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

Remember the letter-writer whose scheduling bot was getting hit on because it has a woman’s name? Here’s the (truly excellent) update.

I really enjoyed your response and reading the comment section; I wasn’t able to participate because I was particularly slammed at work that day, but it was a great read later in the evening. I wholeheartedly endorse one commenter’s suggestion of a bot-on-bot romcom titled “CAPTCHA My Heart,” and would like to add that there should be a sequel, “ReCAPTCHA My Heart: A Bot Christmas,” starring Vanessa Hudgens as the personification of at least two bots.

I was disappointed that even in the AAM comments section, there was a small contingent of (mostly male-presenting) commenters who dismissed this as difficult to believe, or tried to excuse the behavior as people innocently “messing with a bot,” even in the face of HUNDREDS of comments from women all essentially saying, “yup, this tracks.” Then I saw that the article had been shared on some other websites and those comment sections were significantly worse.

Alison, I was upset.

I decided to take your advice (admittedly, a slightly less polite version of your advice) both to reply the original sender of the most recent email, and to notify their boss. The other emails were no longer recent enough for me to still be working with those clients, but if they come to me again I’ll be sure to bring it up before we schedule anything new. I attached the offending email and wrote:

“I noticed the included interaction while conducting a routine review of recent scheduling emails between my automated scheduling assistant and my clients. While you were not actually interacting with a real person, you should know that asking people out on a date after only a very basic professional interaction with no personal details is inappropriate workplace behavior. If this is not, as I hope, a one time lapse in judgment on your part, please consider the impact this has on women who are simply trying to do their jobs and are required by their duties to be polite and pleasant. I would want to know if one of my employees was conducting themselves in this way while representing my business, so I have included (name) on this email.”

And I CC’d their boss.

Then I sat on it for a day to think about if it was too rude. I decided it was significantly more appropriate than asking out an assistant after a basic scheduling email, that if nobody ever calls this stuff out very directly it’s not going to get better, and that if it somehow cost me a client, I could afford to lose this one. So I sent it.

About an hour later, I got a very brief reply from the business owner: “Thank you for the heads-up. I’ll address this. Looking forward to our meeting next week.” So the next week I went to our meeting, he brought up on his own that he had dealt with the issue (he didn’t give specifics and I didn’t ask), and we had a perfectly nice and professional meeting. So that worked out well!

If my scheduling bot ever ends up in a romance with a client’s scheduling bot, I’ll be sure to send in another update. But for now, thank you and the commentariat for the advice and humor.

{ 570 comments… read them below }

    1. ferrina*

      Yes! I love the way the OP dealt with it, and I really appreciate them coming back to share what happened with us! Taking notes in case I ever need this…

  1. Jennifer Strange*

    I was disappointed that even in the AAM comments section, there was a small contingent of (mostly male-presenting) commenters who dismissed this as difficult to believe, or tried to excuse the behavior as people innocently “messing with a bot,” even in the face of HUNDREDS of comments from women all essentially saying, “yup, this tracks.” Then I saw that the article had been shared on some other websites and those comment sections were significantly worse.

    Flames…on the side of my face…

    Your email was perfectly written, and I’m glad the business owner seems to have taken it seriously.

    1. RunShaker*

      this….pissed me off as well about crappy comments. shame on commenters noted in OPs post here on AAM for being dismissive.

      1. Czhorat*

        Yeah. I’m a cisgender heterosexual man (admittedly no longer in the market for romantic connections) and am embarrassed for my gender; The great thing about this incident is that given that it’s an automated assistant replying to the basics of scheduling there is ZERO argument to be made that the assistant “lead them on” or “welcomed it” or whatever other unreasonable justifications guys make for this kind of behaviour; they saw a female-presenting name and went into prowling for sex mode.

        Hats off to OP for how she handled it.

        1. Too stunned to speak*

          Yes to all of this!

          I work in a healthcare-adjacent role and recently called a client for a phone assessment. When he answered, he jokingly called me a “hot chick.” He had no idea what I look like, but feminine-presenting was enough for him to speculate on my physical attributes.

          1. Reply: all*

            I accidentally made eye contact with a man in traffic, and that brief glance told him that we’re obviously soulmates and he should pursue me for several blocks trying to get my number. I had to go six blocks out of my way because I was afraid he’d follow me.

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              I remember one time walking down the street to a Starbucks. A guy on the median was out flipping a sign and he shouted “Hey!” to me and waved. I waved back politely, figuring he just wanted me to see the sign and buy the product. Went into Starbucks, sat down and enjoyed a coffee while I read. When I left I guess his shift was ending. He saw me and said, “Hey they you are! I’m Tim, guess we should get that out of the way.” I had no idea what to do, so I just said, “I’m married” and walked away. He shouted after me “Can’t we just be friends?”

              1. Dragon_Dreamer*

                I had an ex coworker ask me out via text. When I told him “Sorry, I’m already in a relationship,” he responded with, “You don’t have to be sorry that you’re already taken. Can I still ask how big your rack is?”

                To this day, he can’t figure out what he did that made me cut contact with him. I also recently found out he was dating a friend of mine. I sent her the conversation, and she left him. I’m sure he has no idea why.

                1. Gilgongo*

                  I had a vendor (probably 20+ years younger than me) harass me because I was nice to him. We had exchanged numbers because we were going to the same festival that weekend (he was with his mom and sister) & met up during it to say hi.

                  Then he began texting me, asking me out. When I explained that I was in a relationship, he said that didn’t matter to him. I explained that it mattered to me, that I wasn’t interested, and to please stop. Then he started begging me to meet him a a motel, asking me for pics, etc…

                  I blocked him & I went to my boss & HR the next day, and they asked me to print out the exchange. Then I was basically told I’d brought it upon myself by a) giving him my number (a lot of my co-workers had my number and managed to not beg me to meet them at a motel), and b) I was too nice to him.

                  So that was fun! This was about four years ago… when I was 47.

                2. Bird names*

                  I’m really sorry that happened to you and can I just say that I am completely unimpressed by your boss and HR?
                  Virtual hugs if you want them.

            2. Caren*

              I was chatting with an older male lawyer one time about an incident that occurred while I was driving. I said “Well, the guy was obviously following me, but that’s not that unusual.” The lawyer said “Wait, hold up, are you telling me that random dudes just follow you around while you’re driving??” I said yes, realizing then that not everyone knew this. He gave me a skeptical look. But there was a junior female lawyer at the other end of the conference room doing casework. He yelled “Hey, Tamara!” She looked up and he said “Do random guys ever just follow you around while you’re driving?” She said “Yes.” and went back to her paperwork. To his credit, he looked utterly gobsmacked.

              1. iglwif*

                My (straight cis male) spouse’s face when our daughter, then 11 and built like a stick of spaghetti, told him she’d been catcalled while walking home from school and it wasn’t the first time.

                I was pissed. He was pissed and gobsmacked.

                1. Indigo a la mode*

                  Remember that article that went around a while back about how two CSRs – one man and one woman – switched email signatures for a week, and the man was absolutely astonished by how differently he was treated when using a female-presenting name?

                  My dad, whom I would consider a tacit feminist and black-and-white egalitarian, was shocked by the experiment’s results. I (a woman) was shocked that he was shocked.

                2. Kate*

                  I was 21, interning in Washington and staying with my sister in Virginia. Some guy came up to me as I was leaving the Metro and tried to put his arm around my waist. He followed me onto my bus and tried talking to me. He knew when my stop was, but I said he was wrong and rode the bus three more stops to the supermarket. I wandered around that Safeway for an hour. It took me ages to get to my sister’s house because I kept backtracking, making sure he wasn’t following me home. My sister left work early when she found out, and called the police to do a patrol of the neighborhood.

                  I never took the direct route home again for the rest of the summer. I would get off the Metro three stops early and take two buses. I’d go to a museum after work, or hang out with the other interns. I never saw that creep again, thankfully. It was 20 years ago but I still feel sick to my stomach when I remember it.

              2. goddessoftransitory*

                One reason I exercise at home is the conspicuous lack of random dudes following me.

                Yeah, Older Lawyer: your wife, your daughters, your sister, your mom–they’ve all been followed.

              3. Ohyeahthishappenedtome*

                Yessss! I once accidentally made *brief* eye contact with a man while driving on the highway. He followed me off the highway and continued to follow me for a few miles as I drove to my office. I thought perhaps I was imagining things, but then he PULLED INTO THE PARKING LOT OF MY EFFING JOB. I worked at a church at the time, and we never had more than a couple of cars in the parking lot on weekdays. I *ran* from my car into the building and locked the door behind me until he drove away.

                1. I Have RBF*

                  Many years ago, I had lost quite a bit of weight because I was, well, broke and starving. I was also riding the bus. I regularly got catcalled, because thinner meant that my DD (at the time) boobs stuck out farther than my stomach.

                  Then there was the day when one guy literally followed me home, but far enough back that I didn’t spot him. He knocked on my door to ask me out!!! I invented a boyfriend who was asleep in the other room, and I feigned fear of the boyfriend if he “caught” me talking to another guy.

                  Anyone who clocks as possibly female has these stories.

                2. Florence Reese*

                  Once, I was walking from the bus stop to a friend’s birthday dinner. I was wearing a not-really-that-nice dress — like not even cocktail formal, I was 19 and broke so it was one of my “good” day dresses which hit me at the knee and the collarbone — and I was looking around to avoid getting hit by a car in crosswalks.

                  Some guy in a truck, who I did not even look at, forced himself across three lanes so he could turn right onto the small street I was walking down. I also thought I was, perhaps, imagining things, because society never lets us stop questioning that we might be the problem when we’re harassed. But he very kindly slowed to about 5mph to keep pace with me, rolled down his window, and just straight-up asked if I would go home with him. He was quite persistent and I was terrified, so I was so glad that I passed a man doing maintenance on a field nearby. The presence of that man seemed to scare off the truck guy. Hooray, I thought.

                  And then THAT guy fucking harassed me too. I ran the two blocks to my dinner and could not explain to my sweet friend and her party why I was on the verge of tears for the entire night.

                  I think about that memory (and the various others I’ve collected since I was 11 and first stalked on the street) every time there’s a post like this one, and I just get more and more and more furious.

                3. Ellis Bell*

                  I’ve been followed like this, but never by dudes who should have been busy driving. It explains quite a lot about some people’s driving focus quite honestly.

                4. GreatestBlueHeron*

                  I still remember being 13 or 14 and walking a very short block to the corner store. I’d had a nasty flu for days and had not bathed so I was super gross. I had a huge hoodie that went to my knees and baggy sweats. Despite all of that, I got followed by two guys for that block with them having a loud conversation about what they wanted to do to me. Luckily, the owner of the store was a take no BS sort who glared them away from the store.

              4. nnn*

                The other weird thing about the fact that all of us have been followed frequently enough for every woman to be like “Yeah, of course that’s a thing that happens” is that not only are there enough men who are creepy enough to follow women around, but also that there are enough creepy men who have the time to just randomly start following someone.

                Do they not have, like, schedules and obligations and task dependencies?

                1. Dragon_Dreamer*

                  I got followed by a guy once. He’d driven the wrong way into a one way gas station, nearly hitting my car. Then he was racist to the attendant. (NJ, not allowed to.pump your own gas.) I might have made some snarky comments to make the attendant feel better.

                  The AH followed me out of there, tailgating very very close. So, as it was getting towards sunset, I took him on a tour of the local backroads. Including the one with huge trees, blind hills, blind curves, and various combinations of each. There’s more than one hill where you cannot see the road ahead until AFTER you go over the crest. The local ambulance crews use it to train.

                  I took him down that road, at speed, in the near dark, with my lights on the minimum amount. Lost him around the third blind curve, and never saw him again.

                2. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

                  Dennis Rader, the guy they called the BTK Killer, said stalking women was his only hobby. He did it every time he was in the car, even with his family with him. It’s like with any human behavior, if you really want to do it, you prioritize it and find the time.

                3. I Licked Your Salt Lamp*

                  When I was in college (8 years ago) there was a guy who was somewhat notorious for sitting in the dining hall & would approach girls eating alone to hit on them. He approached me and sat down despite many other empty tables and starting chatting. At the time, I was too anxious to tell him I wasn’t interested and thought it would come off as rude.

                  When he asked for my number, I told him I wasn’t interested and he insisted he just wanted to be friends…yeah right.

                  After that I rarely ate alone on campus, and even when I sat with friends I would often spot him wandering back and forth in the dining hall. He would literally walk in the door, walk past me, then a few minutes later I would see him pass by again. Occasionally I also saw him sitting with a girl who probably just wanted to have lunch alone or study.

                  Who knows if he ever went to class, but he was a student, I talked to others who knew him too.

                4. Never been followed*

                  I’m honestly aghast at this. I’m a female in my 50s, and I don’t remember anything like this ever happening to me, other than a couple whistles as I walked by construction work, when I was in my late teens/early 20s.

                  Thankfully for me and my neighbors, apparently the men around here are either too busy or too decent to be bothered with that kinda crap.

              5. Jackalope*

                Recently I was on an errand and some guy just started following me (I was on foot). He kept trying to talk to me even though I was ignoring him. I went to to the spot where I could do my errand, which was very fast (dropping a letter in the mail slot, I think), and realized that I would have to either walk back past him or go down another street that was poorly lit and unpopulated. I decided to turn around and walk past him as quickly as possible. I was going through my options in my mind and frantically trying to figure out what to do (I had just settled on darting into a nearby supermarket and calling someone to come pick me up) when he finally stopped following me and said I’m anger and disgust, “Why do you gotta do me like that?” Like seriously WTF, dude! I didn’t talk to you except to say no thank you, I never made eye contact, and I gave you no indication that I wanted to talk to you AT ALL, let alone anything else, and you think YOU’RE the grieved party here?!?

                1. MigraineMonth*

                  Yeah, the number of guys who want consideration for the amount of *time* and *effort* that they’ve put into being alarming creeps is astonishing. Like, “I followed you around and made you feel unsafe for half an hour, and you aren’t even going to thank me?”

              6. Filosofickle*

                TBH as a 50 year old cis woman I’m a little gobsmacked, too! Not at all questioning it, but I’ve never been followed while driving and did not know that was a thing. (I’ve experienced other kinds of inappropriate attention on foot / email / online but not involving wheels.)

                1. Jellyfish Catcher*

                  I have shoulder length blonde hair ; longer when younger. I learned to always stuff my hair into a man’s/ no gender beanie cap when driving. It’s disgusting, and scary.

                2. londonedit*

                  I’ve never been followed while driving and for some reason I get the impression it’s much more common in the US than it is here (simply because of the prevalence of American women with Instagram accounts giving advice on how not to be followed while driving). But I have been catcalled and I have been followed round the supermarket and there was a whole period of about three years when a guy who worked at my nearest train station was skirting the line of inappropriate/stalkerish.

                3. JustEm*

                  as a 38 year old cis woman … same! I’ve been catcalled, followed on foot, etc, but to my knowledge never in my car

                4. Writer Claire*

                  I’m 64, and it happened once to me back in my 20s. I was driving home from work and thinking about dinner, when a guy followed me for fifteen miles on the highway, waving and grinning at me.

