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Elevatorgate is a term commonly used to describe a 2011 controversy involving New Atheist Richard Dawkins' comments made to atheist Rebecca Watson which are perceived to have been inappropriate by a sizable portion of the atheist community and to the public at large.[1] Watson is a feminist.[2]

Prior to Elevatorgate, Monica Shores' 2010 Ms. Magazine article titled Will “New Atheism” Make Room For Women? criticized the News Atheism movement for being sexist (See also: Atheism and sexism).[3] Shores cited Conservapedia in her article and indicated: "The lack of lady presence is so visible that Conservapedia commented on it by noting that Dawkins’ website overwhelmingly attracts male visitors."[4] See: Demographic makeup of web visitors to the website Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science

In addition, prior to Elevatorgate Conservapedia created is popular Richard Dawkins and women and Atheism and women articles which highlighted the ill-treatment of women by Dawkins and the wider atheist population.

Rebecca Watson's video about the elevator incident

See also: Sexual harassment at atheist conferences and Atheism and women

On June 20, 2011, Rebecca Watson of Skepchick uploaded a YouTube video in which she complained about a man in an elevator asking her up to his room for coffee at an atheist conference in Dublin, Ireland.[5] The incident occurred at around 4am in the morning.[6] Watson was upset by this incident and subsequently blogged about it.

Watson declared in her June 20, 2011 video:

Um, just a word to wise here, guys, uh, don’t do that. You know, I don’t really know how else to explain how this makes me incredibly uncomfortable, but I’ll just sort of lay it out that I was a single woman, you know, in a foreign country, at 4:00 am, in a hotel elevator, with you, just you, and -- don’t invite me back to your hotel room right after I finish talking about how it creeps me out and makes me uncomfortable when men sexualize me in that manner.[7]

The incident occurred at the World Atheist Convention in June 2011.

Rebecca Watson's video which sparked Elevatorgate: About Mythbusters, Robot Eyes, Feminism, and Jokes

Dear Muslima letter

Richard Dawkins' open letter to Rebecca Watson

See also: Dear Muslima Elevatorgate letter

On July 2, 2011, Richard Dawkins wrote an open letter to a fictitious Muslim woman, satirically equating Rebecca Watson's plight with that of abused Muslim women. The letter was addressed to "Muslima". See: Richard Dawkins "Dear Muslima" Elevatorgate letter

Richard Dawkins initial Elevatorgate comments - Dear Muslima letter

Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins

See also: Richard Dawkins "Dear Muslima" Elevatorgate letter and Richard Dawkins quotes

Richard Dawkins initial Elevatorgate comment at PZ Myers blog Pharyngula on July 2, 2011:

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.


Initial subsequent criticism

Subsequently, Richard Dawkins was widely criticized within the atheist community and in various press outlets for his insensitive comments made to atheist Rebecca Watson about the incident which occurred in an elevator (see: Richard Dawkins initial Elevatorgate comments).[10]

According to Rebecca Watson atheist women are often punished for being outspoken - particularly when they speak about feminism.[11] In August 2013, Watson said the harassment she received from male atheists skyrocketed after Elevatorgate.[12]

Furthermore, she said she still receives harassment from male fans of Richard Dawkins.[13] The atheist feminist Sikivu Hutchinson concurs with Watson and says that sexual harassment has been institutionalized within the atheist movement and that atheist men have an investment in censoring, controlling and policing women and also have an investment in "male privilege".[14]

New Statesman reporter and fellow skeptic David Allen Green's reaction to Elevatorgate

The New Statesman reporter and fellow skeptic David Allen Green said he believed Dawkins was a misogynist and a racist.[15] In addition, Green wrote: "Can Richard Dawkins still credibly pose as a champion of rational thinking and an evidence-based approach? In my opinion, he certainly cannot, at least not in the way he did before."[16]

Richard Dawkins explanation of his Elevatorgate comments

Fellow skeptic David Allen Green wrote in the New Statesman: "Can Richard Dawkins still credibly pose as a champion of rational thinking and an evidence-based approach? In my opinion, he certainly cannot, at least not in the way he did before."[17]

When someone posted this comment to Richard Dawkins at PZ Myers blog Pharyngula on July 2, 2011:

Richard Dawkins:

Did you just make the argument that, since worse things are happening somewhere else, we have no right to try to fix things closer to home?...[18]

Richard Dawkins responded:

No I wasn't making that argument. 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.

If she felt his behaviour was creepy, that was her privilege, just as it was the Catholics' privilege to feel offended and hurt when PZ nailed the cracker. PZ didn't physically strike any Catholics. All he did was nail a wafer, and he was absolutely right to do so because the heightened value of the wafer was a fantasy in the minds of the offended Catholics. Similarly, Rebecca's feeling that the man's proposition was 'creepy' was her own interpretation of his behaviour, presumably not his. She was probably offended to about the same extent as I am offended if a man gets into an elevator with me chewing gum. But he does me no physical damage and I simply grin and bear it until either I or he gets out of the elevator. It would be different if he physically attacked me.

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. The equivalent would be if PZ had nailed not a cracker but a Catholic.

Then they'd have had good reason to complain.


Excerpt of David Allen Green's commentary on Dawkins explanation

David Allen Green wrote:

Explanations often can make things worse, and so it did in this case. As Phil Plait correctly states, there is no natural meaning to this other than the fact that Dawkins is comparing the discomfort of a woman propositioned in a lift with him sharing a lift with a man chewing gum.

