Wall Street Journal writer Joseph Epstein’s condescending attempt to convince Dr. Jill Biden to drop the Dr. in favor the “Mrs.” which he opens by saying “Madame First Lady—Mrs. Biden—Jill—kiddo,” is actually an attempt to belittle her. And to belittle all women who have the audacity to display their legitimate credentials, which, once again, they have earned.
The message is clear: her identity doesn’t matter. Her achievements are irrelevant. Her intellect is offensive. She—and all women—should stay in our lane, which is to be happy assuming the title of wives to our husbands.
The most enraging part of this rant is his attack not just on academia itself, but on Dr. Biden’s actual research. Her dissertation explores ways to retain community college students. Epstein
dismisses this as “not promising.” It is not just promising but vital. Dr. Biden’s research is deeply worthy, highly relevant, and vital to the future of our nation. Epstein’s dismissal of community college students and indeed community college professors, of which Dr. Biden is a proud example, reveals an elitist, classist, and myopic view of the nature of education and
its value. So who the hell is he—with his honorary doctorate and his BA—to dismiss it? Who the hell is he to claim expertise on anything to do with her research at all? I know he is a man, but Dr. Biden is a doctor of education. Trust me, on this (and many other things), she knows more.
The pandemic has taken a deep toll on everyone; female academics have been particularly hard-hit compared to their male counterparts. We also understand what motivates Epstein’s article, and it’s not a concern that someone will mistakenly turn to Dr. Biden in a medical emergency. Epstein proudly rejects a title he did not earn, even as he resents the conferral of honorary degrees on, in particular, Black women. Every woman who has ever earned a doctorate and been asked for coffee or directions to the professor’s office has met a man like Epstein. But, with one of the most visible women in the country proudly using her title and inspiring so many other women to insist on theirs, perhaps our chorus can cause him and others like him, including the WSJ editors who continue to support the article, to just for once shut the hell up and listen to the experts: the women with doctorates like me and Dr. Jill Biden.
SHARRONA PEARL, The Lilith Blog, December, 2020.