Earlier this week British Nobel Prize winner Tim Hunt, 72, made an outrageous and unbelievable comment during a speech held at the World Conference of Science Journalists in Seoul.
The 2001 Nobel Prize winner proclaimed to the world that mixed-gender labs are distracting work places as he has had trouble with female scientists, falling in love with many of his sexy lab partners, having them fall in love with him watching them cry when he criticized them for making a mistake.
Everyone listening to him or reading the news was quick to point out the high level of sexism in his words, and no one forgave him for his half-hearted apology (he resigned from his honorary professorship and from a prestigious committee in London), but it’s the actual women working in the field who were the most offended by the biochemist’s comment and took to social media to show the world just how wrong Tim Hunt is.
The female scientists shared both photos of how they look during a typical day, as well as playful, sarcastic comments aimed at the Nobel Prize winner’s words.
The photos showed them dressed in white or yellow hazmat suits that don’t flatter anyone’s figure and asking how their male colleagues are able to accomplish anything when they come to work dressed so revealing. Other photos showed them doing unbearably “sexy” activities such as collecting and analyzing animal feces. The most popular hashtag was #distractinglysexy.
As far as the comments go, Professor Sophie Scott twitted that she can’t get any work done as she saw a photo of Tim Hunt and now she’s in love with him.
Allison Sekuler wrote a twit saying that she can’t do any science because she’s too busy crying and making Tim Hunt fall in love with her, just like every other woman.
Kate Devlin wrote a post joking that she will not be able to attend the department’s 10 a.m. meeting because she is too busy swooning and crying.
Lucie de Beauchamp expressed just how happy she is that she managed to get through a whole day of cell culture without crying.
Other women were more passive-aggressive in their approach. Angel O’Reilly wrote to leave the man alone since, as a woman, she is made of sterner stuff than something that would allow her to be offended by Tim Hunt’s comments.
Joyce Hall was much more blunt when she wrote her Facebook post, saying that “He is ignorant of the strides women have made in education and therefore he is not a good representative for an honorary professorship. It has nothing to do with political correctness; it has to do with being a great professor for both men and women. What women would want to work with him with his neanderthal thinking?”
Some have suggested that the sexist comments was meant as a joke, not as an insult, however science is one the most fragile fields to make such comments as many have debated just how under-represented women are in the scientific community. And yet, Tim Hunt is not the first Nobel Prize winner to spit out sexist comments.
In 2001, VS Naipaul notoriously said that female writers are inferior to male writers, and chef Tom Kerridge recently said that wasn’t sure whether or not the cooking industry is fit for women.
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