The 'fake male assistant' hack is a tried and tested trick that working women across the world have been using for years.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on August 20, 2021. It has since been updated.
In 2021, entrepreneur, writer and speaker Jandra Sutton made a splash online after revealing that she uses a fake white male assistant to deal with difficult customers. She explained that her fictional assistant, Matt—"named such because he is not a doormat"—"handles any negotiations or difficult conversations that I don't want to handle personally and he's very good at his job." As Sutton's TikTok video was appreciated across social media platforms, it inspired other women to try out this gender bias navigation hack themselves. Those who do are sure to notice a significant change in how people behave towards them, as the fake male assistant trick is a method tried and tested by several working women across the world.
In 2020, writer Bess Kalb was blown away when she learned that her friend uses this hack when she has to deal with sexist folks as part of work. "A friend's male assistant is a fake email account she runs because people called her 'difficult' and 'impossible' for having small windows of availability until 'he' started running interference and then people just accepted she was fu**ing busy. I AM VERY INTO THIS," Kalb tweeted. "OK coming up with names for my fake male assistant. Bryan or Brian? I am leaning toward "Bryan" but could go either way. This is very smart!!"
OK coming up with names for my fake male assistant. Bryan or Brian? I am leaning towards "Bryan" but could go either way. This is very smart!!— Bess Kalb (@bessbell) July 29, 2020
Soon, several others began sharing how having a fake male assistant has made it evident to them that men are treated very differently in professional settings. Among them was photographer Lynae Cook, who told Bored Panda that people are usually more respectful" when they think they're dealing with a manager. "I loop in my 'manager' every now and then, certainly a lot more frequently when there were live events going on, and especially when I've been reached out for influencer or brand partnership work," Cook said. "People are generally more respectful and less likely to ask for unpaid labor when a manager is involved."
Question: Does he say things like, “I’m sorry, Jane is busy at that time. How about 4:00 on Tuesday?” Or does he not apologize in the way we women are conditioned to and just say, “I have you scheduled for 4:00 on Tuesday”? I need answers to this for my Richard.— (((Texy Lefty))) #ArrestTrump (@TexyLefty) July 29, 2020
"They will also send complete communications, rather than the piecemeal information often shared when they think are talking to 'just' an artist," she continued. "For example, they might say, 'We're really interested in collaborating with you!' if it's just me, but when my 'manager' is looped in, they'll lay out the details surrounding the collaboration, what their ask is, deadlines, payment information, etc."
Here are 16 examples of when the "fake male assistant" hack has seen results:
Got a gal pal who is self-employed. She always refers to Mr. Nash as her boss with her clients who are almost always men. She has to "check" with him on that matter. He doesn't exist. Totally phantom and it works.— Debra Cole (@booklearninDeb) July 29, 2020
I used the Cole (from Nicole) for some of my research work in college. I studied sexism during/post, but for some reason the same work submitted to journals with my same (v uncommon) surname got reviewed- under my full name, it always was sent back. Turned that into a study!— Nikki (@nkk) July 29, 2020
My mother changed her name to Scott Kayla before law school and just submitted everything as Scott. Kept it up into practice, many a prosecutor was surprised when she showed up in court— St Paulie girl (@lauri_stanek) July 29, 2020
My male sounding name gets me better deals via email than I am quoted in person. Always fun to say, “But in this email yesterday you said...” 😉 #misogyny— Rae Figursky (she/her) (@RaeFigursky) July 30, 2020
When I self-published a comic book, I got letters where ppl argued with me, trying to get a free book--even lying & saying they paid. I wrote back using a fake male email: Darius Jackson, Head of Orders Dept.— Leesa aka Lorq Von Bae (@chilltowntv) July 29, 2020
They always ended up respecting "Darius" and mailing in their checks.
I had an invisible junior enterprise architect named Greg working for me for a while. He had a desk all set up (he was always at a “customer site”), phone number with VM and an email account. He got accolades for his efficiency.— chuggard (@chuggard) July 29, 2020
Back in the late 80s, my mom started a business as an executive recruiter. She also created a fake 'owner' with a male name (not on anything official, but it helped with some stuff). She was literally the only employee of her company.— glamazonwarrior (@glamazonwarrior) July 29, 2020
My mom has this situation set up for her film festival that she has run for 21 years. Amazing the things people will just listen to “Cliff” about, but of my mom says them she is crazy/demanding/stupid...you name it.— Samantha Blackburn (@skblackburn) July 29, 2020
1000% i've been doing this for years. sometimes he's my "manager" & give other women access to the gmail account with this generic man's name. largely bc creatives don't get treated w/ respect unless there's representation in the room— lynaecook (@lynaecook) July 30, 2020
I did the same thing with a client a few years ago. A couple I was working with was so condescending. So my assistant "Joe" started emailing them, and suddenly they were polite and respectful. Some women are fine being mean to other women, but don't want a man to think she's a b— Bliss Honeymoons (@BlissHoneymoons) July 30, 2020
My husband & I run our own business in the residential construction industry. Our last name is in the company name. I can send out three requests to get an invoice paid & get crickets. Then I send it from his email & suddenly it’s all apologies for not paying. So aggravating.— KBray (@Brelso) July 29, 2020
We did this at my last company because we were female owned and operated! “John” always sent the invoices and booked meetings.— Kat (@katcav405) July 29, 2020
My jewelry company website has a chat service for clients and I use my middle (man’s) name to interface with people. Before I was getting hit on and name called and now it’s literally nothing but smooth sailing.— Brooke Copes (@brookecorp) July 29, 2020
My ex runs business but uses a masculine name as her email address when dealing with other businesses so they'll take her seriously.— pronounced A-A-Ron (@aaronguilmette) July 29, 2020
...aaand this is why my business email is signed with the ambiguous "Mel". Have definitely been mistaken for a dude. If I want to skip over some racism too, I go with my middle name, Adams. Mel Adams sounds like a freaking MLB player, no? pic.twitter.com/BAlRcee8Ma— What Would Buffy Do? (@madamsatsuma) July 30, 2020