And sometimes there’s the perfect response

The author of the letter below had been addressed as ‘Miss’ several times by a reputable journal.

Dear Editorial Office

Since I earned my PhD from a reputable university in 2000, and have
held the rank of Assistant Professor since 2002, I believe I have
earned the right to be addressed in professional contexts as ‘Dr.’ or
‘Professor’ X. (I prefer the former, but I gather the latter is also
standard in the USA.)

I don’t believe my marital status is relevant in any professional
context: should you not wish to address me by professional title, the
appropriate salutation would be ‘Ms.’ or (more conventionally given my
gender) ‘Mr.’

Thanks to SB!

18 thoughts on “And sometimes there’s the perfect response

  1. I recently received a rejection from a good journal in which I was addressed as “Mr.” and my first name, a mistake that had required the well-known philosopher to alter the computer-generated (generated on the basis of the preferences I stated in their web system) greeting.

  2. Admire how the letter’s rhetorical framing spins the intended reader’s assumptions around!

    The tone of the complaint could easily have been, “You got my status wrong *and* my gender wrong (and by the way “Miss” wouldn’t be cool anyway).”

    … [looking for a non-classist way to say… “classy!”]

  3. And even if it wasn’t in part a joke, asking to be addressed by the professionally appropriate title is just a request for professional courtesy. It doesn’t mean you that you derive your self-esteem from your title. It just means that you expect it to be used in contexts where it’s appropriate.

    (For all we know, the author would prefer that all professional titles be abolished. What he’s asking is that, *given that journals are the kinds of things that use professional titles*, the journal should use them consistently.)

  4. I think Andreas completely misses the point. The appellation ‘miss’ does not merely disrespect the author; it disrespects her on the basis of her sex. Calling the journal on it is pointing out its sexism. One can hope that drawing their attention to their sexism might help them to appreciate it. Moreover, it might help to avoid triggering stereotype threat in other women. Rather than say that the letter writer is insecure in her own status, I would say that she is generous enough to act on behalf of others.

  5. @Wednesday:

    If they disrespect someone based on a mistaken gender, it’s still sexist. That, and the author is not necessarily cisgendered either, so the exact context of the last line is not necessarily clear.

  6. Huh. In my experience, scientific journals automatically call everyone “Dr.”. They did it to me before I even was one.

  7. Perhaps some of the male commenters would be surprised to learn that it’s not uncommon for women academics to be addressed as “Miss.” The lletter is not a matter of self esteem, it’s a matter of being a good ally, to me. The person could simply have pointed out that they were a man, but the fact that they took the time to challenge gender stereotypes and biases gives them points in my book.

  8. Glorious!

    Andreas, it’s a good thing that your self-esteem doesn’t come from titles assigned to you. But wishing to challenge diminutive forms of address is not quite the same as hanging your self-esteem on whether or not those diminutive terms are used.

    (Plus, I’ve got a little feeling that you might have missed that it was a joke. Sense of humour fail, perhaps?)

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