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Alpha women finding love

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When I was younger, I used to assume that ridiculous anti-feminist articles like this one were persuasive pieces aimed at feminist women like me. They were scary stories, cautionary tales, intended to undermine my confidence in my own values. Their message was: ladies, I know you think you’re happy pursuing your career and all that, but YOU WILL PAY THE PRICE SOMEDAY WHEN YOU CAN’T FIND LOVE.

I laughed at them. How pathetic, how gullible did they think we were?

Then there came a time when I started to assume that they were nothing but clickbait, deliberately incendiary nonsense crafted to get every feminist you know hate-reading, to get our rolling eyeballs focused, if only briefly, on your ads.

But a couple of days ago, when this particular article started making the rounds — a Fox News editorial with the you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me title of “Society is creating a new crop of alpha women who are unable to love,” I realized they’re not for us, for me, at all, maybe never were. They’re intended for non-feminist women, partly to scare them (it’s so much worse on the other side!) and partly to give them a little hit from the smugness pipe (hahaha look at those feminist over there trying to act cool when we all know THEY DO NOT KNOW LOVE).

With that in mind, let’s get to it, shall we? (Cracks knuckles)

The first thing I notice is that this is not only on the Fox News website, it is part of a “values” tag. It’s adapted from a book called The Alpha Female’s Guide to Men & Marriage coming from Post Hill Press on February 14, 2017. Get it? Valentine’s Day! Hahaha. The cover shows a red stiletto, so that’s obviously the kind of “alpha female” they have in mind.

Like me, my mother was not a perfect wife. [..] Despite my mother’s allegiance to my father, she never quite mastered wifedom—for one reason: she was wholly unyielding

You could make the case that a truly “unyielding” person of any sex makes a poor romantic partner — the nature of domestic happiness is negotiated compromises, after all — but this characterizes “yielding” as a specific requirement for “wifedom” and “yielding” becomes code for “submissive.” Hey, look, it’s Quiverfull wearing a high-heeled disguise. Y

With my mother, everything was a fight. Everything was “No” unless she determined it was appropriate to say yes. If my mother wasn’t the one who made the decision, the decision couldn’t possibly be good. Every so often she would appear to cede to my father’s wishes, but only if she happened to agree with him.

But reverse the sexes here and you get the ideal Quiverfull marriage, don’t you?

Indeed, my mother was the quintessential alpha wife. An alpha wife micromanages, delegates and makes most or even all of the decisions. She is, quite simply, the Boss.

And of course she can’t the Boss, because he has to be the Boss. Right?

Just a side note here about “alphas” — our pop culture understanding of “alphas” is based on totally misinterpreting the somewhat artificial relationships of wolf packs in captivity. In nature, there is an “alpha” female and an “alpha” male and really they’re just Mom & Dad.

Humans, however, have an incredibly complicated and variable network of social hierarchies and status, which we often struggle to describe and define. So, our culture latched onto the concept of “alpha” to describe a dominant human. It’s often used to describe somebody dominant in the larger world — an “alpha female” would be a woman who walks into the room and takes charge and everybody kind of accepts that. But patriarchalists don’t believe that women should ever be alpha, never, not under any circumstances.

Alpha women aren’t exactly new, but they were once a rarer breed. Today they abound. There are several reasons why, but it’s in large part due to women having been groomed to be leaders rather than to be wives. Simply put, women have become too much like men. They’re too competitive. Too masculine. Too alpha.

THIS IS QUIVERFULL WITH THE RELIGIOUS PARTS TAKEN OUT DO NOT BE FOOLED

Although I do want to go into a slight side note here — I am a fourth-generation Swedish gal, and Scandinavian culture is less patriarchal than many other European cultures, including our own US culture. I don’t know how to analyze this is any scientific way, but it seems to me that when I look at the Swedish female line of descent in my family — Great-Grandma, Grandma, Mom, then me — I see women who didn’t always consciously identify as feminists, but who had a certain independence of spirit that made political feminism a natural fit. I was raised to take care of myself, not to trust a man to do it. Some of that is because the women in my family outlived their husbands by decades — what, you’re just going to curl up and die because you don’t have a man around? And some of that is because duh. A good man is good — and all those women in my family married good men — but if a man isn’t good, you’d best be ready to kick his ass straight to the curb.

Does that independence of spirit make me a bad wife? How? I take care of myself and my husband benefits, because I take care of him too.

