Today the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by essayist Joseph Epstein, calling for future FLOTUS, Dr. Jill Biden, to drop the “Dr.” title from her name.
Now, while I realize the Wall Street Journal is a conservative publication comprised mostly of old, sexist, and irrelevant white men, I also operated under the assumption that it was a business and financial-focused publication. Apparently there’s not enough going on in the business world though. I mean, why write about the new COVID vaccine, or the economic impact of the latest numbers of COVID deaths and unemployed Americans, when you can write about how annoyed you are that a woman with a doctoral degree actually expects to be addressed as “Doctor?”
In what can only be described as a bizarre, jealousy-ridden, and misogyny-filled piece of writing, the author calls her degree “fraudulent” and “comical” and tells her to “drop it.” He writes:
“Madame First Lady—Mrs. Biden—Jill—kiddo: a bit of advice on what may seem like a small but I think is a not unimportant matter. Any chance you might drop the “Dr.” before your name? “Dr. Jill Biden ” sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic. Your degree is, I believe, an Ed.D., a doctor of education, earned at the University of Delaware through a dissertation with the unpromising title “Student Retention at the Community College Level: Meeting Students’ Needs.” A wise man once said that no one should call himself “Dr.” unless he has delivered a child. Think about it, Dr. Jill, and forthwith drop the doc.”
First of all, that’s a whole lot of words to say “I am intimidated by women smarter than me.” Second of all, before he has even begun to attempt to make a point, he has degraded and insulted the future FLOTUS. “Kiddo?” Seriously? I’m gonna stop you right there Joe. She is Dr. Jill Biden, soon-to-be First Lady. Give her the respect she deserves. (Also, I’m pretty convinced he originally wrote “sweetie” and then changed it to “kiddo.”) A privileged white man with no post-grad education telling a woman with a doctorate not to use her credentials. How very original of you, kiddo.
To that end, let’s list Dr. Biden’s accomplishments:
- She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Delaware in 1975.
- She earned a Master of Education, with a specialty in reading, from West Chester State College in 1981.
- She earned a Master of Arts in Education from Villanova University in 1987.
- She earned a Doctor of Education (Ed.D) in educational leadership from the University of Delaware in 2007
She accomplished all of this over the span of 32 years, all while becoming a wife, raising children, teaching at many different levels, running a non-profit, and accompanying her husband through multiple political campaigns. (And, who wants to tell him that not only has she earned all of these degrees, but she has also, in fact, delivered a child?)
Sadly, for Joseph Epstein, BA, that’s not enough to compel him to address her by the title she EARNED through years of hard work and public service. Mr. Epstein goes on to describe how he has taught at the collegiate level without any advanced degree. He received an honorary doctorate from a professor who was subsequently fired. He goes on to say how he was referred to as “Dr.” often over the years (but somehow never never managed to correct those who called him that.)
The next part of the tirade is at first whiny and incoherent, and then ends with the typical racism and sexism you see from men like him. He digresses from telling Jill how she should be addressed, to going on a tirade about the legitimacy of honorary doctorates. He complains about the level of intelligence of those who have received them, as if he should be the sole judge of who, and by what standards, anyone should receive an honorary degree. Then, in one of the more disgusting and desperate parts of the piece, he goes as far to say that “political correctness” has diminished ANY value they may have possessed. He writes that if you ever want an example to show how rare a thing is, you could say “rarer than a contemporary university honorary-degree list not containing an African-American woman.” He implies that honorary degrees are given out as “charity” or for publicity only. It is important to note, AGAIN, that while he goes on this vicious tirade about honorary degrees, Dr. Biden’s are not honorary; they were hard-earned and worthy of value and respect. (Unlike his fake, I mean honorary, doctoral achievement.)
He finishes off this piece of trash with this: “As for your Ed.D., Madame First Lady, hard-earned though it may have been, please consider stowing it, at least in public, at least for now. Forget the small thrill of being Dr. Jill, and settle for the larger thrill of living for the next four years in the best public housing in the world as First Lady Jill Biden.”
