Rebecca Watson shows Harriet Hall she is an arrogant, nasty piece of work

Stand by for the latest in the ongoing mess that is the drama in the skeptic movement! First, a little context: you may remember that a few months ago there was a big brouhaha regarding harassment policies at skeptic conferences, in particular the granddaddy of them all, The Amaz!ng Meeting (TAM). After reading something from DJ Grothe that she didn’t like, Rebecca Watson decided to boycott TAM, and the rumor went around the “skeptifem” clique that TAM wasn’t safe for women. In response to this, Dr Harriet Hall (the SkepDoc) turned up at TAM wearing a t shirt proclaiming that she felt safe and welcome at TAM (pics courtesy of the wonderful Sara Mayhew’s blog).










Naturally, Dr Hall’s t shirt drew a barrage of snidy sniping from the SkepChicks, and Surly Amy gave it as a reason why she left the conference early.

That’s the history, now on to the present day! Dr Hall has decided to write a post defending herself against the privilege police, and the “fearless leader” of the Skepchicks, one Rebecca Watson, has decided to chime in with a nasty, snarky, sarcastic comment. Check it out:

Click for full size

Click for full size

Fortunately, another commenter by the name of Captain Janeway was on hand to address Rebecca’s childish petulance, but I’d like to take this opportunity to add my two cents.

This comment by Rebecca Watson shows why she is so intensely disliked by many skeptics. It’s not because she is a woman, but because she is arrogant, sarcastic and precious.

Firstly, the “queer” thing. Yes, it’s true that some people have re-appropriated the term and some like to add it to the LGBT acronym to make it LGBTQ. However, some haven’t and still see it as an offensive term. “Will” falls into the former category, and therefore Rebecca raises him above Dr Hall. Pure arrogance there!

You didn’t mention me as a person included amongst your feminist critics, but I suspect many people reading this will assume I’m in there somewhere

Rebecca assumes it’s about her. Arrogant and egotistical!

After coming up with a flawed analogy where she suggests that Dr Hall would be offended by a t shirt saying “I am not a SkepDoc” Rebecca then repeats the biggest unsubstantiated myth in the skeptic movement:

Your hurt feelings would be completely understandable, especially if he did this following a year in which you received a nonstop avalanche of insults, slurs, rape threats, and death threats from skeptics.

For certain non-skeptics, the idea that Rebecca gets rape and death threats from skeptics has been repeated so much that it has been accepted as true. Well, that which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. I know people ask this all the time, but where is Rebecca’s evidence that these unknown “threats” she faces are coming from skeptics and not Internet trolls who have read her Encyclopedia Dramatica page? Moving on…

I came to the realization that while a week prior I held an immense amount of respect for you, I suddenly had lost that respect so completely that I had no interest in getting it back.

Once again, it’s all about Rebecca Watson. Rebecca will never think that there might be something wrong with the way she thinks, there must be something wrong with the person that has done her wrong. Rebecca finishes with her trademark snark and petulance:

So, having now spent ten precious minutes on the subject, it’s once again time for me to move on to more interesting things.

Typical asshole behavior: insinuate that their precious time has been wasted. And what are these “interesting things” Rebecca? Skepchick hasn’t been interesting for a long time, and most of Rebecca’s tweets are about video games. Rebecca Watson has a vastly over-inflated sense of self worth, and close to zero humility. The best scientists have the ability to consider the views of others, respectfully disagree, apologize where necessary, and contribute to an environment where everybody learns. Rebecca Watson is so far away from this that she might as well be on another planet. Her opinion is always correct, any disagreement is “harassment”, and she never apologizes for anything. She is toxic to the skeptic movement.

Rant over!

18 thoughts on “Rebecca Watson shows Harriet Hall she is an arrogant, nasty piece of work

  1. Eshto

    I have a certificate in LGBT studies and after I graduated, for a shirt time I went around saying ‘queer’ just expecting all people to have the same academic background I do and assuming they would associate it with ‘queer theory’.

    I was mistaken and fairly quickly proven wrong when other LGBT people got offended by it (generally older people who lived through the time when it was almost always encountered as a slur).

    Rebecca is showing an insensitivity to older LGBT folks. I could argue that is both ageist and in a way, homophobic. In fact I will. Rebecca is ageist and homophobic.

    1. richardreed84 Post author

      It’s flawed because there is nothing to suggest that Dr Hall would be offended by a “I am not a SkepDoc” t shirt. I’m guessing she isn’t as sensitive as some others.

      1. Skepticat_UK

        Your “guess” about how HH may or may not feel doesn’t affect the soundness of the analogy. It is actually about as good an analogy as you can get, if you really need an analogy to help your understanding.