That may get them ahead at work. But when it comes to love, it will land them in a ditch.

Yeah, you wish.

Anti-feminist ladies. If you are reading this claptrap and nodding along, I have something amazing to tell you: being a feminist is pretty much like whatever you’re doing now, only you don’t have to put up with all that abuse, you earn your own money, and you can decide when and if to have children. The only men who require a submissive “non-alpha” wife are patriarchal jerks you don’t want to get married to anyway because they will make your life hell until the day you turn 35 and they trade you in for a younger model, and there you are at 35 with four kids and no job skills.

Come over to the Dark Side, we have cookies. Or not. IT’S YOUR CHOICE.

Every relationship requires a masculine and a feminine energy to thrive.

Wow, that’s a giant load of bizarre nonsense delivered as fact. Apparently same-sex relationships literally do not exist in her world. But once again, it’s exactly Quiverfull with the God parts removed. Which means it makes even less sense. Because at least Quiverfull has an answer to “what makes you say that exactly?” and their answer is always “God” while the answer here is a shrug emoji.

If women want to find peace with men, they must find their feminine — that is where their real power lies

Note the framing: taking charge, being a leader, is inherently not feminine. Your “alpha” ness cannot be your own feminine, no, not even if you are a woman and it comes entirely naturally to you. IT IS NOT YOUR NATURE IT CANNOT BE YOUR NATURE. But that’s okay, because your real power lies elsewhere. You know. In the world where you have no power.

You’re going to get sick of me saying this, but the idea that submission is a woman’s “real”
power is straight-up Christian patriarchy.

And so — “real” power to do what, exactly?

Another side note: back when I was a baby evangelical and sometimes heard the “wives, submit to your husbands” message from the church, I wondered why the idea of me submitting to my own husband (who didn’t even exist yet) was somehow related to the idea of me being submissive in general. I mean, I don’t have SEX with men who aren’t my husband, right? I don’t CLIP THE TOENAILS of men who aren’t my husband. I don’t CLEAN OFF THE GRODY BATHROOM COUNTER COVERED WITH BEARD HAIR for anybody who isn’t my husband. Why should I do submission for anybody who isn’t my husband?

Being feminine isn’t about being beautiful or svelte, or even about wearing high heels (although those things are nice). Being feminine is a state of mind. It’s an attitude.

I AM A WOMAN THEREFORE WHAT I DO IS FEMININE. THE END.

But, okay, let’s see how many different ways she can describe Quiverfull-style submission without actually using the word “submission” or talking about God.

In essence, being feminine means being nice.

1. Nice.

It means being soft instead of hard.

2. Soft.

And by “nice,” I don’t mean you should become a mouse. (That’s the narrative the culture sells, but that doesn’t make it true.) Men love women who are fun and feisty and who know their own mind!

Quiverfull attempts this same kind of impossible threading of a nonexistent needle — you’re supposed to be submissive, but that doesn’t make you a doormat! Oh, my, no!

So, then, what? How do you do submission, do “nice,” without becoming a mousy dull little beaten-down doormat creature with no spirit and no spine?

We don’t know! Exactly! Except to say that expecting women to exist in two contradictory states at the same time is a classic pre-emptive maneuver ensuring that, ladies, whatever it is you’re doing, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.

You see why it’s simpler to be a feminist?

But they don’t want a woman who tells them what to do.

Do women want a man who “tells them what to do”? Not really. That’s why Christian patriarchy has to work so very hard to sell female submission as a concept. Nobody likes being told what to do (unless they do like it, which is a totally different essay subject). But do we think it’s good when an abusive partner uses “don’t tell me what to do” to get out of being called on abusive behavior? Do we side with the drug addict when they say “don’t tell me what to do” when friends and family try to get them to quit?

As a man named Chuck once wrote on my site: “A strong woman is awesome. But she must be inviting and be able to mesh into an actual relationship. Needing to dominate and overpower, that is a no go.”

OH WOW WHO COULD POSSIBLY DENY ROMANTIC ADVICE FROM A MAN NAMED CHUCK.

Jackie Kennedy once said there are two kinds of women: those who want power in the world, and those who want power in bed.

I don’t want to Google this and find out whether she really said it, although it sounds a little suspect to me.

But on another little side note: as a baby feminist, far too young to worry about whether or not I would ever date a man, I absorbed a message more or like this: you can have the WHOLE WORLD or you can have romantic love. And I was like “okay, I pick the whole world then.” Then romantic love sort of snuck up on me anyway.

