Thanks to PZ for the format/inspiration!

Be self-aware. You are the speaker in a room filled with dozens, hundreds, thousands of people. Especially at atheist/skeptic conferences, we are all very interesting people, but out of those dozens/hundreds/thousands of people who could have been chosen to give a presentation, you were chosen. Your opinion and your words are most likely highly valued, because other people want to hear them. Other people want to learn from you. Other people look up to you. Other people have not had the exact same life history, education, experience that you have had, and want to peek into your world, and hear about your perspective for a few minutes.

Not a round-table discussion where anyone can interrupt or disagree– you are a speaker, and the audience has chosen to spend their time with you. Not each other in the bar. Not with any of the other concurrent speakers. You. And if you are invited to be a keynote speaker, the conference stops, and everyone listens to you. All the more responsibility.

That opportunity requires one to be self aware. “Am I using words this audience understands?” “Am I taking the appropriate tone for this audience? Too stuffy? Too casual? Is it age appropriate?” “Will this choice of sentence advance my cause, or unnecessarily confuse the audience? Unnecessarily anger the audience?” “Could I be more articulate?” “Am I 100% this statement is true?” “Is the audience interested in this topic? Even if it is important to me, how can I engage everyone?” “Is this joke necessary? Could someone think this joke is offensive? Racist? Sexist?” “Am I talking down to the audience? Am I talking over them?”

All eyes are on you, so your own eyes need to be on you. Critically analyzing your every move, as critically as you would be critiquing an Enemy Speaker.

Be aware of your potential targets. Especially at atheist/skeptic conferences, we are pretty much always attacking/making fun of someone. Whether its Jenny McCarthy or Michael Behe or Deepak Chopra, or Sarah Palin, sometimes you need to talk about a person and their actions, not just purely vaccines or evolution or psychology or politics. Sometimes you might even feel the need to address the words/actions of someone in the audience. If you chose to do this, from a privileged position as The Speaker, where The Target will not have a fair opportunity to respond, you need to be Dexter. You need to be 100% sure. “Is this attack 100% necessary?” “Will pursuing this attack advance my goals?” “Will this attack take attention away from my primary goals?” “Is attacking this individual the best way to call attention to this issue?” “How would I feel if someone attacked me, maybe even misrepresented me, to a group of hundreds of people, and I wouldnt get a chance to respond?” “Am I 100% sure I understand this persons perspective/position myself?” “Is it possible that this persons opinions are equally valid as mine, I just dont understand their world view myself?” “Is this person really relevant to the topic Im speaking about?” “Am I abusing my position as speaker to ‘get back’ at someone on a personal level?” “If I pursue this attack, is it possible I will come out looking like an asshole? Have I honestly reflected on this attack, or am I actually being an asshole? (see ‘Be self-aware‘)”

Being a Decent Human Being is actually the best defense you can have against abusing your position as a speaker at atheist conferences. Dont abandon it for short-term gain: youre in a community, and youre going to lose that if you think of yourself as a predator on the make.

What about tactics? Lets say you are super passionate about an issue, but is a keynote speech really the best forum for your issue? Would a moderated, recorded brain-storming session be better? An official debate? An intimate, one-on-one conversation in a quiet side room? A light-hearted, open to everyone conversation in a noisy bar? Or maybe even an online discussion, where everyone can take time to think about their input and responses and questions carefully– where everyone can simply send links to others, so everyone is on the same page, even everyone didnt start on the same page? Using a keynote address to pitch an idea for a skeptics football league is no more appropriate than using a keynote address to confront someone who said something that you found personally offensive (while others did not) is no more appropriate to rant for an hour about how the rent is too damn high. Yes, you have been given the opportunity to give a speech at an atheist conference– but that doesnt mean a speech at an atheist conference is the appropriate tactic for what you are excited about 2 minutes before you give said speech. You need to put thought into this, or you will alienate your audience not because you are wrong or had a bad idea, but because you used the wrong tactic. People will think you capitalized on your invitation as a speaker, not to engage with the audience, but to pursue a personal interest (or vendetta). You abused the forum you were given. They might not be interested in providing you with that same platform in the future.

Of course, if any more experienced commenters would like to offer further suggestions, theyre welcome to continue…as long as they remember these are guidelines for Decent Human Beings, not assholes who will excuse someones bad behavior just because they are friends with the offender.


  1. #1 BrianX
    July 5, 2011


    Rebecca does not have a problem with men that I’m aware of. Her problem — quite explicitly — is with people who make unwanted, overtly sexual comments in tight spaces where the “audience” can’t shut it off. As I mentioned above, I’m Aspie. Not very severely, but enough to cause trouble. When I talk about this sort of thing as intimidation, it’s because I know what the fuck I’m talking about, because I have trouble knowing where the lines are. I could say something that I intend completely innocently that turns out to creep out the woman I’m trying to talk to, but given that I know I’m socially deficient, I can’t really blame her for being offended or weirded out. (Given that my sense of humor tends to lean very dark, it would come with the territory even if I wasn’t socially challenged. The fact that I’m a little myopic when it comes to boundaries means I really can’t take it personally, because I can’t expect someone to know what’s going on underneath when all the woman in question sees is some scraggly weirdo spouting dead baby nonsequiturs.)

    And no, I don’t care to take this private. That would serve no purpose whatsoever.

  2. #2 BrianX
    July 5, 2011

    I’m also a mostly-reformed Nice Guy(tm), so I’m pretty up on that particular brand of shallow, manipulative bullshit.

  3. #3 Cheng Vang
    July 5, 2011

    I’m beginning to think that within the “skeptic” community, you’re pretty much not “allowed” to criticize her at all.

    People are honestly shouting because some people are questioning the elevator guy event. Isn’t skepticism supposed to be, well, being skeptical? Any anecdotal story I hear I take it with a grain of salt. But apparently you’re not supposed to be skeptical here! No, if you don’t take this as pure hard empirical evidence you’re a misogynist!

    RW defenders are trying too hard to defend her. PZ is going on about naming names when that isn’t the case, which he follows up with a how to get laid FAQ of what he considers to be a decent human being and even going as far as to claim what type of people “we” want at conferences and not (the first time that I could not stomach to read a Pharyngula post). Greg’s apologetics is that blogging is the same if not bigger platform than a stage and derailing back to elevator guy. Jen is saying that what Stef said is “fucking stupid”. Which in my opinion is just an overreaction due to biasness. Stef isn’t a creationist, if you are an instructor and Stef asked you something totally wrong, you can talk it out with her. She may or may not change her mind, she isn’t Ken Ham. You don’t need to take that chance and yell at her “that is fucking stupid” or “you misogynist!”. Can a student learn that way from humiliation or vicious outing? Sure. But that is not the best way, your student is not a creationist who won’t change his/her mind.

    Just because you can teach by coming to lecture and flipping through power point slides for the whole hour, doesn’t mean that you should, especially when you are trying to build a community. Just because you can shout, scream, cuss, and call people stupid doesn’t mean you should take every fucking chance to use it. Not everyone is a creationist, antivaxer, or global warming denialist.

  4. #4 DL
    July 5, 2011

    People are honestly shouting because some people are questioning the elevator guy event. Isn’t skepticism supposed to be, well, being skeptical? Any anecdotal story I hear I take it with a grain of salt. But apparently you’re not supposed to be skeptical here! No, if you don’t take this as pure hard empirical evidence you’re a misogynist!

    All the noise also makes it difficult for privileged male outsiders like me to even find the rational arguments (there are a few) without spending several hours sifting through endless vitriol. This was a teachable moment, and it’s been mostly wasted.

  5. #5 Justicar
    July 5, 2011

    I see you’ve decided to decline the offer to make a rational, cogent argument. I am unsurprised.

    Note: anecdotes do not an argument make.

  6. #6 BrianX
    July 6, 2011


    I don’t play that game with idiots. Have fun fuming.

  7. #7 Phyraxus
    July 6, 2011

    Wow, brianx, wow.

    That was the most profound argument just presented by justicar and your response is “I don’t play games with idiots.”

    I don’t want to sound cruel to all aspies but maybe your condition is much more of a mental retardation in your case.
    That or, maybe all the TRUE FEMINISTS are really just FEMINAZIS.

  8. #8 Azkyroth
    July 6, 2011

    LOL, hey– Hey you guys? Remember this time last year when everyone was freaking out over Pepsi?

