Perspective: Dr. Biden, It's Not Bragging If You Earned It

Dec 16, 2020

A few years ago, my ten-year old neighbor was excited about a recent accomplishment. "Now, Susan," her mother admonished, "Don't brag." My comeback was swift: "It's not bragging if you did it."

By now the Wall Street Journal Op-Ed from last Friday, criticizing Jill Biden for using the title Dr., has been justifiably condemned. That someone with no earned graduate degree would refer to the future first lady as “kiddo” and question the validity of her three advanced degrees is astoundingly sexist. I wonder if I am living in the nineteenth century.

Unfortunately, this dismissive attitude toward women in academia is more common than the general public realizes. In my first position right out of grad school, two women in my department were denied tenure and forced to leave. In my second job, a male colleague insinuated that sleeping with him would advance my career, assuming I was too dim-witted to realize his position lacked the status to bestow contracts. Even my students are part of the problem, calling me Mrs., despite my Ph.D. earned in 1996. Also, my student evaluations are peppered with critiques about how I dress and act, guaranteeing that my numbers are lower than my male counterparts. Even so, they are a factor in determining my pay and promotion.

At this point, Dr. Biden and I have survived the indignities, but don't you think Susan deserves better treatment? I do.

I'm Frances Jaeger, and this is my perspective.