Rudely introduced

Another one of those times when a look at the stats turns up an interesting link I wouldn’t have seen otherwise: B. Spencer at Lawyers Guns Money on The Troublemaker.

Often when I post about Rebecca Watson, I am helpfully reminded by someone that she is a lightning rod, a troublemaker, looking to stir shit in the skeptic world. From what I have read of her Skepchick blog, this just doesn’t ring true to me. What I’ve been able to gather from following her for a year or so is that she was just a young woman and a skeptic who was rudely introduced to sexism and misogyny in the skeptic world and responded to that by talking about it–loudly and often–instead of shutting up.

I think it’s the loudly and often part that gives Ms. Watson her bad rap (with idiots). And, indeed, if you do read her blog you’ll notice a pretty sizable chunk of her posts deal with misogyny in the skeptic world. But to me this makes a tremendous amount of sense. I think that after Elevatorgate, it would have been bizarre if skeptic-related feminism had not become a big part of her shtick. I mean, the reaction to her gentle admonition was just freaking insane. I can’t imagine this event and its aftermath not influencing the way she viewed the skeptic world greatly–of course she became more attuned to sexism!

Yes. And of course so did many of us. I had a head start, having become more attuned to sexism before Rebecca was even born, but still there are always lows and peaks. In other words becoming more attuned to sexism wasn’t a new experience for me (but rather a drearily familiar one), but all the same the summer of 2011 caused a huge uptick, and there have been many new peaks since then. The freaking insane shit that has been going on for more than two years is more than enough to explain that. It’s supererogatory in the explanation department.

And I think that it’s at this point we get into a rolling stone gathering moss situation: Rebecca Watson blogs about sexism. She is criticized for that–often in a way that proves the need for her vigilance– and she speaks up again. And because she keeps speaking–for legitimate reasons–she becomes “the troublemaker.” Bullshit.


Many of the comments are interesting too.

BSpencer adds:

I started reading her because of Elevatorgate and was utterly charmed. In addition to the fine work she does for women in the skeptic community, she’s really, really funny. *jealous*

Elly replies

And – in part – that’s also why the reaction to RW has been so over-the-top. Without naming names, it seemed pretty plain (to me, at any rate) that certain people viewed her as an upstart… someone who was taking attention away from more credentialed (and therefore more “serious”) voices.

So yeah, jealousy. Organized skepticism features a lot of academic types; some of whom seemed to resent the popularity of a non-academic (particularly one who wasn’t properly deferential to their authoritah); and used the opportunity provided by “Elevatorgate” to take her down a notch.

Personally, this only made me admire Rebecca even more, for her ability to maintain her “cool” and stay focused under some truly depressing circumstances.

And a bit later adds:

Lemme put it this way: that’s my opinion. But to me, it’s the only “rational” explanation for the unhinged reactions on the part of women like Abbie Smith, who gleefully and openly reveled in Rebecca’s situation. As I recall, she even had a dedicated thread on her blog at Scienceblogs, devoted to abusing Rebecca (and her supporters) – when National Geographic took over Sb management, she was forced to delete it. But at the time, it left me gaping in shock: I couldn’t believe (and still have trouble believing) that an up-and-coming young professional woman would engage in such blatantly unprofessional behavior.

Some of Smith’s bile is copied here: Her characterization of Rebecca as a “leech” and “loser” demonstrate that her animus is unrelated to Elevatorgate, per se. If someone has an explanation for this level of hate other than jealousy, I’m willing to hear it.

That link will be why I saw this post and the comments. Speaking of Abbie Smith (aka ERV) and Someone is mean on the internet, Stephanie has a report on that front.

Just in case anyone was wondering why I put off mentioning that migraines and treating them wereaffecting my finances, just chalk it up to being one of those little effects of being constantly watched. When I do talk about anything being a problem for me, this is what I get. (Warning: slime pit link.)

Badger3k: In other news, Steffy is begging for money, and Avicenna is saying something against Thunderf00t (not sure what, couldn’t waste the minutes it would take to read his drivel). Ophie finds rape culture where most of us would find a kid connected to a politician gets out of trouble. Not sure about the rest of the article, but going to the “house they used to live in was burned down in mysterious circumstances) to suggest the townspeople burned it down in retaliation for reporting the rapes is a bit much (so far, it could change if I ever think it’s worth looking into).

BarnOwl: Peezus Christ on a crutch … they’re all medically “special,” “unusual,” and “rare.” What are the chances that they all have (sometimes multiple) rare chronic conditions, unique drug reactions, unusual allergies and autoimmune disorders, etc. etc. And their special medical conditions require that they quit their jobs to get healthy again, and that means cyber-begging with their piteous stories. I’ve had a few co-workers who develop special chronic conditions and “disabilities” that require reduced working hours and duties for accommodation, yet somehow magically they’re always healthy enough and have plenty of spoons to travel to Europe or Australia or ski resorts in the US and Canada to attend fun meetings and conferences.

Fuck that shit.

