Nobel Laureate Wishes Girls Would Stop Crying/Falling in Love with Him

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Sorta transcript:

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.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon mstdn.social/@rebeccawatson Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky @rebeccawatson.bsky.social

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  1. I can assure Tim Hunt, no ‘girl’ in a lab will ever fall in love with him again, unless she has a fetish for being insulted, of course.

  2. I had no idea about the tear duct thing. Although, it certainly makes sense as women are, on average, 10% smaller than men so it stands to reason that our tear ducts are smaller too.

    That said, Hunt has resigned (yay!) and I’m thrilled. I’m sure the MRAs are lining up to cry (or not cry so much as something manly and unemotional) about a respected Nobel laureate being pushed out for being irresistible to women. But I suggest we save our condolences for the women who were pushed out of science by attitudes like Hunt’s. Women who didn’t have the opportunity to study, make break throughs and win Nobel prizes for them.

  3. Dammit. I am unattractive and smart. When are all the scientist girls going to start falling in love with me? Do I need a Noble prize? Does it have to be a real one? /s

    Crying is a normal thing, and probably healthy. Ronda Rousey says that she cries at the drop of a hat, and she is one of the toughest and most competent people in a male-dominated field, so Hunt can suck lemons.

    Unless lemons make him cry. We can’t have that.

  4. Great as always!
    Although personally I don’t believe going into the science of crying is necessary, due to the fact that his reason#3 seemed inexorably linked to 1 and 2.

    I.e after he and his work colleague started a relationship with each other, his criticisms were no longer taken as just objective scientific reasoning and caused hurt in said work colleague.

    Now it is obvious to most of us, that once you develop a romantic relationship with a colleague, that the working relationship will be effected.
    This seems to be a surprise and a problem for him.

    I also think there is a kind of white elephant in the room here, and that is that Hunt shows the signs of a personality type characterised by a lacking of empathy, poor social skills, a lack of comprehension of the processes of social etiquette, stubborn and at the same time a brilliant mind.

    I am not in any way trying to excuse his comments, he has damaged his career far more than anyone else can. but I do think it’s easier to attack Hunt than it is to have a conversation about mental health and high functioning personality types.

    1. If you’re implying that Hunt might be autistic – so what? Autistic people can be sexist jackasses. He knows what he said, and he said what he meant. I don’t see any mental health issue.

  5. I have only been employed at a lab for two years so I have way less lab experience than others, but I can attest to seeing way more men cry than women…because it is almost all men. There is one other woman besides myself working in the lab. ;) When I see my coworkers shedding tears, I figure that they are having a shitty time with something and do my best to be a decent human being and not shame them for it. Additionally, if I made people cry at work, I would probably reconsider my approach.

    And as far the love fest in the lab… it must be totally different in physiology/medicine labs than electromagnetics. Because in EMC it is pretty much a snooze fest in this department. Maybe there are magic sprinkles on the doughnuts at their lab or something.

  6. This is all just a natural consequence of the Internet.

    All the easy ways of making a complete fool of yourself have been done. Now it takes real brains, Nobel prize winning brains to go viral.

    I heard one of the other Nobel prize winners got a replica made which he would wear to the beach each afternoon to pick up girls.

    Of course that one sounds like its an idea from the helper-brain.

  7. Not sure the tear duct thing is relevant – I doubt that Sir Tim objects to wet faces so much as not being able to work with some people for reasons he can’t comprehend.

    The core issue for me is that he discriminates and then blames the victim. It’s as outrageous as it would be to refuse to work with blacks because he thinks they have low intelligence. Even if there were a strong correlation between gender and crying or between skin colour and intelligence (all of them impossible to define and with more variation within groups than between them) it would still be wrong to make arbitrary judgements. It’s prejudice.

    1. The tear duct thing is wrong, for two reasons. First, bigger tear ducts may be able to withhold a larger volume of tears, but they are harder to seal up because the opening at the end is larger. I think it’s one of those square-cube scaling effects. See the seminal research on sealing large holes (starting at about 4:58.) The science involved dates back to the Second World War.

      Second and more importantly, it assumes something without evidence. As an anecdotal counterexample, yesterday one of my friends at work invited me to his house to watch the World Cup. I said “But, it’s soccer…” He replied it was much better than the men’s World Cup because there was much less falling down. Then he expanded: “They hit each other just as hard, but when they fall down, they just get up and keep playing. There’s much less thrashing around on the ground and complaining. Much less histrionics.”

  8. This was idiotic but was it really run the guy out of town on a rail and take away his job idiotic?

    I think it is best to save that sort of thing for folk who are intentionally vile like Anne Coulter or Megan Kelly. How many chances did Don Imus get? How many did Jeremy Clarkson get?

    Hunt seems to have fallen into the middle ground saying something idiotic enough to be fired but not so obnoxious that the folk on the right who reflexively support people for being bigots come to his aid.

    Also, my friend Sir Tim Berners-Lee would probably appreciate folk being a little more specific than ‘Sir Tim’.

    1. As far as I know, he hasn’t left town and he hasn’t lost any jobs (he was already retired). He resigned from an honorary position, which is good, because we shouldn’t happily honor sexist asses. And yes, what he said was plainly intentional as he made clear to attendees of the event and in his first “apology.”

      Being subjected to rightful criticism and a bit of mockery is not at all the horrible fate you’ve described, and it’s nowhere near to the pain that women in STEM face every day of their careers thanks to Hunt and his ilk.

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