Skepticism

The Religious Right vs. Every Woman on Earth

Here’s the talk I gave at the CFI Student Leadership Conference! If you’re heard people online talking about what a horrible bitch I am, this is why. Enjoy!

Edit: For those with hearing and/or bandwidth issues, blogger Aratina Cage has transcribed part of my CFI talk.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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80 Comments

  1. July 31, 2011 at 1:33 pm —

    Oh dear… I think you gave them proof that you’re hysterical. You put up an actual hystera. Twice. Well, one was a plushy, and the other a drawing, so not *actual* actual hysterae. Representations of hysterae. Representations of representations of hysterae (I like pluralizing foreign words). So, hysteria twice removed? Thrice?

  2. July 31, 2011 at 2:00 pm —

    I’m sorry, but after the Dawkins debacle, the embedded advert I got just now made me laugh genuinely out loud:

    http://oi52.tinypic.com/zlrhhs.jpg

    (Sorry… :)

  3. July 31, 2011 at 2:03 pm —

    So glad you’re speaking on these issues to the Atheist/Skeptic community. All the backlash you get serves as proof as to the level of gender hostility even in the “enlightened” quarters.

  4. July 31, 2011 at 2:19 pm —

    Last night, I was hanging out with a good friend of mine who was free for the evening as his fiancee was at her bachelorette party. So, we decided to grab a few drinks. Sitting in a bar around Union Square in NYC, there were two young ladies sitting next to us, but I didn’t even notice them until some drunk guy came in off the street and got up real close behind them and started to chat them up. The conversation became more animated and it became clear that he had approached these women outside the bar at some point, they had rebuffed him and he followed them in. In any case, they strongly emphasized that they weren’t interested in talking with him despite his persistence. He eventually got this angry look on his face and plopped himself on a stool right next to them. This made them uncomfortable and they asked him if he could not sit there to which he responded with loud, rambling profanity. The women argued with him for a brief time and then, disgusted, got up and walked away from the bar towards the back.

    At this point, my friend and I were rather perturbed by the scene this guy was making, and we were about to say something when he had started gesturing somewhat violently with his palm out towards the ladies during his outburst. However, at that point, a bouncer came to our section of the bar when he had heard the commotion and he looked around for what was going on. My friend and I pointed out the still-fuming dude in front of us as the cause of the disturbance and explained he had been harassing the women who had been sitting next to us. The bouncer immediately tapped him on the shoulder and led him out as the guy squirmed, cursed and muttered on his way.

    The women eventually sat back down and they started to apologize to us about the commotion. Both my friend and I stated that they had nothing to apologize for. We did mention, however, that while it was unlikely that the guy was really going to try anything dangerous, that they were well within their rights to have gone straight to the bouncer when he treated them with such disregard in the first place.

    Watching this video brought the episode back to me just now, and it really struck me as another illustration of what women, even in relatively safe environments, go through that a guy just wouldn’t normally experience. Also, I was proud of my friend who was also about to intervene when the drunk fool became more belligerent in his words and body language.

    Good talk, Rebecca. Hope to continue to see more videos of your talks (both serious and Santa-related) in the future.

    • July 31, 2011 at 2:33 pm —

      hmm, in a bar sitting next to an abusive and harassing male and you did nothing? Your friend was “about” to do something. Probably not the story I would tell. Not how we did it in Detroit.

      • July 31, 2011 at 4:43 pm —

        WTF? Are you implying, without having been there and seen the man’s behavior, that @scribe999 and friend are somehow “less than men” because they didn’t start shit with a stranger and possibly get injured or killed? Congratulations, you’re part of the problem.

        • July 31, 2011 at 5:04 pm —

          There is a difference between “then” and “than”- sorta undercuts your standing here.
          You should get a medal for conclusion jumping.
          He said “even in relatively safe environments” Was it safe? Did he feel safe? Apparently not, even with a wingman.

