"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Monday, March 12, 2018

The Faux Triumph Of The Beta Male–Why Alpha Males Still Prevail

On Sunday, Jimmy Kimmel declared from the stage at Dolby Theatre at the 90th annual Academy Awards in his opening monologue that the best kind of a man is one without a penis, because he definitely will not rape anyone! His remark implies that men, who by definition possess a penis, are inherently rapists or sexual predators. That masculinity is toxic, and that men are sex abusers (The Federalist).
When Hollywood says it, it must be right; and Jimmy Kimmel’s address must be capturing the zeitgeist of America; and we believe him, we have finally turned the corner on patriarchy, misogyny, and male abuse.  We have finally admitted that not just some men are the problem, but all men equally and collectively are responsible for the subjugation, degradation, and humiliation of women; and admission and contrition are the first steps to rehabilitation and reform.

Men now owe women apologies and restitution for past wrongs.  They must disavow traditional maleness – an arrogant, entitled gender superiority based on social and economic superiority.  Capitalism, an economic philosophy which favors conservatism and encourages self-interest and the rule of competitive survival, provides the enabling environment for male supremacy.  There may have once been a legitimate reason for male control of family, economy, and social organization in a hunter-gatherer society, but such influence has long had its day. Men are simply playing out an archaic gender legacy and profiting from it.  A dismantling of male patriarchy necessitates a parallel dismantling of free market capitalism – both remnants of a primitive, savage, and brutal world of survival.

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While the world has certainly moved on from the Paleolithic, there has been no taming of male aggression, survivalist competition, and competitiveness.  Although ambitious women have figured out that the route to power is male, there is no denying that the political, social, and economic ethos of this and previous cultures, is masculine.  Wars are masculine, the culture of the street is masculine, taking no prisoners in a winner-takes-all economic battle is masculine, and cherchez la femme is masculine.

What is the problem? D.H. Lawrence, perhaps the most honest and perceptive observer of sexual dynamics, never questioned the difference between maleness and femaleness; nor worried about dominance and submission, impulses of both men and women .  Sexual equilibrium has nothing to do with prescribed gender roles or categories, but sorting them out.

The strongest women in literature are Shakespeare’s.  In the Histories, Tragedies, and Comedies, they best men at every turn – all this within a supposedly patriarchal Elizabethan society.  They use their sexual allure, native intelligence, and indomitable will to rise and accede to power and to assure the accession of their children.  Cleopatra never really loved Antony, but only used him as the next Roman emperor to protect and promote her interests.  After he dies, Cleopatra quickly feathers her nest with the new Augustus and at least hopes for a compromised place in Rome.  Goneril. Regan, Tamora, Margaret, Dionyza, Rosalind, and Lady Macbeth are but some of the heroines of Shakespeare’s works – women for whom the received social hierarchy is nothing but an environment within which to exert their power and influence.  Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, Rebekka West, and Hilde Wangel dominate their men even in a Victorian age of patriarchy.

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None of these women ever denied their sex, their femininity, or the sexual character of their male adversaries.  Sexual difference was always on the table, but negotiable.

In all these works, gender – femaleness and maleness – was ever denied or questioned.  Men would always be one way, women another.  Men had a leg up in the wars between the sexes – a legacy of Paleolithic male preeminence, a role which they have exploited long after necessity faded – but women were never daunted.  It was always a draw.

Women have always accepted the alpha male,  the most attractive and desirable of suitors and progenitors – despite his arrogance – because of genetic programming.  The strongest, most confident, most aggressive, the most sexually aware men were and would always be the most desirable.  The ‘New Age sensitive guy’, while admired and promoted by feminists as the ‘new male’ would always be left on the curb.  A man in touch with his own feelings, sensitive to women’s needs, and willing to compromise his own sexual, masculine desires for the sake of his sexual partner, would always  be dismissed as irrelevant.  No beta males need apply.

Bill Maher, comedian and talk show host,  in his famous rant on belligerent feminism,  said that:
“The inversion of nature that we have experienced as a culture, and the subversive aspect of flipping traditional roles, with its subsequent destruction of society, serves as a signal that we live in a dying system.  It has led to a pussified, sissy, pathetic, lovey-dovey/touchy-feely country of wimps, who put emotion over logic, feeling over reason, in our nurture-heavy/nature-deprived, culture” (Renegade Tribune)
Is Maher right? Have feminists turned the country into a nation of sissified wimps who value feeling over reason? On the one hand, feminism has changed men’s discourse, at least in public where they nod approvingly at news reports about glass ceilings, rape, abuse, and discrimination.  On the other, men in private share none of these sentiments. They know that biology and human nature have not changed since the Paleolithic.  Men raid, kill, and pillage.  Women cry a lot, like to share their feelings, and want strong men as partners.

One look at Wall Street shows that at least this corner of America has not been feminized.  There is little feel-good, self-esteem ethos in the boardrooms of Goldman Sachs.  It is still male, dog-eat-dog, winner-take-all capitalism at its most brutal. The women who have managed to rise to top executive ranks are just as cut-throat and savage as their male counterparts.

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The recent Martin Scorsese film, The Wolf of Wall Street and Oliver Stone’s Wall Street are both hymns to alpha male aggressiveness. While Wolf is a caricature of greed and the American Dream, Wall Street is much closer to home. Gordon Gecko is a smart, driven, savvy, and ruthless capitalist who lives on the margins of morality and ethics, has an animal instinct for sensing weakness, and a wolf’s predatory hunger. Although Stone asks us to criticize Gecko for his ruthlessness and amorality, most savvy viewers know that this is how capitalism operates.  More importantly, this is how men behave.

