The Existential Weirdness of the Term “Beta Male” As Used by MRAs

I have been ruminating on this for years, now, and the more I read about how this term is being used in forums where shooters are glorified, the more my eyes cross in complete bafflement.

And it’s not merely about the central principle of existentialism: “the most important consideration for individuals is that they are individuals—independently acting and responsible, conscious beings (“existence”)—rather than what labels, roles, stereotypes, definitions, or other preconceived categories the individuals fit (“essence”).” (Wikipedia While I’m reading about these folks’ perspectives, I am constantly having an Inigo Montoya moment. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Lemme ‘splain.

Rewind about, oh, 25 years or so. Maybe more.

Imagine you are discovering a passion for a certain, well, character of animal, and you discover you have a strong affinity for wolves. You start to research them. This is early in the era of the Sawtooth wolves, before they became the wolves of the Nez Perce, and there is a lot of conflicting information out there. Mech’s “Wolves” from the early 70’s, the seminal work on wolves, seems to directly contradict what the Dutchers and Barry Lopez would discover in their interactions with wolves.

But one thing is consistent between everything you read – the definition of alpha/beta/omega as elements of a hierarchy of individuals within a wolfpack.

Let’s hop back to now.

As time moves on, politically the world progresses in a slow arc towards more tolerance and acceptance. Everyone everywhere has a long way to go, but it’s something we can observe. We can also observe the backlash of people who believe that said tolerance and acceptance is a source of problems or even evil in the world.

So now imagine you’re reading a lot about certain online groups of anti-feminists and/or men’s rights activists. One good example is here at HuffPo. Within all of these rants, there is a common theme of derision of the beta male as “losers who can’t get a girl,” and alpha males as “the guys who get all the girls.”

Take a moment. Remember your readings of wolf hierarchy. Now look at those terms again.

Maybe you can understand how absurd I think it is. I mean, even way back when, the “beta” male or female meant “second in command,” and they were considered bad-ass as hell. Sure, they were ostensibly not the “breeding pair” but alphas only ever got one mate.

Ever.

It’s even MORE absurd and confusing when you discover that Mech has specifically pointed out how the term “alpha wolf” is hardly at all in use by wildlife biologists anymore, and why it’s not a useful or relevant terminology. What was once the “alpha” is now more precisely defined as… the parents of the pack.

You know where he expresses the term “alpha” still makes sense?

Chickens.

So yeah – who in the WORLD would want to be associated with creepy roosters, with your breeding genetically managed by your owners? My brain skips like a bad CD whenever I try to think about who’d want to identify with that definition.

Whoever you are, I suppose I should applaud you for recognizing you want to be controlled – crow all you want. But please know, there are other ways to define both alpha and beta that are much closer to the reality of nature.

Until then, I’ll be over here enjoying my memories of when I first read, back in 1987, that the leaders of the pack chose each other freely, and shared equally in childcare.