Hi, all! Hope everyone is having an awesome holiday season. The new year is fast upon us, and I sure hope everyone finds some joy in the upcoming seasons and that you’re able to accomplish your goals.
I’m waxing a bit pensive on a Saturday.
I was having a conversation with some of my female academic colleagues last week and one of them (I’ll call her X) brought up something that I’m sure may resonate with some of you, though perhaps you hadn’t really considered it or unpacked it.
X does a lot of research in her fields, and she sometimes gets requests from grad students who are working in the same fields. That’s standard academic networking. It’s perfectly reasonable for grad students to contact professors and/or researchers with questions about their work, regardless of where in the world said professor/researcher is.
At any rate, X responded to this graduate student, who is male (let’s call him Y). He had said that he was a doctoral candidate, which means he’s not a full Ph.D. yet and in academese, that means he’s not yet earned the title of “Doctor of Philosophy,” which gets shortened to “Dr.” No, it doesn’t mean you’re an actual medical doctor. But in the hidebound halls of academia, it’s a title that carries weight, because it means you’ve completed the rigors of graduate school and written your dissertation and successfully defended it. A dissertation, for those not in the know, is a book-length manuscript based on your own research and hypothesis.
This is no small feat. It’s often a lot of years of hard work, often balanced with your other life or lives. Grad school is sort of like academic boot camp, and it tears you down in many different ways. It re-shapes you, it forces you to think in different ways, but it ironically also enforces certain stereotypes. For those of you who assume that academia is some bastion of liberal and progressive thought, sorry. It’s not. It is often inflexible, hierarchical, and full of the -isms that you assume don’t exist there. It’s hard work, especially if you’re LGBT, a woman, if you’re not white. But those, my friends, are conversations for another day.
Back to the story.
So, because Y is not yet a full doctorate with title rights, if you will, X responded to him in her professional way by calling him “Mr.” + [last name] since an M.A. degree doesn’t grant the title “Master.” Fortunately. Cuz that sounds creepy.
With me so far? Okay. Carry on.