        HH might indeed not be – as RW assumes – “a little hurt”, were she to see someone wearing a T-shirt that effectively says, “I wish to public disassociate myself with HH’s website even though I wasn’t associated with it in the first place”. But this doesn’t make it a flawed analogy; it simply provides further evidence of the crassness that inspired HH to wear the damn thing in the first place.

        1. richardreed84 Post author

          Have you read Dr Hall’s response as to what ‘skepchick’ meant on her t-shirt?

          As an afterthought, I used the back of the shirt to express a long held opinion: “I’m a skeptic. Not a ‘skepchick.’ Not a ‘woman skeptic.’ Just a skeptic.” The word skepchick predates the Skepchick organization. It was used at least as early as 1999, it was in common use on the JREF Forum for years before Rebecca’s first appearance there in 2004, and the Skepchick website wasn’t registered until 2005.

          It wasn’t about the skepchick site at all! The back of Dr Hall’s t shirt was all about gender equality (as in “don’t think of me as a woman skeptic, I’m just a skeptic) and I thought it was a very positive message to send out.

  2. Skepticat_UK

    Yes, what a coincidence. I wonder why HH waited until 2012 to make her, ahem, bold statement about a term that’s been in circulation for a decade and why she waited 7 months to give that ‘afterthought’ of an explanation, knowing all the fuss she’d generated?

    In fact, I wonder why HH felt the need to wear that T-shirt at all? It would be very shocking indeed if a woman of her age, let alone her stature, did not feel safe at TAM and one really wouldn’t expect other attendees to treat her as a “woman skeptic” rather than as “just a skeptic”, whatever that means.

    I loathe the term ‘skepchic’ but don’t feel the need to wear a T-shirt pointing out that I’m not one at skeptic events. But then I’ve heard things are rather different at US skeptic events.

    Love the irony in your choice of title, by the way.

      1. Skepticat_UK

        LOL! Don’t be thick. I’m saying HH’s timing in choosing to wear a T-shirt with that particular message ensured it was provocative rather than positive. That’s all.

        Right, I’m done here.

    1. ˹#lastAtheist™˼ (@lastAtheist)

      But you’re a troll.

      You are simply a troll. You are being grammar police and pedantic and well: A FRICKIN’ TROLL.
      When you want to leave the quiet comfort of the toll-booth next to the bridge, and quit harassing billy-goats gruff, then MAYBE ppl will forget that you are a troll.
      You Jackass.
      -sincerely, Rob.

      1. Skepticat_UK

        Lol! I don’t police anyone’s grammar. I don’t harass anyone either – unless they’re harassing and bullying other people first. That’s called giving them a taste of their own. As for trolling, if offering opinions based on sound reasoning is trolling, I’m fine with it. But then what word are we left with to describe your behaviour. Moron?

  3. Anton A. Hill

    What you point out is one of the many reasons I’ve long since stopped giving a shit about RW, SkepChick, or any of that. I’m just watching as all the SkepChicks gleefully dive further down the Pit of Irrelevance.

  4. s. ryan

    This post is every bit as childish, arrogant, and snarky as you accuse Watson of being. Calling Watson “toxic” to the community is hyperbole, and you preceded it with snide and sarcastic commentary and a title that is much further over the line than anything you quoted Watson as saying. Yes, Watson’s comments, especially the hygiene jab, are in poor taste. Yes the excuse for not reaching out privately is ridiculous and arrogant. But based on your own description of the event it seems clear that she had some valid reasons to believe Dr. Hall was name checking her website. namely the front of the T-shirt references a controversy that Watson was directly involved in AND the back literally name checks the website. Also another poster points out that the timing of the statement is incredibly poor if in fact Dr. Hall did not intend offense. Which in fact she claims she did not. However, it is clear to me that you mean to give offense, as your writing is hostile, petty, and vitriolic. I have no idea what you intend to accomplish with this post. Other than throwing gasoline on a situation that is clearly already over heated. I recommend you refocus your writing efforts on a topic that you can speak to with out allowing your emotions to takeover.

      1. Skepticat_UK

        “You think I should have emailed Rebecca Watson?”

        There’s no such suggestion in s.ryan’s comment. Not for the first time, I find myself wondering about your reading comprehension skills, Richard.

      1. Ozzie

        We get it – YOU think skeptikat is a troll, like maybe you think anyone who disagrees politely is a troll. Well guess what? I think you’re an ignorant, moronic scumbag but I don’t need to post it 3 fricking times. Get a life.


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