Why is Rebecca Watson acting like an awful person?

I posted this comment on a blog post “On Optimism” by Rebecca Watson in which she mentions Melody Hensley in a list of people who inspire her.


I received this response:


I’m not sure what was only semi-coherent about what I said. Near-libellous, gossip? Hensley speaks ill of other women, a fact.


I expressed all my thoughts and claims without vitriol or hyperbole. Why does Watson resort to ridiculous, immature insults, like this?



And then blocks me shortly after the malicious outburst. She ends with a bizarre tweet that implies I’m not a good or normal person.


What is going on? What has happened? How can people who work to promote reason and critical thinking act so ridiculous? This is irrational, divisive language. This comes from a woman who heads Skepchick, an org that speaks out against hate and bullying towards women online. A woman who dedicates an entire “page-o-hate” to the stupid, abusive comments she receives. But turns around and calls me the dumbest person on twitter.

What justification does Watson have for acting like an awful person, like this?

35 Responses

  1. jimmy russel Says:

    Close your eyes for a moment and imagine DJ Grothe acting in this manner. Like either Melody or Rebecca. Can you do it? Probably not.

    That is all.

  2. Astro Says:

    Rebecca Watson is an ass sometimes. Most people do something ass-y a couple of times in their life. They are human. They can sometimes act in less than a perfect or admirable way. This is probably a case in point. It does not however make Rebecca Watson a bad person and it does not erase the good work she does. You trying to shame her – also does not make you a bad person. Good people are sometimes complex and flawed. I wish both of you would stop attacking each other and get back to doing what you both do very well.

  3. Funkmon Says:

    Initially, I was just surprised at the pettiness of the tweets, and hoped that it was just a little thing. The fact is, it appears to be more than that. The behaviour show here, while atypically vicious, is representative of the sniping at one another in many small social movements, and certainly in this skeptic one.

    The gender arguing is something I don’t understand, though. I’m kind of upset that SurlyAmy did her TAM grants exclusively to women, for example, and that it’s always women in skepticism that get singled out for things, predominantly by themselves (because things like sexual harassment policies are gender neutral but they’re made to be about women, and yes, I understand why)…but these things don’t matter to the goal of skepticism. We get together to talk about science and pseudoscience, how people think and learn, as well as what can be done to combat scientific ignorance. Nowhere do we have a political or ethical stance on anything, so why are we spending so much time discussing it?

    I seriously would like to know. It seems so counter productive.

  4. Funkmon Says:

    By the way, I meant arguing when I said discussing. Discussion is good. Argument is not.

  5. Daniel Waddell Says:

    This is nothing new Rebecca Watson has always been a narcissist http://phawrongula.wikia.com/wiki/Attacks_on_Stef_McGraw http://greylining.com/2011/09/10/why-rebecca-watson-is-a-criminal/ http://greylining.com/2011/09/27/rebecca-watson-the-church-executed-galileo/

  6. Sara E.M. Says:

    Astro, that’s why I chose to say “act” like an awful person. Because it’s most disappointing when GOOD people act malicious.

  7. The Devil's Towelboy Says:

    Why? Because it’s a business model.

  8. brian t Says:

    Either way, you can be sure that all involved will find some way to blame this on “male privilege”.

  9. A Nobody Says:

    Rebecca Watson is, to me, indistinguishable from a schoolyard bully. She has her personal little clique, and she has a strict criterion by which people gain admission to it. See, the thing is, she’s not important. She doesn’t matter. She has not in any significant way contributed to the skeptical movement, or to improve the lives of women.

    She has so far managed to blog and tweet and talk about topics she does not understand (her casual dismissal of a scientific field she didn’t even bother to become familiarized with). She is a communications major with no credentials whatever in science or even formal logic.

    She’s a woman, though. In certain regions of the Internet, that means something.

    Note, however, that she and the other electric Feminists mainly communicate in forums where they have no power. You would never see them talking at length in a place where they had no position of privilege to moderate censor and edit someone else’s thoughts.

    The electric Feminists are an insular community of yes-women and their eunuchs. They demonstrate the kind of behavior that is contemptible in religion but completely unacceptable in people daring to call themselves skeptics. They are pushing a very, very radical Feminist agenda which has nothing to do with equality and everything to do with compensatory “justice”. They have not yet demonstrated a real dedication to improving anyone’s lives but their own–by way of ad revenue.

    They’re kicking the hornet’s nest strictly to collect the stings. There’s profit to be made persuading people they’ve been done an injustice. The well-worn victim card gets you sympathy–and when you have that, you get what you want much faster. Personally? I strongly feel that antics such as those demonstrated by Watson and the Skepchicks make it more difficult for real victims than any kind of “victim-blaming” they might want to address.

