Tim Hunt and the "trouble with girls"

AnyaKimlin

Confuddled
Joined
Sep 21, 2011
Messages
6,089
Location
North Scotland
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.

That's how I read it and I think his original joke was actually intended to be humour directed at himself as well. That is how it began - Let tell you about my trouble with girls. And his wife has said it reflects how they met. It wasn't just his age I was taking into account but his entire background.

Everything I've read suggest he's a great scientist, all round decent human being but a lousy comedian. As he was hired for his science ability I do think sacking him for his comedy skills is a bit out of order. And I think it's unfair because a lot of people commenting under news articles I think have more to argue with their husband than Tim Hunt who actually appears to have done his fair share to allow his wife to progress as a scientist.
 

Hex

Write, monkey, write
Joined
Mar 3, 2011
Messages
6,248
Location
Edinburgh
It's just horrifically depressing that a university as well-respected at UCL would tell him to resign. And the Royal Society. They're meant to be bastions of academic excellence not weasels running scared of Twitter mobs.

[bitter rant starts] And whether or not we should have more women in STEM (and more men in Psychology etc), the way to get them and keep them is to change the expectation of working 18 hour days to write papers and grant proposals on top of doing the research and/or the teaching. Otherwise, you're faced with a choice between a proper job and kids (most of the female professors I know are childless), or (nowadays) you spend pretty much all the money you earn on childcare and once they're 4 months old or so, you never see your children during the day because whatever statutory rights are, you can't realistically take a year off without crippling your career. You need to stop women being sacked/ not having their contracts renewed when they have kids. I know it's not supposed to happen, but it does, with depressing regularity. I don't think Tim Hunt's silly jokes have anything at all to do with it, but they're a much easier target and UCL etc can look like they care about equality without, in fact, doing anything difficult about it. [/bitter rant ends]
 

Ray McCarthy

Sentient Marmite: The Truth may make you fret.
Joined
Jul 16, 2014
Messages
8,090
Location
The Mid West (of Ireland)
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...
Racism is real. It's evil and wrong partly because Race is an illusion partly because even if race was real it would still be wrong.
People do have ethnic, cultural, national and religious backgrounds and differences and are persecuted, killed, discriminated against for them. I've experienced it. Though oddly the persecutors got my background wrong.
Pretending and lying about your parents, ethnicity, and even falsely filling in job application is simply wrong and hinders rather than helps people that are discriminated against simply because they seem different.
 

AnyaKimlin

Confuddled
Joined
Sep 21, 2011
Messages
6,089
Location
North Scotland
It's just horrifically depressing that a university as well-respected at UCL would tell him to resign. And the Royal Society. They're meant to be bastions of academic excellence not weasels running scared of Twitter mobs.
To be honest it smacks of them trying to get rid of him for other reasons and this is the first one he actually gave them.

[bitter rant starts] And whether or not we should have more women in STEM (and more men in Psychology etc), the way to get them and keep them is to change the expectation of working 18 hour days to write papers and grant proposals on top of doing the research and/or the teaching. Otherwise, you're faced with a choice between a proper job and kids (most of the female professors I know are childless), or (nowadays) you spend pretty much all the money you earn on childcare and once they're 4 months old or so, you never see your children during the day because whatever statutory rights are, you can't realistically take a year off without crippling your career. You need to stop women being sacked/ not having their contracts renewed when they have kids. I know it's not supposed to happen, but it does, with depressing regularity. I don't think Tim Hunt's silly jokes have anything at all to do with it, but they're a much easier target and UCL etc can look like they care about equality without, in fact, doing anything difficult about it. [/bitter rant ends]

This --- I didn't make it because of illness but many fall by the wayside because of having children and actually wanting to spend time with them. I've met a lot of former lecturers and professors home educating to make up for lost time it almost feels like. And this was why I thought it was particularly ill aimed at Tim Hunt because his wife couldn't be where she is if she hadn't had an awful lot of support for him.

Also I think to assume a woman smart enough to be an academic would be swayed by a silly little joke is doing them a disservice and playing rather more to the idea that women do cry over sill little things than anything Tim Hunt said.

What actually disturbs me the most is that not one of those women was able to speak to him and tell him he'd been an idiot and they even applauded him.
 

MWagner

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 25, 2015
Messages
1,130
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”.

Absolutely. It really helps if you regard it as a kind of secular religion of a particularly zealous outlook. The point isn't to effect change so much as establish your own bonafides as a true believer. And what better way to do that than to pounce on any transgression with the fiercest denunciations imaginable? It's why the most pious and self-righteous matron in a church congregation reserves her implacable judgement for a rival matron of the church who wears too much makeup on Sundays, or who lets her children get a little out hand on occasion. Gotta burnish that halo by proving your own superior sense of propriety.

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.

Wrongspeak is a far worse crime than simply stealing someone's property. It has to be stamped out as a lesson to others, else apostasy spread like a plague.

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.

There's a reason why the most enthusiastic agents of Mao's Cultural Revolution were the young. Their zeal, energy, and absolute faith in absolutes are indispensable if you want to truly cleanse a society of old ideas.

It is ironic that a generation so concerned about bullying at school should prove such enthusiastic bullyers of public figures. I suppose many don't think it's possible to bully a middle-aged white male. Father figure resentment and all that.

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".

