Yes, You Are Allowed to Say Whatever You Want – You’re Asking For Something Else

Whenever something like Tim Hunt’s clusterderp happens in the world, there’s one phrase I can absolutely count on hearing almost immediately. It’s so unavoidable, so foreseeable and so inevitable that I can close my eyes, count down 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and hear the words…

“You’re just not allowed to say anything these days!”

This isn’t just some generic wry observation of Twitter. It isn’t some modern social media phenomenon by a long shot. I hear this from all corners, including from work colleagues while they sip their instant coffee and read the broadsheet-du-jour. It’s the most infuriating cliché – a close relative of “it’s political correctness gone mad”, although more likely to be found in natural verbal conversation, whereas the lesser-spotted Politicus correctnessgonemadius can be found limited only to the dry wilderness of right-wing tabloid letters sections.

What makes it so infuriating is that it’s simply not true. You are allowed to say anything in nearly every first-world democracy. If you’re American, it’s enshrined in constitutional law. If you’re British, it’s retained in a complex series of traditions and precedents. You absolutely can say whatever you want.

Where were the people who supposedly don’t allow you to say these things when Katie Hopkins said, in a national newspaper with a circulation of millions, that she’d happily gun down refugees in cold blood? Where were these Thought Police when Nigel Farage mouthed off at an audience, accusing them of being left-wing shills? Were they napping or looking the other way for the last decade or so of Jeremy Clarkson’s existence? And everyone remember when someone went up to David Starkey and said “nope, you can’t compare the Scottish Nationalist Party to the Nazis” with a gun against his head? Because reality certainly doesn’t.

For illustrative purposes only.

For illustrative purposes only.

The world absolutely agrees – you are allowed to say things.  Not “except for”. Not even “within reason”. You can say anything.

It’s what happens next that’s the free for all.

While the “political-correctness-gone-mad-lite” types bark about the long and prestigious tradition that western democracies have for freedom of speech, they resolutely ignore the equally long and prestigious tradition of people being held to account for what they say, for what they incite, and for what they tell others to do. I shouldn’t even have to raise the “shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre” test. Or point out that you can be convicted for murder even if you hire a someone else to do the killing – even though your orders are nothing more than an exchange of words. I shouldn’t have to tell you all about slander and libel laws, which hold people to account for their words – quite literally just their words, spoken or written. These are things you all, including the “you can’t say anything” crowd, should be fully aware of. We have a very grand tradition of policing words – it’s not a new thing.

You’re allowed to say what you like, you’re just not free from its consequences. If you incite violence through your speech, the law and society will punish you for it. If you slander and damage someone’s reputation through lies and deceit, law and society will punish you for it. And society does that because words aren’t just isolated things; they convey information and ideas, and they can cause actions to come about. They’re far from harmless, so society and law treats them appropriately. What might just be a newer phenomenon is that increasingly, although the law still rarely gets involved, if you start making life hell for people who have had enough of your shit – insert countless examples or misogyny, racism, homophobia… – society will now scrutinise you for it. Because we’re realising that words can have a knock-on effect and consequences far beyond the obvious of slander and libel. You might think that the odd off-hand comment here and there can’t hurt, but the layers upon layers of micro-bullshit add up to a real effect eventually. We all accept that lies and slander about an individual is something where speech should be held to account – and so should lies and slander, in the form of slurs and “jokes”, about groups of people. At last, the more progressive component of society have said “enough” – “e-fucking-nough” – and aren’t going to take it any more. We’re going to call it out and we’re going to make a fuss.

And why shouldn’t we? After all, we are allowed to say what we want. That’s a freedom that absolutely extends to telling people that they are full of shit. We reserve the right to say that, in reality, words cause real damage and people need to answer for the damage they cause – one might lament that the career of one 70-year-old Nobel Prize winner has been “destroyed” (insomuch that you can “destroy” a career at that stage), but what about the number of women who would have heard those comments and thought “nope, science isn’t for me, that University isn’t for me, that career isn’t for me”. What about their careers? Wait, are you saying we’re not allowed to stand up for them? Are they just the wrong kind of people? Are we not allowed to criticise outright idiotic misogyny to help encourage them (or at least counter the incessant discouragement), and to stop their careers from being truly destroyed before they begin?