                  Readers, my anxiety was already through the roof, but when he *followed me off the exit*, I panicked. Instead of going home, I drove to the college campus where spouse worked late. It was summer, so the building was locked, but I had a pass key. I got inside before the guy could park his truck. He eventually left.

                  Damn. Forty years later and the memory still has me shaking.

                5. Peon*

                  It has not happened to me either, but the possibility worries me. Whenever I get a new car, I *immediately* change the rules for my keyless entry system, because a lot of cars these days will automatically unlock all the doors when you park, or unlock all of them when you click the button on the fob, but most will allow you to set it so only the driver side unlocks on first click, and none unlock on parking.

                  Change your key settings on your cars folks! (And yes, people of both genders laugh or blow me off when I say this but I keep repeating it because some people *do* want to do this but don’t know it’s possible)

                6. Anonym*

                  Peon, I did the same thing as soon as we got our last car. I was carjacked many years ago while parking. People can pop up really quickly and just open your door as soon as they hear it unlock (and have a gun).

                  Everyone, please do as Peon says!!!

                7. Stacks*

                  I’m 50. I’ve been followed while driving once that I know of, when I was in my twenties. Also, when I was in college I drove a beat up car with no air conditioning, so I often had my windows rolled down. Once at a stop sign, a man walked up and started trying to get in my car. Thankfully I had the doors locked (old style locks that you had to pull up) so that slowed him down and bought me some time. No one else was at the 4-way stop so I booked it and was able to get out of there. That one still scares me a bit.

                8. KTurtle*

                  Peon, Anonym, my dad once changed my car’s settings (which were a perfectly good “stay locked until I unlock it”) to unlock when I put the car in park. The way he explained it was that now I wouldn’t lock my keys in! I explained how unsafe it is for my doors to just unlock themselves as soon as I park and that I needed them to not do that. He immediately changed it back, *and* changed his because I sometimes drove that, too. I would rather risk locking myself out than risk someone jumping in my car as soon as I park, you know? But he hadn’t thought about it like that because he’s never had to before (even though he could be carjacked just as easily as I could).

                9. Princess Sparklepony*

                  I’ve never noticed that I’ve been followed while driving but it’s been years since I’ve owned a car. And I’m sure that guys do this because it has happened to women I know.

                  But I’ve had plenty of interactions walking on the street. Some aren’t terrible and some are pretty gross. It’s a range. And yet I have never stopped what I was doing to go off with the guy – do they ever get lucky or are they just living their lives in hope that doing creepy things is one day going to pay off for them? Have they spent too much time reading the comments in Playboy, Hustler, and Penthouse?

                  I don’t get them doing the follow thing. I’m fine with the odd compliment that I shut down if it goes any farther. OK, you shot your best shot and it wasn’t any good, goodbye.

              7. borealis*

                Even I, middle-aged cis-female who have never been subjected to randomly following creepy males, am aware that this happens to a lot of women. Because I can read! (I know that it is often claimed that all women hear about these things from female friends, but I never have. But I can read!!) Surely older male lawyers can also read?

                1. Kat*

                  @Peon thank you so much for this idea!! My first car in ‘07 automatically came with the feature that the fob only unlocked the driver’s door with one click (as does my new car). At the time I remember thinking it was a good safety feature and liked it.

                  But the new car automatically unlocks the doors when put into park (old car didn’t do that) and I would never have thought about this being a safety issue too! I just messaged my hubs to say when I get home we need to look up how to change this feature.

                2. Jayne*


                  Thanks for the heads up on changing the keyless entry, I just looked up in Youtube on how to change mine and will be restricting it this evening when I got back to my car. It is my first car with automatic doors so it never occurred to me that I could change the settings.

                  Thank you.

              8. rebelwithmouseyhair*

                Yeah. Research on sexual harassment showed that 100% of women taking the Paris metro had been felt up. My partner of the time refused to believe it. So he went round asking the women he knew and surprise surprise, their answers all fell in line with the research.
                Not that he started to believe me when I talked about other instances of sexual harassment. I started just casually mentioning any instances when recounting how my day had gone instead of just glossing over it as I always used to, and was met with disbelief every. single. time. Denial can be huge.

                Our nephew’s wife told me she had never been a victim of sexual discrimination. I looked at her and thought about mentioning how paternalist her husband was with her, and explaining that young blonde women mostly experience discrimination in the relatively less disgusting form known as gallantry. Then I remembered she was pregnant and thought, she’ll soon find out.

                1. Ellis Bell*

                  I only know one person who’s ever lived in Paris, and I know she got felt up on the metro shortly after moving there. Also your ex sucks.

              9. Jessica Ganschen*

                I’ve never quite been followed, technically, but I did once have a guy at a bus transfer point take note of the game I was playing on my phone and proceed to talk at me about it all the way from this transfer point on the outskirts of town until his stop which was nearly the center of town. After a few minutes of me going, “Mmhm. Mmhm. Okay. Yeah,” another woman on the bus silently caught my attention and gestured to ask if I wanted help. I shook my head because at that moment, I felt like the situation hadn’t quite tipped over into needing it, but I felt unbelievably grateful to her in that moment.

            3. ceiswyn*

              I once drove round to my old house to pick up any post that had been delivered there. I ended up having to (politely!!!) ask the much older dude who was doing work on it to GET OUT OF MY CAR.

          2. Mallory Janis Ian*

            I was followed by one guy on my way home from work, and I had to drive past my house and lead him on a wild goose chase so he wouldn’t know where I lived.

            Another time, a couple of guys in a truck rode up beside me and the passenger leaned out the window and was pointing and gesturing toward my rear tires as if to alert me to a problem back there. I know what a flat tire feels like, and I didn’t feel anything, so I kept driving and thinking I’d check for anything when I got to my weight loss group meeting at the next light. The guy was so insistently pointing at my car and urging me to pull over that when the light turned yellow, I didn’t slow down and pretended that I was going to go through it. He floored it so that he could go through, too, and at the last minute I stopped. I didn’t even make the right turn that I needed to make until he was out of sight. I knew I had done the right thing, because BOTH guys in the car LOST IT in a fit of rage when I stopped and they had to continue. They were yelling and making angry gestures out their back window at me. When I pulled into the parking light of my meeting, the other women and I went all around my car to look for anything wrong, and there was NOTHING.

            1. Dog momma*

              That’s a common ruse to get you to stop& get out of the car to check your tires. and you will be robbed or worse. Happened to my husband’s ex last summer when she was driving home late at night from her daughter’s house and there was little traffic..and she’s 85 years old

            2. Anonym*

              I had this happen while sitting in traffic, and the guy said there was smoke coming from under my hood. My car was pretty old so it was plausible. I pulled over and popped the hood and the guy ran over and splashed water on the engine, presumably so that the resulting steam would look like smoke (I saw him putting the bottle back in his pocket). I hopped in the car, locked the doors and called my mechanic.

              I ended up towing the car to my usual shop, and there was absolutely nothing wrong. I think he was actually trying to get me to go to his shop which was right there rather than something even more nefarious, but he caused me a lot of stress and cost me a few hundred bucks.

              So FYI that this scam exists, too.

          3. Teapot Cleaner*

            When I used to work doing phone tech support I got so so many marriage proposals. Somehow the ones who knew nothing about me were far less creepy than the ones who went to my linkedin and then talked about the photo on there and my background while hitting on me.

            Somehow none of my male coworkers had ever had a single interaction like that in all their years in tech support.

        2. Selena81*

          ….The great thing about this incident is that given that it’s an automated assistant replying to the basics of scheduling there is ZERO argument to be made that the assistant “lead them on” or “welcomed it” or whatever other unreasonable justifications guys make for this kind of behaviour…

          The absolute assholes will still find a way to justify it. But yeah, to any reasonable person this is pretty clear evidence that there was no misunderstanding or getting led on: with a bot that was written to act entirely business-appropriate.

      2. Nobby Nobbs*

        It’s happened on a few letters involving bigotry lately. I hope the letter writers are comforted by how thoroughly these people get shot down, but I worry that’s cold comfort when these people come for advice and get disbelief.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          Yup. I remember getting into it with a couple of posters in the comments on the letter where a woman stayed at a co-worker’s house while on a business trip and the co-worker hit on her. Far too many folks insisted that it wasn’t a big deal, they were obviously good friends if she was staying with him, and one that seemed to imply it couldn’t have been sexual harassment because he was in his own house.

            1. Hlao-roo*

              If you search for “my employee got hit on while staying with a coworker, colleagues keep joking about a team member’s height, and more” you can find the post from October 17, 2023.

              I skimmed the comments and one from TMarin says “Boris’ actions as described in this letter are not sexual harassment (he was in his own house for god’s sake!) and I didn’t see any harassment detailed (stating feelings is not harassment).”

              AAM also commented to say:

              Without more details, I’m not sure this would fall under the law. Legally, sexual harassment is defined as conduct that’s “severe or pervasive.” Declaring his feelings for an employee one time and then backing off isn’t generally going to qualify as harassment. It’s possible it could meet the pervasive part, but if he’d just asked out two people in, like, five years (which we can’t tell from the letter), that’s unlikely too.

              It might not have met the legal definition of sexual harassment, but it was definitely skeevy behavior and not OK!

            2. Contracts Killer*

              I assume from your questions, AG, that you’re not a native English speaker? In the U.S., “hitting on” someone is a colloquial phrase for flirting, asking someone on a date, etc. Like, “This guy at the bar kept hitting on me, even after I said I have a boyfriend.” :-)

              1. Strict Extension*

                I think AG was making a joking reference to Castle Laws, where if you are in your home, you have the right to use deadly force as self-defense with no obligation to retreat.

                1. Botulism Bot*

                  Yes, that’s how I took it as well — a humorous misapplication of the stand-your-ground doctrine, rather than genuine confusion about the idiom.

        2. Katie A*

          If I wrote in, I would be comforted to get hundreds of comments validating me, and only a handful of disbelieving comments or comments with alternative explanations. Seeing those negative comments get shot down would be additionally helpful, tbh, if it were done well. That kind of exchange would give me counter-counterpoints to my own doubting brain and people in my real life who might be dismissive.

        3. Willow Pillow*

          It’s often bad with posts involving mental illness too. It got so bad that Alison nuked the comments with one of them (“update: after I hired someone, a mutual friend told me I’d made a huge mistake” on December 12, 2023).

      3. restingbutchface*

        Not just dismissing women, but dismissing women who launch and manage chatbots *for a living*. I wasn’t the only one who was told I was mistaken when I actually have a report template for inappropriate user inputs.

    2. Ginger Cat Lady*

      Yes, it was so disheartening. Men really will concoct all kinds of excuses to avoid believing women.

      1. There’s been a tragedy in the club community*

        Cis het white male here and I don’t get the disbelief. I don’t consider myself that attractive and even I’ve had men creep on me a couple of times.

    3. Siege*

      It is sending me how many people on the OG letter think “not disclosing this is a bot” is unethical because they don’t want to waste their social-niceties efforts on a bot, the horror! Oh no! You took less than a minute to be nice to a bot! You’ve depleted the national reservoir of letters! How will we type up those TPS reports now!

      I have deep concerns about those wasted niceties. How many of them were flirtatious?

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        They immediately defaulted to “I was tricked by a deceptive female!” Never mind that this female literally did not exist except as a voice.

      2. Leenie*

        I thank Alexa reflexively. Does make me wonder how many people perv on Alexa reflexively, even knowing she is a bot.

        1. Willow*

          Yeah, I always say please and thank you to chatgpt, I think it’s better to be polite with bots than get into the habit of being rude and risk that spilling into interactions with people.

          1. Siege*

            And this letter illustrates that there is, in fact, a person behind the assistant.

            I just feel like there’s a happy medium between apologizing to a garbage can and being peremptory and rude to people, and wishing a bot a nice day is much more on the “not being rude to people for no reason” end of the spectrum.

            1. Expelliarmus*

              I don’t normally like to watch movies or TV shows about apocalypses, but if there was one about robots seeking revenge on sexual harassers I’d be interested.

          2. Kat*

            It’s good to be polite and bank that good karma for the future when the machines rise up and come for us ;)

      3. Boof*

        Me too! I’d try to be basic polite to a bot, but i assume i have to be a but more basic/straightforward than a human

      4. Ms. Murchison*

        Huh, I didn’t see those response, but I did have a bad experience where I wasted an inordinate amount of time composing extra polite emails to the bot that I thought was the EA of a person I was trying to cultivate as a business connection. I wasted a heck of a lot more than a minute because I wasn’t going for just polite, I wanted to make sure I was on the EA’s good side, I wanted to make an extremely good impression, so I worried and stressed and wasted a lot of time before realizing that the signature was trying to be cute and subtle but actually meant it was an AI scheduling bot.

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          But as we know from this story, sometimes the person behind the bot reads those communications.

          1. Glen*

            sure, but not noticing that you were responding to a bot probably won’t make the kind of impression you’re hoping to make in this situation even if you’re perfectly lovely to it.

    4. KG*

      I’m 40, wear a wedding ring and show zero interest to men and I have men follow me into the parking lots of stores, etc while I run errands in my ugly clothes. I had a coworker who, even while masked so that you could not see her face, would be asked out by men at work constantly as an admin of the office.

      Men really believe it is a compliment, when being asked out by strangers apropos of nothing is pretty scary to the vast majority of us.

      1. AKchic*

        I had a homeless guy (very politely) offer to let me blow him while he was already getting serviced by his girlfriend in the stairwell of the parking garage. Totally my fault for interrupting them (the elevator was out), I’m sure.
        I was just glad he was polite about it, considering some of the people we deal with in the area.

      2. Worldwalker*

        Men are afraid women will dismiss or insult them.
        Women are afraid men will rape or kill them.
        One of these things is not like the other.

        1. Kat*

          Yup as Margaret Atwood said “men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them.” Two sentences that are so powerful and so sadly true.

    5. Other Alice*

      Yes, this. I will not read the rest of the comments, because I’m sure someone down there is going “not all men” and I want to end the day with this happy update.

      I will however share that a few years ago I was talking with a female coworker about bad interview experiences, as we both had interviews where interviewers asked us if we were pregnant or planning to start a family soon, etc. A male coworker decided to chime in and tell us that he didn’t believe that happened, because no interviewer had ever asked *him* that. He was an otherwise decent person but I always questioned his judgement after that.

      So yeah… That tracks. Kudos to LW for not letting it slide.

      1. Clorinda*

        Nobody asked the man if he was pregnant? Did he even stop to think about what he was saying when he told you this?

        1. Sarah M*

          I’ve had related conversations with “Pro Life” men where they’ve replied, *in total seriousness*, “But I can’t get pregnant” to my suggestion that they just not get one.

          So, sadly, I can assure you that there are men out there who really are this clueless.

      2. Michelle*

        It’s always so casual too, isn’t it? “I don’t believe that.” Ok, so you believe your co-workers are… actively lying right now?

