Category Archives: Hackneyed Clichés – Poncifs éculés

The witch-hunt and Tim Hunt

Let’s talk about Tim Hunt and the witch-hunt of which he is a victim…according to many people.

Hunt is a Nobel laureate in his 70’s who thought it would be funny to address a room full of women, during some kind of dinner for women in science, to say that mixed labs were a bad thing because “women cry” when facing criticism and men like him cannot concentrate and do their jobs properly because of the physical attraction they feel for the said women.

Someone tweeted what he said, the storm mounted and he was forced to resign from the University College of London for being a sexist pig, to cut the story short. It’s all over the papers if you want more details.

I said “tried to be funny” but actually we don’t know because he first said that it was a joke but also that he was sticking to his comment. Then he said he was confused, nervous and did not know what to do or say exactly. Then he said he was misquoted then there was an article in the Guardian where he says that nobody had asked him for his version of events. Sorry love, but we did find it pretty self-sufficient when you said you were sticking with the idea that evil women were a bad influence on poor men.

An article where his feminist wife says she would have never married him if he were a sexist pig basically, as if it were relevant to anything. Then some people, including women (because every woman speaks in the name of the 4 billion other women, obviously) went to the media to say his dismissal was unfair and the reaction had been disproportionate.

He complains that he was in the plane when he got his notice, he says it was not the right way to do thing and now friends and family, colleagues and ex-students are coming to not criticise his medieval reading of society but to try and put the focus on how he was pushed out. To make him the victim in this story.

Now let’s take the arguments one by one.

The status of women to begin with. What I see in all condemnation and attempts to focus the debate on him as a victim is that it is still okay to use age-old, hackneyed stereotypes about women as a joke, as he pretends to have done in the first place. “Women do not have their place in the labs because they cry when people disagree with them”. Mr Hunt, whatever his intentions were, has obviously not evolved the least since his twenties in the mid-1960s. He still lives in a world where women are crying for nothing and where crying is an act of weakness, and unfair because it brings men to their emotional knees – whether it triggers anger, annoyance or pity.

Women cry because, like babies, they cannot express themselves differently when they see they are losing the argument so they are bringing on the tears hoping to put the men they are working with in a position where he feels like an awful executioner, hoping he will just give in.

For those who are still finding ground to say it was tongue in cheek, let’s consider this hackneyed , sexist cliché and replace it with a hackneyed, racist cliché that would go as such: “Mix-raced labs are not working because black people are lazy so it makes the work of white people even harder”. Or even worst: “Black people are violent when facing with criticism so mix-raced labs are a danger to white people’s lives.” Not so funny anymore, is it? He would have been fired too, had he said something like that. Would people be making him a victim? Would people try to convince the world that his employer should have acted differently?

No.

Why?

Because racism is beyond the pale and we expect people to have moved on from 1950s views of people with a different skin colour. No company or institution would put up with such a level of bovine, racist idiocy and no one would dare try to defend him by saying that people need to lighten up and have a bit more humour. Why not with outdated views of women? Because beyond race and wealth, women are still considered as lesser than men so it is fine to be sexist, even for fun.

The daily fight to encourage women to be in science, the endless fight to make people understand that women are not lesser than men is a fight as important and crucial as the fight against racist prejudice. This is why I support the firing of Tim Hunt.

Then there is the argument, he said he would not deviate from, about women being a distraction to men. Women are pretty, attractive and it makes it very difficult for men like him (he said words for words) to concentrate and work. He said people fall in love and it changes their priorities and clouds their judgement. So we have to separate men and women…especially women that need to get out of the labs where men are…because they were there first, I presume.

First of all, it doesn’t add up to the reality of couple and marriage. Most people marry within their own profession because we do spent most of our lives working. As far as the economy is concerned, love is not the most damaging factor to productivity.

But no matter, the same way some school are still unisex, one would think: why not? Only-male labs and only-female labs could be good.

No, they would not for we still live in a world where Nobel laureate publicly said that women are irrationally and cunningly emotional so funding for female-only labs would be close to none with all the investors going for the serious, male-led labs.

And why stop at labs? What about male-only companies where men can concentrate on work at all time without the fear of being accidentally attracted to a female? I can make a huge list of stupid ideas like that…I worked in a boys school for years and there not being any girls doesn’t change anything to how the boys are performing. Countries where single-sex schools have close to disappeared are not at the bottom of the league when it comes to how their students are performing.

Apart from this, the argument Mr Hunt is giving is that he cannot control himself, he has no will power to focus on the task in hand when women are here. They distract him with their attractive femininity – when they don’t guilt-trip him with their tears.  And he puts all men in the same bag as him. Is it his Nobel prize that allows him to speak for all of them?