          There are ways to socially intervene without violence ever happening, and yes I have done it many times myself and never once had a fight result. Been in a few bar fights, but never had one start that way. Engage the event socially, pretend to know either the women or the drunk dude, if you go the drunk dude route try to pretend you know him from his occupation (that usually slows them down), I have had women friends step in and do the same with me, seen it with my own eyes (yes one of them was a lesbian so you’d no doubt call her “less than a women” er I mean “less ‘then’ a woman”). Not less than a man- less than human, I think so.

          • July 31, 2011 at 5:09 pm

            opps, I miss-applied you the grammar comment, please ignore that part. It takes courage to stand up for others in those kinds of situations, yes I have done it,no I didn’t ask for phone numbers afterwards, it can be done non-violently and if I can do it in Detroit, then he can do it at TGIFriday’s at the mall.

      • July 31, 2011 at 5:27 pm —

        Actually, it sounds like the women who were being harassed handled it themselves fine. As a father of now-adult daughters, I have had to walk the line of when to interfere in a situation and when to stand aside. If I am constantly wading in to set things right, then that can be seen as patronizing, as if women can’t take charge of a confrontational situation by themselves. I think you shouldn’t have turned scribe999’s story into an opportunity for a slapdown – after all he and his friend did do something. They provided testimony to the bouncer, and were about to intervene when he showed up. At the moment that the male patron started to lose control of his speech and physical actions, that was the point of intervention, unless the women requested help in getting him away from them beforehand. Note, however, that this does not apply in areas outside a crowded social gathering – in places more isolated, immediate intervention should be offered in any case of hassling.

        • July 31, 2011 at 7:21 pm —

          The ethics of this are not 100% clear, which is why I said “that’s not a story I would have told” as in me personally, me myself and I. I have personally intervened in these kinds of situations, diffused them with the help of women friends with me at the time sometimes, they never got violent; some of can watch and stare when abuse and harassment happens, others of us choose to actively engage, what again is why I said “not what I have done.’ Can we leave it at that? I didn’t call him a wimp, or a punk or “less of a man” just said, ‘that’s not how I do things. And I have two daughters myself, wasn’t going to mention it.

          • July 31, 2011 at 7:41 pm

            Actually I jumped the gun, should have said “expecting twin daughters in october” sorry. We’re kinda excited.

          • July 31, 2011 at 8:07 pm

            Sure – but you were implying that he was standing by and that he was doing nothing, and that his friend was about to step in (not him?). In actuality, he says that he and his friend were concerned about the situation, and both were preparing to step in when it seemed out of control.

            As a pro musician, I spent a lot of my earlier years working in nightclubs, and I often “stepped in” when I was concerned about out-of-control situations. Usually, people would back off the minute they realized that they were attracting undue attention. But often, I would become the new focus of aggression, and even get verbally abused by the very people I thought I was helping. So it is indeed a complex topic.

          • August 1, 2011 at 1:29 am

            Look, just to clarify a couple of things, my friend and I were pretty drunk ourselves, so we were a bit slow. The ladies were handling him fine from the point where he was just being intrusive until he sat down and started shouting. The girls then got up to walk away, and that part happened really quickly. The bouncer responded rapidly enough when he started getting loud and abusive there was no need to intervene then. Whatever you do in Detroit, I’m sure you don’t jump in every single shouting match or act of incivility to adjudicate the situation between total strangers when they seem to be managing for the most part, because in New York if I acted like that, it would make ME the pest.

            As for “He said “even in relatively safe environments” Was it safe? Did he feel safe? Apparently not, even with a wingman.” — That’s a lot of extrapolating from a pretty simple qualifier. “Relatively safe” as in most anywhere public with lots of people is relatively safe, but not completely safe. The Coffee Shop in Union Square is not known for violent altercations, but any bar at 2 AM could have problems that crop up. That’s the only distinction. I never personally felt unsafe, which is a bit of conclusion jumping itself.

            My unfortunate wall o’ text wasn’t meant to illustrate my actions, my friend’s actions or our lack thereof. It was to illustrate that guy’s behavior. Whatever you would or wouldn’t do in the situation misses the point. It’s about what that guy was doing. I’m sorry if you think you would have handled it better (or told a better story), but what can I do. I handled it the best I could with the information I felt I had available in the window of time open to me.

