Tim Hunt and the "trouble with girls"

Jo Zebedee

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blah - flags. So many flags.
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".
Ah, I heard this discussed on the radio yesterday and it seems to be the 'Common People' (as in the song) argument. She can choose. A black person can't. Therefore, she'll never be black. Just leave it all to Jarvis... :)

(Edit - just to be clear, this was the argument on the radio, not mine. I haven't enough facts to decide about it yet.)
 

Coolhand

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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.

My general sense (and my hope) is that we are indeed starting to see more pushback against this kind of mob shaming. I'm seeing more and more articles and think pieces pop up online and in papers over the last six months commenting on how this social media outrage is a pretty worrying and destructive trend, usually inflicting damage and "punishment" on the target far in excess of anything warranted by the original "crime", imagined or real. I will try and dig up the links and post.

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.
I suspect there is truth to this. That's not to board brushstroke the young, as people of any age are capable of this type of angry righteousness, and I'm sure many young people are just as uneasy about this trend as I am. But I remember how everything was black and white to me when I was in my teens and early twenties, and it took life experience and maturity to make me understand shades of grey and nuance. I can quite see how the younger, enthusiastic me, with crusading sense of right and wrong, would have been one of the people surging forth to shame and flog the sinner in the name of justice and righteousness.
 

Stephen Palmer

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Well, I think Tim Hunt hasn't helped the good work that I, my colleagues in education, and lots more people are doing to encourage more women into science. I think his grotesque comments perpetuate the stereotype that there are places only men should be and places only women should be. I think that old-fashioned idea is not only bollocks, it's dangerous bollocks. The "men in science" stereotype, I can tell you from long personal experience, is alive and well, and I, and many others, will do everything we can to get rid of it.

As for the Twitter storm: if you don't want a Twitter storm, think about what you say if you are a famous public figure.
 

Ray McCarthy

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when we're so positive (as we should be) about people born with male bits who "self-identify as women".
So do these males suffer periods, anxiety about biological clock vs first child, worrying about pregnancy (wanting it or not wanting it), have sex as a woman with a man without telling him that born as man, be anxious about sterility ...

Certainly there are some similarities, but a white person wanting to identify as black isn't on the same level of complexity as transgender issues. Some people are born with ambiguous sex and some have been surgically assigned as women at birth and later have huge issues.
Also there is a huge spectrum of personality and emotion such that people really believe they are the opposite gender to what their physical body portrays. There is a huge spectrum of transgender issues. People born with male bits who "self-identify as women" is one aspect and being "positive" isn't any solution to their problems. As early as 1930s womb transplant was tried for such a man.

Race really is artificial. Someone who isn't an African-American pretending to be one doesn't help remove racism. Gender unlike Race, is real and Genetic. The solution to Gender issues of equality isn't to pretend Gender is a social construct. People who internally are convinced they are the other Gender to their body do not want to erase Gender. They want to be the other Gender. They certainly need understanding and support and IN NO WAY should be likened to a person "identifying" with another race or vice versa.

A white person claiming they identify with "black" re-inforces racism. There is no genetic basis for Race or Racism.
Race unlike Gender doesn't exist.
Race is a social construct https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_(human_classification)
Gender has gathered social baggage, but it's real. Modern society is trying to redefine gender independently to sex or abolish it. This can only lead to increased confusion, frustration and unhappiness. If Gender was as imaginary and purely a social construct, then by definition "transgender" people wouldn't exist. They exist because unlike race, gender is real, sex dimorphism is real too.
A lot of confusion around Gender:
https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Sex_and_gender_distinction
 
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AnyaKimlin

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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.

I agree with everything you've said except I do think him being 72 has everything to with it. Not all older people are set in their ways but a lot are and it is a reason. And it's a good reason for him being a bit stuck in his ways and not really understanding what would happen to him. If we expect respect as women surely we should be extending that to all groups including the elderly? Just like not every woman has experienced disadvantage due to their gender, not every older person struggles to keep up but I am coming up for 40 and there are decisions and choices I make that my daughter and sons roll their eyes at. And no doubt in another 32 years time whilst I intend to keep up, I will be making periodically stupid stuck in the mud and very dated statements.

I do place most of the blame on those that abandoned him and didn't back him up.
 

AnyaKimlin

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Well, I think Tim Hunt hasn't helped the good work that I, my colleagues in education, and lots more people are doing to encourage more women into science.

Actually my daughter would not have heard his words without the Twitter storm. She's a switched on girl and actually she laughed at his comments and said they were ridiculous. Part of me thinks you are undermining the strength of the generations of girls coming up by saying they would pay attention to it.

