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  #61  
Unread 07-11-2020, 01:12 PM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is online now
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Mark, a lot of these things--not calls for violence, which are always unacceptable, but calls for firings or boycotts or other real consequences--have to be judged on a case-by-case basis. Some of those firings, etc., are completely unjust. Others are more debatable.

For example,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark McDonnell View Post
72 year old Nobel Prize winning scientist Tim Hunt is forced to resign from all his academic and honourary posts after a conference speech in Korea. He was asked what he thought about women in the sciences and replied that men and women in labs together are a bad idea because "they fall in love with you and then it ends, and they cry". Why? Twitter storm. (What wasn't reported were the words he immediately followed this with, which made clear it was a joke. A bad one, but he's a 72 year old biochemist. He isn't required to be funny or 'woke': "Now seriously, I’m impressed by the economic development of Korea. And women scientists played, without a doubt, an important role in it. Science needs women. And you should do science despite all the obstacles, and despite monsters like me.”)
I don't see why "a 72 year old biochemist" like Hunt, who has long held tremendous power over who does and does not get opportunities in his field, should get a pass on saying--even in jest--that female scientists, regardless of their professional qualifications, should have those opportunities limited for the convenience and preference of men like himself. (And I also don't see how it's a "self-deprecating joke," as he said in the quotation below, to suggest that he's so irresistible to the ladies that they just can't help falling in love with him if they work in his vicinity. Sounds more like boasting, to me.)

Here's a different view on whether Hunt's comments about women in labs should be forgiven as just a harmless joke gone awry:

Quote:
As a participant at the World Conference of Science Journalists last week in Seoul, I had a ringside seat for the running story of Nobel Prize-winner Sir Tim Hunt’s dismissive and offensive offhand remarks about female scientists. Reducing them to romantic distractions in the workplace that wilt in the face of criticism, he stunned an international audience by even calling for “single-sex labs.”

A social media uproar soon followed, and the 72-year-old British scientist was asked to resign from positions at University College London and the Royal Society. Hunt also stepped down from an advisory appointment at the European Research Council. In an exclusive interview at his British country home with the U.K.’s Observer, published online on Saturday, Hunt claimed that he’d only meant to make “a self-deprecating joke,” and he complained that he’d been “hung to dry by academic institutes who have not even bothered to ask me for my side of affairs.” His wife Mary Collins, herself a prominent scientist, backed him up, but there are numerous reasons to reject this as a misunderstood-martyr’s tale.

In fact, from the very start, Hunt had several opportunities to clarify his comments and make a more sincere apology for his injurious public remarks about the “trouble with girls” in science. At a hotel breakfast the day after his remarks, American journalist Deborah Blum followed up by asking him if his call for segregated labs had been a joke. As she reported in a series of tweets yesterday, he largely stood by what he’d said. Later, on BBC Radio 4's Today program, Hunt said he was “sorry” for offending his audience, but added: “I did mean the part about having trouble with girls.”

Hunt should have known how painful reducing women to sexual objects would be. On Sunday, Michael Eisen, a biologist at UC Berkeley, recounted in a blog post how earlier this year, Hunt and he had been invited as “external advisors” to a meeting of young Indian researchers held in Kashmir. In one session, several women talked about how their careers had been held back by their superiors’ inability to control their lust. Apparently, the message was lost on Hunt. Referring to the social media fallout after the events in South Korea, Eisen wrote:

Quote:
When I am thinking about what happened here, I am not thinking about how Twitter hordes brought down a good man because he had a bad day. I am instead thinking about what it says to the women in that room in Kashmir that this leading man of science – who it was clear everybody at the meeting revered – had listened to their stories and absorbed nothing. It is unconscionable that, barely a month after listening to a women moved to tears as she recounted a sexual assault from a senior colleague and how hard it was for her to regain her career, Hunt would choose to mock women in science as teary love interests.
https://blogs.scientificamerican.com...-were-no-joke/
Bottom line: I think it's a perfectly reasonable use of free speech for women and their allies to use social media to call for consequences when prominent people make sexist remarks in public, and for universities and other organizations to decide that that's not who they want representing them anymore. And might I point out that the professional consequences to a 72-year-old who loses a few mostly-honorary positions very late in his career are vastly less than the professional consequences to young female scientists he may have avoided hiring or promoting over the years, for reasons of his own self-preservation (i.e., avoiding "having trouble with girls")? I can't see him as an the victim here.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 07-11-2020 at 01:22 PM.
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  #62  
Unread 07-11-2020, 01:36 PM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Julie -- Of course people have the right to use social media to call for consequences, and of course everything has to be judged on a case by case basis. And everyone's opinion will be different. In my opinion what happened to Hunt was unnecessary and extreme after such a long and distinguished career of, in the simplest terms, helping in the search for a cure for cancer.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/science...-tim-hunt/amp/