This is all strange stuff indeed from a man professing to be a promoter of rational thinking. He is making connections which do not exist and positing analogies which do not make any sense. From a person with his supposed intellectual reputation, this is surely a disgrace. This is more what one would expect from Richard Littlejohn than Richard Dawkins.

But it seems part of a possible trend. Those who merely pose as rationalists and promoters of liberal values are being found out.[21]

Elevatorgate and unfavorable press directed at Richard Dawkins

See also: Elevatorgate news stories and Atheism and public relations

Elevatorgate created negative press for Richard Dawkins in a number of major news outlets (see: Elevatorgate news stories) and within the atheist movement/atheist population (see: Atheist movement). As a result of Elevatorgate, Dawkins popularity among atheists and the public at large plunged (see: Richard Dawkins' loss of influence).

Rebecca Watson and Elevatorgate

See also: Atheism and women and Atheism and white males

A 2011 portrait of Rebecca Watson

As a result of Elevatorgate, atheist Rebecca Watson wrote concerning Richard Dawkins:

This person who I always admired for his intelligence and compassion does not care about my experience as an atheist woman and 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. There are so many great scientists and thinkers out there that I don't think my reading list will suffer."[22]

Atheist Rebecca Watson and post Elevatorgate claim concerning harassment

See also: Atheism and women and Atheism and anger and New Atheism

Post Elevatorgate controversy, at an atheist convention, Rebecca Watson claimed: "Hundreds of atheists have informed me that either they wanted to rape me, someone should rape me so that I will loosen up or that no one would ever rape me because I am so ugly".[23]

In July 2012, Watson declared: "It get regular rape threats. I get regular rape and murder threats".[24] Furthermore, in August 2013, Rebecca Watson said that post Elevatorgate she received a flood of rape threats and she continues to receive rape threats (see: Atheism and rape).[25]

See also:

Charge of unrestrained attacks on Dawkins by Rebecca Watson and her supporters

In a July 2012, article entitled One year after Elevatorgate the skeptic Chris Willett wrote:

Rebecca Watson and her supporters began waging unrestrained warfare on Richard Dawkins...

Certainly I can understand the outrage of Watson and others – no one relishes the idea of having Richard Dawkins sarcastically shout the equivalent of “first world problem!” at your dilemma, especially when a woman has good reason to feel discomfort in the confined space of an elevator – but they lost all of my sympathy when they reacted in a manner far disproportionate to Dawkins’ remarks:

Watson herself referred derisively to Dawkins as a “stinking rich” “wealthy old heterosexual white man,” thus immediately undercutting her own complaint about being perceived and treated according to her own sex and appearance. This was not a good start. Skepchick’s Mindy, who used the terms “misogyny” and “racist” to describe Dawkins’ comments, was more severe: “I look forward to watching your legacy crash and burn,” she wrote, and “you don’t get a second chance,” revealing as hypocrites the very same people who just finished criticizing Dawkins for his tone. And one wonders if any of the people then writing vicious letters had stopped to consider that Dawkins himself was inappropriately fondled as a child, which made it all the more absurd to claim that he is unfamiliar with and unconcerned about harassment and sexual assault.[26][27]

Allegation that Rebecca Watson was behaving hypocritically

Amanda Read wrote in the Washington Times that she believed Watson was behaving hypocritically and declared:

The point is that because the issue is sexism in the atheist movement, perceptions of sexism are not based on absolute principle, but on relative emotion.

Watson speaks out against the sexual objectification of women, but she apparently sees nothing wrong with the pinup calendars that she and her female atheist friends publish. Myers defended her views on his blog, but only last year he linked to an interesting interview with Nina Hartley, a feminist atheist who sees nothing wrong with women performing as sex workers.

You see, sexism and the exploitation of women are not immoral to godless women as long as such things are on their terms.[28]


Previous incident of Richard Dawkins being unkind to a woman

In September 2010, Richard Dawkins became nasty towards a woman in an audience he spoke before.[29]

For more information please see: Richard Dawkins and women

Aftermath of Elevatorgate

Survey data and website tracking data of prominent atheist websites indicate that in the Western World, atheism appears to be significantly less appealing to women. According to the website tracking firms Alexa and Quantcast women frequent the website of richarddawkins.net significantly less than men.[30][31] (Flickr photo, see license agreement)

Although major press outlets have covered Elevatorgate,[32] most of the commentary surrounding the events of Elevatorgate has been in the atheist blogosphere.

Concerning post Elevatorgate events one atheist blogger wrote:

There was then lots and lots and lots of argybargy, and now it's being said gallons of misogynist men over the net are trying to shout down Rebecca Watson; that is explicitly so presented in this very recent broadcast on Citizen Radio featuring an interview of Watson (the part with Watson starts only a bit after 20 minutes into the recording, so skip the first 20 minutes).[33]

Subsequent to Elevatorgate there was 3 weeks of infighting within the atheist community.[34]

Rebecca Watkins and female atheists combatting atheist misogyny

See also: Atheism and rape and Atheism and women

Another atheist blogger wrote about Rebecca and her fellow female bloggers at the website Skepchick:

The fatal decision was to extend the fight to tackle the greatest problem remaining in modern skepticism – socially awkward male nerds.

“So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak - Sun Tzu

The skepchick army, marshalling their forces, decided to attack the nerds [at] their presumed weakest point – on the internet.

