The unbearable obtuseness of being a Tim Hunt apologist


You cannot make this stuff up.

Hunt apologist Louise Mensch published a post on her blog Unfashionista entitled Royal Society’s ‘Diversity Committee’ Pre-Judged #TimHunt. Now UCL Should Give Him Due Process.

In an effort to defend Hunt’s indefensible comments about women in science, Mensch asks us to consider the impact of the outcry on …. his wife.

[pullquote align=”right” color=”#000000″]Who among Hunt’s apologists offered due process to Connie St. Louis before attempting to eviscerate her reputation? [/pullquote]

Imagine the scene: you are a distinguished female scientist, a Professor and an employee of the college you work for, University College, London. You have a blameless employment record and have served your employer – and its students – with distinction for many years.

Suddenly you receive a call from a senior representative of your employer, pressurizing you about the actions of your spouse – actions you have nothing to do with, and do not understand as yet, because he is unable to speak for himself, as he is traveling back home from the far side of the world.

Your employer’s representative gives you a message for your spouse; he must resign, or he will be sacked. Your employer places you in the middle of its workplace drama with somebody else, a drama which, as a female scientist, you had nothing to do.

What a terrible, stressful suggestion – from your place of work – pass on its threat of public humiliation, without due process, to your beloved husband, an old man of 72, whom they are not allowing to come home and speak to them first…

I’d call that sexist … bloody sexist.

Mensch gets an “A” for effort in twisting herself into a pretzel to defend Hunt. How dare anyone hold Hunt accountable for his misogynistic comments? It’s gender discrimation against his wife and it’s ageist since Hunt is an “old man.”

She also gets an “A” for obtuseness and chutzpah.

Consider this example:

Imagine the scene: you are a distinguished female journalist. a You have a blameless employment record and have served your employer – its students – with distinction for many years.

You attend a conference honoring women where a prominent male speaker makes misogynistic remarks. Like any journalist when presented with a story, you report it.

Suddenly you are subjected to a vicious campaign from apologists for misogynists, involving public abuse and destruction of your repuation.

Your abusers gives you a message; you must retract your comments or the abuse will continue.

Other women are also sent a message: prepare yourself for a vicious campaign of character assassination and abusive public comments if you dare to hold a prominent man to account by reporting on his misogynistic views. Your critics place you in the midst of a vitriolic campaign just because you, as a female journalist, dared to report what you had heard.

What a terrible, stressful situation.

That would be the situation in which the journalist Connie St. Louis finds herself. That’s gender discrimination, too, right? That seems never to have crossed Mensch’s mind.

The bulk of Mensch’s rambling, unfocused piece is devoted to her contention that Hunt did not receive due process.

On June 9th, before Sir Tim Hunt had been able to speak to his university, University College London, or any statement from him had been broadcast, three Professors – two with affiliations to UCL and one to the Royal Society were – without even speaking to Sir Tim – plotting to deprive him of his honours without due process of any kind. It is VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE that they did so BEFORE his comments to Radio 4’s “Today” Show were broadcast.

Let’s leave aside for the moment that due process is a concept from American law and does not have an analog in British law. The idea that it is wrong to rush to judgment without knowing all the facts is certainly a worthy ideal. Which raises several important questions:

Why did Hunt’s apologists rush to defend him before they knew all the facts?

Why did Hunt’s defenders fabricate mitigating details about Hunt’s statements without checking the facts?

Who among Hunt’s apologists offered due process to Connie St. Louis before attempting to eviscerate her reputation? None, right?

What due process has been available prior to publicly heaping abuse on Hunt’s critics? None, right?

Both Mensch’s curious concern for due process for Tim Hunt but no one else and her absurd framing of this episode as gender discrimination against Hunt’s wife while turning a blind eye to the vicious misogyny directed at St. Louis and other Hunt critics is emblematic of the obtuseness of Hunt’s critics. Simply put, Hunt apologists would rather talk about anything else but Hunt’s inexcusable remarks.

What ever happened to taking responsibility for mistakes and accepting the consequences for those mistakes? Hunt made a serious mistake; why are his apologists straining to deny Hunt’s responsibilty and to reject accountability for misogyny?

The manufactured outrage of Mensch and other Hunt apologists is a de facto embrace of gender discrimination and no amount of obtuseness on their part conceals that regrettable fact.

