Raise your hand if you have the title “Dr.” before your name. Chances are, if you do, you worked really freaking hard to get it there!
A Wall Street Journal op-ed published just this past Friday, referred to our former second lady (soon to be first lady!) as, “Madame First Lady – Mrs. Biden – Jill – kiddo.” This piece, written by a man, proceeded to argue that she should drop the “Dr.” before her name.
Being called “Mrs.” when you are “Dr.” without the opportunity to correct this person, is offensive in and of itself. However, to take it a step further and call her “kiddo” while also insulting her education is simply beyond out of line.
Forever the classy woman that she is, Dr. Jill Biden seemingly responded on Twitter by saying, “Together, we will build a world where the accomplishments of our daughters will be celebrated, rather than diminished.”
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff, came to the defense of Dr. Jill Biden saying, “Dr. Biden earned her degrees through hard work and pure grit. She is an inspiration to me, to her students, and to Americans across this country. This story would never have been written about a man.”
I was given a riddle in elementary school. A father and son are in a car accident. Both are seriously injured. They are taken to separate hospitals. When the boy is taken in for an operation, the surgeon (DOCTOR) says, “I cannot do the surgery, this is my son.” How is this possible? A staggering number of people could not come to the conclusion that the surgeon/doctor was the child’s mother. We have a preconceived notion of many professions simply being male dominated. Perhaps it is due to bias, books, Hollywood, or our upbringing.
As a woman, I can remember countless times I have been subjected to casual sexism. Men likely witness it or partake in it all the time, possibly without noticing.
The language we hear frequently is inherently sexist:
Can “you run like a girl” mean “you’re going to win the race?” Sure, it could, but it doesn’t.
When women react similarly to men in certain situations they are seen as “emotional” or “hysterical” while men are seen as “passionate.”
Women fighting for their place at work or in social settings can be seen as “bitchy” or “power hungry” while men are simply seen as “driven.”
There is a whole genre of movies deemed “chick flicks,” but, what do men have?
Older women are called “witches” while men are deemed “silver foxes.”
Men can even get praised for their sexual prowess while women are slut-shamed for similar behaviors.
Women tend to get asked more about marriage and children or work-life balance while men are just assumed to have it all together.
One of the worst things we can do in the face of sexism, is to just let it go or stay silent. We cannot perpetuate this behavior or validate it by staying quiet, laughing, or changing the subject. This goes for both women and men. As women, we need to call out when sexist things happen to us or to our peers. Men need to start seeing more of the sexist behavior that likely surrounds them all the time and help end this cycle.
Here are some ways to take a more active approach to battling sexism:
- Point out when someone calls you/a woman by a name. Being called “sweetheart” is rarely a compliment. Especially at work. Point it out and make a firm statement, “Actually my/her name is Mary. If I/she were a sweetheart we wouldn’t have gotten as far with this project.”
- Pretend you don’t understand. Ask follow up questions or make comments that push their comfort. “What did you mean by that comment on women and driving?” Making people explain their comments or “jokes” may help them to realize what they are saying is actually sexist. Sometimes even pointing out how ridiculous their comments or “jokes” are can be fun too “Yeah, those women drivers, being considerate and statistically causing fewer accidents. How dare they!”
- Ask if the same would be said about a man. “Oh, do you make those comments on your male co-worker’s outfits or just Jenny’s?” Simply asking a question can sometimes stun the person into silence or even a realization of how wrong they are.
- Stand up for yourself/women. If a man tries to take credit for your idea/a female coworker’s idea in the office, simply say something like, “OK it sounds like you agree with my proposed plan” or “That sounds a lot like what Chelsea said.” Women deserve credit. We should not let anyone take it away or minimize our ideas.
- Amplify the ideas of women. I’ve shared before how the women in Obama’s White House would all agree to support each other in meetings. It is important to band together as women, have each other’s backs, and reiterate each other’s ideas – giving credit where credit is due.
- Accept praise and compliments. Oftentimes in work situations, I see women praised for the job they do and they respond with phrases like “it was a team effort” or “couldn’t have done it without you.” WE WORK HARD. We should accept praise and compliments for our work. Especially since we usually do it while juggling relationships, households, families, and more.
- Acknowledge sexism. This one may seem obvious but there are plenty of opportunities to do this: salary transparency, hiring goals, family-friendly practices… These can all be talked about more and help acknowledge a culture of sexism. It’s one of the only ways to make change.
Here are some resources to help you get more educated on sexism:
And some books to read:
Pulling folks up and calling out those on their sexism is the first step to creating a lasting chance when it comes to the way we talk about men and women.