Unfortunately, and apparently a surprise for some, the internet is the perfect natural environment of the socially awkward nerd.[35]

Post-Elevatorgate anti-sexual harassment policies

Post Elevatorgate, atheist conferences frequently have anti-sexual harassment policies.[36]

As far as what served as a precursor to Elevatorgate, the article Why New Atheism Imploded indicates about atheist conferences:

TAM and Skepticon organizers probably share the brunt of the blame. They didn’t make any changes on sexual harassment policies back in 2011 and did little to enforce such policies. Women brought complaints about sexual assault only to be rebuffed...[37]

Thunderf00t and Greg Laden's removal from freethought Blogs.com

The atheist Thunderf00t is the most popular evolutionist at YouTube.

On July 1, 2012, atheist Ed Brayton declared:

As many of you are no doubt aware, there’s been a lot of strife in this community lately. Some of it has been in public, some of it was in private and some of it may well go from being private to public as a result of all of this. So let me give you the news and clear the air:

We are parting company with two of our bloggers: Thunderf00t and Greg Laden. We wish them both the best but, unfortunately, their behavior towards other members of the community has made it impossible to keep them as part of our network. This is not a matter of a disagreement or difference of opinion, but of behavior that we cannot condone or support.

None of this is a reflection on the worth of the many contributions that both of these people have made to the atheist cause. I hope and am confident that they will both continue to offer a lot of good things to this community.[38]

The matter which appeared to spark the contention was how to properly deal with the significant amount of misogny within the atheist community (see: Atheism and women and Atheism and rape and Elevatorgate and Women's views of Richard Dawkins and Atheist leaders and immoral relationships).[39][40][41][42]

Thunderf00t's removal from Freethought Blogs exemplified PZ Myers's unwillingness to intellectually engage his opponents and his lack of integrity.[43]

Rebecca Watson response to Thunderf00t and his fans

See also: Rebecca Watson and Thunderf00t factions of atheism

On July 1, 2012 Rebecca Watson wrote post Elevatorgate controversy:

Skepchick has been exposed for what it is: a totalitarian Nazi clique who created an anti-harassment policy specifically so that men could harass women in bars and Muslim could force us to wear burqas. I know it’s true because noted atheist intellectuals Paula Kirby and Thunderf00t said so!

I debated whether or not to write about this because the recent insults about Skepchick have been so self-evidently ignorant and wrong that I felt it would look like we were picking on tiny, angry babies. And no one likes to see that. I’m relenting only because the sheer amount and absurdity of the insults have reached a level that cannot be ignored, like a large mob of angry babies brandishing pacifiers and blankies as weapons.[44]

Post Elevatorgate comment about atheist conferences

Rebecca Watson post Elevatorgate wrote at Slate about atheist conferences:

[W]omen started telling me stories about sexism at skeptic events, experiences that made them uncomfortable enough to never return. At first, I wasn’t able to fully understand their feelings as I had never had a problem existing in male-dominated spaces. But after a few years of blogging, podcasting, and speaking at skeptics’ conferences, I began to get emails from strangers who detailed their sexual fantasies about me. I was occasionally grabbed and groped without consent at events.

I started checking out the social media profiles of the people sending me these messages, and learned that they were often adults who were active in the skeptic and atheist communities. They were reading the same blogs as I was and attending the same events. These were “my people,” and they were the worst.[45]

TheAmazingAtheist on Elevatorgate

On July 12, 2011, the YouTube atheist TheAmazingAtheist, who is known for his misogyny, uploaded a video declaring that Rebecca Watson had overreacted, which had upwards of 300,000 views and 12,400 comments in the first two years.[46][47]

Reason Rally related incident involving David Silverman and Richard Dawkins

See also: Richard Dawkins and anger and Feminist quotes about Richard Dawkins

An article by Sarah posted at Skepchick about a conversation between Richard Dawkins and David Silverman, the ex-president of the American Atheists organization, which took place during the planning phrase of the Reason Rally:

Richard was standing behind the podium, and he asked Dave something along the lines of, “What exactly is the Reason Rally?” Dave started explaining it, and as he did, someone who was waiting in the line outside opened the door to peek inside and we could all hear a lot of noise. I rushed up the aisle and made frantic “shut the door” gestures at the people peeking inside, and they did. As I walked the ten feet back, I couldn’t hear everything Dave was saying, but I heard the name “Rebecca Watson.” Richard suddenly had a very angry look on his face and I heard him almost shout, “No, absolutely not! If she’s going to be there, I won’t be there. I don’t want her speaking.” and then Dave immediately replied, “You’re absolutely right, we’ll take her off the roster. It’s done.” Richard huffed for a moment, Dave continued to placate him, and then he made the video.

I was crushed.[48]

Vitriol and a lack of calm and reasoned discussion post Elevatorgate

See also: Atheism and unforgiveness

The blog Freethought Kampala described the aftermath of Elevergate thusly:

Elevatorgate is the unprecedented INTERNET WAR that erupted after Rebecca Watson (above) posted a video in which she discussed an ordeal she experienced in an elevator while attending the World Atheist Convention which took place in Dublin, Ireland, from June 3rd to June 5th, 2011.

During the months of July and August 2011, the atheist-skeptic blogosphere was ablaze with accusations, counter-accusations, verbal fights, moral declarations and insults as hundreds of bloggers and millions of their readers tried to determine whose assessment of the events narrated by Watson best represented the facts at hand.[49]

Subsequently, the blog Freethought Kampala wrote in a blog post entitled Elevatorgate – Part 2 – The Failure of Skepticism:

You would think that being skeptics, whatever disagreements arising from how the events surrounding and following from Elevatorgate were to be interpreted would be done calmly, rationally, and above all, skeptically.

