Tim Hunt and the "trouble with girls"

Stephen Palmer

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I have no sympathy for Tim Hunt. Not only did he say something really stupid, which affects tens of thousands of women scientists, he tried to "explain" what he meant afterwards. FFS! And suppose he'd made these comments about, say, Indian laboratory technicians? Would that be any different? I'm pretty gobsmacked too by what Brian Cox - a man I respect enormously - has said this morning. Disappointing.

If you want to avoid Twitter storms, the way forward is not to say crass things like "women fall in love in laboratories and cry over the smallest thing."
 

AnyaKimlin

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I I'm pretty gobsmacked too by what Brian Cox - a man I respect enormously - has said this morning. Disappointing.
"

I'm not I entirely agree with him. He didn't condone the words but he did also mention that Tim Hunt seems to be a really nice, decent human being. The things Tim Hunt said afterwards were why I felt sorry for him actually - he was like a deer in the headlights.
 

Stephen Palmer

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I guess I just think that Hunt's comments were not merely "ill-advised," they were crass and stupid. Also, I, my colleagues in education, and many others are trying to do everything we can to get more women into science. Tim Hunt is not helping.
 

AnyaKimlin

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Tim Hunt is not helping.

In words or the actions over the years? I've heard stories from women he has helped. What I have yet to see any of is stories of women he has obstructed? He actually began his talk with the female scientists he admired. Given the time elapsed I would have expected at least one dubious story about his poor behaviour towards women and not one has been dug out.

Quite frankly the Social Media campaign has made his comments far more well known and I think have dealt a far worse blow to women in science. Stephen Hawking (roughly the same age as Tim Hunt) on a BBC interview has just said he finds women a mystery and asked an actress for a kiss but his team of people who help him get around seems diverse. Not seeing the massive outcry over those remarks.
 

Toby Frost

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I find women a complete mystery. I think that makes be about average for a man.
 

Coolhand

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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.

I tend to agree with this.

One the one hand we have an old man, raised in another age who attempts some poorly judged, out of touch, light humour and it backfires. Cringe worthy, wince inducing and a reminder of how quickly social progress can leave the older, less flexible generations behind. That will, no doubt, be us someday.

On the other hand we have the social media outrage machine demanding that he be, in a professional sense, flogged and flayed and led naked though the streets like the hateful, despicable man they judge him to be on the basis of one isolated gaff.

One of these things is indeed deeply problematic and says something very unpleasant about our society, and it ain't the out of touch old man.
 

Ray McCarthy

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a reminder of how quickly social progress can leave the older, less flexible generations behind
or how thoughtless and stupid the "whipper-snappers" on "so-called" social media can be.

Are they Free Content Advertising networks or Content Free Advertising Networks?

Everyone makes mistakes, not just older white males. I think "older, less flexible generations" make fewer mistakes due to the wisdom age brings, but "social networks" often populated by a bunch of hyenas anxious to bring down any old stag or doe that falters and magnify them while glossing over their own.

Plenty of young people are inflexible, bigoted and thoughtless. Lots of old people are flexible.
 

Gramm838

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I guess I just think that Hunt's comments were not merely "ill-advised," they were crass and stupid. Also, I, my colleagues in education, and many others are trying to do everything we can to get more women into science. Tim Hunt is not helping.

I bet before this broke few women, other than those in the same field as Tim Hunt, had ever heard of him or saw him as a reason to get into science. I really don't think that your argument this time is valid at all.

I could be controversial and say that academia is part of the problem, not part of the solution...the lack of male input, and therefore balance, into today's education system, especially at primary school age, is a real problem. None of my kids had a male teacher until they got to secondary school.
 

MWagner

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One the one hand we have an old man, raised in another age who attempts some poorly judged, out of touch, light humour and it backfires. Cringe worthy, wince inducing and a reminder of how quickly social progress can leave the older, less flexible generations behind. That will, no doubt, be us someday.

On the other hand we have the social media outrage machine demanding that he be, in a professional sense, flogged and flayed and led naked though the streets like the hateful, despicable man they judge him to be on the basis of one isolated gaff.

One of these things is indeed deeply problematic and says something very unpleasant about our society, and it ain't the out of touch old man.

The public savaging and humiliation of people who step out of line on the hot-button issues of the day has become akin to the shaming imposed by the religiously orthodox on sinners and apostates. There's something tremendously ugly at its root. Given the ubiquity of social media and the instant dissemination of both the sin and the outrage, I expect we'll either see this phenomenon crest and recede to a more tolerant and reasoned response, or we're entering an age of fear and denunciation that we haven't seen in the West since the War of Religion in the 16th and 17th century.

And anyone who is observing these scandals secure in their own righteousness shouldn't get too comfortable. When vilification and denunciation of speech and belief become a habit embraced by the mob, there's no predicting the subjects of these attacks. People crave villains. Someone to hate. And when you give them social license to publicly shame others for their words, they will seize on that opportunity indiscriminately and with ferocious joy.