49 Responses to “The unbearable obtuseness of being a Tim Hunt apologist”

  1. Ess
    July 6, 2015 at 10:24 am #

    There is no direct parallel between what Hunt’s wife – as his spouse – was put through by her employer – about her spouse – and that of Connie St. Francis. St. Francis was not married to the accused. She acted – and due to her actions – was accused directly. Your parallel is invalid.

    Actually no – questions one and two are not important at all…at least in relation to the all-important issue of finding the truth of what was said. The importance of the other two questions you put forth cannot be determined as your article lacks the same necessary aspect Hunt’s detractors lacked – something which any scientist or individual looking for truth – supporting evidence (Something Mensch took great pains to provide). Where’s yours?

    Now – let’s have some truth as to what was said. Anyone?

    • Amazed
      July 6, 2015 at 11:01 am #

      Yeah, Mensch took care to provide evidence my ass. She just turned her inner detectors on and decided that Deborah Blum who, unlike Mensch, was present at the luncheon and unlike Mensch asked Tum Hunt directly if he was joking, was lying.

      I feel no sympathy towards Tim Hunt or the wife he “met” in the lab. Perhaps it’ll do Prof Collins some good to encounter some of the prejudices she has been no doubt spared until now because she was not just a girl in the lab but Tim Hunt’s very own girl.

      Tim Hunt’s defenders are so quick to point out that it was a joke, that he met his own wife in the lab. Well, he didn’t explain it to all those who didn’t know that, did he? And they’re so discreet – he met his wife, oh my. In Prof Collins very own gushing confessions about her loving hubby somewhere in the net the truth comes out quite clearly: he fucked an undergraduate student and later he married her. A classical example of how things were done in older generation: a professor takes a fancy to a student, she graduates, he marries her and two decades later, she’s a prominent scientist already.

      If I had such a background, I wouldn’t have wanted to voice it in front of the entire world either. But then, I wouldn’t have talked about “boys in the lab” being a problem either.

      Hunt did much to elevate women’s careers indeed, I suppose. I can only assume he did so in Prof Collins’ case.

  2. Amazed
    July 5, 2015 at 12:44 pm #

    Tim Hunt’s words speak for themselves: Trouble with girls in lab is…

    No, venerable Sir Tim. Trouble with Professor Tim Hunt in lab is would be more to my taste.

    I cannot help but wonder if Professor Mary Collins for whom I’m supposed to be crying now would have reached such academic heights if she hadn’t fucked the professor as an undergraduate, a student, whatever she was. If someone else’s career couldn’t take quite such a flow because they were the wrong sex or simply not to Professor Tim Hunt’s taste. Perhaps she would have but I have no way to know.

    But yeah, it’s all girls’ fault in lab. Was it Ms Mary Collins’ fault as well, I wonder?

    With the next to nothing we know about their story – and I am really nor interested in their private affairs – I’ll say that it was solely Professor Tim Hunt’s fault. He was the senior one, he called the shots in every way. A relationship between a professor and a student, undergraduate, whatever has the potential for far worse consequences for science than a relationship between two students or co-workers in the lab but in his joking comment Tim Hunt didn’t address his own behavior ever so jokingly. And I’m saying this as someone who was subjected to the lightest form of sexism during my years at the university – being asked on dates by lecturers and thinking of “reasons for the Great Schism, and anti-Popes, and isn’t he going to look away from my cleavage, and Philip the Fair, and isn’t this exam going to be over, ever, and oh my, it’s just sick, he’s over 60, for Pete’s sake…” kind of thing.

    I have a very simple solution. Not separate laps for manly men and crying girls. Just labs without Professor Tim Hunt in them if there isn’t someone to watch over him and make sure that he doesn’t fall in love with a crying girl because it’s bad for science.

    I am very sorry if I offended the Professors Hunt and Collins, especially when they burst out in tears so readily. If I offended anyone, that’s awful. I didn’t mean to, I was just being honest.

    And it was just a joke anyway. Please don’t hang me out to dry.

  3. Siri
    July 5, 2015 at 11:45 am #

    Louise Mensch really is a dimwit (and a nitwit, and a halfwit); she recently tweeted that Hunt “supported women scientists” by campaigning for … a creche. Yup. A creche. To help those pwetty widdle girlie scientists. Because babies are women’s business; no male could ever benefit from better access to childcare. What next? Will she say that slavery was ok as long as plantation owners provided creches for slave children?

