Wednesday, April 26, 2006

call me secretary, thanks.

Happy Administrative Professionals' Day!

I suppose I am the only one in this enlightened/inclusive/socially aware society of ours that thinks this exclamation, Happy Administrative Professionals’ Day, is just about the most comical thing ever. And I do mean, like, ever.

Ohhhhh great goodness or heavens (whichever you prefer), if you so much as even dare to call me SECRETARY, I will stone you!!! This is 2006, for pity’s or heaven’s (whichever you prefer) sake! We don’t use ugly words like SECRETARY! SECRETARY means bad. Our over-heightened sense of anti-sexism and hierarchical power trips, driven by an effort to over-correct ourselves for previous decades of degradation to subordinates in the workplace, has now forced us to construct the single most transparent, wordy, and otherwise ridiculous alternative phrase to its odious predecessor which involves the use of the word SECRETARY for purposes of celebrating one day a year those persons to whom this once-odious title refers. Why do we do this? Because we believe it will empirically change people’s thinking.

Besides, now we’ve got more male AP’s, and calling them SECRETARY would never do, because we all know the female connotation to the S-word, and we hate that! Yes, we do! We just hate that! It’s wrong to think a SECRETARY is female! Because what if she’s a he? Huh? Did you ever think about who you’re excluding? And who wants to be called SECRETARY anyway? Only weak people, that’s who. Weak people who wear their hair up, sharpen pencils and get people coffee. Eeewwwwww!

Man, I miss the dark ages. Who do I have to pay to bring back a little cave people talk? Whatever happened to respect for our heritage anyway? We’re just going to throw our narrow-minded history out the window? I’m pretty sure Ned Neanderthal’s first word was SECRETARY, doesn’t anyone feel to honor that somehow? I’ll tell you what’s disrespectful: not being allowed to use words like Stewardess, Maid, Waitress and SECRETARY, even if you are doing so in honor of your Great Uncle Carl from Back Woods, USA.
Check it out:

As the recipient of several last-minute lunch invites as my bosses remembered too late that it was Secretaries Day, I think this article is great.

That said, if I ever have a job where I have a secretary (I'm so un-PC) I plan to do something nice for him/her because I know how it feels to feel like maybe you've been forgotten.
Great article, Kell. This was my favorite paragraph for those who are too lazy to click to the article:

"Maybe part of the problem is that in the 50 years since the holiday began, the duties of a secretary have been farmed out across the office, and the job definition is no longer clear. A secretary used to be the woman who answered phones, took dictation, typed, picked up dry cleaning, and stole your husband, if she was really good. Now she (or he) might give PowerPoint presentations or build a Web site. Meanwhile, someone else might do the typing and filing. The confusion over who qualifies as a secretary creates social anxiety about either over-celebrating the holiday or under-celebrating it. One Secretaries Day, a former advertising-sales assistant and co-worker of mine got lovely plants from colleagues who rushed to point out that they'd gotten her a gift even though she wasn't really a secretary. She got the impression they thought she might be offended by being lumped in with the admin staff. The holiday forces workers, like it or not, to evaluate how they stack up. Mail-room guy, copy clerk, typist, receptionist, administrative secretary, executive assistant—are you low enough on the totem pole to merit a gift? Or are you too low?"

So true.
I wish we could all get on the same page. I have held a variety of "assistant" titles. And treated as a professional with my own specific duties at one minute, only to have some random person who doesnt know how to type a paragraph come and assign me work the next. Because, isnt that what I am there for? To do other's unwanted work?
Thank you for writing this. It drives me nuts. People are way too sensitive and this PCness has really gone overboard.

Also... where is the day for the rest of us worker schlubs. There's Boss' Day and AP Day... but what about those of us who are niether the boss nor the AP? We want to be appreciated too. Even if it just means we get to take a 2 hour lunch.
Historically, a secretary was usually a man, anyway, until men decided it was too lowly for them to do when they could get women to do it. "Secretary" simply means "a person who keeps records, writes letters, etc."--from the medieval word that meant "person entrusted with secrets." See the online etymology dictionary for more.

When I think of a secretary, I just as often think of a medieval man assisting a king, or a secretary of war or something, as I do a woman who does the typing for a boss.
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