When Smart People Make a Boo Boo (#DistractinglySexy & Tim Hunt)

Generally speaking I think it’s a good rule of life to never engage with online debates, mostly because ‘debate’ usually means ‘people SHOUTING THEIR OPINION with NO INTENTION of EVER listening to OR learning from the other side(s).’

But  I must say I’ve enjoyed the #distractinglysexy hashtag.

For those of you who try not to listen to news about people being sexist: Sir Tim Hunt, a Nobel Prize-winning science professor at University College London, recently told a conference that when one is working with 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 criticise them they cry.’ I’ve never worked in a lab, but apparently it’s just one of those things.

I suspect someone has had a few fleeting/wonderful/awkward workplace romances in his time. Which is okay. When you’re attracted to someone, they are incredibly distracting. If I did work in a lab and liked a colleague, I would have to transfer workspaces until they moved or it blew over, just in case I accidentally spill polonium on my shoes when they take their coat off. (That sentence in itself may be why I’ve never worked in a lab.)

So it’s okay, Tim Hunt. We get it. What we don’t get is a) why you are distracted by all the girls, b) why they cry why you criticise them (the best teachers do not criticise, they merely point out what we can improve), and c) whether or not your views have ever genuinely impacted someone’s career.

I’m really not that bothered about a 72-year-old thinking a certain way about a certain type of person, and he’s perfectly within his rights to say it – although he might not be all that smart if he thought it would be a good idea to be sexist in front of a room full of women. The only really worrying thing is that people with ignorant views, whether they’re sexist of racist or homophobic or whatever, are often in positions of power and responsibility – and not everyone can separate their personal views from their jobs. I’ve no idea if Tim Hunt was ever involved in allocating grants or awarding places, but some people are and it makes me want to petition a law preventing CVs from showing anything but skills.

Still, at least the people on Twitter are making light of it all.

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2 thoughts on “When Smart People Make a Boo Boo (#DistractinglySexy & Tim Hunt)

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