Discrimination sadly proves itself time and time again as an issue that appears in almost any sector of the population and any industry. In entertainment, we’ve seen how women can be judged harshly based on their age and “sex appeal.” In Silicon Valley, major tech companies treat women in a manner similar to boorish fraternity boys more than as peers and equals.

 

Now, it seems that even members of the scientific community — an industry predicated on virtues of progressive, forward thinking — have experienced incidents rampant misogyny. This issue caught headlines last week when British Nobel Prize winner Tim Hunt voiced his concerns regarding women in the lab. Specifically, he stated, “you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them, they cry.”

 

In the days following these statements, women from the scientific community fired back, taking to social media to combat Hunt and his claims. The hashtag “#distractinglysexy” quickly started to trend on Twitter as female scientists mocked the concept of themselves as a distraction. Many of the photos posted showed these women engaging in typical, mundane activities in the lab and featured captions jokingly wondering how their male colleagues could possibly focus while working with them.

 

Twitter post of a woman crouching down with #distractinglysexy in the caption

#Distractinglysexy shows that women are taking this issue and mocking its ridiculousness rather than fighting aggressively. (yahoo.com)

Hunt himself has faced considerable fallout from his poorly worded statement. Forced to step down from numerous positions, he has become the face of sexism in the scientific community. While many women are up in arms, female colleagues of Hunt have come to his defense, asserting that while his words were “indefensible,” they had pleasant experiences working with Hunt, never once feeling victimized.

 

This raises serious concerns about the resonance of what we do and say. The ubiquity of social media and recording devices has allowed us a better connection with one another, but also keeps us on edge because we never know who may be observing our every action. In Hunt’s own words in an interview with The Guardian, he feels as though he has been “hung out to dry” as a result of this incident. It speaks to the power of social media, that people have unprecedented resources to rally behind a cause such as this, but with that power can come a tendency towards knee-jerk reactions.

 

If an offhand remark can destroy the career of a respected member of the scientific community, then anyone can be subject to the harsh and swift judgment of the internet community.

 

What do you think of what Tim Hunt said? Has the internet overreacted or should he incur more punishment? Comment below or tweet @connerws to keep the conversation alive!