I’m editing this post, which was originally just a link to an awesome TED talk I enjoyed by Caroline Heldman about sexual objectification. I wrote the post this morning, and shortly after I scheduled it I happened to receive this message via the Skepchick contact form:

Name: John Smith
Email: [email protected]
Comment: Hi Rebecca

http://is.gd/[URL REMOVED]
Subject: News Item or Link

Time: Monday February 4, 2013 at 10:04 am
IP Address: 62.75.235.153

The link was to a pornographic MS Paint drawing someone made of me and posted to a Rule 34 porn site under the username “rand0mathe1st.” The image depicts me bound and gagged, covered in semen, with a dildo up my ass. It reads, “Rebecca Watson is an object.” Here’s a link to a censored but still NSFW version that may be disturbing to you if you don’t get this shit sent to you all the time. It’s interesting to think of how much time and energy that person must spend thinking about me, fantasizing about sex with me, and wondering how much one should charge to rape me. I, for instance, spend a lot of time thinking about sloths, but I’ve never spent that much time drawing one in MS Paint. I did just try it, though, and this is seriously how far I got before I got bored, 5 minutes in:

sloth

Usually the troll messages just go into my trash bin and I get on with my day, but I thought the timing of it was too good to not mention. For a start, it handily supports Dr. Heldman’s lecture about objectification, posted below. But also, it should help make it clearer what women like me, like the other Skepchicks, like Stephanie Zvan, like Greta Christina, like Ophelia Benson, deal with on a daily basis.

I want you to think about this the next time you hear Michael Shermer complain that Ophelia Benson’s mild criticism of his words is a “McCarthy-like witch hunt,” or when Paula Kirby complains that she’s being persecuted by feminazis because women are asking for better treatment, or when anyone complains that PZ and others are “Freethought Bullies,” or when anyone complains that I complain too much because once every few months I provide examples of the harassment I receive. Shermer, Kirby, and the others have no idea what it’s like to be hunted and harassed, because “our side,” the people who are speaking out against harassment, don’t do this to them. Michael Shermer isn’t told every day by atheists and skeptics that he’s worth nothing aside from the sexual gratification his body could offer someone. He isn’t told by atheists and skeptics that he deserves to be raped and abused. Atheists and skeptics don’t spend hours drawing images of him in dehumanizing positions. They don’t tell him that they’re going to sexually assault him if they see him at a conference. They don’t tell him he’s too old or fat or ugly to fuck. They aren’t so terrified of what he has to say that they’ll do anything they can to silence him. And they don’t tell him that his disinterest in putting up with any of the former makes him too sensitive to be involved in the atheist or skeptic community.

Instead, they focus on his words and on his arguments and they offer an opposing viewpoint. If that’s what Shermer thinks of as a witch hunt, then a single day of the treatment I get would have him boarding up the windows at Skeptic Magazine faster than you can come up with a bigoted nickname based on his name.

Anyway. Here’s how this post originally read when I scheduled it this morning:

I really enjoyed this TED talk by Caroline Heldman, one of the contributors to the excellent Sociological Images. She discusses sexual objectification, giving apt examples of what it is, evidence of its danger, and a call to action on how you can stop it:

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org and appears on the weekly Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast. 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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137 Comments

  1. Profile photo of asonge
    February 4, 2013 at 12:12 pm —

    This just reminded me of David Silverman’s comment “I am not enemies with anyone inside this movement”. Well, some of us don’t have the privilege to choose who our enemies are within our communities.

    • Profile photo of Bjarte Foshaug
      February 6, 2013 at 1:02 am —

      This just reminded me of David Silverman’s comment “I am not enemies with anyone inside this movement”. Well, some of us don’t have the privilege to choose who our enemies are within our communities.

      But we do have some saying in whom we consider part of our “community”. If there ever was such a thing as The Skeptical Community™, there isn’t such a thing any more. Instead of a single movement with some “deep rifts” in it, what we have now are two (or more) separate movements with no more communality between them than matter and antimatter. And it’s a good thing, because that means we can forget about “infighting”. There can be no “infighting” without and “ingroup”, and scum like “John Smith” or “rand0mathe1st.” are definitely not in mine.

  2. Profile photo of Amanda Marcotte
    February 4, 2013 at 12:22 pm —

    Your critics all claim to simply to be men who just love sex and have no other motivation but to stop the supposed prudery of feminists, correct?

    Interesting, for such pro-sex guys, then, that they see sex as a way to hurt and degrade. As someone who considers herself pro-sex, I think that being pro-sex means that sex should make people happy.

    • Profile photo of Snobo
      February 4, 2013 at 12:53 pm —

      “I think that being pro-sex means that sex should make people happy.”

      There’s your mistake, silly. Only men count as people.

    • Profile photo of victoriadashtwenty
      February 5, 2013 at 1:28 am —

      I love sex. I’d love to have it with random guys. I can’t, because I have to do so much screening. Misogyny is the bottleneck here. It’s why all of our porn is crap and there aren’t a number of conveniently located straight sex hookup clubs in every city.

      • Profile photo of dr. dr. professor
        February 5, 2013 at 5:45 am —

        Yeah funny that eh? Real sexual liberation isn’t held back by feminism, it’s held back by sexism.

        Also open relationships can be a satisfying alternative to not being able to select lots of hot anonymous partners.

    • Profile photo of Bjarte Foshaug
      February 6, 2013 at 1:07 am —

      I think that being pro-sex means that sex should make people happy.

      Not “people” in general, only themselves (on women’s expense and without letting things like personal boundaries and lack of consent get in the way).

  3. Profile photo of Ophelia Benson
    February 4, 2013 at 12:23 pm —

    Shermer, Kirby, and the others have no idea what it’s like to be hunted and harassed, because “our side,” the people who are speaking out against harassment, don’t do this to them.

    That.

  4. Profile photo of Lyr
    February 4, 2013 at 12:23 pm —

    You are definitely living rent-free in the heads of many of these pathetic creatures.

  5. Profile photo of ????????
    February 4, 2013 at 12:26 pm —

    I’m sure this has been pointed out, but you have a fun dilemma with posting examples of online harassment:
    Withhold examples, and you’re lying. “I haven’t seen any evidence of this so-called harassment!”
    Give examples, and you’re a drama queen, professional victim, &c, &c, &c.

    Seems a no-win situation.

  6. Profile photo of Kate Clancy
    February 4, 2013 at 12:31 pm —

    The five minutes of effort you put into what turned out to be quite an adorable sloth picture added more beauty to the world than the many hours these assholes spend thinking about, trolling, and being dangerously hateful towards you.

    I just wanted you to know that I admire and respect everything you do as a leader. If you ever have ideas about how we can better support you, I know a world of female scientists/skeptics who are feeling very helpless about all this and want to do more. But I’ll also keep thinking myself so the burden of solving this doesn’t also fall on you.

  7. Profile photo of Jeff Baker
    February 4, 2013 at 12:34 pm —

    Not sure if Skepchick.org has any control over the ads that appear on your website. But, the ad that appeared on my computer is for a chat site with pictures of four young Vietnamese women. This ad seems to reinforce the image that women should be objectified, and clearly is at odds with Rebecca Watson’s excellent post. If Skepchick has any say on the type of ads that appear on their site, they might want to see about getting ads of this nature banned.

    I should note, I am viewing this on my work computer, which, to my knowledge, has never been used to view adult-oriented sites.

    • Profile photo of Jim Wile
      February 4, 2013 at 2:46 pm —

      From my computer the ad is blocked because it comes from a “Spam Source”(Google ad click). That tells me that you are likely seeing random content from a third party who pays Google or some other group to post their ads.

    • Profile photo of Will
      February 4, 2013 at 6:29 pm —

      Hi there. If you click on the little triangle on the top right corner of the ad, you will see this little bit of information relevant to your complaint:

      “This ad has been matched to your interests. It was selected for you based on your browsing activity. This Advertiser used Invite Media’s ad serving and targeting platform to determine that you might be interested in an ad like this.”

