Oh wait, it turns out he was joking!

You think it can’t get any more ridiculous, but it keeps doing exactly that.

This time? A “leaked” transcript of what Tim Hunt said at that conference in Korea supports his account that it was a joke, so it’s all good and he should be given all his honorary positions back. This is according to the Times, so I haven’t read the whole article because paywall. But even the first paragraph is absurd.

A leaked EU report has increased the pressure for Sir Tim Hunt to be reinstated to his academic positions after it revealed a markedly different account of his speech about the “trouble with girls” in science.

Has increased “the pressure”? What pressure? There are some aggrieved assholes complaining, but so what? Journalists do love those vague agent-free statements about bodiless “pressure” from no one in particular.

Even more bizarrely, the Independent reports that Dawkins demands an apology from everyone in sight.

Professor Richard Dawkins is demanding an apology from those who criticised Sir Tim Hunt over a leaked EU report he claims gives vital context to comments the Nobel laureate scientist made about his “trouble with girls” in laboratories.

Oh yeah? Well I demand that Richard Dawkins apologize for a whole long list of things. Fat lot of good that will do me.

Sir Tim left his position at the Royal Society and University College London (UCL) after telling an audience of female science journalists at the World Conference of Science Journalists in South Korea he found it difficult to work with girls.

He also reportedly said: “Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry.”

His remarks were condemned as sexist and unhelpful and he resigned shortly after the backlash. He also apologised publicly for his comments.

Well, he apologized and then unapologized and complained and blamed and generally pitched a huge fit.

Now, an account by a European Commission official printed in The Times expands on the comments he made during the conference.

The official quotes Sir Tim as saying: “It’s strange that such a chauvinist monster like me has been asked to speak to women scientists. Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry. Perhaps we should make separate labs for boys and girls?

“Now seriously, I’m impressed by the economic development of Korea. And women scientists played, without doubt an important role in it. Science needs women and you should do science despite all the obstacles, and despite monsters like me.”

Yes – so? How does that change anything? How is that a version that dramatically reveals that Tim Hunt didn’t act like a sexist jerk at that lunch?

I don’t think anyone ever denied that he thought he was being facetious. Maybe this is news to Dawkins, but it’s not news to us: a hell of a lot of sexism is in the form of tedious, labored, unfunny “jokes.” Who hasn’t sat stony-faced through a million of them? Come on. Nobody thought Hunt was giving a serious scientific lecture on gender differences. We all knew he was “bantering.” That doesn’t change a thing.

The official also claimed that Sir Tim did not “thank women for making lunch”, as was previously reported.

Previously reported where? I don’t remember seeing that.

Dawkins tweeted about this putative exoneration of Hunt.

He told The Times: “This phrase […] is the final confirmation that Tim Hunt’s remark was light-hearted banter against himself.

“Without wishing to join a reverse witch-hunt to root out the individuals responsible, I can’t help hoping Sir Tim will receive an apology.”

An apology for what? For saying that a senior scientist should not be swanning around the world making contemptuous jokes about women scientists? I’m not going to apologize for that.

UCL and the RS are also not impressed.

A spokesperson for UCL declined to comment any further when contacted by The Independent. The Royal Society said it would not be commenting further on the matter at this stage.

There’s nothing there.


  1. Donnie says

    The official also claimed that Sir Tim did not “thank women for making lunch”, as was previously reported.

    I do remember reading that somewhere, but I cannot remember exactly where. I will try and find it if no one else knows off the top of their head.

  2. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    Should we call this move the Dawknugemehta? Demand others apologize for things that need no apology, yet refuse to ever apologize for anything yourself?

  3. screechymonkey says

    If anything, the “chauvinist monster” crack makes things worse. It suggests that he’s actually given thought to whether his attitudes are sexist (perhaps because others have called him on it), but considers the accusation so ludicrous as to be fit for sarcasm.

    Of course, you shouldn’t listen to me. I’m such a crazy whacko man-hating feminist that I think that women should get a fair opportunity to succeed in the sciences.

  4. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    That’s exactly right, screechy. It’s worse. It’s “I’m gonna smile while I playfully assert my dominance and I expect you to smile along with me.”

  5. John Horstman says

    Okay, so we’re back to the comments being a sexist joke, as opposed to a sexist serious suggestion. Sexist joke is still sexist…

    All this flip-flopping is almost enough to convince one that Hunt is a disingenuous douche who keeps trying to say not what he actually believes but what he thinks will sound the best to a given audience. But, no, he’s been given a Nobel Prize, so he is clearly beyond reproach. /s

  6. luzclara says

    So Professor Dawkins claims that he does not wish to join a “reverse witch-hunt.” Here’s what I say. I say that he has joyfully not only joined up, he is one of the commanders. Reverse witch-hunt. . . what a whiny construction.

