Female academics from around the world showed solidarity last week with Fern Riddell, an historian based in Britain, by changing their Twitter display names to say “Dr.” They did so after Riddell was criticized online for tweeting about her title in relation to news that The Globe and Mail planned to use “Dr.” only in reference to medical doctors.
After being called immodest by some commentators, Riddell also started the Twitter hashtag #ImmodestWomen. Women in academe soon began to share their experiences with gender bias or express pride in that descriptor.
Riddell wrote about the criticism and support for the NewStatesman, saying “In the last 48 hours I have been continually told that wanting my professional title to be acknowledged in a public setting, where I work as a public expert, is ‘vulgar’ and ‘immodest,’ and that I lack ‘humility.’ References to my body, my expertise being a ‘turn off,’ and whether or not I was sexual [sic] active, all came from men who seemed unable to accept female expertise and authority in the public domain.”
In “retaliation to this, and knowing how often qualified women in every industry down play their own expertise,” Riddell continued, “I started tweeting with the hashtag #ImmodestWomen. I wasn’t planning a revolution, but it became a call to arms for experts across the world. My timeline is now full of women with their titles and expertise proudly on display, supported by men both in and outside of their industries, and I could not be more surprised and excited to see what they do next. We need experts more than ever today, to combat the dangerous rise of ignorance and animosity that sits at the centre of our governments. We need to know who to trust, and just maybe, this is a starting point.”