Academic Roasting Qantas For Being Addressed As ‘Miss’ Instead Of ‘Doctor’ Is Out Of Line [Opinion]

flight attendant
Angelo Giampiccolo / shutterstock

Dr. Siobhan O’Dwyer has a beef with Qantas Airways because she was referred to by one of their flight attendants as “Miss,” instead of her honorific title of Doctor. O’Dwyer is a British academic, holding a Ph.D. in Philosophy, so she is entitled to the use of the title, and it is quite important to her as can be divined by using it as part of her name on her social media accounts such as Twitter, and in reference to herself on those accounts when engaged in dialogue. Earning a Ph.D. is something that many people take pride in, just maybe not to the extreme O’Dwyer does.

The feelings of many people chiming in on social media, including many people who have earned the same title both male and female, is that unless a person is using their credentials to in some way establish authority in a professional setting, use of an honorific title is unnecessary. Especially in a case such as the one that O’Dwyer presented, in which in a non-academic setting, a person didn’t address her by her title of preference. Her claim, which no one else has corroborated, is that the flight attendant looked at her, looked at her ticket which had the title Dr. on it, and then called her Miss, per News Australia.

For all the talk of this being an issue of institutionalized sexism, specifically by O’Dwyer, she has come off as being “petty,” “egocentric,” and “precious,” by a number of people sounding off against her on Twitter. Neither O’Dwyer nor anyone else on the plane could say that any flight attendant working the flight, did what she is alleged to have done as a form of disrespect or as a form of marginalization. Nor can anyone say that the flight attendants treated any male in a fashion that elevated them due to their gender. Point being, there is no proof the flight attendants bestowed the title of Doctor upon a man who did not earn it, just because they felt like he looked like he could be one, or they thought he deserved it as a man.

Going through her Twitter feed, it took very little time to find that the issue of not having the title of Dr. attached to anything really sets O’Dwyer off, as can be seen in her tweet regarding a typo on a baggage drop receipt. One user pointed out that Flybe uses online booking, so the error was possibly one O’Dwyer made her self, choosing the wrong drop-down option when inputting her information. Undaunted, O’Dwyer screamed sexism.

Others feel that her insistence on being called Dr. in everything she does and by all whom she encounters, is academic elitism. As a woman that has earned the title of Dr., I use it sparingly. If I am engaged in some activity that requires establishing credentials to my name, I use it. Sometimes I will use it booking a dinner reservation, flight, or hotel on the off chance I might get a better deal or seat.

I do not, and never have, insisted on being called Dr. by a flight attendant, pilot, or anyone else on a plane, even when working in conjunction with the aviation industry. I never required waitstaff, or checkout persons who may have seen “Dr.” on my business credit card to refer to me as such when they bore that title. I certainly never use it on social media profiles because they are personal, and there is no need to establish my credentials to share an article about bikini models.

My own feeling on being called Dr. is that I am enough on my own, and do not need it to validate my ego. I don’t need it to brag, because outside of niche area of expertise, I am no better than anyone else. It doesn’t mean I am actually smarter than my own professional peers who have not reached the same academic levels I have. What it means is, I had the time, ability, and money to complete a field of study at a high level, that many more capable people than me did not share. As such, when someone addresses me as miss, Mrs., ma’am, or senora, even if they know I can be called Dr., I take no offense because those are also titles that can accurately describe me.

It is possible, that rather than the deliberate disrespect that O’Dwyer alleges took place, that in the course of discharging her duties which include; directing around 200 or more people to their seats, helping them stow baggage, answering questions, making sure people are sober enough to be on flight, checking to see hat they don’t appear too ill to fly, watching for suspicious behavior, helping people with special needs, and preparing the cabin for takeoff, that she possibly might have just blanked on the name she just saw on the ticket and called O’Dwyer “miss.” It happens. She may not have thought it to be something a person would interpret as sexist, because she never saw anyone throw a Twitter tantrum over it before.

At the end of the day, Dr. O’Dwyer needs to lighten up. If she was being introduced prior to a lecture, not using her title would be a snub. If she had made it known to someone in advance that it is necessary to address her using her title, she would have a more valid leg to stand on. However, to not be called Dr. by a flight attendant, who she later disrespected by liking comments calling her a “trolley dolly,” puts her hypocrisy on display, and is elitist, sexist, and everything she claims to be against.

The Sun reported, that one flight attendant took exception to O’Dwyer liking comments referring to women in her profession as trolley dollys, and gave her something to think about.

“We may not have completed a PhD however we are required by law 2 maintain quals (sic) that enable us to evacuate an aircraft in 90 secs, keep u alive in-flight, prevent hijacking, put out fires etc”.

Qantas released no statement on the alleged slight, preferring instead to laud their flight attendants and say that they stand behind their professionalism. Others chimed in as well, as reported at News Au, alleging that rather than looking for the simplest explanation for why she may not have been addressed as Dr., she jumped to accusations of sexism, possibly for no reason other than to draw attention to herself, something it is alleged she has done considerably on social media.

Whatever reason O’Dwyer chose to make a spectacle of this, it’s overreacting. Instead of shrugging it off, she chose to go nuclear. She took this alleged act of sexism public, and whether it is good or bad attention, she has sat on Twitter eating it up, and looking for more by jump-starting the drama over and over again despite telling the Daily Mail she wishes it was over. Maybe later, she will tweet what Socrates would say about people who seek attention to build them self up by tearing down others as she did to this flight attendant.