Once upon a time there were two people who made very silly jokes that offended a lot of other people—at least, both of them claimed they were just joking. One was an old white male, the other a young female POC. Which one of them got thrown under the bus as a result? Not the old white male, of course, because patriarchy. Must have been the WOC, poised uncomfortably at the intersection of several oppressions.
Sir Tim Hunt, at 72, is to some of us a distinguished biologist with a Nobel Prize under his belt, an infectious passion for science, a lifetime of groundbreaking research, and a history of promoting and encouraging younger scientists, including women, in their careers. To others, he is a sexist pig. His bad joke consisted of an ill-judged attempt at standup comedy at a luncheon for female scientists and science journalists, during a conference in Seoul that otherwise nobody would ever have heard of—while some of his audience laughed politely, others tweeted busily, and so the firestorm was born. Here are Hunt’s remarks, described by himself as jocular and ironic in intent:
“Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab. You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them, they cry.”
Bahar Mustafa, at 27, is the Student Union welfare and diversity officer at Goldsmiths, University of London. Clearly affluent and privileged, she apparently ”got her master’s degree in gender and media studies from Goldsmiths last year, where she performed Foucauldian readings of Japanese anime porn.” Her brush with fame and controversy came when, in her capacity as (taxpayer-funded) diversity officer, she organized an event aimed at diversity which specifically excluded white males. She further came under fire for her use of the hashtags #KillAllWhiteMen and #Misandry, and the racial slur “white trash.” Defending herself against accusations of racism, she doubled down with bafflegab straight out of the critical-race theory playbook; and #KillAllWhiteMen, she claimed, was not hate speech, but a joke: irony.
Indeed, “ironic misandry” is a real thing: a running in-joke, whereby radical feministas gleefully embrace the perception that they are manhaters by trotting out memes and hashtags (and coffeecups, tee-shirts and needlepoint craft projects) that are over-the-top misandrist. This is supposed to be all ironic and deliciously meta, and empowers them to laugh at people who take seriously mottoes like “Kill All White Men,” or “I Bathe in Male Tears,” or “Die, Cis Scum.” Ignore the fact that much of the radfem rhetoric comes across as authentically hostile and hateful, intimidating and alienating—in fact, as remarkably unironic misandry. Really, folks, they’re just kidding.
To summarize: a bad joke about female scientists falling in love and crying creates a hostile work environment and discourages women from going into STEM. A bad joke about killing all white men, however, is….just a joke.
Right, got it. Ha ha.