focussing on anxieties around new technologies and modernity, so I didn’t think of Pygmalion but that’s a really good point!

      1. Rainy*

        Mine was on objectification and subjectification in ancient literature and I had a chapter about the ancient versions of this type of narrative (Pygmalion et al). It languishes unfinished as I left ABD but it was so interesting to work on.

    2. Perihelion*

      Very true. There’s an interesting 2021 German sci-fi movie called I’m Your Man which takes a much more critical look as this phenomenon.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        I highly recommend that film. Bonus: it features a hilarious cameo by the brilliant Sandra Huller (Anatomy of a Fall.)

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Behaving inappropriately and crossing obvious boundaries is a symptom of entitledness, not loneliness. There are lots of lonely people who would never in a million years do this.

      1. Lilo*

        This. I have a public facing job and when my female colleagues get hit on (by people we literally just email about their government submissions) it frankly is disrespectful and gross. I don’t care how lonely you are, that’s not an excuse to make someone uncomfortable when they’re just doing their job.

        1. Emily*

          “I don’t care how lonely you are, that’s not an excuse to make someone uncomfortable when they’re just doing their job.”

          This!!! I am so, so tired of all the excuses that get made for inappropriate male behavior. Also, there is a good chance these men are lonely because they act like this, and no woman wants to deal with them.

    2. Ginger Cat Lady*

      There’s no loneliness epidemic. There are just men who think they deserve a women while acting like sexist buffoons trying to out-alpha each other (or not trying at all) and not understanding why women don’t put up with that crap.

      1. Zap R.*

        The loneliness epidemic = Men felt lonely during the pandemic and decided that they had invented sadness.

        1. BellyButton*

          Loneliness epidemic= men being confused that women would rather be alone than put up with them.

      2. STG*

        Eh, I think I’ll push back on the ‘there is no loneliness epidemic’.

        Stuff like this letter should absolutely be handled and spoken about but let’s not silence men’s issues such as the mental health crisis and dealing with loneliness. There’s enough room for both sexes to have voices for their problems without claiming that they don’t exist. I’m sure women are tired of hearing men saying their issues are things of the past.

        1. Zap R.*

          The issue here is that mental illness and loneliness are not unique to men but they are increasingly being framed as more serious or worse than those experienced by non-men.

          This framing implies that:
          – women “don’t have it as hard” and therefore could never understand men’s emotional needs
          – men who engage in acts of violence (esp. against women) are innocent victims of larger social ills
          – women do not face myriad barriers when accessing mental healthcare as a direct result of institutionalized sexism
          – women are responsible for solving the epidemic and safeguarding men’s mental well-being

        2. Caramel & Cheddar*

          “Loneliness” isn’t a men’s issue. Lots of women are lonely, yet manage to not behave like the throngs of “lonely” men we see in our lives and online.

          1. Observer*


            The top comment here is pretty gross. And one of the reasons it’s gross is because it tries to excuse inexcusable behavior while totally ignoring the actual issue.

            *Loneliness* is a real and significant issue. Pretending that it is in any way related to this kind of gross behavior does nothing to help either the victims of the behavior *o* the problems of people who are genuinely lonely and isolated.

        3. Observer*

          let’s not silence men’s issues such as the mental health crisis and dealing with loneliness

          Loneliness is not just a men’s issue. Yes, toxic masculinity does make men more susceptible. But this is not just a men’s issue by any stretch of the imagination.

        4. Ginger Cat Lady*

          Clearly you haven’t seen who/how the concept of the “loneliness epidemic” is being pushed. Or where it came from.
          There are men who think that women should be *obligated* to provide men with sex because they made up this “loneliness epidemic”
          People get lonely, sure. But the idea that men are having a “loneliness epidemic” and that women need to be the ones to fix it for them is pure misogyny.
          And pure fiction.

          1. Abundant Shrimp*

            Ah yeah, I hadn’t ever heard of it, but thought that the term has an incel-adjacent ring to it.

        5. Falling Diphthong*

          I think there is a current loneliness epidemic, and lack of practice at human interaction isn’t helping.

          But also that if the scheduling bot traveled back to 1955, age of bowling leagues and civic engagement, it would still get hit on.

      3. Observer*

        There’s no loneliness epidemic.

        Disagree. There is a lot of evidence that says otherwise.

        But that has absolutely nothing to do with this letter. Creeps trying take advantage of women they see as lower on the social / power ladder is an issue as old as social / power hierarchies.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      Also seems to be a stupidity and low EQ epidemic, to be fair. Also, being hit on for your scheduling skills would make anyone feel lonely.

    4. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Nope. Lonely straight women often decide being lonely is better that whatever that stuff in the letter at the top of the page is.

    5. MsM*

      Nah. These guys would be pulling this if tech was still at the level where they had to call actual women to do the scheduling.