      In other words, the ads are based on your browsing history. So………………yeah.

      • Profile photo of Jeff Baker
        February 4, 2013 at 6:40 pm —

        And, I read this blog at work on my break. I’ve had this computer for around three weeks. Unless someone is coming in after I leave for the day, this computer has not been anywhere near any dating sites or other adult oriented sites.

      • Profile photo of Laurel Halbany
        February 4, 2013 at 8:47 pm —

        Will, that’s a tad unfair; “based on your browsing history” could mean that Jeff seems to be single, male and in a particular age range, not that he’s been surfing porn.

        • Profile photo of marilove
          February 4, 2013 at 9:05 pm —

          This. :)

        • Profile photo of Will
          February 4, 2013 at 10:36 pm —

          Jeez louise! I didn’t even say anything about porn or dating sites. There’s some fucking guilty consciences around here! Pointing out that the ads are based on browsing history is not “a tad unfair”–it’s just a plain fact.

          I point it out because people who come in complaining about the ads often do so while trying to make a “gotcha” point, but they are ignorant of how the ads are generated. That ad certainly could be generated simply based on this one blog article. Or it could be based on browsing another site that had that ad. Pointing this out does not in any way indicate that he was surfing for porn.

          • Profile photo of marilove
            February 4, 2013 at 10:49 pm

            Not guilty at all. I own my browsing history! :)

            I don’t think anyone here was trying to make a “gotcha” statement — it’s just that the whole add thing is weird and confusing for a lot of people.

      • Profile photo of jesse
        February 5, 2013 at 12:20 am —

        Curious, does it check out other browsers? I get “Self Publish your book” and “I know why you don’t date online.” and an ad for doctors. Which is a bit weird :-)

      • Profile photo of dtm
        February 5, 2013 at 9:13 am —

        I used to work on Invite Media, for Google.

        It’s not solely your browsing history. It’s also (and this is often more important) your general physical location (usually to the level of US state, sometimes as fine-grained as DMA area, and limited by the accuracy of the geoip database in use), and local time of day. You wouldn’t believe how important local time of day is to some advertisers.

        Also, Invite Media’s targeting system is mostly auction-based (and always is, when serving through Google’s AdX) so it also reflects whether other advertisers wanted to reach you at that moment. Very often, the shadier advertisers will go for quantity rather than quality and will therefore target very broadly but with a low bid price – the net effect is that they pick up the impressions no one else wants. Therefore, it’s quite possible to get ads like this not by having a browser history that chat site operators are interested in, but by having one that no one else wants. Go browse some car manufacturer sites and then if you really want to confuse the algorithms look at specific models of high-end shoes. The pornish advertisers won’t be able to afford your impressions anymore.

  8. Profile photo of Nicole
    February 4, 2013 at 12:37 pm —

    I’m glad you put “our side” in quotes since this is not two, coherent opposing teams as, I think, some people like to frame this as. This whoever is a horrible individual and I’d like to think that everyone in this “debate” is against such horrible behavior and treatment. So to the Shermers and the like (I hate to pick on one individual but it is so convenient given his recent writings), please RECOGNIZE that the problems we face are from people being horrible and please work WITH US, not AGAINST us, to make it better.

    That is all I ask.

    • Profile photo of jacksonp
      February 4, 2013 at 12:45 pm —

      That is what Shermer said:

      “So we should hang together in our fight against real discrimination, bigotry, racism, misogyny, and homophobia wherever we find it.” This kind of crap that Rebecca received, is what he was talking about.

      • Profile photo of marilove
        February 4, 2013 at 2:36 pm —

        He doesn’t seem to be applying what he said to Rebecca. He doesn’t seem to care about that sort of harrassment. He only cares about made-up “witch hunts” that really aren’t directed at him.

      • Profile photo of karenx
        February 4, 2013 at 3:46 pm —

        He also modifies the word “discrimination” with the word “real.” Pretend/imagined/exaggerated discrimination is beneath notice. REAL discrimination matters.

        • Profile photo of Tom Foss
          February 4, 2013 at 11:20 pm —

          And obviously “real discrimination” is the kind of CommieNaziStasi witch-purging inquisition that Shermer faced at the hands of Ophelia “Torquemada” Benson, who held his feet to the implicit assumptions and assumed stereotypes, then shoved hot quotations under his fingernails while turning the screws on a single paragraph in a magazine article. As if crude photoshops and MS Paint drawings could possibly add up to such oppression!

          (Is there an eye-rolling emoticon on here?)

  9. Profile photo of kelisabeth
    February 4, 2013 at 12:37 pm —

    Rebecca,
    I can’t tell you how much I admire you. I had a long conversation last night with my boyfriend about how I wish I was braver, less sensitive, so I could do more for women’s rights. I’m just so damn scared of speaking out and being treated the way that you get treated by so many ugly souls. I can’t imagine saying some of the things that are said about you about anybody, no matter how much I disagreed with their ideas or positions. I don’t know, I just wanted you to know how much many of us appreciate what you’re doing.

  10. Profile photo of LOLogies
    February 4, 2013 at 12:41 pm —

    Regardless of the disagreements you have with a person or how much you dislike them, nobody in their right and rational mind should even so much as think of defending, justifying, or even applauding this, no matter who it happens to. Fuck humanity, man. I’m moving to another planet.

  11. Profile photo of Thomas Penn
    February 4, 2013 at 12:45 pm —

    Look, there are two sides to every story and the truth is always in the exact center of the most extreme claims. You and the others on your “side” may have some vague right to not be harassed, but does that really trump the rights of the other side to say whatever the fuck they want at all times without criticism? People of good faith can disagree on what prude sluts you all are. I think your side needs to be more open to the points the other side is making, because you know who also criticized his enemies? Hitler.

    • Profile photo of Kate Clancy
      February 4, 2013 at 1:54 pm —

      Hahaha, this is a really funny one!!!1!!111! (Please, please tell me it’s a joke.)

      Because I would find someone creating an image of me being raped TOTES acceptable and beyond reproach. First amendment rights and all.

      • Profile photo of Xanthë
        February 4, 2013 at 10:05 pm —

        Note to everyone else, yes it is a joke comment, yes it would have better been executed with a more obvious “/satire” tag.

        For me, the three main give-aways were: “the truth is always in the exact center…” (uhh, no), “prude sluts” (my, that’s an interesting combination) and the cherry on top was Godwinning the thread: “Hitler.” Your mileage may vary.

    • Profile photo of asonge
      February 4, 2013 at 1:58 pm —

      You had me at Hitler.

    • Profile photo of Jeff Baker
      February 4, 2013 at 2:07 pm —

      “some vague right to not be harassed.” There is nothing vague about it. The behavior documented by Rebecca Watson and the other skepchicks is harassment, plain and simply. In the U.S. and most other western Nations, this kind of behavior opens the harasser to both civil and criminal penalties. As far as rights of the other side, the right to free speech has its limits. You can not intentionally threaten harm to another individual or make false accusations against another individual.

      The harassment dominated in the above post is a clear example of bullying. If you support bullying (which you seem to be doing) you do not have a place in civil society.

    • Profile photo of marilove
      February 4, 2013 at 2:29 pm —

      I really hope you’re trying to be funny, but if you are: Stop it. It’s really inappropriate.?

      If you’re being serious … wow. And wtf? You’re making no real sense. Oh, and fuck off.

    • Profile photo of zylla
      February 4, 2013 at 2:29 pm —

      You know who also criticized their enemies? Franklin Delano Roosevelt & Winston Churchill. And they wooooooon!!

      Sorry all of you have to go through this, day in and day out, but thanks for being here, Rebecca, & all of you.