But this is not what happened at all.

My concern is not so much about whether someone takes one view or another with regards to Elevatorgate. Indeed, even among the members of Freethought Kampala, there are different opinions on various aspects of the matter. My concern is about how the matter has been handled, the poor quality of arguments that have been advanced, the astounding amounts of hypocrisy on display, and above all the intolerant attitude towards viewpoints that don’t tow the radical gender feminist line – all this, among people that call themselves skeptics.[50]

The day Elevatorgate occurred has been called the day the atheist movement died

See also: Atheist movement and Decline of the atheist movement and Western atheism, schisms and political polarization

Michael Nugent is an Irish atheist.

Richard Dawkins is still widely criticized for igniting deep fractures in the atheist movement through his Elevatorgate controversy. For example, on November 26, 2013, the atheist activist and blogger Jen McCreight posted at Twitter the message: "Did anyone on Dawkins AMA ask how he feels about singlehandedly destroying the atheist movement with the Dear Muslima yet?"[51] In December 2013, atheist Jack Vance at the Atheist Revolution website called July 2, 2011, which is the day that Elevatorgate occurred, "The day the atheist movement died."[52]

Many secular leftists strongly criticizing Richard Dawkins post-Elevatorgate

Leftists who committed to more gender, feminism and ethnic diversity within the atheist population, believe that the Elevatorgate incident and subsequent actions by Dawkins gave atheism a bad name and it caused increased dissension among atheists.[53] Women, blacks and Hispanics are less likely to become atheists (see: Atheism and women and Western atheism and race).

For example, an atheist commenter on Michael Nugent's website wrote in 2014: "The problem, as identified by almost every mainstream outsider-looking-in, is sexism; it’s harassment of women; it’s the tacit support of this by many of high profile figures in atheism; and it’s the awful comments by Dawkins on twitter regarding rape, disability and feminism. This has discredited the Atheist movement, likely for good. It’s over. Mention of Dawkins in public now induces a pained cringe at best."[54]

The Irish atheist Michael Nugent insisted in 2014 that Richard Dawkins is being unfairly demonized by various atheists.[55] On April 2015, Atheist Ireland announced via Michael Nugent's blog, "Atheist Ireland is publicly dissociating itself from the hurtful and dehumanising, hateful and violent, unjust and defamatory rhetoric of the atheist blogger PZ Myers... He said Richard Dawkins ‘seems to have developed a callous indifference to the sexual abuse of children’ and ‘has been eaten by brain parasites’"[56] See also: Richard Dawkins and women and Richard Dawkins on child molestation and so called "gentle pedophiles"

Public announcement of Richard Dawkins and Orphelia Benson

Orphelia Benson

See also: Atheism and profanity and Atheist hypocrisy

Ophelia Benson is an American atheist, feminist, author, editor and blogger. She is known for using the word f*#@wit and she claims the word is not a vulgar word.[57][58] Despite commonly using this vulgar epithet, on July 26, 2014, she published a joint statement with the agnostic and New Atheist Richard Dawkins indicating that atheists should behave in a civil manner in disagreements with each other and not engage in uncivil behavior such as the use of vulgar epithets.[59] See also: Atheist hypocrisy

On July 27, 2014, David Osano at Skeptic Ink Network wrote in response to this public announcement:

I seriously want to know if Ophelia Benson still thinks that calling to the boycott of Dawkins’ books is managing “disagreement ethically, like reasonable adults”. I want to know if she still condones the way Rebecca Watson bullied Stef McGraw and got her to shut down her blog. What part of that is not “trying to destroy the other”? Remember Michael Payton, whose job was put at jeopardy just because Benson and her pals couldn’t figure out a tweet and thought he had a different opinion? That’s pretty destroying, if you ask me.[60]

Dawkins apologizes three years later for Elevatorgate comment, but later says Rebecca Watson's invitation for coffee was a rather trivial incident

On August 6, 2014, three years after Elevatorgate, without mentioning Rebecca Watson's name, Richard Dawkins issued a one sentence apology for his Elevatorgate comments. He posted the apology near the bottom of one of his blog posts.[61] In response, Rebecca Watson wrote in Twitter post: "Richard Dawkins did the blog-equivalent of coughing into his hand while mumbling "sorry" to me. Eh I'll take it."[62]

However, as noted below, on November 18, 2014, Richard Dawkins publicly declared that Rebecca Watson's elevator incident was "rather trivial" compared to some incidents Muslim women experience.[63] In addition, he complained about "thought police" muzzling his speech.[64]

(see additional information below)

Atheists declaring that Richard Dawkins is now a liability to the atheist movement

See also: Atheist movement and Atheism and public relations and Richard Dawkins' loss of influence

Although the New Atheist Richard Dawkins was always known for his abrasiveness and arrogance, post Elevatorgate and subsequent to his various embarrassing Twitter posts, many atheists are now asking if he is a liability to the atheist movement.[65]

PZ Myers' prediction that the atheism movement will stagnate or shrink unless atheists change

See also: Atheist movement and Atheism and social intelligence and Atheism and emotional intelligence and Atheism and morality and Atheism and uncharitableness

On September 27, 2014 in a blog post entitled The Atheist Disillusionment, the prominent atheist PZ Myers declared:

I will make a prediction, right here and now.... The number of people identifying as atheists will stagnate or even shrink, because organized atheism is happily in the process of destroying itself with regressive social attitudes, scandals, and their bizarre focus on irrelevant metaphysical differences that don’t help people...

