Showing posts from June, 2015

Falling in Love is Unprofessional

In the wake of Nobel laureate Professor Tim Hunt’ s ironic comments on women in science, a draft article entitled “Falling in love and crying in the academic workplace: ‘Professionalism’, gender and emotion” has been circulating in social media.   The challenge that this type of article faces, that this one doesn’t quite overcome, is that it/they end up reinforcing the gender stereotypes they ostensibly set out to oppose.   I used to challenge students to imagine a world where the words (and concepts) “man” and “woman” didn’t exist, and we were all just people: some of us with brown eyes, some with blue, some of us left handed, some of us right, some with vulvas, others with penises, some capable of bearing children, some better at lifting heavy objects--no absolute, mutually exclusive binary categories necessary.  Intellectually speaking we don’t “need” the categories “men” and “women.”  The intent of this “thought experiment” was to show the intellectual ease with which

After “the Death of the Author” It Only Takes 39 Words to End an Academic Career

39 Words versus curing cancer It only takes 39 words to end an academic career even if you are a Nobel laureate in physiology . . . or maybe it’s because you are a Nobel laureate.  The sexist comments of the average smuck don’t go viral on Twitter. I can’t help imagining some futuristic Wikipedia article on “the cure of cancer.”  It would go something like this: “Professor Tim Hunt’s work on cell division proved instrumental in developing the cure for cancer, however he became notorious and his career was ended in 2015 for his off-the-cuff remarks on women in science at a conference in Korea.” The 39 words in question According to The Guardian these are the 39 words which Professor Hunt uttered: “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.”   The Danger of irony His wife, Professor Mary Collins, an immunologist, concurs wi

Mateus da Costa, the Very First, Original, Authentic, Pure Laine Québécois de Souche and the Real Santa Claus (with Addendum)

Here’s a scenario I used to play out for undergraduate students. Your roommate comes home from Christmas shopping  and announces enthusiastically that he just saw a guy at the mall who looks “just like the REAL Santa Claus!”  You, an adult sceptic, reply in your most practiced sarcastic tone, “Duhh! Dude, there is no REAL Santa Claus!” Most people over the age of eight might agree with you, but you have to admit that you sort of understand what your roommate means.  In fact, on second thought, you understand exactly what he means:  he saw an elderly, roly-poly gentleman with white hair and beard, rosy cheeks and a twinkle in his eye, dressed in a red suit and cap trimmed with ermine.  The man he saw captured with surprising precision the various quintessential images of Santa Claus he has seen on TV, in movies, on posters, Christmas cards and in Coke Cola commercials. The lesson here is that what we typical consider “real” and “true” are those ideas, images, and noti