    • Profile photo of Thomas Penn
      February 4, 2013 at 2:40 pm —

      I was trying to humorously point out the absurdity of the other sides arguments as well as those whose knee jerk reaction is to say that both sides are always equally wrong. I apparently did a poor job and I’m sorry. It saddens me that my sentiment was not obviously satirical. I suppose it speaks to the level of the arguments of our opponents.

      In truth I am in awe of those who put up with this shit every single day for the cause of equality. It shows courage and passion well beyond what I possess, and I am so thankful for all they do.

      • Profile photo of marilove
        February 4, 2013 at 2:55 pm —

        Thanks for the clarification. Satire is good, but you went a wee bit too far, I think. And man, is it hard to tell sometimes! It’s okay, though … it happens! :)

      • Profile photo of annabolic
        February 4, 2013 at 3:15 pm —

        For what it’s worth, I could tell it was satire about two sentences in. :)

      • Profile photo of Jeff Baker
        February 4, 2013 at 5:50 pm —

        I missed the satire part too. Thanks for making that clear. I’ve seen too many people make comments almost identical to yours in all seriousness, and am not familiar with your positions on these issues.

        • Profile photo of marilove
          February 4, 2013 at 9:06 pm —

          I was pretty sure it was satire, but I still think he went too far (“slut”), at least from someone who isn’t a daily regular commenter, which makes it harder to figure out the intent — it was just a bit much. But it happens. No big deal :)

      • Profile photo of Grand Lunar
        February 4, 2013 at 6:21 pm —

        A few smilies or footnotes can provide clarification. Something like “/satire”.

        Sorry for my knee jerk reaction, BTW, should you come across it.

    • Profile photo of Jim Wile
      February 4, 2013 at 2:50 pm —

      Saying that anyone who criticize an enemy is being like Hitler falls into the old trap “Hitler liked dogs – so if you like dogs you must be just like Hitler.” Adults should be able to discourse without falling to these levels.

    • Profile photo of Grand Lunar
      February 4, 2013 at 6:08 pm —

      You might not realize this, but there is a difference between criticism and harrassment.

      What happens to Rebecca and others definately receive harrassment. And there’s nothing vague about having the right NOT to be harrassed.
      Read their stories.

      The people harrassing them are not doing do in good faith. Read what Rebecca wrote about the message. Does that sound like criticism made in good faith?

      The only point I see the “other side” making is that they are assholes.

      And your opening statement is a logical fallacy.

  12. Profile photo of scottsigler
    February 4, 2013 at 12:46 pm —

    I’m proud to know you.

  13. Profile photo of gonzblinko
    February 4, 2013 at 12:48 pm —

    Sitting beside my friend Mia, I nearly found myself in tears reading this post. Maybe I’m an abnormal adult white male or, perhaps, that I am blind causes me to always identify with the oppressed in a situation but, today, I feel embarrassed to be male and in this community. Sending such things to Rebecca or anyone else for that matter, is disgusting and it makes me physically nauseas.

    For good or bad, I started getting involved in the skeptical movement shortly before the 2011 TAM. Thus, “elevatorgate” happened just when I joined. From that point on, watching Rebecca grow in a direction she didn’t choose but had thrust upon her. From those early days, Rebecca has been the community leader to whom I look most often. Rebecca remains, in my mind, the most important person in this movement.

    Rebecca, Hayley Stevens, Amy Davis Roth, Kylie Sturgess and so many other terrific women I’ve met take such miserable abuse that I can only thank them for sticking around rather than moving into something where they wouldn’t have to take it. These women are my personal heroines and the men who attack them need to be held accountable. Michael Shermer is a loudmouth crybaby. Someone challenges his bullshit white male privilege and he runs around telling people women don’t want to be involved. As more than half of the skeptics I know are women, he’s just a sexist moron on this issue.

    We blind people often feel left out by conferences refusing to make accessible materials, not having good places at TAM to bring a service dog and other relatively minor inconveniences. Prominent skeptic men have told me that they won’t fix the accessibility on their web sites as, according to Jay Novella, “it isn’t a priority.” When I raised similar questions about their sites, Rebecca and Hayley had their’s fixed within a couple of days. Kylie wrote directly to me and asked how she could make her web site accessible to people with disabilities. This discrimination and enforced segregation of people with disabilities is miserable but no one has ever threatened me, suggested they want to force me to have sex with them or have done anything when I raise issues regarding equity for people with disabilities.

    I doubt I would have the courage to stand up to such horrible treatment. I am no where nearly as strong as these women and I’ve been a political activist for something like 40 years since, at age 12, I gave out leaflets for George McGovern. I’m a blind, middle aged intellectual who has never had to face any real abuse such as thrown at Rebecca daily. Rebecca is my personal Salman Rushdie.

    • Profile photo of Grand Lunar
      February 4, 2013 at 6:11 pm —

      If it’s not too late, then I suggest your comment for COTW.
      Best I’ve seen regarding this subject.

  14. Profile photo of James Fox
    February 4, 2013 at 12:49 pm —

    Damn, and I thought the Super Bowl commercials were particularly sexist and objectifying this year. I suppose the only positive I can think of in all the vitriol and hate directed at you Rebecca is that some of these toads must actually be reading what you write or hearing what you say, and perhaps someday they will understand how harmful and irrational they are being.

  15. Profile photo of Nicole
    February 4, 2013 at 12:50 pm —

    Expanded comment: https://plus.google.com/102372690636453052676/posts/jgP345A82X3

    Stuff… so many feels right now!

  16. Profile photo of gregladen
    February 4, 2013 at 12:50 pm —

    Maybe there is a range of how bad they are. Maybe there are people in that camp that would never make a drawing like that (or do all the other offensive things some do) mixed together with those who carry out these obnoxious, offensive, hateful, immature and stupid acts. The problem is, I see nearly zero attempt on the part of those not clearly directly involved in what amounts to virtual rape and abuse to disavow, critique, or heaven forbid, attempt to stop such activity in their corner of the secular-skeptic movement. Is it reasonable, then, to guess that some of the named, faced, known individuals are also the anonymous hatememe producers? Or that they communicate, plan, support each other in some way?

    Individuals like Shermer are effectively acting as sycophants for these haters. Do they realize this? Is this a goal that they’ve thought out and are pursuing? Months, maybe a year or so ago, one might guess that they are only accidentally in bed with these awful people. More recently, one might hope for that but not be so sure. Now, I think, one has to conclude that it simply isn’t true; that awful drawing might as well have been drawn by Shermer if he doesn’t come out and actively disavow it and the individual who made it (and every one and every thing else in that cesspool of humanity).

  17. Profile photo of mswhatsit
    February 4, 2013 at 12:52 pm —

    I registered for an account just to respond to this post. I just wanted to say thank you for continuing to shine a light into this viper pit lurking within the skeptic community. It cannot possibly be easy, and I know it isn’t fun. If I were you I would be sorely tempted to just ignore it all and pretend it wasn’t happening, and I’m glad you’re not me and that you aren’t simply ignoring it.

    Anyway, thanks.

  18. Profile photo of Nicole Introvert
    February 4, 2013 at 12:58 pm —

    I never know what to say about these things any more. All I can do is offer my respect and support. Like kelisabeth mentioned in her comment, I wish I could do more, but I am honestly afraid of the harassment and if my mind could take it at this point in my life. I’ve attempted to engage and quickly become frustrated because I am not as articulate as I’d like to be.

    So there, some proof of why women don’t become more involved in the movement. Someone doesn’t have to directly threaten or harass me to make me shrink back.

  19. Profile photo of sallystrange
    February 4, 2013 at 1:10 pm —

    Well, I’m tired of feeling intimidated, so I’m resuming blogging. I started and then stopped pretty much immediately because of precisely this (as well as other things in my life, but without the fear of harassment,the other factors may not have been as determinative). If you like atheism, science, feminism, music, and stuff, check me out at strangesally.wordpress.com.

  20. Profile photo of Mike Haubrich
    February 4, 2013 at 1:16 pm —

    Well, Rebeccca, I am glad that it hasn’t driven you away from blogging nor podcasting. As for Michael Shermer, I have come to the conclusion that “All it takes is for good men to do nothing.”

  21. Profile photo of oolon
    February 4, 2013 at 1:18 pm —

    I like the sloth, I’m focusing on that… Trying not to think what sort of sad sack of shit spends any time on the other image. Will watch the TED talk and hope it is more uplifting, don’t let the bastards get you down!

  22. Profile photo of Bobzilla
    February 4, 2013 at 1:19 pm —

    I have now done a little research of my own and I am really surprised at the amount of crude stuff that women put up with from men. I really did not think it was/is going on to the extent that it is. Having seen some of the comments that you get and have shared I checked with female friends and they say “Oh ya, of course, all the time”. It seems especially bad that you get this from the skeptic community as I have always thought of that group as somehow above the norm, sort of like a group of objectively thinking Plato’s. How can anyone claim to be a thoughtful person and judge others for their weird beliefs when they themselves are acting like this to such a nice person? I would rather hang out with a bunch of Big Foot true believers than with skeptics who act this way.

  23. Profile photo of bcmystery
    February 4, 2013 at 1:27 pm —

    Has a lengthy, spittle-flecked thread appeared at the slymepit yet complaining about how you doxxed poor “John Smith” here? No need to go actually check. We know it’ll be there sooner or later.

    Keep up the great work, Rebecca!

  24. Profile photo of Bias Liars
    February 4, 2013 at 1:50 pm —

    You say that Shermer, Kirby, and others make the arguments that they do because they “…have no idea what it’s like to be hunted and harassed”. Why not share the emails you get with them? If skepticism is about showing evidence, what better evidence than sending each and every single harmful and malicious email to someone who denies there is a problem?

    • Profile photo of gregladen
      February 4, 2013 at 3:04 pm —

      Obviously, Rebecca is in the best position to answer this, but … Skepticism is also about being reasonably aware of what is known and out there regarding a certain situation. Examples of the horrific emails and such that Rebecca and others have received have been published repeatedly. Also, anyone keeping an eye on twitter activity in this area will be aware of it. Although, yeah, that would be interesting to have a big giant PDF file of everything to email to those guys.

      • Profile photo of Bias Liars
        February 4, 2013 at 3:48 pm —

        Oh absolutely, I agree – there’s already plenty of examples of these unacceptable behaviours and it’s hard to believe that someone couldn’t feel sickened by it. So maybe what some of these people need to see isn’t just the type of emails that Rebecca and all other undeserving people are getting, but the overwhelming amount that is sent to them.

        It really is sad and disappointing that, among people who value educated thought, that this – of all the issues – has proven to be one of the most divisive. Does there really need to be an argument that we need to mind our manners, strive for eqaulity of dignity, tolerate the differences, and stick to just facts in debate?

        • Profile photo of tnt666
          February 7, 2013 at 4:50 pm —

          Indeed, I could see this as a campaign to forward every single sexist email/message she receives to any public atheist in denial of the magnitude of the sexist problem in the atheist community. In fact, anyone still wallowing in patriarchy does not deserve the title atheist, because patriarchy is a religion, and anyone defending any component of patriarchy is acting religiously, not rationally.

  25. Profile photo of Andrew Brown
    February 4, 2013 at 2:06 pm —

    The banner add that Google served to me was “Meet Asian Girls Online.” A perfect example of the kind of objectifying ad Caroline Heldman was talking about. Not sure what that says about me though.

    • Profile photo of Rebecca Watson
      February 4, 2013 at 2:44 pm —

      A number of people are reporting that ad to me….I blocked the URL in Adsense but it may take some time to go through, not sure. Sorry about it.

      • Profile photo of gregladen
        February 4, 2013 at 3:06 pm —

        You can’t win. It has been replaced by the equally nefarious “tuition free online school” ad. One can only hope for no Go Daddy ads to appear in the near future.

    • Profile photo of criticaldragon1177
      February 4, 2013 at 8:35 pm —

      Andrew Brown,

      I think I saw that.

      My mom keeps seeing ads with sexy women on her computer for some reason much more than I do. I don’t know why. My mom suspects they think she’s a man for some odd reason.

      • Profile photo of marilove
        February 4, 2013 at 9:07 pm —

        I think there’s a way to look at the demographics for your google ads. I am pretty sure they think I’m a dude on one computer, and a woman on another. It does depend on what you view. If she views a lot of political sites and not much else, for example, they will think she’s a dude.

        • Profile photo of dr. dr. professor
          February 4, 2013 at 9:19 pm —

          They read your cookies and there’s a complex algorithim that determines your sex. Or if you have a google account that you’re logged into, it reads your sex explicitly.

          Sexy women ads tend to show up when you view a lot of porn or go to dating sites a lot.

          • Profile photo of criticaldragon1177
            February 4, 2013 at 9:32 pm

            Dr. Dr. Professor,

            And unless I’m wrong, my mom tends to stay away from those, so it still doesn’t explain it.

          • Profile photo of marilove
            February 4, 2013 at 9:50 pm

            I don’t know, I use adblock (‘cept here). But uh, porn? Well, I never … *coughs* … *clears bookmarks*

        • Profile photo of criticaldragon1177
          February 4, 2013 at 9:31 pm —

          Marilove,

          That’s odd than because I don’t think she views a lot of political sites. Most of the sites she visits are stuff that are stereotypically female, such as the purse forum.

          • Profile photo of marilove
            February 4, 2013 at 9:51 pm

            This is based off a random memory that may or may not be true. But I remember seeing the google stats once and one computer totally thought I was a dude, but I was female on the other, and it was hysterical. Maybe I just watched more porn on one. Hahaha.

  26. Profile photo of Mariza de Souza
    February 4, 2013 at 2:17 pm —

    Re: the video. As a 22 year old girl in a man’s world (literally; I study physics at a science university where the ratio on my course is 80:20 male to female) and a fun-loving student, I’m constantly torn between trying to persuade people to not objectify women and accidentally participating in the culture myself. I wear make-up, not caked on in layers but I do wear it because I think I look more attractive with it, and try to dress stylishly. I eat well and exercise, sadly not for health reasons (at 22 you feel like you’re going to live forever), but because I want to look good and have a flat stomach. I go to fancy dress parties in sexually provocative outfits (my most recent fancy dress costume was a french maid). But I still consider myself as a feminist, and I find that hard to reconcile. I want to look good and I want others to think I look good, but I don’t want women to be treated like objects. My male friends tease me for being a feminist because I will tell them off if they do something I feel is offensive to women, and I keep at it because I’m convinced one day it will sink in, but they do call me on my behaviour and I don’t know what to say to them about it. I subconciously judge other women based on their appearance, but I don’t want to. For example, if I went to a job interview without make-up, I think I’d be less likely to get the job, even if it was a female interviewer, because women objectify each other too. I’ve been thinking about this a lot this year and I don’t know what to do about it. I want to know how other feminists deal with this because at the moment I can’t find any answers, I just feel like a massive hypocrite.

    • Profile photo of Rebecca Watson
      February 4, 2013 at 2:43 pm —

      I don’t think you’re a hypocrite in the least. We’re in a no-win situation, in that we have to play the game and for the most part we have to use the rules society has laid out. I think every feminist woman is just doing the best she can with the cards she’s been dealt.

      • Profile photo of Ms. Daisy Cutter
        February 4, 2013 at 10:07 pm —

        Mariza, please don’t listen to anybody who tells you that you can’t be a feminist if you do any of those things.

        First of all, there is nothing inherently wrong with dressing well or wearing makeup. That is a widespread human desire, and it’s not restricted to women. Contempt for it, whether from mainstream culture or from certain types of feminists, is misogynist, as is contempt for anything that is not objectionable per se but is considered “girly.”