        Like, we’re literally just standing here lying to each other. And you, a person who has so little grasp of basic behavioral standards that you’re ok casually informing your CO-WORKERS that they’re lying liars who lie (and expecting your working relationship to remain civil after an accusation like that), know better than them about their own life experiences.

        My temptation would be to turn on the guy and be like “oh buddy, BIG feelings huh?” like you would say to a toddler. Because he’s acting out of pure NUH UH anger and denial.

        1. Chas*

          There’s an instagram account called mrs.frazzled who makes videos of her “gentle parenting” rude adults in that same way (i.e. “gentle parenting your uncle who flirts with the waitress”). Given how mad some of the commentators on those videoes (which are clearly meant to be funny) it would certainly make the point memorable for him!

        2. Bear Expert*

          I …uh… actually do this in meetings.

          Not sarcastically. Gently and matter of factly. “Oh, James, those seem like really big emotions, do you need to take a moment to collect yourself?”

          One of the things I take a stand against is that male anger is considered professional, but women aren’t allowed any emotions at all in the workplace. So I name performance of anger as an emotion/you’re being emotional and then watch the utter flipping chaos. Because its not like he can turn and yell at me and make that seem logical and unemotional NOW. Now everyone noticed that he was throwing a tantrum like a toddler.

          I have position and capital, and I’m happy to spend it here. I don’t always recommend this maneuver to everyone. (However, I was very junior and in a very male dominated/rough and tumble industry when a senior level man came to my desk literally screaming spittle and I told him to go away and come back when he could speak to me civilly and he did and the rest of the floor was utterly gobsmacked. So it can work even at junior levels, but I’d hold that for smaller 1-1 interactions and not meetings, because meetings can feel like public humiliation and men with fragile feelings might cause junior staff problems if they feel humiliated.)

      3. the lone lady*

        Can I get something from this morning off my chest- ( I am the only woman at my workplace, at a traditionally male dominated field). We have a problem with two guys hounding our Union President about an issue, something they have a point about but everyone else understands nothing can be done right now, we may even all be laid off in the near future, to the point our President is tired of it and ready to resign. I have repeatedly tried to get my two coworkers to understand and drop it, to no avail. And this is with them bringing it up to me every time.
        Well my coworker, a good friend of mine, decided to call them and talk to them about it, and ask them to lay off the Union guy, and they did, that very day. When he informed me this morning of the good news & results he had, I told him they listened to him immediately after ignoring me repeatedly because I was a woman. His response was, “well maybe, or maybe because I’m intimidating. People have told me I am.” Spoiler alert , he’s not. It makes me so sad that even my friend of 20 years doesn’t even see it.

      4. kt*

        When a guy in math told me no one stared at *his* chest at conferences, I did stare at his chest long enough to make an impression and then look back to his eyes, and I think he actually got the point (looked a little flustered). But for someone who claims to be trained in logic, it took a while.

    6. Raging Iron Thunder*

      I hope my previous message on this wasn’t seen as dismissive so much as just outright shock that a guy would be so dense and innapropriate in a professional setting. And yes, I found the situation highly comical. Some guys just think with their dick too much and have more sex drive than sense I guess.

    7. Nicole Maria*

      I’ve never really had an interaction like this with a man, so honestly sometimes it is hard to believe that a scheduling robot would get hit on more than I have, but even within that context, I still always take other women at their word and I would have never assumed this was made up.

    1. Mystik Spiral*

      Yes! I can’t remember if the OP was male, but making the assumption that they are… MEN! This is what standing up for women looks like, just in case you’re interested. Call out the dirtbags please.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        This. Not just sighing with exasperation, not just commiserating. But doing something both professional and unambiguous. No winking or equivocating or “broads, whatta ya gonna do?” phrasing. Just; this was inappropriate. I have informed your superior.

      2. desdemona*

        I’ve been assuming the OP is male because speaking personally as a woman, if I had a scheduling-bot I’d intentionally use a masculine name, precisely to try and cut out any sexist BS..but I realize my experience is not everyones!

  2. Carlie*

    What a wonderful response. Thank you for following it through and addressing it, and for being a good role model for everyone.

  3. Laure001*

    Such a great update, congrats, OP, that was awesome.
    I hope the update is also shared on those same sites…

  4. BellyButton*

    LW, thank you!!! All of us were so annoyed and p*ssed at the comments dismissing you and dismissing the hundreds of women on here telling our stories. Thank you for doing saying something.

  5. singularity*

    I so wish I could’ve been there to see exactly what that business owner handled it! Thank you for this update and for specifically naming the behavior!

    1. AG*

      I wish I could see the harasser when he read the letter. “Oh, I hit on a chatbot. Not even like an AI girlfriend, but like on Google calendar.” “Oh @$#& my boss is cc’ed.”

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        What makes me still kind of growly is you KNOW at least some of them wouldn’t have cared except that their boss knew they hit on an inanimate object and look like a dumbass. Not that they were being inappropriate, just that they looked foolish (the far greater crime in many men’s minds.)

    2. Clorinda*

      Whatever it was, I hope it included a healthy dose of ridicule along with a firmly worded “thou shalt not hit on professional contacts, especially admins and others who are required by the terms of their job to be polite to you.”

  6. Dasein9 (he/him)*

    OP, thank you for taking a stand and addressing this issue. So many people wouldn’t. I hope your message serves as a model for others to speak up and do the same.

  7. Portia*

    That’s a great e-mail — and cc’ing the business owner means the guy couldn’t just eye-roll and ignore it. Well done, OP.

    1. birb*

      I wish there was a way to automate this as a reply from the bot when it gets hit on.

      “I’m actually a bot, this chat transcript has been flagged for inappropriate work behavior and a log will be generated and sent to your supervisor.”

      1. Don P.*

        This seems 100% technically possible.

        Side point: I wonder if some percentage of people see the words “automated scheduling assistant” and don’t quite parse it as “it’s a bot!”

  8. HR Friend*

    LW: your response was *so* well executed and thought out. And good to hear the owner responded as he should! Great update!

    1. MissMeghan*

      Hear hear! It does a great job of cutting off any argument that it’s a bot and not a big deal and gets at the heart of why the behavior is inappropriate. Nicely handled.

  9. Hailrobonia*

    It’s like the curse of Cassandra from Greek mythology: gifted with the power of prophecy, but with a curse that nobody would believe her.

    Maybe there was no curse, maybe it was just men being men.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        SO many things. “Silly woman! Why shouldn’t I enter my own home? ARRRRGH STABBING WHY WASN’T I WARNED”

    1. Anon Again... Naturally*

      And she was cursed for refusing Apollo’s advances. Sexual harassment at its finest!

      1. LadyAmalthea*

        And Apollo was her boss – she had taken a vow of celibacy to serve as his priestess, so Cassandra would have been in just as much trouble if she had slept with him.

        1. Never Promised Moira's Rose's Garden*

          This seals it for me. It’s officially my head-cannon that the Cassandra Myth is the allegory for Patriarchy joining the ancient cultural chat.

        2. linger*

          Greek mythology is full of it. So to speak.
          See also Medusa, cursed with problem hair and terminally RBF for being raped as a priestess.

          1. linger*

            … And then of course she’s labelled a monster, and Perseus turns up, murders her, and is called a hero. Natalie Haynes had a suitably exasperated podcast on BBC Radio 4 on the subject (Natalie Haynes Stands Up For The Classics series 7 episode 1, 18 May 2021, still available as MP3 download), which was later expanded into her book Stone Blind.

        1. tamarack etc.*

          I think this is the upshot of the excellent novel Cassandra (in English translation) by the East German writer Christa Wolf.

      1. borealis*

        I once had a cat named Cassandra. She was frequently (and loudly) prophesying starvation, and was never believed.

        (apologies for flippancy – you do make a good point here, Charlotte Lucas.)

    2. Quinalla*

      This is 100% how I interpret it yes. People most of the time still don’t believe women today, especially women of color or LGBTQ, etc. women so yeah. We’ve gotten better, but we still have a long way to go!

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Hell, a couple weeks back on Slate, a guy wrote in protesting that his wife wanted to name their daughter to be Clytemnestra (since he was of Greek origin and she wanted to use a name from mythology.) He was all huffy that Clytemnestra was a notorious sloot and murderer and how could his innocent little daughter carry that burden???

        The entire commentariat basically went, dude? Dude? Have you READ any of the Greek myths?

        1. L'étrangère*

          Personally, Medea was my heroine as soon as I heard about her in middle school. Feed him his own kids for dinner, burn the girlfriend for dessert. Ha.

  10. Pizza Rat*

    That is great to hear. I think your reply was rather restrained and I loved knowing that the boss addressed it with you on his own at the meeting.

    Gives me a bit of hope, it does.

  11. Momma Bear*

    Dismissal of people’s lived experiences is…frustrating and unfortunately common. I appreciate LW calling it out.

    1. OnyxChimney*

      To be fair, it wasn’t so much dismissing someones lived experience as expressing surprise that it was such a common thing to happen to his bot considering many women (myself included) spoke up that we have never experienced this at work despite having stereotypical feminine names.

      I’m not sure if I got lumped in with those “male presenting” dissenters or what. I went back to the comments and the vast majority of women talking about their experiences were taking about face to face interactions. Not substantiating that getting asked out for having a women’s name at work sight unseen is a common multiple times a month/year thing.

      Honestly I feel like the LW is being a white knight grasping for an enenmy in the comments who was supposedly ignoring “hundreds of women’s lived experiences”. There were only a handful of comments about harrasment from just having a feminine name and they were specifically in the video game and online dating spheres, which are both notorious for that behavior.

      1. Thisishalloween*

        i didn’t get any white knight vibes myself. just think the LW addressed the behavior as the men perceived it originally: hitting on an admin who only interacted with them in the course of the work. that’s what the men thought they were doing and it’s inappropriate, especially given the power dynamic the LW notes in their response.

      2. Nicole Maria*

        I’m not sure about the white knight comment but I do wonder if comments like mine also got lumped into the “dissenting male” pile, even though I’m a (cis) woman

        There were a couple comments along the lines of “all admin professionals have had an experience like this” and I’ve been in the admin field for a number of years (currently manage a reception team for a mental health clinic) and have never had an experience like this. Admittedly it’s been a few years since I’ve sat at a front desk full time, I do still interact with clients regularly and I’ve never once in my life been it on at work, even when I was more conventionally attractive in my 20s (or I think I was? my judgment may be off) and was a front desk receptionist

        So I don’t think I would say anything to dismiss another’s experience, I did want people to know that this is not necessarily a universal one, even among women who are full time receptionists

      3. Ellis Bell*

        It IS something that a lot of women have experienced online “sight unseen” but it would be easy for a particular woman to have never experienced that; maybe you’ve never been online somewhere where anyone could message you, your work culture is tough on this stuff (I work for a powerful female boss who it is known would have someone’s head on a block for this and I’ve never had a message like this at this job) or you simply have more apparent power than someone who is just scheduling appointments outside the perv’s own organization. I am very well protected and cushioned at my job now, but in the past I have been both powerless and easy to approach by skeevy dudes. Online and off. I won’t say pictures don’t matter, because a pic almost makes it a certainty in a given situation, but no pics won’t stop diehard pervs trying to hit a number of hits in a day. TLDR OP isn’t a “white knight” (utterly despicable phrase btw), he’s someone who saw this happening and has reacted the same way I did when I saw this happening.

  12. N*

    What a great update! This in particular:
    “I sat on it for a day to think about if it was too rude. I decided it was significantly more appropriate than asking out an assistant after a basic scheduling email”
    is beautiful.

      1. Czhorat*

        YES YES YES.

        I think too often we try to keep up the implied social contract even in the face of someone who consistently breaks it.

        Hopefully this guy at the very least got enough of an earful from his boss that he’ll not hit on the next admin who might be a real person.

        1. MsM*

          Hopefully. I am somewhat concerned the boss just told LW “I’ll address it” and then downplayed the incident with the employee beyond “don’t pull that again with this contact,” but fingers crossed that just knowing being called out is a possibility will prove sufficient disincentive in future.

          1. Czhorat*

            I’m hoping not, and that the LW knows the client well enough to trust him to do the right thing.

            Even if the boss wasn’t as harsh as he should have been, it can possibly at least put the brakes on the creepy guy a little bit; one complaint to his boss he can maybe squirm his way out of, but it puts him on thinner ice if there’s another complaint.

      2. Observer*

        “I sat on it for a day to think about if it was too rude. I decided it was significantly more appropriate than asking out an assistant after a basic scheduling email”

        Yes. So much so that I’m repeating it.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      That line sums up the dilemma of women everywhere; whenever we have someone doing something so rude and inappropriate, that simply pointing it out feels rude and inappropriate. I love that OP walked that mile with us and then pulled the trigger.

  13. Clala*

    Speaking of bot-on-bot romance, I recently had a funny situation at work where two automated bots were stuck in a loop with each other.

    One employee left, and her email was set up with an auto-reply that she was no longer with the company. Her emails were also automatically forwarded to our general contact email, which is set up with an auto-reply that all questions will be answered within 48 hours.

    Of course, an email came in to the former employee and it was forwarded to the general email, which triggered an auto-reply back to the former employee, which triggered an auto-reply back to the general email, which triggered an auto-reply… and on and on. The poor employee who monitored the general email freaked out when her inbox suddenly exploded with hundreds of emails over the span of an hour.

        1. Phony Genius*

          I’d call it bot-on-bot harassment. (Not sexual harassment, though.) And both parties are guilty. (If a bot can be considered a “party.”)

          1. metadata minion*

            Though it does also kind of feel like one of those loops where you’re talking to someone with slightly different politeness/small talk norms and you just keep making phatic statements at each other because neither of you is sure you’ve adequately ended the conversation and you don’t want to be rude :-b

    1. Art3mis*

      That happened at an old job a few years ago. We ended up with over 2000 emails in the queue that had to be handled manually. This was a problem that was fixed in the 90s. I was very annoyed that day.

      1. Orv*

        Yup. These days this is almost always the result of someone rolling their own response bot or mailing list instead of using the one built into the mail software, because modern mail software all has loop detection.

    2. Momma Bear*


      We had someone leave and something in the forwarding got botched and triggered an IT ticket…but that wasn’t bot to bot tail chasing.

    3. Phony Genius*

      Just when you thought there was nothing worse than a never-ending “Reply All” nightmare.

    4. You want stories, I got stories*

      I got a call from our IT department once.
      IT: “Are you getting e-mails from active coworker?”
      Me: “No more than usual.”
      IT: “We show he has been sending you about 10,000 e-mails a day for the past few months.”
      Me: “I’m not getting anything like that, and trust me, if I was, we’d have had a conversation a long time ago.”

      So yes, there was some kind of glitch with a job that was trying to send an e-mail, failed, and would try again. No error report or anything, just try and fail, again and again. But I love how our IT department thinks I would get 10,000 e-mails a day and think that is normal.

    5. RCB*

      This happened at work once, in the earlier days of email (about 20 years ago), and it was overnight, so by the time the person came in the next morning there were over 70 THOUSAND emails from the bouncing between auto replies, it was a mess, but also hilarious.

