Nobel laureate, Sir Tim Hunt, recently apologized for the offensive comments he made about the "trouble with girls" in science. His apology can't be taken very seriously though considering he backed up his actions by stating that he had "meant to be honest." For those of you who didn't know, Sir Tim Hunt, a fellow of the Royal Society, reportedly told a conference in South Korea that women in labs "cry" when you criticize them and "fall in love" with their male counterparts. After his statements, the society made the smart move of stating that Sir Tim's comments didn't reflect its own views.
Sir Richard Timothy (Tim) Hunt, who is 72 years old, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Paul Nurse and Leland H. Hartwell for their discoveries of protein molecules that control the division of cells. He told the World Conference of Science Journalists in South Korea the following about his "trouble with girls" in the lab:
"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. "
He told the conference that to fix the problem, female colleagues should work in women-only environments that will allow everyone to focus on "getting at the truth."
According to Connie. St. Louis, a lecturer in science journalism at City University who was one of the many in the audience in South Korea, "everybody was stony-faced." One can imagine many people who are reading about the comments that were made feel the same way at first before a rush of anger fills the mind. For someone who is an ambassador for the profession in this day and age, the comments that were made seem quite sexist and "careless" as many who shared their opinion on the matter stated.
To make matters worse, when Sir Tim spoke to BBC Radio 4's Today program, he tried to explain his situation and although his apology and comments at first felt sincere, his last statement made the whole matter even worse. He started by saying he was "really sorry that I said what I said", adding it was "a very stupid thing to do in the presence of all those journalists". The claimed his remarks were "intended as a light-hearted, ironic comment" but had been "interpreted deadly seriously by my audience". As he stood by his remarks, he went on to say the following:
"I did mean the part about having trouble with girls. It is true that people - 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."
The fact that he stated he was just trying to be honest, really points out he firmly believes what he had said, which is a bit more concerning given his status and his achievements in the industry.
For women, comments such as this one are best left ignored as females have dealt with sexism and other forms of discrimination for quite some time, not just in the sciences. Whether Sir Tim's remarks were intended as a joke or not, it's hard to find anyone found them funny, especially as a woman who may have had to deal with systemic bias.
As mentioned before, the Royal Society, which is always promoting and supporting scientific advances, took a hard stance against the remarks by stating the following:
"Too many talented individuals do not fulfil their scientific potential because of issues such as gender and the society is committed to helping to put this right. Sir Tim Hunt was speaking as an individual and his reported comments in no way reflect the views of the Royal Society."
How do you feel about the whole situation?
Source: AAP, BBC