Male Scientist: Women “Fall in Love” and “Cry” in Labs
To say Tim Hunt put his foot in his mouth last week is an understatement; it’s more like he tried to eat his foot for lunch. At a conference in South Korea on Tuesday, the Nobel Prize-winning British scientist described himself as a “chauvinist” and commented that having women in labs is a pain.“Let me tell you about my troubles with girls,” Hunt told a gobsmacked group of female scientists. “Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and—when you criticize them—they cry.”Two immediate thoughts here: First, that guy really does not approve of workplace romances; for instance, he probably didn’t ship Pam and Jim on The Office. Second, wow, that’s one of the most explicitly sexist things someone has said in public in a long time. On a scale of 1 to 10, the sexism is at a 12.After Twitter heard about his remarks, a PR firestorm was born, with users roundly condemning Hunt and calling for his job. By Thursday, he had resigned his post at University College London; by Saturday, The Observer had published a lengthy apology interview in which Hunt admitted his comments were “inexcusable” but also claimed they were just a bad joke, and that he’s not really sexist.The fallout over Hunt’s remarks has sparked another interesting round of debate over whether it’s a good thing that a social media mob can get someone fired so quickly. Fellow scientist Brian Cox questioned the severity of Hunt’s punishment to the BBC, and at The Guardian, Van Badham suggested that it might have been better had Hunt kept his post, so he could help fight sexism in science as a part of his mea culpa.But the best thing to come out of the situation was a hashtag: #Distractinglysexy, used by women scientists to post pictures of themselves doing sexy things at work, like monitoring test results and wearing huge goggles. Their tweets made us laugh, and they also made a point better than any angry op-ed could have: sexism in STEM fields may be real, but it sure is ridiculous.