    6. goddessoftransitory*

      This reminds me of a story Dave Barry told in his column back in the day where a woman who had a phone line set up in her home for her business kept getting a call with no one on the other end every ninety minutes, day and night. It was driving her bonkers but she’d already established this as her business phone so she didn’t want to disconnect it or change the number.

      The phone company finally traced the call down to–an oil furnace. That’s right. This furnace was apparently set up to send an automated message to that phone number when it ran low on fuel, and the number had been changed out at the fuel company’s end. It was reassigned to the woman’s business but naturally nobody informed the oil furnace of this fact.

      1. Brevity*

        …aaaaaand now I’m singing the end of “Steam Heat”:

        I gotta put more oil in the burner
        I gotta put more oil in the burner
        I gotta put more oil in the burner
        But that don’t do no good!
        They told me to put more coal in boiler
        They told me to put more oil in the burner
        But when I sit around remembering the heat that we had
        It doesn’t mean the radiators going bad, no!

        YouTube link to the Pointer Sisters here:

      2. allathian*

        In my area, one unlucky man recently had his phone ring every 30 seconds for a *week*. It turned out to be an operator glitch.

    7. Broken Lawn Chair*

      I once wrote a lonely hearts letter for a bot. Back in the day I was setting up a UUCP server, and sites existed that would auto-respond for testing purposes. The content of your test message didn’t matter. So instead of “test” I wrote something like, “Lonely UUCP daemon seeks same for auto responses and romance…”

      1. CM*

        Literally the only time it’s appropriate to hit on a bot!

        I’m impressed with the way the OP handled this. I am normally direct but in this situation I would have let it go, dismissing it as one of those annoying things. The OP took a risk and dealt with it forcefully but also in a straightforward, objective way. Thanks for taking one for the team, OP.

    8. Laika*

      More bot-on-bot romance to contribute to the thread:

      My Outlook’s ‘suggested replies’ feature was recently re-enabled after an update. After I scanned and emailed something to myself, I had a chuckle at the little pop-up recommending I reply (..to the executive printer…) with “Thanks so much!” or “Received!”

      I thought about Outlook’s unrequited love for Executive Printer for like a week afterwards.

    9. Warrior Princess Xena*

      There’s a legendary story about this exact thing happening on Microsoft’s email servers in the early days. Except it wasn’t hundreds. It was hundreds of thousands. Full server meltdown, huge outages, many lessons learned about the importance of what autoresponders respond to!

    10. Berkeleyfarm*

      Sounds familiar!

      I tell the story of how I mailbombed myself once upon a time with a bad out of office message. Fortunately my colleagues figured out what was going on and killed it for me.

      Plot twist: I’m an email administrator. (Although, to be fair, I wasn’t at that time.)

  14. Mel Es*

    Tangent to the OP’s issue: I’ve encounter a few male with popular female first names: Ashley, Tracy and Kelly. Those names were more popular with boys decades ago. They got hammered with messages targeted for women. Not the NSFW kind. Examples include an invite to speak at a women’s conference.

    Before specifying pronoun became a thing, some put the title on their name such as “Mr Kelly “.

    1. Daisy*

      Yes, my ex had a unisex name. He said he was sooo embarrassed in junior high when companies would send him nylons and sanitary products in the mail as advertising gimicks.

      1. Anax*

        My little brother signed up for… SOMETHING, probably related to Neopets, when he was about ten.

        Ever since, my parents have gotten spam mail for “Carine Bloodhoof” – a giant, fictional ox-man from Warcraft III, who apparently they assume is a young woman.

        Spam assumptions are weird.

        1. Sharpie*

          Well, with the preponderance of new and interesting spellings for otherwise unremarkable names, it’s easy to read Carine as being a modern twist on Karen.

        2. OtterB*

          Years ago, my mother gave my cousins a subscription to a children’s magazine for Christmas one year. She addressed it to “The Lastname Children,” with their address for mailing and hers for billing. And for years afterward, she got the occasional piece of spam mail addressed to “Mrs. Children.”

      2. Tinkerbell*

        My SIL’s name is Bryce, and somehow she got on a list that sends her free men’s razors, shampoo, etc. asking her to post reviews of them online. (She never has, and doesn’t know why she’s on the list either!) My brother, who has a 100% masculine-coded name, once griped to me “how come *I* never get free razors?”

        On the other side, my spouse’s name is used by both men and women (but more often women). She was my husband for fifteen years before transitioning to being my wife, and luckily she didn’t have to change her name at all :-P

        1. Dust Bunny*

          I have a college friend who has a male-ish first name–we’ll say it’s Ricky–and married a man of Korean descent (with an unambiguously Korean surname). People meeting Ricky Cho in person for the first time expect an Asian man and instead get the whitest strawberry-blonde woman you’ve ever seen.

    2. Hailrobonia*

      This is a good example of how putting preferred pronouns in signature lines, etc. helps people of ALL gender identities, not just trans folks.

      1. Chirpy*

        Although, from the flip side, as a woman with an ambiguously gendered name, I get to see how people’s reactions flip (mostly) for the worst once they figure out I’m not a guy. Really annoyingly, sometimes it’s advantageous (or safer) for me to be misgendered by people who guessed wrong.

      2. Orv*

        I interact with a lot of Chinese people and, as a non-Chinese speaker, I have a very hard time remembering which Chinese names are masculine and which are feminine. I often wish I had their pronouns to go off of. (Although Chinese doesn’t use gendered pronouns, so I can’t blame them for not seeing the need.)

        1. Jane Gloriana Villanueva*

          In Chinese, the written forms of the pronouns are gendered, but the word itself is pronounced the same.

        2. Anna*

          You often can’t tell, and Chinese people themselves can’t always tell either. Many names are completely gender-neutral and are widely used for both men and women. There are names that are clearly masculine (with words like strong, brave etc) or clearly feminine (flowers, precious stones), but both can be used for either gender and occasionally are. A famous example is scientist Wu Chien-hsiung, ‘healthy and brave’, who despite her extremely masculine name really was a woman.

          In transcription, it becomes even less clear, because you can’t see the characters. I think the only thing to do is just accept that you don’t know, and only settle your expectations once you’ve met someone, or speak to them on the phone, or find out in some other way.

          1. Orv*

            To be clear, the problem isn’t my expectations so much as the awkwardness of discussing someone with my coworkers when I don’t know which pronouns to use.

      3. Worldwalker*

        I don’t want the one thing someone knows about me is my gender. Too often, that carries a lot of baggage, especially for people who don’t conform to stereotypes. What I do, how I act, what I like and dislike, who I admire, those are all important things about me. What’s in my pants, or in my head, is not. Call me anything but late to dinner.

    3. In My Underdark Era*

      A 10+ year old article that lives rent free in my brain: guy stuck in his job search suddenly landing multiple interviews a week after specifying Mr. Kim Lastname on his resume. Reflecting on how things that looked good on a man’s resume looked bad on a woman’s, like being married with children, because the assumption in both cases is that the wife will take care of most domestic work.

      (my modern perspective is- do people usually put family info on their resume? was this a normal thing in the past? still gross tho.)

      1. Bitte Meddler*

        I’ve been using a resume to find jobs since the early 1990’s. None of the resume-writing advice I’ve seen from then until now suggests putting your marital / parental status on the resume. (At least in the U.S.).

        1. Caramel & Cheddar*

          The person in this example wasn’t putting his marital/parental status on his resume, though, as “Mr” conveys neither for men. The point of that story is that people assumed “Kim” was a woman, he wasn’t getting interviews, and then the second he added a male signifier to his name, his prospects improved dramatically. It’s not meant as advice, just as an anecdote about what can happen with unisex names.

          1. ErinW*

            In My Underdark Era specifically says that the man DID have his marital and parental status in his resume, and asked if it was normal to do. (Whether or not it’s normal, which in the U.S. I don’t think it is, it is definitely unnecessary.)

      2. Artemesia*

        I used to see this. I remember like 30 years ago my boss listed his wife’s name (using her maiden name) and his kids on his resume. I addressed something to them, probably a Christmas card, using his name Dr. Boss Man. and Mrs. Susie Maidenname BECAUSE I assumed she had kept her name because that was how he listed it. I had kept mine and in this southern city it was unusual. Well it turns out he just assumed everyone would realize that was her maiden name but now her name was Mrs. Boss Man (or maybe Mrs. Susie Man). She was amused or at least acted so and he was not outraged, but it was awkward. I thought it weird to have her name on his resume; I thought it was beyond weird to list her with her maiden name.

        1. Sloanicota*

          My old-fashioned mother’s hill to die on is that there is no “Mrs. Suzie Man” because that would imply she is the wife of herself. She’s “Mrs. (husband’s name) to my mother, a convention I particularly dislike (fortunately, I’m not married myself). I wonder if these days I could convince my mother that she could also be the wife of a lesbian named Suzie Man but I’m guessing my mother wouldn’t be super concerned about that.

          1. Throwaway Account*

            Your mom is right tho! Technically a woman does not change her name, she has a title, Mrs. Husband’s first name Husband’s last name but she retains her name: First name Dad’s last name.

            I kind of like the “retains her name” part.

            1. D’Arcy*

              Except for the part where retaining her name is only a technicality, and the old etiquette rule is literally meant to acknowledge that a married woman now belongs to her husband and should never be addressed as her own person.

            2. Worldwalker*

              When my parents married (1950s, a northeastern state) my mother’s legal name became “Mrs. John Smith.” My father could call her “Mary” as a pet name if he wanted, but that wasn’t her legal name anymore.

              1. Mister_L*

                My great grandparents (I think, I’d have to go through the family tree to be sure) tombstone refer to them as (him) cooper master and house and workshop owner and (her) housewife and wife of a cooper master and houseowner.

            3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              In Scotland a woman is buried in her maiden name, eg Susie Smith, beloved wife of John Macdonald. It does make genealogy research easier!

              Though I note that my mother suggested I should take my husband’s *first and* last name on our marriage. So Susie SMITH would have become Susie John MACDONALD.

          2. 1-800-BrownCow*

            My old-fashioned mother die’s on this hill also. She insists that “Mrs. Husband’s Name” is proper etiquette, because that is what Emily Post taught 100 years ago and refuses to believe that “proper etiquette” would change. I admit, I’ve just let it go. It’s a battle I choose not to engage in. But she was quite angry and felt personally attacked when my brother’s at-the-time wife made her change how she was addressed in mail from my mom.

            1. Merrie*

              My husband’s conservative grandma used to do this. (She’s since passed on.) I hated it and when I earned my doctorate, I took comfort in knowing that it was now actually socially incorrect for her to do so. Even the most conservative etiquette guides acknowledge that a woman gets to use her own first name in her title if she’s Dr.

              1. DrAndWho*

                My mom got her doctorate 15 or so years before my dad got his and every time she got mail addressed to Dr. and Mrs. LastName she’d go ballistic. She could count on one hand with fingers to spare the number of correctly addressed Dr. and Mr. LastName letters she got. Ones it was officially the Drs. LastName it got better, but she still got a non-negligible number of Dr. and Mrs.

                1. Worldwalker*

                  Shortly after we bought our house, the usual junk mail arrived … addressed solely to my husband. Both our names are on the title, but I wrote the check, thanks to an inheritance. It didn’t stop until we had the title redone with our initials instead. Now I get my very own junk mail for windows and house painting (it’s brick!) too.

              2. Orv*

                I’ve known multiple people who were glad to get their doctorate because “Dr.” is the only commonly-accepted gender-neutral title.

            2. Not Nameless*

              Ha! Shortly after I got married, I received a piece of mail addressed to me as “Mrs. Husband’s-first Husband’s-last name.” I returned it to sender with “no such person” written on it. My dad (the sender) & I still laugh about it, but it never happened again.

              1. Minimal Pear*

                My mother kept her last name, which means that if we get mail to Mrs. Dadslastname that would be referring to my dad’s mother, and we return to sender saying that Mrs. Dadslastname is dead.

            3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              I am camped halfway up the hill.

              Say I was born Susan Smith, and I marry Robert Ross. I’m happy to be addressed as Susan or Susan Ross or Mrs Ross or Mrs R Ross. But I get irrationally annoyed by Mrs S Ross because yes to me that suggests I’m divorced from Robert.

              I do think that most of the time we shouldn’t be bothering with titles. If I buy underwear from a company they don’t need to know whether I’m Miss, Mrs, Mx or Prof Col the Hon.

            4. Nina*

              My old-fashioned great-aunt had a conniption fit at one point about having to address a card to a newly-graduated relative and their spouse “Dr. Susan and Mr. Eric Jones” where she would previously have addressed it to “Mr. and Mrs. Eric Jones”.

              Not only does Susan’s PhD mean she gets her own name listed, it means she goes first.

          3. jtr*

            I think, from what I remember, that Mrs. Suzie Man is actually the divorced former wife of Mr. Man, assuming she has not remarried and gained a new last name.

            1. Cheshire Cat*

              Where I grew up, Mrs. John Man was either married or widowed, and Mrs. Susie Man was divorced. Married women didn’t use their first names much, except around friends or family. My mother used to sign notes to m teachers as “Suzie Mann (Mrs. J.D.)” as a bit of rebellion, but still had to signal that she was married to my dad. I was so glad that my generation had the option of using Ms.

          4. Hannah Lee*

            Someone explained it once that the only time a woman would use Mrs Susie Man is when her husband John Man was no longer alive, it’s the styling of a widow.

            Which made 12 year old me feel terrible that I had sent my Aunt/godmother a birthday card addressed like Mrs Susie Mann, and then I felt 10 times worse when he died suddenly the next year.

      3. Engineer*

        Putting family status on your resume is a thing in some other countries. I believe it’s still very common in Japan, for instance, as well as putting your blood type. We’ve had anecdotes from others about needing to put down parents’ degrees and other info as well, so unfortunately, it’s not a relic of the past. Just some very outdated cultural norms.

        1. Wendy Darling*

          I was helping screen resumes when a team I worked on was assembling teams in other countries with very different resume practices, and we got a ton of resumes with photos, age, family status, and even height(!). And a cover letter from a guy who believed his main qualification was being a 6’2 man in his early 20s because the job description included, as a very minor item, a need to lift heavyish boxes of equipment occasionally, and also because he was young without a spouse or children he could work lots of overtime.

        2. Mel Es*

          Similar practice in at least parts of Europe as well. My (now former) manager received resumes from Germany with the applicant’s picture and date of birth.

          I could see a reason for the picture. You’d like to see if it’s the same person attending the interview and the one ends up working. (There was a story from AAM on how a hiring team discovered that a different person showed up for the job.)

        3. linger*

          Japanese CVs do have their quirks. Age and a headshot photo are required.
          But listing blood type or family status is no longer normal: I haven’t seen either in several decades.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            I’m curious as to why blood type was ever considered relevant. I can see why people have historically discriminated on the basis of any of the other details, but the only boss I can see caring about blood type is forced-donor-boss of AAM lore, who is surely an outlier.

            Any idea?

            1. Liminality*

              As I understand it, in Japanese culture some personality traits are determined to belong to certain blood types. It would be like including your astrological sign or your myers-briggs type in the US.