      • August 1, 2011 at 9:59 am —

        Context. Nuance. U weren’t there, so you don’t have them.

  5. July 31, 2011 at 2:30 pm —

    Really, REALLY glad to see this at last, I’ve been going off 2nd hand reports of this talk for weeks. I managed to check out everything else first hand about Elevatorgate, except for the most important part.

    I’m glad to see it’s what everyone on Team Rebecca (not much else I can call it now) thought it was. Two minutes of non-vitriolic and valid criticism given in a much larger and very important talk.

  6. July 31, 2011 at 2:44 pm —

    I think you posted the wrong video. I read all over the internet that the video had some kind of shrieking harpy on it.

  7. July 31, 2011 at 2:48 pm —

    I found this very informative. I felt the use of the personal anecdotes illustrated how ideologies/beliefs/laws made on a macro scale effect people on a personal level. Be it intrusive behavior or an inability to pursue an abortion due to manipulative laws.

    The elevator scene was haunting, and really kind of stuck with me. What’s really terrifying about that idea is that that person didn’t feel that they were doing something malicious. That they’re intentions were right. Which ultimately is the root of most problems. At their core the religious right believes what they are doing is right, and that anyone who opposes them is wrong. When you that is the basis of your justification, it’s very difficult to persuade a person to change their views.

    Mine is a voice of encouragement. If the Skipchicks need and little animations done for any future presentations or what not, I’d like to show my support that way (i work as an animator). As well as check and see if our abortion laws are being tampered with in Canada as well)

    C Hodge.

    • July 31, 2011 at 9:22 pm —

      We’d love to see some of your animations! If you do something with a science or skeptical type theme send it in to the contact link here on Skepchick or on Mad ArT Lab (link on top left of page) and if it is fitting we will post it on Mad Art Lab! :) Thanks!

  8. July 31, 2011 at 3:22 pm —

    Thanks for posting the video. Thanks for the wonderful speech, really enjoyed it. Really. I apologize for not signing up and commenting weeks ago. In my defense, trying to find out what CFI was just completely wore me out. And made me think that college students are simply too stupid to be loose. I am old enough to have survived a number of incidents which could have cost me my life, and started out as just some guy who didn’t seem to understand…..

    M31, LOL’d, I must remember to reference the malicious hysteria that was supposed to have caused almost the entire audience to walk out in protest, or something like that.

  9. July 31, 2011 at 4:04 pm —

    I was wondering if you could point me in the direction of the study that showed that banning abortions dont lessen the number of abortions? It sounded like a good argument to point to in discussions with anti-choice people.

  10. July 31, 2011 at 4:28 pm —

    I was quite surprised by the number of guys at TAM who said they were sick of this topic and wished A,B & C would just stop because this is not what I got into skepticism for. For me skepticism is all about how we can’t set aside some particular beliefs and perceptions and how the facts and evidence as they are should inform our views and actions. The objectification of women and the notion that children are property will always be significantly more important than many of the historical concerns of the skeptical movement. And that Krause pretty much got a free pass at TAM still disgusts me; as well as how many people seemed to either want to defend Krause or even his child molesting friend Epstein. If you can be a skeptic and not a humanist then good for you, and I hope you don’t choke on your dissonance.

