It’s tough to know where to begin with the outrageousness encased in the essay titled “Society Is Creating a New Crop of Alpha Women Who Are Unable to Love” posted on Fox News Opinion page Wednesday, except to say that satire is becoming indistinguishable from reality these days. And really, why should anyone pay attention to this essay anyway? Except that the author, Suzanne Venker, who’s peddled her brand of retro gender politics in books, on talk shows, and on Fox News, for at least a decade, is perfect in the time of Donald Trump, a man who's said vile things about women who fail to live up to his '50s-era standards. Venker also jives really well with Trump’s counselor and mouthpiece Kellyanne Conway, who famously told a group of women at Conservative Women’s Network in 2011 that “femininity is replacing feminism as a leading attribute for American women.”
Considering that “'I grab them by the pussy' without consent" Trump actually ascended to the White House, maybe Venker has been on to something? Someone must surely buy the notion when Venker asserts, “Every relationship requires a masculine and a feminine energy to thrive.” And to be sure, she’s not talking about butch/femme lesbian relationships. She’s fully on board with sending women back to the Mad Men era, when men cheated on their wives while swilling scotch in stuffy hotel rooms over long lunches. But at least the Betty Drapers (the wife of Mad Men’s lothario lead character Don Draper) of the world were aware of their husband’s indiscretions. Venker literally sells (in her books) the idea that if women would just be good little (feminine) girls, their husbands will always do the right thing.
“What men want most of all is respect, companionship, and sex. If you supply these basics, your husband will do anything for you — slay the dragons, kill the beast, work three jobs, etc.” Venker writes in her essay. “Men will happily do this if, and only if, they are loved well in return. It is when men are not loved well that problems arise. That is the nature of the male-female dance."
Venker’s essay, adapted from her upcoming book The Alpha Female’s Guide to Men & Marriage: How Love Works, out this month, is another in a long line of musings of hers on how, essentially, to put feminism back into the closet, her ideology deriving from a supremely icky place of cisgender, white, hetero economic privilege.
In the essay, Venker asserts that today's women lose their men because they’ve been groomed to be “leaders rather than wives.” Using “alpha” like the nastiest of slurs, Venker writes, “They’re too competitive. Too masculine. Too alpha.”
Venker, whose other books include the charming titles The War on Men, The Flipside of Feminism, and The Two-Income Trap, is a self-described “cultural critic” with no experience in psychology or counseling, but doles out advice to women on how to save their marriages based on what appears to be her deep-seated “mommy issues,” or at least that’s what one might glean from reading the essay on alpha women.
“Despite my mother’s allegiance to my father, she never quite mastered wifedom — for one reason: she was wholly unyielding,” Venker writes. “Indeed, my mother was the quintessential alpha wife. An alpha wife micromanages, delegates and makes most or even all of the decisions. She is, quite simply, the Boss.”
Of course, there’s no mention of what kind of man Venker’s father was, but it doesn’t really matter, since she lays the blame for failed marriages at the squarely at the flat-heel-wearing feet of “unfeminine” women. She attempts to assure her presumably cisgender, straight, white readers that she does not hold them wholly accountable (although she does). “Now I know what you’re thinking: that I’m putting everything on you. I am, and I’m not,” Venker writes before assuredly, if not sneakily, holding women accountable for their woes.
“[Your husband is] reacting to your moods, your gestures, your inflections and your tone,” Venker writes with Freudian-like assurance despite her complete lack of training in marital counseling. “That’s how men are. Your husband wants you to be happy, and when he sees it isn’t working he thinks he’s failed. That’s when he acts out.”
If the assertions Venker makes to her fellow cis straight women of means (in her world, there’s no room for those of us who don’t fit into her gender norms) don’t sound outrageous and satirical enough on their own, she invokes such far-flung metaphors as slaying dragons, playing chess, reading her zodiac, and dieting.
While Venker has found a home for her work on Fox, and her résumé seems to suit her to one day apply for the position of the Trump administration biographer, there’s no denying her utter cluelessness about the lives of women who aren’t afforded her privilege. While promoting The War on Men (feel free to snicker or gag every time you read that title) on The View several years ago, she told a story about how, as a woman alone in New York City for the appearance, she was forced to hail a cab by herself, but that when she’s with her husband, she needs him to hail the cab and help her into it. The guest host for that day (convicted rapist whom Donald Trump defended) Mike Tyson cheered and applauded Venker’s assertions about femininity, but Whoopi Goldberg drove home Venker’s ridiculousness with a simple response.
“Try being a black woman and getting a cab,” Goldberg said.