      1. JustaTech*

        Absolutely. Betty Crocker (a fictional character!) got proposals for decades, even after she was no longer a radio or TV character and was just a face on a box.

        Heck, I’ve seen fliers on telephone poles in my neighborhood of guys looking for love/a date. It’s like the reproductive strategy of “have millions of offspring that you leave to raise themselves and maybe 2 survive to adulthood (salmon)” vs “have very few offspring and put a lot of effort into making sure they survive to adulthood (bears)”.

    6. Sarah M*

      I can assure you that this predates any current trend, and is more of a Perpetual Creepy Dude Problem.

    7. Abundant Shrimp*

      Willing to bet hard cash that most of the “lonely” guys asking the bot out are in fact married.

    8. Lenora Rose*

      Any serious studies of loneliness in modern society seem to find a lot of lonely women, too (eg, Covid closures hit single parents REALLY hard by stripping their access to support systems and adult contact/company; guess which gender is the majority there?). But it’s only described as an epidemic by the people who seem to think it effects men while women are happy. Reconsider whether entitlement is actually a symptom of anything but entitlement.

      1. Observer*

        But it’s only described as an epidemic by the people who seem to think it effects men while women are happy.

        That’s not actually the case. I’ll try to post a link in a follow up, but the person who I’ve heard the term from the most is Vivek Murthy, Surgeon General of the US.

        In an advisory on the beneficial effects of social connection he writes this in the introductory letter:

        In recent years, about one-in-two adults in America reported experiencing
        loneliness.1-3 And that was before the COVID-19 pandemic cut off so
        many of us from friends, loved ones, and support systems, exacerbating
        loneliness and isolation.

        There is a lot more here. But this is not about *men* being lonely, but people in general.

        In the advisory there is research about the demographics, and gender doesn’t seem to be a major factor. The main risk factors are not terribly surprising.

        Although risk may differ across indicators of social disconnection, currently,
        studies find the highest prevalence for loneliness and isolation among people with
        poor physical or mental health, disabilities, financial insecurity, those who live
        alone, single parents, as well as younger and older populations.

        There is a lot of research packed in here – it’s an 84 page document and doesn’t spend much time on specifically male issues.

    9. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      If the problem was that men were lonely, they could hang out with the other lonely men. What these guys want isn’t company and conversation, it’s deference, sex, and someone to take care of them.

      1. Alienor*

        Exactly. If men are lonely, it’s because they think they can only get emotional support and companionship from women they’re having sex with. If they would have real friendships with each other that involved more than just sitting on adjacent stools at the sports bar and yelling at the big TV, there wouldn’t be a problem. Hell, if they would be friends with women (real friends, not “feeding friendship coins into the sex vending machine and getting mad when it doesn’t put out”) there wouldn’t be a problem. My sympathy for their self-created situation is very, very low.

  52. Jasmi*


    I do like Alison’s idea of the romance between the two bots.

    OP, it did occur to me that you could write back as the bot but not divulge at first that you are a bot, and when the guy asks why you didn’t turn up for the date say that you expected the date to take place online as you are a bot. But that would probably open up a further level of weirdness, so I’d probably go with Alison’s advice which is more sensible lol

  53. Hawk*

    At one point in time, at my library job where I perform customer service duties, men asking me (female-appearing person) out after just meeting me as I helped them was an almost weekly interaction that I dreaded. It happens less often now, thankfully.

    Alison, you should read All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders if you haven’t already. It’s not exactly the story that you would like to see of bots falling in love, but it’s a really unique and inventive story about love and magic and technology.

  54. RandomNameAllocated*

    I would re-name the bot HAL and have a little programme that replies singing “Daisy Daisy” if a date email is sent

    1. Ex-prof*

      Ha. Yes.

      My phone’s bot scolded me for swearing the other day. Actually scolded me. If I have to put up with that, then a scheduling bot can certainly slap a few hands away.

      1. I Have RBF*

        See, if my phone’s bot did that it would get uninstalled. Machines have no business scolding their users.

        OTOH, hitting on a scheduler, whether a bot or not, is inappropriate.

  55. anxiousGrad*

    I’ve done text banking for political campaigns and this has come up a lot with people sexually harassing texters with women’s names, usually after receiving only the first completely generic message. It got so bad that a lot of campaigns have switched to having all of the texters use the same gender neutral name.

  56. We still use so much paper!*

    My late husband had a bot on his company website and people asked to meet with her all the time. And didn’t believe my husband when he told them she wasn’t real.

  57. Ex-prof*

    Meanwhile every guy who failed to get a nibble from the scheduling bot is in certain chatrooms complaining that ALL women just ignore him. He can’t get a date with ANYONE. The appointment bot wasn’t even a 10, it was at best a 6, it should be glad to settle for a guy like him, but NOoooO!

