In a comment on my earlier post, Holly Jahangiri wisely wrote that we have a limited ability to focus, which means we cannot be outraged all the time over everything. Thank goodness she is right otherwise we would all go mad.
She also made the point that comments about female professionals in the Western World may be more relevant than African political matters to women in the West.
The reason for drawing the comparison between the two in my post was twofold (is that word still used?)
Firstly the hypocrisy shown by the indifference from Western liberals to the incident about the Sudanese president compared to the treatment of the “Old” South Africa.
Secondly the level of outrage directed at scientist Tim Hunt for his comments about the distracting effect of women in science laboratories.
I dealt with the hypocrisy issue in the last post. Let’s put the professor’s remarks in perspective in this one.
Yes I think he was insensitive in making those comments at a high-profile public event.
No, I don’t think he should have been subjected to a social media lynching and have had his career ruined.
He told the truth, clumsily, insensitively, perhaps unclearly and certainly artlessly, but not untruthfully.
Members of both genders have attracted members of the other since creation. That attraction is essential for the survival of the human race. It’s natural.
When it happens in the workplace, that attraction becomes distracting. It’s distracting in other situations too. Religious, service and volunteer organisations. Schools and universities between staff and students. Sports and neighbourhood events.
I worked in a large organisation, I saw how that attraction led to romance, marriages, affairs, tears and heart-break. It wasn’t all evil men preying on innocent women either, definitely a two-way street.
Books and movies with plots about young female nurses distracted by handsome doctors fill libraries and cinemas.
Kings and Presidents have been distracted by women other than their wives for thousands of years. Some lost their jobs, some their thrones, some of the women their heads or reputations.
Female school teachers have gone to jail because their distractions with senior male students led to personal tuition and extramural activities above and beyond the school curriculum.
Policies can attempt to control and limit distraction by one gender of the other in the work place, whether scientific laboratories or church choirs, but they cannot stop it altogether.
It’s human nature.
Why then should a man’s career be ruined for telling the truth?
Criticise him, certainly, we are supposed to have free speech, but don’t crucify him.
All of us will upset and offend people with different ideas, backgrounds, cultural and religious biases at some time in our lives. That too is human nature, it’s also the way the world works, innovation and progress come through disruption of old ideas, cultural norms and social conventions.
That’s how women got the vote, became clergy in the Anglican church. Many men were horrified at both revolutions at the time, but few now would try to reverse them.
Sadly despite all the advances, tolerance, unlike physical distraction has become a one way street.
Before the advent of social media, it took some effort, writing by hand or typing on a typewriter, an investment in an envelope and a postage stamp, careful creation of grammatically correct and typo free content, to get opinions published as letters to newspaper editors or paid advertisements.
The ease of publishing anything on social media has allowed the instant broadcasting of opinions, condemnations and allegations with little thought to their accuracy, veracity or usefulness. And no concern to the damage they might cause.
Because of the perceived anonymity of a twitter handle, comments that would never appear on the letters page of a newspaper or public notice board at the town library fill computer and smart phone screens all over the world.
What do you think? Leave a comment.
As a p.s, while writing this, Holly returned to my earlier post with her thoughts on this particular incident, she has a way with words I wish I could emulate, go and read her new comment, you will enjoy it.