    UCL and the Royal Society at least have the sense, perhaps even the dignity, to not “comment further.”

    If only the little baby men would stop commenting. They are making it worse and worse. It has devolved to cringe-worthy if you ask me.

  7. mildlymagnificent says

    All this flip-flopping is almost enough to convince one that Hunt is a disingenuous douche who keeps trying to say not what he actually believes but what he thinks will sound the best to a given audience.

    The plainest thing about it is that Hunt (and Dawkins and thousands of others in academia and other such exalted venues) is exactly the same kind of person as all those public servants, mechanics and tradespeople who say exactly the same kind of thing – mostly facetiously. All the IknowitsoundslikeI’machauvinistbut people. Neither Hunt nor Dawkins is special in any way when they spout this shitty spiel.

    I’ve heard it from fellow public servants, I’ve heard it from relatives, I’ve heard it in pubs and shops and cafes and workshops. I’ve heard it for 40 years. 20+ years ago I had the great privilege of acting for a few months as the Equal Employment Opportunities person for a reasonably large public service agency. You’d think that people would cut that stuff out when I was around being the EEO presence. No fear. The executives who I’d known for 10 years or more actually stepped it up.

    I was fed up with it then. Dawkins can say what he likes about it being facetious. I’m still fed up.

  8. Lady Mondegreen says

    Crossposted from Pharyngula a few days ago (deleting the comment I was responding to):

    What [Hunt] “really thinks” is irrelevant. It’s his actions that showed him to be unfit for a particular honorary, unpaid position or two. What he really thinks could be complex and contradictory. Maybe he really did intend his remarks as just jokes.

    Doesn’t matter.

    Understand: those women scientists listening to Hunt? The women who read about his remarks on Twitter and in the press? Each one of them has had a lifetime of listening to “jokes” like Hunt’s. They’ve responded with forced smiles or patient remonstrances or silence or angry comebacks. Years and years worth of forced smiles and explanation and tongue-biting and honest anger. And still the jokes get told.

    Feminism has been around for decades (if you ignore the “wave” delineations, well over a century,)* and still the jokes get told. The jokes that say, you’re an anomaly here. You’re here on suffrance.

    How long are we supposed to go on biting our tongues? How long is long enough?

    * I am not at all impressed by the “but he’s too old to know better!” defense.

  9. karmacat says

    The other thought I had is about the criticism that women cry. Men, being human, also get emotional but are more likely to express it through anger. A good manager would not criticize his co-workers but would understand what is triggering the emotions, correct it and move on. Tim Hunt is probably a brilliant scientist but a terrible manager.

  10. Silentbob says

    @ 11 karmacat

    I’m wondering if they would support Hunt if he said something racist instead of sexist.

    It’s strange that such a racist monster like me has been asked to speak to black scientists. Heh. Let me tell you about my trouble with blacks. Three things happen when they are in the lab: you get used to rap music, there’s fried chicken for lunch, and the whole team has better rhythm. Heh, heh. Perhaps we should make separate labs for whites and blacks? Yours can be next to the basketball court. Heh, heh. Now seriously…

    No, I don’t think the “self-deprecating banter” defence would cut it.

  11. sonderval says

    Today’s nature has an opinion piece by Alessia Errico, a former co-worker of Hunt.
    She tells us that he is totes non-sexist, but is just frequently making bad jokes. As evidence she tells an anecdote where Hunt made fun of her at the beginning of her career for wearing the same sweater at a conference as on a photo he was showing of her.
    Nope, nothing sexist about that for sure – it’s not as if women’s clothing choices were scrutinized by society or so…

  12. Z says

    One of the sad parts about Dawkin’s involvement in this matter is that he partially “gets it”:


    Simon Tuffen ‏@SimonTuffen

    @RichardDawkins I still don’t understand what’s offensive about saying people fall in love or cry, even if it weren’t a joke.

    Richard Dawkins @RichardDawkins

    @SimonTuffen Falling in love happens both ways, as Hunt said. But it’s unfair to blame presence of women in labs more than presence of men.

    Alas, it’s only partially.

  13. Al Dente says

    Dear Professor Dawkins,

    You’re demanding an apology be given to Tim Hunt for people objecting to his sexist remarks. Apologies are for words and actions which cause offense. Since Hunt was the original offender and others are criticizing him for his sexism, your demand for an apology is pointed at the wrong side of the controversy. Considering your hyperbolic accusations of “witch hunts” and “lynch mobs”, you might do some apologizing yourself for your excessive melodrama.

  14. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    you might do some apologizing yourself for your excessive melodrama.

    “Heeeeyyyyyyyyy, the Dawk don’t apologize.” He fixes his leather jacket, then hits the jukebox with his fist, causing Schubert’s “Erlkonig” to begin playing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *