by Maria Schulz
I got a good chuckle recently when I read this article about a Nobel Laureate scientist who gave a speech in which he showed everyone how easy it is for a highly intelligent person to say some very dumb things.
Apparently, this esteemed scientist made a speech in which he said:
“Let me tell you about my trouble with girls,” Mr. Hunt told an audience on Monday at the World Conference of Science Journalists in South Korea. “Three things happen when they are in the lab: You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them they cry.”
Female scientists the world over (and a fair share of male scientists too) responded with outrage. Some of the women started posting photos of themselves with the hashtag #distractinglysexy. There were photos of women in the field collecting specimens of animal excrement, in the ocean, at volcanoes, and each one said something about swooning over Mr. Hunt, being incapable of continuing because they were crying, or how hard it was for men to work with them because they were so #distractinglysexy.
I thought the photos were hilarious, and I laughed every time someone said that they couldn’t think straight because they are now in love with their esteemed colleague.
Personally, I wasn’t outraged by the professor’s comments. Here’s why:
- Let’s face it: back in the old days, his comments would have gotten big roars of laughter and approval, as opposed to being met with a stony wall of silence and derision. The real moral of the story here is: Know thy audience.
- Mr. Hunt clearly stated that this was his own personal belief, based on his observations in the field. Obviously, his facts are not facts at all, but judgments colored by his own beliefs. He sees what he expects to see. That doesn’t make it true. He’s a scientist—he should understand that. But I would give him a break, since everyone is allowed a dumb idea every now and then.
- His colleagues consider him to be a kind, gentle, friendly co-worker. They claim that he wasn’t being serious, although he made things worse by offering a non-apology in which he tried to defend his statements. Dude! Just say I’m sorry and run for your life!
- Honestly, I’m more offended by the fact that he told a joke that wasn’t funny. They said he is a funny guy…I’m still waiting.
- Don’t believe everything you hear or read on the internet. An official transcript of the conference seems to show that Mr. Hunt was really joking about his own failings, that his audience was not horrified but laughing, and that he actually said that women have contributed amazing things in many scientific fields. The fact is that Mr. Hunt has done groundbreaking work on cell division and contributed greatly to cancer research. He did apologize for his comments, saying that he never meant to offend anyone. The moral of this story is: you can criticize what he said without heating up the tar, plucking the feathers, and destroying the man. Plus, listen to an entire speech and understand what you’re hearing in context before you light those torches.
The fact that we’re even discussing this topic in 2015 is beyond incredible to me. My girls have friends who are excellent science and math students, and they have already worked in research fields and make amazing contributions. Many of them just happen to be girls. Why is this a surprise?
I grew up in a house filled with boys. My brothers never seemed to think I was incapable or stupid when it came to academic pursuits. Yes, they sometimes called me a dumb girl if I was on their team and fumbled a ball, missed a shot, or dropped an easy foul ball. But they were just as quick to call the boys on the team idiots too. They were equal opportunity critics who sometimes said hurtful things when you screwed up. But they always supported me and I supported them, no matter where our talents may lay.
The fact that I am a girl had nothing to do with my inability to work in a lab. It’s just not my strength. Some of my brothers were good at math and science, and some were not. How come? Were they too busy falling in love with the girls around them or crying when they were criticized? Of course not. Their gender had nothing to do with it.
It’s like me saying:
“The problem with men is that they have no clue about how harsh they can sometimes be, and they are so competitive that they will crush you if you try to advance any idea that they can’t claim as their own. Also, they have all the finesse and interpersonal skills of Dr. Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory.”
Ridiculous, right? The problem is, while Mr. Hunt was probably joking, lots of people may have been nodding their heads in agreement. But everyone should remember: just because you’ve encountered someone who cries, or likes the drama of office romance, or is just a big old jerk, it doesn’t mean that you can say that all women do this, or all men do that. Empirical data and controls are the dream! You can’t draw conclusions from your own flawed biases and expect them to apply to an entire population.
So there! I hope I don’t make anybody cry.
Everybody can use a good dose of brain food to fuel the ol’ noggin and make good choices…before you open your mouth. This list of excellent brain foods includes broccoli, eggs, salmon, raspberries, spinach, and oatmeal, with recipes like salmon kebobs with grapefruit and quinoa, raspberry vanilla smoothies, deviled eggs, and more.
So, have you ever had any trouble with girls? Have you ever said anything that you wished you could take back? What’s your favorite brain food? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!