On Thursday, FiveThirtyEight debuted their new advice column called “Survey Says,” in which two columnists dispense wisdom using data they’ve collected from an online survey. The first question was from a person (presumably a woman) who identifies herself as Cindy Lou. She complained that her co-workers often make the mistake of calling her just “Cindy.”
Cindy Lou is at her wits’ end. She writes that her e-mail signature and business cards both include her full name, but that hasn’t changed her co-workers’ behavior. She wants to know how to best handle the situation. Enter Morgan Jerkins and Walt Hickey of FiveThirtyEight.
“If Cindy Lou identifies as a woman, I think it’s pretty sexist for someone to say that it’s bitchy for someone to ask to be called by her own name,” Jerkins writes.
Uhh, what? This makes my head hurt. We have to think about whether someone named CINDY LOU identifies as a man or a woman now? Are you freaking kidding me, FiveThirtyEight? If Cindy Lou identifies as a man, he’s got bigger problems than having people call him by his proper name. Anyway, here’s what the Internet thinks Cindy Lou should do according to the online survey results.
So most people think she should just correct people whenever they get it wrong. This is good advice! As someone who goes by a name that’s different from the one on my birth certificate, I frequently find myself having to correct people or even help them enunciate or spell my name — which is ridiculous, because my preferred name is literally three letters — and it’s fine for me to do that. No one ever has responded in a way that indicates they think I’m being bitchy or difficult when I have corrected them. This is a noble fight to take up, and I encourage Cindy Lou to do so.
My colleague, Mary Katharine Ham, who like Cindy Lou has a double first name, agrees Cindy Lou should correct her colleagues when they call her by the wrong name.
“Correct people or don’t,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Decide what’s important to you and git ‘er done, or live with the consequences of not doing so.”
Anyway, here’s where things start to go off the rails. Jerkins and Hickey decide to sort the responses by gender and then dissect what those results mean for sexism, etc. (emphasis below added).
Morgan: Whoa. I am a bit stumped. I’m shocked that women were more likely to say that she should correct people because usually women are conditioned to be more passive and docile. I know I have been when people mistake me for ‘Miss Jenkins’ and not ‘Miss Jerkins.’ And more of them advocated for her to change her name to Cindy-Lou? Like, who wants to go through all of that? That’s even more labor.
Walt: I can see now that my thinking is just a product of my gender. Men are more likely to round up some folks from the office to try to ‘make it a thing’ to call her Cindy Lou. Women are more likely to say she should correct it each and every time, so I imagine those strategies could each be used on men and women depending on who the major offenders are.
So wait, a second ago these guys were saying that it was sexist to say Cindy Lou is being bitchy for insisting that her co-workers call her by her proper name, but here it’s okay for Jerkins to say that women are often meek and people-pleasy? This is giving me whiplash. I can’t wrap my head around what is and isn’t okay to say anymore.
Also, Hickey’s assertion that his thinking is “just a product of my gender” is the most confusing statement yet. I thought gender was a social construct separate from one’s sex that can be taken on and off like a pair of gloves, yet here he is asserting that his thinking is only a product of this construct? Someone please get me some ibuprofen, because this is giving me a headache.
Cindy Lou, if you’re reading this, don’t listen to their head-scrambling advice. Don’t let all the land mines that lurk in social-justice-warrior-land get you. Ignore the ever-changing rule book on what’s sexist, or binary, or non-inclusive, or whatever-the-hell-else these people spend their time griping out. Take Mary Katharine’s advice: Speak up or shut up. To be called by your correct name, correct people when they get it wrong, or give up.