Rebecca Watson

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Rebecca Watson
Cropped image of Watson on a convention panel
Watson in 2014
Rebecca Watson

(1980-10-18) October 18, 1980 (age 43)[1]
United States
Alma materBoston University
Years active2005–present
Known forSkeptical Rogue to Steven Novella on The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast, science communication, atheism, feminism
YouTube information
Years active2006–present
Subscribers143 thousand[2]
Total views23.7 million[2]

Last updated: 16 February 2024

Rebecca Watson (born October 18, 1980)[1] is an American atheist blogger[3][4][5] and YouTuber. She is the founder of the blog Skepchick and former co-host of The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast. She also previously co-hosted the Little Atoms podcast.[6][7]

Early life and education[edit]

Born in 1980,[8][1] Rebecca Watson grew up in New Jersey.[9][6] She graduated from Boston University in 2002, where she majored in communications.[9][6] Watson says she had little interest in science until she began working as a magician while at university and meeting other skeptics including magician James Randi.[10]


Watson blogs about atheism and feminist politics, and has been particularly active in critiquing the modern atheist movement (sometimes called "New Atheism") from within, especially regarding the lack of attention given to the role of women in the movement. Primarily active online, she was described by BuzzFeed as "the first major atheist whose rise has occurred on the web".[11]


Inspired after attending the James Randi's The Amaz!ng Meeting,[12] Watson founded the blog Skepchick in 2005,[11][13] describing it as "an organization dedicated to promoting skepticism and critical thinking among women around the world".[14] The same year, Watson released The Skepchick Calendar, a pin-up calendar featuring pictures of skeptical women for every month. Proceeds provided the attendance fee for several female applicants to attend The Amaz!ng Meeting.[15]

Originally the site consisted of a forum and a monthly online magazine, Skepchick Magazine, which was launched in January 2006.[16] In February 2006, Watson created a blog titled Memoirs of a Skepchick, as an addition to the magazine.[17][failed verification] Eventually the blog, now simply titled Skepchick, became the main site, as Skepchick Magazine was discontinued in July 2006. Skepchick has a focus on science and skepticism in general rather than atheism in particular. As of 2017, the site, whose stated goal is "to discuss women's issues from a skeptical standpoint", hosts over 20 bloggers from around the world.[11]

In 2010, Skepchick partnered with the Women Thinking Free Foundation to host a vaccination drive with the help of the "Hug Me!" campaign at the Dragon*Con convention in Atlanta, Georgia.[18][self-published source] Public health staff allowed members of the public to receive a TDAP vaccination free of charge, as well as educational literature promoting immunization.[19] In 2011, Skepchick, the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF), and the Women Thinking Free Foundation partnered to offer a similar vaccination clinic at The Amaz!ng Meeting 9 in Las Vegas, Nevada.[19] The site was the 2012 winner of The Ockham Awards for Best Skeptic Blog.[20]

The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe[edit]

Watson co-hosted the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast for nine years.[21] Her first appearance was on episode 33 (March 9, 2006), where she was interviewed about her work on Skepchick. She returned on episode 36 (March 29, 2006) as a regular member of the panel.[22][failed verification] On December 27, 2014, she announced that she had recorded her final show prior to leaving the organization.[23]

Public Radio Talent Quest[edit]

In May 2007, Watson entered the Public Radio Talent Quest, a contest aimed to find new public radio hosts.[24] The contest reported receiving more than 1,400 entries.[25] Watson's entries won the popular vote in every round,[26] and she was declared one of three winners who each would receive $10,000 to produce a public radio pilot.[27]

Watson's pilot, Curiosity, Aroused,[28] was an hour-long program focused on science and skepticism.[27] It featured interviews with Richard Saunders of Australian Skeptics and Mystery Investigators, and Richard Wiseman, author of the book Quirkology and Professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. She also investigated claims of poisonous amounts of lead in lipstick, went on a ghost tour in Boston and visited a Psychic Fair.