ERV: I noticed with the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome folks– It was incredible how active they were able to be online, despite their ‘inability’ to work. Dozens of Tweets a day, active on Facebook and special-interest forums, and look at Svan, able to organize posts full of meticulously screen-capped, uploaded, and organized Tweets from others, with commentary.

But work, no, work is simply too much for her to handle.

Also, ask my partner about my migraines. Ask. Ask how theyve been the past couple of months. You know what I cut back on instead of work? Blogging.

What a fucking loser.




  1. says

    During my early days of blogging for science, I used to look up to Abbie Smith as a scientist-blogger. Among other things, she did real good work in debunking the XMRV-CFS link claim. But then suddenly everything changed. I find absolutely no congruence between Abbie Smith, the rational scientist, and Abbie Smith, the dysempathic Slymepit-goddess/icon. The thought of the latter fills me with profound sadness… So much hatred and vitriol burning within one person, how does she not see how pointless all that is?

  2. stewart says

    In common, I suspect, with many who were quite clear about being atheists before there was an Internet, the gradual discovery of many others online was something exciting and liberating. It was then easy (and tempting) to see all the prominent figures as good guys (gals). The opportunity to observe their behaviour in relation to issues other than their simple non-belief in a deity has been, in some cases, a very – and sadly – sobering one. Some of them have proven themselves to be nasty pieces of work in a human sense. This leaves the simple fact that there are some fights we have in common with them and others in which we are opposed to them, but the fact that the areas in which we are opposed to them are about simple fairness and dignity cannot be devoid of further implications.

  3. Jackie teh kitteh cuddler says

    What a fucking loser.

    I wonder when I see this claim made, exactly what is it we’re supposed to be playing and what exactly is she suggesting Stephanie is losing at? Is she losing at happening to have perfect health? Is Abbie saying that while some win the genetic lottery others do not and should be looked down on for that? I really don’t understand. What is winning if losing is having an illness outside of one’s own control? Is Chris Hitchens a loser? I mean he got so sick he died. If health is a game, he definitely lost. What about Stephen Hawking? Is he a loser too? Terry Pratchett has Alzheimer’s. Is that because he isn’t enough of a winner?

    I guess that isn’t it though, since Abbie herself has migraines that sometimes limit what she is able to do. She says so herself. What she is suggesting is that Stephanie is lazy and dishonest. Abbie’s pain is real and being the super special snowflake she is, she is sure she handles her pain far better than the women she doesn’t like. Their pain is clearly made up. They are frivolous with their time and energy. They are whiners, where as she is so superior in every way that she can easily look down on them and call them “losers”. Is it just me or does that sound just like how Abbie sees every situation involving other women? They weren’t really raped or harassed and she knows because she’s so fucking special. Gendered slurs aren’t really bigoted because she says so and she’s just so damn special. They aren’t really feminists because she says so. That, my friends is how she thinks skepticism works. Facts don’t matter. Abbie doesn’t need evidence. Other women are all weak, selfsh liars because she says so. SKEPTICISMS!

  4. ludicrous says

    “Guys, don’t do that” or “Guys, please don’t do that?”

    I think part of the vicious reaction was because Rebecca Watson didn’t say please and didn’t employ the question mark upnote on ‘that’. to indicate that her words were merely a tentative plea and subject to approval.

    If a woman doesn’t find a way to appear apologetic for speaking up at all, let alone tell (not ask) us what not to do, we men get scared. In this case a direct instruction without the sweetening that we are accustomed to and expect is something up with which somefind it hard to put.

    Mere speculation; some of us never outgrow our fear of big mom (nurse Cratchit?) taking over again I think the impulse to demean, rape even, serves to console us that she does not , in fact, represent big mom.

    Is anyone interviewing/researching these guys? There must be a reason that some react hysterically. A loose uterus maybe?

  5. arthur says

    I’ve been taking occasional looks at the Twitter responses to Phil Mason’s (Thunderf00t) dense videos on rape.

    There’s a creep on Twitter following Mason called @JackOutis, who was tweeting about Rebecca Watson repeatedly for days. Again and again. Really nasty, obsessive figure.

    It takes a brief twitter or internet search to uncover these creeps. Less than a minute. And there’s quite a few of these characters about.

    The response to Watson since her Elevator discussion should be considered obviously absurd and deplorable. Clearly irrational.

    So called skeptics who can’t acknowledge this should hand their skeptics badges over at the door when the leave, and retire from public discourse. At the very least.

  6. says

    There’s one more comfort, he is L2 on the block bot 😀

    That comment thread… It’s like a parallel universe, a post about Rebecca Watson, nrly 400 comments… Where are the Slymepit obsessives??? I mean, they’ll be along presently because they also obsessively monitor your blog. But at the moment it is mostly idiocy free and its about Rebecca Watson … I can hardly believe it.