    Yes. It’s unfortunate you didn’t have this kind of clarity back then when you were alleging that the conflict-of-interest concerns people raised were something your personal experience with occasionally consuming Pepsi products and still being healthy was relevant to.

    And I agree that using the privileged position of being a speaker, with an essentially one-way communication with an audience captive at least to the extent social pressure is binding, to rehash a personal dispute is inappropriate, on not-entirely-unrelated grounds. I haven’t seen videos of the talk and I can’t determine to what extent Rebecca* did that, but if she did, it was inappropriate…with no bearing on her original complaint, the rest of the discussion, or her status as a person. I don’t think that affects the broader issues here and I think it’s unfortunate that it’s received so much focus.

    *We’ve eaten as the same table so I feel justified in using the familiar form. I intend it complimentarily. >.>

    Wow, brianx, wow.

    That was the most profound argument just presented by justicar and your response is “I don’t play games with idiots.”

    Blatant attempts at gerrymandering what is and is not “acceptable evidence” or “valid rhetoric” is profound now?

  9. #9 windy
    July 6, 2011

    Blatant attempts at gerrymandering what is and is not “acceptable evidence” or “valid rhetoric” is profound now?

    Are those direct quotes? I can’t find what you are referring to in this thread.

  10. #10 Spence
    July 6, 2011

    I don’t think that affects the broader issues here and I think it’s unfortunate that it’s received so much focus.

    Look people, can we stop pointing out that Rebecca Watson fails to meet the expectations of empathy for others that she places on the rest of the world? The cognitive dissonance this causes to Azkyroth is too much to bear. If we could all just stop talking about it, that would be great. Thanks. /sarc

    I don’t want to sound cruel to all aspies but maybe your condition is much more of a mental retardation in your case.
    That or, maybe all the TRUE FEMINISTS are really just FEMINAZIS.

    Not cool, dude. Not. Cool.

    From BrianX:

    What, fleeing from the Pharyngula beatdown?

    Followed by:

    I don’t play that game with idiots. Have fun fuming.

    Irony can be a cruel, cruel mistress, can’t she?

  11. #11 Wow
    July 6, 2011

    “ANYONE who used even a second of podium-time for an off-topic attack on someone would be persona non grata forever.”

    What about an on-topic attack on someone?

  12. #12 Wow
    July 6, 2011

    “And if you’re putting your ideas out there publicly (like Stef did), you do so with the knowledge that people can call you out.”

    And like Rebecca did.

    Which Stef called her out on.

    And so on through the whole sorry saga.

    The problem IS NOT (IMO) what EG did. The PROBLEM is that we currently have a society where some women will feel scared in that situation. And note: “creeped out” is not the same as “scared”.

    And that’s not a problem with atheist blogging, it’s a problem full stop in our society ever since, roughly, 2500 years ago, before which women being the power was more the norm (the mysteries included childbirth, an act of almost god-like creation that is something only a woman can do. Smacking someone’s head open is better done by the more robust male, but women can do fairly well at it too).

    What EG did: a non-bad.

    That women still have to worry for their safety: a bad.

  13. #13 Wow
    July 6, 2011

    “She’s Uncomfortable ALWAYS devolves into a shitstorm of screaming and/or disregard and/or rape apologetics”

    Jen, if you’re uncomfortable, that isn’t rape. Being worried you’re going to be raped isn’t rape. Rape is not the issue.

    Therefore defending the non-rape event isn’t rape apologising. But continuing to recant any opposition into rape enabling or apologising behaviour is DEFINITELY going to get you discounted as a nutcase.

  14. #14 Wow
    July 6, 2011

    “He has to have some sexist sentiment for it to be sexist. He has to be utilising his privilege to put himself above the woman (you know, like Watson abused her privilege?)”

    I think that it would be myscoginy if the “shut up” meant “shut up, you’re supposed to only like being hit on by men”.

    Greg, PZ and other supporters of RW hear the latter whenever EG, Stef, RD or others are defended.

    The problem is they “KNOW” (in an almost xian fundie way) that what is meant by any less than wholehearted support of RW is a “shut up and make me a sammich”.

    Why? Maybe a need to be “right on”.

    A wee story: A girl friend told me and others about how when she watched “The Accused” (IIRC, Jodie foster movie as a lawyer) and how one of the men said he felt ashamed.

    My first thought was “Why? Did he get a boner at the rape scene?”. Second one was “Nah, he just wants to be ‘Right on’ and ‘Cool with the ladies equality thing'”.

    The disappointing thing was she’d not wondered why he felt ashamed.

  15. #15 Peter
    July 6, 2011

    That part would make sense, Wow.

    I always get that faintly religious vibe (and I really don’t mean this in an inflammatory way, but I’m aware that’s how it comes across, but don’t worry, I don’t care enough to not make the comparison) whenever someone starts telling me that I just don’t get it, and that I have to try harder to see something (like the apparently inherent misogyny in ‘shut-up’, bearing in mind that he was accusing one women of telling another to shut up and then saying that is a misogynistic attack, I was trying to tackle the strongest version of the sentiment).

    Or the Emperor’s Clothes. “I know it’s hard to see the Emperor’s Clothes, it’s always difficult to see part one’s own prejudices”.

    I bloody well can if you make the argument, but it has not been made, nor is it when the religious tell me I just have to search harder for God, I’ll know Him when I see it.

    I want to hear arguments. Good solid arguments.

    Schroedinger’s Rapist much like Schroedinger’s Racist is simple guilt by association. You have the right to feel what you feel and suspect what you suspect, but there’s only so much you can demand of potential (that is to say people who aren’t) rapists or racists.

    For example, Schroedinger’s Mugger is justification enough for me to feel uncomfortable and note fast exists, it is not justification enough for me to demand that people wearing tracksuits who have done nothing wrong have to have their hands in plain sight, and can’t wear hooded tops.

  16. #16 Peter
    July 6, 2011

    That should read see *past one’s own prejudices*

    … and *and note fast exits*

  17. #17 Wow
    July 6, 2011

    ” “That or, maybe all the TRUE FEMINISTS are really just FEMINAZIS.”

    Not cool, dude. Not. Cool. ”

    Spencer, that would be cool except for a post from Jen late on in the other RW thread here where Jen absolutely 100% clearly in black and white that ERV was a sex traitor.

    Then, rather than being not cool, it’s just an over-reaching over-broad broad brush. I.e. just because Jen 100% acted EXACTLY LIKE the caricature of a feminazi doesn’t mean everyone supporting RW is one.

    Re: Peter, it seems to be the mindset problem. Any attempt to not elevate a woman’s concern MUST be an attempt to disregard all concerns women have.

    Just like to a fundian any attempt to disprove god is an attempt to invite satan into the world.

    PS as a short bloke, can I demand that anyone bigger than me doesn’t walk down a dark street that I’m walking down. It creeps me out and makes me worried I’m going to get mugged or worse.

  18. #18 Justicar
    July 6, 2011

    Blatant attempts at gerrymandering what is and is not “acceptable evidence” or “valid rhetoric” is profound now?

    My definition is fairly common in answering the question “what is evidence”.

    Be a dick, arrogant, abusive, condescending and you’ll survive perfectly fine in literature so long as you’re punctilious in your work and reports of findings. Cut a corner, cheat just a little, misrepresent the strength of a claim, conclude further than your data ethically lets you and you’re finished. Only hacks and quacks will publish what you say.

    I see no reason why I should demand less of someone claiming that half of the human species is obligated to think themselves rapists, oppressive and misogynistic when a given person is none of those things. All for the sake of someone else’s choosing not to deal with reality on all fours? No, you have a high burden; guilt tripping me will not do.

    I have a post up about it, and an invitation to be convinced on my newly created blog. If you know someone who has The One Truth for good reasons, send them my way. If I am actually wrong, that’s something I’d want to know so that I can improve myself.

    But I get the feeling that most people would rather be comment-heroes on blogs than actually work on solving important interests which bear on our most deeply important understanding of living the good, ethical life.

    But, hey, why participate in solving human problems and improving our living conditions when you can bitch about it online?

    Windy and Spence:
    Thank you for noting that those “quotes” bore no relation to what I wrote, and seeing what happens when they’re invited to put up or shut up. Of course, they needn’t shut up – there’s comedic gold in these people I tell you.

