Atheist writer Sam Harris faces backlash over 'estrogen vibe' comments

Feminists have criticised comments from atheist Sam Harris, who said the reason more women don't buy his books is due to an 'Estrogen Vibe'.

Outspoken New Atheists such as Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins appear be on a quest to offend as many people as they possibly can – widening their range in recent months from religious people to women, people with disabilities and victims of sexual violence, to name a few. Harris' latest comments have angered feminists who have expressed their views on the twitter hashtag #EstrogenVibe.

At an event organised by secular advocacy group Center for Inquiry, American reporter Michelle Boorstein asked Harris why most of his readers are male, and questioned whether the atheist community is sexist. Harris responded that his style of being 'very critical' can sound 'very angry' and is therefore more attractive to men than women. "The atheist variable just has this – it doesn't obviously have this nurturing, coherence-building extra estrogen vibe that you would want by default if you wanted to attract as many women as men," he said, as reported by Boorstein in the Washington Post

This led to a twitterstorm, with a number of atheist feminists taking exception to his comments.

Richard Dawkins then leapt to Harris' defence on twitter, leading to a fresh stream of tweets in support of the atheist.

Harris defended his comments in a blog post entitled "I'm not the sexist pig you're looking for," in a part of his website dedicated specially for defending himself in controversies.

"These quotations are accurate, but they are also incomplete and misleading," he writes. "My work is often perceived (I believe unfairly) as unpleasantly critical, angry, divisive, etc. The work of other vocal atheists (male and female) has a similar reputation. I believe that in general, men are more attracted to this style of communication than women are."

He also wrote of the "paranoia engendered by political correctness".

Natalie Collins, a Christian women's rights campaigner, said that any differences between men and women in this area are likely to be due to cultural biases. "Women are socialised to not be angry, whereas boys are allowed to be boisterous," she said. "If a woman is angry she's called irrational, emotional or shrill... men are described as leaders or passionate.

"A lot of atheists would be critical of Christians because of their views on women. This shows that patriarchy, patriarchal values and sexism are in every sphere of society, this is not about faith."

Recently there has been something of a backlash against New Atheists such as Harris and Dawkins. At one time, Dawkins was named the 'world's top thinker' by members of the public in a Prospect magazine poll. Perhaps it's something to do with some of these comments:

August 2014: Dawkins apologises after saying woman should abort a Downs Syndrome baby: "Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice."

July 2014: Dawkins reference to 'mild paedophilia' and his distinction between 'date rape' and 'stranger rape' causes controversy

August 2013: Dawkins claimed Muslims hadn't contributed anything to science since the Dark Ages, after being derogatory about the number of Nobel prizes won by Muslims. 

April 2013: Dawkins suggests the work of Muslim journalist Mehdi Hasan should not be published due to his Islamic belief in a 'winged horse". 

July 2011: Dawkins implies that feminist Rebecca Watson shouldn't complain about sexual harassment, because she does not suffer as much as women in Muslim countries. 

2004: In his book The End of Faith, Sam Harris implies that people should be killed for their beliefs: "The link between belief and behavior raises the stakes considerably. Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them."