        Second, when it comes to the actually problematic stuff like judging other women, no feminist is perfect. It takes a long, long time to overcome acculturation. Twenty-two is not very old.

        Third, your male friends are idiots, as Laurel said. They’re making fun of you. Call them out, if you’re able to.

    • Profile photo of Jim Wile
      February 4, 2013 at 3:00 pm —

      At least you realize what you are doing. Don’t beat yourself up about it. You are at an age where you have to fight many battles and you are in a very tough section of the world. Pick the battles that you fight. Fight the foolish young men around you and keep them on the up and up. As life goes on they will hopefully grow wiser. Take care of your inner self and never give up.

    • Profile photo of Nicole
      February 4, 2013 at 7:00 pm —

      Ditto what Rebecca said. And keep your chin up in such a man-dominated field! For what it’s worth, the lady physicists ARE out there and banding together to make a difference.

    • Profile photo of Mike Haubrich
      February 4, 2013 at 8:20 pm —

      You know what? Making yourself up and being comfortable with the way you look is not a matter of objectifying yourself. I don’t think that there are any feminists who think that you should wear a burka or even clothes as plain as possible or that hide yourself. The point is that it is YOUR choice and not dictated by whether or not people will objectify you.

    • Profile photo of Laurel Halbany
      February 4, 2013 at 8:51 pm —

      Your male friends are idiots. There is nothing unfeminist about wanting people of whatever gender(s) you prefer to find you attractive. They are not “calling you” on bad behavior, they are mocking you.

    • Profile photo of shockna
      February 5, 2013 at 4:05 am —

      Greatest sympathies; impossible situations are always painful.

      I signed up to second Ms. Daisy Cutter’s suggestion… Call your male friends out, if possible. I used to be -exactly- like the friends you’re describing, until thoroughly called out. It can work, and nobody deserves the kind of hounding you describe.

    • Profile photo of tnt666
      February 7, 2013 at 4:57 pm —

      In the video she commented that males use their bodies to get ahead in life but females don’t… that’s a perceptual mistake. In our present Western civilisation, females who wear high heels, wear reasonable makeup, and generally look good (symmetrical features) have better professional lives. So your behaviour will enhance your chances of success in this patriarchal world.
      Now the question is, do you want to succeed in this patriarchal world… or might you step up to the plate and change the world. They are two different paths.

  27. Profile photo of pzmyers
    February 4, 2013 at 2:20 pm —

    They don’t. I’ve seen the difference.
    I’ve drawn just as much negative attention as those two (I’d argue even more, but let’s just pretend we have parity in the drawing fire department).

    A few years ago, I was deluged with email from pissed off Christians. It was often angry, there were death threats, but most of it was pious “I’ll pray for you” and “you’re going to hell” crap. Most of it was from the short attention span crowd: they’d see some accusation from Bill Donohue or Ken Ham, and whip out the angry letter to denounce me.

    It was annoying, and it was stupid. But I shrugged it off.

    When I started defending feminist thought, though, that all changed. I have never before received the kind of vile shit I get now; Christians might accuse me of being gay and hellbound, but they don’t tend to send me explicit photos with my face photoshopped in for various parts of the anatomy (my face isn’t always pasted onto the porn stars head!)
    I now get email accusing me of being a woman.
    Think about that. This is the horrible awful insult they want to browbeat me with; that I am a woman. Not even the creationists ever sunk to that; I think it’s part of their mindset that women are lesser beings, but they don’t use “woman” as a dirty word.
    Then there are the crude sketches of me with breasts, of being raped anally, of servicing men orally. I thought my opposition was contemptible before, but it never reached the magnitude of abuse that I’m now getting from self-proclaimed atheists in the skeptic and atheist community. And these people are obsessed. It’s not just a burst of hatred from scattered individuals who then go about their business…it’s lunatics who hate with a passion and sneer on blogs and fora and twitter accounts dedicated to expressing their contempt for FtB, for feminists, for me personally.
    So yeah, I had no idea what it was like to be hunted and harassed before, either. Now I do. And I also know that what I get now is mild compared to what outspoken women get.

    • Profile photo of Jim Wile
      February 4, 2013 at 3:05 pm —

      I have also found it amazing that there is more venom against women’s rights than most other subjects. Talk to someone about being racist and they blow off steam for a while and then calm down. I once sent an email to a relative about a rape joke that he sent out. My whole comment was: “Rape is never a joke. Not cool.” It has been two years and he still sends me hate mail. Amazing.

      • Profile photo of
        February 4, 2013 at 11:51 pm —

        Jim,
        I posted on an Ask Reddit thread where people were making fun of prison rape, and said, “No one deserves to be raped.” I cannot BELIEVE how many “But what about…” kinds of comments I got in response. WTF?!?!

    • Profile photo of gregladen
      February 4, 2013 at 3:13 pm —

      I have had the exact same experience but scaled down from the massive Pharyngula level; but structurally the same. My comparison, though, is with the climate science denialist crowd. While the former make up fake twitter accounts and photoshop my image and stuff, the latter’s worst consists of very realistic seeming death threats, not too frequent, but usually for some reason specifying the particular brand and caliber of firearm they intend to use on me. The other difference is that climate science denialists have made pretty realistic threats to sue me a few times. All of that is mild compared to the MRA/Misogynist crap in both intensity and density.

      Having said that I was very surprised to discover that during the last round of threatening yahooism from the climate science denialists (in response to a critique I made of a blog post written by one of them) a couple of individuals from the slymepit seemed to join forces with the climate science denialist. This tells us something interesting about them,though I’m not exactly sure how to interpret it. Either the MRA/Misogynists include some serious science denialists among their numbers, or there are individuals who are perfectly willing to toss science under the bus in order to score points (among their lot) against a mangina-feminist such as myself.

    • Profile photo of gonzblinko
      February 4, 2013 at 5:38 pm —

      PZ, As a man in this movement, I want to thank you for standing up for maximum inclusion. Guys like me really appreciate leaders like you!

    • Profile photo of tnt666
      February 7, 2013 at 4:59 pm —

      fascinating.

  28. Profile photo of Paul Bridson
    February 4, 2013 at 2:21 pm —

    You are admirable, not only for continuing the struggle under these conditions, but for the reasoned and measured tone of your replies. Here’s one fifty-year-old white guy who’s going to be braver in the future because of your examples. Remember always that your perspective is valuable. Well done!

  29. Profile photo of benjaminsa
    February 4, 2013 at 2:49 pm —

    What a great talk, and once again horrified at the crap that gets sent your way, feeling fairly pissed.

    I have a problem though, I use adblock on most websites, but not on Skepchick because I want you to get the revenue. One of the ads I have is Zoosk personal which depicts six women with the tag ‘still single? so are we’ violating rule 3. Is there a good way to boycott or at least complain about companies that use sexually objectifying advertising? Adbusters does some great spoof ads, and if you haven’t seen it, check out Fotoshop by Adobé https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_vVUIYOmJM brilliant : )

  30. Profile photo of Jim Wile
    February 4, 2013 at 3:07 pm —

    Rebecca – I just don’t know what to say. That anyone would go to those lengths just amazes me. Once again you have my support. The Ted talk was wonderful! Thank you!

  31. Profile photo of misternu
    February 4, 2013 at 3:08 pm —

    I just need to echo the other commenters that think that the sloth is adorable. I think you may have gotten bored at that moment because the picture didn’t need any more or less than it already had.

  32. Profile photo of ethicalcannibal
    February 4, 2013 at 3:30 pm —

    This post gave me a turning point in my thinking. I have been watching all this, from the sidelines for a very long time. I don’t do more than a few blog posts, tumblr, or G+, but I do read. I read all of this. Usually silently. However, lately, I find I am piping up more and more because I feel that the vile negativity that you, and many other women (and men) receive is horrifying.

    I think the problem is that these trolls, if you can call the bullying jerks that, rely on people like me to sit in silence. As a complicit audience to their behavior. Too scared to speak for fear of gaining their attentions. That silence isn’t helping.

