My name is Sam: why I use a guy's name in my emails
My name is Sam. Sometimes it’s Sammy, or Samantha. The origin behind it is simple: My dad wanted a girl with a boy’s name.
In college, I was a Communications major and the term “identity” would come up often in our lectures. We spoke of it as something fluid, an idea that can take on different meanings in different contexts — almost like code-switching for your personality. It was then in school that I realized the power of my name and how it could harm me or help me depending on how it was presented.
I have to use “Sam” when I want to be taken seriously, especially by men. You see, men connect better with other men. When I’m emailing a man at work, I tend to delete the email signature that was provided to me because it contains my full name, therefore revealing my true self.
I tend to eliminate explanation points or any form of punctuation that might give away my female identity. I’ll change my tone, how I ask questions, and substitute words with more masculine adjectives. I avoid talking on the phone if I truly feel it will harm the relationship I have with the person I’m speaking with.
It’s not unlike when Penelope Gazin and Kate Dwyer cooked up a “third partner” in their business, a fake guy, to drum up more productivity. The two started out with just a few thousand dollars and an idea to launch Witchsy — a marketplace for bizarre and dark-humored art — but came across unexpected obstacles along the way. Namely, no one took them seriously.
“When we were getting started, we were immediately faced with ‘Are you sure? Does this sound like a good idea?’,” said Dwyer to Fast Company. “I think because we’re young women, a lot of people looked at what we were doing like, ‘What a cute hobby!’ or ‘That’s a cute idea.'”
After they started using imaginary partner “Keith Mann,” business started booming. Their story went viral, and now even though Keith is retired, through the process Gazin and Dwyer expertly revealed what many of us women in the workforce go through on the daily.
Just like what the two entrepreneurs from Witchsy went through, when own identity is ever revealed, there’s always a subtle but noticeable shift in our exchange. People get comfortable with me, but not in the way I’m comfortable with them. As an example, one time I had a client call me a “fucking bitch” on the phone for asking a question he didn’t want to answer. Men don’t normally call other men bitches when they get angry, they have other words they use to call one another expletives. Or it gets handled without resorting to name-calling at all.
I’ve also had emails go unanswered, but only if I don’t CC my boss (a guy) on the thread. My favorite is when I examine conversations between the client and myself versus a conversation with the client, my boss and myself. The responses from people vary — I’ve often attributed the results to my kindness and go-with-the-flow mindset I live by, but a part of me feels it’s deeper. A part of me thinks it’s because of my anatomy.
I’m ashamed to admit I change my name depending on social situations, because I pride myself on being a woman. I pride myself on defending the rights of all women around me. In an era being marked as “post-Weinstein,” it’s extremely crucial that no woman hides their story and that no woman hides at all. Period.
So when I hide my identity, and when I try to morph myself to fit in a man’s world, I’m aiding a system that continues to hold back the very community I’m a part of. Don’t be fooled though. This works both ways and can be mostly to my advantage. I have the ability to exist in both worlds (at least virtually).
I don’t have a solution for this because it’s survival in a business world that is often run by the boy’s club, and in order to be a part of this club, I have to make them think I’m one of them.