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Nobel Laureate and official knight of the British realm Sir Tim Hunt is in the news for telling a bunch of female scientists in Korea that “girls” in labs are bad news because of three things: they fall in love with Hunt, he falls in love with them, and they cry. I’ve figured out why the girls in Hunt’s lab cried: it’s because they can’t understand how they contracted whatever magical curse caused them to fall in love with a gross-ass scraggly-haired septuagenarian sexist asshole. You would cry, too!
After everybody in the world was like, “Hey, that’s a pretty damaging joke, Tim Hunt,” he went on record to apologize. Not for his comments, which he stands behind and made extra clear that they were not a joke, but for the fact that he said the comments in front of journalists. Now that everyone knows what a dipshit he is, he’s probably afraid he can no longer trick grad students into fucking him using the line, “Have you ever touched a Nobel Prize before? How about a Nobel Prize winner?”
As for his point about women in labs being more apt to cry, you know what? Women probably do cry more than men in the lab, since women probably cry more in general for both social and physiological reasons. We raise boys to think of crying as a shameful thing and reward them for sucking it up, emotionally speaking, the same way that Hunt is punishing women now for not sucking it up enough.
There’s also a physical reason: women have smaller tear ducts than men, which makes it more difficult to hold back a tear once those ducts are all full.
And then there’s the fact that women seem to have a lot more to cry about. For a start, there’s the possibility of working with people like Tim Hunt. A recent study published by Harvard Business Review found that the majority of women in STEM fields report needing to constantly prove their competence more often than their peers and have been discouraged from displaying “masculine” behaviors like speaking their minds and being decisive.
About half of black and Latina women in STEM have been mistaken for administrative or custodial staff, and nearly half of Asian American women felt pressured to play a stereotypically feminine role in the office or lab.
With all that going against them, women in STEM who don’t burst into tears at least once a day should be eligible for a special award. We can call it the Sir Tim Hunt Memorial Prize in Putting Up With Bullshit. Actually I love that idea and am going to work on the Kickstarter right now.