    Instead, I think I am going to make sure every time I see a post, video, or comment, that discusses women, feminism, or any other ism that needs to be heard, that I am going to post. Perhaps just a comment, but I am going to post my support even if it only enters a litany of “good job” or “I agree”. That way, the positive comments will outweigh the negative.

    Even now, the comments in that great youtube video of filled with nastiness. Instead of just turning away in disgust, I commented my support. I also used my vote to vote up good comments, good explanations, and reasonable discourse. I used my downvotes to vote down sexism, nastiness, and outright trolling and bullying.

    I think that’s going to be my strategy from now on. To make sure I support those willing to take a stand on these issues, and do the small things like vote comments up and down when the system permits. I just don’t think I want my silence to be confused for agreement anymore with those people.

  33. Profile photo of Giliell
    February 4, 2013 at 4:40 pm —

    WTF?
    I need brain bleach.
    Also, that TED talk is amazing. I saw it some time back.

  34. Profile photo of Yoohoo Cthulhu
    February 4, 2013 at 5:06 pm —

    Rebecca, your comment reminds me why I’ve never had *too* much to do with athiest/freethought/skeptic groups in general. Oh, I’ll re-tweet, read blog posts, engage online–but there’s something about exposure to the fringe asshole element of the skeptic community (which is pretty unavoidable in person) that puts my hair on end. I suppose it has something to do with assholes unrestrained by religion or mores being much more willing to *dehumanize* others than most.

  35. Profile photo of Brenda @ MamaBeGood
    February 4, 2013 at 5:26 pm —

    Keep on speaking up. I sincerely hope that for every one of those kind of messages you receive, you get ten messages in support. Because people like that are still trying to silence, invalidate, trivialize, and mute women who threaten their privilege and their status quo.

    • Profile photo of gregladen
      February 4, 2013 at 9:17 pm —

      I would hope it is 1000 to one, but I wouldn’t count on it. When people “support” you or “like” you that usually means they do nothing in particular, or now and then comment on a blog post (like many are doing here). The haters are running a cottage industry. They wake up in the morning and think “How am I going to shit on Rebecca or some other Skepchick or someone who is in their camp today” and then they spend significant time on that, like it they were hobbyists and this is their hobby.

  36. Profile photo of KellyM
    February 4, 2013 at 6:02 pm —

    This post illustrates why I refuse to support organizations who fail to take a strong position against harassment. DJ Grothe, president of the JREF, has passive-aggressively tweeted in support of the Slymepit. (Al Stefanelli posted a “Top Ten” skeptical sites list that included the Slymepit (of course). Grothe tweeted a recommendation of Al’s post.) In contrast, when Jen McCreight blogged a complaint last year at Penn Jillette’s use of the word “cunt” to describe a woman who displeased him, Grothe Twitter blocked Jen and FB unfriended her. It breaks my heart that I can no longer support the JREF because Randi has been a hero of mine for decades. But the JREF’s handling of the harassment issue has shown where their sympathies lie.

  37. Profile photo of trekkie
    February 4, 2013 at 6:23 pm —

    I’ve been here doing the equivalent of a stutter trying to turn the jumble of thoughts in my brain. It’s not working.

    Are there any law enforcement types you can forward these types of things to? It seems broken to me that someone could do this and not face some legal response. Freedom of speech is one thing, but this isn’t someone posting an opinion, it’s a clear attack on the person. While not physical in nature, it’s just like one of those things that ‘he was always a quiet type’ come out.

    I tend to think very libertarian in my ‘there ought to be a law’ responses but come on, this isn’t the first amendment being used here.

  38. Profile photo of skeptigal4
    February 4, 2013 at 6:32 pm —

    I find it interesting that PZ Myers gets more harassment now for supporting women than for his criticisms on Christianity, creationists, etc. Interesting, but not surprising, after all I have seen and heard these past couple of years. As a skeptic and a feminist, I feel heartbroken and enraged by these accounts of vile harassment. I feel shame too in that some of my fellow skeptics participate in these abhorrent acts. Is this community one I want to be identified with?

    The skeptical community is not the only one experiencing these symptoms of depravity. An friend of mine who is a writer has experienced this type of online harassment from someone she doesn’t even know purely because she is a woman who just happens to belong to the same writer’s organization. Others in same community are also getting slammed and flamed.

    I keep wondering exactly what is it that makes some men go bonkers when confronted by strong females. That’s why I found found this article from cracked.com to be particularly interesting:
    http://www.cracked.com/article_19785_5-ways-modern-men-are-trained-to-hate-women.html?wa_user1=4&wa_user2=Sex&wa_user3=article&wa_user4=companion
    While cracked.com isn’t the authoritative source on anything, it can be most amusing and insightful on many subjects.

    Rebecca, keep your head up and remember the good guys and gals way outnumber the trolls.

    • Profile photo of Xanthë
      February 4, 2013 at 10:18 pm —

      I think it’s notable that PZ receives a quite different kind of harassment on account of espousing feminist principles as opposed to that he receives based on religious or atheistic views, which resonates with the exact points that Caroline Heldman makes in her TEDx presentation — the abuse is highly sexualised, but because PZ is a man, he either has to be depicted in the position or with the attributes of a woman to be objectified (misogyny, or femmephobia to use another term) or else he is depicted as taking the submissive role in a homosexual act (homophobia), and that either of these tropes cast non-masculinity or non-heterosexuality as inferior; it is well known that misogyny and homophobia are intricately linked in this way.

      • Profile photo of dr. dr. professor
        February 5, 2013 at 5:50 am —

        The posts about PZ are often like “He is a perfect example of the newly castrated American male.”

    • Profile photo of tnt666
      February 7, 2013 at 5:06 pm —

      I also enjoyed that entry… the comments were a who’s who of stupidity. Patriarchy is religion, and anyone in this community who supports patriarchal views should be publicly ousted we should not label atheist but religious.

  39. Profile photo of Sophie Starfish
    February 4, 2013 at 6:52 pm —

    Finally registered here just to comment on this post, because I’ve read recently that supportive comments really do make a difference to people who are battered around by haters all day every day. I support and admire you. I will continue to support and admire you. Please keep it up.

  40. Profile photo of junit
    February 4, 2013 at 7:03 pm —

    I think you do great work, Rebecca. Keep it up.
    – a straight white male

  41. Profile photo of JP
    February 4, 2013 at 7:03 pm —

    Rebecca, I am sorry you have to deal with this sort of thing. However, if there is a silver lining, it is that you are making a difference; otherwise, no one would bother to paint such an unsavory caricature.

    Taking a position on anything always draws criticism. Many people go through life avoiding stating a position publicly, even in their professional lives, in order to avoid criticism, and, yes, ridicule. You take a position, you take a stand, and I laud you for it. One measure of your success, however unpleasant, is how much criticism you draw. Keep it up, and let the haters be damned.

  42. Profile photo of Grand Lunar
    February 4, 2013 at 8:19 pm —

    -“…or when anyone complains that I complain too much because once every few months I provide examples of the harassment I receive”

    I’ll never forgive myself for the stupid fucking comment in which I did just that. I was such an asshole.

    The video is beyond awesome and definately ought to go viral.
    We need the lessons she provides.
    I’d love to show this to my friend, to see what she thinks.

  43. Profile photo of pascale68
    February 4, 2013 at 10:40 pm —

    Phil Plait just posted a link to this on Facebook, and it only took 3 comments for someone to say “Sigh. It had almost been three whole hours since someone reminded of how oppressed Watson is.” I wanted to cry, and this isn’t even directed at me. Rebecca, I don’t know how you stand it, but I truly admire your strength to continue on.