    Louise, you’re an embarrasment to your gender. And you are NOT a feminist.

    • Medwife
      July 5, 2015 at 3:23 pm #

      Yes!! Me and my husband both work in health care and for both of our sakes have wished for an in-house childcare for employees. Daycare tends to open at 7 and close at 5 which is a sad joke for medical people. It shouldn’t be viewed as a benefit for female employees, but for employees with families. I wish more hospitals (and labs, I guess!) would change their worldview on it.

    • Who?
      July 5, 2015 at 6:11 pm #

      Amen to this. So long as people keep talking about daycare like it’s a women’s issue, better access to daycare will go nowhere.

      • Amazed
        July 5, 2015 at 6:34 pm #

        When in female company the matter of child rearing is brought up, especially how hard it is to deal with a baby at night, my mom says jokingly, “Well, I had no problems. All I had to do was breastfeed them when their dad brought them to me. Everything else was his job when he was home.” Of course, the reason was that she had very long and hard recoveries both times. But even so, many women were so damned impressed (starting with that doctor who visited Intruder as a newborn).

        What’s so impressive about taking care of your very own baby? What’s next, dads “babysitting” the kids? Oh wait, that’s already in use.

        Thanks for gracing women with another obligation, Louise. Crying girls really needed a reminder that daycare was their very own responsibility.

        • Who?
          July 5, 2015 at 6:54 pm #

          We had the same deal with babies at night, which was great. My husband copes much better with being tired than I do, and he was quite happy to do the lift and change bit particularly as he was out for long hours in the day.

          Do not even get me started on dads ‘babysitting’. When I hear that I ask ‘who are you looking after’ and if the answer is ‘my kids’ (and somehow, it’s always ‘mine’, not ‘ours’ in that scenario) I gently remind them that is called caring for one’s own child, not babysitting.

          I have no particular expectation that women should support each other, but when I hear nonsense coming out of women’s mouths in the area of family care, I find it perplexing. Where do they see themselves in the world that this kind of thinking seems natural to them?

    • itry2brational
      August 13, 2015 at 1:14 pm #

      “babies are women’s business”
      I know you think you’re saying this in a ‘mock the patriarchy’ way but that’s exactly the kind of rhetoric coming from feminists/democrats/etc, including Tuteur. All the rhetoric rejects male involvement.
      “you are NOT a feminist”

      Then define what a “true” feminist is or don’t bother making this spurious accusation. Ever. Because you can’t. You know damn well defining feminism/feminist is as productive as defining true Christianity/Christian…and for the same reasons…they’re both religions and their respective believers cannot see anything outside of that box.

  4. Chi
    July 4, 2015 at 11:49 pm #

    OT: But have you seen this tripe?

    More indiscriminate mommy shaming and the glorifying of ‘natural’ vaginal birth.

    This pisses me off. I had a NVB but I was quite prepared to have a c-section if it became medically necessary. I wasn’t hung up on the perfect birth experience, I just wanted my baby out as safely (and quickly!) as possible.

    It’s been doing the rounds on Facebook in the mommy groups.

    • FortyMegabytes
      July 5, 2015 at 5:38 am #

      I used to really enjoy I F***ing Love Science, but over time they’ve devolved from sharing interesting science facts to sharing clickbait. They had a ridiculous article that you shouldn’t use hand sanitizer that basically was the final straw for me.

      Now I follow the Skeptical Beard (no affiliation to Skeptical OB) that doesn’t quite have the volume of material that IFLS had, but is at least much more scientifically sound.

      • DelphiniumFalcon
        July 6, 2015 at 11:34 am #

        That and the rampant “It’s too late to stop global climate change from ruining everything! Everything is going to die!!!111”

        Dudes, take it down a notch. Yes it’s a problem but jeeze, you’re absolutely sure there’s not some discovery on the horizon that’s going to help with the carbon issue?

        • Fallow
          July 6, 2015 at 12:14 pm #

          My field (which I’ve been out of for a few years and am trying to get back into – thanks, economy) is/was an education field related to that of ecology and climate change. I don’t like IFLS or fearmongering either, I don’t think it’s helpful, I think it’s actively problematic for the cause, I don’t think it’s too late to change anything, etc.