The fact is: in his mind, the focus should not be trying to address the fact that adult men like him are still behaving like teenagers in a professional environment such as labs, we should instead remove women.

That’s the same argument the Talibans and other various religious fundamentalists of all kinds have to force women to wear the burqa or stay at home behind the opacity of its walls. When you listen to their arguments, they say women are a distraction, they are a temptation. They say it is in their nature to appeal, to attract, to seduce the men and divert him from his true goal: religion and God. Replace religion by work and God by science and you have Mr Hunt’s “funny” or “confused” exposé.

I am sure his feminist wife has something to say about the comparison but as far as I am concerned, it is quite striking. Old, sex-obsessed males who think women are the reason for their unholy or unfocussed self and should be removed.

Why do people defend such a view? Why is he the victim when he says such things? Why is the victim of a so-called ‘self-righteous witch-hunt’ when he just put 52% of the world population in the same boat labelled “To get out of sight”?

Finally, there is Mr Hunt himself. If you look carefully at all that has been said by him recently, we have a man who uses casual sexism as a mean to be funny, who then says he was confused and nervous, did not what to say, say one thing then the opposite in the same sentence, and uses his wife’s credential to justify an open and mature mind he can’t show himself.

He seems to have lost touch with the outside world and to not exactly know the ins and outs of anything, especially when he makes sexist jokes at a women in science dinner, in front of women. This is not just a error of judgement but sheer lunacy. Not a good place where you are working as a renowned teacher.

As far as I am concerned, such men are and should remain a thing of the past and his forced resignation is just the enactment of this. You can again accuse women or political correctness, like his defenders are doing right now. “It’s all because of Twitter!”. No, it isn’t.  What’s to blame is casual chauvinism and the self-entitlement of old men who think their working prowesses render them forever untouchable.

University College London realised that Mr Hunt’s credentials as a Nobel laureate were not strong enough to balance his outdated behaviour so they decided to lay him off because he became a liability to their future. A future that lays in mixed labs with grown-up and professional men and women who act as such.

There is one and only person to blame for Mr Hunt’s downfall is Mr Hunt himself.

Of love and men.

« I believe in love » is a sentence we hear a lot but I never really understood.

I can understand the belief in religion because somehow it weirdly seems more tangible to believe in something that does not exist. I have never seen spirits or God so I’ve never believed in them but I have seen love, it’s everywhere so what’s the point in saying that you “believe” in it. It’s like saying you believe in the sun or the trees.

That’s how I thought about it, until recently.

My grandfather died about a month ago. He was 83, had two terminal cancers and although he did not suffer physically, his physical decadence was an everyday psychological torture and humiliation for him.

When he died, I did not cry. Neither did my grandmother who smiled at me when I arrived at the hospital and where scores of family members were crying. She smiled at me and it made me feel so much better because we both rationalise death as liberation for the dead. Finally! He was free from the pain, the torments.

So I did not cry after losing the most important man of my life. Well I did cry but not because of his death. I spoke at the funerals and still did not cry. When I went home, I turned on Tumblr where I saw a gif of Looking where Kevin tells Patrick that “he’s fucking in love” with him. And only then did I cry. Between the tears, I went on Youtube to find just that moment and cried. Downloaded it, watched it, again and again and “cried, cried, cried over the love” of them.

This moment was an epiphany, the likes of the one who triggered my realising I was gay. It all started when I began questionnig men and our status in the society, the social and behavioural expectations put on us. My first question when I was about 12 was “Why is it that two girls who hold hands are just “friends” whereas two boys are “gay”?”

I questioned the many differences between the emotional strings men and women attached to their peers and realised one day, after years of observations, that I was a different kind of man, one that wanted to hold hands with another one, one that wanted to be as close to a man as I was to my (girl) best-friends, one that rejected the ideal of a man the boys were trying to emulate. I was a man that was going to tick the box “gay” for the rest of my life and I was okay with it because my family always knew and accepted it because “there is nothing to accept nor reject” as they say.

That crying over a couple of second scene of Looking made me realise something about me. I don’t cry at death, I don’t cry at pain, I don’t cry at anger because I rationalise them, I understand them, they are no stranger to me, I am ready from them.

I do cry at love gestures, grand or small. I noticed that the videos that always make me cry are the surprise proposals, the surprise homecomings, the genuine wedding speeches.The genuine, the true, the passionate, the explosive, the romantic love gestures. The love songs are throwing me over the edge: You look so fine by Garbage, To have not to hold by Madonna, Halo by Beyoncé, Between two Lungs by Florence and the Machine…

Crying is my way of shielding myself against and within love because I don’t know anything about it. It’s a stranger to me. I don’t think I have ever genuinely fell in love because I did not believe in it, I did not trust it. I know now how extremely unhappy this lack of belief in love can make someone.

