Rebecca Watson: I love you, stand by you, and won’t tell mom about the infantile bloggers and commenters

Just go read this. And then do something about it.

Rebecca Watson, Skepchick
Rebecca Watson, Skepchick and widely known spokeswoman in the Skeptical and Feminist Communities. Photo from Wikipedia Commons

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26 thoughts on “Rebecca Watson: I love you, stand by you, and won’t tell mom about the infantile bloggers and commenters

  1. DO something about it? Man, don’t I wish I had that kind of power! If I could wave a magic wand and make people have good manners, things never would have gotten to this point. As it is, I’m not even sure it’s worth setting foot in an atheist conference, as much as I’d love to hear the speakers. This makes us all look so foolish that it’s occurred to me to wonder how many of her vicious detractors are Christian trolls.

  2. I know. I was just thinking something along the lines of putting a few encouraging words in the comment section of her post. Abbie Smith (ERV) has 10,000 anti-Rebecca (and anti-PZ Myers and anti-me and so on) comments on her cesspool blog, mostly redundant and mostly the same dozen or so creeps. Let’s give Rebecca a couple of hundred non-redundant thoughtful not-too-Hallmark-like well wishes!

  3. I agree with you. It’s unconscionable that a girl should have such horrible things written about her. Perhaps we need “Rebecca’s Law” to convict male bloggers who criticize females in public.

  4. So when PZ or Greg criticizes Michelle Bachmann in public for saying something crazy they’d be arrested? No thank you.

    I’ll stick with supporting rational, decent people and criticizing bigots.

  5. NDDave, betasattva is trying to suggest that expressing support for Rebecca and disgust over the assholes harassing her is somehow akin to outlawing critical speech. Of course, he’s not very good at it.

  6. @Stephanie *rereads the post* Wow, not very good at it is an understatement. Let me recatagorize betasattva’s post from “unthinkingly simplistic and naive” to “incompetently defensive about being an asshole” then.

  7. Wait, wait … I’m liking this Rebecca’s Law idea. Becca’s Law has a better ring.

    It wouldn’t be to jail offending male bloggers. It would be more like an Amber Alert. A Rebeccalert. The law would provide for the construction of a Rebeccalert System. NPR could run it.

  8. Perhaps we need “Rebecca’s Law” to convict male bloggers who criticize females in public.

    Yeah right because that’s all that’s been happening – male bloggers have been “criticizing” Rebecca in public – not calling her a cunt a twat a fucking bitch a liar a criminal etc etc etc etc etc, and not campaigning to get her fired and blacklisted.

  9. I am not trying to sidetrack or put this issue on the back burner by mentioning them, but there are two noticeable yet unspoken things going on in the unprovoked abuse Watson is enduring.

    (1) Some/Many of the cretins attacking her are atheists. There are probably a lot of religious trolls as well, but no one is lying and pretending that “all of them” are christians or other religious types. Contrast that with unethical or criminal behaviour by religious types – as soon at it happens, you’ll hear them say, “They’re not true christians/muslims/whatever!” How unsurprising that there isn’t denial and dishonesty amongst atheists, even during an embarrassing incident such as this.

    (2) Most of the abuse is going on anonymously, assholes and asshats hiding behind pseudonyms to hurn insults as low as those that have driven people (bullied teens, gay teenagers) to suicide.

    Anonymity is absolutely needed by some people (whistleblowers, victims of crimes who want to join support groups, former bloggers at Scienceblogs) but it becomes much harder to argue for it when knuckledragging idiots use it to perpetrate such acts. Those who want to expose anonymous writers start saying things like, “If you’re not doing anything wrong, why do you need it?”

    Those against anonymity want people “outed” so that they can be targeted and abused, be threatened or even killed. Just ask Joe Darby, the whistleblower of Abu Ghraib who was outed by Donald Rumsfeld. Or ask the plaintiffs in the Texas high school football case who received death threats and vandalism of their homes within days because they opposed organized prayer at games. (The plaintiffs were mormons and catholics, not atheists; the prayers were fundamentalist christian and verbally targeted people of other religions.)

    Finally, here’s something I sent to Watson, a paraphrasing of Frank Zappa (among other support):

    I’m not a woman, but there’s times I wish I could say that I’m not a man.


  10. but it becomes much harder to argue for it when knuckledragging idiots use it to perpetrate such acts.

    Well quite, and they do that A LOT. Wally Smith did it to me under a whole slew of nyms, for months.

  11. Gvc, please send me your address. I want to live in your world where what is ought to be.

    In the mean time could you please avoid using sexist words in your comments on this blog? Thanks.

  12. I think that it’s much ado about nothing, and that Rebecca Watson has not been “subjected” to anything more disturbing than any other public or semi-public figure endures from anonymous jackasses on the internet. The curious thing is the claim that one ought to be immune from some idiot on the internet calling one names.

    What is most disturbing is actually that this “crisis” involving elevators and dirty words on the internet seems to be increasing Watson’s profile unjustifiably. She has somehow become a spokesperson for feminism and skepticism.

    The brand of feminism espoused on is no brand of feminism that I want to be involved with. There is no discussion permitted on, unless the discussions are prefaced with proper supplications. People are banned from participation on for mere polite disagreement, and men are routinely harassed. The website preaches a dogma, and only agreement is allowed.