Unless we change.

I don’t know that we can.[66]

Theodore Beale on the Elevatorgate controversy

See also: Essay: Atheism and gamma males

Theodore Beale wrote:

I know, I know, it's simply astonishing news that women hate atheists. Even atheist women don't like them.
Jen has slammed Richard Dawkins for some comments here. I can confirm that those comments were actually from Richard Dawkins. I also have to say that I agree with Jen and disagree with Richard. Richard did make the valid point that there are much more serious abuses of women's rights around the world, and the Islam is a particularly horrendous offender. Women have their genitals mutilated, are beaten by husbands without recourse to legal redress, are stoned to death for adultery, are denied basic privileges like the right to drive or travel unescorted. These are far more serious problems than most American women face.
However, the existence of greater crimes does not excuse lesser crimes, and no one has even tried to equate this incident to any of the horrors above...
The elevator incident demands…a personal rejection and a woman nicely suggesting to the atheist community that they avoid doing that. And that is what it got. That is all Rebecca Watson did. For those of you who are outraged at that, I ask: which part of her response fills you with fury? That a woman said no, or that a woman has asked men to be more sensitive?...

Look, it's hardly news that atheist guys are creepy gammas, for the most part. That's why they are much less likely to get married or have children. Even the small number of atheist girls don't like atheist guys; the ludicrous internecine kerfluffle was kicked off by a male atheist hitting on female atheist in an elevator...

Dawkins, who as a scientific celebrity surmounted his natural gamma status some time ago, was naturally confused by all this extravagant feminized foolishness, and pointed out how stupid it all was. This caused more hissy fits to be directed his way; Dawkins, being the coward that he has shown himself to be on numerous occasions, was naturally quick to crumble.

Now, I don't think it's absolutely necessary to be hapless with women to be an atheist... No wonder they're so furious at God. He created all those lovely women with those beautiful breasts and they aren't even allowed to even talk to them in elevators.[67]

Thunderf00t on the impact of Freethought Blogs and Rebecca Watson

In October 2014, the popular YouTube atheist Thunderf00t indicated that the bloggers at Freethought Blogs accidentally put him on their email list and that they spend a considerable amount of time emailing each other engaging in petty matters. In fact, he indicated that they spent more time emailing each other than engaged in actual blogging. He also questioned the impact of the bloggers of Freethought Blogs on social justice.[68] Furthermore, he indicated that their attempt to make him a pariah within the atheist community had virtually no impact.[69]

He also indicated that the accomplishments of Rebecca Watson are very thin and that she promotes feminism in an offensive manner.[70]

In addition, Thunderf00t commented on how Jen McCreight, the founder of the atheist feminist movement Atheism plus abandoned her movement within two weeks. And how Richard Carrier "the intellectual artillery" of the movement, quit promoting the movement within a month.[71]

Dawkins stands by recent remarks. Says Rebecca Watson's elevator incident was rather trivial

See also: Richard Dawkins quotes

On November 18, 2014, Richard Dawkins indicated that: he stands by his recent remarks about women/men relations, he feels muzzled by "thought police" and that Rebecca Watson's experience in the elevator was "rather trivial" compared to events some Muslim women experience.[72]

Specifically, the Washington Post reported on November 18, 2014:

“I don’t take back anything that I’ve said,” Dawkins said from a shady spot in the leafy backyard of one of his Bay Area supporters. “I would not say it again, however, because I am now accustomed to being misunderstood and so I will . “

He trailed off momentarily, gazing at his hands resting on a patio table.

“I feel muzzled, and a lot of other people do as well,” he continued. “There is a climate of bullying, a climate of intransigent thought police which is highly influential in the sense that it suppresses people like me.”

Recent criticism of Dawkins has come from women, many of them within the atheist movement, which has long drawn more men to its ranks. His online remarks, some women say, contribute to a climate they see as unwelcoming to female atheists.

Writing for Salon last month, atheist activist Amanda Marcotte said: “People like Dawkins . are the public face of atheism. And that public face is one that is defensively and irrationally sexist..."

Some atheist men, too, are unhappy with Dawkins’ most recent remarks.

“There’s no denying that Dawkins played a formative role in the atheist movement, but it’s grown beyond just him,” Adam Lee, a New York-based atheist, wrote in September in The Guardian. “Remarks like these make him a liability at best, a punchline at worst. He may have convinced himself that he’s the Most Rational Man Alive, but if his goal is to persuade everyone else that atheism is a welcoming and attractive option, Richard Dawkins is doing a terrible job.”

Dawkins, however, disagrees. He is, he said, not a misogynist, as some critics have called him, but “a passionate feminist.” The greatest threats to women, in his view, are Islamism and jihadism — and his concern over that sometimes leads him to speak off-the-cuff.

“I concentrate my attention on that menace and I confess I occasionally get a little impatient with American women who complain of being inappropriately touched by the water cooler or invited for coffee or something which I think is, by comparison, relatively trivial,” he said.[73]

Atheist community double standards: Muslim men misogyny vs. atheist men misogyny

See also: Atheist hypocrisy

In recent times, atheists have put in a lot of effort and focus into decrying the deplorable treatment of many Muslim women by Muslim men, yet the same degree of attention about the high amount of physical abuse atheist women endure at the hands of atheist men via domestic abuse and the other forms of abuse is not given nearly the same amount of import by many in the atheist community. See: Irreligion and domestic violence and Secular Europe and domestic violence.

