Who Turned the Crazy Machine Up to 11?

It’s almost impossible to keep up with the crazy this week. It’s causing my “Week in Pictures” compass to spin like a top, almost as if the Earth’s magnetic polarity was flipping out. (Oh, wait. . .)

First, we have the utterly predictable—but still fully absurd—story out of Spokane, Washington, that the local head of the NAACP is in fact a white woman. What the heck, if Elizabeth Warren and Ward Churchill can claim to be Indian Native American, why not allow someone to choose their race? After all, isn’t race itself part of the social construction of everything? A suggestion for the 2020 Census: check all of the race/ethnicity boxes on the form, just to be safe.

Then there’s poor Tim Hunt, a Nobel Prize winner in biology, who made the mistake of speaking candidly about what we used to refer to euphemistically as the “battle of the sexes”:

Tim Hunt, an English biochemist who admitted that he has a reputation for being a “chauvinist”, said to the World Conference of Science Journalists in Seoul, South Korea: “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls … three things happen when they are in the lab … You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticise them, they cry.”

Hunt said he was in favour of single-sex labs, adding that he didn’t want to “stand in the way of women”.

Well he won’t be standing in the way any longer, as he’s been forced out of his job. Didn’t he ever get the memo from the Sensitivity Police? It’s almost as if he’d worn a flashy shirt featuring women in swimsuits while announcing the results of space probe landing on a comet (remember that?).

The hysterical reaction to Hunt has gotten some pushback, such as this from Sarah Vine in the Daily Mail:

Girls, ladies, women — or whatever it is you’re calling yourselves these days: I hope you’re proud of yourselves.

After all, it’s not as if there are any other injustices towards women to worry about. No Islamic state militants raping 12-year-old girls in Syria, no sex slavery in India, no female genital mutilation here. Oh no. Nothing like that to busy ourselves with.

All that stuff pales into insignificance when you consider the crimes of Professor Hunt.

Which, when you boil it down amount to the following:

1. He made a joke.

2. There were some women in it.

3. It was actually a bit funny and self-deprecating.

I know, I know. For a clever man, that was a spectacularly stupid thing to do.

And a woman scientist friend of mine at a major university posted this comment:

So, I *am* almost crying laughing over this hashtag series of photos and comments in response to Dr. Tim Hunt’s remarks about having women in his lab. BUT, let me also get real for a second. People: it’s okay to cry when you are frustrated about research. Research is frustrating! (And also exciting and fun!) Because, other possible reactions to extreme frustration include punching (not recommended), yelling (use with caution), and giving up (don’t). Crying is not a bad way to go if you need to get it out.

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