In the latest disturbing article featured on Fox News, we have an opinion piece from author Suzanne Venker. Her book, “The Alpha Female’s Guide to Men & Marriage”, aims to teach women how to be better wives by becoming submissive human beings. Fox published an excerpt here: “Society is creating a new crop of alpha women who are unable to love“.
The title is notably (and probably intentionally) infuriating. Basically, Venker attributes failed marriages to alpha women who are denying their femininity, and advocates that females embrace their nature of being “soft”. She argues that she is a recovered alpha woman herself who became “beta”, and her marriage is better for it.
Let’s examine just a few quotes from the article.
“My mother… never mastered wifedom. She was the quintessential alpha wife. Every so often she would appear to cede to my father’s wishes, but only if she happened to agree with them.”
I am failing to understand how this is a problem. Marriage is about making decisions together, not blindly yielding to what your partner wants. Spouses should always work to both be in agreement regarding whatever decision needs to be at hand.
“Women have become too much like men… too competitive, too masculine, too alpha. That may get them ahead at work. But when it comes to love, it will land them in a ditch.”
This maddening oversimplification of gender assumes that traits like being competitive, assertive or ambitious are ONLY intrinsic to men. Furthermore, women have worked like hell to carve out a spot in the workplace. Why should we have to adopt one persona to get ahead at work and another at home to be attractive to men? Can’t we just be who we are and find someone who likes us that way? This kind of double standard would be unthinkable for men.
“Being feminine means being nice. It means being soft instead of hard. And by “nice”, I don’t mean you should become a mouse.”
She makes this statement, and yet spends the rest of the article advocating women do just that.
“Men are just so much simpler than women. Not simple as in dumb, as is often portrayed in the media. Simple in that they have far fewer needs than women do. What men want most of all is respect, companionship and sex.”
Another oversimplification of genders and all human beings, really. We all desire respect, companionship and sex. These are basic social needs of all people, not just men. And since these are such broad topics, I can’t think of all the needs women apparently have above and beyond these three that wouldn’t fall into these categories.
“Men will happily do [anything for their wives] if, and only if, they are loved well in return. It is when men are not loved well that problems arise. 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.”
Cue my hackles rising. This is part of a larger trope in our culture that holds women responsible for the actions of men. If he’s not being a good husband, it’s because you’re not being a good wife. Thankfully, she addresses my concerns with her next comment.
“Now I know what you’re thinking: that I’m putting everything on you. I am, and I’m not… 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.”
Okay, so if he’s an alcoholic or a cheater, then he’s responsible. But anything short of these major transgressions are probably my fault. Got it.
She returns to the ‘holding women responsible’ angle and now delves deeper into how to become a better wife.
“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… I set about to become the feminine creature our culture insists women not be. And here’s what I learned: It’s liberating to be a beta!”
First of all, our culture still communicates a ton of gender norms that insist women be feminine creatures, from being primarily responsible for housework and childcare to not being too assertive in the workplace right down to wearing make-up and conforming to beauty norms.
Second of all, I take issue with the language “my alpha ways” and “his alpha nature”. Again, it’s sexist and completely misinformed to suggest that only men are naturally decision-makers.
Before we move on to my third point, she explains why she is a liberated beta.
“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. It took me a ridiculously long time to get it. But once I did, 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. And when I did, something happened: The tension disappeared overnight. Just like that.”
Now this just seems unfair to me. Your husband, being a man, is presumably also an alpha all day long. He comes home and has to continue being an alpha, while you get to be a beta? If it was truly so wonderful and liberating, why wouldn’t men want to adopt this role? And if it was truly how women are called to be, why have women fought like hell AGAINST it?
She goes on to detail how much her marriage has improved, etc. Great, good for her. But it is wholly disturbing to advocate an entire gender become submissive “beta wives”. And furthermore to imply that women who reject this notion are failing their husbands and ultimately will be in loveless marriages – or end up divorced and alone.
And if the article was bad, the comments were worse. Someone pointed out that alpha women make great providers because they work hard to make good money, and the immediate reply was “they are generally negligent mothers”. Meanwhile, no one says male CEOs are generally negligent fathers.
There is so much dichotomy for female gender roles that it’s exhausting. Be an alpha female and succeed at work OR be a beta female and succeed at home. Work full time to make a decent salary and be called a negligent mother OR stay at home to raise kids and be accused of being ‘lazy’/not wanting to work. Embrace your sexuality and be called a slut OR embrace your modesty and be called a prude.
And notice that these types of roles and advice columns are entirely black and white, leaving no room for grey. The assumption is that ALL men want to make ALL decisions – which is far from true. Most men appreciate having an equal partner in the household, or even leaving some matters to their wives entirely (and vice versa).
So let’s not shame women who prefer to be assertive, competitive, ambitious – whether that’s in their career or in their home – as “unable to love”. Instead, let’s teach men to value such women – and all women – as people, not as docile, mindless housekeepers. Let’s teach the key to a happy marriage is teamwork and compromise… not one entire gender subjugating themselves to the other.