  19. #19 Agent Smith
    July 6, 2011

    I don’t want to weigh on this specific “event” because I don’t really care or get it- but can anyone explain why Rebecca is a prominent skeptic and on great podcasts like skpetics guide to the universe? She has no science background, a TTT communications degree and literally has zero knowledge of substantive scientific matters. Her public persona is based on no professional accomplishments- merely the platform that skeptics guide to the universe has provided her. She repeats, often without elegance or nuance, the conclusions of certain experts ad nauseum and calls it skepticism. Granted, we cannot be experts in every field and should defer to experts when we have reason to, but it seems like she doesn’t even try. In method, I don’t see how she is much different from her intellectual opponents (religion, pseudoscience, quackery).

    I also can not stand how she readily mixes her politics with science- as if politics are scientific in nature and those with diverging opinions are engaged in pseudoscience. Her BFF, PZ (someone I actually kinda like), seems to largely agree and plays the same game. Those of us with different views are alienated.

    Am I way off-base?

  20. #20 Phyraxus
    July 6, 2011


    Skeptichick comments are subject to approval. So, needless to say, they are having a circlejerk over there.

    Some other fundies I know use the same tactic…

    BTW, something curious, misandry isn’t recognized by spell checker like misogyny is… Seems like being a male simply isn’t politically correct.

    Schrodinger’s Rapist argument is very unconvincing. Let’s just keep Schrodinger for his cat, OK? I don’t really see why they would hijack his name for such a purpose anyways, it’s not like rapists are a quantized phenomenon. They would like to think so though, because to them its a simple black or white issue; you are either in lock step with them or a raving misogynist.

    Wait… fundies tend to be incapable of understanding nuance as well…

    My irony meter is exploding right now… It truly is a sad day for the skeptical community, but not for reasons the feminazis suggest.

    Feminism is supposed to be about equality but now it seems like they just want to kick males to the back of the bus. WTF happened?

    They are not feminists. They are misandrists.

  21. #21 Justicar
    July 6, 2011

    Agent Smith:
    I don’t know that skeptics guide is prominent. I was completely unaware of Rebecca Watson until about two weeks ago. Reviewing her contributions to the universe I can see how I’ve managed to not know of her for so long.

    How does she get on it? Well, when you found an organization, you kind of get to participate.

    Haven’t I read this comment elsewhere before now?

  22. #22 Tom
    July 6, 2011


    They are not equality feminists, that aim for full civil and legal equality for women. Instead, the folks over at skepchick seem to ascribe to type of gender feminism that advocates preferential treatment for women, viewing men and women as different classes and portraying all women as victims. The rhetoric (sexual objectification, male power, etc) is right out of the deconstructionist and marxist vocabulary. In fact the whole worldview is class-based, with marxism’s concept of perpetual conflict between working-class proletariat and capitalist Bourgeoisie has been replaced with feminist theory that posits perpetual exploitation of women by men, or by a patriarchal power structure. See Christina Hoff Sommers “Who Stole Feminism”.

    They are “skeptics” yet use the language of a clearly pseudo-scientific ideology. None of these concepts are backed up by empirical research, merely the communications and sociological echo-chamber. Another display that Rebecca doesn’t understand philosophy of science or scientific methodology, she sees science as a mere tool of her ideological convictions.

  23. #23 Agent Smith
    July 6, 2011

    I am just suggesting, like Prometheus, that as part of the scientific skeptical movement, I would prefer scientists or those with professional accomplishments speaking on my behalf. Not folks like Rebecca that are merely notable as youtube loudmouths and internet ideologues.

  24. #24 John C. Welch
    July 6, 2011

    “ANYONE who used even a second of podium-time for an off-topic attack on someone would be persona non grata forever.”

    What about an on-topic attack on someone?

    Given the conference and how it’s set up, it is extremely unlikely that would happen. Not from any moral superiority silliness, but it’s just not designed that way. All conference proposals are vetted before the applicant gets to be a speaker. All decks must be submitted beforehand. I’m not saying it COULDN’T happen, but given the folks I work with on Mac IT, i’d be pretty damned surprised if it did.

    It’s just not considered appropriate. We even get weird about attacks on products. In the context of “Product A being a better choice because of (reasons) than product B” or a serious comparison of them, that’s okay. Something along the lines of “Product A sucks”? Not so much.

    The process itself filters that out, because it’s just not something we want in the talks.

  25. #25 ERV
    July 6, 2011

    Welch– I also have experience regarding that. When I was asked to speak at the TX Freethought convention, it was during the ‘dont be a dick’ fiasco. I thought I was going to talk about that. But upon further *reflection* (see this post), I decided that would be stupid, and I said as much in my intro. Aint nobody want to sit there and listen to internet drama and he-said-she-said crap. So I talked about endogenous retroviruses, and people learned something. Yay!

  26. #26 Phyraxus
    July 6, 2011

    You are damn right, Tom.

    In RW’s first paragraph in the post titled the privilege delusion, she puts words in Dawkins’ mouth. He wasn’t even really speaking to her but to the raving misandrists at PZ’s blog. Others argue that he was saying that there are REALLY bad things, so that means we can’t argue against little bad things. I disagree. He was trying to provide some perspective. That her PERCIEVED slight wasn’t really a slight at all, and all of them screaming rape is demeaning to ACTUAL rape victims. But she says his argument disregards rape victims (probably because he used the oppression of Muslim women as an example). WTF? FO REELZ?

    But at any rate, she disregards his point of view or argument out of hand simply because he happened to be born white, heterosexual, wealthy, and male. And they all cheer her on…

    Imagine a black guy had said it instead of Dawkins. Her argument would be, “Oh, well your just a black man and ignorant,” then thunderous applause…

    Really… these “feminists” just don’t “get it”

  27. #27 Wow
    July 6, 2011

    “The rhetoric (sexual objectification, male power, etc) is right out of the deconstructionist and marxist vocabulary.”

    I’m afraid you’re putting in your own requirement of political rhetoric there.

    The rhetoric of sexual objectification, male power, etc is purely the rhetoric of those wanting to claim victimhood.

    Nothing more. Nothing less.

    Marxists use it to show how the proles are being victimised.
    Capitalists use it to show how the government are strangling them.
    Feminists use it to show how men are all bastards.
    Myscoginists use it to show how women are all harridans.

    It’s purely the appropriation of harm so that the one taking on the pain is painted as a heroic martyr as opposed to even partly responsible.

    And personally this non-event isn’t damaging “skepticism”, it’s just damaging the viewed persona of some people prominent in one or more of the multitudinous avenues skeptics have an interest and opinion in.

    This is no more about skepticism than a discussion with the Archbishop of Cantebury on whether “Constantine” is allowed in Scrabble that has both parties going ’tis/’tisn’t is about the Church of England.

  28. #28 Wow
    July 6, 2011

    “In RW’s first paragraph in the post titled the privilege delusion, she puts words in Dawkins’ mouth.”

    Worse, Greg put a title up about how RD had a solution to women about to get raped. Except it wasn’t. RD had an idea for women who were uncomfortable in a lift with a man: Get out.

    “Really… these “feminists” just don’t “get it””

    I don’t think it’s as much to do with feminism as an overzealous desire to make women safe.

    What I believe got RW’s knickers in a twist and made Steff the target to attack was not the stance against what was said, but that Steff was that her comment removed the victim martyrdom from RW.

    Being made a victim is fine, but telling her she’s not a victim! TERRIBLE!

  29. #29 John C. Welch
    July 6, 2011

    Welch– I also have experience regarding that. When I was asked to speak at the TX Freethought convention, it was during the ‘dont be a dick’ fiasco. I thought I was going to talk about that. But upon further *reflection* (see this post), I decided that would be stupid, and I said as much in my intro. Aint nobody want to sit there and listen to internet drama and he-said-she-said crap. So I talked about endogenous retroviruses, and people learned something. Yay!


    Oh, if you find yourself doing something really technical and cool with a Mac, and want to talk about THAT in public some time, I know a guy who could help 😛

    (actually, we’re about to put out the Mac IT call for papers, and if you don’t mind, when we do, could I forward the link to you so you could forward it on to any folks you know that might be interested in speaking? We’re changing the format a lot, so folks who might have felt they shouldn’t try to submit before should definitely try now, and I would love to get more new people in. I already told my compatriots that I’ll not speak if it means a slot for someone who’s good and new.)

  30. #30 Phyraxus
    July 6, 2011

    “What I believe got RW’s knickers in a twist and made Steff the target to attack was not the stance against what was said, but that Steff was that her comment removed the victim martyrdom from RW.”

    Which is exactly why Abbie’s Vagina ID Card has been revoked on the grounds that she is a Gender Traitor.

    Thank you Abbie, you are the light of reason in these dark times.