    • July 31, 2011 at 6:57 pm —

      @Jacob V, I was at TAM and may have made a remark or two to the effect that I was tired of the discussion, but it was entirely due to the whack-a-troll aspect of it.
      .
      I was off the grid for a week before TAM, and stopped at a Starbucks for a caffeine and WiFi fix on the way to Vegas, checked in on Skepchick and discovered several thousand new comments on the subject.
      .
      Dipping randomly into them, they seemed to consist entirely of guy A snarkily asks question that was already answered in Rebecca’s initial video, 3 or 4 comments responding, B complains it’s sexist to put any restrictions on guy’s right to be obnoxious, bunch of responses, C defends EG as a clueless but harmless doofus and should be cut some slack, bunch of responses, D makes a straw man (straw person?) attack on Rebecca’s position, replies saying if he watched the video (the original one), D would know that wasn’t what she said, E makes a tu quoque argument, followed by responses, and then F asks same already answered question as A, repeat a thousand times. Often times some or all of A, B, C, D, E and F were the same person.
      .
      All of these things were dealt with in the first 100 or so comments before I left. There were no new arguments or data, it was just like arguing with a creationist or an AGW denier.
      .
      If I found it tedious, imagine how someone who had to read and respond to every comment must have felt.

  11. July 31, 2011 at 4:37 pm —

    Every time another step in this saga unfolds, it leaves me with a powerful WTF response.

    Reasonable woman makes reasonable comment that trying to pick up a stranger while locked together in a confined space is creepy, so please guys don’t do that.

    In response, THE INTERNET GOES INSANE!

    Seriously. WTF? Way to prove the reasonable lady’s point, internet. >.<

    Kind of embarrassed with the atheist/skeptical movement right now. The feedback has been like some kind of bizarre parody… Except it isn't.

    • July 31, 2011 at 8:52 pm —

      In defense, I really got the impression that alot of the posters were not strictly from the skeptic/ atheist community, but from the “mens rights” groups. Plus a few just general trolls.

      That being said, there’s clearly problems in the skeptic/ atheist community, or Rebecca wouldn’t have had to point out the issues in the first place.

    • July 31, 2011 at 11:56 pm —

      I have to agree with you here. While I’m hardly an active poster on any skeptic / atheist site, I do peruse most of the major ones on a regular basis, and what I’ve seen is fundamentally nuts. When I first tuned into this “controversy”, because of the volume of the rhetoric, I expected some seriously wacky stuff at the core of this. And then I watched / listened to Rebecca. Guess what?

      Nothing. Nada. Zip. Not a single thing that (at least in my mind) should have provoked the responses that I have seen, with all the gnashing of teeth, flying epithets, and accusations of all kinds. For me, it boils down to Rebecca saying “Hey guys, don’t be jackasses, women are people too!”

      I’m sick of this whole debate. I’m sick of this sort of thing even happening, sick of people like Rebecca having to even bring this up — because she really shouldn’t have to. The fact that she does have to bring it up really shows just how far we still have to go to ensure a really simple thing: that all people are treated like people.

      So thanks Rebecca. And my apologies that you ever needed to say it.

  12. July 31, 2011 at 5:08 pm —

    So you didn’t even mention that legalized abortion lowers crime rates?
    Well here’s a pro tip: Talk about how legalizing abortion in the 70’s ended the apparently never-ending increase in crime rates that suddenly stopped in the 90’s.

    In the order of which you should click:
    http://www.freakonomics.com/2007/09/11/abortioncrime-where-do-ideas-come-from/
    http://www.freakonomics.com/2007/09/13/more-video-on-abortioncrime-a-collage-of-evidence/
    http://www.freakonomics.com/2008/01/22/what-do-declining-abortion-rates-mean-for-crime-in-the-future/

    So “Pro-life” means anti-choice and pro-crime… Sweet.

    • August 2, 2011 at 10:11 am —

      I have a problem with this.
      In the talk it was mentioned that making abortion illegal doesn’t actually reduce the number of abortions.

      Either the freakonomics claim is correct, or RW’s claim. They cannot both be correct, because either there are more abortions and less unwanted kids causing crime (=freakonomics claim) or there are an equal amount of abortions and thus no difference in demographics.

      • August 2, 2011 at 10:31 am —

        I haven’t looked into the Freakonomics claims yet (I find them to be, at times, astoundingly unscientific) but the study I mention is from the World Health Organisation and the Guttmacher Institute. Not that that makes it solid gold, but their data is damned convincing.

  13. July 31, 2011 at 5:31 pm —

    It’s not so much that pro-life is anti-choice as that it’s anti-woman.

