DR. Jill Biden?

Updated ET, Sat ,

An opinion column in The Wall Street Journal came under fire over the weekend for asking educator and incoming first lady Jill Biden — who holds two master's degrees and a doctorate in education — to stop using the title "Dr."

In the op-ed published Friday evening, writer and former editor of The American Scholar magazine Joseph Epstein urged Biden to drop the title, a message that public figures and women in academia panned on Twitter as misogynistic both in substance and tone.

"Madame First Lady — Mrs. Biden — Jill — kiddo," begins the piece. "Any chance you might drop the 'Dr.' before your name? 'Dr. Jill Biden' sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic."

Biden earned her doctorate from the University of Delaware in 2007. Biden's Obama White House biography describes the dissertation as focusing on "maximizing student retention in community colleges." Epstein disparaged the title of that dissertation as "unpromising."

What A Biden Presidency Could Mean For Education

"A wise man once said that no one should call himself 'Dr.' unless he has delivered a child," he continued. "Think about it, Dr. Jill, and forthwith drop the doc."

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? “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.

I taught at Northwestern University for 30 years without a doctorate or any advanced degree. I have only a B.A. in absentia from the University of Chicago—in absentia because I took my final examination on a pool table at Headquarters Company, Fort Hood, Texas, while serving in the peacetime Army in the late 1950s. I do have an honorary doctorate, though I have to report that the president of the school that awarded it was fired the year after I received it, not, I hope, for allowing my honorary doctorate. During my years as a university teacher I was sometimes addressed, usually on the phone, as “Dr. Epstein.” On such occasions it was all I could do not to reply, “Read two chapters of Henry James and get into bed. I’ll be right over.”

I was also often addressed as Dr. during the years I was editor of the American Scholar, the quarterly magazine of Phi Beta Kappa. Let me quickly insert that I am also not a member of Phi Beta Kappa, except by marriage. Many of those who so addressed me, I noted, were scientists. I also received a fair amount of correspondence from people who appended the initials Ph.D. to their names atop their letterheads, and have twice seen PHD on vanity license plates, which struck me as pathetic. In contemporary universities, in the social sciences and humanities, calling oneself Dr. is thought bush league.

In one of my favorite episodes of “The West Wing,” Abigail Bartlet, a trained surgeon and the fictional first lady, speaks with a White House attorney about a looming scandal. The lawyer addresses her as “Mrs. Bartlet,” to which she responds with the iciest correction: “Dr. Bartlet.”

“When did I stop being Dr. Bartlet?” she continues. “When in the campaign did I decide women were going to like me more if I called myself ‘Mrs.’?”

The issue was not about her credentials; nobody could take away her Harvard MD. The issue was about her identity. She used to have one of her own, but now she had only what had been conferred by her husband. She missed herself.

This is the scene I went searching for on Netflix after reading an exceptionally bad column in the Wall Street Journal.

“Madame First Lady — Mrs. Biden — Jill — kiddo: a bit of advice on what might seem like a small but I think is not an unimportant matter,” writer Joseph Epstein began. “Any chance you might drop the ‘Dr.’ before your name? ‘Dr. Jill Biden’ sounds and feels a touch fraudulent, not to mention comical.”

His reasoning, as it were: Jill Biden is not a medical doctor. In her 50s, she acquired an EdD from the University of Delaware; she now works as a community college professor, and plans to continue through her husband’s presidential term. For Biden to use the title of “Dr.” is highfalutin and misleading, Epstein wrote, as “no one should call himself Dr. unless he has delivered a child.”


Joseph Epstein labelled the future first lady 'kiddo' in the piece published Friday

Epstein wrote: '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'

'In the social sciences calling oneself Dr. is thought bush league', he adds 

Dr Biden holds a doctorate in education from the University of Delaware

During President-elect Joe Biden's eight years serving as vice president she was a full-time English professor at Northern Virginia Community College

Epstein's words sparked a fierce reaction online with Pink, Debra Messing and vice president elect Kamala Harris' husband Doug Emhoff rushing to defend her

Jill's spokesperson Michael LaRosa called the piece 'disgusting and sexist'

Harris' husband said: 'This story would never have been written about a man' 

( )