  44. Profile photo of Xanthë
    February 4, 2013 at 10:41 pm —

    The video is awesome. Can anyone help provide a citation for the 96% statistic (of sexualised images are of women) that Dr Heldman mentions close to the beginning of the talk, if they know of the likely source (since I’m not having great luck searching)? It’s the sort of number which seems totally uncontroversial to me, judging on my own exposure to mainstream media, but I know only too well that as soon as I mention it in a non-feminist space there’ll be some wise-ass pulling a [citation needed] manœuver. (I was going to leave a question at Dr Heldman’s blog but comments are off.)

    For those who can’t make use of the video owing to accessibility issues, it’s basically outlining ideas which Dr Heldman posted on her blog in a series of four posts from last July onward; here’s Part One, which runs over the seven different types of objectification that her talk begins with, giving many more examples, so it’s not safe for work really! You can find the other installments leading on from there.

    • Profile photo of Will
      February 4, 2013 at 11:03 pm —

      A couple of searches have turned up empty for me as well. You might e-mail her and ask her if she can point you towards any literature or studies that demonstrate that number.

    • Profile photo of gregladen
      February 5, 2013 at 11:32 am —

      Caroline Heldman ?says “I ran a content analysis in 2010 on top popular magazines, television shows, films, and music videos, and got this number.”

      • Profile photo of Xanthë
        February 5, 2013 at 5:38 pm —

        Thanks Greg; my phone went off with multiple tweets at 3am in the morning (I should know by now to turn it to silent overnight!). I’m pleased to see she did her analysis to substantiate the claims, as statistics always get questioned when it comes to topics like this (but that’s not sexism, oh no… /sarcasm).

    • Profile photo of James Fox
      February 5, 2013 at 12:13 pm —

      Here’s a site with some good research links and information.
      http://www.seejane.org/research/

  45. Profile photo of puggy
    February 4, 2013 at 10:44 pm —

    Becca, it saddens me all the shit you and other skepchicks (and PZ) have been going through these couple of years. I wish I had an awesome blog with (hundreds of) thousands of readers, and I’d sure as hell support you there. Sadly, I’m just a bottom of the barrel skeptic, so this and other future comments I leave here are about the most support I can probably give you.

    I had been away from the skepmovement for a while and was quite ignorant of all the that had happened since TAM 9. Now I wish I had done something sooner to support you gals.

    All my support.

  46. Profile photo of James Dominguez
    February 4, 2013 at 11:11 pm —

    Rebecca, just wanted to say that you’re wonderful. The ebbing and flowing – but always present to some degree – hatred that has been targeted at you ever since ElevatorGate is sickening to me. I know it must be really tough for you to keep pushing through it sometimes, and not duck out of public sight like too many abused female writers have been forced to do, and I want you to know that this cis-male atheist and proud feminist ally appreciates the work you do. Nobody could blame you for just giving up on the whole movement, and the fact that you just keep on trucking is a credit to you. Please stick around. We need you.

    (n.b. I don’t want the above to be construed as a criticism of any female writers, bloggers, and speakers who have declared the harassment to be too much and have retired from the community. Everyone has their own breaking points, and those women who have given up deserve sympathy and support, not criticism. It’s the women-hating fuckheads who harassed them into silence that deserve every bit of our scorn.)

    • Profile photo of gregladen
      February 5, 2013 at 10:23 am —

      James, first, I’d like to echo/fully agree with what you are basically saying here about Rebecca’s perseverance, but I also want to expand on your second point.

      People have left and re-entered this conversation (and not just the harassed women, but also the harassed men) at various times, but it has to be remembered that it isn’t simply a matter of giving up, or even having a breaking point. The thing is, the harassers are bullies and are very good at it (being bullies), so they create rules, both explicitly (in which they tell us the rules) and implicitly. These are Bully’s Rules, so they are rules everyone but the bullies must follow, and when one of their victims does not follow them, you get blame or derision or something. (For example, the bullies pick individuals and victimize them. But you are not allowed, according to Bully’s Rules, to claim that you are a victim.)

      The rule here is that you don’t leave the fight, and if you do, you lost. Note that among the bullies, it would seem that several have gone back and forth between being actively engaged in their campaign of harassment and not being involved at all for periods of time. When they leave the fight, the “don’t leave the fight or that’s you losing” rule does not apply to them. I’m sure they would say that they are simply busy with other things for certain periods of time. But when Jen McCreight stepped away for a time she felt obligated to explain herself, and was seen by some as “giving up” yet in reality she is a busy graduate student and it just isn’t true that her life revolves around the bullies. Same with Melody Hensley stepping away from Twitter for a while. For my part, I’ve followed a long term plan to shift my writing activities more towards climate change and evolutionary biology… I’ve even let up on firearms and race related issues, as well as paying attention to the bullies. For all of us, it is only fair to assume that those periods of time when we are not actively engaged with the bullies, we are simply doing whatever it is we are doing, not giving up or reaching a breaking point.

      (I’m not trying to correct you here, just expanding on the point.)

      The implicit structure of this relationship seems to be that when bullies do stuff we all need to react, and if we don’t we lost and they won. But as Rebecca has pointed out, their harassment (as a group) is more or less continuous and the reactions to them by individuals in the much larger community of skepto-secular activists is based more on what we are doing than what they are trying to force us to do. This touches on difficult problems like how we treat each other; while not feeding the trolls may be a good idea, telling a colleague to not feed the trolls may be equivalent to telling your colleague to shut up. Yet another implicit bully rule in place.

      Last July at CONvergence, Rebecca and the Skepchicks ran several panels two of which come to mind right now. One was on dealing with trolls (“Don’t Feed the Trolls”) and the other was on medical woo. Both were well attended. After the troll panel, lots of people knew more about trolls. This, they did not really need, but it was entertaining. That panel was videoed and the trolls got hold of the video and used it for further trolling. During the woo panel, the audience learned incredibly valuable information about certain widely sold wooish products (like special bracelets that increase your joint flexibility). Rebecca and colleagues totally demolished those products. People learned important stuff that improved their lives. An incremental measurable positive change in the world happened. That was skepticism at its finest, not “there is no bigfoot” skepticism, and not about the trolls. The trolls were silent about that panel. So there you go.

      • Profile photo of delphi_ote
        February 5, 2013 at 11:50 am —

        Damn, that was thoughtful and clear, Greg. Thanks for writing it!

        It’s also a very empowering to realize that we don’t have to play by the bully’s rules. Expanding on this idea might be the beginning of a powerful way to help children cope with bullying. You’ve given me a lot to think about. Again, thanks!

  47. Profile photo of Jeff Baker
    February 5, 2013 at 12:45 am —

    And, to bring this full circle. The reason I posted the comment about the ad to start with, is because the ad didn’t seem like your typical dating site (i.e. it was not a competitor with match.com or harmony.com). The ad offered you the opportunity to chat on-line with the women. This sounds to me like one of those sites where I imagine the chat quickly devolves into the women taking their clothes off, and the men pleasuring themselves in response. These type of services are often described as objectifying women. For such an ad to appear on a website where many of the blogs have been discussing problems with women being objectified seems out of place. And, it doesn’t seem like the type of thing that Rebecca Watson or other Skepchicks would want profiting (indirectly) from their posts.

    If it had seen the same add on CNNSI, ESPN or similar site, I would have completely ignored the ad. But, for the reasons mentioned above, I felt it should be brought to Ms. Watson’s attention.

    • Profile photo of bug_girl
      February 5, 2013 at 7:06 am —

      And that’s a good thing, Jeff! We don’t know about a lot of these ads until AFTER they show up on the site.
      So telling us is the only way to get it fixed. I think Will was just trying to point out that we don’t have control over the ads–they are selected downstream, if you will.

  48. Profile photo of Jack99
    February 5, 2013 at 1:09 am —

    Rebecca,, I am sad and angry that this has happened to you, somebody I like and respect.
    Taking a lead from Bjarte, perhaps the best response may be if I make a donation to the Surly Grants or some other cause of your choice whenever one of thes these hate messages is posted.