    With respect to skepticism and science, Ms. Watson is woefully lacking in qualifications. That is why the “Skepchick” appears at skeptic conferences and hardly talks about skepticism or science, but rather heads toward feminism at the earliest possible opportunity. Want to hear an hour talk on the nonsense some anonymous idiots sent to her on youtube? So worth the price of admission…

    The “science” that she discusses is more along the lines of that a teenager would be addressing – easy pickings like “homeopathy.” She’ll read back to us the latest news article or wikipedia entry, and give us the startling revelations that homeopathy is bunk.

    Frankly, I would, politely, oppose her invitation to further skeptical events because she doesn’t add anything worthwhile in the field of skepticism and science. For her to share the stage, like in Ireland where the infamous Elevatorgate occurred, with Richard Dawkins and AronRa is really not appropriate. I’m sure some kind of “Teen Skeptic” convention would be well-served by having Watson appear, but for serious discussions, I – for one – don’t need to listen to another hour of someone discussing feminism and giggling at her own jokes.

    I’m sure I’ll get lambasted for this post, but I feel there must be more folks out there who feel the same way. I really have no person beef with Watson, as I’ve never met her personally. I’m sure she’s very nice. But, just as I wouldn’t pick her as a speaker at an astronomy science panel discussion, presentation on finance and banking, so too I don’t want to pay good admission fees to listen to her talks at skeptic/atheist event.

    And, before someone suggests it – I know – I don’t have to attend – and I won’t, if she is on the list of speakers. Well, except maybe is it’s like an all-weekend event and she is one tiny portion of it that I can avoid by heading out to get a snack or browse the books and sundries for sale out in the hallways.

  13. Question for Greg Laden – is “hysterical” really a sexist word? I know it has a sexist etymology, but is it really a “sexist” term? It doesn’t mean anything to do with the uterus and its use is not confined to women. Anyone can be hysterical, and jokes can now be hysterical.

    Now – “mansplain” — there is a sexist term that has become commonplace in any discussion of the elevatorgate and Rebecca Watson…

  14. John, good question. A word with a sexist etymology has to be considered sexist if that sexist etymology is carried along with the word’s use. There seems to be broadly two ways for that to happen: 1) For the etymology to be part of the living language, which in this case I think it is not and 2) for the use of the word, owing to its etymology, to be sex biased, which in this case it still partly is (women are more likely to be called hysterical than men in literature, etc. that is still active, even if not so in day to day use, say on the internet).

    And there is a third way a term can remain sexist: If we decide it is. If we decide it is, then using it knowing it is so decided is a sexist (or cynical) linguistic act.

    Also, as you point out, the term “hysterical” can mean two very different things.

    In my view, “That joke is hysterical” is absolutely not sexist and “don’t get all hysterical about me using a sexist joke” said to a woman is absolutely sexist.

    I have not noticed that “mansplain” has grown in use in the context of Rebeccpocalypse. It was already getting used (overused?) before that. But maybe.

    But, “mansplain” simply is not a sexist term. I have no idea why you suggest it is.

  15. Greg, not sure how you can think ‘mansplain’ is not sexist. It’s used to dismiss men as chauvinist dissemblers when they try to balance the discussion on this topic. On Skepchick its use is commonly followed by banning of the male member (pun intended).

  16. @John Mortimer

    The curious thing is the claim that one ought to be immune from some idiot on the internet calling one names.

    There are two ways this is getting it wrong:

    1) Many of the people using misogynistic epithets in this case are not idiots. Many of them are our peers or betters and highly intelligent people who have typically had (and still have) great ideas. If it were only idiot trolls doing it, then there would be no problem at all! We’d all be denouncing it.

    2) No one is saying that a particular person should be immune from being called names. We are telling the people using misogynistic names to stop it, and we are calling them out on it, and we are discussing why they are wrong to do that and why we oppose it. In fact, the closest someone has come to saying that we should have immunity to being called names was when John C. Welch wrote that we should all be able to brush off any derogatory term cast our way–bar none.

  17. Greg, do you want to argue dictionary definitions? ‘Mansplainer’ is used as an ad hominem attack for people who disagree with the Skepchicks. The ‘Skep’ part of the brand is increasingly looking misplaced. I suggest looking through some of their threads to see how it’s used (rather than what it might ‘mean’).

  18. no, no wait hold on a second! I wanna try again. OK, straight faces now everyone.

    … here we go ..

    Stephanie hold on a sec, that’s not the best response to Taft.

    Taft, what Stephanie means to say is that my hat-hair is a lot better now that I’ve had a hair cut, therefore your argument is invalid. Sometimes it takes a certain amount of experience as a man to really understand what a word with the word “man” in it really means. So let me just tell you … hold on a sec, Steph, you can chime in when I’m done … that what she means is a word about explaining things by men. See?

    There we go. ‘splained?

  19. Greg, I think I’m very happy you’re not any better at that. Of course, if you were, Taft probably wouldn’t get it. S/he’d probably not see anything out of the ordinary.

    I’m pretty sure mansplaining men aren’t allowed to refer to the idea that being male gives them deeper understanding of what, say, happened to Rebecca. They just have to assume it.

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