This is now where my life is going to change again. This is where I am going to accept myself, not a gay man but as a man who has feelings he needs to believe in to be happy.

It really all started during yet another sleepless, anxiety-filled night where I, as I always do during such nights, got up and decided to write. I have been doing that since I was 11 or 12, not to be published, not to be read but to occupy and soothe my anxieties with creativity.

And on that night, about six months ago, I made the decision to create a gay couple who are living the romantic love. Not the sweet kind but the hard kind, the one that consumes you, the ones changes you forever, the one who runs you over again and again. That one nor words neither actions can really soothe and satisfy.

And after reading yet another article about the clichés of love, I decided that they would be cliché. They would be the clichéest couple that ever there was because I am sick and tired with the Westworld-wide cynism about love and everything attached to it. Everything is cliché today. Proposals needs to be creative, honeymoons need to be adventurous. No more of a knee down and Paris. “How common!”

When have we become so cynical about love?

Cynism is fine and I enjoy it and practice it greatly when it’s funny, when it’s all tainted delicately with irony with a blunt of touch of sarcasm but the one surrounding love is just spiteful, blasé and negative. It teaches us that maturity goes with the moment when you stop believing the fairytales-like love and be more realistic. In a nutshell: it doesn’t exist.

I am a very stubborn and self-determined person who is hardly influenced by anything from the outside unless it is well put, well thought through and well argumented. Except for love. I have been ready to believe all the worst I could hear and see about love. I have been putting it down, crushing it at the first occasion, finding all reasons and excuses to dismiss it, ridicule it, be angry at it and ignore it.

It became clear that I was my worst nightmare: a man who was a product of our society where men are said to be solely driven by economic fulfilment. Ask a woman about the most important day in her life, she will tell you either her wedding or the birth of her children. Ask a man older than 40, he will tell you about his promotion or finally buying his dream car (only money-related dreams are allowed in maturity). I am product of a society where men must be rational, economic animals whereas women are their emotional, foolish love-driven sidekicks.

My mother likes to think I hate her married lover because I am jealous. No, I hate him because he’s nothing but the stereotype the society is still pushing younger men to emulate: a successful banker at the Rothschild’s Bank with a company car, a wife and two kids to show off at business dinners. A man who is overworking in order to climb the professional ladder and who loves by interest, which is what I used to believe about all men. As far as I was concerned, men were incapable of love, were some kind of love-disabled species who yet understood it was a necessity for their survival to fake it.

When I asked my mother why he was not divorcing his wife instead of cheating with countless women (he seems to have settled with my mother for the past few years), she said because he can’t. The fact is that his love life is nothing but an instrument to maintain his social status: he says “I love you” to his wife, he has sex with his wife, he stays married to her making her believe he is the same man she married decades ago because his social and economic status depend on it. He was taught that some boxes need to be ticked to succeed and impress his peers so he ticks them without believing in them: wife, kids, career and car.

I long thought that when women are driven by love, men are driven by their honour, how respectable they are in our society. When my cousin told me he had his heart broken, my first thought, that I kept for myself, was “You liar! Just give up with that ridiculous excuse! Your heart is not broken, just your honour because she dumped you. That’s why you say you want to get back with her. Not because you love her but because you want to save your honour by being the one who did the dumping.”

And how many men are talking like this? How many men are doing this? “

How many of those men are shown to be the norm?” is the real question.

I tried and typed the word “husband” on Google a couple of month ago to find it was mainly attached to “cheating”. The tabloids are filled with stories of famous men cheating and allegedly cheating because that’s what powerful men do and people are ready to believe all these stories without a doubt. In France, we have totally interiorised the idea that a power comes with a set of mistresses. And I have interiorised that, as far as men were concerned, love is irrelevant.

Between 20 and 25, I took great pleasure sleeping with straight married men with kids because it comforted me in this idea. I went as extreme as asking them to tell me about their wedding day in details as I was kneeling between their legs. They seem to take pleasure in it too: the sin was too great. Was it some kind of death to them? Killing the man they pretended to be as liberation, even just for a couple of minutes?

Personally, I never thought it would have destroyed me so much. I have never trusted a man to love so I have never bothered trying to date, to see anyone because I knew I would be hurt and left betrayed and alone at the end. I rather spent 12 years, observing, listening, studying the people around me to find out more. I needed to rationalise it. Love was nothing but a psychological study I was conducting.

This is when it became apparent that is not just society but also my parents who marked me. An immature father who has never grown up and was only tender to my mother when he felt she was pulling away from him and he was about to lose the comfort of  the married life and her money offered.  But also a mother who, after knowing him for 25 years and marrying him twice has been left blasée and unable to believe in forever. She now has a very dry view of relationship, very blunt.