Many people tutting over Hunt today will themselves be the targets of similar campaigns. Maybe not tomorrow. Or in five years. But eventually even the most tolerant and progressive person finds themselves out of step with the ideological tenor of the times. Forty years from now, who's to say keeping pets won't be regarded as a monstrous tyranny fuelled by arrogant paternalism and selfish emotional cravings?

I could be controversial and say that academia is part of the problem, not part of the solution...the lack of male input, and therefore balance, into today's education system, especially at primary school age, is a real problem. None of my kids had a male teacher until they got to secondary school.

I'm puzzled by the amount of attention given in the last couple years to the lack of female representation the STEM fields, when almost all other fields of education are seeing men fall further and further behind women. In Canada, medical school graduates are 60 per cent female. Law school graduates 55 per cent. Even that old bastion of men - accounting - is graduating more women than men.

And of course, the education field continues to be overwhelmingly female. And there isn't much doubt any more that this is contributing to the continuing decline in the performance of boys in elementary and secondary eduction. Education, learning, and reading are becoming regarded as 'girl' things, and schools are having tremendous difficulty engaging boys. They're far more likely to be diagnosed with learning disorders and prescribed drugs than girls. Far more likely to get in trouble at school. Far more likely to drop out of school. Their grades are lower than girls at every stage of education up to university. And young men have substantially lower participation then women in post-secondary education (in Canada today, over 60 per cent of post-secondary students are women). And yet there is far, far more attention given to the shortfall of females in one particular field of study. I guess the troubles of boys don't fit the popular narrative.
 
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AnyaKimlin

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I could be controversial and say that academia is part of the problem, not part of the solution...the lack of male input, and therefore balance, into today's education system, especially at primary school age, is a real problem. None of my kids had a male teacher until they got to secondary school.

It's a good part of the reason my boys are home educated they get a lot of male input into their education. One friend helped a son with his poetry, another takes them on nature hikes, their dad is building a plane with them, a kid from the home ed is teaching them photography etc

I actually chose their nursery based on the fact it had a lovely man as their administrator. I took them out when they replaced him with a woman.
 

Hex

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I don't think his being 72 has anything to do with anything, and if we're witch-hunting, we need to be careful about making sweeping statements about older people. He has an unfortunate sense of humour and he was a senior (and nervous) academic making a very stupid comment.

But it was such a stupid joke. I am a woman who works in STEM, and I know it's not remotely true -- it's taking 1950s cliches and messing about with them. It's like saying all women can talk about is kittens. It made me roll my eyes and move on.

It was indefensible, and no one really tried to defend it. The Twitter vigilantes got hold of it and enjoyed a session of bullying because someone stepped out of line. I mean, there's Gamer Gate and there's this.

The villains in this are his university and the scientific community who abandoned someone who had contributed so much and worked so hard to help other people, and just because social media told them to. It's disgraceful and cowardly.
 

Droflet

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Trial by Twit (er). Let the punishment fit the crime. This is another in a long series of ridiculous, politically correct, knee jerk (emphasis on jerk) reactions fueled by the intolerant, read by the ill-informed, and acted upon by the frightened. Oh, I'm sorry, did I offend someone? Well, too bad. This is offensive in the extreme, and I am offended. Rant ends ... here.
 

Toby Frost

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Random thoughts in no real order:

1) It’s interesting that some of the most vocal people who consider themselves “left-wing” spend most of their time attacking other people who are also “left-wing” (I use quotes because I don’t think they’re anything of the sort). It’s not just petty but amazingly stupid, like a soldier shooting at his allies because he doesn’t like their accents when the enemy are advancing. One gets the strong impression that such people don’t actually want to change the status quo at all – they just enjoy the sense of superiority that comes from accusing other people of being “problematic”.

2) It’s disturbing how quickly proportionality is abandoned when “issues of diversity” are involved (to use M Wagner’s comparison, “blasphemy” would be the old equivalent). Had Tim Hunt stolen a car, it would be expected that he would be punished as the law requires, and he might or might not keep his job. And that would be that. Here, because his crime is a crime against diversity, almost any form of retribution is justified. While nobody has called for his death, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was just a general shrugging if he jumped off a cliff because of all this. I’m reminded of those right-wing tabloids that think that anyone is fair game for ridicule once they’ve had a sex change.

3) However, on the internet, it’s easy to join in to a mass movement in a small way, especially, as here, if it has an absurd, comedy angle. It’s like repeating a joke in bad taste, with added righteousness. The snowball builds very quickly, and with many small actions. Perhaps this is linked to the angry righteousness of the young, who use social media a lot.
 

thaddeus6th

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Your first point reminds me of the People's Front of Judea (mind you, the white woman claiming she's black reminds me of Loretta).
 

Hex

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I don't completely understand the issue with the woman who "self-identifies as black" when we're so positive (as we should be) about people born with male bits who "self-identify as women".
 

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