A writer is facing a backlash after being accused of misogyny in a Wall Street Journal op-ed he wrote calling on incoming US first lady Jill Biden to drop the use of the honorific “Dr”.
Joseph Epstein, who formerly taught English at Northwestern University, wrote that Dr Biden, who has a doctorate in education, should drop her title because she had not delivered a baby.
“Any chance you might drop the ‘Dr.’ before your name? ‘Dr. Jill Biden’ sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic,” Epstein wrote in an article that received heavy backlash online, with many doctors and politicians stating it was sexist.
“A wise man once said that no one should call himself ‘Dr.’ unless he has delivered a child,” he added.
Epstein was also criticised for referring to Biden as “kiddo”.
Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris who campaigned alongside Dr Biden tweeted: “Dr. Biden 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,” Emhoff said.
“First Lady” was trending on Twitter in the United States as people commented on the article, with many women commenting on having earned their degrees.
Epstein’s article had also criticised the name of Dr Biden’s dissertation and compared it to an honorary degree.
“Some men are so threatened by educated women. Those with the appropriate degree are correctly addressed as Dr. The @WSJ should be embarrassed by printing this misogynist, self-absorbed screed. They should apologise,” said Dr Audrey Truschke, a professor of history at Rutgers, who said she would add Dr to her Twitter name in solidarity.
Other women with doctorates did the same. Several Democratic politicians were quick to defend the future US first lady.
The daughter of American civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King said that her “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, tweeted: “The author could’ve used fewer words to just say “ya know in my day we didn’t have to respect women”.
Epstein, the author of the op-ed, holds a Bachelor’s degree and an honorary degree. He taught at Northwestern University for 30 years and said he was often addressed as “Dr” in the piece.
The university said in a statement provided to the school newspaper: “Northwestern is firmly committed to equity, diversity and inclusion, and strongly disagrees with Mr. Epstein’s misogynistic views”.
Much of his article bemoans the standards of getting a doctorate in subjects outside the sciences.
Dr Biden earned her doctoral degree in education from the University of Delaware in 2007 at the age of 55. She also holds two Master’s degrees.