If someone puts in the time, money and effort to earn a degree, they deserve whatever title comes with it regardless of their gender, race or ethnicity.
At least that’s what Dr. Siobhan O’Dwyer believes.
However people of color and women routinely have one title ignored or changed when their credentials or documentation display it. That title is “doctor.”
Recently, Dr. Siobhan O’Dwyer let Quantas Airlines know she did not appreciate a member of their staff reading the title “Dr.” on her airline ticket, then choosing to call her “Miss” instead. And like many people now, O’Dwyer shared her experience on Twitter.
“My ticket says Dr O’Dwyer. Do not look at my ticket, look at me, look back at my ticket, decide it’s a typo, and call me Miss O’Dwyer.”
Hey @Qantas, my name is Dr O’Dwyer. My ticket says Dr O’Dwyer. Do not look at my ticket, look at me, look back at my ticket, decide it’s a typo, and call me Miss O’Dwyer. I did not spend 8 years at university to be called Miss.
— Dr Siobhan O'Dwyer (@Siobhan_ODwyer) August 31, 2018
However instead of support, O’Dwyer faced a backlash of people calling her egotistical, entitled and elitist for asking Qantas to use the title displayed on her airline tickets.
But some people understood where O’Dwyer was coming from.
Elitism? It’s about the routine negative assumptions made about women, based upon bias. I use my title because I do not want to be identified by my marital status AND because I earned it. It is MY title. #ImmodestWomen
— Dr Glen Pennington (@Dr_GP_PhD) September 1, 2018
Why don’t the trolls understand that it’s about equality?
— Jeff Craig (@DrChromo) September 3, 2018
Exactly. Happens to female colleagues all the time, males rarely. I'd prefer to be called by my first name. If they must use a title, use my title, not some title they think I look like I should have!
— Dr. Sonia Fullerton (@sonialf) September 3, 2018
Also, for those saying “a doctorate isn’t a real doctor”, look at the medicines, the technology, the diagnostic tools that you are using every day. A GP didn’t design those. A person with a doctorate did. A freaking DOCTOR.
— emmajayes (@emajayes) September 3, 2018
O’Dwyer earned a doctorate of philosophy in 2009.
Many on Twitter are blasting O’Dwyer for the tweet, with some stating it is because she is not a medical doctor. But female medical doctors also cited routinely having their titles changed to “Mrs.” or “Miss.”.
This is one of the most cringeworthy tweets I have ever seen. The majority of people with certain qualifications don't need to broadcast it. God help the servers at Starbucks having to fit that title on the cup.#dramaqueen
— John Pidgeon (@jonnypmayo) September 7, 2018
Oh dear, maybe your title should be ‘en-title’?
— Rob Suisted (@RobSuisted) September 2, 2018
Dr Othman here. Does being addressed as Miss O’Dwyer makes you worth less than Dr. O’Dwyer? I totally understand that it’s totally not about your ego. If it’s so important that people get your title correct, stamp it on your forehead.
— Mazliza Othman (@mazliza) September 7, 2018
My female doctor insists on being called by her first name; she has no ego, unlike you.
— Nicola Ball (@nicolaannobrien) September 7, 2018
After the tweet had gone viral, O’Dwyer clarified her statement in another tweet.
Copping so much flack for this tweet. This was not about my ego. It was about highlighting one of a thousand instances of sexism that women encounter every day. It’s not about the title, it’s about the fact that this wouldn’t have happened if I was a man. https://t.co/1XHvQIb2iZ
— Dr Siobhan O'Dwyer (@Siobhan_ODwyer) September 2, 2018
Dr. O’Dwyer’s fellow doctors expressed their disappointment about the vitriol aimed at her.
Wow, responses to this are a nasty blend of anti-intellectualism and sexism. 🙁
— Dr Darren Saunders (@whereisdaz) September 3, 2018
Comments on this piece reveal shocking anti-intellectualism and abuse (title degraded). Stunned to see this behaviour normalised. Really shocking stuff – must stop. #academiclife #academia #immodestwomen https://t.co/s1Jrs0tu4b
— Dr Tony Jackson (@DrTonyJackson) September 6, 2018
Oh, how quickly Twitter forgets.
Only a few months ago, another female doctor, Dr. Fern Riddell, began a viral hashtag, #ImmodestWomen, addressing this same issue. Numerous publications and news organizations covered the story, including Guacamoley.
Here is the link to our coverage.
Dr. Riddell’s point was if a seemingly male person bears the title “Dr.” on their nametag or office door or airline ticket, people rarely decide to change that title to “Mr.” or ask if the person is a medical doctor before deciding what title to give them. They just read the title the person has and call them “Dr.”.
However this change of titles to anything but “Dr.” routinely happens to people perceived as female whose documentation clearly says “Dr.”. And when women ask to be addressed in the manner present on their credentials, they are routinely chastised for boasting or being immodest or questioned about what type of doctor they are (see above Twitter reactions).
To all the dudes replying to this thread (and at least one clueless woman with a bad case of internalised misogyny), we have just had the mother of all twitter debates on this issue. It is settled. Women get to be doctors, too. Deal with it. #immodestwomen https://t.co/mrRrUtihvp
— Deb (@deborahbrian) September 3, 2018
While Twitter may still be divided on the subject, Dr. O’Dwyer’s title reflects eight years of hard work.
And when addressing any person, is it not always best to just use the title in front of you, not the new one you decide they should have based on your perception of them?