As you might be able to tell from the illustration, I’ve just finished reading “A Dirty Job” by Christopher Moore. Again. I think this is the third or fourth time I’ve read it, and I’ve listened to it on audio a couple of times too. I’ve also read the sequel, but not recently. I’ll be collecting that one again next week, I think.
One of the things that draws me to this book is that the central character is described as a Beta Male. Not only is he described that way by the omniscient author voice, he also describes himself that way, and is content with the description. In a world where we love to label people, Beta Male is not usually considered one of the nice ones.
The odd thing is, Alpha Male is also probably most used as a derogatory term. Maybe it’s my own Beta sensibilities, but the few men I see using the term unironically about themselves online are NOT living the kind of life that looks appealing. It’s the kind of life that looks both entirely superficial and exhausting. It’s all about how shiny and fast my car is, how big my pecs are, how much cash I’m making RIGHT NOW, and the crucial point of all this is: are these things MORE than everyone else around me?
Of course, Alpha Males will tell you I’m wrong about that. They’ll talk about warrior this, and hunter that, and maybe leadership something or other. If you’re unlucky, they’ll also start in a diatribe about wolf society that is both wrong and outdated nonsense.
Growing up, the heroes onscreen that I saw were all Alphas. They were bold, physical, decisive. They took risks. I remember very clearly watching a James Bond movie (The World is not Enough) where Bond follows a lead by assuming a man’s identity and getting on a plane. He doesn’t know where the plane is going, doesn’t know what his assumed identity was meant to do there, and he had no back up. To me, that was terrifying.
But being Beta has made my life what it is. It didn’t bother me that I earned less than Mrs Dim, or that her career meant we would have to move every couple of years, so I couldn’t have a traditional employment path. It meant I could accept the reality of me being the primary caregiver once we had children, and it meant our arguments, disagreements, fights and differences of opinion never boiled over into anything major – I had backing down built into my DNA. And backing down doesn’t mean losing, folks. When you lower the temperature of the fight, you allow the pre-frontal cortex to re-assert control of the brain, supplanting the amygdala, which kicks in first in stressful situations. Your amygdala is the lizard brain, the home of fight-or-flight, whereas your proper reasoning is in your pre-frontal cortex. Once that can consider the facts, you make better decisions, but it’s slow to get moving. I didn’t win every argument (a lot of the time it was because I was wrong), but sometimes I got my point across later.
I have three kids, all AFAB, and I used to get a lot of comments about being a dad raising girls. People used to express sorrow at the family dog also being female, as if having a male dog would give me some kind of solace, some bastion of maleness from which the pair of us could regard the rest of the family. It always sounded weird to me, because I LIKED my kids. Just because they were girls didn’t mean there was some kind of gulf between us. They liked Star Wars and Doctor Who, and yes, they had dolls and fairies and stuff too, but they were my kids and I knew them very well. When they were tiny I would dress them for practicality, but when they were older they picked their own outfits, and dresses or trousers were their choice, and I don’t believe my views affected those choices one way or the other.
My middle kid told me the other day that I don’t fit a lot of the dad memes on Reddit – I’m not emotionally distant, or rushing out to spend time fishing or working on a car. I still did all the stuff I remembered from MY childhood – a dad should give rides on shoulders, should say “Hey, I think I have a book on that” when you’re doing a school project, should help you fix broken things, be bad at dancing, and know some obscure songs.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Alpha Males are the whole problem. You get assholes in every community. I belong to the Star Wars Fan community, Cosplay Community, Writing Community, Library Community, Ex-pats community…. No group of people exists with a common thread that doesn’t include at least one person who’s an asshole. But the Alpha Male image is based on propping up the ego of that individual. All the traits that they laud in themselves are selfish ones. Are they the ones to lead a group of survivors on a desert island? Maybe. Are they a useful member of the community in normal times? Less so, I would say.
We finally live in times where marginalised communities are rising to be heard. People from areas of life who have been oppressed, enslaved, denied, derided and pushed aside. They are standing up and demanding their space. Who is IN their space? Right now, it’s generally white guys, guys who think of themselves as global Alphas. And while most people know that it’s a big table with room for everyone, all those Alphas think that allowing others to the table means pushing them out. Betas would be asking if anyone wanted snacks on the table, if everybody was ok with their chairs. Betas want people to get along. Remember that internet tagline about “Don’t teach women self-defense, teach your sons not to rape?” That’s this too. The whole idiotic “incel” movement is based on entitlement : “I should have a girlfriend who has sex with me, I’m OWED one. The films and TV say it should happen because I’m a strong man.”
Alpha thinking. That guy who gave symposiums on “How to get girls”, who wrote the playbook. Like there’s a formula you can repeat to win any woman. Alpha thinking.
Alpha thinking has done more than enough. European men have rampaged around the globe, incels have murdered women, others have killed indiscriminately because of their belief in themselves, in their rights and what they are owed. It’s past time for the Alphas to stand aside, and realise their lives are phony and destructive.