Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t ever remember a U.S. president-elect “calling in” to Dick Clark’s (now Ryan Seacrest’s) New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, so it was kind of a trip to see Ryan do a mini-interview with the Bidens.
The interview was awkward due to the time delay, and you know, the fact that the whole world is experiencing a pandemic, but I get why they would want to be on Rockin’ Eve --Joe Biden is trying to promote the message that the COVID vaccines are safe and is working to fulfill his promise of 100 million vaccine shots in the first 100 days of his administration. This message is especially important because several news stories have indicated that a significant number of healthcare workers across the United States are refusing the vaccine, in spite of having priority access to inoculation.
Aside from trying to joke about Dr. Biden’s fear of needles and the uncomfortable moment when her little confetti cannon did not pop, I could not help but notice that Ryan made a point to refer to the soon-to-be first lady as “Doctor.” Maybe at another time this would have gone unnoticed, but as you probably have read, an idiot was allowed to write a condescending, misogynistic and classist op-ed in The Wall Street Journal where he asked Dr. Biden, in so many words, to get over herself and drop the title she earned. As LaineyGossip’s resident doctorate holder, you can imagine I had some thoughts at the time, and I would have written a super angry post when it all went down if I had not, you know, been really busy wrapping up the semester at the community college where I’m a professor. Since I have the time now, I’ll try to share some of these thoughts here.
It is no surprise to me that The Wall Street Journal chose to publish this garbage. It is no surprise to me that a man with a BA and has received an honorary doctorate, does not see, understand, or value the importance of a woman being proud of her accomplishments, even as she is married to the United States president-elect. It is not surprising to me that this man was dismissive of Dr. Biden’s research or her teaching because of the population she has studied and served--community college students. It is not surprising to me or many other educators because we experience this nonsense all the time.
Anger from reading it aside, it made me reflect again on my choice to use my title of “Dr.” in my work life. I defended my dissertation almost six years ago, a goal that I accomplished while teaching full-time, doing freelance work, and having two children. Getting a doctoral degree is no easy feat anyway, and for someone like me, a Chicana, I had a 1 in 500 chance (versus Dr. Biden’s 1 in 100 or this clown's 1 in 50 chance). It is an accomplishment that came after so much sacrifice (from myself, my family), and that I’ve often downplayed because I’ve been socialized and have internalized that I should not be “full of myself,” and that I will be “found out” as an imposter.
One day, as a colleague of mine was introducing me to her students, she kept referring to me as “Dr. S.” I felt so awkward about it. When she and I were alone, I said, “Please call me Violeta. You don’t need to call me Dr. S.” And then this badass colega set me straight. She reminded me of the Latina/o Education Pipeline, and how so many of us leak out. Since many of our students identify as Latinx on our campus, she said, “I will always call you Dr. S. They need to see you and know what is possible. I’ll call you Dr. S so they can see that they can make it all the way.” And ever since then, I knew I’d have to work on not feeling so awkward hearing my title, and instead feel proud of what this title represents for myself, for my family, and for my community.
When I introduce myself to my students, I tell them they can call me “Dr.” or “Professor” or “Profe”, the last being a word that is part title and part term of endearment that I tell them I reserved for my favorite teachers from when I was a student in Mexico. I ask that they please don’t call me “Mrs.” because, while I am married, it is not a title I had to earn. Most of them call me “Profe.”
When I gave my opening statement at my dissertation defense, a work that highlighted Chicanx narratives about education and the American Dream, I cited the numbers in the Chicanx education pipeline to highlight not just that I would be that 1 in 500...but that I went into this profession to change these numbers altogether. Because in my most hopeful moments I believe the classroom has the power to transform and to liberate, and I want that opportunity to be available to anyone who wants it.
And because I cannot end this post without a laugh, here is the clip that played in my head as I first read this nonsense at The Wall Street Journal--a clip from Brooklyn 99 in which Holt tries to get under a suspect’s skin by mocking dentists and ends up losing it when this dentist (played brilliantly by Sterling K. Brown) argues that professors should not get to call themselves doctors.
“Apparently that’s a trigger for me.”