Discrimination laws and free speech

Boris Johnson has been criticised by a Labour MP for defending claims that women in the workplace cry more readily than men. Chi Onwurah, who worked for 20 years in a male-dominated sector as a chartered electrical engineer, said the mayor of London may be in breach of discrimination laws by defending comments made by Professor Tim Hunt.

In a newspaper column, Johnson said it is a scientific fact that women cry more readily than men, and maintained that it should not be an offence to point out a “gender difference”. Hunt, a Nobel laureate and senior scientific adviser, was forced to stand down last week after claiming that women colleagues cry when criticised.

Onwurah, who was head of technology at Ofcom before becoming an MP, said that while it was reasonable to argue that Hunt had been treated unfairly, Johnson’s comments were irresponsible because he sought to excuse views that are unacceptable in the workplace.

Perhaps such speech really is in breach of the discrimination laws. At which point fuck off to the discrimination laws. For free speech is a lot more important than the delicate feelings of an MP.

13 thoughts on “Discrimination laws and free speech”

  1. Chi Onwurah, who worked for 20 years in a male-dominated sector as a chartered electrical engineer

    Onwurah, who was head of technology at Ofcom before becoming an MP

    So Onwurah ran a male-dominated public body, but sees fit telling Boris that he’s sexist because of his opinions? Why didn’t *you* employ more girls, fella?

  2. I worked at a company with a female majority workforce, including (eventually) a majority in senior positions.

    They were all entirely capable and had their jobs on merit.

    But tears were a near-daily event somewhere in the office. Particularly when things got difficult. So I think that not only is it reasonable to point out this ‘gender difference’, it’s reasonable to ask if anything can be done to avoid the waterworks coming to work.. because they are entirely unhelpful.

  3. Could we be approaching the day when a person can be sent to jail for accusing someone of having a fanny? God I hope not.

  4. So lots of women (and girly men*) are basically crying about the fact that he has said this and that proves that he is wrong? Ok…

    *I will allow that there are some normal men who are pretending to give a shit about this so as to enhance their chances of a shag. That’s just a tactic.

  5. “*I will allow that there are some normal men who are pretending to give a shit about this so as to enhance their chances of a shag. That’s just a tactic.”

    A spectacularly poor one in my experience. IME the Daniel Cleavers of this world get more action that the Mark Darcy’s.

  6. Two questions. One: Have you ever seen a woman crying at work? Two: Have you ever seen a man crying at work? This whole fuss has arisen because people are unwilling to answer those questions honestly.

    > They were all entirely capable and had their jobs on merit. But tears were a near-daily event somewhere in the office.

    Exactly. The correct answer to all this fuss over nothing would have been, “Sure, women cry more. So what? Doesn’t stop us being bloody good at our jobs.”

  7. So Much for Subtlety

    Squander Two – “Two questions. One: Have you ever seen a woman crying at work? Two: Have you ever seen a man crying at work? This whole fuss has arisen because people are unwilling to answer those questions honestly.”

    Yes I have seen a woman cry at work. And yes I have seen a man cry as well. In my office actually. What has that got to do with it?

    “The correct answer to all this fuss over nothing would have been, “Sure, women cry more. So what? Doesn’t stop us being bloody good at our jobs.””

    The logical conclusion being that they know that women are, by and large, not good at their jobs. If they had any evidence, they would point to the evidence. No one is burnt at the stake for saying the world is round. They are only at the stake for saying what we all know is true but would prefer not to notice.

  8. > If they had any evidence, they would point to the evidence.

    Yes, that would be normal. One man makes a joke that falls flat, and millions of women immediately gather and present evidence of their performance at work.

    I remember once when a Scot made some off-hand remark about the English being bastards. I handed him my birth certificate.

  9. “They were all entirely capable and had their jobs on merit.
    But tears were a near-daily event somewhere in the office. Particularly when things got difficult.”

    I’d prefer my flight’s female pilot not to cry if things got difficult. Likewise, the female brain surgeon operating on my child. If women cannot control or at least defer their tears, then they are not being professional. At best, such behaviour is distracting; at worst, it puts others at risk.

    That said, I spent 35 years working alongside women, and I rarely saw any of them cry at work. Professional women who need to shed a tear will discreetly retire to the ladies room and emerge looking composed.

  10. I’ve not seen any women cry at work, but then I work mostly with engineers. But, as has been noted in the comments of this parish on several occasions, the people who have the most problem with women at work are other women. In engineering, the blokes see their female colleagues as engineers rather than women. At least I do.

  11. @Tim Newman

    The vast majority of crying incidents at my old place, at least as far as I could tell, came from, and in, female-female interactions.

    So that backs up your point. Men don’t make women cry at work. Women do.

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