An academic has sparked debate over appropriate titles with a tweet which has proved controversial.
Dr Siobhan O’Dwyer from Australia was left furious after a flight attendant referred to her as ‘Miss’ rather than ‘Dr’.
Dr O’Dwyer – who holds a PhD in philosophy – tweeted to Qantas airline to express her disapproval, writing:
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.
A number of other female academics sympathised with Dr O’Dwyer, admitting they too had experienced similar situations, even when their male colleagues were addressed correctly.
One woman said:
I often travel with male colleagues who do get ‘Dr’ and then I get called ‘Miss’. It’s the casual nature of the sexism that makes it so hard to combat. Keep calling it out Dr O’Dwyer.
This has been a constant fight with my doctor’s office. ‘May we speak to Miss Angela Fowler?’ Me, ‘It’s Dr.’ Them, ‘Excuse me?’ Me, ‘It’s Dr not Miss. I tell you guys this EVERY time you call.’ They just finally made a note in my chart.
Others described the flight attendant as being ‘rude and […] disrespectful’, agreeing how Dr O’Dwyer’s advanced degrees had earned her a certain level of respect.
However, the comments quickly got heated when another female academic – Dr Mel Thomson – joined the debate; referring to the flight attendant dismissively as ‘some trolley dolly’:
You have all of the solidarity on this issue.
I’m first gen to finish high school (let alone get several degrees) in my family … I’ll be damned is some trolley dolly gets to decide what honorific I get called, FFS.
Unfortunately, this response alienated some of those who had previously been on board with Dr O’Dwyer’s argument; with many expressing concern over some of the ‘snobbish’ and ‘elitist’ attitudes expressed in the comment section.
One air stewardess in particular took issue, calling the commenter out for the patronising and outdated term:
Please don’t refer to us as trolley dollies. We may not have completed a PhD however we are required by law 2 maintain quals that enable us to evacuate an aircraft in 90 secs, keep you alive in-flight, prevent hijacking, put out fires etc.
I have always used the correct honorific. And I have always been especially careful to ensure I used it when I saw it on a woman’s boarding pass as I was proud to be able to support the woman and her achievements in a male-centric world.
You’ve just gone and sh*t on that with your condescending comment about us.
Hi Dr. O’Dwyer. It’s great and all you have a PhD. I get it must have took a lot of hard work and effort. But tone down on the ego, ok?
— Arsen Ostrovsky (@Ostrov_A) September 5, 2018
I generally try to use a person's honorific. In school I called my professors "Dr." or, if not a Ph.D., "Professor."
But anytime a person INSISTS I call them by their honorific, I call them "asshole." Your Ph.D. is meaningful in academic circles only, and in your specific field.
— Okay_DM (@okay_dm) September 4, 2018
As a woman working in a male dominated bldg industry, I hear ya! But at the same time I doubt you went to univ for 8yrs to worry about what title some low paid airline employee uses to refer to you. As a Dr you should know life is short. Pick your battles. This isn’t one of them!
— Me (@MyOzFeed) September 2, 2018
My doctor asks me to call him David. I love non-pretentious people.
— jeanvb (@jean_virginia) September 5, 2018
My mother has so many stories like this. The number of times my parents had to send chequebooks back to the bank, because they kept changing the names to Dr. and Mrs., when they were supposed to be Dr. and Dr.!
— Judith Pudden (@judithpudden) September 4, 2018
A Qantas spokesperson has since made the following statement to Daily Mail Australia:
We are extremely proud of our cabin crew who respectfully serve our customers day in and day out and play a vital safety role.
After her tweet went viral, Dr O’Dwyer took to Twitter once again; this time to deny she had tweeted in a bid to feed her 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.
Would you have been annoyed if she’d called you Siobhan? As a Mrs with non-doctorate qualifications I can’t say I care if people get details wrong when I’m boarding a plane. I’m usually just relieved they’re letting me on with my outrageous flaunting of baggage allowance rules.
— ☆ Mrs G ☆ (@deeptulip) September 3, 2018
Would have thought that anyone who insists to be referred to as DOCTOR on a plane will be the one standing when the voice on the PA speaker says "is there a doctor on board"?. Cant really talk someone out of a heart attack.
— ? Oren F ? (@Orenf318) September 5, 2018
I flew @Qantas once. They called me ‘sir’. I haven’t even been knighted, let alone met the queen! I didn’t spend 18 years growing to be called ‘sir’. It’s MR. Get it!
— Alex Hidell (@nonparlezfrench) September 6, 2018
Do you believe a male academic would face the same problem while flying?
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Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.