Sunday, December 13, 2020

A Follow-Up on Yesterday's Sexist Nonsense

 Unsurprisingly, I'm not the only one who found Joseph Epstein's op-ed enraging. I give you this delicious takedown from Amanda Kohlhofer.

A privileged white man with no post-grad education telling a woman with a doctorate not to use her credentials. How very original of you, kiddo.

To that end, let’s list Dr. Biden’s accomplishments:
  • She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Delaware in 1975.
  • She earned a Master of Education, with a specialty in reading, from West Chester State College in 1981.
  • She earned a Master of Arts in Education from Villanova University in 1987.
  • She earned a Doctor of Education (Ed.D) in educational leadership from the University of Delaware in 2007
She accomplished all of this over the span of 32 years, all while becoming a wife, raising children, teaching at many different levels, running a non-profit, and accompanying her husband through multiple political campaigns. (And, who wants to tell him that not only has she earned all of these degrees, but she has also, in fact, delivered a child?)
Just as I did, Kohlhofer suspects this piece would never have been written if Jill Biden were a man. And even though Epstein's blatant sexism is very obviously jealousy over a woman who is more educated, there are definitely people who casually drop the Dr. (or refuse to even recognize that the title could be Dr.) among women more than men.

In 2011, I earned a PhD in Social Psychology. I worked for many years as a health services researcher in the Department of Veterans Affairs, where I regularly worked with PhDs, MDs, and some of those crazy smart people with both. We all called each other by first name. (Except for colleagues who had just earned their doctorate - we called them Dr. at every opportunity until they got sick of it and begged us to go back to first name. Why? Because earning a doctorate is a freaking amazing achievement!) In college and grad school, we all called each other by first name. Academia or medicine is not what Kiddo Joe envisions of a bunch of people calling each other Dr. It was all pretty casual.

BUT there are times when that title should be used, such as when introducing a panel of presenters at a conference. And it was very telling how the moderators would often introduce the men as Dr. So-and-So and the women by their first name. It's telling the number of times people have asked me if my title is Mrs. or Ms. in some of these types of settings. It's telling that when I worked at a hospital, people would immediately say, "Oh, you must be a nurse." Why not a doctor? (And even more interesting is when I was married, people would ask my husband what he did for a living but would often ask me if I work.)

Women, either with or without higher degrees, constantly have to work harder to prove themselves. Gatekeeping is alive and well, not just in gamers and sports fans communities, testing women to see if they're legit, but in pretty much any field. I've interacted with fellow psychometrician and data scientists who I'm sure would prefer to call me "Kiddo" instead of Dr., or who waste valuable meeting time explaining core concepts "for Sara's benefit." I once had a psychometrician describe a concept and then urge me to read the chapter on this topic in the recent edition of the Institute of Credentialing Excellence Handbook. I was second author of that chapter. 

And as Epstein demonstrates, gatekeeping doesn't even have to come from someone with the same background or credentials. It can be some dude with a BA writing in the WSJ.

Guys, women are exhausted with this nonsense. When interacting with a woman in a professional or academic environment, be aware of those little microaggressions, or the things you may be doing that make her have to work that much harder to be believed or respected. Introduce people with their titles. Assume women know about something unless they say otherwise. Stop wasting everyone's time and energy. And stop telling us to hang up our titles. 

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