  31. #31 Justicar
    July 6, 2011

    I was wondering about the vagina licensure process. I was under the impression that transactions in that field are heavily regulated. I digress.

    There’s an “open” letter to Dawkins from some rape victims demanding justice for his oppression of women. I say open because there’s a lovely little clause at the end:
    “Comments here will be moderated as I see fit. Do not even think of trying to mansplain this to me.”

    Check it out:

    I commended them on their bravery for participating in a public discussion by stating outright that anyone whom they don’t consider sufficiently worthy will be silenced. Why it’s hard for me to take them seriously is a complete mystery. You will hear me! But you may not speak unless you agree! Assholes.

  32. #32 Phyraxus
    July 6, 2011

    That stupid rapist argument (I’m not going to tarnish Schrodinger’s name by association to it) is REALLY fucking stupid. Seriously, just because every male MIGHT be a rapist doesn’t mean they should be treated as such. Just like every female MIGHT be a cum-bucket, money-grubbing bitch doesn’t mean they should be treated as such. When a beautiful female comes my way, I don’t clutch my money under the assumption that she is trying to take it so she doesn’t need to get an education for a well-paying career.

  33. #33 Michaerl H Anderson
    July 6, 2011

    @ Phyraxus – YES!

  34. #34 ERV
    July 6, 2011

    Phyraxus– Dont stop and gender. What about black people. They make everybody nervous in elevators. Never know when they gonna pop a cap in your ass for your Nikes. And the Jews, always commin after your gold. Irish and their infatuation with lucky charms.

    Irish do NOT have the right to make me feel nervous in elevators.

  35. #35 Phyraxus
    July 6, 2011

    At the risk of sounding sexist or objectifying you Abbie, I think you are beautiful in more ways than one 🙂

  36. #36 Justicar
    July 6, 2011

    Hey, did you watch that video I did on that very topic?! You must have because I thought it was impossible for anyone else to figure out the problem!

    Leave the Irish alone; they’re no threat if history is any indication.

  37. #37 Quietmarc
    July 6, 2011

    “Leave the Irish alone; they’re no threat if history is any indication.”

    Except to gays at St Paddy’s Day, for example.

    ANYway, I have to say ERV, I agree with the original post to some extent, but I’ve got a lot of sympathy for RW, in that I can be somewhat strident in calling someone out publicly (well, as public as my personal facebook status is, anyway) and I’ve had a few shitstorms to weather because of it. I think that RW is right in that hitting on someone in an elevator of a hotel at 4am isn’t a great idea. I think that stef did engage in some apologetics for male privilage in her response. I wasn’t at the conference and haven’t seen videos yet of it, so I can’t say if RW calling Stef out was fair or not. I’m ready to believe it was shocking to Stef, and I could be persuaded that RW should not have included that in her talk (haven’t been persuaded yet). I think if you publish something on the net or say something in a public space (and this goes toward both), you’re taking your chances that someone will take what you said and use it, probably in a way you don’t like.

    What’s funny is that these sort of things tend to bring in ALL the crazy, so reading threads here and elsewhere is like a crashcourse in in idiocy and the responses to idiocy, so it makes for some great reading!

  38. #38 mathguy
    July 6, 2011

    Don’t forget about Schrodinger’s Terrorist. You never know when a brown person in a turban is planning to blow up your plane.

  39. #39 John C. Welch
    July 6, 2011

    Or the terror of my day: Schrodinger’s User. You just never know when one of them fuckers is going to click on something stupid.

  40. #40 INTP
    July 6, 2011

    Hi. New here. Just a lurker chiming in.

    It’s been quite interesting observing this controvery from afar. I’m an atheist/skeptic myserlf, but it’s controversies like this that reinforce my ambivalence to be associated with any kind of atheist/skeptic identity or movement. Being an atheist says very little about someone’s values and attitudes, really. Atheists profoundly disagree on a variety of social and political issues — femimism being one of them (i.e. liberal vs. radical feminism).

    Having said that, here’s my view on some of the controversy. I agree that the elevator guys’s behaviour was a bit uncouth and inappropriate. I think it’s best to be a gentleman (i.e. “don’t be creepy”). However, I don’t buy the radical feminist interpretations of the experience or that men should go out of their way to change their behaviour because they might be seen as “Schrodinger’s Rapist”. Greg Laden suggested that late at night, men should cross to the other side of the street to avoid passing an unaccompanied woman to avoid alarming her (and perhaps avoid getting into elevators with her as well). I just find that absolutely absurd. Apparently, it’s possible to be “creepy” or a “misoygnist” if I’m just minding my own business, according to radical feminists. Grania Spingies nailed it, on Miranda’s blog:

    “In particular, one that made me want to either throw up or face-palm so violently that I lost consciousness, was the idea that the sensitive, feminist-aware male should cross over to the opposite side of the street, on spotting an unaccompanied woman so as not to alarm, intimidate or upset the lone female.

    Seriously, this is the epitome of a 100 years of feminism? Treating women like helpless, infantile victims?

    Thanks, but no thanks. I expect men to treat me like an equal, not like a half-witted invalid.

    I’m also turned off by the crazy “gender traitor” rhetoric. That’s the hallmark of a sanctimonious zealot who condemns any woman who dares to disagree with her narrow definition of True Feminism™. It smacks of a religious fundamentalist condemning heretics or perhaps a Stalinist condemning anyone who objects to his/her narrow definition socialism. Apparently, feminism has its dogmatists and idealogues too.

  41. #41 Spence
    July 6, 2011

    Well, after whining about Phyraxus upthread, I couldn’t agree more with comment #126, which is spot on IMHO.

    I note PZ Myers has put another thread up and refused to discuss things by closing comments immediately (dissenting voices not welcome… his blog, his rules, but the decision speaks volumes). PZ then goes ahead and blames evil male bozos not only for upsetting Rebecca Watson, but also for her becoming an “angry feminist”. You heard it right, not only is she a victim of POTENTIAL RAPE, she is also a victim in that everything she does is shaped by evil men putting her up to things, which I suppose is meant to be PZ’s way of justifying of her bullying antics. She has to bully other women, because nasty men put her up to it.

    Now that we know Rebecca has no free will of her own and her entire being is merely shaped by and male privilege apologists, and gender traitors, apparently, can we have her speaker’s fees? Just askin’.

    Good points being made both here and at BA about assuming the worst of people. It is an elementary statistics fail not dissimilar to Pascal’s wager, and it is amusing seeing so many “skeptics” fall for it. They ratchet the worst case scenario to being infinite (which is now rape and murder combined on BA) and ignore both the miniscule probability and the negative cost associated with the action required to avoid said risk – the sterile existence that such action would create. Not only would we be avoiding blacks, jews, etc., we wouldn’t even cross the road to avoid becoming a potential road accident casualty, or ever eat anything tasty in case of becoming a potential food poisoning victim. The whole game is stupid.

    Interesting that Mrs BA is weighing in on this and promoting the potential rapist scenario as well. I guess she wants to defend hubby, which I can understand. Of course, in playing the probability game she does, she forgets that the single most probable person to rape a married woman would be… her husband. Yep, if we’re playing these stupid statistical games, the most likely POTENTIAL RAPIST of Mrs BA would be one Phil Plait. Extending this ludicrous ideology to that point is sure gonna make meal times awkward.

  42. #42 ERV
    July 6, 2011

    I note PZ Myers has put another thread up and refused to discuss things by closing comments immediately (dissenting voices not welcome… his blog, his rules, but the decision speaks volumes)

    I thought he was moving to a new network because he didnt want to censor his commentors?

    I would rather self-censor a post on a NatGeo program on HIV-1 so kids could get past their school filters to read it (but otherwise be free to write whatever I wanted on any other post on any other topic I wanted), than censor you all from speaking.


    Its dumb anyway– close comments on one post, people will just derail another. What a newb move…

  43. #43 John C. Welch
    July 6, 2011

    Meh. You learn pretty quick with PZ that truly different viewpoints aren’t welcome. You’re allowed to disagree on minor trivial points, but if you actually disagree with something completely, then you’re an idiot and the kind of person not welcome anywhere. Whatever.

    But it does explain why stuff like TAM is naught but a self-congratulatory circle jerk.

  44. #44 Prometheus
    July 6, 2011

    Hey ERV

    While you are noting stuff, have a look at what our favorite set of Roman Catholic cankles has been spouting.