Because when someone declares “you’re not allowed to say anything these days!” that’s exactly what they’re demanding. They’re asking for special immunity from criticism. They’re asking for other people to roll over and shut up about it. They want special treatment, and to be put in a nice padded box where their opinions can get out but no dissenting opinion can get in. They want to say whatever they like and get away with it.

Why do they want that? Ironically, Tim Hunt said it best – “when you criticise them, they cry”.

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36 thoughts on “Yes, You Are Allowed to Say Whatever You Want – You’re Asking For Something Else

  1. Pingback: “Political Correctness” is a myth, now stop being dicks | Spherical Bullshit

  2. This is so great, I just wish that after acknowledging how powerful words are & how eg they can stop girls imagining themselves in a particular profession, you used the gendered word ‘hitman’. No, I am not wanting anyone to grow up to be an hired assassin, but using gendered terms or false generics makes at least half the human race invisible, & limits the feeling of potentiality & choice in those invisible people. Please don’t do it.

    Reply
  3. Yep. People are allowed to say and hold opinions. The thing is we don’t have to respect them nor give them a platform for those opinions. In fact, we can ridicule them for voicing those opinions. This is free speech, it works both ways, not one way.

    Reply
  4. He made a comment (humourously he claims) about the difference between the genders.

    That is neither “discriminatory” nor “sexist”. Men and women are different in their nature, fact! This means it is a different experience to work with each gener, fact!

    The nature of those differences is a matter of opinion.

    He even said “men fall in love with women”, meaning that men a partially to blame.

    This is feminism on steroids, it is insane and ludicrous the reaction of the feminists.

    Reply
        • What? You wanted an actual response? You’re trying to claim that comments to the effect of “we should have sex-segregated labs because women cry when you criticise them” isn’t somehow harmful or problematic? That’s just absolutely ludicrous. The guy was basically saying men can’t keep it in their pants and women cry. If that’s not sexism, then please what the hell is sexist enough for you to go “ah, that might be a bit much”?

          And if you want to claim that there are such massive differences in how men and women work, you’ll have to actually point out those facts. It doesn’t become true simply by saying “fact” at the end of it. We could talk Cordelia Fine’s work, for instance, or whatever. But there’s little evidence that behavioural differences in men and women are anything more than social conditioning.

          You can’t also then say that differences are “fact” and then say their nature is “a matter of opinion”. Because it’s then easy for me to assert that my opinion is that the nature of those differences is “non-existent at best”.

          The guy made a douchey comment. That’s pretty certain. I don’t really care much after that. That’s not really what the above is actually talking about should anyone care to actually read it – but isn’t it great how it brings man’splaining denialists out of the woodwork to defend comments that are absolutely sexist.

          Reply
  5. > You’re allowed to say what you like, you’re just not free from its consequences.

    That’s the same thing as not being allowed to say what you like.

    Black slaves were technically ‘free’ to not be black slaves. They were just not free from the consequences, which were to be recaptured and beaten to death. By your logic that made them free.

    What *specifically* did Mr Hunt say that you consider sexist or offensive or whatever?

    Reply
    • “What you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

      Reply
    • “That’s the same thing as not being allowed to say what you like.”

      No, it’s not. Not even close.

      What makes you think that you can say whatever you want about anyone, but they’re not allowed to respond in kind about you? Why are you that special snowflake?

      “What *specifically* did Mr Hunt say that you consider sexist or offensive or whatever?”

      Is this a joke?

      Reply
      • > What makes you think that you can say whatever you want about anyone, but they’re not allowed to respond in kind about you? Why are you that special snowflake?

        Having someone forced to resign from their career is NOT responding. Responding would be asking him to elaborate on what in his lifelong experience of working in labs has caused him to reach the conclusions about the different tendencies of men and women in labs.