So, he is telling Dr. Biden that she should ignore the “small” thrill of her admirable education, and “settle” for being the little lady next to the POTUS? Let me tell you something, kiddo: A bachelor’s, two masters, and one doctoral degree are not SMALL accomplishments, and the thrill that comes with those achievements is not small either. The misogyny in this piece is not even thinly veiled. Let’s be clear: This would NEVER have been written about a man. If Joe Biden had a doctorate, this piece of garbage would have no problem calling him doctor. If this were about all people in general who do this, then there would be a similar patronizing call to men in the same boat. Why is the same demand not being made of other doctors in the political arena, such as:
- Senator Dr. Ben Sasse (History)
- Representative Dr. Jim Baird (Monogastric Nutrition)
- Representative Dr. Tom Cole (British History)
- Representative Dr. Rob Wittman (Public Health)
- Representative Dr. Jody Hice (Ministry)
And these are just a few of many. Now, we don’t know in what circles they may or may not be addressed as “Doctor,” but that is beside the point. No one would ever tell them they shouldn’t be. Is there truly no end to the men that are appalled and threatened by educated, powerful women? Will there ever come a time when insecure men will stop trying to put us “in our place?”
Sexism is very prevalent in the educational field. A 2016 survey by AASA showed that while women make up 76% of teachers in the U.S., less than 25% of leadership positions in education (K-12) are held by women. The imbalance there is astounding. Dr. Biden’s accomplishments are not just about her. They are inspirational, and helping pave the way for future women to hold powerful positions of leadership in our nation’s educational process.
The truth is, women have to work harder, and earn more accolades in all fields, to be considered even remotely equal to a man who has achieved way less. And no matter how hard a woman works, there will always be a less-qualified man in the wings waiting to take her down. Yes, in 2020, this is still a thing. Pieces like this, albeit written by an old, white, asshat, only perpetuate the sexism and misogyny still very much in charge in our country.
Another point to consider, Joseph Epstein, BA, is that there are no MD’s without those with EdD’s, or PHD’s. No one gets to any of these levels without educators. And calling any one of these “Doctor” does not take anything away from the other two also being called “Doctor.” Those with doctoral degrees are not out on the street trying to pass themselves off as MD’s. If you were inside the academia circle, you would realize no one is trying to sound smarter than they are. Not to mention, “doctor” comes from the Latin word for “teacher.” It was originally reserved for theologians who were approved by the church to speak on religious matters. After that, it was used for academic titles, and medicine followed suit. In fact, in the US, you could not call yourself doctor unless you held a doctorate degree until the 1800’s, when it was adopted by physicians. (Also, the Miriam Webster Twitter account wins the internet with this reply)
Bottom line, only the person who earned the degree gets to make the decision on how they are addressed. Requesting that people in professional and public circles refer to you by your proper, earned title, is not unreasonable. I seriously doubt she makes her children and close friends “Doctor.” And while she will now be in the White House, she will still continue teaching, and has already made clear that education will be a priority in her duties as FLOTUS. So, she should still be addressed as Dr. Biden in the White House. Not that she owes anyone any reason or explanation for it.
And so, MR. Epstein, the lessons here are these:
- Do NOT come for educators. They will eat you alive.
- Do NOT come at us with your misogynistic BS. Women have had it, and we are not taking it in stride any longer.
- Do not ever, for one second, think you have the right to tell ANYONE with a doctorate degree how they should or shouldn’t be addressed. Take your BA and sit down.
In conclusion, your days are through. You have historically been a racist, sexist, homophobic asshole. Your words and beliefs are irrelevant, and not worthy of anyone’s time. So, I’m gonna go ahead and file this under “Fragile Males Intimidated By Smart and Powerful Women” and move on. Dr. Biden has more class and education in her pinky than you have in your entire body. While your words made my blood boil, I would bet they are of no consequence to her. Her education, reputation, and character speak for themselves. She should and will wear her title proudly, and the rest of us will commend and respect that!
The EdD’s, PHD’s, and all of the doctors more educated than you.
P.S. – If Indiana Jones can keep the title of “Doctor,” then Jill Biden sure fucking can too!