Poor Tim Hunt – sort of

Miss Nellie A. Brown; L to R: Miss Lucia McCollock, Miss Mary K. Bryan, Miss Florence Hedges
Put down your test-tubes and give us a smile girls.

Brian Cox and Boris Johnson don’t have loads in common, other than the hair thing and the fact they have both jumped to the defence of Nobel winning scientist Tim Hunt. Professor Hunt got himself into a lot of trouble last week with his comments about ‘girls’ in labs and subsequently resigned from his positions at UCL and The Royal Society. Boris and Brian’s appeals for reason really highlight the differences between someone who understands science and the nature of evidence and someone who thinks girls go to university to find a husband.

Boris – not a scientist- Johnson, rather embarrassingly used evidence to prove that Professor Hunt was right about girls crying, because evidence shows that women do cry more than men. Boris doesn’t think it should be an offense to point out these gender differences, presumably making it also ok to point out how much more men commit violent crimes than women. Begging the question is there a problem with letting men into mixed gender workplaces because boys can get a bit rapey? Seriously, shush Boris, you’re not doing Tim any favours by being on his side, now get back into your basket you crazy albino.

Professor Brian -actual scientist- Cox, didn’t defend Tim Hunt’s comments, just said that he shouldn’t have lost his job over them, which seems fair enough. Hunt’s words and thoughts, while irritating and offensive, are just words and thoughts- not actions. There is no evidence that he has discriminated against women in the work place. To fire him because he has the potential to discriminate, or other people just don’t like him, is a bit too thought-police. I’m not going to stop sending my nana Christmas cards because she calls black people ‘darkies’ either.

Was Professor Hunt really ‘hounded out’ by social media? If so I missed it, all I saw was some fairly reasonable irritation and some rather excellent piss-taking. Twitter doing some good with the ensuing #distractinglysexy hashtag undoing the harm and promoting women in science, happily the only reported tears were from laughter.  People on Twitter are always calling for resignations, but since when did we take ‘people on Twitter’ so seriously? They say a lot of shit, you’ll notice they aren’t literally Laughing Out Loud either.
Still, The Royal Society and University College London lost their bottle and caved in to the pressure, not helped by Professor Hunt who apologised by saying his comments were intended as a joke, but that he meant what he said and he was just being honest, the second part seemingly contradicting the first.

Hunt gets the chop but Phillip Larkin gets honoured in Poet’s Corner and he said a lot worse- what’s the difference? Twitter? How much people love ‘This Be The Verse’? The fact that Larkin is dead and doesn’t have to give appraisals to besotted, sobbing employees? Or that Larkin owned his words, for the most part shunning honours whereas Hunt said something very stupid, and still expects everyone to think he’s clever.

I do feel sorry for Professor Hunt, I’m sure he is a very nice man and he should still have his job, but let’s not forget, his damaged reputation is his own fault. The professor is finding out what it’s like to have your career blighted by a single moment of human weakness. You work hard all your life to achieve a level of respect in your field then one stupid joke, one single tear and you’re branded a ‘sexist pig’ or a ‘crying girl’.


Multiple personalities

Sally Field as Sybil
This is me, no it’s me, no it’s me…..

When I was a teenager I read a book. I did other things too, but this sticks in the memory because it was the harrowing account of a sufferer of Multiple Personality Syndrome (MPS) which shouldn’t be confused with Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) despite the glaring similarities.

The book was called Sybil, Sally Field did some fantastic twitching in the film version. I don’t remember much about the book except it involved some graphic child abuse involving a funnel, which puts my own account of child abuse involving a funnel in the shade somewhat. (Dad used to get us to hold the funnel when he was pouring his home brew into demi-johns,- but for AGES, it ached like shit.)

The reason I bring this up is that recently I have begun to feel like I too have begun to develop multiple personalities, owing to social media.

As well as facebook, I also have two blogs, two twitter accounts and, given the previous sentence, clearly too much time on my hands.

With each outlet there is a different Jenny.

I have a slightly amusing/slightly  horticultural blog and tied twitter account called tiny farmer, (http://tinyfarmer.wordpress.com/ and @thetinyfarmer if you were wondering).  I also have my Facebook account which is connected to all my friends and family, a twitter account which only faithful and accidental follow (@jennylaville). Then I have my desperate attempts to be funny blog (this is it, did you think I’d give you a different link? Clearly I am failing.).

So on the rare occasions that I do have something to say, which I feel is safe to broadcast beyond just me and the breadbin, I turn to my smartphone to share the gem, but then I hesitate. Is this bon mot in some way garden related? No, Ok. Tiny farmer is out then. Is it funny enough for my blog, or only funny enough for those who may require me to babysit their kids or donate an organ to appreciate, or does this particular witty observation demand the greater (but in literal terms, lesser) audience of the blog?

Then there is the question of suitability. For example, just today I tweeted the following.

Aroma of Christmas cake fills the room as I leaf through an Argos catalogue. Couldn’t be more Christmassy if I was getting it on with Santa.

I also posted it on Facebook when it occurred to me that while on Twitter, there was only an outside possibility that one of my three followers may be offended- I’m pretty sure the close family and school mums who are friends on FB don’t need the mental image of me shagging Father Christmas on the kitchen table in their minds at dinner time.

I tried to delete it, but it was too late, someone had left a comment, after which point you cannot delete a thread. That would be rude.

Pretending to be only one person is difficult enough to maintain when the social worker visits. For you guys I am, as always, whatever you want me to be, baby.