        Thousands of feminists have made claims about the psychological differences they perceive between men and women in the workplace. Many of those claims paint men in a very unfavourable light, and yet none of those feminists ever got forced to resign for making such claims. More often they are championed for ‘raising awareness’ of some issue whether it is real or imaginary….. honest or politically loaded.

        Now, if you think Mr Hunt’s claim that women can be more prone to emotional sensitivity (crying) in the lab is an INSULT to women, then that means you are defining emotional sensitivity as bad. You are defining crying as a bad thing (an insult).

        Mr Hunt never defined crying as bad, nor did he mean it as an insult. He merely said it can be *problematic* in the highly focused and critical environment of a science lab.

        The fact that some women (that would be feminists who make up about 20% of women) have gotten so upset over a remark that was neither sexist or insulting, only proves his point. The people who got upset with him and demanded his resignation are the emotionally unstable people he was talking about. And they demonstrated how destructive their unstable emotions can be by wrecking the career of a scientist just because their feelz got hurt.

        Reply
        • Wow, you are making some seriously awful leaps there. Nowhere did I say emotional sensitivity was a bad thing. That’s you making stuff up. The problem is the over-generalisation, the stereotyping, and the treating a group of ca.3.5 billion people as identical.

          Please go away and actually put some actual thought into your opinions next time.

          Reply
        • “Having someone forced to resign from their career is NOT responding.”

          Sure it is. Sometimes, you can lose your job when your employer no longer wants to be associated with you. This is especially true when you do something high-profile. Let’s get one thing straight: YOU ARE NOT ENTITLED TO HOLD WHATEVER JOB YOU WANT! When you say something discriminatory, don’t be surprised when your employer wishes to disassociate itself for you.

          “Responding would be asking him to elaborate on what in his lifelong experience of working in labs has caused him to reach the conclusions about the different tendencies of men and women in labs.”

          They did. He doubled down on his inane comments that women should be put in a separate lab.

          “Thousands of feminists have made claims about the psychological differences they perceive between men and women in the workplace. Many of those claims paint men in a very unfavourable light, and yet none of those feminists ever got forced to resign for making such claims.”

          Cite your sources. You’ve made a lot of claims here, but given your earlier attempt at spin, you need to come clean with sources and detailed explanations. Otherwise, I’ll just assume this is another right-wing talking point.

          “Now, if you think Mr Hunt’s claim that women can be more prone to emotional sensitivity (crying) in the lab is an INSULT to women, then that means you are defining emotional sensitivity as bad.”

          Actually, Mr. Hunt did that. By saying that women should be put in a separate lab because they’re distracting to the men. But nice try.

          “Mr Hunt never defined crying as bad, nor did he mean it as an insult. He merely said it can be *problematic* in the highly focused and critical environment of a science lab.”

          Cognitive dissonance, anyone? This is it.

          “The fact that some women (that would be feminists who make up about 20% of women)”

          CITE YOUR SOURCE!

          “have gotten so upset over a remark that was neither sexist or insulting, only proves his point. The people who got upset with him and demanded his resignation are the emotionally unstable people he was talking about. And they demonstrated how destructive their unstable emotions can be by wrecking the career of a scientist just because their feelz got hurt.”

          I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better illustration of mansplaining than this. If you can’t understand how invoking an age-old stereotype to advocate for gender-segregated labs is sexist, you are part of the problem. It has nothing to do with my feels. It has everything to do with your ignorance and privilege.

          Reply
          • > Sometimes, you can lose your job when your employer no longer wants to be associated with you.

            No. You can only lose your job if you violate the terms of employment. If your employer just doesn’t want to associate with you that’s called ‘unfair dismissal’ and you can sue.

            > YOU ARE NOT ENTITLED TO HOLD WHATEVER JOB YOU WANT!

            Yes you are. Most jobs are bound by legal contracts (employment contracts).

            > When you say something discriminatory

            Mr Hunt observed some differences between men and women that he had observed during his many years working in labs. That is not seism or sexual discrimination. That is sexual dimorphism. If you don’t understand what these words mean I suggest you look them up.

