Paul Gigot, Wall Street Journal editor, made a serious miscalculation in his defense of Joseph Epstein’s misogynistic attack on Dr. Jill Biden. Let’s dissect, shall we?
The Wall Street Journal’s Paul A. Gigot has doubled down on defending a misogynistic op-ed he published that attacked Dr. Jill Biden for using her title “Dr.” The author, Joseph Epstein, disparagingly referred to Dr. Biden as “kiddo,” and belittled both her academic credentials and her teaching and research. Gigot, the editorial page editor and vice president of the Wall Street Journal, responded to the firestorm against the author with a shoddy defense based on flabby logic and a paroxysm of patriarchy.
Here is my response.
Mr. Gigot – Not Dr. – Paul – Pauly – kiddo: a bit of advice on what may seem like a small but I think is a not unimportant matter. Any chance you might drop the Joseph Epstein from your editorial page? The choice to publish Joey-kiddo’s column attacking Dr. Jill Biden sounded and felt fraudulent, not to say a touch anachronistic. Joey’s essay had the unpromising title “Is There a Doctor in the White House? Not if You Need an M.D.” Many have wisely advised you to retract the piece and apologize for your error in judgment.
Think about it, Pauly, and forthwith drop the Epstein.
In your defense of your decision, you tried to downplay the egregious misogyny of the essay. “Why go to such lengths to highlight a single op-ed on a relatively minor issue?” you wrote in a letter to readers.
Way to gaslight, Gigot!
Calling this a “minor issue” is a diversionary tactic that will not work. You knew such an incendiary piece would engender strong responses. That is why you printed it. So feigning innocence is disingenuous at best. You can’t throw a grenade and then tell everyone it’s just a “minor issue.”
Another red herring you used was noting that President-elect Joe Biden uses the word “kiddo” when talking to his spouse. Let me repeat that: his spouse. Spouses have terms of endearment for each other. It’s a sign of affection. Only a clueless idiot would try to use such a term to refer to someone who is not his paramour, much less a woman who is, in all respects, superior to him in academic credentials. Only an even bigger cretin would offer such a pathetic excuse in defense of this kind of unprofessionalism.
Speaking of the incoming president, you tried to blame the “Biden team” for using “the big gun of identity politics to send a message to critics as it prepares to take power.”
Oh, honey. You and your fascination with big guns.
No, the team you should be concerned about is the multitude of educated women who are having none of your white male fragility. We are accomplished. We are proud. And we are united in our strength. We are also blessed with supportive male colleagues who see right through your own “identity politics” and are denouncing you loudly and consistently.
To be clear, Pauly, Epstein’s essay was no mere provocation. It was abusive. The outcry has come not only from the incoming administration, but from millions of women who have been subjected to the kind of smarmy invective that Epstein brazenly flung at Dr. Biden. And which you chose to put into print.
In my rebuttal to kiddo-joey, I advised the Wall Street Journal, “It is long past time to usher this octogenarian into retirement. To be clear, it is not his age that is the problem. The problem is your enabling of a rasping, crooked-fingered, irrelevant Scrooge who bah-humbugs his way through life with not a whiff of respect for those he secretly envies.”
Since then, I’ve come to realize that the problem is worse than mere enabling. It is knowingly perpetuating a pattern of abuse.
You published the work of a man who has a well-documented history of being abusive. Over and over, you have given this abuser a platform by publishing his op-eds.
Just like Phi Beta Kappa gave him an editorial position for twenty years even when he published homophobic rants.
Just like Northwestern University allowed him to teach students for thirty years, even without sufficient credentials. They may have scrubbed his name from their website and issued a statement denouncing and distancing themselves from him after the essay went viral. But they had to have known about his reputation and read his student evaluations. At least one former female student has shared her story about Epstein’s abusive behavior in the classroom. Hers is likely not an isolated incident.
It is unconscionable that the institutions that have employed Epstein over the years have allowed him to continue in this pattern of harmful behavior.
So this is not about media and academic censorship. This is about women rising up en masse to say: no more! No more making ourselves small so that you can feel big. No more self-diminution to cosset a bitter, brittle ego.
Yet, embarrassingly, you made things even worse for yourself by saying, “There’s nothing like playing the race or gender card to stifle criticism.”