  14. July 31, 2011 at 5:32 pm —

    I followed much of the discussion over the last few weeks and I’m glad to finally see what started it all. Actually, I still don’t see it. This is not just about one incident (although that was the catalyst for the discussion). It is about an overarching problem exemplified by that incident. Thank you, Rebecca, for being a voice for this.

    As an aside, the transcription program on YouTube was surprisingly not too bad, except for the part where it said, “I had a chance to convince a few of you, I hope, to work to make everyone’s diapers more inclusive.” (about 16:34). I’m pretty sure that’s not what you said, although it would be really great if everyone got their shit together.

  15. July 31, 2011 at 5:41 pm —

    Wondering where are all of the righteous warriors on a crusade to defend Dawkins at all costs? You know, the guys who were touting the name “Steph McGraw” around like it was some sort of magic chalkboard eraser that could wipe away any flaw in their arguments by somehow proving that Rebecca was a bad person. Therefore any argument she made, indeed, any time she opened her mouth, it would be automatically wrong. Meanwhile, they were completely ignoring the incredibly important, devastatingly pertinent actual topic of the speech – is that the rights of women, one of the key strengths of a free society, are under attack by those who want to impose the Christian equivalent of Sharia Law.

    And so it turns out that the innocent, completely faultless object of Rebecca’s nasty persecution had already expounded on a slanted argument against her, and was very gently dealt with by RW as an example of the critical need for better awareness of the need for a strong feminist viewpoint. My heart bleeds. What an outrage – I guess any time Rebecca uses any quote from any blog in any critical way, that proves everything she says is false and mean. And that’s basically the argument in a nutshell of those who consider themselves to be skeptic, rational thinkers. Nice try.

    • July 31, 2011 at 5:52 pm —

      Where are they? Over on Pharyngula’s post of the same video. Some backpedaling, some attempts to change the argument, some bitching about how “feminism isn’t peer-reviewed” (wtf?). My cat is laughing…

  16. July 31, 2011 at 6:14 pm —

    Glad I finally got to watch this. As I suspected all along you were reasonable throughout and, in my view, on-topic with the lead-in to your formal keynote. The tempest that followed was the unreasonable (but sadly all too common) result of some individuals’ apparently overpowering need to comment loudly and antagonistically before engaging their critical thinking skills. I was in the audience last summer at Phil Plait’s “Don’t Be a Dick” speech and saw a similar thing happen. Near-constant internet connectivity enabled some folks to race to judgement publicly almost before the words were out of Phil’s mouth, and certainly before they’d heard all his reasoned argument, resulting in the on-line brouhaha that resonates today. Great talk, Rebecca! Keep up the outstanding work you do for real skeptics everywhere.

  17. July 31, 2011 at 6:20 pm —

    Thank you, Rebecca. Thank you.

  18. July 31, 2011 at 6:41 pm —

    Ha! I knew the whole anti-Rebecca backlash was two parts sexism and one part grudge-holding/community-politics BS. It is more clear than ever that some people dig the Skepchicks, some people don’t… and those who don’t latch onto any slim excuse to unleash attacks.

  19. July 31, 2011 at 6:44 pm —

    Great talk overall; don’t take this the wrong way, but I phased out in some moments. – THIS IS INTENDED AS A JOKE, OK? … ok.

    I am not able to comprehend the horrible word construction people sent to you. Why would people lack the brain power to make an argument without using profanities if they want to have a civil conversation? If anyone has an explanation I would like to hear it.

    Feminism 101 looks like a good reading ahead, always interested in what makes people label themselves one way or the other.

    My personal thinking is that the situation of unequal representation in progressive movements in general, for this post – skepticism, is a direct result of power balance. You can look at historical examples, such as technological progress where empires/states were the vanguard of the technological progress (Roman empire, Ottoman empire, British empire … they were first in doing many things technologically). In the same sense, because men poses more power in the society (more in some parts of the world than others), they are represented more than women in progressive movements that promote improvements in the ways of thinking. Is that fair or unfair, i say neither, is just the way it is. Is up to us to change it if we want equal participation and diversity of thought.

