Should we call her "Dr. Jill Biden"? Yes, Michelle Obama and Bette Midler say
Washington D.C. – Apparently, this is how Jill Biden strikes back: subtly.
"Together, we will build a world where the accomplishments of our daughters will be celebrated, rather than diminished," the future first lady tweeted Sunday, referring-without-referring to an op-ed published Saturday in the Wall Street Journal.
The controversial piece was written by an academic who urged Biden to lose her "Dr." title as she takes on the job of first lady, citing the "erosion of seriousness and the relaxation of standards" in university education.
Reese Witherspoon retweeted Biden on Monday, adding the comment "Yes we will" and a raised-hands emoji. The Little Fires Everywhere actress was joined in solidarity by former First Lady Michelle Obama on Instagram.
"[W]e'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," Obama wrote Monday on Instagram in a post promoting Biden for "wearing her accomplishments with grace, good humor, and yes, pride."
"Is this really the example we want to set for the next generation?" Obama said of the op-ed.
Dr. Jill Biden and Michelle Obama respond to provocative article
The opinion piece in question was slammed by some as misogynistic and sexist. It certainly didn't land well with performer Bette Midler, who went in hard on WSJ author Joseph Epstein.
"My my, Mr. Epstein, aren't you on a high horse. How easy it is to condescend to and patronize a woman, especially one you imagine needs taking down a peg," she tweeted. "Why don't you pick on someone of your own size and small-minded misogyny? You can start with #PresidentDonaldTrump."
"Madame First Lady — Mrs. Biden — Jill — kiddo: A bit of advice on what may seem like a small but I think is not an unimportant matter," Epstein wrote Saturday in the WSJ, borrowing one of President-elect Joe Biden's favorite diminutives (kiddo). "Any chance you might drop the 'Dr.' before your name? 'Dr. Jill Biden' sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic."
The WSJ piece went on to talk about how a doctorate "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."
Incidentally, President-elect Joe Biden has used the term "kid" or "kiddo" often when addressing younger people of both genders, and memorably told Vice President-elect Kamala Harris ahead of the second Democratic primary debate, "Go easy on me, kid."
The op-ed received fierce backlash from women across the country
Jill Biden's dissertation, which earned her an Ed.D. from the University of Delaware in 2007, was on Student Retention at the Community College Level: Meeting Students' Needs.
"Her name is Dr. Jill Biden. Get used to it," former Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted Sunday.
Epstein's bio was reportedly removed from one-time employer Northwestern University's website after publication of the op-ed.
"The Department is aware that a former adjunct lecturer who has not taught here in nearly 20 years has published an opinion piece that casts unmerited aspersion on Dr. Jill Biden's rightful public claiming of her doctoral credentials and expertise," Northwestern's English department said in a statement Saturday. "The Department rejects this opinion as well as the diminishment of anyone's duly-earned degrees in any field, from any university."
Much was made of Biden's doctorate and her use of the title when she became second lady in 2009. Other second ladies with doctoral degrees included Marilyn Quayle, a lawyer, and Lynne Cheney, who has a doctorate in English. Quayle did not practice law while her husband, Dan Quayle, was vice president to George H.W. Bush, and Cheney went by "Mrs.," not "Dr."
Noted Caltech seismologist Lucy Jones, who has a doctorate in geophysics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, also defended Biden's use of "Dr."
"Like #DrBiden, I learned that sometimes you need to add that 'Dr.,'" Jones tweeted Saturday. "In the 1980s, I had to dress in shorts and T-shirt to show I was a geologist. Nice clothes at Caltech meant you were a secretary."
"In the 1990s, all the Caltech/USGS seismologists were on TV explaining earthquakes. The women were called the 'earthquake ladies'. The men were called seismologists. I started using the Dr. to remind the reporters that women could be scientists too."
Jones said that her title helped her in the 2000s and 2010s as she worked with policy makers via the state's Seismic Safety Commission.
"#DrBiden, I and every other PhD deserve to use our titles," Jones concluded.
Cover photo: imago images / ZUMA Wire