I don’t really talk about my job in these parts because I work in a law office, so a lot of stuff is confidential. One might call me a legal assistant. You might also refer to me as an office manager. At a stretch, I’d accept Master of the Universe or Khaleesi, but understand that you’re misapplying the word “universe” or the implied khalasar.
But for the love of all you hold dear, do not call me a secretary.
The following scenario happens to me nearly every week. Someone calls our firm asking to speak with an attorney, and for one reason or another, we simply cannot help them. Usually they’re looking for a different sort of lawyer, or they simply do not have a case. Rather than accept my suggestion to look for another attorney, they get indignant and demand to speak to someone else. “Are you a lawyer, or are you just a secretary?” they snap. Just a secretary.
Let’s break this down, shall we? First of all, I’ve worked here for over two years, so I am far more familiar with the work that my firm handles than a first time caller. Even if I were “just a secretary,” I’m experienced. But just a secretary means that I am incapable of processing information, making rational decisions, or really doing anything other than answering phones and pushing buttons. We “secretaries” have but one goal in life, and that is getting rid of very important calls from needy clients who could have benefited us greatly with an epic win. God, there is nothing more satisfying than getting rid of windfalls of cash just to avoid a little extra work! We really don’t know much of anything, but if only we’d gotten a higher education, we’d know how to identify our societal superiors by voice alone over the phone.
The word “secretary” is sexist, plain and simple. If that’s how you think of yourself with pride, then more power to you, but I’ll go ahead and think of you as an assistant or administrative staff. I don’t think any man would be snottily referred to as a secretary in the first place, let alone just a secretary. If men answer phones, clearly they have other duties. They wouldn’t be confined to a desk staring at the buttons for hours, waiting for a single ring to provide momentary respite in a game of “Screw Around the Caller.” Ladies, however, keep on breaking into the work force and leaning in and whatnot, even though we’re totally unqualified to handle responsibilities like talking and breathing at the same time. Holding a phone as well? Jesus, slow your roll!
When you throw in that “just” bit, you’re condescending. No, excuse me. You’re fucking condescending. There is no reason to think that you know better than someone who has managed to acquire a job at the place with which you are communicating. This “secretary” holds a degree from an esteemed university, has membership in multiple honor societies, received plenty of scholarships due to academic achievement, and at last testing held an IQ of 139, which is high enough to qualify for Mensa. On occasion, I have even been known to puzzle out how to tie my shoelaces.
So please, do not call me a secretary. At best you’re reducing the scope of my actual job to something incredibly rudimentary, and at worst, you’re knowingly insulting me in the hopes I will be humiliated enough to pass your call on to an attorney who will deliver the same news I did. Kindly remove your head from your ass and/or the 1920s, hang up the phone, and try another firm.