We Got Doctors, Lawyers, Politicians, Too*

Fair warning: This isn’t a post about crime fiction. If you’d rather stick to that topic, please come back next time! I’ll be here. This post is about my ‘other life’ as a higher education professional. I was excited, privileged, and so chuffed to be invited to join a panel of women in higher education and the professions. Our topic was the Wall Street Journal article/op-ed about Dr. Jill Biden’s use of her title. This is our response to the article. I’d be really interested in hearing what you think of it if/when you have the time to watch. Sincere thanks to Stacey Forman of the University of Leeds for convening the panel and leading us!

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Annie Lennox’sĀ Sisters are Doin’ it For Themselves.


2 thoughts on “We Got Doctors, Lawyers, Politicians, Too*

  1. That was fascinating, Margot – thanks for sharing it. I didn’t read the full article at the time, just the headlines and the Twitter outrage! I’ve always felt it a little unfortunate that the title given by Universities for non-medical PhDs is the same as we call physicians, since it does lead to a tendency to sneer “but you’re not a REAL doctor” in some quarters. “Professor” doesn’t have that same issue – people seem happier to accept that one can be a real Professor in any subject, and at an equal level. I don’t entirely agree with your medical doctor – is it Esther? – that there’s no difference between surgeons and GPs in terms of qualifications in the UK – my understanding is that surgery involves quite intensive post-grad study and examination leading to Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons, and that that’s why surgeons feel themselves higher up the greasy pole (though many GPs also take FRCS exams, whether they ever practice surgery or not.) I suspect that’s also why in the modern world surgeons make such a point of being called Mr, Miss etc – because they feel otherwise they are considered no more qualified than a “basic” doctor. (Isn’t it funny how these divisions and snobberies continue no matter how high people rise? šŸ˜‰ )

    In terms of the direct question relating to Dr Jill Biden, of course she should be proud of her achievement, especially since it was apparently by no means handed to her on a golden platter. My understanding is she gained it while working and bringing up a family at the same time. But I’m also quite happy for articles like these to come out because they engender discussion and debate, and I suspect lead a lot of silent observers to change or develop their opinions. Cancel culture stifles that, and leaves people entrenched in opposite corners, throwing missiles…

    Sorry, didn’t mean to take up your entire blog space! Take it as a tribute to how much I enjoyed listening to your debate… šŸ˜€

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    1. Thanks, FictionFan! I’m very glad you thought our panel was interesting. šŸ˜Š I felt really privileged to have been invited to be there.
      As for the article, I think you’re right that it’s not a bad thing it came out. If we’re talking about these issues, we’re debating them, acknowledging them, and hopefully doing something productive about them. As you say, name-calling (and worse) isn’t going to solve our underlying problems. Having a topic out there, where we can talk about it (even if that talking is difficult at times) is the way to resolve those issues.

      You make an interesting point about the term ‘Doctor.’ More than once when I’ve used my title, someone has asked me, ‘What’s your specialty?’ (meaning, of course, am I a surgeon, OB-GYN, etc…). When I’ve said that I have a Ph.D., I’ve gotten The Look – you know, the slightly raised eyebrows, and the ‘Oh, that’s nice.’ If I am introduced as ‘Professor,’ you’re right that it’s completely different. That title is much more descriptive of what I do, as you might say.

      But what’s interesting is that there’s a greasy pole when it comes to that term, too. There are levels in academia, as you know. And in the US, to say you’re a professor implies to real academics that you’re at the top of the tree (as opposed to, say, an Assistant Professor, who’s just starting an academic career). And I’m not surprised that the title matters in the medical world, too. Thank you (and Esther) for bringing that up. It doesn’t work that way in the US – everyone with a medical license, whether surgeon, GP, or something else, is ‘Doctor.’. Funny how those things are, isn’t it?

      That said, though, yes, Dr. Biden should use her title. She earned it. And, yes, she did so as she worked and raised a family. So did I, so I know what she went through. Trust me, she didn’t get her degree by going to the right parties and knowing the right people. I can’t speak for her personally, of course, but if my experience is anything to go by, it took years of hard work, study, and preparation to earn that degree.

      Oh, and please feel free to write however much you want if you’ve got something to say. That’s what discussion is supposed to be about, right? šŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

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