For example, Ayaan Hirsi Ali was chosen to be the keynote speaker of the American Atheists convention in 2014 and in 2005 the secular left leaning Time magazine named her one of the most 100 influential people in the world.[74] Yet, the women who point out misogyny in Western World atheism receive torrents of abuse (see: Atheism and sexism) and are not highly lauded by the atheist community to nearly the same degree.

For more information, please see: Atheist hypocrisy

Post-Elevatorgate commentary about sexually related activities at atheist events

Commentary by Richard Carrier

The atheist Richard Carrier, who divorced his wife after committing adultery multiple times and now advocates polyamory, wrote in a 2013 blog post entitled Our Mythical Campaign against Sex:

Polyamory and swinging and even the attending of orgies requires more ethical behavior and more careful attention to boundaries and consent than traditional sexual relationships do. And people who are ethical enough to be accepted in those communities are the very people who get Atheism+ and why it is needed.

The bottom line is, we are already enthusiastically in favor of people pursuing all kinds of sexual activities, even at atheist events. Many of our most avid supports are wholeheartedly doing this. The only thing we are concerned about is that people do this ethically, that people don’t use their sex drives as an excuse to harass, harm, or cross boundaries.[75]

Commentary by PZ Myers

PZ Myers

PZ Myers wrote in 2013:

Except…I was really surprised the first time a woman at a conference offered me her hotel key. I know I’m not personally attractive or otherwise appealing in any physical way, and it was simply that eroticism of intellectual stimulation, as you mentioned, and the impulse to indulge in a fleeting crush. You know speakers get a little edge from that position when I’m getting sexual opportunities!

It felt like cheating, didn’t actually represent my ideal (all of my physical relationships have also been serious emotional relationships), and just generally seemed like something we might all regret when the first brief flush of enthusiasm wore off. So I’ve always gently turned down those offers.

I don’t want to give the impression that I turn them down, so everybody else ought to, too. I’m really just saying that there’s some weird primate psychology going on, and we ought to be wary of it.[76]

Myers further writes:

As for numbers, it doesn’t happen at every conference, it’s probably happened to me 8? 10? times? Thereabouts. A couple of times a year.

I suspect it’s much more common for younger, handsomer speakers who aren’t geeky bearded weirdos. And I would imagine most of them would also turn down the offers, but I don’t know — maybe I’m a horrible weirdo in another way too.[77]

News outlet stories - Chronological order

See also: Elevatorgate news stories - Chronological order

Rebecca Watson's article appearing in a news outlet

Subsequent articles mentioning Elevatorgate incident

Richard Dawkins' loss of influence post Elevatatorgate

See also: Richard Dawkins' loss of influence and Alexa rankings of Richard Dawkins' website and Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science website

As can be seen by the graph below, by means of embedded code on his website from Quantcast, Quantcast directly measures the web traffic of Richard Dawkins' website. Traffic to Dawkins website is significantly down post-Elevatorgate.

Although his following of Dawkian atheist has significantly waned post-Elevatorgate and due to his generally abrasive manner, he does retain a small cult following (See: Richard Dawkins' loss of influence and Richard Dawkins' cult of personality and Atheist cults).

Dawkins is a leading figure in the New Atheism movement which was called a cult by the agnostic, journalist Bryan Appleyard in a 2012 article in the New Statesman in which he describes the abusive behavior of New Atheists.[78] The Dawkian atheists have been able to retain Richard Dawkins being labeled as an atheist in his Wikipedia article despite Dawkins repeatedly and adamantly declaring that he is an agnostic and/or flip-flopping his public persona between atheism and agnosticism (See: Richard Dawkins and agnosticism).

Initial loss of web traffic to Richard Dawkins's website post Elevatorgate

According to the web traffic tracking company Quantcast, the web traffic of Richard Dawkins's website fell in 2012.[79] By October 2014, the web traffic for his website fell to a lower level according to Quantcast.[80]

In October 2012, Rebecca Watson published a story about Elevatorgate and its aftermath in Slate entitled, It Stands to Reason, Skeptics Can Be Sexist Too: I spoke out about sexual harassment among atheists and scientists. Then came the rape threats.[81]

The web traffic was measured via Quantcast which directly measured Dawkins' website traffic via embedded code on his website.[82]

Web traffic of Richard Dawkins' website has seen a dramatic drop

The above graph shows the monthly website traffic to Richard Dawkins' website as of June 22, 2015 in terms of unique monthly web visitors.[83] As you can see above, in 2012, Richard Dawkins saw a very large decrease in web traffic.

The website traffic is measured via Quantcast which directly measures Dawkins' website traffic via embedded code on his website.[82]

Alexa ranking of Richard Dawkins' website

According to Alexa, Richard Dawkins website lost a large amount of its global market share during to period between 2010 and the beginning portion of 2012.
In 2016, Richard Dawkins' website lost a considerable amount of global market share according to the web traffic tracking company Alexa.
In 2015, Richard Dawkins' website fell in terms of its Alexa ranking.
In 2016 and the in the beginning portion of 2017, the global internet market share of Richard Dawkins' website has been falling according to the web traffic tracking company Alexa.

Blog posts on Elevatorgate

See also: Blog posts on Elevatorgate

Richard Dawkins' recent attempts to have better relations with women. feminists and Muslims

See also: Richard Dawkins and Islamophobia accusations

In 2017, Sputnik News reported:

Robyn Blumner, Executive Director of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, said that to suggest that atheists are narrow-minded, prejudiced or supportive of white, male privilege is to ignore the evidence.

