The ‘alpha male’
In recent years, the idea of the ‘alpha male’ has taken over the public imagination. It’s the idea that in any given room, there is one person who is clearly in charge. They’re in charge not because they’re most qualified, or more intelligent, or most capable. They’re in charge because they’re the alpha: they exude a confidence that by sheer force of will makes others submit to them.
While once shy, awkward dudes lined up to read about ‘pick-up artists’, or learn ‘tricks’ to get out of the ‘friend zone’, now they learn how to be an alpha. It involves strutting around a lot, asserting that your way is best, refusing to listen to compromise and oozing charisma.
‘Alpha’ versus ‘beta’
The idea of the ‘alpha’ didn’t come alone, though. It brought with it the necessary counterpart to such a person … the ‘beta’.
You see, the word ‘beta’ get thrown around a lot online. Usually, on Twitter, some dude with a Pepe the Frog avatar will call a male Democrat a ‘beta’, interchangeably with ‘libtard’ and ‘snowflake’. The Urban Dictionary describes “Beta” as, “A male who, instead of being alpha and manning up, completely bitches out.”
So it’s no surprise that there’s a whole industry, not only of books geared towards men who are supposed to force themselves into a toxic mould of masculinity based on the idea of becoming alpha, but of books geared towards women, trying to convince them to become beta.
That’s where The Alpha Female’s Guide to Men and Marriage comes in. The author claims that in every relationship, you need masculine and feminine energy and that it is ESSENTIAL for a wife to be beta to her husband’s alpha. You can be alpha at work, but at home? You have to submit to your alpha; to cook and clean for him, to have sex whenever he wants. You know, wife stuff – if it’s 1953, that is.
What’s true is that in some divorces, the woman makes more money than the man. Alpha versus beta aside, it’s clear a lot of men aren’t comfortable with any woman in a position of authority or perceived superiority over them. Not even when they reap the benefits of that authority.
However, those marriages don’t fail because the wife is alpha; they fail because the husband is a complete tool.
What makes a marriage work?
What makes a marriage work is when there’s balance, not of ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ energy, as this author suggests, but when there’s a balance made of respect. And the entire alpha/beta ideology is based on the concept that the alpha gets his way, and it’s the job of everyone else to support him in his epic quest to lead a totally happy, fulfilled life without ever having to compromise with anyone.
In a healthy marriage, each person takes turns shouldering responsibilities based on what they enjoy, what they excel at, and what opportunities are provided to them by life and circumstances.
If your spouse gets a new job that pays more than your job, you celebrate having an easier time balancing your budget. If your spouse enjoys cooking, you enjoy eating what they make. If your spouse doesn’t feel like having sex, you don’t pressure them for sex. I repeat: NOBODY IS EVER OBLIGATED TO HAVE SEX WITH YOU, EVEN IF THAT PERSON IS YOUR SPOUSE.
People aren’t sets of values that rise and fall in relation to what you want at that particular moment. People are people, with their own needs and agendas and agency, regardless of what’s going on in your life.
When you marry somebody, they don’t become your property
Their worth is not tied to the role they play in the epic tale your life. You love them for THEM. You love them for being driven or being domestic, or both. You love them for having goals and ambitions, so long as those goals and ambitions make them happy or drive them to success.
You love them because of who they are, not because they complete some fictional image of a yin and yang that really looks more like a yin holding up a yang while it kisses its own biceps.
The idea that a woman can ruin her marriage by being an alpha is a coded way to shill the same crap that women like Phyllis Schlafly have been selling since the birth of feminist ideology: Women are inherently inferior to men, and all the world’s social ills come from women trying to achieve beyond their station. That is to say, women acting too much like men, women acting ‘alpha’.
If having a career and caring about it is ruining your marriage, it’s not because you have a career and care about it. It’s because your husband has some seriously deep-rooted misogyny and needs to find a way to get his head on straight.
Marriage isn’t a hierarchy of who is supposed to be in charge and who is supposed to take care of them. It’s a partnership where, from moment to moment, you each take charge of different things, take care of different things, and most importantly, take care of each other.
This article originally appeared on YourTango.