By now you have probably heard about Nobel laureate Tim Hunt’s ridiculous comments about women scientists:
“Three things happen when [girls] are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry.”
Having worked as a research assistant in college and graduate school and never once crying over any constructive criticism offered by my supervising professors, I was rolling my eyes pretty hard. Besides what work environment doesn’t have some degree interpersonal conflict? Learning to work effectively with different people and managing romantic entanglements is just part of life – isn’t it?
Women scientists on Twitter responded with the clever #DistractinglySexy. And now Hunt has said he was forced to resign from the University college in London.
Although I think his remarks are quite stupid, at first I wasn’t sure as to whether they were worth being fired over. But then I read his (second) apology, which begins (emphasis added):
I accept that my attempts at a self-deprecating joke were ill-judged and not in the least bit funny…
So his comments were meant to be a self depreciating joke? Hunt wasn’t saying that women are bad scientists, just that he has personal problems which render him incapable of working with women. And we should find this inability humorous. Ok then, I’m totally on board with his employment being terminated. He has stated that he cannot work with women, thus University College of London has an obligation to their women employees to fire him.
It has been said that the definition of a gaffe is when a person says what they are really think. And I think that the idea that Hunt sees this joke as “self depreciating” is incredibly telling. I would recommend he and anyone else upset about other’s reaction to his “joke” refer to Maya Angelou, “When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.”