Laura Finley: A doctorate earned the old-fashioned way

Epstein wrote “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.”

He then commented, “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.”

It’s hard to know where to start with this outrageous argument.

First of all, the “D” in Dr. Biden’s degree, and in my own, stands for doctorate. It is derived from the Latin term doctore, which means “to teach.”

The first doctoral degrees were awarded to academics some 800 years ago. As such, it is entirely appropriate that someone who teaches for a living use the title Dr. after having earned the terminal degree in his or her field.

It does not mean to practice medicine, as Epstein asserts. In fact, use of the term by physicians was controversial until the 1860s, because so many claiming the title were quacks.

Epstein concluded with this gem: “Forget the small thrill of being Dr. Jill, and settle for the larger thrill of living for the next four years in the best public housing in the world as First Lady Jill Biden.”

Like many, Dr. Biden uses the title in certain circumstances, not others. Dr. Biden is not asking her family or close friends to call her “Dr.,” she is simply asking that publicly she be acknowledged as more than just the wife of the president-elect.

Perhaps Epstein should enter the 21st century and recognize that the president’s wife can be more than just his sidekick.

Further, his use of the word “kiddo” is infuriatingly sexist. It is a term that has long been used to minimize women — one I personally have been called by males many times.

Yet Epstein is not alone in this misogynistic view of women who are highly educated. My female colleagues and I, all of whom hold Ph.Ds, are often called Mrs. instead of Dr.

While some don’t care, others prefer the title or even their first name. Each individual’s choice is fine.

But male professors are typically called “Dr.,” in some cases, like Epstein’s, even when they haven’t actually earned the degree.

When I earned my doctoral degree, before my ex-husband had even started his, we routinely received mail addressed to Dr. and Mrs. Finley, presuming, of course, that he was the one with the title.

That bastion of gender equality, Tucker Carlson, chimed in to assert Dr. Biden was a doctor in the same sense as “Dr Pepper.” He wrongly stated she held the same degree as Bill Cosby, who has several honorary degrees but no earned doctoral degrees.

Epstein proudly proclaimed he held no advanced degree either, only an honorary doctorate. Yet, having not earned one, he declared standards have so declined and that most dissertation defenses are more like “a kaffeeklatsch.”

He seemingly believes that if a defense is not utterly terrifying, it is not rigorous. But I know no one who has earned a doctoral degree who thought it was easy.

Journal Editorial Page Editor Paul A. Gigot defended the decision to publish Epstein’s submission. He accused Democrats of some kind of coordinated campaign to play identity politics after several staffers and Kamala Harris’s husband Douglas Emhoff tweeted in response.

The paper’s opinion page has long leaned conservative, so while the decision to publish and then defend Epstein’s op-ed isn’t surprising, it’s still disappointing.

Amid the controversy, Epstein himself declared that he was just being humorous and critics were just being politically correct. No shock that he would use that cliché to dismiss different views.

In contrast, Northwestern University distanced itself from Epstein and issued a statement indicating it is “firmly committed to equity, diversity and inclusion, and strongly disagrees with Epstein’s misogynistic views.”

Kudos are definitely deserved there. But that someone who teaches at a prestigious university holds such chauvinistic views is definitely indicative that the road to gender equality remains steep.

Laura Finley, holder of a doctorate in her field, teaches in the Barry University Department of Sociology & Criminology. Syndicated by PeaceVoice, she is the author of several academic texts.



Agree with Dr. Finley’s support for Dr. Jill Biden and about the patronizing sexism of Joseph Epstein but with one correction: Bill Cosby DOES have an earned doctorate from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.