Richard Dawkins recently got a little taste of his own bitter medicine.
In the summer of 2011, Rebecca Watson found herself alone in an elevator with a man at an atheist convention. The man propositioned her, and the encounter made her uncomfortable. She decided to use the incident as an example of how not to behave at a public event, where she believed women were entitled to feel safe and comfortable.
Richard Dawkins thought her complaint was petty, so he publicly ridiculed her. Watson is a fellow atheist, but for Dawkins, apparently anything objectionable is all about religion, even when it’s not. So he ridiculed Watson’s concerns by belittling her, and simultaneously insulting Muslims:
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 …
Rebecca Watson was not amused.
But the torment didn’t end with Dawkins’ condescending Dear Muslima taunt. His apparent fans picked up the torch and began a campaign of relentless harassment:
Dawkins’ seal of approval only encouraged the haters. My YouTube page and many of my videos were flooded with rape “jokes,” threats, objectifying insults, and slurs. A few individuals sent me hundreds of messages, promising to never leave me alone. My Wikipedia page was vandalized. Graphic photos of dead bodies were posted to my Facebook page…
A man planning to attend an upcoming conference with Rebecca Watson even threatened to assault her, stating on Twitter that if he saw her on an elevator, he would “cop a feel.” Watson wrote about her disappointment at the sexism and harassment coming from what she referred to as the “skeptic community.”
Keep in mind that the Richard Dawkins who spawned this hatefest against Watson is the same Richard Dawkins who routinely complains that Islam is misogynistic. In response to a report on British women converting to Islam, he wrote:
Whenever I read an article like this, I end up shaking my head in bafflement. Why would anyone want to CONVERT to Islam? I can see why, having been born into it, you might be reluctant to leave, perhaps when you reflect on the penalty for doing to. But for a woman (especially a woman) voluntarily to JOIN such a revolting and misogynistic institution when she doesn’t have to always suggests to me massive stupidity.
Once again, evidence atheism does not make one immune to sexism, hypocrisy, or any of the other human flaws Dawkins often attributes to the faithful. Despite his dismissal of Watson’s concerns as petty, it seems Richard Dawkins is not above pettiness himself, on matters far more trivial than sexual harassment.
Despite knowing it was against the rules, he apparently tried to smuggle a little jar of honey onto flight from Edinburgh to Heathrow. The honey was confiscated and discarded, prompting Dawkins to Tweet his consternation:
Bin Laden has won, in airports of the world every day. I had a little jar of honey, now thrown away by rule-bound dundridges. STUPID waste.
Yes, Osama Bin Laden has won. The singular goal of his existence was clearly to deprive the very bitter Richard Dawkins of his sweet little jar of honey. And to make us have to take our shoes off every time we go through airport security. He wins. Every. Day.
One of the world’s foremost evolutionary biologists was trifling over a little jar of honey. Instead of rallying troops to his campaign as he had with Watson a couple of years back, he was subjected to ridicule, as he explained to the Guardian:
I tweeted to the effect that every time I see an incident of this kind I sense it as a victory for Bin Laden. However calamitous the destruction of the twin towers, doesn’t the bureaucratically imposed vexation to airline passengers all over the world mount up to a prolonged and distributed, albeit far less traumatic, victory? And aren’t our rule-merchants playing into Bin Laden’s dead hands by their futile displays of stable-door-shutting?
But because the honey was mine not a young mother’s, my motive could surely not be other than selfish. “Stop whining about your lost honey.” In vain did I protest that I couldn’t give a damn about my honey. I was making a point of general principle, trying to be public-spirited. “If you weren’t so ignorant, you’d know the rules about liquids.” In vain did I reassure the tweeting twerps that I know the rules all too well. That’s precisely why I’m campaigning against them.
I say nothing of the feeble jokes on “bee” and “be” and Pooh Bear…
Maybe it’s time to write Dawkins a letter that starts out something like this: “Dear Brother Dawkins, stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, we know you had your little jar of honey confiscated….”
Dawkins was not only mocked and ridiculed on Twitter. A site called Us vs Th3m even created an online game, Richard Dawkins: Honey Defender. This time it was Dawkins who was not amused. He waxed indignant over what he described as, “a puerile display of sniggering frivolity” in response to his concerns.
A puerile display of sniggering frivolity is not the same as a relentless, frightening campaign of hate. Dawkins did not face an onslaught like the one he and his fans unleashed two summers ago. Nevertheless, Rebecca Watson must feel at least a little twinge of vindication.