An Open Letter to Joseph Epstein Concerning His Suggestion That Dr. Jill Biden Pretend She Does Not, In Fact, Have a Doctoral Degree

Mr. Epstein – Joseph – Joey – kiddo: a bit of advice on what may seem like a small but I think not unimportant part of your personality. Any chance you might drop your wildly cartoonish misogyny? Sure, you seem like a garden-variety woman-hater, but your suggestion that Dr. Jill Biden stop using the ‘Dr.’ in her title sounds and feels fraudulent, not to mention a little comic, when compared to the more sophisticated language of a truly accomplished misogynist.

In the old days, these were sophisticated men. Misogynists once perfected the art of interrupting their female colleagues in every place from the classroom to the board room, and judiciously deployed words like ‘shrill,’ ‘power-hungry,’ and ‘emotional.’ They spoke with an air of eloquence when they said, “I love my wife, but why would she ever need a credit card in her own name?’ or, ‘I’m happy to support a female candidate, I just don’t trust’ that one, or that one, or that one, orthatoneorthatoneorthatone.

But now, the very word misogyny has been tainted by legions of “Screw That Bitch” tank tops and men who fill online comments sections with their demands of “fuck off n die u ugly slut.” These men lack the subtle refinement of the woman-haters of old, the true pillars of male insecurity and mediocrity. And yet they claim the title of ‘misogynist’ for themselves, sullying it for generations of men who worked so hard to make their loathing of women more palatable to the world at large. 

So as for your particular brand of misogyny, Mr. Epstein, hard-earned though it may have been, please consider stowing it, at least in public, at least for now. Forget the small thrill of tearing down women who have accomplished far more than you, and embrace the larger thrill of calling yourself what you truly are: a good, old-fashioned asshole, no honoraries or fancy labels needed.


Kara Oakleaf

Kara Oakleaf’s work has appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Wigleaf, matchbook, Booth, and elsewhere. Her fiction has been selected for Best Small Fictions and the Wigleaf Top 50, and appears in the Bloomsbury anthology Short-Form Creative Writing. She earned her M.F.A. at George Mason University, where she now teaches writing and literature, and directs the Fall for the Book literary festival.

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