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Grow a Pair: Alpha males and politics

Hurricane Arthur came and went before we even knew what hit us. A few days after the storm, I ran into a woman friend on the beach at Fort Fisher. We met during the last political campaign season. She noted Arthur’s less-than alpha-male performance: “Promises more excitement than he delivers and gone before morning. Like most men. Gotta love ‘em. Right?”

“Now, wait a minute,” I started.

My friend held up her hand and moved her head from shoulder to shoulder. “Don’t even go there,” she smiled. “I’m never voting for a man again.”

I trudged toward a group playfully tossing a football downbeach and contemplated the man-bashing statements. An errant toss hit the sand in front of me.

“C’mon, grow a pair!” the sandy quarterback teased his fumbling friend.

The fumbling friend jogged closer, picked up the pigskin, displayed his “guns,” and grabbed his crotch. Three apparently intelligent women in the group were less than amused. 

My reaction? If you have to show us you have a pair, you probably don’t. Or you’re not sure. Or they’re small and tend to disappear into your belly when you’re under pressure.

But boys will be boys—not that I agree with my politically savvy friend’s man-bashing or any of the vicious variety I’ve been hearing since the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision and the emergence of that video showing a California state trooper (male) mercilessly bashing a woman in the road. Sure, most politicians and CEOs of environment-destroying corporations are male. Most shootings, rapes and child molestations are committed by males. For every female serial killer there are 19 John Wayne Gacy’s. Thom Tillis reminds us he puts his “big boy pants on every day.” As well, there’s our mostly male NC General Assembly with its fetish for writing legislation that restricts a person’s right to marry whom they choose and a woman’s right to health care. They, too, have a penchant for seeking to destroy the environment. At a national level, all five Supreme Court justices that sided with the majority in the Hobby Lobby case appear to be anatomically male. But are these “males” truly “men?” It may be that they are merely imbalanced “alphas.”

Researcher Rudolf Schenkel coined the term “alpha male” in 1947 while researching the behavior of captive gray wolves in Switzerland—though he’d probably have come up with the term studying the wolves on Wall Street. According to the alpha is “a male animal having the highest rank in a dominance hierarchy.” These days alpha might be female. In fact, with corporations fully enshrined as sacred, God-fearing people by the court there may even be alpha corporations. Exxon, Bank of America, and the New York Yankees come to mind. Are they really interested in free enterprise and fair trade? Or is their interest dominating market share? Maybe all it takes to be alpha is to be willing to do whatever it takes to rise to the top of any “dominance hierarchy.” (So much for a level playing field, fairness, environmental sustainability and empathy—unless in the service of “dominance.”)

Though the alpha concept turns out to be more myth than fact in dogs, in 2006 Kate Luderman investigated human alpha traits in “The Alpha Male Syndrome.” She suggested that in a business setting, “When properly channeled and controlled, the alpha-male drive to reach the top is a boon to progress, but when the ethic of ‘do what it takes to get results’ is taken to extremes; it becomes a menace to both personal careers and corporate health.”

Don’t tell that to the imbalanced alpha individual, corporation or country. Lead, follow or get out of their way. Weren’t Newton and Einstein silverback gorillas beating their chest at every discovery? Isn’t that how all major problems are solved? Display your guns, grab your crotch, beat the solution out of the problem, and hammer the cosmos itself into submission.

“Dominance hierarchy” seems somehow at odds with “democracy.” It doesn’t even work for dogs. As pre-election season heats up, I partly agree with my politically astute woman friend—especially after recent NC General Assembly legislation and SCOTUS decisions, candidates, (especially males) will have to present clear and convincing evidence they are not another imbalanced alpha in a suit.

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