Her show was the only one among the three winners not to receive funding by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for being turned into a one-year show.[29][30]


Watson speaking at NECSS 2011

The controversy that came to be known as "Elevatorgate" originated with a video Watson made following the June 2011 World Atheist Convention in Dublin, Ireland, where she appeared on a panel about sexism within the atheist community.[3]: 90–91 [31] In the video, Watson described speaking at the convention about her experience of being sexualized as a woman within the movement,[11]: 100–101 [32] and said that a man from a group of conference attendees had later followed her from the hotel bar into an elevator and sexually propositioned her as she was returning to her room early in the morning.[33] She advised her viewers, "Just a word to the wise here, guys, don't do that",[3]: 91  and went on to say:

I was a single woman, in a foreign country, at 4 a.m., in a hotel elevator with you—just you—and don't invite me back to your hotel room, right after I have finished talking about how it creeps me out and makes me uncomfortable when men sexualize me in that manner.[11]: 101 [34]

Reactions to the video varied, with some supporting Watson's desire for privacy and others criticizing Watson for overreacting.[3]: 90–91  Writer and biologist PZ Myers supported Watson with a post about the incident on his blog Pharyngula.[3]: 90–91  A negative response by the online atheist community to Watson's account of the elevator incident, which was a brief part of a longer video about other topics,[33] soon spread across several websites, including Reddit, and became highly polarized and heated.[35][36][further explanation needed] The debate steadily grew to include the overall status of women within the secular movement, with most of the movements's prominent figures offering their opinion on whether the elevator incident was sexual harassment. The discussion spurred a continued backlash, with commenters online labeling women who spoke up on the subject as "feminazis" and other misogynistic slurs.[33] Watson experienced death threats,[11]: 101  with commenters on her blog saying in graphic terms how she should be raped and murdered[33] and one man publishing a website threatening to kill her.[4]

The controversy attracted mainstream media attention when biologist Richard Dawkins joined the debate.[33] Although Watson had not compared the incident to sexism within Islam,[37] Dawkins used the occasion to satirize the supposed indifference of Western feminists to the plight of oppressed Muslim women.[3]: 91–92 [38] In the comments section of Myers's blog, he wrote:

Dear Muslima

Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and ... yawn ... .don't tell me yet again, I know you aren't allowed to drive a car, and you can't leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you'll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.

Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep 'chick', and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn't lay a finger on her, but even so...

And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.


Dawkins' comments led to accusations of misogyny and Islamophobia.[31] He explained that, in his view, Watson had not suffered any injury, comparing Watson's experience with the annoyance one might feel while riding an elevator with someone chewing gum.[33]: 199–200 

Several commentators argued that the incident showed Dawkins' insensitivity to gender-related issues such as sexual violence.[33]: 200 [39] Religious scholar Stephen LeDrew writes that "For the first time since the New Atheism had risen to prominence, [Dawkins] found himself under attack by many of those who had viewed him as a respected leader".[33]: 200  David Allen Green criticized Dawkins for dismissing lesser wrongs because bigger wrongs exist.[40] Steven Tomlins and Lori G. Beaman argue that the incident highlights a schism within atheism over the role of feminism, some saying it should take a prominent place in the movement and others calling it divisive.[41]

Watson said of Dawkins, "to have my concerns—and more so the concerns of other women who have survived rape and sexual assault—dismissed thanks to a rich white man comparing them to the plight of women who have been mutilated, is insulting to all of us".[33]: 200  She stated that she would no longer buy or endorse his books and lectures,[42] writing:

[Dawkins] therefore will no longer be rewarded with my money, my praise, or my attention. I will no longer recommend his books to others, buy them as presents, or buy them for my own library. I will not attend his lectures or recommend that others do the same. ... But those of us who are humanists and feminists will find new, better voices to promote and inspire, and Dawkins will be left alone to fight the terrible injustice of standing in elevators with gum-chewers.[42]

The result of this exchange led to an extended internet flame war[11]: 101  that several reports dubbed "Elevatorgate"[43][44] and which has been the subject of Internet memes.[31] In the wake of this and an incident at a Center for Inquiry-sponsored event, where female atheists reported gender bias and inappropriate behavior, organizations including the Richard Dawkins Foundation have reviewed their policies regarding sexual harassment and non-discrimination.[35] Dawkins later apologized,[31][39] stating, "There should be no rivalry in victimhood, and I'm sorry I once said something similar to American women complaining of harassment, inviting them to contemplate the suffering of Muslim women by comparison".[45] Watson tweeted in response, "Richard Dawkins just did the blog-equivalent of coughing into his hand while mumbling 'sorry' to me. Eh, I'll take it."[46]

Personal life[edit]

