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That’s not funny! Nobel winner’s remarks part of a “joke”–but feminists still out for his head

July 1, 2015

My latest blog post for the Independent Women’s Forum:

Connie St Louis, pictured of City University reported the original comments made by Sir Tim Hunt which led to his resignationSt. Louis: Evidence that she distorted what Hunt said
Well! Witness-evidence has emerged that Tim Hunt, the Nobel-winning U.K. biologist forced to resign from his university job because of some supposedly misogynist remarks he made at a  lunch for female science journalists had been only joking–and that that his remarks were distorted by an academic who was present, Connie St. Louis, who set in motion a Twitter cascade of feminist calls for Hunt’s head. The University College London, the Royal Society, and the European Research Council duly complied, hounding him out of his prestigious positions.
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“This individual, who has not been named, sat with him at the lunch and provided a transcript of what Sir Tim ‘really said’.

“Crucially, it presented a very different take to the one which had been so energetically circulated by Connie St Louis.

“The report began by confirming that Sir Tim had joked about falling in love with women in laboratories and ‘making them cry’.

“However, it said he’d prefaced those comments with an ironic introduction, joking that they would illustrate what a ‘chauvinist monster’ he was.

“The report then revealed the existence of an entire second half of the controversial toast.

“In it, Sir Tim was said to have told his audience that his remark about ‘making them cry’ was, indeed, an ironic joke.

“He purportedly said, ‘now seriously . . .’ before going on to speak enthusiastically about the ‘important role’ women scientists play. He ended by joking that his largely female audience should pursue their trade, ‘despite monsters like me’.

“The report’s author added: ‘I didn’t notice any uncomfortable silence or any awkwardness in the room as reported on social and then mainstream media,’ going on to describe the speech as ‘warm and funny’.”

At this juncture, you’d think that maybe, just maybe UCL, the RS, and the ERC might ask Hunt, who won the Nobel Prize in 2001 for his work on cell division, might reconsider and ask him back–as several distinguished British scientists male and female who came to Hunt’s defense, have pleaded. But nooo, that hasn’t happened.

And the U.K.’s flagship liberal newspaper, the Guardian, thinks that’s a good thing. Because there are some things that just can’t be joked about: The Guardian lectured:

“This bitter mix of resentments amplified by the polarising environment of social media should have met a calmer official response. But the professor still had to go.

“The Hunt camp claims feminists are too humourless to see that it was a joke. But as the provost of UCL, Professor Michael Arthur, pointed out when he indicated last Friday that Professor Hunt would not be reinstated, it was impossible for an institution to tolerate someone to whom they had awarded an honorary post, even a 71-year-old Nobel prize winner, expressing views even in jest that so comprehensively undermined its own reputation as a leading supporter of female scientists….”

Posted by Charlotte Allen

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