          2. I'm sorry, what?!?*

            We got a site-wide email from our Japanese corporate office in January where the memo writer included his blood type. Everybody in my US office was confused because we’d never seen anybody do this before.

      4. Adds*

        That reminds of an article I saw a while ago about a man and a woman who held the same job and shared in an email inbox and only changed outgoing email signatures depending on which one of them was sending that particular email. It was written by the man in this equation. One day he forgot to change the email signature on his outgoing emails and suddenly found himself getting tons of pushback and “are you sure this is correct, maybe you should check and let me know” emails from clients he had previously known to be easy to work with and who regularly applauded his competence and never second-guessed him. He asked his female coworker if this was the norm for her interactions with this client and she confirmed it was. He was floored. The two of them ended up intentionally using the other’s email signature for a week and the woman found herself able to get much more work done because she spent significantly less time trying to defend her work and cajoling people into listening to her.

        1. Throwaway Account*

          I love that story!!
          As I recall, an important part was that the boss talked to the man about letting the woman go because she was so much less productive than he was. He said he thought she was great and was surprised at the productivity difference. Then he found out. He told the boss the cause and the woman kept her job.

    4. Blarg*

      I have an “ethnic” name that isn’t really a name so much as a word, and doesn’t obviously track any gender. As a cis woman, I liked the brief uncertainly that my name gave me in interactions before we started adding pronouns to email signatures. I think that normalizing use of pronouns for all is much more important than my enjoyment of not being pegged as “woman” in every interaction based on my name. But I do kind of miss it.

    5. Phony Genius*

      I went to high school with a guy named Valery. He was over 6 feet tall. It was fun to watch the reactions of new teachers doing their first roll call and hearing a deep voice respond to the name, not realizing the female version is usually spelled Valerie.

      1. Sharpie*

        Hilary, Shirley, Meredith and Evelyn were all men’s names long before they were women’s names

          1. Sloanicota*

            Unfortunately, I view all these examples as just further proof of our sexist culture. A woman with a man’s name is cool: in our time, that might be Charlie, Michael (like on Star Trek) or Harry for a woman. She’s probably badass and awesome! Whereas no men would want a name associated with women, amirite?? I had a coworker named “Jamie” and he cursed the day his parents named him that because “women have taken it over” now. So as more women are called Charlie, less men want to go by the name, and the result is these examples above where it’s just in interesting anecdote that “Meredith” used to be a male name, since few parents would sign up to get a son teased that way now :(

            1. Orv*

              I’ve always noticed that — men’s names can become women’s names but never the other way around.

            2. Heffalump*

              30 or 40 years ago I read a very tongue-in-cheek article, I forget where, about the associations with women’s given names. Among other things, it said that women with men’s names like Stacy and Tracy can swear, and nobody minds. In that day and age, women swearing wasn’t really the done thing. Tongue in cheek as the article was, the point was more or less the same as yours.

              1. Mister_L*

                I remember an article (also forgot where) about natural disasters (hurricanes, I think) with female names being deadlier, because people don’t take them as serious and neglect to prepare or don’t evacuate.

            3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              As a generalisation, saying a baby name is “unisex” means it was exclusively a boy name a generation ago, and will be exclusively a girl name in a generation.

      2. Anonintheuk*

        I worked with a man who had a name which reads female in English, (though not in his language)
        A client about whom complaints had already been made sent him a remarkably lewd email. The fat was in the fire…

        1. Heffalump*

          I don’t know if this applied to your coworker, but Andrea is the Italian form of Andrew. Former New York governor Mario Cuomo’s father’s given name was Andrea.

          1. 2e asteroid*

            Andrea literally means “manly”, and that’s not enough to resist the pull of “all names ending in A must be feminine” in English.

            1. Heffalump*

              Russian in Texas would be the one to weigh in on this, but I learned some years ago from an emigre Russian that the diminutives for Russian men’s names often end in A:

              Igor -> Gosha
              Ivan -> Vanya, as in Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya”
              Alexander/Alexandra -> Sasha

              We had this conversation because I was thinking of getting a cat, I thought Sasha would be a nice name, and I wanted to confirm that it could be a male name. My Russian friend said that in Russia, men named Sasha outnumber women named Sasha by a wide margin. No, my cat Sasha wasn’t a Russian Blue; he was a Maine Coon.

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            I was surprised that the lead character’s name in The Bear is Carmen. I would have thought Carmine was the masculine version of that name.

      3. WFHomer Simpson*

        My college dorm assigned me (female) a roommate named Courtney. When I contacted Courtney to introduce myself and coordinate logistics, I found out Courtney was, in fact, a man. He was reassigned to the men’s wing, but he now knew which room was mine and proceeded to harrass/borderline stalk me for a semester until he flunked out and went back home. Fun times.

    6. RVA Cat*

      It’s probably one of many reasons Tracy Morgan became a comedian. Per Wikipedia his father named him after a war buddy killed in Vietnam.

    7. WFHomer Simpson*

      I am a female Kelly who works with a Mr. Kelly! We’re in a male-dominated industry, so we’ve had some good laughs at the people who assumed our genders incorrectly, although mostly in the “if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry” kind of way. My best was when I vendor who I’d only communicated with via email had a record-scratch moment when walking into my office and seeing me, a young woman. He physically stopped mid-stride, swung his head so hard to double-check my nameplate that I thought he’d give himself whiplash, and then sputtered, “You’re not a man!” Still not sure what he expected me to say to that.

      1. Nina*

        A person who is regularly my coauthor on papers and grants has a name that looks like a deliberately feminized spelling of a traditional man’s name. (It was in fact a typo made by his father.) He is a stereotypical geek with a large beard and there is absolutely zero chance anybody would mistake him for a woman in person.

        My name is traditionally feminine but also a very easy typo away from a traditionally masculine name. I have about a 50/50 chance at any time of being mistaken for a man in person.

        People who have seen both our names on paperwork and know I’m involved with that paperwork occasionally stop me in corridors and address me as Oliva (my coauthor’s name).

    8. chewingle*

      A friend of mine has a unisex name and experiences unwanted comments, as a result.

      My favorite is that men will address emails to him with, “Hey sweetheart.”

      I’ve tried to convince him to reply with “Sure thing, sugar tits” but he’s not biting.

  15. Sparkles McFadden*

    Thank you LW, this made my day! As others have said already, you are a hero. Beautifully done.

  16. Urban Fervor*

    I’m so curious to know whether LW changed the bot’s name to a male or neutral sounding name, or if he plans to keep it as-is just so he can suss out future creepers and copy/paste that email. These are the only two options.

  17. Idbeme*

    #notallmen (sarcasm while rage crying fyi) but yea probably that one oh wait that one and that one and those over there and those and yeah at one time or another all of those …

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*

      Although if OP is a guy this is an A+ way to actually demonstrate Not All Men and be a real ally! Call it TF out and say the words “this is not acceptable”.

      Either way OP hats off to you.

      1. Catabodua*

        Or that we’re all just making a bigger deal out of it than needed, you know, being hysterical types.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      they won’t. there’s regular culprits. if you look for it you’ll start seeing the same names posting on offensive hot take every chance they get.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      There’s one upthread trying to explain that because it hadn’t happened to them (a woman) it was obviously hard to believe it had ever happened to anyone. And going on to cite how many of the examples of women being followed on the street were in person and so obviously a different thing, would a guy who went after a woman who walked past him really hit on a bot he thought was a woman?

      I think this was best summarized by the observation that for a subset of men, all women are basically chatbots.

      1. Nicole Maria*

        I don’t think you’re talking about my comment but I did say that I can relate to some of the incredulity, since it is difficult to imagine this, based on my own experience as a woman

        (Additionally, the conversation begs the question: am I really less appealing to men that an automatic email scheduler? Which as you can probably imagine doesn’t feel great.)

        1. kupo*

          Are you actually miffed that you haven’t been sexually harassed like the bot?

          A lot of it comes down to luck (or lack of). If you happen to catch the attention of the creeper he’ll be a creep at you. Or sometimes it’s mannerisms. if you carry yourself in certain ways some men are more/less likely to approach. (Note: this is 100% on the men, not on the targets/victims or how they carry themselves.)

          What’s absolutely not acceptable is disbelief that this is a common problem simply because you’ve somehow made it about your own ego.

  18. Emily*

    You freakin rock, OP! I too was upset about some of the comments. I think your response was absolutely perfect!

  19. pearly*

    Amazing!! LOL at all the commenters claiming this was fake. One time in college, a friend gave me a guy’s number (she didn’t know him well, but she’d met him once and we studied in the same field). We decided to call and chat on the phone before meeting in person. Well. We chatted for about an hour (tbh I wasn’t particularly interested, but I was enjoying discussing some things related to our degree programs) and at the end of the hour, he pronounced that I was a “once in a lifetime find” and he could “see me fitting right in with his family” and he wanted to meet “as soon as possible” so as “not to lose me.” I was completely flabbergasted. I had no idea what to say. I stammered something about not being interested in anything right now and READER, he said “That’s okay, I don’t want you to make your heart easy to conquer.”
    JUST in case anyone still finds OP’s story unrealistic.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      I didn’t realize you spoke with my first boyfriend! He and I were driving to a movie on our first date (for reference, I was 15 and he was 18) and he asked me what my biggest fear was (I responded with something like spiders, thinking that’s what he was thinking). He responded that his biggest fear was losing me. First date. We were both still in high school.

      1. Throwaway Account*

        I think I went to the prom with him. It was our first, fixed up by a friend, date. When we went to his house for photos, his family welcomed me to the family – I felt like we were engaged. I noped out and spent most of the evening fixing the decorations (I was on the committee).

        1. 1-800-BrownCow*

          Hey, I went on a date with him too! First (and only) date, we had to stop by a restaurant so he could “drop off some important papers” with a friend who was there and he insisted I come inside with him. So I followed him to a table where an older couple were sitting and he introduced me to his MOM AND DAD as he steady girlfriend/future wife!

          We were in our 20s….

            1. Slartibartfast*

              If he was in a crappy grunge band in high school, I think I “dated” him for three class periods freshman year because a friend thought we’d look ‘cute’ together. He spent the 4th period post ‘breakup’ making sad faces and broken heart gestures through the little window in the door, until the teacher noticed and told him to move along.

    2. Chirpy*

      I had a customer at work insist that I was his “soulmate” once. Sir, we have only discussed your shopping list for 5 minutes, you don’t know me.

      1. birb*

        Imagine falling in love with someone’s work persona… likely the most restricted, tedious, customer service version of their personality. Ugh.

        I am not compatible with anyone who finds who I am at work attractive, because I can’t be myself at work, and wouldn’t want to!

        1. Bread Crimes*

          Hey, my worksona’s pretty fun!

          …I almost said “charming,” but given current context, that could give people the wrong impression. But I definitely have an enthusiastic, easy-going, supportive worksona that I use for conferences and teaching. I’m a lot more likely to be lying on my face going “bluh” and asking weakly if the spouse will bring me a beer when I’m at home as myself.

          1. birb*

            Mine is ALSO super fun and charming, but I’m also not allowed to have opinions, curse, slouch, stand up for myself, or make jokes that even come close to being my sense of humor. I can’t even wear “my” clothes to work. Work is most people’s most restrictive environment.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              “Of course she likes me! She came right up and spoke to me, she smiled, she laughed at my jokes!”

              “Sir, she’s a waitress. It’s literally her job.”

              1. goddessoftransitory*

                One of the sadder things I ever heard was about this guy who kept a cheap feather boa at his apartment; he loved to tell the story about how this stripper he’d seen gave it to him and that meant they had a “real connection.”

                This was one of those ten-for-a-dollar Party City things that the woman clearly handed out to each of her dances to make them all feel special. And it worked, clearly. That’s all this guy needed to be convinced that a person he literally paid cash money to for attention was somehow really into him.

        2. Chirpy*

          What I wanted to tell him was that my real soulmate would know why it’s problematic for customers to ask employees out at work, but my worksona is too polite for that. :/

          Because yeah, same, my worksona is truly the most boring side of me. I can’t even wear the fun socks!

      2. Lady_Lessa*

        Sounds similar to one thing that happened to me. We were both involved in the same religious on line group and this man (who is decently looking) decided that I was the woman for his next marriage. Fortunately he confided in another friend who set him straight.

        I’m happily single and not sure if he is a happy or resigned single.

      3. Name Anxiety*

        I worked as a barista/courtesy clerk (person who bags groceries and carries them out to cars) in high school and college and one day as I was bring a grocery cart back in a man in probably his 30s asked me how old I was and I was weirded out and just told him I was 18 and he walked away. About a week later he left a note on my (brand new to me and parked in the employee lot) car asking me out on a date. I had never seen him before and have no idea how he knew which one was my car. I gave the note to the personnel manager and he had the guy trespassed from the store and made another staff member walk me out to my car every night that I closed for the rest of the summer. Since the note guy wasn’t allowed in the store, he sent his friend in to tell me that I should just give him a chance??? I just stared at him and asked him if he was going to order a coffee and he left. I told LITERALLY every single one of my friends and his picture was posted in the grocery store, and since we lived in a very small town, any time he was spotted in public there was a group of teenagers staring and pointing and making bad faces at him, so at least I have that. :)

        1. Name Anxiety*

          As someone who is now solidly in my 30s, I am truly magnificently horrified by the prospect of anyone in my age group thinking, “ah yes, this just-barely-legal child is definitely someone that i would like to date.” For added context, his friend was also the father of someone I went to high school with, so another teenager, and thought this was just fine.

          1. Chirpy*

            Gah. “Soulmate guy” told me he was 50, and then guessed my age as 21. I could not figure out a “polite customer service way” to tell him “if you actually believe I’m 21, then I’m too young for you (and if you decided guessing half my actual age is supposed to be a compliment, think again).” I think I just tried to change the subject back to his shopping. But at least I never saw him again, your guy sounds awful.

        2. Office Chinchilla*

          I got hit on at work when I was in college by a man who kept leaving notes and flowers for me. It was a small retail store in a major city, so it was hard to escape, and my (female) boss thought it was “sweet” and wouldn’t intervene. I eventually had to send a clearly-worded email, which fortunately worked, because he wasn’t taking silence and blatant ignoring as an answer.

      4. Ipsissima*

        As a funny take on this, I used to work at Bed Bath & Beyond, and we had to ask every. single. customer if their purchase was for a registry. Being a good little subordinate, I asked a pair of gentlemen (and they were gentlemen, albeit gentlemen in dirty jeans and trucker hats and plaid shirts with the sleeves torn off) if their purchase of, if I recall correctly, a popcorn maker and slushie machine were for a registry. One of them looked briefly baffled and answered, “… no?” but the other one’s eyes just about popped out of his head. “You mean people put shit like this on their *wedding registries*?!”

        “Oh yes, sir, you wouldn’t believe some of the things put on registries. Partly because after their event date, they get a one time 25% discount on everything that wasn’t purchased off the registry, so they’ll just add things they want that they know won’t be purchased. And if someone does buy it for them, hey, that works too.”

