Laying It Out

Sometimes you see someone say to Rebecca Watson, “Is that all that happened?” For the record, the answer is always, “No”. Despite all the people who claim she’s always complaining, Rebecca doesn’t talk about this stuff much. People talking about what she’s said is much more common. When Rebecca does speak up, there’s always some new, unpleasant surprise. Today’s article in Slate is no exception.

The response from male atheists was overwhelming. This is one example:

“honestly, and i mean HONESTLY.. you deserve to be raped and tortured and killed. swear id laugh if i could”

I started checking out the social media profiles of the people sending me these messages, and learned that they were often adults who were active in the skeptic and atheist communities. They were reading the same blogs as I was and attending the same events. These were “my people,” and they were the worst.


Dawkins’ seal of approval only encouraged the haters. My YouTube page and many of my videos were flooded with rape “jokes,” threats, objectifying insults, and slurs. A few individuals sent me hundreds of messages, promising to never leave me alone. My Wikipedia page was vandalized. Graphic photos of dead bodies were posted to my Facebook page.

I knew the inappropriate compliments came from atheists and skeptics. but I didn’t know the circumcision squad was “us”. I never knew about that particular Facebook nastiness, though I knew about plenty of others. And then there’s that guy who said he’d assault Rebecca at TAM and laughed in the face of the JREF when he was told that was inappropriate. I thought he’d been…well, I’ll let you read for yourself. Let’s just say that Rebecca not making a big deal out of that at the time puts the lie to the idea that she was out to hurt TAM.

Laying It Out
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13 thoughts on “Laying It Out

  1. 2

    I’m getting especially tired of the 14 year old who is socially awkward excuse. These are adults. And calling women cunts doesn’t make you socially awkward. It makes you an asshole.

  2. 3

    There are always elisions of context that get left out… not so long ago I was involved with a guy who stated his non-adherence to the mandated worship of Rebecca and Surly Amy (there is no such mandate, by the same token I’m not prepared to put up with spreading utter bullshit about them), insisted their points of view were nothing more than sheer over-reactions (particularly in the case of Amy, not much of a cause was adduced beyond the Harriet Hall t-shirt incident at TAM, which is a glaring and gratuitous elision of all the other nasty stuff that was going on in cyberspace and at the conference itself), and then when confronted about it, decided to take his grievances at being told he was lying by omission by directly attacking Amy on Twitter. To general insensitivity we have to add the charge of being utterly blind to the existence of very easily discovered evidence.

    Having said that: it’s a very good read.

  3. 4

    Let’s just say that Rebecca not making a big deal out of that at the time puts the lie to the idea that she was out to hurt TAM.

    I am extremely sceptical that this aspect of her article will make any headway with her detractors!

    But Gordon Bennett there are a lot of comments on that Slate article… Lots of which are people new to the whole thing, so maybe that is why she ‘goes on about it’ so much.

  4. 7

    Maybe it was, but I’ve only just found exactly how many places there are that are pretty much dedicated to being anti-Opelia/Steph/PZ/Rebecca.

    That’s just…fucking weird. And it drives a lot of what gets posted over here, and it’s hard to imagine that it wouldn’t do that.

    It’s like you guys became internet famous, but only got the bad parts.

  5. 8

    I admire Rebecca and Amy. I don’t know how they keep going in the midst of such undeserved all out vitriol. But if they didn’t the hate mongers will have won, and nothing would change. I spend a lot of time with ‘fellow skeptics’ arguing about Rebecca and Amy to people who have never met them and don’t really know what happened in Dublin or at TAM, but believe all of the crap spun about it on websites devoted to hating them. Keep on doing what you are doing, it IS that important.

  6. 10

    Despite his having doubled-down, some people around here still admire Dawkins.

    I haven’t got a fucking clue why.

    I’m a bit the same. I’ve decided to put him in the same category I use for Freud.

    Useful and even insightful by the standards of his time, place and culture – but no longer worth much consideration by people who’ve done more and better work since then. Unmistakably clever and a reasonable writer to get his own ideas across. A source of some good phrases and quotes, but not much use to anyone interested in developing related concepts.

  7. 11

    It’s like you guys became internet famous, but only got the bad parts.

    It’s way, WAY worse than that. Ophelia was “internet famous” for many years before this shit hit. So was Rebecca. Both of them were well-respected for the things they took on. Ophelia, in the beginning, for her critiques of the excesses of pomo relativism and how that thwarted efforts to secure human rights. Rebecca for her skeptical critique of homeopathy, alt-med, and sundry nonsense. I don’t know how far Stephanie goes back because I’ve only been reading her for about a year.

    So, yeah. These women had, well, careers in the blogosphere that got them no small bit of notice. I learned about Ophelia through a piece Dawkins had written YEARS ago.

    Not just “internet famous,” well-respected commentators. This horrible shit you’re seeing now? It’s only the latest hate trend. These are women who had a place in the larger discourse of the atheist/skeptical/scientific popular discourse. For fuck’s sake, Ophelia’s written books on these subjects.

    And look how easy it is for the misogynists stalkers to tear that down so that relative newcomers, through no fault of their own, have no fucking idea that these people matter and had a platform before they became targets.

    Rage. Rage. Rage.

  8. 12

    Despite his having doubled-down, some people around here still admire Dawkins.

    I can respect some of the great work he did, some clear-cut arguments, wonderful documentaries while at the same time being fully aware that he is a very privileged person who has no intention to look over the brim of his teacup.

  9. 742

    im socially awkward, and i was fourteen once. thats not an excuse to threaten to rape and murder someone. fourteen is more than old enough to know better even at the furthest extremes of awkwardness.

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