There's absolutely no evidence that he had ever deliberately used his influence to hold women back during that career, and as far as I'm aware no women came forward afterwards to suggest this, which surely they would have done, were this the case. Indeed, his female colleagues defended him. A bad joke from a stuffy old man isn't evidence. It reminded me of the sort of thing Whitworth used to say. I'm not defending the comments, they were pretty crass, I just think the consequences were unnecessary and more to do with a panicked response to a (social) media storm than anything commensurate with the offence. I know he won't have suffered any financial hardship from it, but that's not the point.

He was asked, as part of a 'pre-lunch toast' where the tone was fairly jocular, what he thought about women in the sciences. His answer wasn't part of a prepared speech and he clumsily attempted humour based on his personal experience and his reputation as an "old fogey". He didn't say they were a bad idea, he said, clearly lightheartedly, (though it was widely reported as if he were proposing a genuine policy change) that men and women in labs together can cause problems. The full quote, as far as we know, was "It’s strange that such a chauvinist monster like me has been asked to speak to women scientists. Let me tell you about my trouble with girls in labs. Three things happen: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry. Perhaps we should make separate labs for boys and girls? Now, but seriously, I’m impressed by the economic development of Korea. And women scientists played, without a doubt, an important role in it. Science needs women. Congratulations, everybody, because I hope—I hope—I really hope that there won’t be anything holding you back, especially not monsters like me. ”

The comments weren't recorded, so all we have are various accounts. The only part that was recorded is the snippet at the end beginning "Congratulations" which is followed by laughter and applause from the mostly female audience, not "stony silence" as was originally reported before the recording came out. The "my trouble with girls" (notice he also uses "boys") is referring to his own personal experience. His wife is also a prominent scientist, as most at the conference knew, and they met in the lab when she was married to someone else. This is what he meant by describing the remarks as "self deprecating" and by adding to his apology "I did mean the part about having trouble with girls.”

Maybe you had to be there...

This gives a thorough, detailed take. I think it's a fairly conservative website, but then the sympathetic article I linked to originally was from the Guardian.

https://www.google.com/amp/www.realc...491.am p.html

Also: for more cancel fun updates...follow this thread

https://mobile.twitter.com/SoOppress...04647160942598

And this one (I know Aaron hates anyone who find this person funny. Sorry Aaron)

https://mobile.twitter.com/TitaniaMc...23987242487808

Last edited by Mark McDonnell; 07-15-2020 at 06:47 AM.
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  #63  
Unread 07-11-2020, 08:00 PM
Max Goodman Max Goodman is offline
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I appreciate the links to thoughtful essays others have posted in this thread. Here are two more, making arguments which, if we simplify the continuum of opinion into two sides, oppose each other:

Washington Post columnist Megan McArdle
"The real problem with 'cancel culture'"

McArdle links to essays she agrees with, and to

Osita Nwanevu in The New Republic
"The Willful Blindness of Reactionary Liberalism"
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  #64  
Unread 07-12-2020, 05:32 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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If I were to say "talk is cheap" it would be tantamount to offering that someone cut my tongue out. So I will just say that it (talk) is ubiquitous these days. Armageddon is beginning to look a lot like cacophony. I've a limited appetite for splicing opinions down to slivers ad nauseam. The choir is singing out of tune. The conductor has left the podium.

