At first, it was my friend’s all-caps, double-exclamation-mark Facebook post that motivated me to look closer at the article she was sharing. But then it was the headline that fully pulled me in: Society is creating a new crop of alpha women who are unable to love.
Finally, someone had defined the way I felt as an independent, strong (read: bossy) female who has been single exactly seven years this month.
Or so I assumed based on the title of the article.
The article was actually an excerpt from a book accompanied by a video clip from Fox News’ “Fox & Friends.” Author Suzanne Venker was being profiled for her controversial tome, The Alpha Female’s Guide to Men & Marriage, and its idea of the alpha female’s role in a relationship — or lack of, rather.
It’s that latter caveat to which Venker dedicates most of the video and excerpt. It’s also the part that didn’t sit well with me, especially considering I had clicked into an article that seemed to describe me so well in its 14-word headline. In the simplest sense, this woman was basically saying that women need to be the more submissive “betas” and allow men to have control as the natural “alphas.”
“The goal is to get one of each, but if [the female] is bringing alpha energy to the table, and he’s alpha by nature because he has all the testosterone, you’re going to be like two bulls in a China shop,” Venker explained in the Fox News spot. “If you want him to be the more feminine person in the relationship, I guess you could do that, but that usually doesn’t work for most people because women are naturally feminine.”
I immediately thought of all the testosterone-less men I’ve dated over the years, ones who were far from those she described as the norm. I also thought of all the stay-at-home dads that exist today in support of their wives’ career pursuits. While I agree that a relationship needs a balance of opposites, Venker seems convinced that the men are always the alpha and, thus, women can’t and even shouldn’t be.
Venker: Women need to revert to beta status
After women stopped being groomed to be wives and started being groomed to be leaders, which is what’s happening today, Venker says men controlled the relationship: from calling a girl and paying for a meal to even proposing. Although she still claims “almost all relationships start that way” — which seems part delusional and part storybook fantasy in this day and age — she says women soon shift to the alpha mode, which then confuses the men. At that point, problems arise, there is “a lot of contention” and “the relationship starts to deteriorate.” Venker saw this happen between her parents, her mother being the quintessential alpha wife.
“An alpha wife micromanages, delegates and makes most or even all of the decisions. She is, quite simply, the Boss.”
By the time I finished watching the spot and reading the excerpt, I was infuriated. Now I understood my Facebook friend’s all-capped comment with swear words and double exclamation points.
Was this woman living under a rock?! In what day and age do men always make the first call and pay for dates? And in what world are all men testosterone-filled? Does she truly believe, after all we’ve accomplished as women — ability to vote, work, earn executive titles — that women need to revert to being submissive and serving their husbands? It sure sounded like it.
Is my ‘alphaness’ actually the problem?
As much as I was infuriated about her portrayal of strong women and how we are the ones causing problems in relationships, I couldn’t help but think about how I’ve been single for so long and how many of my past relationships didn’t work out because I am so independent and set in my ways. I ended up with guys who saw something in me but ultimately couldn’t handle my need for space, time alone or with other friends (both female and male) and decision-making that didn’t involve them. One after another, I called each of the relationships off.
While I don’t buy into most of Venker’s wild assumptions, accusations and generalizations, I do wonder if my “alphaness” is making it difficult for me to find love. I understand that two alphas may find themselves butting heads, but why did my relationships fail when I often found myself with betas? We had the balance of masculine-feminine energies that Venker spoke of (but with me in the masculine role), yet each one ended sooner than the last.
And why was I ending up with this type in the first place, when their neediness so starkly contrasted my independence and what I wanted out of a significant other?
If I looked to Venker for the answer, she would say I need to get in touch with my feminine side, that I need to change.
“We’re constantly pointing fingers at the men, when we’re the ones who are actually the problem,” she said so matter-of-factly in the news spot. “If you exude positive, feminine energy, they’re very responsive. If you’re coming in with negativity, or hardness rather, they recoil; they don’t want it. The husband needs from the women softness instead of hardness, happiness instead of anger, more compliance and less dictatorial.”
So because I’m an independent, strong female, I’m a negative, hard, angry dictator. Well when you put it like, then I probably do need to change. No wonder my relationships don’t work out!
Search for balance continues
With all the author’s outrageous talk aside, I’ll admit I may actually struggle with embracing my feminine side. I rarely let a man help me or take care of me, I often shut down their compliments and I’m also quite competitive. I’ve always believed I can take care of myself, and I’d rather do things my way. I am one of those aforementioned females raised by an alpha mother to be a leader, not a wife.
So as I strive to be a leader and do things my way, do I knock down anything that comes in my path, including men who are interested in courting me? Venker quotes Jackie Kennedy in her book: “There are two kinds of women: those who want power in the world, and those who want power in bed.” Am I so focused on my personal power goals that I’m not making room in my life for a powerful relationship?
While I won’t be buying Venker’s self-help book, I appreciate the self-reflection it has incited. And as I put myself out there in the vicious world of dating — that to Venker’s likely surprise mainly involves texting rather than calling — I will definitely be more conscious of the energy I’m putting into a relationship.
So although I’m not going to change who I am for a man just because some deranged “culture critic” says to, I will more willingly contribute to the necessary balance in my future relationships.