….but we are all fabulous.
In case anyone managed to miss it this week, the Nobel laureate Professor Tim Hunt FRS informed a room full of conference delegates and media in South Korea that he supported single sex laboratories because “three things happen when they [girls] are in the lab … You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticise them, they cry.” (http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jun/10/nobel-scientist-tim-hunt-female-scientists-cause-trouble-for-men-in-labs).
A lot has been written since then about Tim Hunt and his ill-advised remark. He was in a unique position to champion gender equality and make a real difference to the perception of women in science, yet he failed to take this opportunity. Happily, thanks to the backlash against his remarks, it may be that he has inadvertently done women a service. Both male and female commentators have come out swinging against the remarks and I am particularly enjoying the #DistractinglySexy Twitter campaign (http://time.com/3918909/distractingly-sexy-tim-hunt/).
However, Prof Hunt’s comments were not only unhelpful for women, they were unhelpful for men. In particular I take issue with the part of his comment about crying. Apart from the fact that criticising staff in such a way as to make them cry is hardly a shout-out to your own management style, what is inherently wrong with tears anyway?
Tears can act as a release valve for emotions that are challenging. It is unfortunate that in our society tears are seen as a weakness and that they are associated with women because it perpetuates the myth that women are weak. It also has the effect of reinforcing the message that men shouldn’t express their emotions freely or show any vulnerability. Why is this? Before they are taught that the right to cry is gendered, both male and female children shed tears, just as both male and female children laugh – how and why did it ever become the norm that men are denied the full range of emotional expression?
The male suicide rate is on the rise in the UK (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/11422295/Male-suicide-rate-worst-since-2001-ONS-reveals.html). Suicide is the biggest killer of our young men aged 20-34 – it is responsible for 25% of all deaths. Perhaps if we allowed men to cry, fewer of them would resort to killing themselves.