Alpha Males and Heroines Dressed Like Them

Book Cover Oh, the email inbox, it overfloweth with various things that are worth your inspection. Whee!

A graphic novel about women daring to dress as men and infiltrating male-only groups—based on legend, poems, letters and true stories?! Holy comic of awesome, Batgirl! (Thanks to Linsey Schmidt for the link.)

If you were wondering if your recent erotic romance might be considered for the Nobel in literature, and you’re an American writer, you’re shit out of luck. Why?

the top member of the award jury believes the United States is too insular and ignorant to compete with Europe when it comes to great writing….

Speaking generally about American literature, however, he said U.S. writers are “too sensitive to trends in their own mass culture,” dragging down the quality of their work.

“The U.S. is too isolated, too insular. They don’t translate enough and don’t really participate in the big dialogue of literature,” Engdahl said. “That ignorance is restraining.”

Dear Mr. Engdahl: I’m sure you’ll think I’m being isolated, insular and ignorant when I say this, but you suck wookie ass. I got your big dialogue right here.

And speaking of fresh, steamy wtf-ery, Teddy Pig send this article by India Knight from this weekend’s Times Online, regarding the alpha male and … well, um, yeah.

I’ve read it twice and I still can’t tie together the points Knight is making, except to furrow my brow some more and say, “Wait,” and then try to read it again. Somewhere in there confidence, asshattery, and sexism are being tossed together into a WTF salad and I can’t put my finger on the radicchio.

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  1. 1

    Women who want to conquer (and beat) men on their own territories, I do love the idea! It is also true that I’m said to be a feminist (and not for any reason).

  2. 2
    Elyssa says:

    You’re not the only one, Sarah.  The thing that stood out to me (among many others in this muddling article) was this:

    No wonder people get muddled. So this is a little plea for the sexist alpha male – the one we all secretly think isn’t as dreadful as he’s made out to be. Isn’t it time that we gave him a break from the full force of our disapproval? We live in a furtive sort of society where lots of women fancy men they feel they shouldn’t and many men go through life pretending to be a great deal sweeter and more feminine than they actually are, because they’ve been told it’s the only way to be.

    It’s unhealthy, really – smoke and mirrors masking the unavoidable fact that, underneath it all, women prefer manly men, even ones who make sexist jokes; and men prefer womanly women, even ones who whinge about being fat. Perhaps that’s a terribly self-hating and sexist thing to say. Or perhaps it’s just the truth.

    Sexist and self-hating, yes. I just *love* how she wants us to forgive the Alpha male because it’s what all we silly females secretly want. I think she’s trying to make a comparison of Alpha males and Feminists but I don’t think she ever pulls it off too successfully except to say they make money than perhaps Beta males and Beta women.

    But, honestly, reading this article made me go Huh? in several places.

  3. 3
    Jessica D says:

    Britain fell in love with Gene Hunt, the hulking great throwback in the BBC series Life on Mars, which was set in the 1970s. On paper the character was entirely despicable; in full flow he made his intelligent, evolved, sensitive sidekick look like a ladyboy.

    Was she watching the same show, or the same internet, that I am? Gene Hunt was amusing, but as the saying goes, I wouldn’t touch him with HER ladyparts. Meanwhile, one of the biggest sex symbols in Britain? Dorky, intellectual, sci-fi-loving, weighs-100-lbs.-soaking-wet David Tennant. Whatever, lady. Go clutch your pearls and take a pay cut.

  4. 4
    Marsha says:

    Wait, I know!  So’s we can participate in the “big dialogue of literature” and let loose our bonds of restraining ignorance we need to get ourselves a whole mess of those pron vending machines like they have in…oh, a whole mess ‘o countries.  That will totally get us on the same, uh, page as our more literarily enlightened peers. 

    Great plan, yes?

  5. 5
    shaunee says:

    I think she’s trying to make a comparison of Alpha males and Feminists

    Ohhhhhh, is that what she was trying to do?  Lord, I’ve never blinked nor ran my hands through my hair in a confused manner so much in my life.  You guys should see me.  I look ridiculous.

    I’m on read number 2.  I’m convinced comprehension will dawn upon repetition.  Wish me luck.

