Male academic under fire for column claiming Jill Biden should drop Dr title

Bernice King, daughter of civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King Jr,  tweeted: “My father was a non-medical doctor. And his work benefited humanity greatly. Yours does, too’

Gino Spocchia
Sunday 13 December 2020 13:45 GMT
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A US academic who wrote a column suggesting that future first lady Jill Biden drop the “Dr” before her name has been widely condemned as “misogynistic” and “patronizing”. 

Joseph Epstein wrote in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal that the president-elect’s wife, Dr Biden, should stop using her “Dr” title when her husband takes office next month.

Mr Epstein argued that “a wise man once said that no one should call himself ‘Dr.’ unless he has delivered a child,” in comments that appeared to dismiss Dr Biden’s doctoral degree, which she received thirteen years ago at the University of Delaware.

“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,” Mr Epstein wrote, adding: “Any chance you might drop the “Dr.” before your name?”

Mr Epstein then suggested that “Dr. Jill Biden’ sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic”.

“Think about it, Dr. Jill, and forthwith drop the doc,” the author added. He went on to say that he had taught at Northwestern University without a doctorate for three decades.

“The Ph.D. may once have held prestige, but that has been diminished by the erosion of seriousness and the relaxation of standards in university education generally, at any rate outside the sciences,” Mr Epstein went on.

“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.”

The remarks were widely condemned online. Bernice King, daughter of civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King Jr, tweeted: “My father was a non-medical doctor. And his work benefited humanity greatly. Yours does, too.”

Chasten Buttigieg, husband of 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, posted that “the author could’ve used fewer words to just say ‘ya know in my day we didn’t have to respect women’". “

Doug Emhoff, husband of vice-president-elect Kamala Harris, also defended Dr Biden on Twitter, saying that she had “earned her degrees through hard work and pure grit.”

“She is an inspiration to me, to her students, and to Americans across this country. This story would never have been written about a man,” Mr Emhoff added.

A family physician, Cathleen London, made similar comments, writing: "Dr Biden can absolutely use her honorific. It was not bestowed upon her, she earned it. Those of us with MD will not suffer for her using it.”

A spokeswoman for the president-elect, Kate Bedingfield, described the op-ed as “patronizing, sexist, elitist drivel” in a tweet. "Dr. B earned a doctorate in education, so we call her Doctor. The title Mr. Epstein has earned here is perhaps not fit for mixed company."

Dr Biden has said that she will continue to teach at Northern Virginia Community College after becoming first lady.

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