          But while there are several extant ways of managing carbon, they don’t do any good without massive deployment, and without utter decarbonization of human enterprise. Without that… no, there isn’t a magic discovery on the horizon that will bail us out of climate change.

          We already have CO2 abatement strategies that will continue to do no good if they aren’t used, if fossil fuels continue to dominate energy, and if some other complex emission issues are not addressed. It’s not either/or – all of these things have to occur, and soon. There, in fact, is not really a way around that, and pinning hopes on a futuristic anti-carbon technology is not a good idea.

          • DelphiniumFalcon
            July 6, 2015 at 12:24 pm #

            That makes sense.

            What do you think is the most viable or most likely power generation technology that would do the most good?

            Mostly I don’t like the fear mongering because it seems like the more doomsday screaming there is and how it can’t be averted or even mitigated, the less motivated people are to actually do something since we’re all screwed anyways.

            And well if worst comes to worst, Earth will continue is on, life finds a way and all that. We just might not be the ones observing that life finding a way. Like this comic says!

      • Roadstergal
        July 6, 2015 at 11:56 am #

        IFLS has turned into clickbait of stuff that’s either generally fairly obvious, overblown, or just plain wrong.

  5. demodocus
    July 4, 2015 at 8:33 am #

    I’m still stuck on “pressurizing” Hunt’s wife, like she was an airplane cabin?

    • Who?
      July 5, 2015 at 12:18 am #

      Trying to sound educated, or thinking adding a syllable adds to the emotion?

      Moronic, certainly.

      • Rosalind Dalefield
        July 8, 2015 at 4:32 am #

        I guess it’s like saying ‘utilizing’ rather than ‘using’. That one drives me nuts.

        • Who?
          July 8, 2015 at 5:37 am #

          I can’t bear ‘impact’ when we really mean ‘affect’.

          • Rosalind Dalefield
            July 8, 2015 at 6:14 am #

            I always suspect that the people who use ‘impact’ as a verb are subtly confessing that they can’t remember when to use ‘affect’ and when to use ‘effect’.
            The other one that grinds my gears is saying ‘learnings’ instead of ‘lessons’.

          • Who?
            July 8, 2015 at 7:05 am #

            Aaagh yes.

          • KarenJJ
            July 8, 2015 at 7:19 am #

            oh.. er.. Am I that obvious?

    • Roadstergal
      July 6, 2015 at 11:57 am #

      Ha, that’s an running gag with my husband and I. For some reason, Brit announcers of motorcycle racing love to say ‘pressurizing’ when a racer is hanging on the back of another and showing a wheel, and we imagine them hooking a pump to the guy in front and blowing him up like a balloon.

      They also say ‘concentrated’ instead of ‘focused.’ “He’ll have to stay concentrated, the way he’s being pressurized!”

  6. Allie
    July 4, 2015 at 1:31 am #

    Due process absolutely has an analog in British law. In some ways, it has its genesis there.

    • SuperGDZ
      July 4, 2015 at 1:02 pm #

      Due process, natural justice, equity – terms used colloquially, although perhaps not by lawyers (I would say “procedural fairness”) to mean much the same thing. None are relevant as Hunt was not fired from his job, nor did he lose any kind of remuneration or occupational facilities.

      If he feels he was misquoted or quoted out of context, as his supporters would have us believe, he is free to sue for libel. I wouldn’t hold my breath.

  7. KarenJJ
    July 3, 2015 at 8:51 pm #

    OK, so I’ve not really kept up with developments in academia, but what are these “honorary positions” at universities? I was under the assumption that they were like brand ambassadors for products in corporate-land but I’ve no idea why I thought that… I thought dumping him from those postings was a lot like an actor/sportsperson being dumped from a brand if they said something out of line or behaved in an unethical way or similar.

    • SuperGDZ
      July 4, 2015 at 3:16 am #

      Not even. The actors and sportspersons are being paid for their association with a brand. Honorary positions at universities are not remunerated. Hunt didn’t lose a penny.

      • Gozi
        July 4, 2015 at 8:34 am #

        This is part of the reason why I don’t understand the fuss. Dr. Hunt didn’t lose a penny. As I see it, he is not banned from doing scientific research, etc.

