Home Politics Major Drama in the Atheist Community
Major Drama in the Atheist Community
Written by MyMelody   
Tuesday, 05 July 2011 14:47

Rebecca Watson, founder of Skepchick.org, has found herself in the middle of a maelstrom of controversy. Charged language, sarcasm and accusations of obtuseness abound as this drama continues to unfold on the blogosphere. Major Players include, Watson herself, Jen McCreight, PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins to name a few.

But what has caused all this uproar?

Apparently, it all started because of an eight minute video where Watson chose to illustrate a point by recounting an incident that happened to her in Dublin. On the day of the incident, she had  given a lecture on Feminism and the Atheist Community  earlier as part of a panel discussion. She was touching on how to get more women involved in Atheism and Skepticism. Later, she annouced that she was tired and going to bed. An unfamiliar man then followed her into an elevator and invited her back into his hotel room for coffee.

Here's what she said, verbatim.

Um, just a word to wise here, guys, uh, don't do that. You know, I don't really know how else to explain how this makes me incredibly uncomfortable, but I'll just sort of lay it out that I was a single woman, you know, in a foreign country, at 4:00 am, in a hotel elevator, with you, just you, and—don't invite me back to your hotel room right after I finish talking about how it creeps me out and makes me uncomfortable when men sexualize me in that manner.

This was enough to send bloggers and prominent figures aflurry. One such person was Richard Dawkins, who responded to the incident with sarcasm.

Dear Muslima

Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and . . . yawn . . . don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.

Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick”, and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so . . .

And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.


This action by Dawkins escalated the attention this situation was receiving. From BlagHag to Pharyngula it seems every prominent atheist/ skeptic blogger has an opinion on this.

Earlier today, Rebecca responded to Dawkins' statement in a blog post entitled, The Privilege Delusion:

 "…Richard Dawkins believes I should be a good girl and just shut up about being sexually objectified because it doesn’t bother him. Thanks, wealthy old heterosexual white man! "

She also seems to be personally boycotting Dawkins, and many are following suit.

So many of you voiced what I had already been thinking: that this person who I always admired for his intelligence and compassion does not care about my experiences as an atheist woman and therefore will no longer be rewarded with my money, my praise, or my attention. I will no longer recommend his books to others, buy them as presents, or buy them for my own library. I will not attend his lectures or recommend that others do the same. There are so many great scientists and thinkers out there that I don’t think my reading list will suffer.

This recent turn of events has brought to light an issue that has been bubbling underneath the surface of the Atheist/Skeptic movements for some time now: are women being valued as an important part of these communities? Are women's issues taking a prominent enough place? We here at Godlessliberals.com would like to know what your opinions are on this situation, what you think  the implications are for the various communities involved, and what steps should be taken, if any, to adress these issues.


Watson's Lecture Starts at 2:20




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Last Updated on Monday, 14 November 2011 11:38


-1 #80 Marga 2011-07-10 15:08
Rebecca is a poseur and everyone in the community who isn't a fan boy/girl knows it. She's moderately intelligent and spends a majority of her time trying to be the coolest kid in the class. She's pretentious and sarcastic. She puts up photos of herself that only make her look attractive (even though in my opinion she's far from attractive). I'm tired of Rebecca as she has little or nothing to add to any SGU episode and I wish she wasn't on the show. This situation is all about attention. If it wasn't, then she wouldn't have brought it up without stating that she didn't JUST speak and it was many hours earlier. I've heard her mention a half dozen times on SGU how people always propose marriage to her. She's embarrassing and she should get over herself. That's my 2 cents.
-1 #79 Darin 2011-07-09 16:05
No can do about the faux pas thing. There are people who ask other people for sex. Also, no can do about the alone thing. Solicitations to a woman while her friends are there? Never going to happen. So no can do about the alone thing.

The elevator, on the other hand, is something workable. He could have waited till one of them got off, stepped off, and then turned around asked. If it's the man who gets off first. I'm guessing it's never going to succeed because now the man is "barring" the entrance. (Had on the elevator door to keep it open being necessary for conversation actually results in negative reaction.)

We could started this thread with "dude should have figured out the elevator thing, too aggressive in a confined space". QED
+2 #78 Leah 2011-07-09 10:09
Quoting Darin:
Men, willing to listen, are not able to do anything about the way a woman feels.

I appreciate your willingness to listen, but most of the men on this thread have not held that position. Instead of asking why we feel bad, they've told us we're wrong to feel bad.

Quoting Darin:
what exact behavior of the elevator was wrong?

The man already broke a social norm and made her uncomfortable by asking her to his room. Most guys don't do that right off the bat, so a red flag goes off in our heads when one does. Since he's a stranger who already committed a faux pas, she doesn't know much further he's gonna take it. Being alone with him in a confined space, such as an elevator, escalates the anxiety. We don't like when we can't walk away from uncomfortable situations, we feel unsafe. If you are interested in a woman and you happen to be in a confined space with her, I would advise you to avoid sexually suggestive pick up lines.
+1 #77 Darin 2011-07-09 06:34
If you are offended by what has transgressed, could you please be specific about what aspect was ?

Women assert that there is a problem, in part, because the way they feel. Men, willing to listen, are not able to do anything about the way a woman feels. They are able to modify their behavior.

If women can not clearly delineate what behaviors are offensive/harassing/demeaning/patronizing/etc. , then there will be zero change. Additionally, if the conversation continues to be about feelings, there will be no progress. Feelings can be useful indicators that something is wrong. So, tell us, what exact behavior of the elevator was wrong?
+1 #76 Leah 2011-07-09 00:15
Quoting Jerry W Barrington:
And indeed, that statement proves you *don't* know what is. Sexual harassment (like most "offenses") is an action of *intent*..

By the way, look up the definition of Sexual Harassment. I did and found several variations of:
"Harassment (typically of a woman) in a workplace, or other professional or social situation, involving the making of unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks"

Nothing about intent on any of them. But please, why don't you, a man, continue to define what constitutes as harassment towards a woman. If we get upset about anything outside your definition, feel free to continue telling us what to feel and how much of it to feel. After all, you obviously know more about women's fears and emotions than we women do.
Seriously, if I wanted a man to tell me how I should or shouldn't feel, I'd join a religion. I expected better from atheist men, but I guess not.
+3 #75 Jhereg 2011-07-08 17:54
Quoting Darin:
More importantly, does Rebecca Watson speak for all women? most? some? 36.79%? If it's say 30% or 60% or 70%, what aspect of disagreement is so repulsive?

If you take five seconds to check this thread and the myriad blogs commenting on this, you'll notice that a significant number of women are supporting Rebecca in calling it creepy and saying men need to treat women with more respect.

Since women are more likely to know what women want than men are...yeah. You might want to listen to them.
0 #74 Darin 2011-07-08 17:15
Quoting Jhereg:
Lemme see if I got this:

3) Men get pissed and tell women they have no right to get creeped out when strange men accost them in hotel elevators at 4 am.

Men hit on women regardless of venue. I don't imagine the intent of asking more women to atheist conferences was to get laid, but I imagine the amount of come-ons is likely higher at these venues. Why? People are attracted to like-minded (and I'm personally repulsed by Jesus freaks).

Re: #3, was it "accost(ing)" because it was an elevator? what if it was 4am at a bar? 4am on convention floor? 2pm in an elevator?

More importantly, does Rebecca Watson speak for all women? most? some? 36.79%? If it's say 30% or 60% or 70%, what aspect of disagreement is so repulsive?
+1 #73 Jhereg 2011-07-08 12:31
Lemme see if I got this:

1) Atheist community rants about encouraging women to join and hosts panels on the subject.
2) Female atheist speaks up on feminism issues in atheist circles, and uses experiences of her own and of others to establish that women avoid the atheist community because they're getting hit on constantly and it makes them uncomfortable.
3) Men get pissed and tell women they have no right to get creeped out when strange men accost them in hotel elevators at 4 am.
4) Profit???
0 #72 Leah 2011-07-07 16:12
Quoting Jerry W Barrington:
Sure, if "your side" is that all men are rapists until proven otherwise.

You know "misogyny" has a counterpart: "misandry".

I never said all men were rapists and I never accused anyone of misogyny. By "our view", I meant the female mindset around men they don't know. Even if the chance of being raped is miniscule, it's still a realistic thing we need to be alert for. Was this man gonna rape her? Most likely not, but it was inappropriate to ask her to his hotel room in that setting. I doubt he had intention to scare her, but it's important to realize that women DO worry about these things and I suspect that if a female friend or family member of yours were in an elevator with a strange man asking her back to his room, you'd have concern for her. The vast, vast, majority of men don't rape- but some do, so we have to err on the side of caution when made uncomfortable.
+1 #71 Jerry W Barrington 2011-07-07 14:18
Quoting Leah:
Thanks for posting it, I really enjoyed reading it and I think it delivers our side of things perfectly.

Sure, if "your side" is that all men are rapists until proven otherwise.

You know "misogyny" has a counterpart: "misandry".

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