  49. Profile photo of mildlymagnificent
    February 5, 2013 at 5:27 am —

    If she views a lot of political sites and not much else, for example, they will think she’s a dude.

    That never occurred to me. I use a lot of science and politics sites. I’d always presumed that skep-chick word all over the various pages prompted the “talk to me” ads here, but I really couldn’t work out why they turned up on other sites. Strange.

    Rebecca. Stay as strong as you can for as long as you can. I hope you have strong people around you you can lean on when you need to. I keep you in my thoughts.

  50. Profile photo of mephit
    February 5, 2013 at 6:16 am —

    Just to add another voice of support. What you do in standing up to these bullies is great, thank you.

  51. Profile photo of Robin Hilliard
    February 5, 2013 at 6:43 am —

    So sorry you have to put up with these bastards Rebecca. Every day you keep turning up to do the great stuff that you do is a win for the rest of us.

    BTW thanks for the t-shirts I bought from you in Melbourne – my daughters are wearing them a lot more than I thought they would, obviously they know awesome when they see it :-)

  52. Profile photo of badland
    February 5, 2013 at 7:06 am —

    Another person delurking to say how much you’ve educated me and how much I appreciate everything you do.

    I live in Privilege Central: white, male, tall, married, two young kids (daughters, redheads, gorgeous – I walk down the street holding their hands and am mobbed by humans of all flavours telling me how lovely they are) and my strongest thought is: I want my children to inherit a better world than I grew up in. And people like you, like the Skepchick writers, like teh ebil FtB Borgmindgroupthinkaxisofevil, you give me hope that my kids won’t have to play asinine, puerile, redundant power games just to reach the same societal starting point as their father.

    I couldn’t cope with the shit you put up with every day and I admire you immensely. And ohh christ have I learned a lot from you. Thanks

  53. Profile photo of bug_girl
    February 5, 2013 at 7:11 am —

    And since I’m logged in–I am just humbled by how strong Rebecca (and other women I know) are in the face of this hate. I got harassed quite a bit in college in the 80s as the rare woman in an entomology department. But it was nothing like this.
    And I sure didn’t think that I’d still be dealing with it 30 years later. I saw the uncensored version of this image, and it took me 2 days to recover. Rebecca DID SOMETHING with it, and is making change. I <3 <3 you, boss.

    I also want to give kudos to the couple of people who have said that they have changed their mind. You give me hope.

  54. Profile photo of jesse
    February 5, 2013 at 8:02 am —

    I did want to say that I can’t understand how someone spends so much time just to harass someone with an image like that.

    I may have my disagreements with Rebecca et al here. But FFS, I don’t have the time to spend to make someone else’s life miserable. I haven’t even been to the slimepit — I am an old fart who never got the hang of Reddit (mostly I just had other stuff to do) but man oh man that image was just…. ugh.

    It reminds me of the kind of thing my friends would draw when we were like, 13. Except it wasn’t as vicious as that, at an age when young men have zero understanding. I mean, wow. Is there a whole population of teenaged boys out there? THose are the only people I can think of who can spend enough hours.

    I’m kind of semi-seriously asking that because I see all this stuff online, and I spend a lot of time online for work. But I have other stuff to do. I have couple of classes, I have to write, I have to clean the house and such. I have to spend time with my wife doing husband-and-wife things like going to dinner or a movie or just watching Downton Abbey or a walk in the freaking park. I don’t have time to spend trolling someone, even if I wanted to.

    Can anyone offer any insight? Really. Where do these people find the freaking time? I remember that guy Gawker outed, the old dude who was running the sick-o forums on Reddit, and I was like, “dude, there are only so many hours in a day, do you sleep? And how do you make a living?”

    I shouldn’t be so amazed, I guess.

  55. Profile photo of vexorian
    February 5, 2013 at 9:58 am —

    Rebecca Watson, I just wanted to say that I appreciate all the work you are doing to improve the skeptic community by calling out these terrible behaviours. I am quite sure that If I had to endure this harassment I would have thrown everything it to heck a long ago.

  56. Profile photo of skeptigal4
    February 5, 2013 at 3:49 pm —

    Check out what John Scalzi, president of the Science Fiction Writers Assoc is doing to combat trolls, particularly one obnoxious one
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/feb/05/trolls-prompt-author-charity-donation

  57. Profile photo of lansellion
    February 5, 2013 at 5:49 pm —

    I hate having to start with this because I feel it is obvious; clearly what was sent to Rebecca was extremely out of line and wrong. I just don’t want to have my comment attacked as defending whoever drew that picture because that’s not what I’m doing. So, again, to clarify, I totally agree that Watson has a right to be mad, a right to respond and a right to criticize those who attack her. I also agree that it is a good thing to raise awareness of internet bullies and attack them.
    Now, here is my primary disagreement. What does Watson receiving hate mail have to do with Michael Shermer responding to being criticized? Watson seems to be using the argument that because she gets horrible, disgusting hate mail Shermer is not allowed to respond to criticism and can’t use rhetorical language to support his position. From the way I read Shermer’s position he appears to be arguing that he was quote minded. Shermer explains that his quote was taken out of context (which it was) by showing that some important points had been omitted from what he said. I can’t say for sure why Shermer chose to use the words “witch hunt” but I believe he is arguing that the other side is just out to find people to attack and are willing to use flimsy evidence (as was done in witch trials). Of course, Shermer is using hyperbole here (obviously his treatment isn’t as bad as a witch hunt because no one is trying to kill him) as a rhetorical device to prove his point. But again, the fact that Watson receives hate mail is totally irrelevant here. I can’t even understand why she would switch subjects to attack Shermer.
    Whether or not Shermer’s original statement was sexist is irrelevant here. Shermer has a right to defend what he said and explain why he believes it is not sexist. And Benson or any-one else has a right to argue that what he said was sexist. However, Watson appears to be taking her receipt of hate mail as an opportunity to belittle Shermer’s right to claim that he was quote mined. Watson says the sexist charge leveled against Shermer is “mild criticism.” However, in the skeptical community an accusation of sexism is anything but mild as I am sure many on this forum are aware because of the damage it can do to one’s reputation in skeptical circles. At the same time Watson doesn’t criticize Benson for attacking Shermer’s ambiguous quote by arguing that she has it worse. That’s why I find it so frustrating that Watson is criticizing Shermer’s use of the term “witch hunt.” Shermer is trying to argue that he was unjustly pinned with the sexist label by claiming people are imagining cases of sexism where none exists. This is a legitimate use of hyperbole as an argument that should be responded to by demonstrating that it is not a witch hunt. But instead Watson appears to be using the “shut up because I have it worse” argument.
    Let me close saying that I totally agree that what Watson received is far more horrible than the criticism Shermer received. But the fact that Watson is subjected to horrible hate mail doesn’t mean everyone else has to shut up about criticism because it isn’t as bad as her hate mail. As skeptics we debate ideas and argue back and forth. We are all wrong sometimes and maybe Shermer is wrong or Benson is wrong. What I just don’t like to see is Watson attacking the right of those she disagrees with to respond to criticism on the grounds that she has it worse.

    • Profile photo of Ophelia Benson
      February 5, 2013 at 6:54 pm —

      I didn’t quote mine what Shermer said. His quote was NOT ambiguous. It wasn’t obscure or opaque or complicated. ““It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing” is not ambiguous!

    • Profile photo of gregladen
      February 5, 2013 at 8:23 pm —

      I think you need to do what I just did. Go back and read the post and see if what Rebecca says, and how she relates it to Shermer and the others who are claiming that there isn’t a problem with harassment and sexism and misogyny, and that looking after that problem is witchhuntery, makes sense. Turns out it does. Go look, I’m not kidding!

  58. Profile photo of uhl7792
    February 5, 2013 at 7:26 pm —

    I’m struggling to understand the difference between a sexy image and an sexually objectifying image. Can anyone give an example of a sexy image that’s not sexually objectifying?

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