As my (Cathy’s) daughter is a research scientist and director of a private laboratory, the recent sexist comments by Nobel Prize-winning British scientist, Sir Tim Hunt, was quite a topic of discussion in our home. Hunt, a biochemist who was a joint recipient of the 2001 Nobel Prize made the offensive remarks while speaking at the World Conference of Science Journalists in South Korea. Hunt stated that mixed gender laboratories are “trouble” and “”you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticize them, they cry”. According to the BBC, Hunt later apologized for his comments during a phone interview, but then went on to say:
“I did mean the part about having trouble with girls … 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.”
Hunt’s “retraction” only led to a much stronger public response and initiated his resignation from his honorary post at University College London. The social media frenzy that followed, particularly through twitter was intriguing. Female scientists from around the world spearheaded an ironic Twitter campaign to mock Sir Tim Hunt’s sexist comments about the need for single-sex laboratories. For example, Allison Sekuler, AVP & Dean Grad Studies and Prof of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour @ McMaster University tweeted:
Can’t do any science today because – like all women – I’m too busy making #TimHunt fall in love with me and crying http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jun/10/tim-hunt-apologises-comments-trouble-female-scientists …
Archaeologists, biochemists and mathematicians starting posting “distracting ” photographs of themselves at work:
And male scientists demonstrated solidarity by posting new signs in their labs:
It was satisfying for me to see women in science not only display a strong voice, but be able to maintain a sense of humor. This sense of humor will bode us well as we move forward in our crusade to combat sexism and other forms of oppression in the work place and in education.