  58. Umami*

    Since they are assuming it’s a person, don’t hesitate to take steps to shut down that behavior. Seriously. I would have immediately emailed back asking why they are trying to make a date with my assistant (who happens to be a bot, but that’s … not the point.)

  59. lou*

    I’ve just finished the fantastic Murderbot Diaries series by Martha Wells, and I believe that Murderbot would have some Opinions about this.

    1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      I love those books!! I’m trying to find another series that scratches the same itch.

    2. Lenora Rose*

      It definitely would have Opinions. I’m fairly sure the word Stupid would feature prominently. In several places. Think of how it deals with the guy who was chasing the underage daughter of its favourite human.*

      In AAM terms, Murderbot at the start is so utterly accustomed to its toxic workplace that it takes it until halfway through book 2 to start admitting to itself that it’s a person.

      * for those who haven’t read, Murderbot just sneaks ahead to the abandoned and empty location the creep was leading her to and is found standing there when the creep turns on the lights. Then walks the daughter home. Murderbot doesn’t actually commit that much murder.

    3. NetNrrd*

      Hell yes. Murderbot would hack the connecting system and shut that shit right down and lock some doors and open some airlocks. ART would approve but Amena and Mensah would be annoyed.

  60. Jess*

    From time to time i have relayed the story of how when i first became admin/front desk support in my late 20’s (scheduling) I got some version of “x name is a boys name, you don’t sound like a boy, you sound like a pretty girl/you are an attractive young lady” so frequently in my first few weeks on the job, I finally told my office manager im not using my unisex nickname anymore and started using my female identified first name. It stayed with me for over 20 years.

    Finally, 5 years ago after a job change, now long past the point of youthful sounding attractiveness and into the realm of person who can solve your financial problem, I finally went back to Jess.

    This post validates all of my youthful angst and frustration.

    1. Ruby Ruby*

      I’m also a Jess, though I normally go by Jessica. Just a personal preference. But I’ve never had anyone tell me Jess is a boys’ name. Jesse, sure, but not Jess. Interesting how the same name gets perceived differently!

      1. kicking-k*

        The only boy Jess I ever remember coming across is Postman Pat’s cat. (Pat is a British animated character aimed at very young children, and predates the term “mail carrier”. Pat is short for Patrick.)

        1. kicking-k*

          Not that I’ve met everyone named Jess in this world! I’m sure there are male ones out there.

    2. Autofill Contact*

      I tried using the nickname “Mel” when I was in high school working at a deli, and that somehow increased the creepy men hitting on me. “Mel, huh? You a transvestite?” Good times.

  61. BellyButton*

    The “I am fed up with men” part of me wants to reply to them as the manager of the scheduling employee and ask them why they are doing this and that it is inappropriate. I think practically, LW should let the client know. I would want to know if a person is behaving this way so I can make sure to be prepared if they act this way with me or any of my staff, or better yet, let them know I won’t be working with them because of this behavior.

    Men, be better.

    1. Ess Ess*

      I agree with this. OP should respond back telling them it is inappropriate and unprofessional, and cc: the manager of the employee.

      1. restingbutchface*

        I 100% agree that ths should be reported, but it shouldn’t be OP’s job to manage that conversation. It’s unlikely just to be one person. Collate a report and send it to management & IT. It’s their role to manage unprofessional behaviour and wasting resources – otherwise it’s likely the user just sees OP being a scold. Because these are not people who display a good understanding of societal norms.

        Plus, for all we know this is a pattern and their management would be very pleased to have the data.

  62. 1-800-BrownCow*


    And just last week I had a man inform me that women these days no longer have to worry about men being immature jerks that hit on women every chance they get. According to him “that kind of stuff just doesn’t happen anymore”.

    I’m now off to send an email with a link to this post.

    1. juliebulie*

      It doesn’t happen anymore? Really? See, this is why we need to always ask for evidence.

      Maybe what he meant was, “I don’t do that anymore so I assume everyone else has stopped as well.”

      1. 1-800-BrownCow*

        Yeah, he told me he would never allow behavior like that at any place he’s worked (he’s exec level), and that kind of behavior just doesn’t happen because men don’t act that way anymore. I told him that trust me, it does happen, it’s just some men know enough to not say it in front of witnesses and just because HE never sees it doesn’t mean it never happens. Case in point, I used to work with a guy who would call me ‘Sweetheart’ when no one was around, even after I told him to stop. He claimed he meant nothing by it and was just being a nice guy and that he talks that way to everyone. Yet, he never called me that in front of others and I never once heard him call anyone else something other than by their first name.

    2. BellyButton*

      OMG! In November I post in a thread somewhere on here about sitting at the only available seat at the airport bar and getting hit on, when I rejected the man he said B*tch you sat next to me.”

