Nothing less than the silencing

If nothing else, at least I’m finding some brilliant people to read the blogs of which, and to follow on Twitter and all that good stuff.

Like Richard P Grant at the Guardian’s Occam’s corner.

[W]hat is happening now is nothing less than the silencing of voices that should be heard. Voices of people who took issue with what was said in Korea, who highlighted the sexism, and who said that such comments were harmful and should not go unchallenged.

Again, it doesn’t matter whether you agree with those voices, or which side you are on; what matters is that respectable academics still low down on the career ladder are being silenced by those who hold positions of real power.

Yes. Those Nobel laureates, and Dawkins – they’re doing their best to silence people who are trying to fix a very flawed work environment.

These people are not slinging mud to wreck someone’s reputation in the absence of even the slightest hint of truth. They want to make reasoned comments and have an open debate about the issues. But they end up saying things like, “I’m afraid to tweet this”:

Is there not one senior academic, one Nobel Laureate, who will stand up and in unflinching language decry sexism and the support of sexism that we are currently seeing from so many leading figures? This isn’t about Sir Tim anymore. This is about an inability amongst senior scientists to understand and take seriously the responsibilities that their power has bestowed upon them.

I’m betting they don’t agree that they are responsibilities.

It’s not just that we have the usual horde of spotty teenage scuzbuckets threatening violence and rape to any woman who dares to have an opinion – such behaviour is sadly almost de rigeur. No, it’s comments from Nobel laureates, and others who might have some influence over your career, that scares academics into silence.

Nobel laureates – almost the definition of ultimate power in academic science – claim that their liberty is under threat, and that they find the response to their sexist comments to be “frightening”. They claim, in fact, that other people calling them out for stupid remarks in some way threatens their own academic freedom.

Well the whole point of academic freedom is to be able to say sexist shit when it pops into your head over lunch.

But why, as a (female, academic) friend asked earlier, are these Nobel laureates so frightened by “a bunch of girls”? Is it that the world is changing, and casual sexism is no longer acceptable? Is that so much of a threat?


Yes. Why? I guess because people who have been used to dominating for a long time find it gross and shocking that anyone would expect them to learn to share.


  1. Emily Vicendese says

    What I’ve noticed is that even BEFORE people were saying Hunt had been misquoted or taken out of context he was being defended from a “witch hunt”. Jumping on new evidence to suggest he was misquoted doesn’t affirm these people’s cause because it’s not what their cause was about in the first place – it was about “witch hunts”. And now the internet is filled with hateful bile about the woman who supposedly misquoted him, so it can’t be “witch hunts” that were the real problem, because Tim Hunt defenders are quite happy to lynch his accuser. So what was the real problem? I don’t think it’s particularly about race and gender (although it plays a role because it plays a role in everything), I think it’s about controlling the conversation. Social media has democratised discourse in lots of ways, for better or worse.

  2. says

    It’s so odd that the people who are concerned with Hunt’s being silenced aren’t concerned with the aggressive attempts to silence people like Anita Sarkeesian or Rebecca Watson. I don’t think Dawkins and his buddies are concerned about silencing and packs of peasants with pitchforks and torches at all. They’re just concerned that people like them aren’t the targets. That might be because Dawkins is used to saying dumb shit and Hunt appears to be saying dumb shit – Dawkins is just grinding his own axe via Hunt.

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