A Woman’s Defense of the Alpha Male

Offer me a Romeo in tights or a battle scarred Leonidas, and I’ll pick the Spartan every day of the week.

It began when I read about the burgeoning trend for men to “unlearn toxic masculinity.” If you’re unaware of this, let me bring you up to speed. In the midst of Hollywood’s “me too” feeding frenzy for attention in the wake of too many sexual abuse allegations to count, the topic of what’s being called “toxic masculinity” was brought to the forefront. Allegedly, “toxic masculinity” consists of a set of beliefs and values informing the undesirable behaviors of a certain subset of human males, apparently predisposing them to become emotionally stunted, abusive brutes. “Toxic Masculinity” converts such as Kali Holloway, author of Salon.com’s “Toxic Masculinity is Killing Men: The Roots of Male Trauma” claim that we socialize this into our sons, citing academic studies which demonize such things as “emphasizing achievement and competition,” and teaching them to “control their emotions.” Faculty at Brown University promote «Unlearning Toxic Masculinity” courses, alleging that “rigid definitions of masculinity are toxic to men’s health,” and justifying the need for such programming by citing one single study which concluded that men’s shorter life expectancy is due to a “lack of understanding of the role of ‘masculinity’ in shaping men’s expectations and behaviours.” Huh?

Ok, you might say, but we all know “toxic masculinity” when we see it. If you’re thinking about a group of drunk guys beating their chests and groping a stripper at a bachelor party (which is a paid, consensual, perfectly legal adult activity – by the way), there is certainly a set of entitled, exploitative, and dehumanizing behaviors at play. Perhaps a culture of machismo. We can pick it apart and indict all of those things individually. But to generalize and allege that this is the result of toxic masculine culture drags all of the good men down with the bad. When a guy catcalls at me – and it happens to me almost daily at the place where I work – I don’t cry about his “toxic masculinity.” If he’s really being a jerk about it, I just think he’s a good old fashioned asshole, and I write him off. Women can be assholes, too. I honestly don’t bring gender into it.

Women can be assholes, too. I honestly don’t bring gender into it.

Toxic Masculinity” is just a safe cover up for the thing that these cultural critics are trying to undermine: the traditional archetype of the Alpha Male.

The notion of the Alpha, which science accepts as part of the animal world, is heavily questioned by the psychology community as researchers consider its applicability to the case of the human male. The apologetics in such scholarship are striking, and amount to little more than ego stroking for the beta males of the academic community.

«They have greater access to power, money, and mates, which they gain through physical prowess, intimidation, and domination. Alphas are typically described as the ‘real men.’ In contrast are the ‘Beta’ males: the weak, submissive, subordinate guys who are low status, and only get access to mates once women decide to settle down and go searching for a ‘nice guy.’ This distinction…paints a very black and white picture of masculinity. Not only does it greatly simplify the multi-dimensionality of masculinity, and grossly underestimate what a man is capable of becoming, but it also doesn’t even get at the heart of what is really attractive to women.”

In short, according to Kaufman? Don’t worry, wimpy guys. Women can see past appearances to judge what’s really important.

Another Psychology Today piece by Clinical Psychologist Vinita Mehta offers similar platitudes: “In the animal world, social dominance is often equated with the might of alpha males. But let’s remember…that humans are thankfully more complex – and this comment from British actress and writer Miranda. Hart: ‘It’s a real man who can go out with a woman who’s taller than he is. That’s an alpha male right there.’”

Mehta’s professional viewpoint? Don’t worry, short guys. You still might have a shot with at least one good looking actress.

I’m not trying to make light of matters that can be a real source of pain for people. I understand how difficult it must feel to be the guy who gets picked last for the football team, or the guy who feels like he’s constantly getting passed over for the affections of beautiful women. It’s a rough life. But we all have our successes and failures; our strengths and weaknesses. I’m 5’3” and I’ll never be a runway model, but this doesn’t embitter me. I celebrate my own positive qualities and move on.

The thing is that there is a real danger that as we attack this nebulous concept of “toxic masculinity,” we will throw out the metaphorical baby with the bathwater, and discredit the things about traditional masculinity that are absolutely worth celebrating. Most specifically – say it with me now, ladies – the Alpha Male.