    For the end.
    Thank you USA! I mean it. Thank you for fostering with your direct proportionality between money and freedom of speech, the greatest diversity of religious leeches on humanity development. Thank you for your grand multinational corporations and religious wing-nuts. Oh, thank you!

    • August 1, 2011 at 10:51 pm —

      You should also be interested in what makes people label other people – it could be enormously helpful and self-revealing.

  20. July 31, 2011 at 7:08 pm —

    Wait, somehow I missed the part where you called Stef McGraw a “woman hater” and a “gender traitor.”

    • July 31, 2011 at 7:18 pm —

      Of course you didn’t hear or see that part. Normal, unbiased people can’t interpret it that way.

      You’d have to be one of those MRA guys who was trying to lick his own balls and accidentally wound up with his head solidly up his ass.

    • July 31, 2011 at 7:20 pm —

      Hm, are you sure that part wasn’t in there? Pretty sure I said those things. Oh and also I channeled my inner schoolyard bully to come up with a name for her that incorporates a derogatory term for female genitalia. Didn’t I? Wait. Maybe that wasn’t me . . .

      • July 31, 2011 at 7:26 pm —

        Totally not fair… now all I want to do is come up with a terrible derivation of “Stef McGraw” that sounds like woman parts. I know it is wrong, I know it would be sexist, but now it feels like it is some sort of challenge! “Stew Mc…ummmm… McCrawdaddy?” No, that’s a dish in a chain Creole restaurant.

        Damn youse Rebecca Watson! Damn youse to Hell!!!!

        • July 31, 2011 at 7:30 pm —

          I know you’re just kidding but I feel the need to post this just in case someone else is reading and gets a bright idea: anyone who does anything like that will get an immediate bannination!

          • July 31, 2011 at 7:41 pm

            Cripes, because I should have known better. There’s always one person who has to take joke too far and ruin it for everyone else. Now I feel bad if someone runs with that.

          • July 31, 2011 at 11:37 pm

            Mulva?

  21. July 31, 2011 at 7:18 pm —

    Also, that was a really great talk!

    It seems some people just don’t want to apply their skepticism to feminist issues.

    Honestly, I really don’t understand this kind of compartmentalization. Either skepticism is a toolset we can apply to any kind of clam, or it’s a bunch of people sitting around talking about how UFOs don’t exist. (That’s not at ALL meant to derogate the hard work skeptics have done on the UFO front!)

    We’ve spent a good number of years talking about how skepticism is the former. So I’m glad to see this kind of discussion, ugly as it has been, get started. Issues like abortion are issues that skepticism has something to say about. We shouldn’t avoid them just because it’s also a political issue. After all, you don’t hear many skeptics oppose political intervention when it comes to, say, creationism in public schools.

    • July 31, 2011 at 7:21 pm —

      Thanks, and I agree completely. In the first talk I ever did about feminism, I show a comment that said feminist issues were irrelevant to most skeptics and so that’s why we should discuss them. I counter by asking what relevancy Bigfoot has that your mother/sister/wife/daughter/friend does not.

      • August 1, 2011 at 11:52 am —

        Exactly, because the social impact and life changing effects of Bigfoot research cannot be discounted enough IMO.

    • July 31, 2011 at 8:03 pm —

      I agree (re: skepticism being a toolkit that should be applied to all situations). Well said!

    • July 31, 2011 at 11:17 pm —

      It’s one of those issues with how the human brain works. It is very easy to criticize or be skeptical about an issue that doesn’t strike close to home or cause you to critically evaluate your own life (i.e. bigfoot, UFOs, etc) But when it comes to stepping up and analyzing many of the assumptions that you’ve built your life and identity around that people become defensive. Basically their lower consciousness recognizes some dangerous scary territory and tells them to fight back.