    She’s “snarky”. Sarcastic for the sake of being sarcastic, not for the sake of making a point. This is the Internet, and she’s got an audience. They reinforce her behavior by giving her empty accolades. She is no different in her behavior than religious fundamentalists and for her, and all who think like her, I have very little hope indeed.

  10. A Nobody Says:

    *mainly communicate in forums where they have no power

    Correction: mainly communicate in forums where they HAVE power.

    I am weary and angry and damn you, English.

  11. EllenBeth Wachs Says:

    Sara, you went to a blog post that Rebecca did about people that inspire her and you insulted and shit on one of those people.

    Whether you feel hurt by that person is irrelevant. Whether that hurt is justified is irrelevant. Do you understand that it was simply impolite and very bad form to do what you did?

    What kind of response did you expect?

  12. Sara E.M. Says:

    EllenBeth, I didn’t “insult and shit” on anyone. You’ll notice in the screenshot that I talk about what Hensley did *without* name-calling or vitriolic language. Watson’s post was just about people who inspire her, but people who are vitriolic online.

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable or rude to point out the same abrasive behaviour in named Hensley. I DO think it’s unreasonable and rude to respond to a straight-forward comment with outrageous claims of libel and the same vitriol Watson herself has an issue with in others (like her Dawkins example).

    So I should expect malicious behaviour? I brought it on myself?

  13. EllenBeth Wachs Says:

    Well, we obviously disagree that you referring to somebody as a gossip and a bully isn’t insulting to her nor shitting on a blog meant to honor her.

    Sara, what was your point in going to Rebecca’s blog?

  14. Sara E.M. Says:

    EllenBeth, my point was to disagree with her listing of Hensley because Hensley has gossiped (as seen in this post) and bullied (linked to) other women.

    If Hensley was a male CFI Director I doubt so many women would be defending the behaviour. But, for some reason, you’re attached to the idea of defending a bully and defending a post that praises that bully.

  15. A Nobody Says:

    Sounds to me like EllenBeth is victim-blaming.

    What an overprivileged matriarchal sister-shamer.

  16. Kevin French Says:

    So, I just discovered Ms. Mayhew a few weeks ago, and I noticed the name Rebecca Watson, which I only slightly recognized it. Then, Mr. Waddell, helped me make a nice big 2-hour loop to find where I first heard her name, from a man I admire: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqU9JFbtucU
    To which I was reminded thanks to this lovely lady’s video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wme0mQHcGsc
    So… I’m not trying to spread “libel”, but I’ve yet to agree with anything this Ms(Mrs? LOL That was a mean joke, sorry) Watson’s views on… anything. Including her calling me “sexy”. I find it rather hurtful.

  17. CommanderTuvok Says:

    Sorry to hear you have got on the wrong side of the FTB/Skepchick clique. This clique has a history of going after women who disagree with them like a pack of high school cheerleader bullies.

    I do chuckle at the accusations from folk like EllenBeth who are oversensitive to criticism towards their clique, but then turn a completely blind eye when the clique turn on others. Ophelia Benson is the worst culprit. She’s always searching other people’s blogs, FB pages, Tweets, etc. and blogging, shaming, hectoring people using out-of-context quotes, strawmen, misrepresentations, etc., but when somebody calls her out, it suddenly becomes “harassment” or “cyberstalking”.

    In recent months, things have turned even more sour from the FfTB/Skepchick axis. They have resorted to mass blockings on Twitter, reporting accounts as spam, and generally attempting to silence people. This is so they can talk shit about people and be safe from having to deal with any legitimate questions about what they have said. I believe that deliberate attempts to get Twitter accounts closed IS harassment and cyberstalking.

    To see Melody Hensley promoting this anti-Liberal, pro-censorship line with the “block Saturday” campaign is shocking given her role with the CFI. The fact that she seems content to smear and bully people who she has power over (via her role with CFI) makes her position with that group unttenable.

    Stay strong, Sara. Despite their best efforts, your views and actions are in line with the majority of the atheist/skeptic movements.

  18. EllenBeth Wachs Says:

    “EllenBeth, my point was to disagree with her listing of Hensley because Hensley has gossiped (as seen in this post) and bullied (linked to) other women.”

    Well, I very much appreciate you being honest, Sara. But you statement here actually confirms my original point.

    You don’t need to go seek out blog posts that mention Melody just to make it known how much you dislike her and how she has wronged you with a single tweet. It’s pretty legendary by now.

