Nobel laureate Sir Tim Hunt resigned from his honorary professorship at University College London on June 11 after igniting a firestorm 48 hours earlier by suggesting women scientists should be segregated from men.
In a statement, UCL confirmed his resignation:
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.
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.
The fracas began earlier this week at the World Conference of Science Journalists in South Korea, when Hunt suggested women – or in his words, “girls” – should be kept out of the laboratory. “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls,” he said. “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.”
It didn’t take long for word of his remarks to reach beyond the confines of the conference. Yet when questioned about his statement, he doubled down and offered a non-apology apology in an interview with the BBC:
The biochemist, who was knighted in 2006, said the remarks were “intended as a light-hearted, ironic comment” but had been “interpreted deadly seriously by my audience”.
He went on to say he stood by some of the remarks.
“I did mean the part about having trouble with girls,” he said.
“It is true that people – 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.
“I found that these emotional entanglements made life very difficult.
“I’m really, really sorry I caused any offence, that’s awful. I certainly didn’t mean that. I just meant to be honest, actually.”
Unsurprisingly, his misogynistic remarks when viral online, quickly leading to the sarcastic -and brutally funny – hashtag #DistractinglySexy, which was first proposed on June 10 by Vagenda Magazine:
The hashtag has also been used to honor women scientist, including the famous and the often ignored:
Despite the fact that Hunt has resigned his position, online mockery shows no sign of dying down. Of the approximately 73,000 tweets using the hashtag #DistractinglySexy, more than 60,000 of them have occurred in the last 24 hours, according to the Twitter tracking service Topsy.