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Rebecca Watson

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Rebecca Watson
Rebecca Watson5.JPG
Watson in 2012
Rebecca Kay Watson

(1980-10-18) October 18, 1980 (age 39)
United States
Other namesThe Skepchick
Alma materBoston University
Years active2005–present
Known forSkeptical Rogue to Steven Novella on The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast, science communication, atheism, feminism

Rebecca Kay Watson (born October 18, 1980) is an American blogger and podcast host. She is the founder of the Skepchick blog and former co-host of The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast. She also previously co-hosted the Little Atoms podcast.[1][2]



Watson founded Skepchick in 2005, describing it as "an organization dedicated to promoting skepticism and critical thinking among women around the world".[3] Originally the site consisted of a forum and a monthly online magazine, Skepchick Magazine, which was launched January 15, 2006.[4]

In 2006, 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 James Randi Educational Foundation's The Amaz!ng Meeting.[5]

On February 12, 2006, Watson created a blog titled Memoirs of a Skepchick, as an addition to the magazine.[6] Eventually the blog, now simply titled Skepchick, became the main site, as Skepchick Magazine was discontinued in July 2006. Fourteen other bloggers beside Watson now contribute regularly, including one man.[7]

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.[8] Public health staff allowed members of the public to receive a TDAP vaccination free of charge, as well as educational literature promoting immunization.[9] 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.[9]

The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe[edit]

Watson's first appearance on The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast 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.[10] On December 27, 2014, she announced that she had recorded her final show prior to leaving the organization.[11]

The Public Radio Talent Quest[edit]

In May 2007, Watson entered The Public Radio Talent Quest, a contest aimed to find new public radio hosts.[12] The contest claims to have received more than 1,400 entries.[13] Watson's entries won the popular vote in every round,[14] and she was declared one of three winners who each would receive $10,000 to produce a public radio pilot.[15]

Watson's pilot, Curiosity, Aroused,[16] was an hour-long program focused on science and skepticism.[15] It featured interviews with Richard Saunders of Australian Skeptics and Mystery Investigators, and Richard Wiseman, author of 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.[17][18]

Personal life[edit]

Watson grew up in New Jersey and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in communications from Boston University in 2002.[19][20] While attending Boston University, Watson worked as a magician.[21] Watson says she "had relatively little serious interest in science" during her high school and college years but became more interested in science after being a magician and meeting with people like James Randi.[22][23] On July 11, 2009, she and Sid Rodrigues were married in a surprise ceremony during The Amaz!ng Meeting 7.[23] On April 8, 2011, she announced that she and Rodrigues were separated and seeking a divorce.[24]

Elevator incident[edit]

Watson speaking at NECSS 2011

At the June 2011 World Atheist Convention, on a panel that also included Richard Dawkins, Watson spoke about her experiences with sexism within the atheist movement. Among the topics in a vlog posted following her return from the trip, she described how after the talk around 4 am after leaving the hotel bar, a man from the group followed her into an elevator and said "Don't take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting, and I would like to talk more. Would you like to come to my hotel room for coffee?" Watson cited various contextual reasons why this felt inappropriate, and advised, "guys, don't do that."[25][26] The ensuing discussion and criticism across several websites, including Reddit and the Pharyngula blog, became highly polarized and heated to the point of name-calling and some personal threats, including rape and death threats.[27][28]

The controversy increased when Richard Dawkins joined the blog discussion later in 2011, describing her response as an overreaction since a man had merely conversed with her, "politely". Dawkins contrasted the "elevator incident" with the plight of women in Islamic countries,[29][30][31] in a post titled "Dear Muslima":

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.[32]

Dawkins received criticism for his remarks from David Allen Green for dismissing lesser wrongs because bigger wrongs exist, and by Remy Stern for spending so much time "arguing about a proposition in an elevator."[33][34]

Dawkins further explained himself:

Here’s the argument I was making. The man in the elevator didn’t physically touch her, didn’t attempt to bar her way out of the elevator, didn’t even use foul language at her. He spoke some words to her. Just words. She no doubt replied with words. That was that. Words. Only words, and apparently quite polite words at that ... Muslim women suffer physically from misogyny, their lives are substantially damaged by religiously inspired misogyny. Not just words, real deeds, painful, physical deeds, physical privations, legally sanctioned demeanings.[35]

In response to Dawkins' comments, Watson stated that she would no longer buy or endorse his books and lectures,[32] which was viewed[36] as a boycott, 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.[32]

The result of this exchange led to an extended internet flame war that several reports dubbed "Elevatorgate".[37][35][38] 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.[27] In 2014, Richard Dawkins stated, "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", in response to which Watson tweeted, "Richard Dawkins just did the blog-equivalent of coughing into his hand while mumbling 'sorry' to me. Eh, I'll take it."[39][40]


An outer main-belt asteroid discovered on March 22, 2001, by David H. Healy was named 153289 Rebeccawatson in her honor.[41]