    “Guys like Richard Dawkins are no different than any of the entitled, white-haired, pale-faced, penis-stroking fucks that plague our entire civilization”

  45. #45 Blargh
    July 6, 2011

    I thought RW was uninteresting before. Now, after reading her latest post I’m quite sure she’s just a moron. A quite self-absorbed one at that, it seems.

    To see P.Z. giving her unquestioned support, even on that latest post, seems as a good a reason as any to find some other blogs to amuse myself with.* Kudos on RW though. She’s been more effective at demolishing the credibility of the sceptic/atheist blogosphere than the entire religious right together.

    *Since I don’t what the hell ‘epigenetic control of ERVs’ even means, you’re probably not it. Definitely one of the sanest voices in this whole thing though, so good job!

  46. #46 Phyraxus
    July 6, 2011

    I’m still waiting on confirmation that elevator guy actually exists. The probability that this is simply a fake controversy increases as time goes on. Considering that RW is famous for being famous-on-the-intarwebs, I think the odds increase exponentially (Who knows? Some women are attention whores, but I couldn’t say if she is one because I don’t read her blog). You’d think that someone who goes to skeptic conferences would read skeptic blogs and tell their side of the story or apologize or something.

  47. #47 John C. Welch
    July 6, 2011

    Well, that’s the thing. Short of EG voluntarily stepping forth, (and why would anyone do that now), you can’t prove or disprove his existence. Only one person saw him. She doesn’t know his name, won’t say what he looks or sounds like, so really, you can neither prove nor disprove his existence. It’s all up to how low you think RW would stoop. I’ll be naive here and doubt she’d stoop that low.

  48. #48 Rystefn
    July 6, 2011

    “I’ll be naive here and doubt she’d stoop that low.”

    I don’t… but I’m a cynic in many ways. Human behavior might confuse me, but it rarely surprises me. I never knew her well, and we haven’t spoken in years now, but I wouldn’t put it past her exaggerate or outright invent such a story to make a point. It’s a relatively small deception, and honestly could easily have been classified as merely a hypothetical posited from the first person for effect if all this shitstorm hadn’t sprung up after. Problem is, once the shitstorm does arise, few people have what it takes to say “OK, this got way out of hand. I made it up.” Most people just dig the hole deeper and deeper – especially if they have big-name friends backing their play. There’s no graceful way out, so the only option most see is “stay the course.”

    Of course, I wouldn’t put it past some drunk guy to hit her in an elevator, either. I mean, really: Some guy + alcohol + reasonably attractive chick + proximity… it makes a good hypothetical because it’s so common it’s practically an archetype.

    Me, I’d say it doesn’t fucking matter whether it happened like she says or happened at all or not. Whether it did or didn’t, everything after remains unchanged. Ok, that’s not entirely true. Well, if it wasn’t true, I’d take it into account next time she made a similar claim, but that’s the only difference.

  49. #49 Phyraxus
    July 6, 2011


    You knew RW personally?

  50. #50 tas121790
    July 6, 2011

    Hmmm. Didn’t know about Phil Plait jumping in on this. WELL CHRIST FUCK!!! If I disagree with him i guess i have to stop reading all his work. I’ve already stopped reading PZ and now im done with SGU! I”M INCAPABLE OF LISTENING TO OR BE ENTERTAINED BY PEOPLE I DISAGREE WITH !!!!!ONE!!!ELEVEN!!! THANKS REBECCA FOR THE EXAMPLE WHEN YOU SAID YOU WERE DONE WITH DAWKIN!!!

    I thought the skeptics/atheist movements were more rational than this. RW is saying shes now done with Dawkins after one incident, i guess she cant just deal with differing opinions. Plus we’ve got RW and her clan yelling ZOMG MALE DOESNT AGREE WITH ME MUST BE OVER PRIVILEGED MALE. or ZOMG ANY MALE IS POTENTIAL RAPIST. I guess the idea that someone just disagrees based on something other than male privilege or the idea that “every male is a rapist” is an oversimplified, drastic, and irrational position isn’t acceptable. It has to be rooted in sexism, it has to be that simple because nothing is nuanced. Apparently everyone has forgotten what skepticism has taught us. Nothing is that simple and there’s nuances to everything.

    ERV, I had heard about your blog through PZ’s but I’ve never read it until now after getting a link to ‘Bad form, Rebecca Watson.’ Fantastic blend of humor and science, I will continue to read.
    Also saw that you worked in Antarctica on the archives. Immensely jealous, I’ve been seriously considering applying for a support staff job there. Been a dream of mine to go there. I’m still 20 so I’ve got a few more years to get there.

  51. #51 Rystefn
    July 6, 2011

    For certain values of “personally,” yes. We discussed a great many things on her site, and a few face to face. There was a little light flirting, but nothing that went very far. We didn’t exactly part ways on the best of terms, and I’ll freely admit that there may well be some residual bitterness about that whole situation creating a bias.

    In short, don’t go using me as an example of someone saying she’s likely to make something up. I’d have said basically same thing about basically anyone.

    ..also, I’ve done worse.

  52. #52 Rystefn
    July 6, 2011

    That was for Phyraxis @149, of course… I’m failing all over the place today, it seems.

  53. #53 Tom
    July 6, 2011

    Phil Plait has always been a massive tone troll- just read his “don’t be a dick” crap from last year.

    Anyway, I still have the patience to listen to the SGU just because Steven Novella is such a great skeptic. In fact he is the model of the movement- doesn’t engage in wild hyperbole (i.e. PZ and RW), doesn’t get involved in petty personal controversies (god knows that RW would air her personal grievances with the “male class” on the podcast if she was allowed to) and is an extremely intelligent scientist with real professional accomplishments.

    I still miss Perry, and think that Rebecca was a terrible addition to the show. She literally contributes nothing but snark. If they were looking for a woman scientist, I don’t know why they couldn’t pick someone like BugGirl and Pamela Gay. Or ERV. Instead they brought on a blog and youtube troll.

  54. #54 Prometheus
    July 6, 2011

    Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, is a woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery. Her defense attorneys are being tortured to death in prison for defending her today.

    We are not talking about Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, we are talking about Rebbecca Watson.

    More than 12 percent of Congo’s female population between the ages of 15 and 49 have been raped, about 48 women per hour but we are not talking about Congolese women we are talking about Rebbecca Watson.

    The 17 year ban on openly gay members of the military was lifted today, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio is constructively excommunicating any politician who votes for gay marriage and they found the fossil of a wombat bigger than a 1958 Buick Roadmaster…..but fuck it, Watson.

    Atheism is now about Watson.

    Feminism is now about Watson.

    All issues are now, for all of us, as they always have been for Rebbecca Watson, to wit all about Rebbecca Watson.

    She wins. Everybody else loses.

  55. #55 Phyraxus
    July 6, 2011

    I’ve asked the question if there’s any corroborating evidence to suggest that EG exists. No progress yet, just ad hominem arguments. Why am I not surprised?


  56. #56 ERV
    July 6, 2011

    Prom– She wins. Everybody else loses.
    Not true. I have been contacted by numerous student groups recently, who didnt know I existed six days ago. They are looking for ‘alternative’ female role models within the skeptical community.

    They win.

    Phyraxus– Dont worry. I heard they have Mike Nifong on the case. *snickersnort*

  57. #57 Phyraxus
    July 6, 2011


    Does that mean we can see you give some speeches? Please do

  58. #58 ERV
    July 6, 2011

    Well, I have a job. And I take it very seriously. So probably not very many of these gigs are actually going to work out irl 🙂 I pitched the idea of doing talks/Q&A via Skype, like I did with Dr. Kiki!

    Maybe we can still record those, though!

  59. #59 INTP
    July 6, 2011

    Not true. I have been contacted by numerous student groups recently, who didnt know I existed six days ago. They are looking for ‘alternative’ female role models within the skeptical community.

    BTW, I noticed that Skepchick is organizing a letter-writing campaign against Dawkins:
    I have a suggestion. ERV, perhaps you, Miranda,Steph, and others can start a “counter-demonstration” letter-writing campaign in opposition to reassure Dawkins that not all skeptical nontheist women buy into skepchick et al’s narrow, exclusive radfem ideology.

  60. #60 tybee
    July 6, 2011

    i’d like to thank justicar, phyraxus and the others who have stood their ground against the pharynguloids.