  6. 6
    Tina C. says:

    Somewhere in there confidence, asshattery, and sexism are being tossed together into a WTF salad and I can’t put my finger on the radicchio.

    I think that the radicchio may be the number of logical fallacies in her argument.

    (The descriptions of the various logical fallacies below come from Dr. Michael C. Labossiere, the author of a Macintosh tutorial named Fallacy Tutorial Pro 3.0 on the Nizkor site.  © Copyright 1995 Michael C. Labossiere.):

    Fallacy #1:  Appeal to Belief
    1. Most people believe that a claim, X, is true.
    2. Therefore X is true.

    Many people believe that sexist, blustering, obnoxious behavior in a man (as implied by Knight’s argument) equates “alpha male”, therefore it is “true” and should be considered a rational jumping off point of the rest of her argument.

    Fallacy #2: A combination of Composition
    1. Individual F things have characteristics A, B, C, etc.
    2. Therefore, the (whole) class of F things has characteristics A, B, C, etc.

    Confusing Cause and Effect
    1. A and B regularly occur together.
    2. Therefore A is the cause of B.

    and

    Hasty Generalization
    Sample S, which is too small, is taken from population P.
    Conclusion C is drawn about Population P based on S.

    Even if we give her the benefit of the doubt in her observations, if she only observed a subgroup of alpha males that were simultaneously asshats, that doesn’t necessarily make all alpha males asshats.

    Fallacy #3:  Begging the Question
    1. Premises in which the truth of the conclusion is claimed or the truth of the conclusion is assumed (either directly or indirectly).
    2. Claim C (the conclusion) is true.

    Pretty much her whole argument.  And speaking of the conclusion, it contains yet another logical fallacy:

    Fallacy #4:  Appeal to Tradition
    1. X is old or traditional
    2. Therefore X is correct or better.

    Because, you know, when men were men (as opposed to those weak, “whinging” pansies who actually bring you a hot cuppa when you have those pesky cramps) and women were women (as opposed to those ball-busting, demanding broads who actually expect to not have to put up with jokes about her boobs, funny or unfunny, when she’s at work), we all were so much happier, weren’t we?

    Now, I can’t say for sure that above represents the entirety of the raddicchio in Knight’s “WTF salad” of an argument, but they could be the crunchy bits that you’re trying to dig out of your teeth.

  7. 7
    Marsha says:

    Tina C., I do believe you’ve just done more for me than my logic professor managed in an entire semester.

    Rock on.

  8. 8
    Rachel R. says:

    Tina C., that was awesome!

  9. 9
    Leslie H says:

    SB Sarah-  your “WTF Salad” Made my whole day!

  10. 10
    Randi says:

    Tina C, you are my hero!  You should email her that list and see what she has to say. hahahaha. My day is now complete.

    By the by, to me, Alpha males are simply those that have the capability to lead others. Some are asshats, some are not. AND, I will say, I am NOT attracted to men who are asshats, no matter what they look like, just as I’m not attracted to ignoramouses (sp?). I have, a number of times, chosen not to associate with a good looking man who was an alpha asshat, just as I’ve chosen to disassociate myself from good looking men who have dumb ass shit falling out of their mouths.

    yes88: I’ll say yes to 88 beta males, please.

  11. 11
    Tina C. says:

    Thanks Marsha & Rachel R.!  I have to say that I loved my logic class.  Of course, I’m also the weirdo that actually liked doing research papers, too.

  12. 12
    Elizabeth Wadsworth says:

    Or maybe the whole thing is just Ms Knight’s roundabout way of hitting up her obnoxious alpha boss for a pay raise.

  13. 13
    Elizabeth Wadsworth says:

    And while we’re on the subject—what does any of that have to do with the letters of a 17th century Spanish nun (which actually sound quite interesting, BTW.)  Was that part of another article that got stuck in the wrong place, or did Ms Knight forget her punchline?

  14. 14
    Tina C. says:

    what does any of that have to do with the letters of a 17th century Spanish nun (which actually sound quite interesting, BTW.)

    I was wondering that, too.