  1. ^ Simpson, Neal (September 2007). "Blogger looks to take her war on pseudoscience to the airwaves". Brookline TAB. Archived from the original on 2013-02-09. Retrieved 2008-10-30.
  2. ^ Mouallem, Omar (August 2008). "Making a Living of Bullshit Detecting". Vue Weekly (671). Archived from the original on September 12, 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-30.
  3. ^ November 24, 2005 at the Internet Archive Wayback Machine
  4. ^ December 23, 2005 at the Internet Archive Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Skepchicks". Bad Astronomy. Retrieved 2010-01-22.
  6. ^ It’s snowing, so I started a blog. first skepchick blog post
  7. ^ Who's who on Skepchick Archived September 6, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Saunders, Richard; Dunlop, Rachael; Atkinson, Bill. "The Skeptic Zone" (Podcast). No. 99. Event occurs at 0:30:20. Retrieved 2013-08-20.
  9. ^ a b "Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated!". Women Thinking Free Foundation. Archived from the original on 2013-09-19. Retrieved 2013-08-21.
  10. ^ The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe episode archive Archived October 18, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Watson, Rebecca. "Why I've Left SGU". Skepchick. Retrieved 31 December 2014.
  12. ^ A very special audio blog posting. Vote for me! - blog post announcing her first entry in the PRTQ
  13. ^ Public Radio Talent Quest
  14. ^ Watson, Rebecca (2007-10-27). "PRX Announces Winners of Public Radio Talent Quest". PRX. Retrieved 2008-11-11.
  15. ^ a b Simon, Clea (January 2008). "Showing a talent for radio". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2008-10-30.
  16. ^ Watson, Rebecca (2007-12-16). "Curiosity, Aroused: The Pilot". WordPress. Retrieved 2008-11-06.
  17. ^ "Big News from PRX and CPB" (Press release). 2008-06-26. Retrieved 2008-11-06.
  18. ^ Simon, Clea (July 2008). "At WCRB, it's a grand old tradition". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2008-10-30.
  19. ^ Potash, Larry (March 31, 2006). "Be skeptical or be an April fool". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 24, 2013.
  20. ^ Simpson, Neal (September 27, 2007). "Blogger looks to take her war on pseudoscience to the airwaves". Wicked Local. Archived from the original on September 5, 2013. Retrieved August 24, 2013.
  21. ^ Cohen, Georgiana (March 19, 2009). "Not-so-sure guys". The Boston Phoenix. Retrieved August 24, 2013.
  22. ^ Watson, Rebecca (September 29, 2011). "Mom, don't read this". Retrieved August 24, 2013.
  23. ^ a b bug_girl (July 16, 2011). "Skepchick Congrats Becca and Sid". Skepchick.
  24. ^ Watson, Rebecca (April 8, 2011). "A Note About My Personal Life". Skepchick.
  25. ^ Rebecca Watson (2011-06-20). About Mythbusters, Robot Eyes, Feminism, and Jokes (YouTube). Event occurs at 5:06.
  26. ^ Watson, Rebecca (24 October 2012). "It Stands to Reason, Skeptics Can Be Sexist Too". Slate. Retrieved 26 October 2012.
  27. ^ 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
  28. ^ Winston, Kimberly (September 15, 2011). "Atheists address sexism issues". USA Today. Religion News Service. Retrieved August 6, 2013.
  29. ^ Taranto, James (July 7, 2011). "Commander in Tweet". The Wall Street Journal.
  30. ^ Reporter, Staff. "Dawkins, Watson and the elevator ride". The M&G Online. Retrieved 2018-03-29.
  31. ^ Cailtin Dickson (July 6, 2011). "Richard Dawkins Gets into a Comments War with Feminists". The Atlantic Wire.
  32. ^ a b c Rebecca Watson (July 5, 2011). "The Privilege Delusion". Skepchick.
  33. ^ David Allen Green. "Sharing a lift with Richard Dawkins". New Statesman. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  34. ^ Remy Stern. "Richard Dawkins Torn Limb From Limb—By Atheists". Gawker. Archived from the original on 19 January 2015. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  35. ^ a b "Dawkins, Watson and the elevator ride". Mail & Guardian. 2011-09-02. Retrieved 2018-08-23.
  36. ^ Remy Stern (July 7, 2011). "Richard Dawkins Torn Limb From Limb—By Atheists". Gawker. Archived from the original on January 19, 2015.
  37. ^ Rousseau, Jacques (2011-07-14). "Elevatorgate and the power of words". Synapses.
  38. ^ Band, Emily (2011-07-24). "Rihard Dawkins, check the evidence on the 'chilly climate' for women". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-08-23.
  39. ^ "Who is "belittling" what?". The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. 6 August 2014. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  40. ^ "Rebecca Watson, Twitter". Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  41. ^ 153289 Rebeccawatson at the JPL Small-Body Database Browser

External links[edit]