She accepts love and is very in touch with her feelings but when my brother was dating his girlfriend and was talking about children and long-time life in some foreign country, she replied “Well, that’s if you’re still together”. She was not being mean or anything, it just came out the way she believes it and she doesn’t believe in love anymore. She believe in passion, she believes in feelings but she doesn’t believe that two persons can love forever.

She is not the only one: how many time do we hear “mismatch” or “I gave them two weeks” or “It’s not going to last” when two people start dating?

What is wrong with people?
Why are we all believing in lies, deceit, irrelevance when it comes to relationships?
Why can’t we believe in love?

And I understood. I understand what it is now to believe in love. It is to believe that it exists. I believe in its power that can be stronger than anything. I know…”how cliché!”…Well, yes! So?

Everywhere, from our most cherished members of family to the national press and the wider society love is taking a beating by people who have stopped believing in it and whose disappointment needs to be expressed by forcing their open cynism us.

I, for once, am absolutely fed up and tired with it. I felt I was becoming a psychopath when it came to men: I was physically attracted to what I despised and feared the most. My pulsions turned aggressive as well as sexual and in fear of anything bad happening, I kept away from them. At 30, I found out that I wasted the last 10 years of my life trying to prove myself that I did not need a man.

Today, I don’t want to listen to all that crap about how love is nothing but a social invention serving social peace and prudish religion purpses.

I want more! I want hope and something to look forward to. I want to believe. To believe in love. To believe in men. To believe in their genuine ability to love like my brother is loving my sister-in-law. Like more and more men of my age and younger are loving. I want to believe in these men. The ones who, like me, are looking at their aloof fathers and men such as my mother’s lover as a kind of man that should be left in the past.

Call me childish, naïve, stupid, blind, look down on me, ridicule me as much as you want but I want to believe because one day, another man is going to open his heart and tell me he loves me and this time, I want to be ready to believe him, unlike the last time when I could hear nothing but a lie.

So today, I believe in love.

Feel-good quotes

One the things I hate the most is the “feel-good quotes”. The cheap, simplistic, hackneyed clichés that everyone will agree on and, because they are hardly controversial, they actually never get you to actually think about your life.

They either mean just about fuck all: “Dreams are free so free your dreams”. WTF?!

Or they are just catchy yet very empty sentences like: “It’s not about wishing, it’s about doing”. Oww, thanks Yoda!

The worst I have ever experienced was from the new deputy head of my old school, who I used to call Noddy, because he was gushing constantly. One day after asking me something, he turned around, thumbs up and said:

“Don’t forget to be awesome today.”

What in the name…?! I felt like I had just been drenched with wet, warm marshmallows: too sweet and sticking all over my body like pink slime. Argh, get it off me!!!

These quotes are usually found in the lyrics of songs by boybands, on the twitter and Instagram of heavily-gelled hair teenagers, fitness addicts and low-educated adults who seem to think these sentences allow them to hold some universal truth about the meaning of life. “I am such a philosoph!”

I should add another category, the ones who go by quoting famous people. They think it makes them cultured and literate. “Like Abraham Lincoln used to say…” When in fact you can find these quote-filled booklets in any souvenir shop throughout the world for less than £1.

I am arse? Yes! But an arse that is pompous too and does prefer sentences like that one: “If emotions are the sail then blind faith is the mast.”

It actually gets you to think about it so you can understand it. There will also be many ways to understand it. I understand it as an answer to “Follow your heart”, as opposed to follow your brain. I have noticed that knee-jerk reactions, blind belief and brutal religion come from people who are too happy to ignore what their brain might tell them and to act upon every single emotion they have. There is no restraint and certainly no common sense and sensibility, all in the name of following their heart.

There can be a discussion on such a statement and it therefore has more chance to be effective than the following I gathered. So insightful, some of them are, it’s delicious!
I can, I will, end of story.

Don’t wait for the perfect moment, make the moment perfect.

There are seven days in a week and someday is not one of them.

You must make a choice to do some changes or your life will never change.

Worrying is stupid, it’s walking around with an umbrella waiting for the rain.

Every morning, you have two choices: Continue to sleep with your dreams or get up with chase them.

Start the day with a grateful heart.

Be so good they cannot ignore you.

Collect moments, not things.

When something bad happens, you have three choices: let it define you, let it destroy or let it strengthen you.

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

Being challenged is inevitable, being defeated is optional.

Forget all the reasons why it won’t work and believe in one reason why it will.

Don’t educate your children to be rich, educated to be happy so when they grow they’ll appreciate the value of things, not the price.

It doesn’t matter how slow you go as long as you don’t stop.

We only regret the chances we did not take.

Good things come to people who wait go out and fucking earn it.

Stop wishing, start doing.