Tim Hunt and the "trouble with girls"

Toby Frost

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AnyaKimlin

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I am a pretty upfront and radical feminist however I feel very sorry for the guy and unapologetically so.

He's a 72 year old man who makes a better scientist than he does comedian. If hoards of women come forward saying what an awful sexist misogynistic pig he his and he has treated them badly then I will reassess my opinion. However, so far any who have come forward have said the exact opposite which leads me to suspect he was just being a pillock.

I had several lecturers that could have so easily made the same gaffe but they supported me in my goals and when I became too ill to continue fought to try and keep me. I'd have hated to watch them go through this.

It feels like one man is being held out to dry for the failings of society. It was like one female scientist moaned about how she couldn't go to the pub to talk about grants because she had to go home to feed her family. Well I actually think that is not the science field's fault it's her husband's -- he could sometimes have gone home and fed his children so she could go to the pub. It was a society issue.

I just think about my gran her language was sexist, racist, homophobic etc because she was born in 1907 she wasn't actually any of those things and was remarkably tolerant for the time and place in which she was born.
 

Toby Frost

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I agree. What disturbs me isn't so much the sexism angle - he was wrong and that's that - but how quickly people rush to denounce someone as soon as they become a "baddie" (hence the Communist jargon!). Surely the correct reply is just to think "idiot", accept his apology and expect him not to do it again.

It's as if as soon as someone steps out of line - whatever "line" you take, because I don't think this is a right or left thing - you can do whatever you want to them with impunity. People just seem to want to gang up on somebody, and if they can bully someone and feel righteous at the same time, so much the better.
 

Ursa major

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I'd feel a lot less sympathy for him if others hadn't been actively allowing/enabling (rather than simply talking about) the segregation of men and women at, for example, their universities (albeit at events** staged there, not ones part of the curriculum***); as far as I can tell, none of these people have paid any penalty whatsoever for their disgraceful behaviour. (The same goes for those****, at the organisation "Universities UK" (UUK), whose guidance supported such segregation.) And I can't help feeling that they -- as administrators, not Nobel laureates -- would be eminently more replaceable if they were to be encouraged to resign (as they should have been).


** - Specifically academic meetings or in lectures open to the public. (Note that UK Equality law permits gender segregation in premises that are permanently or temporarily being used for the purposes of an organised religion where its doctrines require it, but these were not the subject of the scandal.)

*** - As far as I know, that is.

**** - The chief executive of UUK, Nicola Dandridge, is still in place. UUK had to change its guidance after EHRC (Equality and Human Rights Commission) chief executive Mark Hammond said it was not permissible under the law for universities to segregate by gender in academic meetings. (Perhaps UUK should have waited for a ruling before putting out its original guidance.) I note that Nicola Dandridge was, before taking up her role at UUK, Chief Executive of Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) who promote the equality and diversity for staff and students in higher education across all four nations of the UK, and in colleges in Scotland. (As they say: "You couldn't make this up.")
 

willwallace

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Being forced to resign seems to me to be a knee jerk over-reaction to what he said. The man has had a long career with no previous hints of sexist activities before this. Clearly he made a poor joke. At least some women are coming to his defense-

“Tim taught me as an undergraduate, and I have known him for years,” plant biologist Professor Ottoline Leysertold the Observer. “It is quite clear to me that he is not a sexist in any way. I don’t know why he said those silly things, but the way his remarks have been taken up implies that women in science are having a horrible time. That is not the case. I, for one, am having a wonderful time.”

“During the time I worked with him he was always immensely supportive of the ERC’s(European Research Council) work around gender equality,” added another female former co-worker, Dame Athene Donald, a physics professor at Cambridge. “His off-the-cuff remarks in Korea are clearly inappropriate and indefensible, but … he has worked tirelessly in support of young scientists of both genders.”

Zero tolerance for one mistake seems pretty harsh to me, stacked up against a long career with no other hints of impropriety.
 

purple_kathryn

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I would've thought it was pretty obvious that you can't really joke about a group you aren't a part of without coming across as being sexist or racist or sectarian. "The trouble with black scientists...." for example.
Besides his apology wasn't much in the way of apology since he said he believed it.
 

Brian G Turner

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I would've thought it was pretty obvious that you can't really joke about a group you aren't a part of without coming across as being sexist or racist or sectarian. "The trouble with black scientists...." for example.
Besides his apology wasn't much in the way of apology since he said he believed it.

I agree. If you're speaking in public and make crass comments, you need to stand behind them, or accept a public backlash.

In the meantime, here are some of the more light-hearted responses from Twitter on the BBC website:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-trending-33099289
 

AnyaKimlin

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I would've thought it was pretty obvious that you can't really joke about a group you aren't a part of without coming across as being sexist or racist or sectarian. "The trouble with black scientists...." for example.
Besides his apology wasn't much in the way of apology since he said he believed it.

It doesn't mean he should have been hounded or forced to resign. Nobody is supporting the words not even his wife who is who he appears to have been referring to mostly with the joke.

However, nobody is coming forward to say he is sexist or misogynistic.
 

Ray McCarthy

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Trial by FaceTwits, not his peers or employer. Perhaps he has a case for constructive dismissal by the University. Even when you resign, you can prove it was an unfair sacking.
 

willwallace

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I agree. If you're speaking in public and make crass comments, you need to stand behind them, or accept a public backlash.

Accepting a backlash is one thing. Being forced to resign is a totally ridiculous response in my opinion. I'm sure this guy has spoken thousands of times over his career in public, and doesn't seem to have created any controversies before. Of course we can't know what he said in those instances, but the defense by former female students and associates seems to point to his being overall a decent person.

If everyone has to be perfect in what they say, all the time, then we would be holding people to an unrealistic standard. Humans are human, after all, and we make mistakes, say stupid things sometimes, all the while striving to be as good as we can. But we're not infallible, and it shouldn't be an automatic dropping of the hammer when a person says what he did. Body of work should count for something, I believe.

Now if you have a history of misogyny, then this comment could be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Doesn't appear to be the case here, though.
 

thaddeus6th

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I agree with the consensus. Daft comments, but forced resignation is ridiculous.
 

mosaix

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I would have thought a public, embarrassing, apology would be enough to make him think twice about what he said and his future conduct. Forcing him to resign is not only OTT but a loss to science.
 

thaddeus6th

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Or been a diversity officer who reportedly tweeted #Killallwhitemen.

The Philae revival reminds me that one of the scientists involved was set upon by Twits because he wore a shirt with some scantily clad ladies on it [made specially for him by a female friend]. Reactionary disgust does seem to be a default setting for some people.
 

Ray McCarthy

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EDIT:
Actually this is totally irrelevant to Tim Hunt, except for the Trial by Social Media.

Or a totally White girl pretending to be an Afro-American. How ever much she identifies with "Black" it's fraud to apply for a Job claiming to be African American.
 
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Gramm838

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It does seem a little OTT. But, on the other hand, we should be careful what we say, especially when we're in very public positions.

So we don't need censorship nowadays because we all censor ourselves then?

I must have missed the memo about the death of free speech...
 

Ray McCarthy

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I certainly do when in the professional arena.
You obviously are not an N.I. Politician.

There are degrees of self censorship. Free speech NEVER meant anyone could say anything they liked.
Family, Work, Clubs, Society would become unbearable if we all just said what ever we felt like.

It's true there is insidious self censorship, there are things that people ought to be able to have opinion on or belief about or debate and that has been stifled.

But @Jo Zebedee is 100% correct.
 

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