And at 72 you are allowed not to follow social media and grasp it. Some 72 year olds and older do - the likes of Patrick Stewart come to mind and then you have my dad who couldn't grasp Facebook
 

Ursa major

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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".
But generally those people claiming that the gender with which they've been assigned is incorrect don't go around claiming that a black person that they happen to know is their biological father and that the child adopted (or fostered) by their parents is their biological child. (Besides, gender is a very complex issue, and one's 'bits' are not the only determining factor.)

Frankly, I think the woman has serious mental issues. At any rate, she seems to be, to some extent at least, divorced from reality.
 

Hex

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I get a bit twitchy when we blame things on people's age. I've worked with a lot of older adults and in the same way as we shouldn't attribute characteristics to women (like weeping in labs), I think it's belittling to assume older adults tend to be any one way, any more than I would be happy with someone who generalised my feelings about technology or labs because I'm a woman, or in my 40s.

I agree that the woman herself seemed to be struggling with her own personal history, it just seemed a little strange that the generosity given to people whose genders are not the way they feel themselves to be shouldn't be extended to people who feel the same way about their race. Surely most pieces of our identity are socially constructed and if she got constructed differently, why should anyone really care? (I'm guessing it's a political issue and one that is probably more highly politicized in the US than in my area of Edinburgh -- I'm asking a genuine question because I really don't get it)
 

AnyaKimlin

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I'm not assuming they are any one way but I do think it's unfair to assume someone of his age has to keep up with social media, cultural trends etc I'm only 40 and I'm not up with everything my daughter is.
 

Ray McCarthy

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people whose genders are not the way they feel themselves to be shouldn't be extended to people who feel the same way about their race.
I expressed my self badly and too long winded.
1) Gender how ever you define it, is something real. Race really doesn't exist.
2) Pretending to be some other ethnic background to what you really have isn't identification, it's lying. It doesn't help fight racism.
3) Transgender is HUGELY more complex than racism.
4) It's an insult to people with Gender issues to compare this woman's "identification" with being "black".

How would it help Travellers in Ireland if I pretended to be one? I can "identify" with all sorts of people. To pretend I'm something I'm not and lie about my background doesn't help anyone.
 

Ray McCarthy

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cultural trends etc I'm only 40 and I'm not up with everything my daughter is.
My sister inhabits Facebook.
My youngest son despises it.

Endorsing some cultural trends is more about personality and lifestyle choices than age or considered judgement. It's not actually peer pressure, but lots of people drift into stuff because friends / family / workmates do it. Other people practically shy away from what ever happens to be the "in thing" in mainstream pop culture. There are different incompatible cultural trends at the same time in every generation.
 

Brian G Turner

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It was indefensible, and no one really tried to defend it.

The problem was, during his apology on Radio 4, Tim Hunt did try to justify his comments as true. Quoting from the Guardian:

Hunt apologised for any offence, saying he meant the remarks to be humorous – but added he “did mean the part about having trouble with girls”.
 

AnyaKimlin

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A lot of men do have trouble with girls. Stephen Hawking has been quoted as saying something similar. At the same time he has a diverse team.

I'm just surprised there hasn't been one single "kiss and tell" style story about Tim Hunt - I haven't seen one.
 

AnyaKimlin

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Endorsing some cultural trends is more about personality and lifestyle choices than age or considered judgement. It's not actually peer pressure, but lots of people drift into stuff because friends / family / workmates do it. Other people practically shy away from what ever happens to be the "in thing" in mainstream pop culture. There are different incompatible cultural trends at the same time in every generation.

I agree. And if someone has never been inclined to follow something they get further and further away. Which is why I think it is unfair to expect every 72 year old to keep up. I'm not generalising - those who expect him to be a certain way and to keep are are the ones demanding a one size fits all policy to the elderly. If women want respect they have to give it and what they did to Tim Hunt was not something that engenders me to women scientists at all.
 

Ray McCarthy

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A lot of men do have trouble with girls.
I have trouble with women.
I also have trouble with men.

I have diverse difficulties with everyone really. I wondered when I was child if I was a Changeling.
Some days I feel an alien would cope better. I have difficulty with me even. I feel I'm some how running a beta version of the Human Operating system. It's obviously my fault.
 

thaddeus6th

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Ray, you're an equal opportunities problem-haver.
 

Hex

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I don't completely understand how someone can be in trouble for pretending to be something different (in this case a woman of African-American extraction) if there is no such thing as race and so no difference anyway...

I wonder if what Tim Hunt meant on the radio (was that the recorded message he left on his way to the airport?) was that he had problems with girls ("I did mean the part about having trouble with girls"). It doesn't mean there's anything wrong with girls, or that he is saying there is. It's humour directed at himself.
 

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