Nobel laureate Sir Tim Hunt resigned Wednesday from his post as honorary professor with University College London's Faculty of Life Sciences after comments he made at the World Conference of Science Journalists that were deemed sexist made the rounds in social media. Then, Twitter users did what they do best: mocked him with the trending hashtag #DistractinglySexy.
Hunt, 72, a biochemist, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2001 for groundbreaking work on cell division.
“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 criticize them they cry,” he told the audience in South Korea Tuesday. He was greeted, according to attendee Connie St. Louis, a lecturer in science journalism at City University, London, with "stony-faced" silence, according to the BBC. The New York Times credits St. Louis's tweet criticizing Hunt's comments with making it go viral.
â€” mark haddon (@mark_haddon) June 11, 2015
Hunt's comments serve as anecdotal support for the charge that women face misogyny and discrimination in science, as he gives voice to the sorts of gender bias research has shown keeps many women out of science and keeps them from advancing.
Although Hunt later provided a manpology or "sorry not sorry" apology, he managed to wedge in another stereotype about women: that they have no sense of humor. He was just joking, he told the BBC, and was sorry, but his comments "were interpreted deadly seriously by my audience," adding, "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.”
â€” Connie St Louis (@connie_stlouis) June 8, 2015
"UCL can confirm that Sir Tim Hunt FRS has today resigned from his position as honorary professor with the UCL Faculty of Life Sciences, following comments he made about women in science at the World Conference of Science Journalists on 9 June," read a UCL announcement on the university website. "UCL was the first university in England to admit women students on equal terms to men, and the university believes that this outcome is compatible with our commitment to gender equality."
Twitter wasn't so gentle.
— Prof Sophie Scott (@sophiescott) June 10, 2015
Dear department: please note l will be unable to chair the 10am meeting this morning because I am too busy swooning and crying. #TimHunt
— Kate Devlin (@drkatedevlin) June 10, 2015
It's Thursday in the office! You know what that means... Crying, proposals, and falling In love with my co-workers #distractinglysexy
— Tegan (@TCirulli) June 11, 2015
— Sarah Durant (@SarahMDurant) June 11, 2015
— Ines Varela Silva (@inesvarelasilva) June 11, 2015
â€” Jillian Keenan (@JillianKeenan) June 11, 2015
— Geeky Girl Engineer (@gkygirlengineer) June 11, 2015