Ladies. Anti-feminist ladies. There are so many compromises you really do have to make in life. But “the whole world” and “romantic love” just isn’t one of them.

Another side note: these books/articles always seem to imagine a woman choosing between “CEO/president of everywhere” and “housewife,” not a woman choosing between “modest white-collar career path” and “housewife.” And again, this secular Quiverfull is very confusing, because it seems to be written with the assumption that a woman will have a job outside the home — and yet somehow her job isn’t important because she cares about bed more? I mean, is there some state where you can have a job outside the home and not have a job outside the home at the same time?

Once again: whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it wrong.

American women have become laser-focused on the former and have rejected the latter.

Nonsense. Feminists started Toys in Babeland. Unless you mean something other than “having sex” for “power in bed.” I mean, if orgasms really are different for guys with feminist female partners, that would be real news, since I’ve never seen anything even hinting at this.

In doing so, they’ve undermined their ability to find lasting love.

HOW EXACTLY DOES THIS WORK MAYBE SOME GUY NAMED CHUCK CAN EXPLAIN IT TO US.

Ladies, I know you’re not feminists. But… are you buying this? You can’t be buying this, can you? You notice how it makes no logical sense, leaps in logic all over the place, offers no real concrete data,  doesn’t tell any compelling stories? Even if you believe, in general, that she’s giving you good advice, how on earth are you supposed to implement any of this?

The roles may have changed, but the rules haven’t. All a good man wants is for his wife to be happy, and he will go to great lengths to make it happen. He’ll even support his wife’s ideas, plans or opinions if he doesn’t agree with them. That’s because a husband’s number one goal is to please his wife. If he determines his wife cannot be pleased, that’s when the marriage is in trouble.

Shifting goalposts alert: we have somehow moved from women who are “too alpha for love” because they have jobs or whatever, to women who are bad at relationships because they’re impossible to please.

These, uh, these are not even remotely the same thing.

Men are just so much simpler than women.

If you’re talking purely about the reproductive system, maybe. But if you’re talking about the human brain — uh, no. Human brains are not simple.

But claiming that you are simple, while someone else is overly complicated is a time-honored way of framing yourself as the default. You don’t have to explain yourself, or engage in introspection, because you’re the simple one, right?

Men are more “simple” than women when it suits them and more “complicated” and “deep” when it suits them.

Not simple as in dumb, as is often portrayed in the media. Simple in that they have far fewer needs than women do.

Again, if you’re talking purely about the reproductive system, fine. Men generally don’t need tampons or whatever. Generally nobody expects them to wear a bra. Etc.

Side note: For anybody who doubts we still live in a patriarchy, consider TAMPONS AND UNDERWIRE BRAS. A truly sexually egalitarian society would have come up with a better solution for these problems.

What men want most of all is respect, companionship and sex.

And women want something different?

The problem is, patriarchy attempts to deny us two of these: “respect” is not our due, while “sex” is assumed to happen entirely on his terms.

If you supply these basics, your husband will do anything for you—slay the dragons, kill the beast, work three jobs, etc.

HAHAHAHAHA oh, yeah, sure, that’s all it takes. Every man who gets respect, companionship and sex from a wife is TOTALLY WINNING AT LIFE and they never get laid off or sick or old or have affairs or any of that.

Men will happily do this if, and only if, they are loved well in return. It is when men are not loved well that problems arise. That is the nature of the male-female dance.

Who is telling patriarchalists that this is a dance and would they please knock it off?

Now I know what you’re thinking:

DO YOU NOW

that I’m putting everything on you.

Yeeeeeeeeeeppppppppp

I am, and I’m not. Your husband is 100% responsible for his own actions. If he makes stupid choices, such as getting repeatedly drunk, it’s his job to own up to that behavior and stop it. Same goes for his emotional outbursts, if he has them, or his not coming home when he said he would. Or even his having an affair.

So what’s your point then?

What I am saying is that men tend to follow women’s lead.

Oh reaaaaaalllllllly.

Your husband’s actions are more often than not reactions. He’s reacting to something you said or did, or to something you didn’t say or didn’t do. He’s reacting to your moods, your gestures, your inflections and your tone. That’s how men are. Your husband wants you to be happy, and when he sees it isn’t working he thinks he’s failed. That’s when he acts out.

