I think many, even in progressive circles, would like to pretend otherwise, but there is an unfortunate tendency in society to deny women and/or BIPOC rightful titles they’ve earned.
The op-ed in The Wall Street Journal this morning that criticized Dr. Jill Biden for using the “doctor” honorific isn’t an anomaly. It may have been motivated by Dr. Biden’s rise to First Lady, but it is neither rare nor limited to public figures.
What a stunning coincidence that comparatively un-credentialed white men only seem to get their hackles raised about doctorates being referred to as “doctors” when it’s a woman and/or BIPOC using that honorific.
They claim it’s not about about race and/or gender and simply about respecting the work put into earning an MD or about a sense of humility that should be expected from doctorates, and it is neither of these things.
In some parts of the world, people were calling theologians, philosophers, and other preeminent scholars “doctors” while medical practitioners of the day were referred to as “barbers”.
And yet, even so, physicians in the modern day are disrespected if THEY happen to be women and/or BIPOC.
So many women and/or BIPOC physicians have related having their MD credentials doubted or assumed to be less-than-credentialed in medical settings, often erroneously perceived as support staff.
Men who claim it’s about humility somehow find the grace to refer to other men with doctorates with the appropriate honorific.
Even WSJ refers to him as “Dr. Henry Kissinger”, who is decidedly not a physician.
It’s almost like there’s something here at play that has nothing to do with the degree.
This isn’t limited to medicine and academia.
Women in the military encounter acts of sexism when it comes to basic customs and courtesies: strange failures to salute rank or a call to attention or inexplicable references to that “that female officer” or “that female sergeant”.
Women in elected office encounter that “Ma’am” — while perfectly suitable as an isolated sign of respect — somehow entirely replaces titles like “Representative” and “Congresswoman” and “Senator” and “Governor”, as though weaponized by certain men to avoid indicating a deference or respect for authority.
What a striking happenstance!
Pushing back against this nonsense is essential because it’s the one of the small ways in which those who are not white, cisgender, heterosexual men have their credentials and authority challenged in a manner that undermines their work and responsibilities.
Do I want to be writing about this?
No, I think it’s silly as hell that a grown ass man took the time to publish an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal that is ludicrously condescending and sexist in explaining why a woman with a doctorate should be treated as though she doesn’t have a doctorate.
I wish we didn’t have to focus on these things, but we do.
So, if you’re annoyed by even the nature of this conversation, I would urge you to be part of the accountability that removes this mindset from society, so that we no longer need to focus on this bullshit in The Year of Our Lord 2020.
I have neither an MD nor doctorate, so you may refer to me as “Ms. Clymer”.
Charlotte Clymer is a writer. You can follow her on Twitter at @cmclymer.