Dr. Fern Riddell is a historian with a PhD in sex, suffrage and entertainment in the Victorian and Edwardian era.
Her expertise has given her the opportunity to write for a number of high-profile publications like The Guardian and BBC History (she's even blogged for HuffPost!). Riddell also works as a historical consultant on a number of British TV shows, including "Ripper Street" and "Decline and Fall." She's written two books. And she's proud of her accomplishments.
Earlier this week, Riddell tweeted that she would like to be referred to by the title she worked for years to earn. Reasonable request, right?
My title is Dr Fern Riddell, not Ms or Miss Riddell. I have it because I am an expert, and my life and career consist of being that expert in as many different ways as possible. I worked hard to earned my authority, and I will not give it up to anyone.— Dr Fern Riddell (@FernRiddell) June 13, 2018
According to some men on the internet, the answer is, "no."
If you have to brandish your title like a badge it's probably not worth having. Reputation comes with earnt respect and effort not a title. Einstein, Nobel or Marie Curie did not use genius before their names, we knew exactly who and what they were by knowing the work they did— Nicky Traill (@NickyTraill) June 14, 2018
Wow can you imagine being this arrogant. You're human and remain so. You have no authority save for what your profession allows you to have. The minimum of being a Dr is being an expert in one subfield, the rest is your choice. you're not better for being a Dr as you imply.— Robin van Schendel (@RKAvanSchendel) June 13, 2018
How did you become a Fern? Isn't this post just a little of the great "I am"? Smacks of insecurity or perhaps pomposity. Respect is earned and a demand is risible.— Dafydd Mihangel (@dafyddmihangel) June 14, 2018
Riddell was almost immediately bombarded with the kind of angry, indignant responses that greet many women who choose to be confident online.
"A wave of men suddenly jumped into my mentions saying I was vulgar and immodest," she told BBC News. "It immediately then became a gender issue."
But she didn't back down, and neither did a large group of supporters on Twitter, many of them also women with advanced degrees who were frustrated with the condescending behaviour they see in their day-to-day lives as well as online.
A large number of women with PhDs added their title to their Twitter handles, and they even launched the hashtag #ImmodestWomen to celebrate their assertiveness.
In solidarity with @FernRiddell and all the other women #withaPhD getting grief about this, I, too, have temporarily added my title to my name on Twitter. I don't think this really makes us #ImmodestWomen, just accurate ones.— Dr. April C. Armstrong (@AprilCArmstrong) June 15, 2018
This made my day. So many cool new Drs to follow! Thank you for inspiring me to actually use my title - gives me hope that one day I'll even use it in real life! 💪 #ImmodestWomen #postdoc #phdlife #WomenInSTEM https://t.co/oev2C6keaa— Dr Atma Ivancevic (@jumpin_genes) June 14, 2018
People have gone out of their way to not use my earned title.— Dr Ashley Ingiosi (@AshleyIngiosi) June 14, 2018
People have asked me to refill the plates at a buffet for an academic event I attended.
I've been told my research was "cute."
Joining my fellow #ImmodestWomen.
Riddell was also quick to bat away criticism from someone who quoted Tywin Lannister, the character on "Game of Thrones," unaware that Riddell had worked with Charles Dance, the British actor who played him.
Having worked with him, I know exactly what he thinks about the value of academic expertise. But by all means, continue to rely on fiction.— Dr Fern Riddell (@FernRiddell) June 13, 2018
Riddell told the BBC that her initial tweet was prompted by a recent change in The Globe and Mail's style guide which would take out the prefix "Dr." and replace it with "Mr." or "Mrs." when referring to academics in a context outside of their work. According to the paper's new standards, only medical doctors would be referred to by title.
"It is outrageous," she told the broadcaster. "This is our expertise and people need to know when someone is an expert."
More from HuffPost Canada:
This isn't the first time professional women have been put down by men for ~daring~ to be experts in their respective fields.
In 2016, Dr. Katie Mack, an Australian theoretical astrophysicist, taught a master class in shutting down mansplainers in a tweet that went viral. After tweeting that climate change "scares the heck out of me," a man called Gary P Jackson replied, "Maybe you should learn some actual SCIENCE then, and stop listening to the criminals pushing the #GlobalWarming SCAM!" To which Mack replied:
I dunno, man, I already went and got a PhD in astrophysics. Seems like more than that would be overkill at this point.— Katie Mack (@AstroKatie) August 16, 2016
And don't forget the time when a Twitter user mansplained physics to an actual NASA scientist.
The term "mansplaining," which Men Explain Things To Me author Rebecca Solnit has described as a combination of "overconfidence and cluelessness," has become a cultural phenomenon that's given a name to what women have been dealing with since, well, a really long time: being talked down to by men.
But social media can also be a significant platform for women to talk about these shared experiences. Last year, writer Tracy Clayton asked women on Twitter to share "the most infuriating thing you've had mansplained to you." What she got was tons of examples of men explaining to women on subjects from airplane terminals, tampons and even the definition of the word "indie," among many others.
CORRECTION: HuffPost Canada previously identified a Twitter user as a man, when they are a woman. The error has been fixed.
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