Mr. Joseph Epstein wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal that provides today’s talking point. He argues that Dr. Jill Biden, should drop the “Dr.” title from her name while she serves as First Lady to her husband, President-elect Joe Biden.
The opinion piece can be summed up by breaking down the sentences: 12 sentences focus on Mr. Epstein and his own credentials, six sentences target the “kiddo,” Dr. Jill Biden, and 13 sentences were carefully choreographed statements of fact.
All men are equally identified with the honorarium of “Mr.” Women can be “Miss,” “Mrs.,” or “Ms.,” and in this case, “First Lady,” based on the woman’s marital status and role. Like the difference between a heifer and a cow, the name indicates her value is based on her role. A title such as “Dr.” is reserved for a certain level of education achieved, but it carries no gender marker.
Sure, in Forest Park there are people in the “Lou” camp and those in the “Dr. Cavallo” camp. The same is true for Dr. Brunson (not Tiffany), recently retired Mr. Milnamow (not Bill), Ms. Bogdan (not Sue) and Coach Kevin (not Kevin Bartlett).
Even during the District 91 “Bears Gate” board meeting, Dr. Cavallo even corrected himself and said, “Ed (pause), Mr. Brophy,” because at that moment he was defining their relationship and roles. They were not “Lou” and “Ed,” pals in the office; they were public servants, with roles.
Titles and names mean something, as Mr. Epstein pointed out, “A wise man once said that no one should call himself ‘Dr.’ unless he has delivered a child.” I am going out on a limb and assuming the wise man was implying that “no one should call himself/herself ‘Dr.’ unless he/she delivered a child.” And extending the limb a bit more, since I have actually delivered two babies, I could be “Dr. Dr. Jill Wagner,” but I will settle for “Henry’s mom,” or “Logan’s mom,” occasionally.
Facebook has been a marketplace for identity, and I am adjusting. Like Mr. Epstein, it can take a second of reflection and understanding, a moment to broaden the mind, but sometimes it is better to be quiet than write out your outrage. Sure, change your profile picture and name to Maxwell Bodenheim, Emma Goldman, Stanley Yelnats or make up a person and profile to express your opinions during election season, if that means you are more “you,” or less “you.” Whatever makes you “safe you,” by all means do “you.”
The “First Lady” has a role, after all; someone has to decorate the White House for Christmas and stand by her man. If, in addition, having a doctorate in education is an honorable title included in the identity of that person’s role, I am all for it.
When Dr. Atlas was put in charge of the coronavirus taskforce, even though he was a radiologist, inexperienced in epidemiology, Mr. Epstein wasn’t driven to write an op-ed then. Perhaps his silence reflected his peace of mind in having a man, a “legitimate” doctor, in charge, which was more important than epidemiological expertise.
Poor Mr. Epstein is uncomfortable with a First Lady considering identifying herself with her “honorary doctorate.” I am so grateful he took the time to explain his point of view.
When serving a community, the title is shorthand for the relationship and magnitude of responsibility to the people within the community. There are townies who publicly refer to the superintendent as, “Lou,” and I respect them and their choice. I will stick to the honorarium, Dr. Cavallo, (and the same goes for Mayor Hoskins and Chief Aftanas and Dr. Brunson), and I hope First Lady Dr. Jill Biden does too.