Dear Bitter Butch,
This probably isn’t in-line with your normal column, but I work with someone who is incredibly talented, incredibly professional in every way but one. She uses comic sans for her emails.
How can I get over myself so that I don’t wince every time I open one of her missives? It’s not like the font will kill me, and it’s not like her communications are unprofessional. It’s just…comic sans. I want to live and let live here, but sweet dancing mermaids, this is distracting. It’s just a font. Why do I react this way?
– Wants to get over it
Dear Wants to get over it,
I love this letter so much. I love that you already know that the problem here is you.
That said? I am at a bit of a loss for how to get over it, since the use of Comic Sans makes me immediately assume the sender of the email is twelve, tone deaf to office norms, kinda stupid, or just trying to be irritating.
As you can see, the problem here is also me.
So when I have an inexplicable problem, I try to look at the roots of it, so I can dig it up.
What is it about Comic Sans that makes us so crazy?
It is a font that does not take itself seriously. I remember when it first came out; it was playful! Fun! It said: ‘Computers aren’t just for nerds and lawyers. Let’s make cute invitations and stuff with these helpful templates!’
Comic Sans was a little shocking that way, at the time. A breath of fresh air, maybe, or a fart of obnoxiousness. Either way, it was NOT Times New Roman or Arial. It was its own thing.
Over time, though, it started to be the default font for people who didn’t want to ruffle feathers. Who perhaps felt that it would be cute. Or charming. People who didn’t take themselves all that seriously, or didn’t want anyone to think they did. Folks with a sense of fun. People-pleasers.
You know — women.
I am thinking and thinking about this and I cannot remember receiving a single email in Comic Sans from any man, ever.
The reason Comic Sans bothers me so much is that it reeks of casualness, sure. Yes somehow I don’t mind people wearing jeans and Vans to the office. So if I’m being honest, and it’s hard to admit but honestly honestly: it’s because it has become a female font.
I find myself wanting to write back to women who use it: STOP IT! Don’t you want people to take you seriously? Do you really think that Sojourner Truth stood up to make her speech in front of all of those white men so we could use Comic Sans?!?!? While you’re at it, stop uptalking and bringing in cookies for the office!
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, Bitter Butch. You want women to fit into the workplace by not doing all those WOMAN things. Shame on me.
I am not trying to accuse you of the sexism I have been perpetuating, Dear Writer. As a matter of fact, since you see the problem is yours and not this woman’s problem, I would venture to say the exact opposite. However, perhaps taking a good hard look at that font and why it elicits this reaction in you will help you to get to the bottom of your problem and uproot it.
You could set your email preferences to plain text and never see this women’s goddamned insufferable font again.
BITTER BUTCH aka Haddayr Copley-Woods is a queer, a cripple, a nerd, a mom to two kids with neurological differences, and has a truckload of opinions on everything including sex and relationships, parenting, disability issues, family relationships, work dynamics, gender/sexuality issues, and etiquette. You can reach her with all your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org