Oh, Pauly. Bless your heart. You are the one who has played the gender card. And your blunder has failed spectacularly.
You and kiddo-Epstein thought you had a winning hand by playing a pair of twos – misogyny and anti-academia. Instead, women with advanced degrees are calling your bluff. We have a straight flush of intelligence, self-respect, accomplishment, dignity, and credentials. We also have an ace in the hole – solidarity. Neither Epstein nor you, nor any bloviating, bombastic man will finally succeed in your mission to undercut, insult, or abuse women into submission.
Your wagon-circling has been a tiresome ploy for quite some time.
In July of this year, you wrote a response to criticism of your editorial department. “As long as our proprietors allow us the privilege to do so, the opinion pages will continue to publish contributors who speak their minds within the tradition of vigorous, reasoned discourse.”
Here’s where you miscalculated with joey-kiddo’s op-ed, Pauly. While it was certainly vigorous, it was in no way reasoned. In your defense of Epstein, you said he made a valid point by attacking Dr. Biden’s doctorate. But his “point” only provided a classic example of someone making an argument based on a false premise. Like a man who insists that because he made money without a college degree, college is worthless.
In this case, kiddo-Epstein’s argument essentially was: “I taught at a university without a PhD, ergo that degree deserves no respect.” But the logic of his argument is fatally flawed. Here’s why. The reason he was able to teach at a university without a PhD is precisely because he was a white male. His teaching position was due to a system that enables white males this kind of undeserved access while systematically denying it to qualified, credential, and capable females – especially females who are black, brown, Asian, or Native America.
In other words, it is the racist, sexist hierarchy that deserves no respect—not the PhD degree itself.
Still, with the stubbornness of a monkey caught in a trap because his hand refuses to release its treasure in the hole, you doubled down on your position. “These pages aren’t going to stop publishing provocative essays merely because they offend the new administration or the political censors in the media and academe,” you shrieked. Similarly, in July you stomped your feet like a tantruming Yosemite Sam. “These columns will continue to promote the principles of free people and free markets, which are more important than ever in what is a culture of growing progressive conformity and intolerance.”
Kiddo, I’ll try to explain this to you in a way you can understand.
You and the Wall Street Journal may be catering to a demographic epitomized by rich, cranky, grampa-joey-epstein, but you are on a fool’s errand. The reality is that your misogyny is finally catching up to you. And your double-down is having the exact opposite effect of the diminishment you and joey-kiddo intended.
Remember how Mitch McConnell’s ill-fated “Nevertheless, She Persisted” meant to silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren became a rallying cry of female empowerment? Similarly, your decision to run Epstein’s op-ed is only going to inspire millions women to claim their humanity, self-esteem, hard-earned success, and yes – their titles. [Read: That’s “Rev. Dr.” to you, kiddo. A rebuttal to WSJ’s Joseph Epstein.]
Pauly, you lamented that a “wave of progressive cancel culture” has arrived at the Wall Street Journal, and that you won’t stand for it. “Our opinion pages offer an alternative to the uniform progressive views that dominate nearly all of today’s media.”
Take my hand, Pauly. Let me help you grasp what you are refusing to understand. Respecting women is not merely “progressive.” It’s a requirement for participation in society.
Former First Lady Michelle Obama could not have said it better: you have chosen the weakness of ridicule over the strength of respect.
And for that, you deserve to be “cancelled.”
You may petulantly whine, “This is how cancel culture works.”
But no, sweetie. This is how the cancelling of patriarchy works.
One insecure, washed-up college lecturer at a time. One pompous, bullying editor at a time.
Leah D. Schade is the Assistant Professor of Preaching and Worship at Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky and ordained in the ELCA. Dr. Schade does not speak for LTS or the ELCA; her opinions are her own. She is the author of Preaching in the Purple Zone: Ministry in the Red-Blue Divide (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019) and Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit (Chalice Press, 2015). She is the co-editor of Rooted and Rising: Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019). Her latest book, co-written with Jerry Sumney is Apocalypse When?: A Guide to Interpreting and Preaching Apocalyptic Texts (Wipf & Stock, 2020).
Leah is also co-founder of the Clergy Emergency League, a grassroots network of clergy that provides support, accountability, resources, and networking for clergy to prophetically minister in their congregations and the public square in this time of political upheaval, social unrest, and partisan division.