Monday, February 02, 2009

Department Of Silly Stuff

Apparently the Los Angeles Times had some space to fill in today's edition, so Robin Abcarian's article on Jill Biden was inserted. Here's the headline: "Hi, I'm Jill. Jill Biden. But please, call me Dr. Biden." Nice slam on the wife of the Vice President, who just happens to hold a Ph.D. in English, for using the honorific frequently used by those with the advanced degree. Not only does she use the honorific, she also uses the degree by teaching at a community college, and (gasp!) gets paid for it. How uppity is that?

In 2007, at 55, Jill Biden did earn a doctorate -- in education, from the University of Delaware. Since then, in campaign news releases and now in White House announcements, she is "Dr. Jill Biden." This strikes some people as perfectly appropriate and others as slightly pompous, a quality often ascribed to her voluble husband.

Last week, the White House announced that Jill Biden had returned to the classroom -- thought by some who study the presidency and vice presidency to be a historical first. She is teaching two courses at Northern Virginia Community College, the second-largest community college in the U.S. She began her new job before last month's inauguration; the announcement was delayed out of respect for that event.

It's been my experience that when reporters use the phrase "some people" they are indirectly expressing their own opinions and are too lazy to find and name a source who agrees with them. That aside, however, the article leaves the impression that Jill Biden is both pompous and money grubbing. Other vice-presidential wives have done volunteer work, or they wrote books. They didn't actually work for pay. That apparently is, well, unseemly and detracts from their husband's job and prestige, which is not a good thing for a mere appendage to do.

And the honorific? Oh please! What is so awful about claiming the title appropriate to an earned degree? Here's a clue:

"It's a funny topic," Goldstein said. "Occasionally someone will call me 'doctor,' and when that happens my wife makes fun of me a little bit. But nobody thought it was pretentious to call Henry Kissinger 'Dr. Kissinger.' "

I went to graduate school and the two women professors in the department were invariably called by their first names while their male counterparts were referred to as "Professor" or "Doctor." That was forty years ago.

I guess some things never change, or at least won't until there are more Jill Bidens -- Dr. Jill Bidens -- willing to insist on that change.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

GO, DR. Jill!

I think the real problem is the fact that not enough women are uppity. The real issue is that they do not take on the male counterpart ego to insist that they are addressed correctly.

From now on, all women should become uppity. Actually, they do deserve the titles and the respect.


5:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You must have missed the "doctor nurse" kerfuffle. The WSJ reported that physicians are up in arms because of doctorally educated nurses having the unmitigated gall to use their academic titles. "Confusing patients!" they roared. "Invading medicine!" they whined.

However, as a doctorally educated former nurse myself (ABD so I never had a titular problem), I learned the hard way via condemnation, ridicule and contempt that progressives just like the general public, treat nurses with disdain and disregard our opinions out of hand. Moreover, there is no recognition that nursing research has any value, and any posts I wrote either admitting my nursing credentials, speaking to professional nursing issues or lobbying progressive to become involved in nursing advocacy (which results in significantly improved patients safety and outcomes) resulted in ZERO support or acknowledgment. I got the message and no longer write about any of that.

The nursing shortage is a result in large part of reasonable people also getting the message and fleeing the field or staying away altogether.

Diss at your own peril.

7:36 AM  
Blogger Soprano said...

I believe Jill Biden has an Ed.D., rather than a Ph.D.

9:42 AM  
Blogger Diane said...

Soprano, I just double checked and you are absolutely correct.

Mea Culpa

10:06 AM  

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