      Serious discussions of religion, gender, sexuality, etc need to be had in these communities because when you force them into people’s faces time and again it means that they can’t win with their lower level monkey brain responses and they need to start thinking through arguments… and once that happens you are more likely to get them to begin to see the logic of your position or at least the folly in their own reaction.

    • August 5, 2011 at 1:17 am —

      Totally off-topic side note: Rereading this thread and just noticed all of my spelling errors and singular/plural changes. Nicely done, me. Applying skepticism to any kind of clam indeed.

  22. July 31, 2011 at 7:42 pm —

    I just got done watching that whole video, and I’m glad I did. What a great talk. I just wish I knew what I could do here in Tucson (yes, I live amongst the insane Arizonites, though at least in one of the saner counties) to help out.

    Rebecca, thanks for posting the talk, and thank you for keeping Feminist issues active in people’s minds. As you said, Feminism is a part of Humanism. No one can claim to be a Humanist, or even rational, when they ignore, or worse promote, anti-Feminist sentiments.

  23. July 31, 2011 at 8:04 pm —

    Thanks for posting this up, Rebecca. Really enjoyed it.

  24. July 31, 2011 at 8:43 pm —

    Thanks for posting the great talk. I watched for the whole Stef McGraw debacle, but then continued because it was so interesting. The points you made were dead on, and exactly what I’ve seen happening in society.

    About the “incident,” I find it really sad that what actually happened was you suggested that she could stand to learn a bit more about feminism, and called her sentence a “parody of misogyny.” Which is not the same as anti-woman or misogynist, oddly enough. She didn’t hear any of the advice, and seemed to have heard what she wanted to hear: criticism and name-calling.

    She’ll have an out anyway, though, because she can just mention “imbalance of power” and claim that she’s just a student, so you ending up being the meanie.

  25. July 31, 2011 at 8:46 pm —

    It just occurred to me: this whole incident really seems more like a derailing tactic, thereby allowing people to completely miss the point about sexism and misogyny that was originally being addressed.

    • August 1, 2011 at 12:17 am —

      The first response to a woman stating an uncomfortable truth is always the sudden discovery of brand new rules of civility that demand she STFU.

      Seriously, watch for this. It happens every single time.

  26. July 31, 2011 at 9:17 pm —

    Something else just occurred to me.

    When Christopher Hitchens rips someone apart, everyone applauds and enjoys the show.

    Now – Rebbecca clearly didn’t actually eviscerate any questioners too badly.

    But suppose for a moment that the allegations were true. Suppose that Rebbecca did rip into a questioner.

    Why should that be regarded any differently to when Christopher Hitchens does it?

    • July 31, 2011 at 9:28 pm —

      Power difference. Hitchens swings a bigger stick, he’s famous, he can actively stand against some of the principles that skeptics in general hold dear… but he has pull, he has influence, he has power. So he can do whatever he likes.

      He’s “up there” so when he’s on the attack he’s attacking other people “up there” and that’s all good. Rebecca is a regular person, talking about other regular people. Suddenly, not all good. I wonder if smaller power differentials aren’t more strongly felt, because people can imagine surpassing Watson, and not Hitchens, so they see a value in making these attacks.

    • August 3, 2011 at 12:53 pm —

      Not that it detracts from your point, but some of us (raises hand) think Hitchens’ writings are generally shitly-argued hatchet jobs with big words.

      Oh yeah – I’m a blasphemer.

  27. July 31, 2011 at 9:58 pm —

    “Why should that be regarded any differently to when Christopher Hitchens does it?

    Its because women aren’t “allowed” to express legitimate anger. If we do anything other than sugar & spice & all things nice, society gets very upset because their silly little view of “how women should be” gets challenged.

    • August 1, 2011 at 12:29 am —

      Bingo!

      Have you ever noticed that a woman getting angry at approximately anything related to sexism is always a casus belli for immediate attack? If you had to judge by the magnitude and character of the responses, you’d think that “being offended by stuff” was one of the worst crimes a female could commit. I think only mothers who slaughter their children invoke a more virulent response.