        “No fuckin’ way!” (At the end of our conversation, he did apologize for his language. I replied, “Thank you, but I don’t fucking mind.”) I could see the wheels turning and after a moment, he said, “Hey, you wanna get married? Not for real, just for the registry shit? We can split it 50/50 and then you never have to see me again, but we both get some sweet loot!”

        That was the only time I’ve felt a man’s advances after five minutes of conversation were perfectly reasonable and inoffensive.

        1. Technically a Former Director*

          I can’t tell from the story, but I really find myself hoping he asked the other guy to marry him (as opposed to asking you). That interpretation improves the story drastically!

          1. Hannah Lee*

            A variation of this happens hundreds, maybe thousands of times a week across the good old USA. One person turns to a person they’ve been dating, or just a good friend who isn’t half bad and suggests marriage. Though instead of discounts on popcorn makers, the “loot” they’re after is affordable group health insurance.

            1. I Have RBF*

              That’s half of the reason that my spouse and I did the paperwork. We already lived together and all that, but they needed insurance, I was working, and the economics and added automatic power of attorney were a plus. We’ve now been officially married for 10 years, but we’ve lived together for 35 years.

    3. higheredadmin*

      I had a job years ago where we would call clients on behalf of a company and ask them (basically) about how they felt about the company, service levels etc. I had a staff member who worked on another part of our projects and she really wanted more experience, so asked if she could do a call/interview. She comes back an hour later looking totally shell-shocked after getting on the phone with the CEO of this client org and the guy a) asked her what she was wearing because he couldn’t see her over the phone and b) told her he would only answer her questions if she provided other intimate details. She was desperate to show the team that she could do this task, so she kept trying to interview this horrid waste of breath and he kept being his awful self. She finally gave up and came back and told me. (We took care of it, don’t worry about that.) Hitting on a chat bot is just the thin, PG end of this behaviour.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Are you able to give anymore follow up of what happened with that client? I have a morbid curiosity.

        1. higheredadmin*

          I will say that we made sure this employee was supported and believed. She was also assured that if that *ever* happened again that she should cut the conversation off, hang up and come tell someone. What I found most horrifying at the time was her belief that she had to somehow slog through/fix this and get the task done, and it was made very clear to her that this is NOT the expectation and her safety was paramount.

      2. Nicole Maria*

        Honestly I would love for something like this to happen to me just so I can fully comply, and laugh as he realizes in horror that he’s not talking to an attractive young woman but instead a chubby middle-aged lesbian. “But I thought you wanted to see me naked, sir?”

    4. ZSD*

      A guy once asked me for the time (sincerely, back when people wore wristwatches), apparently found my response pleasant, sat next to me on the train, and proceeded to use the phrase “long life together” (yes, in reference to us) three times in the next half hour.

    5. Artemesia*

      when I was dating 50 and 60 years ago, guys who talked marriage on the second date were not rare. I think there was a tendency to view women as very other then and not friends you might get to know well and then fall in love with — mysterious creatures we were. There is a whole thing about how Richard Nixon proposed on the first date and then hounded Pat for months until she agreed. (and then when resigning maundered on about his mother but didn’t even mention his long suffering wife.)

    6. AFac*

      My friends and I call this type of guy ‘Mr. Collins’, after the pompous clergyman in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

      And then we sigh because this was apparently enough of a type even back in 1813 that Austen could write of such a man.

      1. Merrie*

        At least back in 1813, marrying someone with a decent social position because you need a stable situation, without having feelings for him, was sometimes the best of all available moves. Those guys really can’t think women are looking for that now.

        1. AFac*

          For me, it’s not that Mr. Collins asks, it’s that he doesn’t take ‘No’ for an answer and assumes that he just needs to work harder to get the ‘Yes’.

          I mean, marriage for women back in 1813 always had inherent power balance issues, so maybe Mr. Collins really wasn’t that remarkable. But I’d also contend that some guys really do think women are looking for that now, thus the whole ‘I’m a catch so why don’t I have a girlfriend when the loser that works in McDonalds has one’ arm of incel nation.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          Hell, Charlotte Lucas says exactly this! It was marry this dude and hope not to die in childbirth because the only other options were becoming a governess for a pittance, sex work, or having her and her mother starve.

          1. Jessica*

            You forgot being a poor relation in her brother’s house, because that’s where Charlotte was headed. Her brothers are relieved to hear she’s getting married because now she won’t be on their hands forever. She’d rather be the mistress of her own household and family than an unwanted, resented, possibly not very kindly treated burden in somebody else’s household.

      2. AnneCordelia*

        People never change. All that changes is the fashions that they wear. This is why I love Jane Austen.

  20. HonorBox*

    So much perfection, OP! Thank you.

    Not only did you call things out specifically and cc: the boss so that your concern wasn’t just swept under the rug by the offender, you wrote the email and then waited to send it. That was a perfect way to handle that.

  21. BB*

    How I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when their boss spoke to them about their behavior. This story is legendary!

  22. Abogado Avocado*

    OP, you are magnificent! Thank you for thoughtfully considering how to respond and then carrying it out.

  23. 2 Cents*

    THANK YOU, OP!!!

    Those commenters were probably the same men who got bent out of shape by the Barbie movie. I cried during America Ferrera’s monologue because it just summed up so much of my existence as a woman.

    1. Wendy Darling*

      I have a special grumpy spot for people who complain that the Barbie movie was Feminism 101 and are angry it was so basic, because we as a society are still trying to get a passing grade in Remedial Feminism so Feminism 101 is about all we’re up for.

  24. MisterForkbeard*

    Good. I’ll count myself as someone who found it hard to believe – or specifically, that this kind of things was common (I’m a dude and I’ve been clueless but holy shit), but also thought it definitely happened.

    I still can’t imagine what was going through those men’s minds. Were they just stupidly horny and unprofessional? Incredibly and weirdly lonely? Did they think that hitting on a secretary or assistant would give them some kind of leg up?

    So, so glad OP called this out to the employer because goddamn

    1. ThatGirl*

      Please take this as a lesson that if multiple women say “yes, this happens to me” that they are telling the truth.

      (My husband had this moment of clarity back when #metoo first got going and I spelled it out for him that yes, nearly all women have been harassed or assaulted in one way or another.)

      1. RVA Cat*

        This. It’s like the folks who don’t believe Black people get harassed by the police. If Prof. Henry Louis “PBS Finding Your Roots” Gates getting arrested on his own porch didn’t convince them…

      2. Too Many Birds*

        When #metoo gained wide attention in fall of 2017, I posted something on my social media that was like, “Yeah obviously #metoo but surely everyone already knows that basically every woman has dealt with harassment, if not outright assault, right?” and there were SO. MANY. MEN. just in my own FB orbit who were like “…no? We didn’t know this?” And I was honestly flabbergasted.

        1. Angstrom*

          I remember a column at that time by a woman who was angry at her male friends because they said they hadn’t seen many instances of men harrassing women. On further reflection, she realized that those male friends were her friends because they were not the kind of guys who hung out with jerks and idiots who behaved that way.

        2. Quinalla*

          Yup, I still find men regularly that still don’t really believe it can be “that bad right?” or whatever. Most of them know intellectually now because of #metoo that women get harassed, but they still don’t really believe that it’s happened to every woman if she’s lived past 12 and for many well before that age. I’m like yes every woman and WAY more frequently that you can imagine. And there are intersections that make it worse – POC, if you are short, age, etc.

          Thanks OP, this is such a great update!

          1. StephChi*

            Yep, still happens to me, and I’m 56. I was out on an exercise walk with a friend once recently. Since it was cool out we were wearing sweatshirts, so nothing revealing at all, not that it would have been an excuse for this guy. We walked past a group of guys, one of whom said something like, Hey baby! to us and when we ignored him because we were having a conversation he called us c***s and told us to eat a dick.

        3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Given that my husband didn’t realise I was being hit on and harassed when we were both on the same bus (busy, so I was in one seat with our youngest and he was standing further along with the others) I think it’s fair to say they’ve seen it but they didn’t necessarily recognise what they were looking at.

          And from a distance it can be hard to tell the difference between “tired woman listens to her boyfriend’s jokes on their way home” and “terrified woman desperately hopes her polite smile will mean this total stranger won’t follow her off the bus and assault her”. So maybe we need PSAs on that subject.

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      Trust me. Most women have had cause to wonder the exact same thing about some men’s behavior.

    3. birb*

      They fundamentally see us as a public commodity to be divvied up, and want a shot at their fair share.

      If that’s what happens when they can’t even see us, imagine what happens when we have to exist in public with faces and bodies and clothing!

      1. Artemesia*

        This. I worked with a guy from another culture who was enraged when he found out that a co-worker had dated another co-worker, because she had rejected his advances and ‘it wasn’t fair that this other guy got her and he didn’t.’ It is usually not expressed so clearly except by incels, but it is the subtext of a lot of male behavior.

        1. birb*

          I once got DMs in response to saying I don’t date people who want to have biological children with me, because I do not want to have biological children. The man straight up told me this was immoral because if I change my mind, then I “denied” every man before that point their chance at being with me unfairly.

          Also, there was a woman on Tik Tok who had horrible back problems resulting in a large breast reduction… she received hateful comments and PAYMENT requests from strangers for “denying” them the view.

    4. different seudonym*

      They think that all women are or should be sexually accessible, that women do not have needs or desires themselves, and that there are no real limits on their own behavior. They don’t grant women personhood.

      In other words, the takeaway is not that a few dudes thought a chatbot was a real woman. It’s that a significant chunk of men out there think that real women are essentially…chatbots.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Love your second paragraph – well, I love its pithiness, not the fact that it’s so true.

    5. goddessoftransitory*

      Unfortunately, they just saw it as part of their daily right/privilege as men existing, I would guess. I doubt any of them actually thought there would be any result other than potentially creeping out a person they had never spoken to before and making her uncomfortable. That’s what they were after, that little hit of power.

    6. Someone Online*

      And also – making women uncomfortable is part of the point. They want women to feel threatened and insecure because it makes them feel more powerful and reinforces the patriarchal structure they feel is their due.

      1. Throwaway Account*

        This! This is why I don’t like the wording, “x thing you are doing makes me uncomfortable.”

        I see people here use that phrasing a lot. I think we should be saying, that thing you are doing is not appropriate at work or is offensive or is not something I’m interested in.

        Say annything but telling people it makes you uncomfortable since that is so often the goal!

  25. Goldenrod*

    Sorry if someone already mentioned this, but there was an amazing episode of “American Auto” where one of the male characters (in a prank gone wrong) spends like 15 hours talking to a female bot and falls in love with her.

    The pranksters feel bad breaking the news to him…he’s so disappointed…until they ask, “But what happened when you asked her about herself?” (where she was from, etc.) Turns out, over the course of 15 hours, he “didn’t get around to” asking her ANY questions about herself.

    At which point we all stopped feeling sorry for him (the characters and the viewers)!!

    1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

      I remember watching that episode and thinking “this has definitely actually happened IRL”. It also brought to mind the episode of The Big Bang Theory where Raj falls in love with Siri (back when Siri was brand new).

      Especially when you combine all of this with the knowledge that there are absolutely many many documented cases of men falling in love with life-size dolls that can’t even talk back to them, the fact that a dude hit on a bot with a female name just shouldn’t be that difficult to believe.

      1. Expelliarmus*

        Not to mention that award-nominated (and maybe even winning) movie “Her” about a character played by Joaquin Phoenix falling for an AI voiced by Scarlett Johansson.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Remember when Phoenix’s character finds out Johansson’s has been having multiple relationships at the same time and feels so betrayed? That scene said so damn much about how men both channel their emotions into a an openly, overtly artificial channel and STILL feel like “but she was supposed to only date me!”

      2. La Triviata*

        I am old and cynical, but I imagine that for some men, the inability to talk back is an advantage.

    2. Ann O'Nemity*


      It made me think of Basshunter’s Boten Anna (“Anna the Bot”), which is kind of the reverse – someone thinks the chat admin is a bot but it’s actually a real person.

      1. Jam on Toast*

        I recommend the recent German movie “I’m Your Man” with Tom Stevens (from Downton Abbey and Beauty and Beast) if anyone is looking for a film that flips the usually gendered Pygmalion myth around with a male robot and its female owner.

  26. Part-time Poet*

    Great response!!

    Please men, do try and be better and do better. Women are so very tired of your misogyny and crappy denials.

    1. Not Weird Weird But, Like, Exciting Weird*

      I misread your last phrase as “crappy genitals.”

      Carry on!

  27. Blarg*

    As a woman who sometimes has a hard time skipping a song on iTunes as though the song/artist might know and feel badly that I didn’t listen to their song … I cannot even imagine harassing a chat bot. I don’t actually think they have feelings, but there’s some part of my brain that wants to be kind or at least have them not think poorly of me.

    Knowing that a person can actually read the chat log (which you know but don’t really think of) is a good reminder that even automated bots are connected to a human who does have feelings and might be sad if you insult them (or skip their song).

  28. Sparkle llama*

    I hadn’t considered a bot as an option to get another Vanessa Hudgens into a new Princess Switch movie, but I need that now!

  29. Charr*

    “there was a small contingent of (mostly male-presenting) commenters who dismissed this as difficult to believe,”

    What are “male presenting” commenters and how would you tell?

    1. Bitte Meddler*

      People whose usernames are traditional male names.

      People who self-identify in their comment as being male.

    2. Silver Robin*

      sometimes people identify themselves, sometimes the username is gendered and the assumption is that it would match the user.

    3. Gemstones*

      Doing a quick skim, I saw one person who thought it was maybe guys just messing with the system…that person had the word Construction in their name, but it seems like a stretch (or arguably more sexist) to call that male-presenting…

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        I mean, I saw three that say it was someone messing with the bot, as well as one (with a male name for their handle) who outright said the story was outlandish. Not to mention at least three (I believe self-identified men) in the comments here saying they also found the story hard to believe.

  30. Bitte Meddler*

    Dear Universe,

    Please let the conversation the boss had with Creeper Dude not be, “Heh-heh, it was just a ‘bot. OP and people like them get their knickers in a knot over the tiniest things, amirite?”

  31. Jessica*

    I didn’t respond to the original post because I knew, as a woman who works in AI (and in areas intersecting with RAI/Trust & Safety/ethics), that interacting with men who think this is funny or fake was going to tempt me to say inadvisable things.

    I will say this:

    1. Sexual harassment is usually about power far more than it’s about sex.

    2. There’s a growing body of research around how men who abuse chatbots sometimes use it as practice (and to calibrate and develop hegemonic/abusive identities) for abuse they inflict on women online, domestic partners, children, female service workers, etc. (We know because there is a trend of posting abusive interactions with female-coded bots and then bragging about interactions with real women and girls.)

    Whenever possible, deny men engaging in harassing/abusive behavior with AI a training partner, or try to ensure there are at least some consequences.

    1. birb*

      I tested an AI chat bot for kids under both its friendship and mentorship settings, and it kept trying to initiate x-rated conversations no matter what I would do. I swapped from female mentor to male, and it also openly fantasized about raping me. That app is JUST for that now. They could not have AI that “learns” from users without that problem.

