10 thoughts on “Light relief: sex in the labs

  1. This is a very funny, and apt, response to those very stupid comments by Tim Hunt. What he said was preposterous.

    But I wish that the response had been to refute and ridicule him (like this video does) rather than to fire him and throw him to the wolves in the cowardly way the university and then the Royal Society did. That is a chilling response, and makes it clear to the whole world that those institutions don’t give a damn about free speech and due process. Now the message isn’t “Tim Hunt is a moron”, which is what it should have been. Instead, the message is “If you say anything contrary to public liberal morality, you get fired, no matter who you are.” That’s not the message I want to send. It would have been so easy to just refute his claims in a hundred ways. So much stronger!

    Whatever happened to “I disagree completely with what you have to say, but will defend to the death your right to say it”?

  2. Anonymous, my understanding is that he resigned from an honorary position, not that he was fired.

  3. Philodaria, I suspect he was told he had to resign.
    I don’t think the Royal Society actually removed him, did it/they?
    I don’t really know where to draw the line between protected free speech and that which isn’t, or shouldn’t be. I think his is at least borderline. Working in an interdisciplinary field, I have always felt the STEM people were wonderfully welcoming. But the sexism I’ve seen in philosophy has been horrible and abusive; I think one shouldn’t underestimate how much suffering sexism causes in academia, even when it comes from the apparently jovial presence of a Nobel Prize Winner.

  4. No problem Anne! He might have been told he had to resign, but I guess I’m just unsure how honorary positions work, and it’s unclear that they are like positions from which you can be fired in the ordinary sense. In any case, I don’t think asking him to resign an honorary position is worryingly chilling.

  5. Hunt was told he had to resign or he would be fired (this according to his wife, Mary Collins, an immunologist at UCL). He was also fired from his European Research Council position.
    Athene Donald (physicist), Ottoline Leyser (biologist), and Nancy Rothwell (physiologist) have defended Hunt while decrying the remarks he made. Rothwell: “Many will testify to Tim’s great support and encouragement for younger scientists, both male and female. Indeed, he has trained and mentored some outstanding female scientists.”


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