Watson married Sid Rodrigues in a surprise ceremony during The Amaz!ng Meeting in July 2009.[47] In April 2011, she announced that she and Rodrigues were separated and seeking a divorce.[48] She later remarried.[49]


An outer main-belt asteroid discovered by David H. Healy on March 22, 2001 was named 153289 Rebeccawatson in her honor.[8][50]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Watson, Rebecca [@rebeccawatson] (October 19, 2018). "yesterday I turned 38 and I'm not into the idea of plastic surgery so feeling pretty blessed to live in the same time period as the iphone X camera" (Tweet). Retrieved June 23, 2021 – via Twitter.
  2. ^ a b "About Rebecca Watson". YouTube.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Scheidt, Hannah K. (2021). Practicing Atheism: Culture, Media, and Ritual in the Contemporary Atheist Network. Oxford University Press. pp. 73, 90. ISBN 978-0-19-753696-4.
  4. ^ a b Hess, Amanda (2015). "Women Aren't Welcome Here". In Holt, Sid (ed.). The Best American Magazine Writing 2015. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 57. doi:10.7312/asme16959. ISBN 978-0-231-54071-1. JSTOR 10.7312/asme16959.6.
  5. ^ Brewster, Melanie Elyse; Motulsky, Wei; Chan, Andy (2021). "Intersectional Atheisms: Race, Gender, and Sexuality". In Bullivant, Stephen; Ruse, Michael (eds.). The Cambridge History of Atheism. Cambridge University Press. p. 1070. doi:10.1017/9781108562324.058. ISBN 978-1-0090-4021-1.
  6. ^ a b c Simpson, Neal (September 27, 2007). "Blogger looks to take her war on pseudoscience to the airwaves". Wicked Local. Brookline TAB. Framingham, Mass. Archived from the original on February 9, 2013.
  7. ^ Mouallem, Omar (August 2008). "Making a Living of Bullshit Detecting". Vue Weekly. No. 671. Archived from the original on September 12, 2008.
  8. ^ a b Schmadel, Lutz D. (2012). Dictionary of Minor Planet Names. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 1271. ISBN 978-3-642-29718-2.
  9. ^ a b Potash, Larry (March 31, 2006). "Be skeptical or be an April fool". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 24, 2013.
  10. ^ Watson, Rebecca (September 29, 2011). "Mom, don't read this". Skepchick. Retrieved August 24, 2013.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Meagher, Richard J. (2018). Atheists in American Politics: Social Movement Organizing from the Nineteenth to the Twenty-First Centuries. Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books. pp. 96–97. ISBN 978-1-4985-5858-7.
  12. ^ Cohen, Georgiana (March 19, 2009). "Not-so-sure guys". The Boston Phoenix. Retrieved August 24, 2013.
  13. ^ Huff, Peter A. (2021). Atheism and Agnosticism: Exploring the Issues. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO. p. xxxi. ISBN 978-1-4408-7083-5.
  14. ^ "Index". Skepchick. Archived from the original on November 24, 2005.
  15. ^ Plait, Phil (September 19, 2005). "Skepchicks". Bad Astronomy. Discover. Archived from the original on October 19, 2012.
  16. ^ "Home page". Skepchick. Archived from the original on December 23, 2005.
  17. ^ Watson, Rebecca (February 12, 2006). "It's snowing, so I started a blog". Skepchick.
  18. ^ Saunders, Richard; Dunlop, Rachael; Atkinson, Bill (September 10, 2010). "The Skeptic Zone #99 - 10.Sep.2010". The Skeptic Zone (Podcast). No. 99. Event occurs at 0:30:20. Retrieved August 20, 2013.
  19. ^ a b "Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated!". Women Thinking Free Foundation. Archived from the original on September 19, 2013.
  20. ^ "The Ockhams 2012". The Skeptic. June 27, 2017. Archived from the original on December 16, 2019.
  21. ^ Novella, Steven (2018). "Acknowledgements". The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe: How to Know What's Really Real in a World Increasingly Full of Fake. New York: Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 978-1-5387-6051-2.
  22. ^ "Archive of Shows". The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe. Archived from the original on October 18, 2008.
