Something Hilda Bastian said in a comment on Dorothy Bishop’s post on the media spin of Tim Hunt’s day out.
The differences here do not seem to be so much “what” was said, but whether or not it was meant to be “self-deprecating.” And that is rather beside the point. The statements included some extraordinarily hurtful stereotypes about a gender, and about one gender in the scientific workplace. That sends a message, if a highly respected and liked Nobel Laureate can say it, then there’s something ok with it. The outpouring of both sexist, misogynist, and now racist statements across the comment streams of newspapers and the internet generally, with people clearly thinking they have some kind of common cause with a Nobel Laureate, proves the point of how harmful social sanction for sexist remarks can be. That’s not less so if it’s a joke, and not less so if they are not intended to be malicious. Saying afterwards “hey, just kidding!” doesn’t make it alright.
All of that. This whole phenomenon of people raging about feminist lynch mobs is yet another bit of social sanction for sexist remarks (and sexist diatribes and sexist rants and sexist lectures). I’m not as depressed and disgusted as I might be, because there are a lot of excellent people pushing back against the sexism…but I’m still pretty disgusted by how quick people are to attack feminism while denying obvious sexism. [Read more…]