Rebecca Watson’s Pink Hair and More

Rebecca Watson of Skepchick and SGU fame has embraced, at least in part, the wonderfulness that is pink hair. In her recent video, she is sporting a fantastic gradient of pink to light, buttery yellow.

It takes courage, or so I’ve been told, to step away from the normative hair colors and into the world of hair colors that are not “natural”. So I would like to commend Ms. Watson on her courage.

As you can see from the video and the situation sparked by it, Ms. Watson IS definitely courageous. Despite Richard Dawkins being someone she greatly admired (before this fiasco), she stood up for the idea that women should not be made to feel objectified. She even went so far as to offer helpful advice for men who might not really get why approaching a lone woman in an elevator at 4 am can be intimidating, if not downright frightening.

Mr Dawkins seems to think otherwise, as you can see here. From my personal perspective Mr. Dawkins has always seemed somewhat stadoffish and aloof with the occasional harsh word, but I had never pegged him for being cruel. It’s something of a kick in the teeth to me that he seems to think so little about how a woman might feel concerning her personal safety. It has been difficult enough to encourage more women to be involved in skeptical groups without that kind of callous disregard from one of our “leaders”.

Phil Plaitt has talked about the situation further in Bad Astronomy, giving even more details and conversations. PZ Myers has confirmed that the callous comment left by Richard Dawkins, is indeed genuine. Thus Dawkins has shown that some men really do not understand how a polite exchange can turn frightening in just a matter of moments. One in four women will experience some form of rape in their lifetime, whether it is forcible, coercion, statutory or even spousal (Yes, some husbands rape their wives).

I, myself, am a two time rape survivor. Once, spousal, the other coercion so I understand why Rebecca felt the way she did. Even if I was not a rape survivor and could not understand from personal experience, that still doesn’t invalidate her feelings. The situation she was in: strange man, enclosed space, 4 am after drinking is JUST the kind of situation that self-defense teachers WARN us about.

It’s pretty obvious that I didn’t plan this piece beforehand. I do, however, feel that this is an important issue that needs to be addressed. This is the 21st century and women are still being brushed off as overly-emotional or too sensitive when certain situations in society have pushed us to be cautious and occasionally over-protective.

I am in NO way saying that Rebecca was being over-protective. I am not criticizing her OR the man involved in the least. He could have used a bit more common sense, but I’m sure the gentleman in question will know better next time.

However, I AM criticizing, whole-heartedly, Richard Dawkins’ response. I am looking forward to seeing his explanation for his apparent callousness. Though I can say in all honesty that, I will never see him the same way as a human being.



  1. latsot said,

    July 6, 2011 at 1:29 am

    Don’t forget Sue Blackmore. She’s been known to have hair of a variety of colours, including pink.

  2. latsot said,

    July 6, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    Hi Maria,

    First, my previous comment now looks stupidy trivial 🙂 It was made when the post was mostly about pink hair.

    Second and more importantly, I agree wholeheartedly. I still hope that Richard will see the error of his ways. We’re all allowed to be ignorant and wrong: what we’re not allowed is to fail to learn from our mistakes.

    If Richard fails to learn from the responses he’s asked for – including yours – then he’s worthy of contempt. I still hope he’ll surprise us by realising where he’s wrong on this point, raising his consciousness as he’d put it and putting as much effort behind this issue as he does into the protection of women in other situations.

    I’m amazed at this blind spot of Richard’s and the optimist in me believes he’ll get the point. If he does, I think that will be good enough for me. If he doesn’t, I’m really not quite sure what to think.

    • July 6, 2011 at 6:06 pm

      It’s okay. I wrote that on my Samsung Galaxy Tab late last night. I wasn’t familiar enough with the app and I THOUGHT I was uploading a draft. It’s great to know that there are other pink-haired skeptics out there besides me and Rebecca though 😀

      In my other post today, “An Open Letter To Richard Dawkins” I addressed his points politely as he asked someone to basically tell him where, precisely he erred without using ‘fuck’ in every line.

      My other friend, Jay, thinks I hit it spot on with that one, so check it out and let me know what you think.


  3. Bret Hall said,

    July 11, 2011 at 1:09 am

    I think that it’s a bit deeper than it’s being portrayed by Ms Watson

    • July 11, 2011 at 10:50 am

      It is possible that there was more involved but I don’t think it’s reasonable to assume that to be the case. I’m not implying that you are. Only that others have been guilty of it.

      • Bret Hall said,

        July 11, 2011 at 2:07 pm

        Regardless of whether or not Dr. Dawkins knew the whole situation before making his comment is one thing, it does not however excuse Rebecca’s behavior on her bully pulpit at the CFI Student Leadership Conference.

