You can tell how fragile a man’s ego is by how nastily he degrades other people. The future first lady, Dr. Jill Biden, really pushes weak mean over the edge for some reason. First, Joseph Epstein penned an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal that encouraged Dr. Biden to drop the “Dr.,” because she isn’t a medical professional. And reasonable people can disagree on whether they want to use a particular title, but the only person’s opinion that matters here is Dr. Biden’s. If Epstein gets a doctorate and then decides he doesn’t want to be addressed as Dr. Epstein, that’s his right, but it’s a moot point as he doesn’t have the credentials. The worst part about Epstein’s sad little diatribe was when he called Dr. Biden “kiddo.” Honestly, no matter how he feels about titles, it’s a small and pathetic man who refers to a 69-year-old college professor as “kiddo.” If I had to guess, I’d bet this is one of the reasons Dr. Biden insists on using the title she’s earned: because men like Epstein tend to treat all women with barely disguised contempt. Women often demand respect, because men will not give it willingly.
Then, of course, Tucker Carlson got in on the game, calling Dr. Biden illiterate and criticizing her dissertation. Good lord! Can you imagine the thought process that led to that decision? Let’s track down the future first lady’s dissertation and proofread it just for fun! It’s idiotic and there’s no point to it. What the hell did Dr. Biden ever do to Tucker Carlson? And why is it okay to slam Dr. Biden, but not to criticize Melania Trump? When some people posted nearly nude photos of the current first lady, Republicans threw a fit. Hell, when the current first lady plagiarized the former first lady’s speech, Republicans didn’t care at all. When she lied about having a diploma, fine! When she was recorded by a friend (some friend!) saying “fuck Christmas,” they didn’t care, even though these are the same people who’ve been bemoaning the war on Christmas for at least a decade. Now, though, these same men seem to be tripping over one another to insult our next first lady because she has the gumption to use a title she’s earned. I call foul.
Today, there’s a brand new piece from another conservative columnist at the National Review that claims Dr. Biden’s credentials are a sham, that she only earned her EdD. because of her husband’s name and not because of hard work and intelligence. I’m not linking to these pieces, because I don’t want to add to the traffic that might make these men believe anyone cares about their opinions. But let me be clear about one thing: we know that people who tear other people down in order to build themselves up are jerks. In this case, it seems like they might also be jealous jerks. None of these men has the sort of advanced degree that would warrant a title.
To be clear, I don’t give a fig about titles. I’ve met people with no college education who are wicked smart and well read. I’ve known people with PhDs who couldn’t balance a checkbook. And, honestly, I’ve met medical doctors who seem dumb as a rock. Regardless of whether or not I think someone is intelligent, however, I call them by the title they have earned and the one they prefer. To do otherwise is to reveal yourself as a huge asshole.
When I was first starting out after college, I worked at a newspaper in the Mississippi Delta. Like many newspapers, it had its own set of guidelines about which titles to use under which circumstances. As an unmarried woman, I could only be referred to as Miss Tyson, never Ms., which I preferred. I argued with the editors about this. They did not care. I pointed out that men were always Mr., and it was a double standard to advertise the marital status of every single woman quoted in the paper. I also pointed out that it was irrelevant information, that a person’s marital status had no bearing on their opinion about a bond issue or whatever we were working on. My boss told me, in the most patronizing tone possible, that it might be relevant to some man who wanted to ask me out. He laughed, but I don’t think he was joking. The point is that I asked to be called one thing and he insisted on calling me something else. The “kiddo” was implied.
This sort of diminishing, patronizing, misogynistic bullshit is exhausting. And these so-called “think pieces” don’t require much thought. It is rich that a bunch of men who will likely never need to address the first lady at all, are so concerned about what to call her. I mean, I don’t see any of these men getting invitations to the first lady’s holiday parties, do you? If they don’t want to use Dr. Biden’s title, there’s a simple solution. They can shut the hell up and stop talking about her at all.