Alpha women? Or alpha abstraction?
Monday, August 4, 2008 at 5:05 pm — admin
posted by H. L. Trisky
I remind myself of the lack of Alpha women by clipping pictures from the newspapers and newsweeklies. From my teen years onward, I’ve noted how power line-ups always entail a row of men. During my lifetime (in the so-called post-feminist realm) I’ve NOT noted much of a budge in this line up. My High Court stumbles along with a lone female. The UN declines ...
a female leader. Newspapers (and all major media) continue to be published by men and favor male bylines for power topics. A G8 meeting will have at most a lone female. Recently the Times ran a spot on executive pay. The photo under the caption had a line up of six sad-faced men testifying at a House panel convened to dissect their sky-high pay rates. Leaders of Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, Countrywide, etc. were being grilled about their leadership pay.
Alpha males, leaders who set the stage for who will lead below them and after them.
When I see a similar panel of women lined up before Congress, called to explain their massive salaries and power, when I see a row a six sad-faced women averting their eyes from those who would call their excesses to the carpet, then I will say women are now Alpha beings. This is not something to debate. This is simple fact. Except in microcosms, women are not yet Alpha status beings. Mainstream Alpha female doesn’t exist in the U.S.
There is a VAST difference between women who are simply successful and Alpha women--women who parade their success and power in front of us and don’t try to walk softly to avoid negative attention.
Recently a woman--not one known for being especially kind to other women--challenged me. She said she did not accept my definition of an Alpha woman. This woman communicates science to the masses. She would never think to question a researcher if he talked about an Alpha male ape or an Alpha female chimp. That score is settled, and she had no dog in that fight.
But she wanted to make her own definition for humans, which when challenged, meant only success in a career. Leadership of community in an alpha fashion was not part of her definition. But humans are primates and Alpha status is more than just being clever at collecting the most bananas and successfully storing them for later use. It is a realization by the community that a leader is among them; it is deferential behavior towards the alpha member. An alpha stomps her foot and the community falls into line. We have a long history of human alpha males stamping their feet loudly and with community deference. American Females are still ridiculed when they attempt Alpha behavior, or at most kept apart from the collective.
What had happened during our exchange was not truly a clash of ideas, but a challenge of status. She was rejecting alpha behavior by another female. She was reacting to the culture we reside within. She was unsure how to deal with alpha behavior by a female, so she rejected it because that is what we do. I am not an alpha female, just a gal who occasionally exhibits the behavior and then coos back down to avoid a fight. Like chimps the only human females who can get away with outright alpha behavior are older members of the community, but that behavior is then only tolerated, not celebrated as with the males of our human tribe.
Make no mistake, I do not wish to denigrate success in women. I trill and thrill to Ginsberg on the Court or countless other accomplishments. But I am VERY, MASSIVLY tired of complacent tolerance of one success at a time, while never seeing the balance tip in the right direction. The day a woman is POTUS or, my crew of six female CEOs sit before Congress to explain their Alpha takes, or… at the very least, our Chief Justice is a Female then let’s come back and chat. Until then carry on, but try, oh try to stop stomping down Alpha behavior in women while trying to marry it in men!
Frans De Waal is a world renown biologist and expert in primate behavior.