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Wall Street Journal column criticises Jill Biden for using prefix ‘Dr’, sparks outrage

Column by Joseph Epstein, an emeritus professor, says that incoming US First Lady Jill Biden's 'doctor' title sounded 'fraudulent'. Biden has a doctorate in education.

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New Delhi: An opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal has sparked widespread outrage after it criticised incoming US First Lady Jill Biden of using the title ‘doctor’. Biden has a doctorate in Education and prefixes her name with ‘Dr’.

The column by Joseph Epstein, an emeritus lecturer of English at Northwestern University, published Friday, criticises Biden and states the prefix “sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic”.

Epstein calls Biden “kiddo” in his column, and says that though PhDs once “held prestige,” they have “been diminished by the erosion of seriousness and the relaxation of standards in university education generally,” particularly in fields that are not the sciences.

He adds that “political correctness” has further degraded the honorary title. “If you are ever looking for a simile to denote rarity, try “rarer than a contemporary university honorary-degree list not containing an African-American woman’,” he wrote.

Epstein concluded: “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.”

The op-ed has been called out by various writers and academics for its sexism, and many have asked the Wall Street Journal to retract the piece or apologise for its publication.

“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 apologize,” Audrey Truschke, Associate Professor of South Asian history at Rutgers University, tweeted.

Also read: Joe Biden, Kamala Harris named TIME magazine’s ‘2020 Person of the Year’

‘Misogynistic trash’

While Biden hasn’t responded to the column herself, her spokesperson, Michael LaRosa, wrote on Twitter that the editorial team at WSJ should be “embarrassed to print the disgusting and sexist attack on @DrBiden running on the @WSJopinion page.”

“If you had any respect for women at all you would remove this repugnant display of chauvinism from your paper and apologize to her,” LaRosa added.

Former advisor to the Obama administration, Andrew Weinstein, called the column “misogynistic trash” and “disgraceful”.

Other academics have started to put “Dr” in front of their names to mark their protest and express solidarity with Biden.

A 2009 article from the Los Angeles Times notes that Biden has preferred adding “Dr” to her name in response to “what she perceived as her second-class status on their mail”.

“She said, ‘I was so sick of the mail coming to Sen. and Mrs. Biden. I wanted to get mail addressed to Dr. and Sen. Biden.’ That’s the real reason she got her doctorate,” the LA Times quoted Joe Biden, then vice president, as saying.

Also read: Biden will begin presidency with ethical, political challenge of his son facing criminal probe


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