      1. Rainy*

        I was walking downtown to meet a friend for drinks last year (the year before? pretty recently) and a total stranger crossed the street to walk next to me, complemented my running shoes, and then asked me out. When I said no thank you, he said “You should give me your number; when two people feel a great connection like this it’s a shame to waste it.”

        1. Wendy Darling*

          I was once riding the bus home from the university at an off hour, so it was literally just me and the bus driver on the bus until a man at least 30 years older than me got on. With an entire empty bus to sit on, he sat down right beside me and immediately started trying to chat me up despite me having earbuds in (this was pre wireless earbuds, so they were quite obvious — I had white cords dangling down my front).

          He asked me a question and I, being at that time young and less cranky, popped out an earbud and said “Sorry?” He repeated his question, I answered in the terse-est way possible and immediately put my earbud back in.

          He then asked me another question. Repeat process. Luckily we got to my stop before he could ask for my number.

          As I got off the bus he called “I didn’t mean to scare you away!”


          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            One time in my life I actually came up with a great comeback in the moment and I am only now realizing that I should at least adopt the beginning of it for all such moments: “What makes you think….” It was over 25 years ago but I’m still very proud of it.

    3. BigLawEx*

      OMG I now want a GoPro on my shoulder. Every. Single. Day. this happens should I leave my house or car. Store, yes. (I now have to avoid one because an employee is too persistent). Bus Stop. On public transport. Walking down the street. Going to the gym. Biking in the city. Biking on the beach. Breathing outside.

      I thought it was my female form. Apparently, if a bot had my name, ‘her’ too.

  63. Perfectly Cromulent Name*

    One of my friends is a farrier, and she has her male assistant do her scheduling and all email responses for her clients. Her clients know that a woman is coming to do the horse work, but because she’s on the road, “James” handles all of her client scheduling/questions. It’s her. She’s James. She is the sole employee. She says that people will ask her questions, then email James the exact same question and accept HIS answer (the same answer) over hers. It’s ridiculous, but it makes her life easier.

    1. 1-800-BrownCow*

      Sad, but true. I’ve had that as a manage of an all male team in a male dominant field. Especially when it comes to technical questions, someone asks me and then goes to one of my male reports to get their answer. A few times, the direct report has come to me to get the answer, because I’m more qualified to answer the question and they’re not sure of the correct answer. This is how I found out it was happening. My one direct report has even said to me before that if I was a male, they would have accepted my answer and not gone to him.

      1. Perfectly Cromulent Name*

        She says that people 100% think James (who again, is not real) is her boss! It’s wild. Not surprising, but still wild.

        1. 1-800-BrownCow*

          Sad and wild, but not surprising. I’ve told a colleague multiple times what my degreed title is, yet every time something comes through him for my team, he reaches out and says that Floyd sent him to me about his question, but normally he would speak to a “Llama Designer” about it, so should he maybe go see Bob, the “Llama Designer”. I’ll respond that I’m a “Sr. Llama Designer” and that since its for my department, I can help him out. 1 month later, he’s back with a different question about something my department handles, and he’ll ask me if I know a “Llama Designer” he should ask as he doesn’t know who would be the “Llama Designer” for my department. Then he’ll ask if the Llama Designer is maybe Fred, George, Bob or Harry, who all work in a completely different department? Every. Single. Time.

    2. DameB*

      Ayup. I work with sales people and I’ve often seen one of the women just hand the phone to a man to repeat what she said, word for word, to get the client to believe it. It’s exhausting.

    3. ragazza*

      I do this when following up on late payments for my business. I see a lot more attention paid to the problem when “Stephen” from Accounting emails, unfortunately.

  64. Manders*

    Sometimes I wonder to myself how I made it to be 46 and still single, despite being a reasonably good catch. And then I realize that …this… is what is out there and I realize being single isn’t so bad.

    1. Lenora Rose*

      In my larger friends-of-friends circle, the one woman who has had the hardest time getting dates on dating sites is an MD with a specialty whose practice runs in standard office hours (ie, not the sort of doctor who is always on call/ has to cancel a lot). She’s fairly conventionally attractive, too. It’s telling who does and does not get past the first sets of texts.

  65. Yup!*

    Women don’t want men to be heroes when obvious sexism happens. We want men to speak up when they are alone with other men who are making sexist comments/jokes/etc. Men hit on anything that appears to be a woman because they’ve learned they can, and can get away with it. Help us stop letting them get away with it. Please. Thank you.

  66. ecnaseener*

    I don’t think I could resist sending a reply like “Hi Ron, this is quite inappropriate to be bothering my staff for dates. I can confirm Emily’s not interested or available, as she is my scheduling bot. You can download her yourself from [developer], but she only does scheduling, so if you’re looking for a chatbot girlfriend you might try elsewhere — I believe there are several options designed for just this purpose.”