Qantas staff call female doctor ‘Miss’ in everyday sexism row

The academic received backlash on Twitter for sharing her account

Helen Coffey
Friday 07 September 2018 12:30 BST
The last few years have seen The Flying Kangaroo go from strength to strength
The last few years have seen The Flying Kangaroo go from strength to strength

A female academic was left angered after a Qantas staff member called her “Miss” instead of using her correct title, “Dr”, even after looking at her boarding pass.

Dr Siobhan O’Dwyer, a senior lecturer at the University of Exeter Medical School, tweeted about what she perceived to be an example of everyday sexism on 31 August.

She said: “Hey Qantas, my name is Dr O’Dwyer. My ticket says Dr O’Dwyer. Do not look at my ticket, look at me, look back at my ticket, decide it’s a typo, and call me Miss O’Dwyer. I did not spend eight years at university to be called Miss.”

The tweet quickly went viral, receiving more than 8,000 likes and 4,000 comments. However, calling out the behaviour earned Dr O’Dwyer some vitriolic responses from online trolls.

“Copping so much flack for this tweet,” she wrote a few days later. “This was not about my ego. It was about highlighting one of a thousand instances of sexism that women encounter every day.

“It’s not about the title, it’s about the fact that this wouldn’t have happened if I was a man.”

She added: “Some of the comments have been pretty hateful.”

Dr O’Dwyer has turned down media requests in a bid to avoid “further opportunities for attack".

But the responses to her tweet show how quickly claims of sexism are belittled and attacked online, and how much abuse women can receive for raising issues.

Various social media users called her “petty” and “entitled”, dubbing the complaint a “first-world problem”, while a number of male academics claimed that people rarely referred to them by their correct title and that it shouldn’t matter.

A Qantas spokesperson said: “We are extremely proud of our cabin crew who respectfully serve our customers day in and day out and play a vital safety role.”

The incident comes not long after The Independent reported that Dr Fern Riddell received similar attacks online for asking to be called “Dr”.

“My title is Dr Fern Riddell, not Ms or Miss Riddell,” she tweeted.

Dr Siobhan O'Dwyer highlighted 'everyday sexism'

“I have it because I am an expert, and my life and career consist of being that expert in as many different ways as possible.

“I worked hard to earn my authority, and I will not give it up to anyone.”

Dr Riddell told The Independent that she’d chosen to go by her title of Dr in order to raise awareness of doctors in fields other than medicine, as she earned her doctorate as an historian.

However, some men seemed to feel “deeply threatened by women in positions of authority”, which Dr Riddell found “hilarious”.

One man on Twitter described Dr Riddell’s stance as “arrogant”, writing: “You’re human and remain so.

“You’re not better for being a Dr as you imply.”

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