I first encountered FactoryGirl when I started at Square in June. The name felt somewhat odd to me, odd enough that I looked up why the authors picked this name. I wasn’t alone in my quest: the project developers wrote this explanation in 2016 to clarify the name’s origins. I shrugged it off as being lost in translation and moved on. Then again, I’m a cis-het guy, and don’t really need to think much about these things.
It bothered other people. Github user tastycode submitted an issue asking about the name, saying they think about renaming it to simply ‘Factory’. After a brief back-and-forth, during which tastycode suggested the new name, the project leaders agreed that it should be changed, and a few months later ThoughtBot developer Eraldius renamed the library to FactoryBot.
User maxkwallace provided this anecdote to help people understand why the name was problematic:
I was going through some code with a female engineer, and noticing the name FactoryGirl led to an awkward exchange. […] Another guy in the vicinity made a joke about the [factory girl] “doing the work for you”. The woman I was working with didn’t explicitly say that she felt uncomfortable (people almost never do), but my subjective impression was that she felt uncomfortable. I also felt uncomfortable.
This episode speaks to the micro-aggression that women face all too often, sometimes daily: an insinuation that they are different, unusual, perhaps even unwelcome, and at the very least, guests in the man’s world of software engineering. Although individual instances may appear benign, they add up over a lifetime and, over time, marginalize women. This also happens with people of color, LGBTQ people, and, indeed, nearly any group that isn’t a “standard” straight, white male. Perhaps it even impacts these very same white males.