Quiverfull alert. Christian patriarchy explicitly teaches that male bad behavior is always the wife’s fault. Abuse and infidelity are 100 percent the results of women not submitting properly or enough. But you know, at least Quiverfull has the guts to say that openly. This writer is trying to have it both ways — “I’m not saying it’s your fault, that’s ridiculous, but it is your fault.”

Another way to think about the male-female dance is to consider the game of chess. In chess, the king is the most important piece but also one of the weakest. He can only move one square in any direction—up, down, to the sides, and diagonally. The queen, however, is the most powerful piece. She can move in any one direction—forward, backward, sideways, or diagonally. And how she moves affects how he moves.

You know, I have been married for almost twenty years and this is probably the worst description of the marriage dynamic that I have ever read.

But also, what is she even talking about anymore? Women have all the power in the relationship, so we shouldn’t act too powerful? Is that supposed to make sense? Or is it just patriarchal nonsense of the “ladies, whatever you do is wrong” variety? I’m supposed to accept that I direct everything in the relationship (based on displaying to my husband whether or not I’m happy, and therefore, whether or not his behavior is correct) but I’m also not supposed to assert my will directly?

See, you know that joke cycle about how men are always supposed to guess why their wife is upset and how that’s so unreasonable? This writer is basically demanding that behavior from women — don’t assert your will directly, just let your husband know whether or not you’re happy and make him take it from there.

In fact, most of the traditional “jokes” men make about women — passive-aggressive, not communicating directly, marriage-hungry, spending all your money, passive during sex — is a complaint about women acting according to patriarchal dictates. So we’re told men like this sort of behavior, but then pop culture also tells us men hate it. So which is it?

As a woman, you can respond to this dynamic in one of two ways: you can resent it, or you can embrace it.

Or you can, you know, believe it doesn’t exist because the writer has done literally nothing to establish the existence of such a dynamic within marriage.

I embraced my alpha personality as though it were a baby in need of protection. If my husband chose me, obviously he likes that about me. Why should I have to change? Who would I be if I changed? And how could I be someone different, even if I wanted to?

Those are all excellent questions.

Women are always told we shouldn’t expect men to change in a romantic relationship. And that always seemed reasonable to me — have a relationship with the person they are, not the person you wish they were. But now I see there’s a more ominous way to interpret that bit of wisdom: don’t expect men to change, because if anything is “wrong” with him it’s really your problem and you’re the one who needs to change.

But my alpha ways were bumping up against his alpha nature. We were like two bulls hanging out in the same pen together, and there was too much friction. And because I had zero interest in my husband adopting a more feminine role, I set about to become the feminine creature our culture insists women not be.

Yes, because mainstream American culture totally doesn’t… oh, I don’t have the energy, my sarcasm circuits are burning out already. But this, too, is a staple of Christian patriarchy: that it demands of women a femininity which is not of this world, of “our culture”

And here’s what I learned: It’s liberating to be a beta!

GET ME A BUCKET I’M ABOUT TO THROW UP LIKE DREW BARRYMORE IN THE FIRST EPISODE OF SANTA CLARITA DIET

(You can Google it, if you haven’t watched the show, but I’m warning you, it kind of sets a new standard for entertainment-related vomit)

Somehow she found a way to dog-whistle to secular MRA types, Fifty Shades fans, and Quiverfull all at the same time.

Oh, I can’t wait to see where she’s going with this.

I’m an alpha all day long, and it gets tiresome. I concede that I thrive on it; but at the end of the day, I’m spent. Self-reliance is exhausting. Making all the decisions is exhausting. Driving the car, literally or figuratively, is exhausting.

What on earth kind of “making all the decisions” is she even talking about? I mean, my husband and I both see “deciding what we’re going to have for dinner” as a burden that we mostly hate and keep trying to push off on the other, which is why we end up eating out so often. But there’s nothing “beta” about not being the one deciding what to have for dinner. To me it’s like our gamesmanship about who’s going to clean the bathroom: we stand off, and the person who cares most breaks first, and it’s usually me. I care more about having things like dinner, or a bathroom that isn’t disgusting. But he’s actually winning the patriarchy game by making me do those things, there’s nothing feminist about me providing all that unpaid labor.

once I accepted that the energy I exude and the way I approach my husband directly affects his response and behavior, I changed my tune.

“Once I accepted that I’m the one who controls how my husband acts, I realized I had to start passively-aggressively controlling his every move.” And she says making decisions is exhausting.