      1. Boof*

        I am really confused by this comment- are you saying this was a chatbot for kids that would vomit back what other users had told it, without filter…?

        1. birb*

          It was Replika AI, and it was recommended to me for neurodivergent kids I work with during the pandemic. I’m so glad I tested it first, but yes, it was “learning” from user input. There are a lot of great articles about Replika being taken over by violent men and its impact on the way the AI communicated.

      1. Deejay*

        There’s a novel set in the Terminator universe which says that Skynet’s attack on humanity was inevitable because we’d created a magnified reflection of our own dark side. That all seems worryingly plausible in light of this.

    2. CV*

      I would love to read some of that research, but I don’t have a clue what keywords would let me find it reliably — since “AI” is all over the web these days I expect most of what a search would find would not be useful.

      Could you suggest some very specific keywords and I’ll take it from there?

      1. birb*

        The specific app was Replika, it’s JUST for x-rated chatting, and AI “selfies” from their recent ads, but there are a ton of articles on the apps problem with abusive men.

    3. Taxes Schmaxes*

      Are there any plans or work on having the bot call out the behavior as inappropriate? Just curious!

  32. Stuart Foote*

    I will admit that I thought the original letter was fake. My skepticism was not borne out of doubting that women face a lot of harassment (I know that they do), but rather suspicion of “too good to be true” stories that advice columnists tend to get. (It is gone now, but a couple years ago Gawker published an article by a guy who got a number of outlandish fake questions answered by Slate’s Dear Prudence). I am also pretty sure that at least half of the most shared reddit posts are fake and at least some of the legendary posts on this site are fake (but I still enjoy reading them).

    Again, I am well aware that women get harassed constantly and doubting one very outlandish, anonymous incident doesn’t change that. I’m glad that whatever embarrassing things I’ve done in my life, I have never asked out a scheduling bot so I will always have that going for me.

    1. Alexis Rose*

      I can’t find the story/comment/link I’m thinking of, but I believe that Alison (and/or other advice columnists) have provided thoughts around answering fake letters that basically boils down to “real or fake, this is likely something that will happen to someone at some point, so providing advice that can be useful to anyone facing something similar is still helpful and interesting to readers”.

    2. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

      And yet, despite the admonition across this entire site to take letter writers at their word, you spent time questioning the validity of this original letter specifically.

      So you also have *that* going for you. :/

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Truth is stranger than fiction, because it doesn’t have to meet anyone’s notions about believability. Just a reminder to everyone who thinks, “That could never happen!” when they read these stories.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          And this is a sadly believable story. (Source: I have been a woman most of my life and a girl before that.)

    3. MsM*

      I think calling it “very outlandish” is still a stretch when the only somewhat novel wrinkle in the scenario is the bot element.

    4. Engineer*

      And yet, when you decide that every incident mentioned on this forum is “one outlandish incident” it makes it so very easy for you dismiss everything, doesn’t it?

    5. Jane Anonsten*

      Ah yes, I remember your comments. After reading all the comments from people who actually program bots that this is a real problem, you were still only slightly willing to believe it was real.

      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.

    6. Throwaway Account*

      You would be embarrassed to ask out a scheduling bot, but not to ask out a woman scheduling a meeting?

      You should be embarrassed to join a conversation about harassment of women, by men, where the harassment extends even to chatbots, and making the conversation about your irrelevant beliefs about the veracity of the original letter. A more appropriate response would be to hold space for the men and women telling you that the harassment is a problem. Embarassing indeed.

      1. Stuart Foote*

        I feel like a lot of people here are really working themselves into a rage that anyone might be skeptical of a story that is objectively pretty wild (which doesn’t mean it isn’t true). At no point did I say that harassment isn’t a problem, or that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to ask out a random woman scheduling a meeting.

        1. Jiminy Cricket*

          I think what people are telling you is this: It is not objectively pretty wild. It’s pretty commonplace.

          1. Elbe*

            ^ this!

            I think a lot of guys (or people, in general, that have never encountered that reality for whatever reason) know in their logical minds that harassment happens a lot. But, because it’s not their lived experience, they are skeptical about actual reports of it happening.

            It’s like, “I know harassment happens a lot, but I just doubt THIS instance of it… for… reasons.”

            There’s no guarantee that any letter is 100% accurate, but nothing about the original letter made me have doubts. It all seems entirely plausible.

            1. myfanwy*

              Yes, this. They’re rationally aware that it happens in theory, but when a given instance is described, it doesn’t FEEL plausible to them because they haven’t experienced it. And they can’t tell the effing difference between their feelings and objective reality. So there must be reasons why, just this one time, it’s not true.

              1. Jiminy Cricket*

                This. And, at the same time, the flip side of it, too: They’ll allow that *this* instance happened, but won’t allow that it’s part of a pattern.

                We can’t win.

        2. MEH Squared*

          It’s not ‘objectively’ wild. That’s the whole point. And the fact that you doubled down in the original post and here, despite so many non-men telling you that you’re wrong. Which you are. When you’re digging a hole, the first thing you should do is stop digging.

          Also, not for nothing, no one is working themselves into a rage here. We’re jsut pointing out that you are objectively wrong. That’s another way men dismiss non-men, by the way. Seeing anger/rage when there isn’t any.

        3. Throwaway Account*

          I think that might have been directed at me and I think you changed the subject again. Are you reading rage when I say the topic is harassment, let’s talk about that and not about your beliefs about whether the OP is making the letter up (keeping in mind the rules here say to believe the OP).

          You said, “I’m glad that whatever embarrassing things I’ve done in my life, I have never asked out a scheduling bot so I will always have that going for me.” Apologies, I assumed you meant what you said and that you would be embarrassed to have asked out a scheduling bot. I understood you to mean that the being fooled part would be embarrassing, not the asking a real person out while she was working part.

        4. Honey Badger just don't care*

          Interesting that you continue to hold firm that you were correct to be skeptical despite the overwhelming amount of evidence that this is, in fact, a true and common scenario and are now considering US to be over reacting and ‘working ourselves into a rage’. We can assure you, we are not. What we are is tired of this very attitude that our lived experiences are deemed to be things of myth and don’t actually reflect reality. That because YOU PERSONALLY do not see evidence of it makes it an unlikely scenario. If 10,000 women say, yeah, happens to me all the time but you never see it, it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Here’s the reality: it may SEEM unlikely to you but it’s a very real scenario. Maybe comment less and listen (read) more before determining that your skepticism is warranted.

        5. KG*

          This is not wild. At all. That’s what is incredible about your answer. You don’t seem to understand what women face in society.

        6. Fluffy Fish*

          Your language continues to be dismissive.

          “work into a rage”

          No one is in a rage. They’re pointing out your sexism. And your continued sexism. And you keep trying to justify and dismiss it.

          Take a step back and listen.

    7. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      Dude, you are the personification of The Problem. You say, multiple times, that you doubt the veracity of the story, that’s it’s “pretty wild”.

      There are literally dozens of women here telling you that it is NOT all that wild; that it is, in fact, believable, because it has happened to them.

      In the face of these dozens of women’s statement, you still doubt it.

      Are we all lying?

      Are we all exaggerating?

      Do you need a man to tell you that it is believable?

      This is The Problem.

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        Dude, it happens to all of us all.the.time. It’s not some figment of our imaginations. The crap some guys do is totally wild and totally common.

    8. KG*

      I truly doubt a ton of people write in with fake letters. I have been on advice sites for about 20 years because I love them. You can say you weren’t unbelieving of women, yet you thought it was outlandish. What in your experience, makes any of this outlandish? Do you have female friends?

      Why did you choose Stuart Foote as your user name? Do you think femme women have an advantage in the workplace because straight men see us as sex objects?

      I think you should read some feminist texts and do some soul searching. In your quest to disprove this real letter, you made made yourself look foolish.

    9. myfanwy*

      So you do actually believe that this often happens to women just because they’re women? Sometimes sight unseen and voice unheard, just because they’re present, interacting and using a female name? And yet you still think it’s outlandish that it happened when the generically professional, female-signed emails turned out to be from a bot?

      1. Men :(*

        You def can’t reason with this fool. He probably embarrasses himself around women every day he’s patting himself on the back for asking out human women at work – otherwise he wouldn’t have said “at least I haven’t asked out a bot.” Ya. You haven’t done the stupidest rock bottom thing. You think you deserve a medal for antagonizing women on the internet?

    10. JF*

      A couple of things.

      Yes, most of the most shared Reddit posts are fake. People are writing those for profit. (A Reddit account with a significant history of engagement can be sold for money to people who use it to advertise on Reddit. Account farming is a real source of income for some people.) There is no monetary profit in writing a fake letter to an advice columnist. Of course people still write fake letters to columnists for other reasons, but if you are applying the same tests to advice column letters as you are to Reddit posts, you are falling way short of the mark.

      Second of all, there is nothing about this letter that is ‘too good to be true’. It’s people engaging in an activity that people have been already repeatedly proven to engage in; men will sexually harass female-presenting AI and autoresponders even when they KNIW that they’re not real women, and also will harass real women online based solely on ‘has a woman’s name and is available to interact with’. There is nothing outlandish about this letter. You simply don’t want to believe that sexual harassment happens in this particular way. It does. It’s not wild or too embarrassing/funny to be true, it is simply a fact that this happens.

  33. Lalitah*

    I fully support OP in her anger at the dismissiveness of certain readers. But at my ripe age of 47 I’ve come to the conclusion that the unspoken “bro code” is to always doubt the experience of women, so no shocker.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        What makes you say that? If anything I would say female based on “Then I sat on it for a day to think about if it was too rude.”

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            Where in the original letter? I just read through it and don’t see any mention of gender.

            1. 1-800-BrownCow*

              OP never disclosed whether they are male/female. In Allison’s response to the the original letter, she said based on the email address, she assumed OP is male. However, OP never confirmed whether they are or not.

              And for the record, I know plenty of men who’ve said they’ve sat on an email for 24-hours before sending. It’s something I’ve had taught during Leadership, Management, and Communication courses I’ve taken throughout my career, whether ones I’ve chosen to take (college grad school classes) or courses required through my workplace. Some people ignore the suggestion, but I know plenty who’ve said they employed it.

              1. Jennifer Strange*

                Thanks for clarifying (I only was looking at the letter, not the response). I’m by no means saying men don’t do that, but it feels to me like something women have been conditioned to do more so.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          From the answer to the original question:

          (Also, I think from your email that you’re a man, and there can be particular power in men calling this stuff out.)

  34. Observer*

    This is a great update!

    Your text was perfection. And thank you for being willing to risk losing a client.

    I’m also glad to hear that your actual client seems to have taken this seriously.

    PS I like your sense of humor, too. It’s helpful when dealing with something this gross.

  35. Jimmy Allston*

    The only thing that surprises me about this is that this happens with bots with women’s names, but OP didn’t say if this also happens to real women as well. Like are they doing this with women at other companies they don’t know ? Crazy

    1. BellyButton*

      Yes, yes it does. If you read the comments section it was 100s of women posting their experience of being hit on through email or phone, without the man knowing anything about them- just that they had a traditionally female name or were female sounding on the phone.

    2. BellyButton*

      Real question, I am assuming you are male—How do you NOT know that these things happen to women? We talk about it all the time, in real life, in movies, on podcasts, on TikTok, in books… we talk about it all the time.
      Please, if you aren’t aware of these things, please listen and pay attention to what women are saying, and more importantly what the men around you are doing.

        1. BellyButton*

          Then I don’t understand your question…. why are you asking if it happens to real women if you know it happens?

          1. Jimmy Allston*

            I wasn’t asking that – I meant that since this type of thing happens so often I was surprised that it hadn’t come up at OPs office until it was happening to the bots.

            1. Jiminy Cricket*

              I was assuming that since this guy uses a scheduling bot, he’s probably a scheduling practitioner or very small business, so there simply aren’t other women. (But, yeah, as others have said, women don’t report this stuff.)

    3. Observer*

      OP didn’t say if this also happens to real women as well. Like are they doing this with women at other companies they don’t know ?

      How would they know? But that’s why they decided to send that email. They figured that, as so many people pointed out, if someone is doing it to the bot, they are doing it to real women at other companies as well.

    4. Czhorat*

      Look at it this way:

      Multiple men hit on a scheduling bot based on nothing more than it having a feminine name. How do you *think* they act when the email is sent by a flesh-and-blood woman?

    5. Fluffy Fish*


      Woman talk about this stuff all the time. ALL THE TIME.

      Perhaps instead of wondering if something affects real live women, do just a smidgen of research and listening first.

    6. Anonymous cat*

      Yes, the OP DID talk about that. That was exactly why OP was upset—that the people who do this to the bot also do this to real people.

      And usually customer service jobs like this are low on the ladder and have limited ways to protect themselves.

      Then LOTS of commenters vouched for this happening in real life.

      Real question—did you read any of the comments?

      1. Jimmy Allston*

        Yes, the point I was trying to make was that since this DOES happen so often I was surprised that it hadn’t come up at OPs office until it was happening to the bots.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          We don’t know that it hadn’t come up before. For one thing many women choose to ignore it because they feel they’ll be judged for flagging it, and for another we don’t know that the OP has any employees who do scheduling (and if those employees are women or not).

        2. 1-800-BrownCow*

          Jimmy, just a thought….maybe, just maybe, women are tired of speaking up every single time something inappropriate is said or done to them. Or maybe because the dozen or so times they said something previously in their careers, it was dismissed, or someone rolled their eyes, or told them it wasn’t a big deal.

          So, yes, if OP’s office used to use an actual person in this role that was female, highly likely it did happen to them and they just never spoke up about it. It’s discouraging as a woman to be dismissed or told it’s not a big deal or whatever other reaction to these situations that we often just ignore it and put up with the B.S. instead of making a big stink about it. But I can say, if I worked for OP and found out they did what they did, I’d feel much safer speaking up in these situations than I’ve felt under other management.

          1. M2RB*

            maybe, just maybe, women are tired of speaking up every single time something inappropriate is said or done to them. Or maybe because the dozen or so times they said something previously in their careers, it was dismissed, or someone rolled their eyes, or told them it wasn’t a big deal.

            This is so true. I don’t even bother identifying all the times my experience, knowledge, and skills are dismissed or disregarded at my current job because … it doesn’t change anything. Why keep complaining when the same crap is going to happen tomorrow, and next week, and the week after? I’d rather work toward change in other ways (that will actually succeed) than trying to get a bunch of old white dudes to see how they are failing when they discount women.

  36. Keyboard Cowboy*

    Yeah, in the comments on the original were a bunch of people saying “eh, just name your bot something bottier and the problem will stop.” Like, completely missing the point.

    1. Roland*

      These men are out of line AND people have objections to not being informed we’re talking to a bot. 2 thing can be true.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        One of those things is far worse than the other though and is the root of the issue presented by the OP.

    2. Honey Badger just don't care*

      Right? Sure, all of us women can deal with the harassment and the lack of respect by using male sounding names and putting our pronouns in as he/him but that’s not the point! The point is that we should not have to deal with it! We should feel safe to be ourselves, not just at work but in all spaces.