  61. #61 tas121790
    July 6, 2011

    Well even after this and the Don’t be a dick “episode” I’m still a fan of Phil Plait. He reminds me of someone who just doesn’t want to stir the pot too much and thus defaulted to the safe position. He runs a good blog and his lectures online are great. I disagree that hes a troll. But to each there own.
    Regarding SGU, I actually didn’t mind Rebecca until this shiticane happened. Honestly, after like 2 episodes I probably wont even care that RW is on the show once the Winds of Shit pass. Shes relegated to a minor presence on SGU anyway. ZOMG PATRIARCHY. THE NOVELLA BROTHERS ARE SEXIST. I do agree that Steve is the model skeptic, and that there are numerous more qualified skeptical women that could replace her. Id say ERV should replace RW.

    On PZ, I still like his blog, not the first time I’ve disagreed with him. Example I have a differing opinion on abortion that he does (ZOMG MORE PATRIARCHY) Funny enough my position on abortion is more in line with his daughters based on her responses from a reddit thread she had a few months ago. So maybe PZ can be hyperbolic but its tinged with some troll. Not a problem with me.

  62. #62 Prometheus
    July 6, 2011

    INTP @#159
    “BTW, I noticed that Skepchick is organizing a letter-writing campaign”

    Yup it has elaborate rape anecdote poetry in the comments and there are a number of theme t-shirts for sale on

    I hate people.

  63. #63 Mox
    July 6, 2011

    Hey, how did I miss this thread? Thank you ERV for being a voice of reason throughout this whole shitstorm! Breaking from this neo-feminist orthodoxy as woman must not be entirely easy.

  64. #64 Sharon Madison
    July 6, 2011

    Great post, ERV. I like you too! And your sarcasm – it’s about the only laugh I’ve gotten out of this mess.

    Maybe Rebecca missed this article by Steve Cuno when preparing for her talk. It’s great advice, too, told with humor.

  65. #65 John C. Welch
    July 6, 2011

    Phyraxus– Dont worry. I heard they have Mike Nifong on the case. *snickersnort*

    I see what you did there.

    Well, I have a job. And I take it very seriously. So probably not very many of these gigs are actually going to work out irl 🙂 I pitched the idea of doing talks/Q&A via Skype, like I did with Dr. Kiki!

    Maybe we can still record those, though!

    If you’re on a Mac, there are a number of Apps for that, I use Wiretap Studio from Ambrosia myself. Windows has a nice selection as well. I don’t know for sure about Linux, but I’d be surprised if they didn’t.

  66. #66 Adam
    July 6, 2011

    I just waded into the whole kerfuffle through B&W. I wish I hadn’t. I can’t get past the simple fact that the elevator guy did nothing wrong. If I walk into an elevator with RW at 4am, then I present the same potential threat as the bumbling flirter. And I totally see why any woman might be on guard at that moment. But what does this have to do with sexism or gender traitors(!) or women getting paid less?

  67. #67 John C. Welch
    July 6, 2011

    “BTW, I noticed that Skepchick is organizing a letter-writing campaign”

    Yup it has elaborate rape anecdote poetry in the comments and there are a number of theme t-shirts for sale on

    Every time I see that, I want to go in and find the biggest OMG MEN CAN’T UNDERSTAND and point out my experience with being sexually assaulted as a young child, (it was a LONG time ago. i got better) and ask “So, can I still not understand? It happened to me. Or does it not count because I’m a guy. Maybe I did myself?”

    Just to really, really fuck with them. But I don’t. I rarely bring it up in those forums for a number of reasons:

    1) It really did happen a long time ago. (like the year of the Bicentennial. Most of the people screaming weren’t even a glint in the milkman’s eye then)

    2) I got better. I never really blamed myself, and realized in my early teens/20s that the perp was not much less of a victim than I was. (it was a really fucked up situation, he wasn’t exactly in happy happy homelife land), so I dunno if I *forgave* him per se, but I stopped being pissed at him.

    3) It’s fucking tedious to explain, and being the evil bastard I occasionally am, if I am somehow whined at into talking about it, it’s work to not say “Well, he had a gentle, but firm touch, and afterwards, I knew I was now a man”. The look of horror that creates is pretty awesome, and gets the hint across nicely: Not Everyone Lives In The Past

    4) the most important one: My experience ONLY makes me an expert on ME. It means I may have a more…well I may be able to relate to certain things better, but fuck, i’m not an expert on juvenile sexual assault because heavy shit went down when I was a kid. It just means I went through some shit, and yeah, I can talk about that kind of shit differently than someone who didn’t go through it. But try to make me some kind of “expert” on it, and I’ll either bung something heavy your way, or refer you to people who spend their lives studying this shit, and are ACTUALLY EXPERTS. If Abbie wants to tell me what it’s like to be stalked, I give her a lot of credence, she was there. But if you want to tell me that makes her an expert on getting stalked, I’m going to disagree. Getting shot at doesn’t make you a sharpshooter. That’s why this “I WAS RAPED, YOU MUST ACKNOWLEDGE MY SUPERIORITY” shit makes me want to vomit. No, being raped just means you were the victim of some horrible shit, and I’ll understand if you have some strong viewpoints about some things, and try not to make certain jokes around you. But it doesn’t make you an expert. It just makes you a victim. That sucks, but that’s the truth.

    5) It is a HUGE dick move, because I’m not doing it to educate, (how can I even do that? I don’t REMEMBER much of what I was thinking or feeling, I was *9*. Most of what I remember from 9 revolves around wanting to be Dusty Rhodes or Steve Austin, or Fonzie. To be honest, I don’t try real hard), I’m doing it to fuck with people. (Surprise, victims can be dicks too!) I do it as a brick to the skull of the prats who think that any group has some kind of monopoly on anything, and therefore some inherent moral high ground. No, they do not.

    I know rather a few people who were raped, abused, what have you. Unsurprisingly, they’re not running about screaming about it, and using it for an excuse for bad behavior.

    Hmm…maybe that could be a session: “Your victimhood does not grant you the right to be a dick”. Now THAT would be a TAM session to remember! 😛

  68. #68 Rystefn
    July 6, 2011

    “Your victimhood does not grant you the right to be a dick”


  69. #69 Tom
    July 6, 2011

    Anyone see PZ’s latest thread-

    Someone put forward a opposing “gender” argument and was repeatedly called “fuckwit”, insulted, and then subsequently banned. The funny part is that the Pharyngula users were merely making up legal arguments on the spot and then citing to american state appellate cases as if those statutes were applicable in England. So on top of being merely oppressive, PZ and his users were wrong again. Pharyngula is looking more stalinist by the day.

    Honestly, the more this goes on the more I am starting to see Chris Mooney’s perspective.

  70. #70 Phyraxus
    July 7, 2011

    Yeah, I was reading it and it really didn’t seem like an open honest debate. I do not believe the ban was justified. They mostly used appeal to emotion and ad hominem arguments.

    He was basically saying that it wasn’t sexist (or at least not illegal/grounds for government intervention) because they are a private enterprise and they can set up their own business practices. The ladies sell things like perfume and makeup, so obviously they want ladies that LOOK like they know what they are doing. I would say in a perfect world, its sexist (I don’t think any woman should need to wear any makeup). However, that being said, his arguments were not unreasonable. Even now, someone says that its dolled up old, rich ladies that they are trying to impress, not men.

    “Anyways, I see makeup as women objectifying themselves. Men aren’t FORCING them to do anything. It is biological warfare (survival of the fittest, I mean) in the sense of providing false cues for fitness and it essentially is escalation of combat all the way up to plastic surgery. Because who peddles makeup to women? Other women (think, covergirl). It really is sad that our society promotes this shit and women buy it up. If all women tomorrow decided to throw away their makeup, they could, but I doubt it.”

    I mentioned this over there, not a single response in agreement or disagreement, but this is when they were already circling him like sharks.

  71. #71 Miranda Celeste Hale
    July 7, 2011

    The Skepchick “Campaign” makes me ill. It’s viciousness and nastiness of the highest degree, and it’s a perfect example of groupthink at its worst.

    And let’s call a spade a spade: it’s nothing less than an attempt at character assassination.

    Rebecca and her fellow “chicks” (and their supporters) are acting in the most irrational, childish, and un-skeptical way possible.

    I just can’t grasp how *anyone* who possesses even an ounce of intellect or empathy could support what they’re doing. But what do I know? Like Abbie, I’m just a “gender traitor” who needs to “die in a fire”, blah blah blah.

    Seriously, this is some really messed up stuff.