There is a real danger that as we attack this nebulous concept of “toxic masculinity,” we will throw out the metaphorical baby with the bathwater, and discredit the things about traditional masculinity that are absolutely worth celebrating.

In both my personal and professional life, I’m a woman who spends most of her time in the company of alpha males.

As much as he may excel as an athlete or on the battlefield, a true Alpha Male also develops the capacities of character to temper, channel, moderate, and strategically employ this strength. Character – and what is traditionally referred to as “honor” – is central to the way that these men live their lives.

But are Alpha Males capable of tenderness, empathy, compassion, and love? Emphatic yes to all of the above, at least according to the males who populate my social sphere.

These qualities of masculine strength and high character were once, historically, considered to be the apex of masculine human achievement. We used to uphold these qualities of strength and hardiness as signs of worthiness to lead, as exemplified by our nation’s founding fathers. Consider Teddy Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, suggests Noah Weinrich; “while some critics would scoff at their strenuous lifestyles and brash personalities as mere machismo, it’s those lifestyles and personalities that brought America and Britain through wars and crises.”

These qualities of masculine strength and high character were once, historically, considered to be the apex of masculine human achievement.

We need to scrutinize our own culture and fearlessly identify what is really going on here. It’s ok to be an Alpha, as long as you’re a woman. It’s acceptable to embrace masculine gender signifiers – if you’re a biological female wanting to be perceived as masculine or male. In the popular imagination, it’s even ok to be an Alpha Male, as long as you’re not white or conservative (look no further than GQ magazine naming Colin Kaepernick 2017’s Man of the Year). Are you a dominant Alpha white male? That’s OK, too, as long as you apologize for your power and “privilege” by holding liberal political views (consider nearly every white Hollywood actor). But ask Tim Tebow how being an outspoken Christian as well as a conservative, dominant, successful white Alpha Male has played out for him in the public eye. Not so well-received. The notion of the self-made man who doesn’t believe in favors or handouts has fallen out of fashion. The left’s utter disdain and gut-wrenched disgust for President Trump and his personal, political, and financial success is further evidence of this problem. His masculine dominance is under constant scrutiny as much if not more than his politics. From the tone of his tweets to his domineering handshake, people can’t stomach the fact that he’s a strong, dominant, Alpha Male. The unapologetic antithesis of an Obama bowing to the Saudis. Think I’m overreacting, and that his isn’t really a problem? Consider this leaked memo from a DNC recruiter, stating that the job vacancy not be offered to «cisgender straight white males.» Yes, this actually happened. Its a serious problem that is effecting men’s lives and livelihoods.

We need to scrutinize our own culture and fearlessly identify what is really going on here.

My biological sex gives me a philosophical advantage in that I have no vested personal interest in defending the Alpha Male archetype.

Maybe I will write an article on the Alpha Females tomorrow. As for today, I don’t feel that I’m diminishing my sisters in the slightest by taking a moment to focus on the fellas. It takes a real woman to stand up for the guys, and it takes a real man to allow a woman to speak up for him. I’ll concede both points. But in a world gone crazy, a cultural elite telling me that I should desire a feminized man over a strong and dominant one, I’m striving to be the voice of reason. Offer me a Romeo in tights or a battle scarred Leonidas, and I’ll pick the Spartan every day of the week.

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*The same psychological community of supposedly unbiased experts who discredit the notion of the Alpha Male happily embrace the concept of the Alpha Female. Again in Psychology Today, Rhodes and Schneider argue convincingly for the mutually complimentary roles of the Alpha and Beta females in “Alpha Woman, Beta Woman.” While Kaufman, Mehta, Holloway, the faculty of Brown University, and the Washington DC Rape Crisis Center/Colletive Action for Safe Spaces/ReThink (where “Unlearning Toxic Masculinity” courses are also being taught), all argue that the animal kingdom’s model of sexual competition an Alpha dominance model doesn’t apply to the human male, Rhodes and Schneider’s presupposition of the existence of a human Alpha Female is presented as if perfectly unproblematic.

Alice Atalanta, Ph.D.

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Lover, Fighter, Mama, American Woman, Ph.D., Veterans’ Advocate, Writer, Athlete, Outdoorswoman, Patriot, Ohioan. https://m.facebook.com/Dr-Alice-Atalanta-PhD