  15. 15
    Bonnie C says:

    I just snorted hot coffee through my nose, not just once:

    you suck wookie ass. I got your big dialogue right here

    But twice:

    Somewhere in there confidence, asshattery, and sexism are being tossed together into a WTF salad and I can’t put my finger on the radicchio.

    Brava, Sarah! Brava! You are on quite the roll this morning.

    Now, off to read how to make WTF salad…

  16. 16
    Madd says:

    So … according to this article manly man = asshat, but it’s our fault because we like him that way and reward him for it. Good to know. I’ll go out right this moment and tell my husband he’s a nancy boy because he isn’t a sexist pig. Hopefully he’ll get right to work on that, because I MUST have a manly man. In fact, I shall sally forth into the world with a mission! I shall inform any man doing something patently un-asshole like that he is a “ladyboy”. Just imagine all the violence I’ll be helping to stamp out!

    Gene Hunt was amusing, but as the saying goes, I wouldn’t touch him with HER ladyparts.

    THANK YOU! Cause … eeeeewwww.

    And while we’re on the subject—what does any of that have to do with the letters of a 17th century Spanish nun (which actually sound quite interesting, BTW.) Was that part of another article that got stuck in the wrong place, or did Ms Knight forget her punchline?

    I wondered that myself. I had to go back and reread a bit to make sure I didn’t miss something. I think she was writing two articles at once and got her endings crossed. Somewhere out there is a really interesting article with a really effed up ending.

  17. 17
    Minze says:

    I think that’s the second part of her comments section. I’ve seen that somewhere else too (Observer or Telegraph, not sure). There’s one main comment and then one or more short snippets about other topics underneath.

    When I read India Knight’s piece I couldn’t help wondering if someone was attacking Jeremy Clarkson again and they felt they had to defend him.

  18. 18
    Minze says:

    Woops, sorry. I was replying to this: “what does any of that have to do with the letters of a 17th century Spanish nun (which actually sound quite interesting, BTW.) Was that part of another article that got stuck in the wrong place, or did Ms Knight forget her punchline? “

  19. 19
    Bonnie C says:

    OK, just got through the Knight article and now I need a couple of aspirin. Maybe a merlot. It’s only 7:30am.

    Wheesht.

  20. 20
    Esri Rose says:

    Re: the Nobel prize article. I winced when the head of the U.S. National Book Foundation is quoted as saying,

    “Put him in touch with me, and I’ll send him a reading list.”

    That “you come to me” attitude isn’t doing us any favors.

  21. 21
    Ziggy says:

    It’s unhealthy, really – smoke and mirrors masking the unavoidable fact that, underneath it all, women prefer manly men, even ones who make sexist jokes; and men prefer womanly women, even ones who whinge about being fat. Perhaps that’s a terribly self-hating and sexist thing to say. Or perhaps it’s just the truth.

    GRRRRR. I’m really not a fan of India Knight. I read her novel Don’t you want me and it literally made my head explode from the rampant asshattery.

  22. 22

    Hehehe, Horace Engdahl is funny. Don’t worry, nobody takes him seriously in his home country. Much.
    Swedish literature suffers from celebrity navelgazing, “true stories” about the life of drug addicts/incest victims/generally whiny types, blogs-gone-books and endless, depressing mystery series featuring alcoholic cops with marriage problems and worldwide trafficking conspiracies and with some shallow political analysis/satire thrown in for good measure. There.

  23. 23
    Tina C. says:

    From Charlotte Moore The Guardian, Saturday May 25 2002(Ziggy’s link)

    Knight’s flow of wisecracks and her cute line in adverbs – friendlily, ploddily, gruntily, bummily – can’t disguise the lack of heart, of genuine hilarity, of fresh air; she captures nothing of the glory of women in their prime. Don’t You Want Me ? I’m afraid I don’t.

    Wow!  And the above is one of the nicest comments about the book in the whole review!

    I think I’ll pass.

  24. 24
    Alex says:

    Well, technically, the United States is insular. I mean, our neighbors are Mexico and Canadra, and there’s, what a thousand miles between those borders? One time in high school, a German exchange student was being a snob about how he knew three languages whereas we knew one, so I pulled down the world map and said,

    “Look, Robert, here is France. They speak French there.

    And look, here’s Germany, they speak German.

