Over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by Joseph Epstein titled “Is There a Doctor in the White House? Not if You Need an M.D.,” where Epstein called for incoming First Lady Dr. Jill Biden to drop her Dr. title. The piece was roundly criticized on social media for being misogynistic—and has now gotten a response from former First Lady Michelle Obama, who called Epstein’s request out for what it is: sexist.
For context, the first sentence of Epstein’s piece alone is patronizing and dismissive, with Epstein writing, “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.”
Obama took aim at anyone trying to discredit Biden’s or any woman’s accomplishments in her Instagram response. She wrote:
For eight years, I saw Dr. Jill Biden do what a lot of professional women do—successfully manage more than one responsibility at a time, from her teaching duties to her official obligations in the White House to her roles as a mother, wife, and friend. And right now, we’re all seeing what also happens to so many professional women, whether their titles are Dr., Ms., Mrs., or even First Lady: All too often, our accomplishments are met with skepticism, even derision. We’re doubted by those who choose the weakness of ridicule over the strength of respect. And yet somehow, their words can stick—after decades of work, we’re forced to prove ourselves all over again.
Is this really the example we want to set for the next generation?
Dr. Biden gives us a better example. And this is why I feel so strongly that we could not ask for a better First Lady. She will be a terrific role model not just for young girls but for all of us, wearing her accomplishments with grace, good humor, and yes, pride. I’m thrilled that the world will see what I have come to know—a brilliant woman who has distinguished herself in her profession and with the life she lives every day, always seeking to lift others up, rather than tearing them down.
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