One of the best men I have ever dated nonchalantly told me once that I could be his secretary at his future medical practice. My heart sank. How could someone I valued so much see me as nothing more than his assistant? Why was he able to have big dreams of opening up his own optometry office, while I was just expected to come along for the ride? In his mind, it could have been a way for us to have a chance at a future together. But to me, I saw it as a dead end. I saw it as a way of telling me that my career goals were not as important as his. I was supposed to give up everything, while he made his own dreams come true.
It’s not that I feel like I am above doing assistant work. I just want to be the one who chooses to pursue it; I don’t want an ultimatum to choose for me. I do not want to be in a relationship that can only survive because I have given up everything I have ever wanted. I don’t want to be in a relationship where I am always seen as less than.
Belittling women’s dreams has become a standard part of our society. When we talk about managers and CEOs, it seems like our brains always default to assuming those people are men. Any time I mentioned the CEO of the last company I worked for, people would always assume the person I was referring to was male; our CEO was a woman. Customers at the store I previously managed were sometimes surprised when they found out that I was the manager; a young woman in a management role is apparently unfathomable in some people’s eyes.
We have created a society where it is practically inherently ingrained within us to see women as inferior. When you think secretary, you picture a woman. When you think of a boss, you picture a man. Even though it is 2021, our society still struggles with the idea of women being in leadership roles. Yes, there are many female-run businesses, but when you look up who the top billionaires are in corporate America, there aren’t nearly as many women as there are men. The American government has never had a female president. So many people still believe that women are too emotional to hold these high-ranking, powerful positions.
Society has cast women as the caretakers of the world. If you want your relationship to work, then you, as the woman, are the one responsible for figuring out how. If you want to be in love, then you must make sure that who you love becomes more important than what you love. You must make sure that who you are with someone becomes more important than who you are without them. You must fix every problem, and you better do it all with a smile.
Why is this same burden not placed on the men in our lives? If I want to pursue my career and my relationship, then maybe it is their turn to make a sacrifice for me. Maybe they should throw everything they have ever loved away to make me happy. They can be the ones who sit back and watch as I make all of my dreams come true. They can be my secretary, my arm candy, and the one who fixes everything, without ever being thanked for any of it.
Women are more than an accessory. We are not the missing puzzle piece in your picture-perfect life. We have career goals and aspirations. Contrary to what so many people believe, we are whole, complete human beings all on our own.