      Even if the strawman version of Rebecca’s comments was ACCURATE, the response we’ve seen would still be grossly disproportionate. For FSM’s sake, she could have gotten up there and sieg heil’d a portrait of Hitler, and it wouldn’t have generated this much controversy.

      • August 1, 2011 at 4:56 am —

        What about beating males at their games and professions of choice? Doesn’t that rank somewhere up there with having opinions and killing babies?

  28. August 1, 2011 at 2:02 am —

    Thank you for continuing to speak out about these issues.

    Also, I really admire your poise and self-possession when relating all the hateful things that people say to you, and the way you keep your humor up. I think it speaks to the strength of your personality, and makes for an excellent role model.

  29. August 1, 2011 at 4:00 am —

    The thing I found most interesting about finally watching this is that the responses to a lot of a insanity leveled at you throughout this whole debacle are refuted in the talk itself.

    For example I have lost count of the times that people have equated your desire to not be sexually objectified with requiring that nobody ever show sexual interest in anyone else. It’s all right there, responded to clearly and concisely. As far as I can tell there was not one issue that people brought up that was not beautifully covered in the talk itself.

    • August 1, 2011 at 7:59 am —

      Agreed. Just shows that the latest explosion of bile really is nothing new at all. :\

  30. August 1, 2011 at 4:15 am —

    I was interested to see that the Stef McGraw section of the talk was a lot longer than I had imagined it – I’d expected it to be offhand and around the same length as Rebecca dealing with the youtube comments. I think I can emphasise more with Ms. McGraw’s response now – she did have to sit through a reasonable-length criticism.

    At first introspection, none of my other views have changed.

    • August 1, 2011 at 8:27 am —

      I can certainly see how, as an audience member, Stef McGraw would’ve been pretty uncomfortable having her post criticized in the talk. And while I think the criticism of McGraw’s post was valid and acceptable, I can certainly sympathize her reaction to the situation. That must’ve been pretty uncomfortable.

      But the massive, massive backlash from everyone else seems completely ginned up and far, far out of scale with what actually occurred (just as with R’s video). If Rebecca had been covering just about any other topic, this would not have happened. This really seems like a distraction and an unwillingness to engage the larger points about gender in the skeptic community.

      When I write a blog post, I want it to be read and discussed. Hopefully people agree with me, but if they don’t then it’s certainly fair game to critique it. In fact I *want* them to, so that I can think about the issue in a new way or refine my position for clarity. If we can’t allow our own ideas to be examined, why bother calling ourselves skeptics?

      • August 1, 2011 at 4:20 pm —

        If you look closely at the list of people who “sided” with Stef on this issue it includes a lot of people who have had one beef or another with Rebecca in the past and used this incident as cover to hate all over her. The giveaway is how quickly the argument went from “Rebecca was being mean and unfair” to “Rebecca is an un-feminist man-hater who doesn’t want nobody to never get laid no more; *what about teh menz? *”
        .
        I don’t know what Rebecca did to some of these people, but by the bile being spewed forth my guess would be she urinated on a litter of kittens in the presence of a Kindergarten class trip and then wiped with Richard Dawkins’ handkerchief before yelling “suck it, bitches” at a troop of Girls Scout selling cookies.
        .
        Karma! It works baby! *just saying*

  31. August 1, 2011 at 4:55 am —

    Great talk. Loved it. Thanks for sharing.

  32. August 1, 2011 at 4:58 am —

    Great talk RW. Informative, funny and very well prepared. Thankyou.

  33. August 1, 2011 at 10:00 am —

    This talk is a monument to all I hold dear.

  34. August 1, 2011 at 10:56 am —

    I enjoyed the talk quite a bit. Thank you for using simple PowerPoint slides that were easily visible in a tiny video window!

  35. August 1, 2011 at 5:12 pm —

    It is always a good thing when someone makes you look inward and assess who you are and how you relate to the rest of the world no matter what size it is.

  36. August 2, 2011 at 10:39 am —

    Hmm. Suddenly and conveniently silent, the misogyny brigade is.

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