What we're seeing is a cleavage between the 'we are whatever who choose to be' ideal, and identity politics. Since those two ideals tend to both fall under the umbrella of the modern left, but are fundamentally incompatible with one another, it will be interesting to see how they're reconciled. We could very well see the incompatibility studiously ignored, the way the doctrine that 'the West is bad the developing world is good' manages to endure alongside the reality that non-Western cultures like the Islamic Middle East are far more hostile to liberal values like gender equity and sexual liberalism than the West is.

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.

Was he really famous before this firestorm? I'd hazard that 98 per cent of the people who have heard of Tim Hunt today had no idea who he was a week ago.

But yes, it's clear that we're in an age where it's foolish for anyone with any kind of authority to utter anything but the most anodyne and empty platitudes in public interviews (or in private correspondence that has any chance of being made public). Given the modern world's appetite for public shaming and vilification, there's nothing whatsoever to gain and everything to lose by expressing an opinion that differs in any way from the orthodox line on a host of hot-button issues.

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.

There's a clear double-standard around our attitudes about segregation by gender. We don't doubt that women sometimes need to be around only other women in order to feel comfortable and confident, but woe to any man who suggests there are times when he's more comfortable being around only other men. I'm not suggesting for a minute that labs be segregated. However, let's not presume dark motives when a man suggests he's less comfortable in mixed company than in a male-only environment. Some men do feel anxious, self-conscious, and inadequate around women, the same way some women do around men.
 
Last edited:

AnyaKimlin

Confuddled
Joined
Sep 21, 2011
Messages
6,089
Location
North Scotland
There's a clear double-standard around our attitudes about segregation by gender. We don't doubt that women sometimes need to be only with other women in order to feel comfortable and confident, but woe to man who suggests there are times when men are more comfortable being around other men. .

Actually, I have never in my life needed to be in female only company. To have good friends around yes but for them to be entirely one gender or the other or something in between I have no desire for.

It's an attitude I think is wrong on both sides. And something we should be moving away from but on an entirely equal basis. Especially as one in every fifteen hundred babies is born with something physical, hormonal or chromosomal that means they are not entirely one gender or another. That is before we get to transfolk etc

We've had unisex bathrooms in our swimming pools here for 20 years. Should have heard the initial fuss and now nobody cares. It's like with breastfeeding etc now it's more normal most people don't care.

I don't actually believe Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus - a conversation and honesty seems to work well for both genders..
 

Mirannan

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 20, 2013
Messages
1,791
Racism is real. It's evil and wrong partly because Race is an illusion partly because even if race was real it would still be wrong.
People do have ethnic, cultural, national and religious backgrounds and differences and are persecuted, killed, discriminated against for them. I've experienced it. Though oddly the persecutors got my background wrong.
Pretending and lying about your parents, ethnicity, and even falsely filling in job application is simply wrong and hinders rather than helps people that are discriminated against simply because they seem different.

"Race is an illusion... even if race were real." Riiigghht. Now tell me that the rather obvious differences between a Zulu and an ethnic Swede are purely cultural.

I agree with you about religious persecution though. Thousands of Egyptian Coptic Christians would agree with me. Oops, sorry, forgot - Christians can't be the target of persecution, by definition. /s Incidentally, I'm sure the relatives of Lee Rigby think minorities are unfairly discriminated against - NOT.

Tell you what. The very minute someone successfully sets up a British White Police Officers' Association or organises a Straight Pride parade - or gets the benefit of due process when accused of rape - get back to me.
 

Nerds_feather

Purveyor of Nerdliness
Joined
Jun 4, 2012
Messages
2,253
Location
Follow the blog on twitter: @nerds_feather Like u
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 think the story is a bit of a circus sideshow, tbh, but to your general question:

Race is a social construct--a set of categories invented on the basis of superficial differences which, through 19th century pseudoscience, were thought to be significant. However, over time it has been institutionalized as a way of categorizing people--and as a way or ordering people--and people in the different constructed categories have acted as if it were real over many generations.

So race, while not objectively real, is very real in its effects, just like ethnicity or religion or tribe or nationality, etc. All these things are social constructs too.
 

TheDustyZebra

Zebra. With dust.
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 26, 2009
Messages
9,150
Location
Colorado
I'm pretty sure that differences among people were categorized long before the 19th century. Ever since the first human being noticed that another one didn't look the same as others, people have been categorized as "us" and "them".

Yes, if you don't want a Twitter firestorm, you should watch what you say -- and Tim Hunt absolutely ought to have expected a Twitter firestorm, even if he didn't know what one was. But the point is, what he said, with no evidence of any misbehavior on his part, should not be enough to justify his losing his job. Nobody has come forward to say he has discriminated in any way against women -- quite the contrary, the women who know him are saying that he didn't. Never mind what Twitter has to say -- trashing a life and career over something so ridiculous is a travesty.

I don't really have any problem with Rachel Dolezal wanting to identify as black, though I think she's nuts. My problem with that is that she apparently took a full-ride scholarship to a historically black college on the basis of her being black. She's lied on any number of applications and legal documents, and gained benefits from that. And she's also sued for discrimination on the basis of being white. Whichever way benefits her the most, that's what she is at the moment.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Hex

AnyaKimlin

Confuddled
Joined
Sep 21, 2011
Messages
6,089
Location
North Scotland
However a transgendered person often goes through a phase of being a stereotype.

It is possible that this woman's behaviour came out of a need to be black so she does that in the way she most associates with being black.
 

Similar threads


Top