            > He doubled down on his inane comments that women should be put in a separate lab.

            And feminists have not only proposed this themselves. They have IMPLEMENTED it in schools. Do you think the feminists who have segregated science classes in some schools should also be sacked?

            > Cite your sources.

            Thousands of feminist books, articles and manifestos. Feminism itself is founded upon ‘Patriarchy Theory’ which claims men have systematically oppressed women throughout history, which defines men as sociopaths. Do you know what feminism is? Have you ever read a feminist book or studied feminist theory? Apparently not.

            Do you think the author of ‘Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars” was being sexist or offensive for claiming men and women are wired differently?

            > Cognitive dissonance, anyone? This is it.

            No. It is not cognitive dissonance. Identifying a problem and being sexist or offensive are two completely different things. I don’t think you know what cognitive dissonance means.

            Cognitive dissonance would be celebrating feminists for implementing all girl science classes because (apparently) girls can’t cope with normal science classes…. while simultaneously attacking Mr Hunt for suggesting there are differences between women and men which can impact their ability to work in the lab.

            > CITE YOUR SOURCE!

            This is the widely accepted percentage. Not even feminists will disagree with it.

            > If you can’t understand how invoking an age-old stereotype to advocate for gender-segregated labs is sexist, you are part of the problem. It has nothing to do with my feels

            Then I take it you find gender segregation is school science classes offensive and perpetuating age-old stereotypes. Have you actively opposed the feminists who champion such programs?

            Have you called for the teachers who implement all girl science classes to be sacked?

          • > YOU ARE NOT ENTITLED TO HOLD WHATEVER JOB YOU WANT!
            Yes you are. Most jobs are bound by legal contracts (employment contracts).

            Wow, skippy, did you actually read what you said? Most of those “employment contracts” (are you actually employed?) actually do say that you’re not entitled to keep your job if you don’t obey their rules. Often those rules include “don’t be a dick and make the workplace bad for others”. And telling women they do nothing but cry certainly makes the workplace bad for them. I certainly wouldn’t feel good working under someone who said that sort of thing.

            But keep trying. You really are proving yourself to be fundamentally bad at this.

          • > Often those rules include “don’t be a dick and make the workplace bad for others”.

            1. He was not being a dick.
            2. He was actually suggesting ways the make the workplace BETTER, not worse
            3. His ideas have already been championed by feminists and implemented in some schools
            4. Are you calling for the sacking of teachers (many of whom will be feminists) who have already created girls-only science classes because they think girls are too fragile and feminine?

            > And telling women they do nothing but cry certainly makes the workplace bad for them.

            He never said that. You cannot get a job working in a lab if you do nothing but cry.

            > I certainly wouldn’t feel good working under someone who said that sort of thing.

            And that is precisely the point he is making. You ADMIT that your emotions would affect your performance in a lab, if your employer suggested your emotions might affect your performance in a lab. You are the living proof that some women are too emotionally sensitive to handle an adult workspace.

          • Yes. I am being serious. You can either provide counter arguments and counter facts to mine, which is the rational ‘scientific’ way of discussing this issue….

            …… or you can keep on reacting emotionally by just saying things like “SERIOUSLY?!!! REALLY!!!!??” without actually making any actual points.

            Every time you just make another emotional comment you are just validating what Mr Hunt has observed.

          • Look, idiot, I can’t counter your claims with “facts” because you’re demonstrably not open to them. You were asked to provide various references by someone else and you point-blank refused – you mentioned “thousands” of feminists books, but the one you named was not only ancient, but not a particularly feminist text. And that’s without going into your core fallacy of treating “feminism” as one great big monolith.

            When you did provide one link to refer to segregated science, it clearly didn’t back up what you were asserting. You were saying *feminists* wanted science to be split up separately so that girls could be taught it in a softer and more emotional way. That’s not in the slightest what was happening – and I believe that was also explained to you. If you really wanted an actual example of the sort of thing you were talking about, you could have tried the “Science: It’s a Girl Thing” campaign. Except that was near-universally derided by women, feminist and non-feminist alike as being pathetic and patronising – somewhat contradicting your prior assertions that women want science dumbed down for their silly little lady-brains.