      • July 11, 2011 at 2:22 pm

        This is something I’m not aware of. Please tell me more.

  4. Bret Hall said,

    July 11, 2011 at 10:57 pm

    My thoughts, including the full timeline of events, granted they are salted by my opinion.

    • latsot said,

      July 13, 2011 at 8:56 am


      I don’t use facebook, but I’m interested in your thoughts and timeline. Could you send me a copy or post it somewhere I can get at it?



    • latsot said,

      July 13, 2011 at 7:08 pm


      I got your google docs version (comment nesting limit on this blog doesn’t let me reply to your post so I’m doing it here). Thanks for doing that. I’ll have a look.


      • latsot said,

        July 13, 2011 at 8:14 pm

        OK, confusingly nested reply to Bret:

        Thanks for your timeline, that seems about right to me.

        There’s some stuff in there we’re unlikely to agree on.

        For one thing, I can accuse you of using a stupid source about elevator rape. I really think you need to be a bit more picky if you intend to say that rapes in elevators are rare or – as you actually said – rapes “just don’t happen” in elevators. I’m going to go right ahead and wait for some *actual* evidence on this point. .The source you provide doesn’t say that rapes just don’t happen in elevators, by the way, that seems to be all you. But it isn’t an actual proper source of proper information, is it? I mean what the fuck? It’s a list of stuff some random person has written. We don’t know what incidents weren’t included, what cherry-picking took place or – frankly – what was and wasn’t simply made up. We can all write lists of stuff, we should probably not pretend those lists are important.

        So onto the next point. A woman can appear in a calendar in whatever state of dress or undress she likes without it signalling availability for sex. Is this a contradiction? Does it mean she’s no longer able to say she doesn’t want to be sexualised?

        Please.There’s a big difference between displaying one’s sexuality and wanting to be sexualised. Wank over my pictures all you like, they’re out there, but don’t think that means you know a thing about my sexuality.

        “However, in the video, she equated Insensitive Ivan’s actions as sexist.”

        She said “guys, don’t do that”. It was a bit of advice. Take it or leave it.

        But there is certainly a feminist issue here. There are all sorts of ways to ask for sex that don’t involve making women uncomfortable, so shouldn’t we do that?

        “Letter writers, how many of you wrote letters of support to…”

        Personally, I was involved in some of those campaigns. Personally I gave money to some of them and encouraged others to do likewise. And I completely ignored some of the others. But *SO FUCKING WHAT*? How many people who campaign for cancer research are victims or relatives of victims of cancer? People give support to the things that matter to them. The fact that people with AIDS are also in distress hardly undermines the work of people who support cancer research.

        I really don’t see your point.

        “My favorite portrayal is of Richard Dawkins as a “rich white heterosexual man” by Rebecca, ”

        I think this was unfortunate. Rebecca is white and heterosexual too! So what? I was happy to write a letter to Richard explaining why I was disappointed with his response because he ASKED people to. But I’m not very happy that a sort of *campaign* has sprung up and I think Rebecca has taken things too far in advocating not buying or recommending Richard’s books because of an unfortunate remark. The books haven’t changed, they are still excellent. Richard was wrong and I hope he’ll come to realise it, but arbitrary sanctions seem a little pointless.

        I don’t see why PZ is a hypocrite and you don’t explain it at all, you just state it. I don’t see why Rebecca shouldn’t air her woes wherever she likes. As an academic, I think nothing of taking apart work I think is wrong. In public. It’s nothing personal. All the exchanges between Rebecca and Steph are in the public domain, so I really don’t see that either one should hold back in principle.

        Of course, we can argue about whether Rebecca went too far on this occasion. I don’t really care all that much, but I get that some people think she did. Let’s say she did. So what? It doesn’t invalidate anything else she said.

        At this point, I still think Dawkins’ comments were wrong. I still want to urge him to realise why. I don’t agree with Rebecca’s seemingly self-righteous campaign against him, I don’t see why she didn’t simply get him on the phone and talk it through.

        So I agree with some of your conclusion. But I don’t agree that the issue of sexism is less important than other issues of inequality. I’m *delighted* that this furore has happened because it is long long long overdue.

  5. July 12, 2011 at 12:39 am

    I get the Teal Deer award too. I hadn’t heard anything about Rebecca’s comments during her keynote at that conference. That is just something you don’t do and is unacceptable as far as I’m concerned.

    That being said, I couldn’t disagree more with Steph’s position but there are so many other ways Rebecca could have handled that.

    Personally, I’m done with the whole mess. I just want to relax and enjoy TAM.

    • Bret Hall said,

      July 12, 2011 at 12:56 am

      I hope you have a good time there! Have some fun for me, will ya?

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