Rebecca Watson meant it as a funny story, almost an aside.

In a video blog, the popular skeptic blogger recalled a man following her into an empty elevator and inviting her up to his room after she spoke about feminism at a European atheist conference last June.

“Guys,” she said with a bit of a laugh, “don’t do that.”

Hers and other atheist/skeptic blogs were soon flooded with comments. Many women told of receiving unwanted sexual advances at freethinker gatherings. Some men, meanwhile, ridiculed Watson as overly sensitive or worse—or threatened her with rape, mutilation and murder.

Before she knew it, Watson, 30, was subsumed by what everyone now calls “Elevatorgate.” And when best-selling atheist author Richard Dawkins chimed in, the incident went nuclear.

“Stop whining, will you,” Dawkins wrote in one of three comments on Pharyngula, a popular freethinker blog, comparing her experience to that of a fictional Muslim woman who had been beaten by her husband and genitally mutilated. “For goodness’ sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.”

Now, more than a month after “Elevatorgate” erupted, freethinkers are assessing its meaning. Many acknowledge they have a “woman problem”—men outnumber women at atheist gatherings, both at the podium and in the audiences.

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