Last night, I read these words from a former Northwestern University lecturer by the name of Joseph Epstein.
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?
These words were printed in an op-ed published by the Wall Street Journal, a newspaper with a decidedly conservative bent, but one to which I am a current subscriber. I decided to subscribe to the WSJ a few weeks ago because I wanted to read an article and had to be a paid subscriber to do so. It wasn’t the first time I had wanted to read something published by the paper, and I am a big believer in paying for journalism. I currently subscribe to six different publications, four of which are papers with long histories and storied reputations. I don’t agree with everything I’ve read in any of these papers, but I think it’s important to have access to the services they provide. Almost all media sources are biased to some degree, which is why I think it’s important to read a range. The WSJ represents one of my conservative viewpoint sources.
A conservative viewpoint is certainly what Mr. Epstein, a man with a mere B.A. provides, when he slams the future First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, for referring to herself by the honorific “Doctor”. Dr. Biden earned a Doctorate in Education, most precisely, the Ed.D., at the University of Delaware. She also holds a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees, and she has been working as a teacher since Melania was a wee lass. Dr. Biden certainly has earned the right to call herself “doctor”, even if she’s never “delivered a baby”, as Mr. Epstein asserts is the only reason anyone should be calling themselves “doctor”.
Mr. Epstein brags in his windy opinion piece that he’d taught at Northwestern University for thirty years without benefit of a doctorate or any other advanced degree. He writes that he got his B.A. “in absentia”, because on graduation day, he was at Fort Hood serving in the “peacetime Army in the late 1950s”. Then he goes on to wax poetic about the worthlessness of honorary doctorates, one of which he has. Epstein writes that the president of the school that awarded him his honorary doctorate was fired in the year following the award. I’m not sure what any of this has to do with Jill Biden or her considerable accomplishments, as well as the honest, valuable work she did in achieving them. But obviously, the people at the WSJ who decided Mr. Epstein’s piece was worth printing saw fit to trash the incoming first lady, who at least first became notable for things she’s done with her clothes on and her mind fully engaged.
It may be fair to note that Mr. Epstein is 83 years old, and is likely very set in his ways and his opinions. I’m sure it’s hard for him to imagine that a woman might be worthy of being called “doctor”. Hell, he’d probably rather refer to even the female medical doctors as “doctoress”, as they were called in the mid 19th century.
Interestingly enough, I once got chastised for referring to physicians as doctors by my own dentist, a man who is half German, half American. My dentist, who received his dentistry training in the United States, but has worked in Germany for decades, gave me a tutorial on who is allowed to be called “doctor” in Germany and clarified that here, a physician isn’t necessarily really the same thing as a doctor is. The female lawyer we used in our recent legal situation is referred to as “doctor”, even though in the United States, lawyers don’t typically go by that honorific. It’s because she wrote and successfully defended a dissertation, just as Dr. Biden did. But Epstein is apparently not impressed by Dr. Biden’s choice of subjects. He referred to the title of Dr. Biden’s dissertation “‘Student Retention at the Community College Level: Meeting Students’ Needs’” as “unpromising”.
Why anyone should care about Epstein’s opinions of Dr. Biden’s dissertation is beyond me. The man has admitted that he, himself, had never managed to earn a legitimate advanced degree. He claims that we should not be impressed by Dr. Biden’s accomplishments because the standards aren’t as rigorous as they used to be, and according to him, that’s a bad thing.
Well… as someone who worked for three solid years earning two master’s degrees, I know that there is a lot that goes into earning higher degrees. It’s not just a matter of being smart and showing up. There’s also attending and actively participating in classes, studying, writing papers, and taking exams. There’s also the task of coming up with original ideas and convincing people who are further in their academic development that you are worthy of being awarded a diploma. It takes a lot of time and effort to earn degrees at legitimate universities. There’s also the cost of attending school, not just in terms of money, but also in terms of having a personal and professional life. I worked very hard when I was in graduate school, but I didn’t have a husband or children to worry about, nor did I have an extremely demanding job. I did have jobs while I was in school, but I was not in positions that required a lot from me.
Dr. Biden, by contrast, had a lot going on in her life when she was earning her doctorate. She was awarded that degree only two years before her husband was elected Vice President of the United States. And she worked as a professor the whole time he was in office, bringing a change of clothes with her to her job so she could go from the classroom to state dinners. This woman has surely proven herself worthy of great respect, at least to people who look at her objectively and don’t consider their personal feelings about her politics or her husband’s politics.
As is my custom, I read some of the comments on the Wall Street Journal’s site. I was heartened to read that many people had the same thoughts I have regarding Epstein’s ugly opinions. But I also wasn’t surprised to read comments from butthurt Trumpers, who are no doubt very sad that their disgusting literal golden boy, Donald Trump, isn’t going to be allowed to perpetuate his misogynistic and racist agenda on the United States for another four years… or, at least he won’t if the electors, voting in the electoral college today, do their duty.
Epstein’s sneering sexist attitude toward Dr. Jill Biden reminds me an awful lot of the sexist bullshit many women, particularly those who are married to servicemembers, get in the military community. God forbid a woman wants to be educated, intelligent, and accomplished in her own right. I have run into many little men who are very threatened by the fact that I’m educated. To a lot of guys in the military community, women who have married servicemembers are just “dependas”. Dependa is short for dependapotamus– fat, uneducated, lazy women who milk their husbands for their paychecks and military benefits.
Are there women like this in the military community? If I’m honest, I would have to say that there are, just as many other types of people are represented in the military community. But “dependa types” don’t represent the normal military spouse by any stretch, and I would add that any person who tolerates “dependa” behavior– whether it be from a man or a woman– has only themselves to blame for it. If you’re female, you can’t win in that community, either, because to a lot of these guys, if a woman isn’t an actual “dependa”, she’s an uppity bitch who has gotten too big for her britches and needs to be pushed down to her place. I’ve written about this phenomenon many times over the years and can supply lots of offensive quotes from men reacting to articles written about the “dependa” stereotypes. The people who perpetuate the dependa stereotype, by and large, are also the ones who uniformly refer to Democrats with terms like “libtards” and seethe at the idea that women and minorities might deserve equal rights, equal pay, and basic respect.
What Joseph Epstein proposes is nothing new… I’ve seen it and experienced it myself from the same type of person he is– small minded, easily threatened, butthurt, and rapidly becoming insignificant and obsolete. I think Joseph Epstein has a hell of a lot of nerve printing his dismissive, discounting, and diminutive comments about Jill Biden. I think his issue is mostly jealousy and bitterness. When he called Dr. Biden, a 69 year old woman, “kiddo”, he revealed just how petty and threatened he is by strong, articulate, and driven women. He should be deeply ashamed of himself. I sincerely doubt this article ever would have been run if Dr. Biden was a man.
So yes, I will call Dr. Jill Biden by her honorific. She put in the work. She earned the honor. And we need a lot more women like her to undo the damage wrought by Joseph Epstein and his ilk. I look forward to welcoming Dr. Biden, with great pleasure, to the White House next month. I think she and her husband are exactly what we need.
Today’s featured photo was inspired by Kurt Vonnegut, who expertly drew what I think Mr. Epstein is, in his great novel, Breakfast of Champions.