            Now you’re asserting that what Tim Hunt said wasn’t sexist. In fact, you’ve been asserting that for some time – except you didn’t really say why it wasn’t sexist. In fact, that’s where you’ve gone off the deep end because you’re trying to say that sex-segregated labs would be an improvement…. I’m not sure where you’re pulling that from. What are you? 12 or something?

          • To curiosetta:

            “No. You can only lose your job if you violate the terms of employment. If your employer just doesn’t want to associate with you that’s called ‘unfair dismissal’ and you can sue.”

            Here’s a hint: Making derogatory comments about women and saying gender-segregated labs is a good idea because the women might distract you would very much create a workplace environment of discrimination. Which is grounds for dismissal.

            And really, you think you have far more workplace rights than you do. You can be let go without cause. Oh, and good luck suing — it’ll cost you years and money Mr. Hunt probably doesn’t have.

            “Mr Hunt observed some differences between men and women that he had observed during his many years working in labs. That is not seism or sexual discrimination.”

            That’s not what he did. He said women were distracting in the lab, so they should be moved out of the way of men. That you choose not to see this means you’re more interested in reading what you want to read, not what is actually being said.

            “And feminists have not only proposed this themselves. They have IMPLEMENTED it in schools. Do you think the feminists who have segregated science classes in some schools should also be sacked?”

            No, because it’s not the same thing. Notice that they’re not *replacing* the classes; they’re adding on to the classes to encourage women who might otherwise been intimidated (and that is a valid concern, given the historical attitude toward women in sciences) a safe space. So no, not the same thing as saying women should have their own lab because they cry and I might fall in love with them.

            “Do you think the author of ‘Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars” was being sexist or offensive for claiming men and women are wired differently?”

            Oh, FFS. It’s not a matter of being wired differently. It’s a matter of ASKING FOR SEGREGATED LABS BECAUSE YOU FIND WOMEN DISTRACTING AND YOU’RE AFRAID YOU MIGHT FALL IN LOVE WITH THEM! What part of this isn’t clear to you? Or do you think this isn’t sexism?

            “Cognitive dissonance would be celebrating feminists for implementing all girl science classes because (apparently) girls can’t cope with normal science classes…. while simultaneously attacking Mr Hunt for suggesting there are differences between women and men which can impact their ability to work in the lab.”

            Your spin on reality is interesting. Too bad for you that isn’t what’s happening.

            “This is the widely accepted percentage. Not even feminists will disagree with it.”

            Then you should have no problem finding a credible source to back up the number.

            “Then I take it you find gender segregation is school science classes offensive and perpetuating age-old stereotypes. Have you actively opposed the feminists who champion such programs?

            Have you called for the teachers who implement all girl science classes to be sacked?”

            No, because that’s not what’s happening. And given your illustrated tenuous grasp on reality, it’s not surprising you’d see things this way. Mansplaining at its finest. Or worst, I guess.

      • He said nothing sexist. Do you know what sexism is?

        He made an observation about the differences in male and female behaviour. That is not sexism. Lot’s of people (including feminists) make claims about the differences that they perceive (accurately or not) between the sexes – especially when it comes to psychology and emotions.

        If a female scientists had made an observation that men in the lab have different emotional tendencies to women, then she would NOT have gotten the sack (or been forced to resign).

        And there is the sexism. The man was forced to resign from his job when no woman in his position saying the same thing would ever have been forced to resign. In fact she would have been championed by feminists, and funding would have been immediately allocated to ‘raise awareness’ of whatever the issue was.

        Reply
    • Black slaves? Jeeze, you should’ve just invoked Godwin’s Law and mentioned Hitler and the National Socialist Party. That would have made it much easier for us rationalists to ignore your post.

      Heck, I think there is even a browser extension that removes such stupidity from my browsing experience. 😉

      Reply

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