Mr. Blumner said that the pro-atheist organization does tremendous good for women's equality and the civil rights of Muslims, as well as spreads humanist values in the United States and abroad.

"In just the last handful of years we have been at the forefront of the major civil justice causes of our time. It is why in 2015 we were the only secularist group to be invited to join the Know Your Neighbor interfaith coalition, launched at the White House. It is why we were a proud and welcome participant in the Women's March on Washington in January," Mr. Blumner told Sputnik.[84]

Research on atheist conferences and related information

As noted above, the Elevatorgate incident happened as a result of Rebecca Watson describing an event which occurred between her and a fellow conference attendee which was then followed by Richard Dawkins making commentary of Watson's account of that event.

Below is some research on atheist conferences in terms of speakers at atheist conferences and the audiences of atheist conferences.

Elevatorgate, New Atheism/anti-theism, social science data and negative personality traits

Richard Dawkins is one of the founders of the New Atheism movement which is a militant form of atheism often criticized for its anti-theism. In addition, Rebecca Watson is allied with the New Atheist PZ Myers.[85][86]

Social science research indicates that anti-theists score the highest among atheists when it comes to personality traits such as narcissism, dogmatism, and anger.[87] Furthermore, they scored lowest when it comes to agreeableness and positive relations with others.[88] See also: Atheism and social skills and Atheism and arrogance

Increased disharmony within atheist population post Elevatorgate

See also: Atheist factions and Atheist movement

Jacques Rousseau wrote in the Daily Maverick concerning Elevatorgate, "Some might observe that we indulge in these squabbles fairly frequently."[89] An ex-atheist wrote: "As an Atheist for 40 years, I noticed that there is not just a wide variety of Atheist positions, but there exists an actual battle between certain Atheist factions.[90]

The article Against “Mere Atheism”: Why We Need Schism In the Atheist Movement indicates:

In particular, feminism and the (mis)treatment of women have been a point of public contention in the atheist world since the events of ElevatorGate, issues that once again came to the forfront of atheist discourse once again this summer after Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins made commenets that were widely perceived as sexist, as well as the publication of a lengthy BuzzFeed article detailing the institutionalized misogyny present in many self-described atheist and skeptic organizations. The dispute over feminism among atheists is merely the most visible point of contention over the future trajectory of the atheist movement, in particular whether it should stick to promoting “mere atheism” or whether it should address other social issues...

While all movements, be they religious, philosophical, or social prefer a united front with which to spread their respective beliefs and challenge their enemies, the heterogenity of the human mind is such that factionalism and splinter groups always form to challenge not just the enemies of the movement in question, but the established orthodoxy of the movement in question. Unity is often superficial, especially if this solidarity is based on a single issue, and often the only way to achieve unity is through active suppression of dissident voices. [91]

The atheist PZ Myers said about the current rifts in the atheist movement: "So deep and wide we’ve separated into two continents."[92]

On the Atheists for Liberty website the atheist Thomas Sheedy wrote in a 2021 article entitled Ten years after Elevatorgate | What we should learn from our past mistakes:

Over the past eight years, I have seen:
  • Millions of dollars once belonging to world-renowned atheist organizations were lost.
  • Conferences, some once having numbers in the hundreds, if not thousands, dead.
  • Some of the most horrific and superstitious belief systems defended in the name of wokeness
  • Organizers of events facing real harassment because they dared to have “politically incorrect” speakers, speakers who were seen as ordinary, non-sexist, New Atheist types just a few years prior
  • The movement’s professionalism fade away in the name of this infiltration
  • Ex Muslims disregarded by movement organizers in the United States
  • A friend’s life, once respected as a bold, national figure in the movement, is destroyed by false allegations lobbed against him. He nearly committed suicide.[93]

See also

External links

Elevatorgate timeline:



