A small man calls an accomplished woman “kiddo” (yes, kiddo) in a national newspaper and thought he could get away with it. Wrong. What he wrote ignited a firestorm of female anger, and it burned him. Times have changed, squirt. We are all Dr. now and no longer willing recipients of your misogyny.
Joseph Epstein, 83, a former lecturer at Northwestern University, wrote an Op-Ed piece chastising Dr. Jill Biden for using “Dr.” because, he argued, she was not really a doctor. You know, the ones with a stethoscope, like Dr. Doug Ross aka George Clooney from ER. Jill Biden has a doctorate in education and calls herself Dr. Jill Biden.
You can imagine Mr. Epstein typing his lead with indignant little stabs and then proceeding to talk about himself throughout the rest of the piece. I guess he would lose it if we asked him what about Dr. Henry Kissinger — who doesn’t wear a stethoscope either — or Dr. Martin Luther King?
“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?” Epstein wrote in the op-ed published by the Wall Street Journal.
“Dr. Jill Biden” sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic,” he wrote.
Epstein, an author and former editor of The American Scholar, isn’t new to promoting offensive views. In 1970, he wrote an essay in Harper’s Magazine about homosexuality and called gay people “cursed.”
“If I had the power to do so, I would wish homosexuality” off the face of the earth, he wrote. Nice guy.
So — let’s break down Mr. Epstein’s obsession. The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes the trajectory of the word and its use as follows:
“The English language history of doctor starts in the early 14th century when the word was first applied to a select few who likely knew neither bloodwork nor basketwork. They were equipped for dealing with matters of the soul: they were eminent theologians who had a special seal of approval from the Roman Catholic Church as people able to talk about and explain the doctrines of the Church.”
So, historically speaking, doctors were teachers, and the origin of the word makes this connection. The word doctor comes from the Latin word for “teacher,” itself from docēre, meaning “to teach.”
Dr. Biden tweeted an elegant response to Epstein’s op-ed.
“Together, we will build a world where the accomplishments of our daughters will be celebrated, rather than diminished,” she wrote in her tweet.
The future first lady also said she was surprised at being criticized for using the title “Dr.” in a joint interview with her husband, President-elect Joe Biden, that aired on a recent episode of “The Late Show.
“That was such a surprise,” Biden told the show’s host Stephen Colbert. “It was really the tone of it. He called me ‘kiddo.’”
“One of the things I am most proud of is my doctorate,” she said. Dr. Biden plans to continue working after her husband enters the White House.
“I worked so hard for it,” she said.
Dr. Biden’s spokesman, Michael LaRosa, called Mr. Epstein’s piece a “disgusting and sexist attack.” He asked The Journal to take it down and apologize to Dr. Biden. The Journal did nothing of the sort. Instead, they backed the piece and its author.
Women of all walks of life, famous and not so famous, came to Dr. Biden’s defense — including former first lady Michelle Obama — who wrote on Instagram:
“For eight years, I saw Dr. Jill Biden do what a lot of professional women do—successfully manage more than one responsibility at a time, from her teaching duties to her official obligations in the White House to her roles as a mother, wife, and friend,” Obama wrote on Instagram.
“And right now, we’re all seeing what also happens to so many professional women, whether their titles are Dr., Ms., Mrs., or even First Lady: All too often, our accomplishments are met with skepticism, even derision. We’re doubted by those who choose the weakness of ridicule over the strength of respect. And yet somehow, their words can stick—after decades of work, we’re forced to prove ourselves all over again. Is this really the example we want to set for the next generation?” she wrote.
No, it’s not. And more so since the wake of the controversy has brought out misogynistic mouthpieces such as Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who called Dr. Biden “illiterate” and mocked her doctoral dissertation. This after this odious man initially reacted to Epstein’s drivel by saying that Dr. Biden is “not a doctor” except “maybe in the same sense Dr. Pepper is.”
“Dr. Jill needs reading glasses,” he said. “Either that or she’s borderline illiterate. There are typos everywhere, including in the first graph of the introduction. Dr. Jill can’t write. She can’t really think clearly either.”
What has the controversy wrought, you ask. Hear that? It’s the sound of the reaction by countless women in academia and many who are not academics. It was swift and unequivocal.
“Some men are so threatened by educated women,” Audrey Truschke, an associate professor of South Asian history at Rutgers University, wrote on Twitter.
Truschke called Mr. Epstein’s writing a “misogynist, self-absorbed screed.” She and many other women changed their profile names on social media to Dr. in solidarity with Dr. Biden.
A tweet from another woman who reacted to Mr. Epstein’s rant (there are too many to document them all here) said what most women are thinking (at least I am.) Zyanya wrote:
“To any man who is intimidated by a woman’s success: that is YOUR problem! Women are not responsible for boosting your ego by dumbing ourselves down. @DrBiden doesn’t have to let go of her title. @JoeBiden married an intelligent woman, and he knows it! The misogyny of it all smh.”
Dan Rather, anchor and journalist supreme, had probably the best comeback of the situation:
“So, let me get this right. The criticism of Dr. Jill Biden is that she’s not a ‘medical doctor?’ Says a bunch of people who have been ignoring medical doctors about a pandemic that has killed over 300,000 Americans? Can someone invent a hypocrisy mute button?”
It is hard to comprehend why these men felt it necessary to write this nonsense in the middle of a pandemic and with Donald Trump still refusing to concede and leave the White House. It’s also difficult to comprehend why The Journal would publish such twaddle. I guess it’s rough out there for newspapers, but this is low and, frankly, stupid
Yet, after reading Mr. Epstein’s op-ed, what this writer comes away with is that Mr. Epstein’s diatribe against Dr. Biben is really a snot-nosed rant of a man jealous of a woman’s accomplishments. Get used to it, squirt.