‘Alexa’ name leads to harassment

Kyra Slakes, Photo Editor

What’s in a name?

Evidently, a lot if you are named Alexa and you’re constantly being asked what the weather is like.

In 2015, Amazon’s virtual assistant technology Alexa became available and skyrocketed in popularity. By 2019, Amazon announced it had sold more than 100 million Alexa-enabled devices that will play music, make to-do lists, provide weather, traffic, sports and other real-time information and more.
But while the Alexa virtual assistant technology was becoming more and more popular, the number of people being named Alexa was declining significantly.

According to Statista, Alexa was the 32nd most popular name for girls born in 2015, but it dropped to 139th in 2019. This is the lowest it’s been since 1992. There are 23 Alexas enrolled at UW Oshkosh, according to the UWO directory, and the Washington Post reports there are nearly 130,000 people named Alexa nationwide.

In recent years, there has been an onslaught of girls and women across the United States who have changed their names legally because they have been bullied, teased and harassed by people.

So afraid that the publicity from this story would make the teasing worse, all Alexas interviewed asked to remain anonymous.

One Alexa said she worked at Walmart while she was in high school, and people would come up to her and ask, “Alexa, what’s the weather?” along with other tacky questions. She also said she had matched with a guy on a dating site, and he questioned her if she had the same perks that the REAL Alexa had. Even members of her own family have made jokes by saying that the “other” Alexa listens better.

Another Alexa said her siblings have teased her relentlessly by saying things like, “Why aren’t you smart like the other Alexa?” or “At least the other Alexa actually responds when you talk to her.”

When she worked at a restaurant a few years ago, customers often teased her about her name and they would ask her a number of questions that they would ask the Alexa program. She and her roommate also have an Alexa in their apartment, and everytime her roommate calls her name, the Alexa virtual assistant goes off. It has gotten on both their nerves, she said.

A third Alexa said she dated a guy a while back who would poke fun of her in front of their friends and he asked why couldn’t she be obedient like the “other” Alexa and only speak when she’s been spoken to. When she asked him what he meant, he would brush off her concerns and tell her to be quiet. Needless to say, they’re no later dating.

She also wore a necklace with her name on it, and random people at the grocery store would make comments and again ask her questions.

Amazon has remained quiet about the Alexa virtual assistant’s name. But last July in an interview with the BBC about a story regarding bullying and harassment of children named Alexa, they gave this statement: “Bullying of any kind is unacceptable, and we condemn it in the strongest possible terms. We designed our voice assistant to reflect qualities we value in people — being smart, considerate, empathetic and inclusive. As an alternative to Alexa, we offer several other wake words customers can choose from, including Echo, Computer, Amazon and Ziggy.”