Many of The Herald’s readers are familiar with the term “Dr.” We address many of our beloved professors as “Dr.” and we recognize the hard work and dedication it takes to earn such a respectable title. Because scholars with doctoral degrees are revered as experts in their field, it is shocking to witness the validity and credibility of a doctoral degree being ridiculed, especially the doctoral degree of a woman who has dedicated her life to her career: Dr. Jill Biden.
On Dec. 11, 2020, The Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece suggesting that Dr. Biden should drop the “Dr.” from her name. Author Joseph Epstein’s patronizing opening, which referred to Dr. Biden’s use of her earned title as “fraudulent” and “a touch comic” because she has an Ed.D. rather than a Ph.D. or M.D., was enough to elicit many messages in support for Dr. Biden. Her response on Twitter called for “a world where the accomplishments of our daughters will be celebrated, rather than diminished.”
Former First Lady Michelle Obama took to Instagram to respond to Epstein’s article, highlighting how women’s accomplishments are often “met with skepticism, even derision.” It was Epstein’s own derision regarding Dr. Biden’s title that led to my frustration and confusion with his mocking tone and baseless argument. His critique that the prestige of the Ph.D. “has been diminished by the erosion of seriousness and the relaxation of standards in university education” is overshadowed by his lack of a doctoral degree despite mistakenly being referred to as “Dr. Epstein” during his teaching years. His critique is also overshadowed by his explanation of how much more difficult it would have been for Dr. Biden to earn her degree had she done so earlier in her career. Epstein’s attempts to bolster his argument in the op-ed come across as more fraudulent than he could ever try to make Dr. Biden’s degree appear given that he has no experience with earning a doctorate degree himself.
Epstein goes on to bash an individual’s own recognition of their doctorate, deeming it unprofessional for someone to even acknowledge their work by including “Ph.D.” on their stationary. I question whether Epstein truly believes that appreciating your own successes is as “pathetic” as he says or if his misogyny and sexism are clouding his judgement. If the latter, I hope the responses to his op-ed can help enlighten him on how to properly respect women’s accomplishments.
As a student at a historically women’s college who plans to pursue a doctoral degree, it is hurtful to see someone try to demean a woman’s degree. Dr. Biden has proven time and again that she is deserving of her degree. If someone as accomplished as Dr. Biden is being pointlessly criticized over her title, what can my classmates and I expect as we enter the working world? It is not a woman’s responsibility to continue defending what she has rightly earned or to diminish her own achievements for the sake of a man’s ego. Although it seems ridiculous that an adult can be so immature that they become a bully, perhaps Epstein’s clear jealousy and mockery is really a form of flattery.
By Molly Perry, Features Editor