The Wall Street Journal faced backlash this weekend after publishing an op-ed that took aim at Jill Biden.
Written by Joseph Epstein, the piece in question calls on the future first lady to drop the "Dr." title from her name, as she is not a medical doctor. The op-ed, titled Is There a Doctor in the White House? Not if You Need an M.D, was immediately slammed as misogynistic, elitist, and a waste of publication space.
"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?" Esptein's piece begins. "'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."
Epstein is a published author and a current Emeritus Lecturer of English at Northwestern University. According to the school's website, he obtained a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago; however, his op-ed points that has also received an honorary doctorate, which has led some of his colleagues to refer to him as "Dr." Epstein, suggesting he doesn't embrace this title because "in contemporary universities, in the social sciences and humanities, calling oneself Dr. is thought bush league."
He then goes to say the Ph.D has lost its prestige because it is much easier to obtain nowadays than in the past.
"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," Epstein wrote. "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."
Twitter users, including many scholars, were quick to criticize Epstein's take. Some slammed the piece as sexist, while others speculated the author was simply jealous that Biden had earned her doctorate through hard work rather than it being given to her.
If you're a man who feels the need to write an op-ed in a national paper of record shaming Dr Jill Biden for her Ed.D, when you only have an honorary Doctorate, it sounds like you have a serious case of...— Dr. Sarah Parcak (@indyfromspace) December 12, 2020
Just read the Joseph Epstein article in @WSJ in which he shows he is jealous of an accomplished woman who has an advanced degree. @DrBiden has many qualities that Mr. Epstein lacks, including grace, brilliance and a doctorate. This article would not have been written about a man. https://t.co/ydXYoqR3X8— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) December 12, 2020
Literally *every* woman in academia who has been mansplained about her own expertise can relate to DR JILL BIDEN being called kiddo and given unsolicited advice to "drop the honorific" by a man who completely lacks the credentials and standing to address her. Do better @WSJ.— Sara Becker, Ph.D. (@sjbeckerphd) December 12, 2020
This is insulting to every individual who has literally given away time with their family & friends to pursue a doctorate. But, let’s also not pretend this doesn’t smack of gender too. They owe Dr. Biden @DrBiden an apology. #thankyoudrbiden pic.twitter.com/xFwGvv0G7m— Prof Acid Burn (@cybervictimprof) December 12, 2020
.@jamestaranto, you and the @WSJ should be embarrassed to print the disgusting and sexist attack on @DrBiden running on the @WSJopinion page. If you had any respect for women at all you would remove this repugnant display of chauvinism from your paper and apologize to her.— Michael LaRosa (@MichaelLaRosaDC) December 12, 2020
To all women who are PhDs: In solidarity with Dr. Jill Biden and to stand in solidarity against that sexist trash op-ed about her in the WSJ, please consider adding “Dr” to your twitter name to show how many of us there are. We deserve respect. You earned your PhD. #mytitleisdr— Dr. Sarah Parcak (@indyfromspace) December 12, 2020
I realize some men have always felt threatened by smart women, but the suggestion that an accomplished woman like @DrBiden should drop her title to make some @WSJ contributor feel better about himself is really something.— katemessner (@KateMessner) December 12, 2020
I'm excited to have a First Lady who values education.
In light of that WSJ op-ed on Dr. Jill Biden, what a stunning coincidence that comparatively un-credentialed white men only seem to get up their hackles about PhDs being referred to as "doctors" when it's a woman and/or BIPOC using that honorific. What a striking happenstance!— Charlotte Clymer 🏳️🌈 (@cmclymer) December 12, 2020
I’m so looking forward to saying that Dr. Jill Biden is First Lady. Also, I’m thinking that maybe it would be fun to frame that written apology from the last man who called me “kiddo.”— Connie Schultz (@ConnieSchultz) December 12, 2020
Hey #JosephEpstein and @WSJ— Caitlin (@carmalarm11) December 12, 2020
With your “unpromising” B.A, maybe you should leave dissertation critiques to the professionals (of which you couldn’t be, as you don’t have the qualifications... but you know who does? @DrBiden )
Biden holds a bachelor's degree and a doctoral degree from the University of Delaware, and received her master's degrees from West Chester University and Villanova University.
She has also worked in education for about three decades, teaching at the high school level as well as a psychiatric hospital for adolescents. Biden is currently an English professor at Northern Virginia Community College and says she intends to continue teaching there even after her husband, president-elect Joe Biden, takes office next month.
"I teach a lot of immigrants, and refugees. I love their stories, I love who they are as people, and I love the fact that I can help them on their path to success," she told CBS News back in August, before being asked if she wanted to teach as a first lady. "I hope so. I would love to. If we get to the White House, I'm gonna continue to teach. It's important, and I want people to value teachers and know their contributions, and lift up the profession."