Hang around Pharyngula long enough, and you’ll learn that PZ Myers has the comment section filtered up like mad to keep away the trolls. Alas, that also means that some legitimate comments get tossed into the garbage disposal.
Thankfully, there are ways around that.
No way, it’s all Elevatorgate? That’s it? A waterfall of hatred for years over THAT?
Yes, and no. From what I can gather, she’s a lot like the people harassing her: freewheeling and unabashed, someone who’ll never take shit from anyone and is happy to dish it back. She was a hard-core skeptic, one of the tribe, and while she was concerned with getting women more involved (hence SkepChick), Watson’s methods started off very much in line with the bro culture that dominated the community (hence Skep”Chick”).
Somewhere along the way, though, Watson caught a case of the feminisms. Maybe this was due to conversations with her fellow “chicks,” or maybe due to a mix of objectification, tokenism, and blatant sexism directed her way that made her realize the skeptic community had a problem. Not many people remember the circumcision controversy, for instance, but it’s not hard to see the gears turning:
I checked out this guy’s profile (warning, autoplay video) and he subscribes to a lot of science stuff, including good friends of mine like Captain Disillusion. I wanted to know what was happening in this guy’s head. Specifically, I wanted to know why someone would call me a bitch and then write something that I basically said in the video (but a bit more eloquently I hope): genital mutilation is wrong, whether on boys or girls. […]
This is not a one-off example. I get these responses from men all the time. If you look at the comments on that video in particular, the top-rated comment calls me a “cunt.” That commenter, “eident9“, commented dozens of other times on my videos to alert viewers that I’m a “sexist twit” who only says “offensive” things so I can get more views and make more money.
Because that’s the new meaning of the word “offensive”: a woman who calmly delivers the facts about topics that affect women like female genital mutilation, even when she states clearly that she opposes the practice of cutting boys’ foreskins for non-medical reasons. That’s what it means to be a woman on the Internet who dares to discuss the issues facing women.
Watson began arguing within the tight-knit skeptic community over sexism, and her no-bullshit attitude was now burning bridges and creating grudges. She became a traitor, a turncoat who was inviting the Feminist Menace into the skeptic community after earning a reputation as “another one of the guys.”
Elevatorgate was a match to that smoldering pile of tinder, and the resulting flare was visible even by people who didn’t know the backstory. It made a lot of people aware of the sexism problem, causing them to speak out about it and propose changes; but it also caused a lot of people to realize their community could be changed, and that if they didn’t become activists there was a real chance the skeptic movement would be overwhelmed by feminist woo. Both sides fed into one another, causing a positive feedback loop.
And thus, the current situation.