Tim Hunt’s sexist remarks are really just at the simmering stage…there is so much more to piss us all off.
Hunt is a member of the Royal Society. The Royal Society, as an organization, is not happy: they announced on Twitter that his “comments don’t reflect our views“, and linked to a page highlighting their efforts to improve diversity, which is nice. I’m glad that there are some people working hard to change the stuffy old organization.
“Old” is right — the Royal Society was founded in 1660, and is 355 years old. And in all those years, they’ve never had a woman president. How…odd? The current president is Paul Nurse, who is by all accounts a good guy, but curiously he was also co-recipient of the same Nobel prize Tim Hunt was awarded.
The are also oh-so British, and not in a good way. Here’s their opening statement on Hunt:
The Royal Society has acted to distance itself from reported comments by Sir Tim Hunt FRS about women in science made during an event at the World Conference of Science Journalists in Korea.
If this were a student paper, there’d be a bold red line drawn through “has acted to distance itself” with a scribbled remark, “WHAT did you do?” It’s bad writing, it’s ambiguous, it’s passive, it tells me that the Royal Society heard a rude remark at a party and has edged a few inches away while taking care not to spill their tea. I am unimpressed.
Hey, RS, you’ve got a fellow in your distinguished society who you’ve said maybe makes you a little uncomfortable and doesn’t, maybe, represent your values. Two things: maybe, if those really are your values, you should express your anger a little more vigorously (oh, what am I saying, you’re British), and maybe you should tell him he’s not a member of your clubhouse anymore. Removing a title from his name is a good way to really teach a Brit a lesson.
This is especially warranted in the light of Tim Hunt’s “apology”. It’s a classic.
I’m very sorry that what I thought were light hearted ironic remarks were taken so seriously, and I’m very sorry if people took offence. I certainly did not mean to demean women, but rather be honest about my own shortcomings.
I’m very sorry if people took offence. Fuck me. Just a hint to anyone who ever needs to apologize for anything: that is the construction of the damned. You are not apologizing for what you did, you are telling everyone else they need to feel apologetic for being offended. It is unconvincing. It reflects a total absence of remorse, and a failure to learn anything.
Another hint: shut up. Don’t babble on making it clear that you really do hold those odious views, and you really are trying to place the blame elsewhere.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday, Hunt apologised for any offence, saying he meant the remarks to be humorous – but added hedid mean the part about having trouble with girls.
He said:It is true … I have fallen in love with people in the lab and people in the lab have fallen in love with me and it’s very disruptive to the science because it’s terribly important that in a lab people are on a level playing field.
I found that these emotional entanglements made life very difficult. I’m really, really sorry I caused any offence, that’s awful. I certainly didn’t mean that. I just meant to be honest, actually.
It’s been a rough month or so (like, millennium?) for women in science. If you doubt that there’s a deep pattern of discrimination and sexism, just read this collection of comments about recent events: the discovery that some people think women scientists need to recruit a male coauthor, that Ceci & Williams nonsense that denied there is any problem with sexism in academia, release of a “heroes of science” toy set of 30 famous scientists, including one woman (Marie Curie, of course), more all-male conference speaker rosters, the “boys with toys” debacle, Alice Huang’s advice to women to just accept ogling, and now the cherry on top, a Nobelist blithely suggesting that we ought to have all-male labs.
OK, women, what’s your secret? How do you keep from exploding with rage?