“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 criticize them, they cry.” That’s what 2001 Nobel Prize winner Tim Hunt said at the 2015 World Conference of Science Journalists in Seoul earlier this week. Those remarks were so off-color, so damaging and disturbing, they’ve already prompted Hunt to resign from his prestigious University College London position. But his resignation hasn’t quieted the understandable backlash.
Now, female scientists across social media are responding to Hunt’s outrageous remarks by tweeting photos on the job with the hashtag #distractinglysexy. The movement is as clever as it is poignant. The images serve to remind Hunt and others that women in STEM fields are not sex objects, but integral members of the scientific community who are tired of being oppressively stereotyped because of their gender.
With this hashtag, women playfully mocked the idea that women can’t control their emotions at work (or avoid inadvertently attracting all of their male colleagues).
From face-masked selfies to shots of sarcastic signs, these images show lots of perspectives that all say one thing: women belong in labs. They’re doing fantastic, inspiring work and they’re not to be degraded—especially by powerful leaders in their own field. Just the sheer numbers of women in STEM responding to Hunt’s comments on social media should serve to remind their sexist colleagues that times have changed—women will not stand to be misrepresented, and that the solidarity within their growing community is a powerful force.