Or: Panic in the Henhouse
About a month ago, Sir Tim Hunt, 71-year-old Biochemist who won the Nobel prize in 2001, said something that made women’s heads explode.
“Let me tell you about the trouble with girls. 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.”
Naturally this did not go down well with the Henhouse. When pressed for an explanation, he added:
“It is terribly important that you can criticize people’s ideas without criticizing them. If they burst into tears it means that you tend to hold back from getting at the absolute truth. Science is about nothing except getting at the truth and anything that gets in the way of that, in my experience, diminishes the science.”
When the yammering and the demands for his head subsided, he resigned from his post at the faculty of life sciences at University College London.
Some of the commentary is fascinating. The Henhouse mobilized with hashtags at the ready and Weaponized nagging fully engaged.
Here’s what we know:
- All three parts of the original statement are demonstrably true, though obviously not for everyone. Does this mean that all women are like this? Of course not. Was he saying that women should not be in STEM? Absolutely not. Was he saying that women were the problem? Not at all. All he was doing was drawing attention to problems that most have us have encountered at one time or another.
- The post that he resigned was an honorary one; his real job is in London Research Institute (Cancer Research UK). All of that complaining changed nothing.
- His main job appears to be finding cures for cancer. Strangely, there are folks who would have him removed for the heinous crime of being politically incorrect.
- He is 71 years old, even if he was fired from his main job, it would be no great loss, as he is probably not far off from retirement.
This reminds me of a post that I saw about a year ago, in which a female CEO put up a post entitled “I Don’t Want to Hire Women“, in which she stated something similar:
“I have had women cry in team meetings, come to my office to ask me if I still like them and create melodrama over the side of the office their desk was being placed. I am simply incapable of verbalizing enough appreciation to female employees to satiate their need for it for at least a week’s worth of work… (but) when I have something to say to one of the men, I just say it! I don’t think it through – I simply spit it out, we have a brief discussion and we move on. They even frequently thank me for the feedback! Not so fast with my female staff…”
And yet nobody called for her head on a platter. Nobody asked for her resignation. I wonder why…
Returning to Sir Tim one last time, I particularly liked one of the headlines: Nobel Scientist Says Women Take Things Personally; Women Take It Personally
I could not have put it better.