Are Sir Tim Hunt’s Comments Really A ‘Disaster’ For Women?

uclWhen is an apology not actually an apology? According to Nobel laureate Sir Tim Hunt, it’s when you say something unpopular but only sort of mean it.

The University College London (UCL) professor has stepped down from his honorary role after being criticised over comments about women in science at the World Conference of Science Journalists in South Korea. You can read what he said here. Although Hunt has since apologised for the comments, he has stood by them. Though as he admits himself, he has a reputation as a ‘chauvinist’, so that’s hardly a surprise.

But fellow UCL professor David Colquhoun described Hunt’s comments as a ‘disaster for the advancement of women’. Are they really? Hunt’s expression of his outdated views was pretty much widely condemned:

Even UCL distanced itself from Hunt, saying in a statement that his resignation is ‘compatible with our commitment to gender equality’.

We don’t need reminding that sexism is still depressingly prevalent, but if the advancement of women can be arrested solely by Hunt’s comments, either Hunt is more important or feminism is in worse shape than anyone previously thought.

Meanwhile, Hunt apologised on Radio 4’s Today show, saying his remarks were ‘intended as a light-hearted, ironic comment’ but were taken seriously. So he’s just misunderstood, really. Or anyone who didn’t laugh it off has taken it the wrong way. In his own words:

“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 because it’s terribly important that in a lab people are on a level playing field.

“I found that these emotional entanglements made life very difficult.”

Poor Sir Tim.

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