(Mood)
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  #65  
Unread 07-12-2020, 09:37 AM
Max Goodman Max Goodman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Moonan View Post
I've a limited appetite for splicing opinions down to slivers ad nauseam.
Thanks for sharing that opinion.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Moonan View Post
If I were to say "talk is cheap" it would be tantamount to offering that someone cut my tongue out. So I will just say that it (talk) is ubiquitous these days. Armageddon is beginning to look a lot like cacophony.
"Talk" is affecting institutions and people's lives. Things are changing. However little my own voice can affect the cacophony and the change it brings, I'm eager for my contribution to be as positive as possible. Others here, I think, feel similarly. We're wrestling with these issues toward that end.
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  #66  
Unread 07-12-2020, 05:55 PM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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Your points are well-taken by me, Max. I barged in with very little to offer other than frustration. (Hence the cryptic (Mood) at the end.)

I am, nearly to a fault, hopeful and optimistic about the seismic changes that are rumbling. It's time. My frustration comes from the disorder and chaos that fogs the progress. But I am with you all the way. For too long we've made molehills out of mountains. Now it's time to climb.
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  #67  
Unread 07-13-2020, 06:30 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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Max, thanks for the nudge to ponder more about our condition. Iíve done some searching. Here's what I found.

This is compelling: The Great Pause. (I heard of the project before but had forgotten about it ó which is in and of itself confirmation that maybe there is something to it).

And this is a dramatic interpretation of that condition we called "normal".

I found this an intriguing read.


Btw, one of my frustrations with this conversation was that it had drifted so far from the original focus of the thread. Not that I was following it that closely, but it was one of those threads that take on a life of its own. Not a bad thing. More of a rumination than a discussion, I suppose. I was just in the mood to barge.

Have I barged in again? Iím always barging. I will not barge. I will not barge. I will not barge. I will not barge...
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  #68  
Unread 07-13-2020, 01:23 PM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Quote:
Armageddon is beginning to look a lot like cacophony. I've a limited appetite for splicing opinions down to slivers ad nauseam.
Jim, I have some sympathy with this. I've posted so much here recently, on this, the George Floyd thread, others. I even tried to pick a fight about Sonnets. I'm getting tired of the sound of my own voice. I offer apologies to anyone else who feels the same. I had a revelation today. It just said...silence.

I'm coming up to two years sober now, and I have a theory that rambling on GT has been my compulsive replacement for booze. I need a different one. The more verbose I am, the more forcefully I think I'm making my points, providing links, being thorough and articulate, the worse I feel afterwards, like a beer-blues guilt hangover after a bender. I look back at myself being so insufferably sure, when I'm really not, and I say "Never again". And then someone posts something else and it's like a bottle opening and I want to carry on till everyone else has staggered home. I always end up feeling bad, not least because I appear to be alone in my tendency to take the seemingly unfashionable line on these free speech issues, one which has become bizarrely associated with the political right to whom I feel zero affiliation. But it's true there are many ways that I feel an aversion to a strain of the, certainly cultural, left. So I'm a centrist? Nah. I want a socialist economy. I'm nothing. Maybe I just have a compulsion to be contrary, or an aversion to certainty maybe. Or am too swayed by the "optics of reasonableness" as Aaron put it. I suppose that's possible. This thread, with its theme of public disgrace and loss of reputation, began to feel weirdly 'meta' to me as I dug in more, defending the Harper's letter, defending 'problematic' poetry, defending sexist jokes by old scientists, defending the take on the trans issue from the 'wrong' perspective. And the more any lack of agreement became apparent, the more I began to realise I'd be better shutting up. Except, I wasn't defending these things; in each case I was criticising their consequences. Ah well. I've said it before but I'm definitely done here now. Nothing is solved and I feel worse and more baffled than when I entered the discussion. Still questioning my own take on things, but definitely unconvinced by any other. I'm just going to vote Labour like always, give to the charities of my choice and try to be kind. And read less news.

And stick to poetry. Poetry never makes me feel like this. It doesn't have to be right, but I know when it's true.

Last edited by Mark McDonnell; 07-18-2020 at 06:04 AM.
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  #69  
Unread 07-13-2020, 05:08 PM
Max Goodman Max Goodman is offline
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I feel ya, Jim. It's a confusing time (and thread). We're not in Kansas anymore. (And thank G-d for that!) Thanks for the links. I'll check them out.
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