  7. says

    At this point the reality of Rebecca Watson the person/blogger/science advocate/rogue has been replaced with the Legend of REBECCA WATSON, whos is poisoning all of atheism/skepticism with her radical feminist witchcraft. Especially on twitter it is simply “common knowledge” that Rebecca is divisive, spiteful etc. No evidence is necessary, just assertions.

    The stuff from Stephanie’s link is just foul. Reactionary is the word for it, just mindless scorn heaped on approved enemies. They sound just like your average barstool douchebag griping about what poor people spend their food stamp money on.

  8. Francisco Bacopa says

    The weirdest thing about Elevatorgate is that Watson has never made that much a big deal about it. You’d think she had tin snips ready to cut off everyone’s balls from the reaction, but I never saw that. And the original video video that prompted all this just had the bit about the elevator guy tagged on at the end as a little anecdote. I found it amusing since I did not anticipate the shitstorm that would ensue. Yeah, dude was clueless, ha ha, though it was mildly potentially threatening. But all turned out well, clueless dude was clueless.

    But from the reaction you’d think Watson was screaming rape over this. Really? And what if she had? I would have thought that excessive and continued to enjoy her other posts and videos. Yeah, she’s a little sensitive, but whatever, she posts good stuff. Please note this is all hypothetical. This never happened.

    BTW I recently bailed on the Conc0rdance Youtube channel. Used to love the guy and he lives not that far away from me. I loved his videos about the history of artificial sweeteners and all his biochemistry stuff. He was the first to suggest that SE Texas has been exempt from the drought since Dawkins, PZ and The Hitch all met in Houston two years ago. But buddy C, you post what amounts to standard rape apologetics in tour calm and authoritative voice, you’re off my list.

  9. says

    I don’t know what happened. I remember the Global Atheist Conference in Copenhagen, where Watson talked about not being a dick atheist, with funny well produced videos.

    A former muslim speaker cancelled because she couldn’t leave her country (I can’t remember her name), and Watson later said that had she known this speaker would not be there she (Watson) would have changed her talk to be about feminism instead.

    I remember being a little sorry that she didn’t – especially since the conference was heavy on older bearded guys – great speakers all of them, but it jarred a little that one of the few women speakers had the more light subject.

    Anyway, then elevatorgate happened. I saw the famous video, and missed the remark on the first viewing. But suddenly this shitstorm.

    The argument used against Watson were crazy – like ludicrous says, people were offended that she didn’t phrase it differently – becuase now she had just accused all men of being creeps.

    Then she made the comedic follow up video, and peoples head just exploded.

    I get very uncomfortable talking about this shit, because I don’t think Watson is right in everything, or beyond criticism, but damn if I am ever going to criticize her on the internet ever. People are so derenged when it comes to her – “you cant trust her – she once pulled a prank on the JREF forum”, “Shes sooo stupid because she said something wrong about Galilleo” etc.

    Whenever she is mentioned people drag in age old grievances and made up sins committed by her in the past.

    And it is always all or nothing. Could she have been more careful in her criticism of evolutionary psychology? Sure, we could have that talk – but suddenlt she is a science denialist – a luddite etc.

    I know it happens a lot. Ronald Lindsay gives a stupid keynote address, and people react, and some overreact, condemning him, calling him names etc. Then time passes, Lindsay apologizes and clarifies, and people cool down, and moves on, perhaps a little disillusioned and with a changed perspective on the person and his organization.

    But with Watson-critics, the cool down never comes, it’s just rolled into the ever growing hissy fit.

    So I fell uncomfortable, but whenever I see someone criticizing I have a knee jerk reaction against them, not because I want to, but damn I’m fed up with the never ending witch hunt.

    In case this reply comes of as a try to make it about me, I apologize, it is not my intent. I just wanted to express agreement with Spencer.

  10. Anthony K says

    Crossposted from Stephanie’s blog on the topic of the odious Abbie Smith and her tenuous grasp of, well, anything that isn’t a four letter word:

    Throughout this entire bit of typical idiocy from the shitfaces, I had this niggling feeling in the back of my mind that there was someone else who’d failed at life by cutting back at work due to illness. Finally, I remembered who it was.

    It was this fucking loser. There’s a whole fucking wikipedia article dedicated to how much work this zero took off.

  11. says


    The conference started with the sad news that Kurt Westergaard and Taslima Nasrin had both been forced to cancel their appearances. Westergaard because of the threat to his life; Nasrin because of her ongoing struggle against deportation with the supposedly secular democracy of India. An indication of where we find ourselves I suppose…

    Fortunately, she’s not always forced to cancel. She was at Atheist Ireland’s Empowering Women Through Secularism conference last June, and (if all goes well) she’ll be at CFI’s Women in Secularism 3 next May.

  12. says

    Anthony – crossposted from my response to your response at Stephanie’s:

    Well, doing amateurish stuff like pottering around with barnacles and writing an occasional book is pretty much exactly like pottering around with social media, and anybody who is too ill or disabled to go out and get a REAL JOB that involves lots of TRAVEL FROM HOME TO WORK and SUPERVISION and RULES and A PAYCHECK is a fucking loser.

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