      • KarenJJ
        July 4, 2015 at 7:29 pm #

        So would it be like an unpaid brand ambassador, whereby two parties are building upon mutual reputation? So if one were to trash their reputation with off-colour remarks at a science journalism conference, it would be highly likely that the relationship would be severed. So why are people like Richard Dawkins the least bit surprised by this?

  8. Who?
    July 3, 2015 at 7:15 pm #

    Seriously, if my husband’s employer contacted me and asked me to pass a message like that I’d invite the caller to boil their head in a bucket and tell them to contact him through proper channels and not involve me. No tears. Particularly if I also worked there.

    On the UK side of the pond I think they’d call it natural justice rather than due process.

    • HR and proud
      July 10, 2015 at 6:42 am #

      This bit is really odd. My take on this if anyone cares is that Prof Collins inserted herself where she had no business doing so. I doubt very much that the caller rang up with the intention of telling her to say this to him, I suspect on finding him not at home, the caller was pressed to explain the situation by Prof Collins and her knowing just how appalling his comments where believed his resignation was the best way for him to save face and so told him he had to do it. They then overshared with the Observer and spat their dummies (soothers) back at UCL. She really should have stayed out of it, but clearly she manages his communication as much as possible as he is a bit of a loose cannon. Couples huh!

  9. Amy M
    July 3, 2015 at 6:51 pm #


    • Rosalind Dalefield
      July 8, 2015 at 4:32 am #

      Like a tire…drive up to a gas station and attach the air hose to the valve…oh wait…

  10. Kerlyssa
    July 3, 2015 at 4:40 pm #

    Let me get this straight- it is now sexist to leave a message to CALL YOUR BOSS RIGHT NOW with someone’s wife. Damn, I hope the writer stretched before reaching so hard.

  11. tomthumb015
    July 3, 2015 at 3:11 pm #

    Free speech works both ways, you cannot complain about your side of the debate without expecting criticism from other people that disagree with you. Personally I think Tim Hunt got a raw deal. People are tired of so called social justice warriors and feminists dominating the whole gender debate, plus the media is so scared of looking un PC and caves in to the feminist narrative.

    • Fallow
      July 3, 2015 at 3:26 pm #

      What the living shit are you talking about?

      • tomthumb015
        July 3, 2015 at 3:42 pm #

        Why? Is it alittle too obtuse for you to understand??

        • just me
          July 3, 2015 at 3:47 pm #

          See the earlier post about what exactly freedom of speech is.

        • Who?
          July 3, 2015 at 6:49 pm #

          Obscure, rather than obtuse. And it doesn’t hang together.

          Must work harder if doesn’t want to look just a bit thick and lazy.

        • SuperGDZ
          July 3, 2015 at 11:19 pm #


        • Fallow
          July 5, 2015 at 11:21 am #

          It is difficult to understand gibbering idiocy, yes. I don’t have a translator for that on hand. Please supply us with an idiot-to-English dictionary, so the rest of us can interpret this string of words you’ve pounded out.

    • FortyMegabytes
      July 3, 2015 at 3:42 pm #

      I honestly can’t figure out what point you’re trying to make. What, specifically, is your objection to Dr. Amy’s article?

    • just me
      July 3, 2015 at 3:48 pm #

      What people? White male misogynists?

    • Gozi
      July 4, 2015 at 8:40 am #

      He got a raw deal from the university. Why aren’t the apologists taking issue with the university rather than journalists and feminists?

      • Who?
        July 5, 2015 at 6:42 am #

        Because their victim complexes need regular airing, and universities are run by men.

        No persecutors there!

  12. Mattie
    July 3, 2015 at 2:31 pm #

    Just a name correction, her surname is Mensch (no en at the end). But yeh, this is a great article, Louise Mensch is somewhat of an unusual ‘feminist’ and is often saying something ‘controversial’ or nonsensical.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD
      July 3, 2015 at 2:49 pm #

      Thanks! Fixed it.

    • itry2brational
      August 13, 2015 at 1:15 pm #

      All feminists say controversial and nonsensical things.

  13. Zoey
    July 3, 2015 at 2:10 pm #

    I’m confused. Was this scenario that Ms. Menschen wants us to imagine supposed to have actually happened?

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.