  23. ^ Watson, Rebecca (December 27, 2014). "Why I've Left SGU". Skepchick. Retrieved December 31, 2014.
  24. ^ Watson, Rebecca (May 15, 2007). "A very special audio blog posting. Vote for me!". Skepchick.
  25. ^ "PRX Projects". Public Radio Exchange. Retrieved August 22, 2020.
  26. ^ "PRX Announces Winners of Public Radio Talent Quest". Public Radio Exchange. October 27, 2007. Archived from the original on March 30, 2012.
  27. ^ a b Simon, Clea (January 11, 2008). "Showing a talent for radio". The Boston Globe. Retrieved October 30, 2008.
  28. ^ Watson, Rebecca (December 16, 2007). "Curiosity, Aroused: The Pilot". Retrieved November 6, 2008 – via WordPress.
  29. ^ "Big News from PRX and CPB" (Press release). Public Radio Exchange. June 26, 2008. Archived from the original on April 18, 2012.
  30. ^ Simon, Clea (July 2008). "At WCRB, it's a grand old tradition". The Boston Globe. Retrieved October 30, 2008.
  31. ^ a b c d Huff, Peter A. (2021). "Dawkins, Richard". Atheism and Agnosticism: Exploring the Issues. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO. p. 66. ISBN 978-1-4408-7083-5.
  32. ^ Watson, Rebecca (October 24, 2012). "It Stands to Reason, Skeptics Can Be Sexist Too". Slate. Retrieved August 22, 2020.
  33. ^ a b c d e f g h i j LeDrew, Stephen (2016). The Evolution of Atheism: The Politics of a Modern Movement. Oxford University Press. pp. 198–199. ISBN 978-0-19-022517-9.
  34. ^ Watson, Rebecca (June 29, 2011). "About Mythbusters, Robot Eyes, Feminism, and Jokes". Event occurs at 5:19 – via YouTube.
  35. ^ a b Miller, Ashley F. (June 2013). "The non-religious patriarchy: why losing religion HAS NOT meant losing white male dominance". CrossCurrents. 63 (2): 211–226. doi:10.1111/cros.12025. S2CID 170686171.
  36. ^ Winston, Kimberly (September 15, 2011). "Atheists address sexism issues". USA Today. Religion News Service. Archived from the original on October 31, 2013. Retrieved August 6, 2013.
  37. ^ Klug, Petra (2022). "America Versus the Atheist". Anti-Atheist Nation: Religion and Secularism in the United States. New York: Routledge. Endnote 47. ISBN 978-1-000-80442-3.
  38. ^ Hussein, Shakira (2019). From Victims to Suspects: Muslim Women Since 9/11. Yale University Press. p. 127. ISBN 978-0-300-23042-0.
  39. ^ a b McAnulla, Stuart; Kettell, Steven; Schulzke, Marcus (2018). The Politics of New Atheism. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-317-19833-8.[page needed]
  40. ^ Green, David Allen (July 6, 2011). "Sharing a lift with Richard Dawkins". New Statesman. Retrieved March 14, 2023.
  41. ^ Beaman, Lori G.; Tomlins, Steven, eds. (2015). Atheist Identities – Spaces and Social Contexts. Springer. p. 6. ISBN 978-3-319-09602-5.
  42. ^ a b Watson, Rebecca (July 5, 2011). "The Privilege Delusion". Skepchick.
  43. ^ Rousseau, Jacques (July 14, 2011). "Elevatorgate and the power of words". Synapses.
  44. ^ Band, Emily (July 24, 2011). "Richard Dawkins, check the evidence on the 'chilly climate' for women". The Guardian. Retrieved August 23, 2018.
  45. ^ Dawkins, Richard (August 6, 2014). "Who is 'belittling' what?". Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science; Center for Inquiry. Retrieved January 19, 2015.
  46. ^ Watson, Rebecca [@rebeccawatson] (August 6, 2014). "Richard Dawkins just did the blog-equivalent of coughing into his hand while mumbling 'sorry' to me. Eh I'll take it." (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  47. ^ Bug_girl (July 11, 2009). "Congrats Becca and Sid". Skepchick.
  48. ^ Watson, Rebecca (April 8, 2011). "A Note About My Personal Life". Skepchick.
  49. ^ Watson, Rebecca (May 26, 2023). "Why Losers Like Steven Crowder Hate No-Fault Divorce". Skepchick. Retrieved May 28, 2023.
  50. ^ "News and Comment | Asteroids Named for Skeptics, Authors, Science Educators" (PDF). Skeptical Inquirer. Vol. 32, no. 6. November 2008. p. 9. ISSN 0194-6730.

External links[edit]