  1. Rebecca Watson (July 5, 2011). "The Privilege Delusion". Skepchick
  2. Will “New Atheism” Make Room For Women by Monica Shores, Ms. Magazine, 2010
  3. Will “New Atheism” Make Room For Women by Monica Shores, Ms. Magazine
  4. About Mythbusters, Robot Eyes, Feminism, and Jokes
  5. About Mythbusters, Robot Eyes, Feminism, and Jokes
  6. About Mythbusters, Robot Eyes, Feminism, and Jokes
  7. Richard Dawkins comments directed at Rebecca Watkins posted at PZ Myers blog Pharyngula
  8. Sharing a lift with Richard Dawkins by David Allen Green - New Statesman - 06 July 2011
  9. Calling All Female Atheists - Huffington Post - video
  10. Calling All Female Atheists - Huffington Post - video
  11. Calling All Female Atheists - Huffington Post - video
  12. Calling All Female Atheists - Huffington Post - video
  13. Sharing a lift with Richard Dawkins by David Allen Green - New Stateman - 06 July 2011
  14. Sharing a lift with Richard Dawkins by David Allen Green - New Stateman - 06 July 2011
  15. Sharing a lift with Richard Dawkins by David Allen Green - New Stateman - 06 July 2011
  16. http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/07/always_name_names.php
  17. http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/07/always_name_names.php
  18. Sharing a lift with Richard Dawkins by David Allen Green - New Statesman - 06 July 2011
  19. Sharing a lift with Richard Dawkins by David Allen Green - New Statesman - 06 July 2011
  20. Richard Dawkins Gets into a Comments War with Feminists by Caitlin Dickson - The Atlantic Wire, Jul 06, 2011
  21. PZ Myers and the Art of Shameless Dishonesty
  22. FreeThought Blogs and PZ Myers
  23. Sikivu, Ophelia, and Rebecca — who says atheism lacks women stars?
  24. One year after Elevatorgate
  25. One year after Elevatorgate
  26. Of sexism and atheism: Richard Dawkins gets in trouble with feminists, Washington Times, July 16, 2011
  27. http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/richard-dawkins-i-never-meet-people-who-disagree-with-me-2080451.html
  28. http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/richarddawkins.net
  29. http://www.quantcast.com/richarddawkins.net#demographics
  30. ElevatorGate: Rebecca Watson & Richard Dawkins are not the droids you're looking for - Heathen Hub
  31. Elevatorgate - the power of words
  32. Elevatorgate: Dawkins strikes back
  33. Thunderf00t’s inflammatory video of misleading personal attacks on atheist feminists is not helpful by Michael Nugent on January 3, 2013
  34. Why New Atheism Imploded
  35. Major changes at freethoughtblogs - Ed Brayton
  36. Thunderf00t, check your email - PZ Myers
  37. Thunderf00t on how to handle misogny in the atheist community
  38. SkepchickCON and the Harassment LOL-icy
  39. Is it ‘Freethoughtblogs’ or ‘Group-think-blogs’?
  40. FreeFascistThoughtBlogs
  41. Hot Gossip: We’re All Burqa-wearing Nazis
  42. Sexism and the New Atheism
  43. Elevatorgate - Know Your Meme
  44. Don't Take This The Wrong Way, video of TheAmazingAtheist, posted on July 12th, 2011
  45. My Time With Richard Dawkins (Or, Why You Should Never Meet Your Idols) by Sarah at Skepchick, September 5, 2013
  46. Elevatorgate - Freethought Kampala
  47. Elevatorgate – Part 2 – The Failure of Skepticism
  48. Jennifer McCreight on the Twitter about the Elevatorgate scandal
  49. The Day the Atheist Movement Died by Jack Vance at Atheist Revolution
  50. An atheist comment about the article PZ Myers’ unfair and hurtful misrepresentations of Richard Dawkins’ comments about being abused as a child by Michael Nugent on September 25, 2014
  51. The demonising of Richard Dawkins, and the normalising of casual defamatory smears by Michael Nugent on August 7, 2014
  52. Atheist Ireland publicly dissociates itself from the harmful and hateful rhetoric of PZ Myers by Michael Nugent, April 7, 2015
  53. The Ophelia Benson canard
  54. Joint statement by Ophelia Benson and Richard Dawkins (see comment section)
  55. The Ophelia Benson canard
  56. The Ophelia Benson canard, Posted by Ðavid A. Osorio S on Jul 27, 2014
  57. Who is “belittling” what? by Richard Dawkins
  58. Rebecca Watson's Twitter post about Dawkins' apology
  59. Richard Dawkins stands by remarks on sexism, pedophilia, Down syndrome, by Kimberly Winston | Religion News Service November 18, 2014
  60. Richard Dawkins stands by remarks on sexism, pedophilia, Down syndrome, by Kimberly Winston | Religion News Service November 18, 2014
  61. The Atheist Disillusionment - PZ Myers, September 27, 2014
  62. Atheists in Gamma Hell
  63. Atheism+ Stream: How SJWs pushed their way into Atheism
  64. Atheism+ Stream: How SJWs pushed their way into Atheism
  65. Atheism+ Stream: How SJWs pushed their way into Atheism
  66. Atheism+ Stream: How SJWs pushed their way into Atheism
  67. Richard Dawkins stands by remarks on sexism, pedophilia, Down syndrome, by Kimberly Winston | Religion News Service November 18, 2014
  68. Richard Dawkins stands by remarks on sexism, pedophilia, Down syndrome, by Kimberly Winston | Religion News Service November 18, 2014 and syndicated to the Washington Post
  69. Our Mythical Campaign against Sex, Richard Carrier,
  70. The eros of the podium - see comment section below the blog post, PZ Myers, comment section, August 17, 2013 at 5:42 pm
  71. The eros of the podium - see comment section below the blog post, PZ Myers, comment section, August 17, 2013 at 5:42 pm
  72. The God wars by Bryan Appleyard, New Statesman
  73. 2012 has been a very BAD year for Richard Dawkins's website according to Quantcast
  74. Richard Dawkins' loss of influence
  75. It Stands to Reason, Skeptics Can Be Sexist Too: I spoke out about sexual harassment among atheists and scientists. Then came the rape threats by Rebecca Watson, Slate, October 2012
  76. 82.0 82.1 Quantcast - Quantcast Measure
  77. Web traffic of Richard Dawkins' main website
  78. Dawkins and Movement 'Lost the Heart of the Cause'
  79. Elevatorgate, Freethought Kampala, 11-9-2011
  80. Oh, no, not again…once more unto the breach, Posted by PZ Myers on July 3, 2011
  81. Science Shows New Atheists to be Mean and Closed-Minded
  82. Science Shows New Atheists to be Mean and Closed-Minded
  83. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can rip my soul
  84. An atheist new world order? Is the Rational Response Squad making an attempt?
  85. Against “Mere Atheism”: Why We Need Schism In the Atheist Movement
  86. Get Out! A message for the atheist movement by PZ Myers
  87. Ten years after Elevatorgate | What we should learn from our past mistakes by Thomas Sheedy, Atheist for Liberty website, June 3, 2021