  72. #72 Williwaw
    July 7, 2011

    PZ has decided that atheism is a social movement which should embody the values he thinks it should. To that end, he repeatedly blogs about those values. One of them is feminism. However, in typical PZ style he gets preachy, overreaches, then gets his herd to suppress dissenting opinion. This of course prevents both he and his flock from ever even considering that they might be wrong.

    Oh Sagan where art thou?

    Anyway, this is a breath of fresh air. I’ll be reading you much more often and PZ, much less.

  73. #73 John C. Welch
    July 7, 2011

    There’s about 3 commentors on PZ’s blog that seem to act as PZ’s ID. They lead asshole, continue asshole, and finish asshole, and PZ justifies everything they do with “Don’t like it, leave”.

    They get to say the shit PZ doesn’t want to, and given PZ’s passive-agressive tendencies, it would not surprise me if he actively encouraged them off-site. I used to think it was cool that PZ and I shared a birthday. Now, not so much. He’s a smart guy, he does a lot of good overall, but he really is a bit of a cunt.

  74. #74 thememe
    July 7, 2011

    How the hole Elevatorgate-thing was handled and communicated by RW and the Skepchick-gang, let me somewhat question their motives. But I think, some of their expressed concerns are legitimate, although I think it hasn’t much to do witch sexism at all…but with manners, empathy and social intelligence.
    I sometimes think that my fellow humans are often a bit to paranoid and overly fearful of each other. But I recognize that people have different cultural backgrounds and biases (legitimate or not), life experiences and security-mentalities, and I can accept that. How people can think of me as a threat is sometimes beyond me… however if think about twice, it occurs to me how i must appear to people (i am a rather tall guy, and mostly wear black clothes!…creepy isn’t it?), middle in the night no one else around. So, yes, i often crossed the street, when i notice that peoples (man and woman alike!) steps become slower, more hesitating, giving me a hint that they may be fearful of the upcoming silhouette (me). So in elevators or other situations: When someone gives me a scared, fearful or nervous face i leave him/her big deal. But, for example, I also step into an elevator, when my new neighbour (female) gives me a smile and asks how i am doing, even when its middle in the night.
    I don’t think that their are really any Golden Rules (as suggested by PZ Myers and others) on this. When to do what – depends on the situation, context and certain subtilities…so it requires a certain amount of social intelligence…something many of the more geeky/nerdy-types seem to lack of (thats my subjective experience, and i could be wrong about it).
    Why are they so eager to make a sexism-thing out of it??

  75. #75 Phyraxus
    July 7, 2011

    “Why are they so eager to make a sexism-thing out of it??”

    Because when you have a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail.

  76. #76 Williwaw
    July 7, 2011


    “Someone put forward a opposing ‘gender’ argument and was repeatedly called ‘fuckwit’, insulted, and then subsequently banned.”

    I was there watching the whole thing unfold. What’s funny is that the offender was unfailingly polite and respectful while being viciously insulted. In the end PZ banned this person on the basis that they were posting too much and too often, and this is indicative of trollish behavior.

  77. #77 Justicar
    July 7, 2011

    Tybee @160:
    I would like to say as I did earlier today that it takes nothing to type words on the internet. But then I checked my e-mail a little while ago. Apparently, I’m now a threat to google’s revenue source for some, um, recently unkind satire I’ve partaken in. Therefore, I have now lost my beer and hooker fund from ad sense. I’m being oppressed!!!!!!!!! hahahaha Curiously though, they’re still trying to serve ads, just not for revenue sharing. Bastards. *note to self – play nice with attention-whoring drama queens*

    Anyway,”[o]n an occasion of this kind it becomes more than a moral duty to speak one’s mind. It becomes a pleasure.” – Gwendolyn in The Importance of Being Earnest. So, after a bit of reflection, I thought I’d start doing some research on Rebecca’s public commentaries, and now my legions of “fans” (about a dozen!) are doing some grunt work.

    So, we’ll just have to see how her consistency stacks up over time. Of course, I’m only doing this, naturally, because I obviously hate women and all that jazz. Fuck people and wrapping themselves in some feigned status to stave off criticism. It’s cowardly.

    With respect to PZ’s banning of people whom he disagrees with, I cannot express how repugnant I find that. The same is going on with respect to an open letter to “Dick” Richard Dawkins from some sexual assault victims. They want to participate in public debate and demand, demand I tell you, that they be heard. But the comments are moderated as “[they] see fit” because someone might undertake “mansplaining”. (comment 131 for link) In other words, some people might say words that don’t agree with their sentiment, and therefore are excluded from participating in the discussion.

    Granted, my following is trivial, so it’s a non-issue for me now. But were it otherwise, I still would not moderate comments for anything other than extremely obvious spam. Suppression of people’s ability to speak no matter how repugnant their views is not a matter I take lightly. It is the sign of a diseased society. Ugh.

    John C. Welch:
    It’s almost hard to imagine that isn’t a tshirt yet. Why people fail to grasp this elementary concept escapes me. Being injured by one person is not an excuse to in turn injure a different person.

    If you do happen to find time to attend some meeting whereat you’re giving a speech, please make it known. I might revisit my position of boycotting atheist/”skeptic” events until they stop paying bigots to come speak against oppression while simultaneously encouraging it so long as it’s directed at others. I will positively not be supporting any event where the revenue brought in is used to pay a two-bit hack like Rebecca Watson to be a speaker. So, try to make it a different event!

    Sorry, there are people whose thoughts are worth payment to hear. She is not among them.

  78. #78 Rayshul
    July 7, 2011

    I just wanted to post here to say that this blog seems to be the sanest thing on the internet right now. I was so disgusted by humans generally after seeing the madness on PZ (and following it around the internet). I’ve read ERV before for interesting information on HIV and I think I will stay here, because good grief, I like to read about people doing things that matter rather than people wailing about bugger all.

    I’m yet another woman who doesn’t understand the elevator thing or why RW hasn’t been blacklisted from every conference for being an internet dramaqueen. And a woman who threw up a little bit into her mouth after reading the Laden blog.

    I think I am waiting for the turnaround to come, though. There’s got to be a point where people recognise this for what it is – bullying, name calling, and fame-whoring. Now they have a respected target for their hate who has a history of passionately supporting women’s causes, I hope the light will start to shine for others.

  79. #79 Phyraxus
    July 7, 2011

    Good News 🙂

    I am officially a college grad, my B.S. degree in chemistry and biology just came in the mail. They say its only for decoration but the bureaucratic bastards only put chemistry on there because they only allow one on there. If its just for decoration (“Oh, to the people that matter, they will read your transcript”), then why not acknowledge that I just put in a little bit more work for it.

    Since they only allow one major, I insisted chemistry be on there even though I was a biology major first. My experience is that biology is mostly about memorization and regurgitation, whereas chemistry is about comprehension and retention.

    I just listened to your link Abbie and I am a pre-med too! 🙂

  80. #80 Spence
    July 7, 2011

    Even though I strongly disagree with PZ on a number of issues, I’ll still read his blog because he can be an entertaining writer. Likewise, I’ll still read Lubos Motl’s blog. Even though both of these people have opinionated views – one left wing, one right wing – they are both entertaining writers and in many ways I like having my political views challenged. (My political views are not aligned with either Pharyngula or the The Reference Frame btw). I will probably continue to lurk more than I post. (Certainly at Pharyngula because of the login requirements which I can’t be bothered to comply with)

    As for the Harrods thing… yeah, that’s another fail. Harrods have an equally OCD-like requirement for male staff. While the make up requirement for male staff probably is less onerous than that of female staff, there are peculiar male obligations under the employment contract as well. I haven’t seen the full list but I know there are detailed requirements for facial hair (banning certain types, and specifying maximum dimensions for beards/sideburns) as well as some make up requirements (male sales staff must wear clear nail polish at all times).

    Harrods also has a customer dress code. I’m not kidding. And it is applied generally in a non-discriminatory way. Famously, a high profile football team – full of wealthy, privileged males – were refused entry to Harrods because they turned up in tracksuits, which is against the customer dress policy.

    Harrods is an oddball place with some weird policies. I haven’t seen the full list of policies, and couldn’t find it on the web, so I cannot comment on whether the OCD requirements on male and female staff are more, or less onerous. Unlike posters at Pharyngula who are presumably using telepathy or some other sixth sense to work it out. There have been serious problems at Harrods regarding employment (bullying, racism and sexism) so it wouldn’t surprise me if they screwed up again. However, there is not enough information available yet to make this a “gotcha”.

  81. #81 Justicar
    July 7, 2011

    Well, all I can say is Rebecca Twatson delenda est!

