A Shameful Episode

Connie St Louis, the academic who hounded Sir Tim Hunt out of his job, was accused in last Saturday’s Daily Mail that her testimony was flawed.

A witness to Hunt’s speech slammed St Louis’ version as inaccurate, and many others asked the question whether we trust her word over a Noble Laureate’s?

What is clearly apparent is that an element of vindictiveness could be at the core of the whole affair, which confirms the view of a number of people that ‘sexism’ is often a word used at random to justify an irresponsible decision to stifle free speech and, in so doing, castigate the use of the English language for its well-known humour.

To make matters worse, UCL has defended its misguided and ridiculous action over the resignation of Sir Tim Hunt, despite the fact that his fiercest critic conceded that his controversial comments had been in jest. Michael Arthur, the President and Provost of UCL, said that he regretted accepting Sir Tim’s resignation but that to change his mind would send out the wrong signal after the professor’s remarks over women in science.

Even the lecturer who reported Sir Tim’s remark said that she had no regrets, despite documents that showed that they were apparently light-hearted.

Connie St Louis, a lecturer in Science Journalism at City University, initially denied that his comments were made in jest and said that he did not follow them with the words: ‘Now seriously.’ Then she changed her story, and acknowledged that he did. She said: ‘Whatever he said after “Now seriously” it’s still outrageous. He talks about women as girls… “You make them cry, they fall in love with you” … Is he seriously saying that? Why is he calling them “girls”? And then he goes on to advocate single-sex laboratories.’

Responding to the backlash, Professor Arthur said that Sir Tim’s resignation should stand because his remarks were ‘discordant with the university’s ethos’.

What a load of dribble and hogwash! If women were to call men ‘boys’, we would be flattered. Why should the word ‘girls’ be pejorative? On the contrary, I find it rather complimentary and affectionate.

As for Professor Arthur, I think he lives in cloud cuckoo land. Instead of being swayed by feminist diatribe, he should spread tolerance and free speech and stop trying to placate those who want to turn us into regimental zombies, afraid of our own shadows.

As I’ve said, on many an occasion, political correctness has done us no end of harm. In a free and democratic society presumably such as ours we should have no constraints of the type that limit our ability to speak our minds on matters we feel strongly about.

Women today have made remarkable strides in proving their worth in every section of society and their contribution is not only desirable but necessary.

They need not fear the interlocution that is likely to cement their position rather than debase it. And principally, they must not lose their sense of humour, for without it we all lose the exciting banter that drives us on.

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