Women who have achieved a PhD have been adding Dr. to their Twitter handles and it is just about as wonderful and empowering as it sounds. Have you ever wondered why you might sometimes feel a bit awkward celebrating any achievements? Or why women who do so are sometimes perceived as "braggy" or "arrogant"? Imposter syndrome. It's real. If you haven't already felt it, chances are you are likely to ingest a pretty hefty dose of it at some stage in your life. The "Immodest Women" hashtag recently resurfaced on Twitter in response to this, so what does #immodestwoman mean?
Allow me to fill you in. Even like, if you have worked your butt off, achieving actual documentation that proves you are qualified boss, you can still feel like a little bit awkward about asserting it. This is imposter syndrome. You know, that pressure to adhere to society's norms and expectations; just be a nice girl, keep that pretty mouth shut and above all, just don't cause a fuss, darling. OK, hold up while I wait for my hands to stop shaking with fury after typing that. Inhale. Exhale.
On a more positive note, recently, there was a pretty cool movement started by Dr. Fern Riddell on Twitter, encouraging women to acknowledge their achievements in their handle. Not Miss, not Mrs, nor the third option, Ms. Funny to think that women have three different titles depending on their marital status but men only have one. Just saying.
Dr. Riddell is a cultural historian, and an expert in sex, suffrage, and entertainment in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. She often works in the media, having a column in BBC's History magazine, appearing on TV and radio, being a published author and consulting on period dramas. Basically, without any shadow of a doubt, Dr. Riddell is one seriously accomplished person. Her assertion of her abilities has evolved to gain the #immodestwoman hashtag, with other women agreeing that time is up on this sort of socially conditioned modesty. The term encapsulates a succinct rejection of the "modesty" are women are taught to adopt towards their achievements from a young age, and I'm totally here for it.
I spoke to Dr. Katherine Woolf, senior lecturer in medical education at University College London. She is currently an National Institute for Health Research fellow and also an educational consultant to the Membership of the Royal Colleges of Physicians (UK). She has achieved all of these accolades along with being a mother of twins, an active member of her housing co-operative and, for all her sins, my sister-in-law.
Dr. Woolf tells me:
I had quite a long debate with myself about whether I was going to add Dr. to my Twitter feed. In the end I decided to because I use it partly for work, and my doctorate is relevant to my work. My PhD is in medical education and psychology, and I work in a medical school, so there is the considerable potential for people to mistake me for a medical doctor. I don't, however, tweet medical advice, so I don't think it's a problem."
She also describes how using the Dr. title outside of work is different:
I do feel uncomfortable using my title outside work because basically, I don't think that having a PhD is that much of a big deal and I don't want people to think I do think it is a big deal. It is just a part of my job. The only time I use my title outside work is to make a feminist point. For example, when people refer to me as 'Mrs [partner's surname] or worse. Mrs [partner's first name, partner's surname].' I'm Dr. not Mrs and my name is Katherine Woolf."
Too right, Dr. Woolf. I couldn't possibly have said it better myself.
As with any feminist movement, often the defensive and ridiculous responses from nay sayers are like, too funny to even fully process. But the flood of responses to and support of Dr. Riddell's post has been so overwhelming that she had to temporarily change her flipping notifications settings.
I wonder why women have been made feel that they need to keep shtum about their achievements? Socially conditioned to stay in our place and be humble and "nice". The fact is, when women stand up, and stand together with respect and support, we are unstoppable. Don't even try it, boys.