Wall Street Journal, don't mansplain to Jill Biden or any other woman how to use the 'Dr' title

Wall Street Journal, don't mansplain to Jill Biden or any other woman how to use the 'Dr' title

Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton slam sexist and patronising column on the future US first lady.
Updated 15 Dec, 2020

“This article would never have been written about a man.”

This is what Doug Emhoff, husband of US Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and the country's first ever second husband, noted following a condescending Wall Street Journal opinion piece that criticised incoming first lady Jill Biden's use of the title “Dr”.

Why? Because she holds a doctorate in education sciences, rather than a medical degree.

The Journal article, titled Is There a Doctor in the White House? Not if You Need an M.D. and published on Saturday, has been panned for its attack on Biden, who earned her EdD in 2007 and plans to keep teaching during her husband President-elect Joe Biden's time in office.

Column author Joseph Epstein was accused of patronising Biden when he referred to her as “kiddo” and suggested her using the title was “fraudulent” and “a touch comic”.

"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," wrote Epstein, in an article reeking of chauvinism.

It is no secret that many women all over the world across different professions struggle with not being given the same respect that is meted out to their male colleagues — and that is why the article has justifiably struck a nerve and stirred a fierce debate.

The concept behind the article was so absurd that even Twitter handles of dictionaries also joined the debate and literally defined the word ‘doctor’.

Biden responded indirectly on Sunday when she tweeted: “Together, we will build a world where the achievements of our daughters will be celebrated rather than denigrated.”

On Monday, former first lady Michelle Obama joined the ranks of those defending the spouse of her husband's vice president.

“For eight years, I saw Dr Jill Biden do what a lot of professional women do — successfully manage more than one responsibility at a time, from her teaching duties to her official obligations in the White House to her roles as a mother, wife, and friend,” she wrote in a post on Instagram.

A photo posted by Instagram (@instagram) on

“And right now, we're all seeing what also happens to so many professional women, whether their titles are Dr, Ms, Mrs, or even First Lady: All too often, our accomplishments are met with skepticism, even derision.

“After decades of work, we're forced to prove ourselves all over again,” Obama said.

Michael LaRosa, Biden's spokesperson, told the newspaper on Twitter that “if you had any respect for women at all you would remove this repugnant display of chauvinism from your paper and apologise to her”.

Northwestern University, where Epstein had taught until 2003, was quick to distance itself from him, saying in a statement that the article “casts unmerited aspersion on Dr Jill Biden's rightful public claiming of her doctoral credentials and expertise".

And Hillary Clinton, both a former first lady and former secretary of state, simply tweeted: “ “Her name is Dr Jill Biden. Get used to it.”

Many women took to Twitter with the hashtag #MyTitleIsDr to prove that they had earned their 'Dr' title and didn't need to be told when and where to use it.

WSJ went a step further in its 'rebuttal', saying "These pages aren’t going to stop publishing provocative essays merely because they offend the new administration or the political censors in the media and academe".

But as many pointed out under the tweet, provocative does not mean you have to school women on their right to use their credentials. A sexist comment is a sexist comment, whether you say it to someone's face or write it in an op-ed.

Additional input from AFP