As I was looking through blog posts today, I found this post on using the doctor honorific as a female. While I had not seen the event on Twitter that the post refers to, the story still stood out to me as a very emotionally charged and strong blog post. While I hope you take the time to read the post, what the author discusses is what it is like to have a doctorate and to the thought process that goes into deciding whether or not you go by Dr., Mrs., Ms., Mr. or any other honorific that you may be entitled to. The author focuses on the pressure that she feels as a woman to forgo the doctor honorific. She feels that when using the Dr. honorific she is either met with
Dr Allen, excuse me, is he there
is presumed to be overreaching or posturing, and if she points to her qualifications, she’s insecurely boasting.
While I cannot say that I have fully experienced this problem, since I am a male, I still feel like I can empathize with the issue as I have had to go through my own thought process on the subject. In the story, she does address the issue of using the honorific in the classroom; however, I would like to focus on the social aspect.
In particular, when formally introducing myself, I do so as Dr. Justin Albert. Quite frequently I am given a look back that seems to say, I don’t really believe you have a doctorate because you are too young, casual, short or any number of other things that seem to preclude me from having a doctorate. Perhaps it is that people really do have a vision in their mind of an old physician when they here the term doctor and any change from that view point seems to throw them off. It feels as if I’m being judged for not outwardly looking like the mental picture that people have in their mind.
While I try to understand their viewpoint, I’m not sure why mention of doctor seems to bring the picture of an old man to mind. Perhaps it is part of being in academia so long, but the term to me brings about any number of faces ranging in sex, age, race and every other way. Why is this old image maintained? I really don’t have an answer to this, so I simply wanted to impart my thoughts.
Other than preconceived notions, I also feel like there seems to be an anti-intellectualism in America that really keeps me from wanting to announce that I have a doctorate. I have often feel words like academic and educated are used as pejorative terms. Recently, I was even referred to as a genius as if it was a slur and that I should be ashamed of my intelligence.
For example, when I tell people I am a mathematician, the most common response I get is, “I am terrible at math.” The hold that statement like a badge of honor and imply that I am wasting my life by pursuing such a field of study. Many people’s response to my having a doctorate is often of a similar motivation as they state that they could never go to school that long, or they imply it was a waste of time to do that much studying. This often leads to a social awkwardness for both parties involved. As such, it is often easier to try to avoid the situation and go by Justin whenever I can and avoid the subject of my career with people if I am unsure how they will react.
Now, I do want to point out that everyone has their own preferences and must make their own decisions in life. If you don’t enjoy a subject, a statement along the lines, “I prefer _______ to mathematics,” or “I felt the right choice for me was to not go to college,” then recognizes that you made a choice in life that is different than mine and it degrades neither of us. However, even though each person is entitled to his/her own life choices, you should still be able to celebrate your accomplishments in life and try to foster your interests in others.
I personally value education. I believe that it is important to pursue as far as you can in order to improve your own life. Every new things I experience or learn brings a greater depth and enjoyment to my life, so I want to continue on my path of learning. This is one of the reasons I use the doctor honorific even when it causes social awkwardness. I hope that by sharing my experiences, I may be able to inspire some else to pursue their own interests. That the short, (not that) young guy has a doctorate, so I can be too (and I don’t have to be an old physician). I would encourage anyone with any form of doctorate, male or female, to be proud of that accomplishment and let everyone know what you’ve done.