Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Guardian to Stephen Hawking: Cut Back on the Porn

In response to Stephen Hawking's recent complaint that he can't understand women, a Guardian columnist offers five useful tips.

Guardian to Stephen Hawking: Cut Back on the Porn

Guardian columnist Jean Hannah Edelstein was lightning fast in offering the perfect retort to Stephen Hawking’s now much-quoted statement that he can’t understand women and finds us “mysterious.”

I came across her column by putting Hawking and women and annoying into Google. Why would I google such a combination of terms? It wasn't Hawking himself I found annoying but the fact that millions of men thought his statement was the cutest, funniest thing they'd heard all day.

And really, it does carry the whiff of an insult with the implication that women are too irrational and capricious to be understood by men. Surely men who like to accuse women of being mysterious are probably awful at dealing with other men, too, but perhaps they don’t care because they don’t want to sleep with other men. Hawking was probably just joking around, but he still deserves a good retort, and the Guardian came through with five tips.

My favorites two were 1 and 5:

1. Much like individual fundamental particles, women and men are different, but also the same. Which is to say: women are unique, complicated, intellectual, emotional, sexual. We respire and we digest. Sometimes we are lovely. And sometimes we are horrible. This has less to do with our intrinsic womanliness and more to do with the fact that we are human.

5. Much like scientists think creationists are lazy-minded, women aren't keen on men who make sweeping generalisations about our "mysteriousness".It's one thing to say that you have trouble understanding particular women you interact with, or to admit that you find romantic relationships challenging. But to say that we are all a mystery could be taken as someone positioning himself to dismiss and marginalise us; to imply that our opinions and ideas don't matter because we're intrinsically inexplicable. And that would be a disgrace. In future, if you are going to make a sweeping generalisation about women, try phrasing the sentence with the word "people" in place of "women". Does it make you sound daft? Maybe a little bigoted? It's OK. Few experiments work the first time.

The suggestion to cut down on the porn was part of tip 4, which dealt with sex: “Internet pornography is about as useful as a as an arctic geography textbook is for understanding multivariate calculus.”  She got that right.

If Stephen Hawking takes these suggestions and he still finds himself struggling, however, this video might help. It explains that the male brain is equipped with a "nothing box," which allows men to think about nothing. That's not as insulting as it sounds. "Nothing" is the subject of Monday's column, and physics gives "nothing" a whole new meaning. Nothing, as I learned, is always pregant with something.  

About this blog
Faye Flam - writer
In pursuit of her stories, writer Faye Flam has weathered storms in Greenland, gotten frost nip at the South Pole, and floated weightless aboard NASA’s zero-g plane. She has a degree in geophysics from the California Institute of Technology and started her writing career with the Economist. She later took on the particle physics and cosmology beat at Science Magazine before coming to the Inquirer in 1995. Her previous science column, “Carnal Knowledge,” ran from 2005 to 2008. Her new column and blog, Planet of the Apes, explores the topic of evolution and runs here and in the Inquirer’s health section each Monday. Email Faye at fflam@phillynews.com. Reach Planet of the at fflam@phillynews.com.

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