First I’d handle something the “right” way — i.e. by not arguing with him, or by not directing his traffic, or by being more service-oriented — and marvel at the response.

I learned to do everything exactly his way, and it was amazing how happy this made him!

Then life would get busy, and I’d resort to my old ways. Sure enough, I’d get a different response. So I’d make a mental note of how I messed up and make sure to get it right the next time. Eventually, it became second nature.

I can’t believe that this just keeps getting worse, but it does.

This advice — just leap into doing everything for him, doing everything his way, all the time, anticipating and servicing his moods, etc. — has been given to women since the dawn of advice books (really, how far back do those things go?) But it has never stopped men from abuse, infidelity, general irresponsibility, or failure, and it has never stopped women from getting exhausted trying to fulfill this role. Women have to be “trained” to be “good wives” because it doesn’t come naturally.

She even sort of acknowledges it here, by noting that she reverted to her old habits when life got busy. Hey, you know what that means?

YOUR OLD WAYS ARE LESS WORK FOR YOU.

Sure, there are reasons to change your behavior. I want us to eat out less and get out of debt.
But it’s exhausting, don’t pretend it’s not exhausting. And what’s the benefit anyway? What do you really get out of it? What is so great about a patriarchal female-submissive marriage that it’s worth denying your own basic nature in order to try to have one?

I mean, either he loves you for real, as a person, in which case you can probably work things out your own way by having an honest conversation about it. Or he doesn’t love you as a person at all, and merely values you as an unpaid server of domestic and emotional labor, and would drop you for a Stepford Wife in a heartbeat.

That’s what it’s like to love a man.

No, that’s what it is to serve a man. (Until you end up serving a man, ha-ha.)

The thing about love, is that if it were really as complicated as everybody pretends, the human race wouldn’t still be here. We have this strange, beautiful, glorious and torturous impulse to partner up romantically. It makes sense — it’s a lot of work to raise baby humans, and heck, it’s a lot of work just being human in the first place. We’re highly social and absolutely need other people around in order to be happy, but also, humans are really annoying and we kinda hate them. We’re a mess of contradictions and paradoxes.

As individuals, we all have our own unique set of strengths, weaknesses, desires, habits, quirks and neuroses. We all have our own garbage. And I think the secret of finding love is that you find somebody who’s able to put up with your garbage, and you’re able to put up with their garbage too. That’s it. That’s enough.

You don’t need some idiot putting patriarchal garbage on top of it.

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One Comment

  1. Catherine Kehl Catherine Kehl

    I’ve been thinking a lot about the extent to which really stupid cultural notions of performative masculinity have basically ruined a lot of men as potential romantic partners for me. I mean, I like strong smart men. I don’t like guys who need to to pretend to be less strong and less smart than I actually am to coddle their fragiles little egos. Seriously? Let’s both go be good at things, and I’ll admire you, and you can admire me, and then we’ll hop in the sack and screw ike crazed weasles.

    …I don’t know why this is so difficult. (I’m even a really good cook. Just, like, I am not hired help – and if I am my rates are steep – and people should be at least somewhat appreciative when I cook for them. This is simple right?) (Okay, honestly, I don’t think this is so difficult. I’ve had a lot of relationships, many of them with men, some of them quite long term. It’s possible that my current problem is living in Ohio while being in a non-dating relationship with the entire state.)

    Though I was struck by:

    “‘An alpha wife micromanages, delegates and makes most or even all of the decisions. She is, quite simply, the Boss.'”

    Yeesh, look, I’ve been labeled ‘alpha’ before (I’m not keen on this label, but) micromanaged? Maybe *all the decisions? Who has time for that?! I won’t hire people who can’t work independently – and I have much higher standards for a partner. *full partnership* Yo.

    “Just a side note here about “alphas” — our pop culture understanding of “alphas” is based on totally misinterpreting the somewhat artificial relationships of wolf packs in captivity.”

    A side note to the side note – while this is true, a lot of th dynamics described are fairly accurate as far as what I know of chimpanzee troups. I mean, I suppose that research could also be messed up, but… I trust a lot of those sources more?

    “‘But my alpha ways were bumping up against his alpha nature.'”

    This is super random, but how many men have alpha natures? My experience is that most men have the weight of cultural expectations, so they totally suck at it, but feel obligated, which is a whole different ball of wax. (Of course, this might be that anyone who starts of as domineering I hiss and spit at from the get go. And maybe scratch their eyes out. Um, call it familial inheritance.)

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