    Here’s Italy, they speak Italian.

    Here’s Poland, they speak Polish.

    Now look over here, on North America. Here’s Wyoming. They speak English there.

    Here’s California—guess what, they speak English over there, too.

    Here’s Alabama, where we are. You might have noticed the dominance of English around here.

    Here’s New York—they speak English, too.

    And here’s Canada—finally we run into another country….And they speak English there.

    Seriously, Robert, multilingual skills are not that important here. If we could go four hundred or even a thousand miles and run into a place where the majority of people spoke other languages, we’d learn those languages.”

    I mean, I normally try to get along with the foreign exhange students, because they’re having to get along with us crazy Americans, but Robert was a genuine ass.

    And then I get into college and meet a couple more Germans, and it turns out they’re pretty cool people.

  25. 25
    Barb Ferrer says:

    You know, I’m torn. I’m really, really torn.

    Part of me shares the outrage—first off, dude—you wanna talk ignorance? Come on. Like it or not, we’ve got great writers here absolutely beautiful writers, worthy of any accolade or award.

    But then again, take a look at what Augenbraum (head of the organization that gives out the National Book Award) said, that he assumed that Mr. Engdahl had read little of American literature outside the mainstream.

    Oh, ouch—yet another diss. But not altogether surprising—“mainstream” lit is more than accustomed to being slammed by the American literary establishment. Kind of interesting to see the shoe on the other foot—the American literary establishment being slammed by a European for, in essence, the very things they tend to slam mainstream lit for.

    Which, once again, begs the question, who the hell decides this stuff? At what point did deeming something “mainstream” or “commercial” automatically render it less worthy than something dubbed “literary” and what does it all mean anyway?

    I know I don’t. I don’t even pretend to know. I just write books.

  26. 26
    Esri Rose says:

    The No Girls Allowed book looks like the lite version of Vicki Leon’s Uppity Women books. I highly recommend Leon’s. They’ll change your whole world view.

  27. 27
    SB Sarah says:

    multilingual skills are not that important here. If we could go four hundred or even a thousand miles and run into a place where the majority of people spoke other languages, we’d learn those languages.

    Not everywhere, in the US, but in a lot of parts bilingualism is useful and handy. It truly depends on where you are. In NJ and NY, I regularly use both English and Spanish, and when I lived in Jersey City, Tagalog would have been pretty useful to make friends with my neighbors. Reminds me of my favorite (and one of only two) joke I can tell in Spanish:

    Si una persona quien habla tres lenguas es “trilingual,” y una persona que puede habar dos lenguas es “bilingual,” como se llama una persona que solo puede hablar una lengua?

    Americano.

    [The other joke: Que es una soltera?

    Una mujer que had tenido quarenta navidades, y ninguna noche buena!]

  28. 28

    Wha?!  I really thought that I was pretty fluent in my own language, but I am completely lost by that article.

    And WTF was that whole nun thing at the bottom…was it supposed to be related in some way?

  29. 29
    Suze says:

    I saw on Sex Files (documentary series about human sexuality, with all kinds of research backing it up, don’t know if it’s available outside of Canada) that women are very attracted to smelly, sweaty men when we’re ovulating.  The rest of the time we find them icky.  It’s a pheromone/hormone kind of thing.

    Knight’s big problem (that many of us share) is that she can’t tell the difference between self-confidence and assholery.

    Men generally outnumber women in my town, and in my observation, a lot of people, male AND female, think that if you’re loud, brash, talk over people, and bully everybody around you into doing things your way, you’re alpha.  Not true.

    However, many of us don’t recognize self-confidence, decisiveness, and leadership unless it’s accompanied by bullying, asshole behaviour.  Honestly, we don’t have many (any?) good models of non-asshole alpha behaviour.  We’re not really clear what it looks like.

    It’s frustrating.  And one of the many, many reasons why I’m single.

  30. 30
    GrowlyCub says:

    The Knight article is truly bizarre and made me wonder a bit what drugs she was on when she wrote it.

    I do have to say, however, that I believe it’s true that alphadome is being rewarded in men (not in women) and that it’s a shame that a topic that deserves attention is now forgotten because the author of the article is such a dizz.

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