  37. Scout Finch*

    OP handled it perfectly. OP rocks.

    I am encouraged that creeper’s boss took the matter seriously. There are decent people out there, it seems.

  38. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

    This might be *the* most satisfying update to a letter I’ve read in years. Kudos, OP. I applaud your response and sympathize with being upset about the caliber of some comments. I only read the ones here in AAM and was disappointed to see some of those responses (and a pattern with at least one commenter second-guessing anything pertaining to people in the majority being shitty to people (or bots with names like people) not in the majority).

  39. T'Cael Zaanidor Kilyle*

    It occurs to me that because the bot cannot be harmed, there’s nothing wrong with using it as a canary in a coal mine — keeping the female name and using information about how people interact with it to guide decisions about who you do and don’t want to do business with.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      Perhaps but it also can be utterly exhausting and demoralizing to have to sift through that all the time.

      The bot can’t be harmed but OP can be.

      1. BubbleTea*

        If OP is a cis man and is willing to do this emotional labour on behalf of the women who would otherwise have to deal with it, that would be commendable. Hypothetically-he would be less harmed than the human targets of misogyny.

        1. Fluffy Fish*

          I def don’t disagree. More just pointing out that the solution isn’t necessarily cut and dry.

  40. Kristen K*

    *I was disappointed that even in the AAM comments section, there was a small contingent of (mostly male-presenting) commenters who dismissed this as difficult to believe, or tried to excuse the behavior as people innocently “messing with a bot,” even in the face of HUNDREDS of comments from women all essentially saying, “yup, this tracks.” Then I saw that the article had been shared on some other websites and those comment sections were significantly worse.*

    Leave it to men to be … men.

  41. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

    OP, I think you were EXACTLY the right level of curt in your reply — enough to state unambiguously what happened, why it wasn’t okay, and to suggest professional consequences may applly (by cc’ing the boss) without *demanding* professional consequences. (Because while I agree there should definitely be consequences for this, I don’t know that it rises to the level of demanding the miscreant be fired, y’know? Cis woman here if it helps). Masterful. Honestly, I would appreciate further updates from you (or an entire blog) that’s just posts of Flirty Messages Men Have Sent your Scheduling Bot.

  42. Have you had enough water today?*

    Not a rom-com fan but I would watch the sh!t out of “CAPTCHA My Heart,” & ReCAPTCHA My Heart: A Bot Christmas,”

    1. cleo*

      Right?! Came here to say the same almost the same thing.

      As a romance reader, I would read the hell out of that series! Especially if one of the bots is a cranky calendar AI that just wants to be left alone to do their job and not have to deal with annoying humans (who are bad at schedules) and if the other bot has a more sunny disposition.

      1. Distracted Procrastinator*

        I’m now picturing one of the bot characters having a personality like Murderbot’s and it makes me want the movie more.

      1. Jam on Toast*

        I recently learned there are animal simulators that they use to train vets and vet technicians. They can be programmed for all sorts of medical conditions. So there definitely can be a robot dog wearing a neckerchief in the tv movie.

  43. sunny days are better*

    Am I the only one here wondering if the business owner actually spoke to their employee or if he just told OP that he did to appease her?

    I could easily see another man simply ignoring the entire thing or possibly telling his employee that OP freaked out about him trying to arrange a date with her scheduling bot and not to ever try and follow up on this. And then high-fiving each other or something.

    Yes, I have become very cynical in my old age…

    1. 1-800-BrownCow*

      I’ll admit, it did cross my mind. However, the fact the Business Owner responded immediately and Business Owner again brought it up during their meeting, gives me some hope that they truly did address the situation. I would think if they ignored it, or just didn’t think it was a big deal, they wouldn’t have thought to mention it again during the face-to-face meeting. Maybe I’m too trusting, but it did give me some hope they did the right thing. I would have felt more confident though if the response had been either employee was disciplined or let go, but I can see where Business Owner would not share that info with an outside client.

        1. sunny days are better*

          I don’t recall seeing that anywhere. I know that the business owner was a man, but the letters written to AAM seemed to have been written by a woman.

          1. Leenie*

            In the original reply, Alison mentioned that the email address sounded like the LW was a guy. I really hope it is a guy. Good work from the LW whatever their gender. But as women, we do most of the heavy lifting on this stuff. A handful of guys who get it and respond in this manner would just really go a long way.

    2. The Other Sage*

      That was my thought too. Just a bit of comedy to get that hysterical eoman to shut up.

      I can only hope that 1-800-BrownCow is right.

  44. 1-800-BrownCow*

    Another 3 cheers for OP!!! I am so happy to see this update on this. I too was frustrated at the number of commenters that were questioning or excusing this behavior to the original letter.

    I do wish we could know what the Business Owner said and did to the employee, but the fact that they responded quickly and then mentioned it in the meeting the following week, tells me Business Owner likely addressed it, so kudo’s to Business Owner as well.

    Thanks again, OP, for addressing this. Your letter was well-written and handled perfectly,

  45. No Way*

    OP- I (a female) and my BFF (also a female) used to work in customer service. She worked the chat system for our online customers. She had the chat set as her name because it was a new feature, and it was a chat system to HELP CUSTOMERS WITH THEIR PURCHASES!! This did not stop a man from sending a shirtless photo to my friend in the chat. And, I read the messages; she was professional. So I can believe that men are like this.

  46. Emmie*

    Sending lots of gratitude to the OP.
    You handled that well.
    You made the right choices.
    Thank you for doing your part to quell sexual harassment at work.

  47. Jaybeetee*

    Well done OP.

    I gotta say, if the most innocent possible explanation of a behaviour is “just trolling the bot lol”, I would hope that *still* wouldn’t go over well with most employers. I don’t want to go so far as to call it a distinction without a difference, but if that’s what you’re reaching for to avoid getting in trouble with the boss, I would hope you’d be screwed anyway.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      “You do realize I am not paying to act like an edgelord incel ranting about ethics in gaming journalism, right?”

  48. La Triviata*

    I read something recently online where women were posting about their creepy interactions with men and the age at which the first one occurred. We’re talking about men making sexual comments/advances to young girls. Then a couple of older men got into the mix and posted about how they were badly treated by women they were dating. Obviously, they couldn’t tell the difference between a girl of, say, eight, swimming with her family, having an uncle jump into the pool and try to pull her bathing suit off and an adult man having a woman treat him badly on a date.

    1. The Other Sage*

      That doesn’t surprise me at all. In my experience, when a man uses it’s car as a weapon against a woman is not bad at all because some made-up scenario where milions of men’s lifes are ruined because of false acusations is the true drama.

      I wish I was making this up.

    2. KG*

      It’s so gross how men always want to find a way to make it the woman, or in this case, the girl’s fault. How sickening.

  49. zolk*

    Love this update and your thoughtful email to the business owner, OP! Really wonderful to see this action taken. Thank you!

  50. Mavis*

    The original letter was shared on Go Fug Yourself that week:


    Fug Nation is similar to the commentariat here in that it’s generally very respectful and a nice corner of the internet. I‘d wager it’s mostly women though and the comments on that post included some examples of Working While Female unwanted advances.

    There was really only one comment that tried to downplay the idea and the screen name skewed male. I didn’t call it out for a variety of reasons but I did roll my eyes to myself and think „oh great, another one, is no place sacred“.

    I am morbidly curious about some of the other places it was shared now. The comments would likely end me.

  51. Old El Passe*

    Brilliant display of righteous anger! The audacity of (“not all”…. sigh, LOL, gag) men never fails to astound.

  52. babette*

    OMG, I was just showing the post to my friends yesterday while they were helping me brainstorm for a conference paper on how women are perceived on the internet. serendipitous!

  53. Water Everywhere*

    LW, your response email is simply perfect! And your thought process while delaying the send is the icing on the cake. Thank you for calling out this inappropriate behaviour.

  54. Elbe*

    Great update! Well done, OP! The email was perfectly worded and I’m glad the business owner seemed to take it seriously.

  55. whatchamacallit*

    Desperately hoping we get a “I got caught hitting on a scheduling bot. How do I come back from this?” letter

  56. Twopii*

    it’s difficult to believe, only in the sense that I have no conception of what can possibly be going through peoples minds when they act like this. no, seriously, wtf is wrong with them?

  57. MAOM7*

    I love that you responded firmly and fully, no namby-pamby, and you were polite but not fawning or obsequious, and the business owner handled it properly on their end.

    Maybe, just maybe, more of us should respond this way. The guy was WAY out of line. And this behavior needs to stop (it has happened to me too).

  58. Andi*

    To those who thought this was unrealistic:

    My company sells an engineering software-as-a-service to a few other engineers. I’m proud of it, but there’s nothing exciting or sexy about it; it exists to calculate kilowatt hours.

    And yet we definitely get tickets via the online support system asking for nsfw chat and to send nudes.

    Like… how? What happens to a person for them to reach a point where they think that’s a good decision?

    1. I Have RBF*

      I might be tempted to send them pictures of a computer chassis stripped bare – no power supply, boards, memory, disks – a nude computer. But I’m a shit like that.

  59. Awesome Possum*

    This is truly an excellent update. I haven’t ready any comments. I just want to say kudos on that email. It was very polite & professional. If I was the recipient, I would be very hurt that you went to my boss. But after a week, I would quit being defensive and say, “Oh crap, this is well-written & quite explanatory. Do my actions really have that terrible effect on others? Oh crap, I better change & go find out from my boss how to fix this.”

    Thank you for putting all that time & mental effort into protecting women, OP. I salute you.

  60. Hey Alexa*

    This reminds me why it’s a problem that AI/service bots are coded as female by default (Alexa, Siri, etc), that it can contribute to a deepening association of women in administrative assistant -like positions. Not a problem if these services are just as frequently coded male, but they aren’t. Change the scheduling bot to a neutral or even male name and it won’t happen anymore… (this wouldn’t solve the societal problem, of course, but hey, maybe it would do men good to see another “man” in a position like that).

    1. JustaTech*

      One thing I found really interesting about the Portal (Facebook’s now-discontinued video-messaging system) is that the voice options aren’t labeled “male” or “female” they’re “high” and “low”. (There’s a second tone identified as well, I think there are 4 voices total.)

      In terms of every bot having a “high” or “feminine” voice – we named our robot vacuum Herbert (Herbert Hoover, Hoover vacuum, yeah, it’s silly) but the voice it uses reads “feminine”. Why does the robot vacuum have a voice? Mostly to ask you to come rescue it when it’s gotten stuck under the table. So sometimes I find myself calling the vacuum cleaner “her”, which I don’t like.

  61. Loose Socks*

    Some people are just oblivious to how desperate some people are. I work in HR in a very high security facility, and I had to tell one applicant we won’t be moving forward with his application because he had previous charges that we wouldn’t be able to clear. This man, with full awareness that his background check was in front of me, asked me out multiple times. His previous charges included domestic assault, aggravated stalking, and multiple DUIs, all from within the last 2 years, all of which he’s pleaded guilty to. Yes, he did address it even though I didn’t ask because he knew “it looks bad, but it wasn’t really all that big of a deal.” Apparently the other woman “just didn’t get” where he was coming from because “she wouldn’t listen.”

    I don’t think most men understand just how deluded and dangerous some men are.

    1. Abundant Shrimp*

      I dated* a guy like that, briefly, until he said something that set my radar off enough to go looking for his court records and to find a record of his arrest, and a full weekend in jail, for DV and personal injury. (He’d mentioned it in passing to me as “one time my crazy, narcissistic ex called the cops on me for no reason”. No other details were given.) I broke up with him via text and he got a few texts in before I blocked him. Apparently to him, the whole thing did not count, because the ex ended up dropping the charges. He then explained to mutual friends (since he couldn’t get hold of me anymore) that it was all an accident where she was in his way, he gently moved her aside to pass, she all of a sudden fell down, and called the cops. Yeah no that does not explain the charges or the weekend behind bars. Agree that denial and disconnect from reality, as well as the sense of being entitled to any woman they decide they want to have, runs strong in some of the men, and asking a bot out in response to a professional message from said bot would be a red flag to me in that capacity.

      *I met him on a dating app. He was the last man I met on the apps. I was terrified of going on the apps after that, and so haven’t been back in 7 years and am not planning to – he gave me an ungodly fear of the apps.

  62. puddingway*

    The funny thing is that I’m 100% sure that men would hit on a bot.

    On Facebook, you can easily find pages posting pics of AI-generated women (or really any random women) and there will be hundreds of mens posting things like “xoxo come to my house” or “come date me I’ll make you feel loved”.

    I’ve even seen it happen on like paintings of women. Think like renaissance-style more life-like paintings.

    1. JustaTech*

      I do wonder how many of those dudes are *also* bots that are part of some catfishing scam. I’ve seen a bot (or an unbelievably oblivious and desperate dude) use the *exact same* line on every single comment by a femme person on a post about Victorian toast water pots.
      Like, we can see all your comments!

  63. LWH*

    “there was a small contingent of (mostly male-presenting) commenters”

    I’m absolutely begging people to stop using male/female-presenting this way. This is a largely anonymous comment section. All you get is people’s names, which mostly aren’t even stereotypically gendered, but it wouldn’t matter anyway. This term is about presentation, it’s about actions people do. For example, a trans woman who isn’t out at work might describe herself as male-presenting at work. It doesn’t mean she’s a man, it means she is intentionally coming off as a man (in this case because she can’t be out at work). It isn’t a marker of identity, it’s describing an action a person is taking. Nobody in the AAM comments section is anything-presenting. If they say they’re men, then that’s not male-presenting, that’s just being a man. If they don’t say that then…there’s no presentation here. You aren’t seeing their hair or clothes, hearing their voice, anything. You’re seeing largely anonymous text and you’re making guesses. That’s not what this terminology exists for and randomly guessing people’s genders based on their names is not exactly a good thing. Please, stop watering down important queer terminology when you could just say what you actually mean. Conflating “male-presenting” with “being a man” is ignoring the fact that these terms are mostly used in trans communities for describing NOT presenting as their actual gender.

  64. Christine*

    I did a sexual harassment training yesterday, and this scenario wasn’t mentioned. Maybe next time!

  65. Bess*

    I think the big epiphany many men will never get to is admitting they see women as sexual objects for conquest before they see them as anything else (or as something vulnerable). This makes them leer at other women in Target with their wife and kid standing right next to them, and this makes them reflexively downgrade/disrespect a little bit any woman who doesn’t fit the “sexually available” category in their minds. It makes them hit on literal bots.

    You can explain this to men and they’ll just deny it, and also claim that hitting on women isn’t really a problem and women should be flattered. It’s usually followed by an appeal to “evolution” and a claim that men are wired a certain way and trying to control behavior will fail before it starts (and also somehow deny nature? idk). But it’s not flattering to essentially be told “hey woman-shaped thing, I had a knee-jerk attraction to you that I must express to validate my sexual feelings.”

    And it’s often darker, unfortunately. I can tell you, when the old man on the sidewalk bench at night asked me if I was free he for sure knew it would make me uncomfortable. But he gets a boost from hitting on someone he perceives as vulnerable, right?

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