I feel sorry for Sir Tim Hunt, the Nobel prize-winner who lost his job following an after-dinner speech that backfired.
I would not seek to defend a man who defames women (or men for that matter). Such behaviour is undoubtedly offensive but, how many of us have also told really funny jokes that have not gone down well with the recipients?
If everyone who told a tasteless joke got fired, almost nobody reading this blog would have a job. Or maybe that wouldn’t be the case, given the reputation accountants have for lacking a sense of humour.
Ironically, had Sir Tim suggested that a woman’s place is in the home rather than the workplace 50 years ago, it would have been accepted as accurate. Thirty years ago people would have laughed loudly. Today, he ends up out of work and on the front pages of the papers.
For the avoidance of doubt, Sir Tim is a Nobel laureate who has been knighted so he is hardly a typical stand-up comedian. He is also a respectable member of society who has achieved a great deal in the field of life sciences.
As a result, there may well be some animal activists who are very pleased to see the back of him, but even they would have wished for his fate to be a direct consequence experimenting with little furry things rather than ironically scorning women.
His fate will certainly make me think twice before spreading jokes around the workplace, since it is far too easy to say something terribly funny that some bore regards as offensive.
On the plus side for Sir Tim, as one door closes another might open. I imagine that there are still a good number of stand-up comedians today who still use similar material.
If Sir Tim fancies fronting his own act and wants to add in a bit of racism or anti-religious sentiment to his set, he could easily find a regular slot on the late night comedy circuit.