  19. Sara E.M. Says:

    I don’t think I’ve said I dislike Hensley. You imply I commented because I don’t like her ( just cat-fight). It’s not unreasonable to point out that Hensley has spoken ill of several women, several times.

    I don’t know why you defended inappropriate, malicious behaviour from her, other than some for of emotional attachment. Our friends and colleagues can do wrong things with them being horrible people. Hensley doesn’t seem to have any brave enough to point out her inappropriate behaviour and that she should do the right thing and apologise.

  20. ERV Says:

    “… how she has wronged you with a single tweet. It’s pretty legendary by now.”

    Hensley, along with ‘Surly Amy’, didnt wrong Mayhew. They wronged skepticism.

    We all say things we regret, but they have yet to apologize for a message that was sexist, heteronormative, and reduced/dismissed the contributions an accomplished female made to skepticism. A message made with ‘EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF CFI DC!!!’ and ‘WRITER FOR SKEPCHICK!!!!’ proudly declared under their names. Messages greeted with radio silence from those supposedly ‘feminist’ organizations.

    You might be ‘the dumbest person on Twitter’, Sara, but at least you arent a loser.


  21. Theo Ffensivatheist Says:

    At last someone had the (metaphorical) balls to do this, nice work.

  22. Eshto Says:

    Sorry Rebecca and Melody, but you cannot position yourselves as spokespeople against cyber bullying, then bully people on-line and expect not to be called out for it.

    Likewise, you can’t position yourselves as spokespeople for “feminism” (as if feminism were monolithic to begin with), then insult women on-line using gender-based insults, and expect not to be called out for it.

    You can’t position yourselves as “skeptics” or “freethinkers”, then use personal attacks and strawmen to slam people on-line, and expect not to be called out for it.

    I think the comment above is spot on. It’s become a business model. And that is truly sad.

  23. Metricula Says:

    Gotta say you’re coming off as the polite, rational one in this.

  24. Abaddon Says:

    “What justification does Watson have for acting like an awful person, like this?”

    Because she’s a modern woman? This is normal. What’s the issue?

  25. harrystarkus Says:

    You must have felt like putting your fist through the screen when you read those comments.

    “Holy shit you are dumb” … and this person speaks at conferences and is seen as a leader.

    Keep up the good work Sara, and try not to let them get to you. Easier said than done I’d say :(

  26. The awful ways some atheist leaders talk to each other | Pretentious Ape Says:

    […] something enticing about a fight… so I guiltily succumbed to temptation and visited both Mayhew’s blog and Skepchick. Among other things I found this, a tweet from Watson in response to […]

  27. Revealed, finally: Center For Inquiry DC Exec Director’s sinister comms « elevatorgate Says:

    […] for Mayhew for taking so long tell anybody about this; she did so only fierce and sustained pernicious vicious bullying. She did so with Miranda Celeste Hale’s name […]

  28. Stefan Piispanen Says:

    I find it a bit odd that you recieved the answers you did. Your writing comes off as thoughtfull and reasoned, and the answers to the comments from EllenBeth are a joy to read.

  29. ezwages Says:

    You all will probably hate me for saying this but is likely to be true. One reason for the bullying is that RW is jealous that Sara is more attractive, talented and more intelligent than she will ever be.
    It is primal, just like in high school…

  30. Hal Says:

    LOL, I learned my lesson last year for criticizing RW, OB and PZ. Avoid them at all costs today. They are not important. In Dawkins we trust.

  31. Caias Ward Says:

    Watson blocked me after I showed her evidence that she lied about something regarding Justin Vacula. Modern day Pharisee, she is…

  32. Leaving the Skepchick Network | Canadian Atheist Says:

    […] a lot of her following, really) is a cyber bully. Plain and simple. For a (semi) recent example, see this. Sara pointed out a very legitimate point but instead of discussing that point in a logical and […]

  33. Katie Leaves Skepchik | EllenBeth Wachs Says:

    […] a lot of her following, really) is a cyber bully. Plain and simple. For a (semi) recent example, see this. Sara pointed out a very legitimate point but instead of discussing that point in a logical and […]

  34. James Says:

    You’ve never heard the term “ragging on”? Are you fucking stupid?

  35. Clint Says:

    Wow. I know this is an old thread, but I’m still amazed by Rebecca Watson’s vitriol, and the irrational blaming / shaming mentality of her followers. Rebecca comes off as petty, pretentious, and rude. I want nothing to do with her “movement”. It’s not good for skeptics. It’s not good for women. It’s not good for anything.

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