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In an article in the New York Times (‘Tapping Your Inner Wolf’, NYT 6.6.15), Carl Safina has cited research which says that the wolf is not the savage alpha male of legend but something far more feminine. Citing a well-known wolf researcher, Safina quotes:
Imagine two wolf packs, or two human tribes. Which is more likely to survive and reproduce? The one whose members are more cooperative, more sharing, less violent with one another; or the group whose members are beating each other up and competing with one another?
While Safina admits that the wolf is not always quietly socialized and definitely has his aggressive, violent moments of dominance and killing, all in all we have distorted the image of the animal.  When it comes to human behavior, we are right to keep the male-wolf analogy, but should correct the details.
The main characteristic of an alpha male wolf,” [another veteran wolf researcher] told me as we were watching gray wolves, “is a quiet confidence, quiet self-assurance. You know what you need to do; you know what’s best for your pack. You lead by example. You’re very comfortable with that. You have a calming effect.”
While there is no doubt that the male wolf is not always an aggressive killer, that is what most rightly characterizes him.  He is a strong, determined, willful, and unstoppable predator.  What he does after the kill is irrelevant to his native essence.

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There is a more insidious side to taming the wolf.  Elementary schools, the presumed crucible of socialization as well as a place of instruction, are biased against boys. What in past years was considered normal, aggressive male behavior is now off-limits.  Boys should become more like girls – or in the wolf analogy, more like the animal after the kill.

Christina Hoff Sommers writes about the feminist hijacking of primary education and thus comes closer to Maher in his allegation that feminism’s reach is extensive and pernicious. Sommers argues that the zero tolerance policy – i.e. stifling any suggestion of male aggression in schools – is a wrongheaded attempt to subjugate boys and deny their natural male exuberance.

Across the country, schools are policing and punishing the distinctive, assertive sociability of boys. Many much-loved games have vanished from school playgrounds. At some schools, tug of war has been replaced with “tug of peace.” Since the 1990s, elimination games like dodge ball, red rover and tag have been under a cloud — too damaging to self-esteem and too violent, say certain experts. Young boys, with few exceptions, love action narratives. These usually involve heroes, bad guys, rescues and shoot-ups. As boys’ play proceeds, plots become more elaborate and the boys more transfixed. When researchers ask boys why they do it, the standard reply is, “Because it’s fun.” (Time Magazine, 9.19.13)
Why is this? First, public education has long been in the hands of the liberal establishment. School boards and teachers’ unions alike have been committed to ‘progressive’ ideas of learning; and they have persistently defeated attempts to modernize the curriculum and the classroom.  ‘Participatory’ or ‘collaborative’ learning is still the rule according to which smarter students are obliged to help those less able, thus slowing their own academic progress. Learning levels have been abolished, and there are no longer different math and reading groups for children of differing abilities. More conservative themes of independence, individuality, competition, and innovation are seldom found.

Second, most primary school teachers are women, and happily buy into any educational program which will make the classroom more feminine and less disruptive.  If teachers were to allow boys more leeway and more opportunity for typically male behavior, their job would be far more difficult.  Better have a more feminine, orderly, and cooperative workplace.

Safina’s article on wolves picks up this feminist argument. Wolves may have an aggressive, stereotypically male aspect to their character; but it it is their feminine nurturing, caring, and sharing side which is the more admirable and worthy of human emulation.

Jack London's Call of the Wild is closer to a more traditional view of maleness and resonates with today's men. There is something even more compelling about the story of Buck – his aggressiveness, and male dominance.  There is a completeness and perfection in the male character of Buck – he has no feminine side – and his will is male, one unmistakably virile, potent, and forceful.  While many men may publicly disavow any such characteristics as primitive evolutionary throwbacks, privately they feel that they have capitulated their maleness, accommodated women far too much, and become neutered.  It is one thing to support women’s equality of opportunity and enterprise, another thing to feel emasculated by their insistent claims of emotional and intellectual superiority.

Progressive educators and biological revisionists attempting to stifle male aggressiveness and transform male into female are wrongheaded and falsely idealistic. Human nature is a given; and history offers ample evidence to the persistent combative if not bellicose character of men. It is no surprise that men still rule the military and Wall Street.


Aggressiveness, however, has only recently become a negative characteristic as critics have focused on the excesses of hawkish behavior. Not so long ago it was a trait to be admired and cultivated, an essential part of personal, social, and national strength. It was the attribute that was responsible for a militant defense of family and community; the securing of new and valuable territory and resources; and the expansion of civilization.

Since it is hardwired, male aggressiveness cannot be tamed by interventionist educational programs, scientific revisionism, or progressive blandishments.  All that can be expected is a stand-off between competing armies.  Just as animals fight when they can win, but retreat when they sense they cannot, men exhibit the same instincts for victory and survival.   The product of such behavior is no less than Darwinian survival of the fittest.  In other words, there is neither an upside nor a downside to male aggressiveness.  It simply the genetic code of XY animals.

Winston Churchill wrote:
Can modern communities do without great men? Can they dispense with hero-worship? Can they provide a larger wisdom, a nobler sentiment, a more vigorous action, by collective processes, than were ever got from the Titans? Can nations remain healthy, can all nations draw together, in a world whose brightest stars are film stars and whose gods are sitting in the gallery? . . . There is a sense of vacancy and of fatuity, of incompleteness. We miss our giants. We are sorry that their age is past. . . .We mourn the towering grandeur which surrounded and cheered our long painful ascent. Ah! If we could only find some new enormous berg rising towards the heavens as high above our plateau as those old mountains down below rose above the plains and marshes!
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There is no reason why not to include women in this pantheon of greatness; but there is no reason to deny that men have always been its statuary. 

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