    I have a post up on my blog about her and, um, what’s coming up in researching her. While I can’t state with certainty a couple of things right now, I’m reasonably confident, and I’m still working on definitively verifying some information.

    Yes, that’s my motto for the next little while. Rebecca Twatson delenda est!

    So, if you want to help in my one man (yes, I know the irony yawns before me. I wish a woman were doing this instead!) campaign to work towards removing Rebecca Twatson from being an *invited* and *paid* speaker at events, feel free. She’s not in a position to teach; the force is not yet strong with this one.

  82. #82 Peter
    July 7, 2011

    Congratulations, Phyraxus, and sorry for any misunderstanding in the other place.

    I recently earned a degree (in computing and networks, not a traditional science) finally (Single parent, so did it late), and the paper is not just for decoration, it’s for pointing at whenever someone disagrees with you on your topic.

  83. #83 Wow
    July 7, 2011

    “I agree that the elevator guys’s behaviour was a bit uncouth and inappropriate. I think it’s best to be a gentleman (i.e. “don’t be creepy”).”

    Although you wouldn’t do it, think on this: IF EG wanted to get to know RW better, when else would it have been possible?

    The story doesn’t seem to hold that EG stalked RW, they just got in the same lift, a lift in a hotel they both were staying in.

    So, IF EG really wanted to get to know Rebecca better, when would it have been possible?

  84. #84 Carlie
    July 7, 2011

    Hey Justicar, you never answered my question about why anyone should take your opinion over that of the collected wisdom of numerous police departments.

  85. #85 Justicar
    July 7, 2011

    Oh, Carlie. I see you’ve not gotten any smarter since last we met.

    I have answered your question no fewer than three times; I have pointed you to it at least as many times. I am not responsible that you refuse to read it.

    Incidentally, what’s all this “collected wisdom” bit? Did I miss some kind of memo where the number of people who proclaim a thing somehow imply the thing is correct? Not that this is at all related to anything said. Still, it’s a bad argument to go around bandying about x number of people say y; therefore, y is true! Pwned!

    I realize that you work under delusions of adequacy, and that might fly on pharyngula. But, the only difference between where you say it deals not with the value of what you say, but rather the number of people in a mob who in some emotional fervor agree with people who decide to have the same enemy.

    Congratulations, on simultaneously being an idiot and a liar. I’m so proud.

  86. #86 Rorschach
    July 7, 2011

    Who is on her ‘side’? People who were not present.

    Not entirely accurate, since I was there.

    Watson, on the other hand, is hiding behind PZs apron


    I think Rebecca has shown by now that she doesn’t need PZ to hold her hand, your assessment is rather unfair, how is she hiding behind PZ ?

  87. #87 Sven DiMilo
    July 7, 2011

    My experience is that biology is mostly about memorization and regurgitation, whereas chemistry is about comprehension and retention.

    you–and/or they–did it wrong

  88. #88 Sven DiMilo
    July 7, 2011

    Jeez, it’s a veritable temple of narcissism over here.

    given PZ’s passive-agressive tendencies, it would not surprise me if he actively encouraged them off-site.

    That’s right: Myers is a Mad Puppeteer, controlling his commentariat with Sekrit Mind Rays!!!

    I used to think it was cool that PZ and I shared a birthday.

    Are you 12 years old?

    but he really is a bit of a cunt.

    aaaaaand whoomp! There it is.
    Thanks for displaying your bona-fides on the subject.

  89. #89 rnb
    July 7, 2011

    I need to check if the Innocence Project takes donations.

  90. #90 Carlie
    July 7, 2011

    Justicar, I comment on here very, very rarely, definitely not often enough to make a pest of myself with multiple comments to you, so this will be my last one. I just wanted to point out to everyone here that you like to run away from very simple questions.

  91. #91 Wow
    July 7, 2011

    “That’s right: Myers is a Mad Puppeteer, controlling his commentariat with Sekrit Mind Rays!!!”

    Isn’t that exactly what PZ is saying when he blames radical anti-feminists of making Rebecca go apeshit?

  92. #92 Wow
    July 7, 2011

    Carlie, you haven’t made a question. All you’ve done is make a statement about another question you might have made somewhere else.

    Please go and ask on that thread because as far as evidence goes, we only have hearsay:

    You say it hasn’t been answered.
    He says it has.

    Nobody knows what the hell you two are talking about.

    So, rather than waste your very rare commenting on a thread where your complaint is completely Off Topic, go and post on a thread where it actually makes sense.

    As it is, the most obvious reason for you to make your request here is to show Justicar up. Which then gives reason for you to tell porkie-pies about whether any question was answered or not.

  93. #93 Spence
    July 7, 2011

    Jeez, it’s a veritable temple of narcissism over here.

    As opposed to what, Pharyngula? ROFLMAO. I’m gonna need a bigger irony meter to follow this debate.
    Carlie: Since I haven’t read through all of the many thousands of comments on multiple blogs, I (and I suspect many others) have no idea what you are talking about. Being skeptics, we like to see evidence rather than assertion. If you provide a simple link to the specific comment in which you asked the question, we can see the question in full, the context in which it was asked, and any possible replies. Without that, your simple assertion is uninteresting. Thx.

  94. #94 Spence
    July 7, 2011

    Meh. I’ve got to stop using blockquotes on this blog. There should be two paragraphs in my #193, split before the word “Carlie”. Although I see wow has made the same point anyway.

  95. #95 INTP
    July 7, 2011

    Sven DeMilo: Jeez, it’s a veritable temple of narcissism over here.

    Sven’s definition of narcissism: “Anyone, male or female, who dares to disagree with radfem ideological dogma.”

  96. #96 INTP
    July 7, 2011

    With rhetoric like “anti-woman” or “gender traitor”, does anyone getting the subtle feeling the other side is moving away from “I disagree with you” and moving towards “you are my enemy because you don’t think the way we do”?

  97. #97 Adam
    July 7, 2011

    So when Jenny McCarthy spouts nonsense about science, do I have to agree with her because she’s gone through something very tragic that I can’t completely understand as an outsider(standpoint epistemology!)?

    The character assassination (pointed out by Miranda) is the worst. Then the guys who are so pleased with themselves for crowing about how non-sexist they are and how they “get it”.

  98. #98 drbubbles
    July 7, 2011

    Wow. So naming someone publicly is all it takes for disqualification as a Decent Human Being? I did not know that.

    Because that’s the only thing everyone agrees happened. From that, this post has extrapolated many other sins (which, one might argue, considering all of the sins RW extrapolated from EG’s invitation, is fair enough). If RW took unfair advantage of an asymmetrical power relationship in naming a name, then of course it was a crappy thing to do. But there is disagreement between the RW agree-ers and disagree-ers over whether that is, in fact, what she did. Is the appropriate evaluative context of RW’s naming just the keynote speech? Or maybe even the conference? Is it the entire realm of interaction in the skeptical community, on- and off-line? Who gets to say, and what’s the basis for their decision?

    Likewise the subject of whether the naming had anything to do with her keynote topic. Is sexism within the skeptical community intimately, or only tangentially (if at all), related to the religious right’s misogyny? And if it be intimately related, was RW’s preface to her keynote even about sexism within the skeptical community?

    These are not questions with black and white answers, as this entire debate illustrates. And each person’s answer to them is going to determine her reaction to RW’s naming a name.

  99. #99 Justicar
    July 7, 2011

    I’m sorry, your questions indicate that you have not bothered to read what people have bothered to write.

    The basis for the power imbalance has been stated by dozens of people spanning FSM only knows how many blogs and posts.

    These are questions with fairly straightforward answers. When you call someone out and accuse them of things but prevent them from being able to respond, you’re wrong. Stef had no way to respond in the forum; she was not on equal footing with any speaker. Not because any speaker is smarter, or better, but simply because they’re the speaker.

    They have the power. They have the microphone. It’s nigh impossible for the speaker to disrupt his/her own speech. So, if there’s a disruption, guess who security throws out? The audience member, not the speaker.

    You want to call someone out, fine. Choose a playing field where each person is equally free to present his or her ideas, though perhaps not equally capably of doing so. To exploit the ability to force people to shut up so that you can castigate them is an abuse of a power.

    It’s also an affront to the whole idea of skepticism: asking questions and discussing things – you know, that trivial concern.

  100. #100 windy
    July 7, 2011

    Wow. So finding some bones in the ground is all it takes to prove evolution? Since that’s the only thing everyone agrees happened.

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