February 24, 2020

Becoming Alpha

Photo from Pexels.

An old friend recently sent me a music video of the song “Thunder” by the pop-rock group Imagine Dragons, with the note: “This is you, as a public Zionist.”

Having gotten fairly used to my public Zionism causing significant ruptures in my friendships, I braced myself for his inevitable blocking on social media or (my personal favorite) “You’re better than this.” Instead, he quickly followed up with: “You’ve become quite alpha; it’s good to see.” 

This is a guy who knew me in my 20s, when I was so shy I had trouble speaking up at meetings. I was never a conformist and never had trouble defending what I believed in, but I never went out of my way to confront people — especially with those who seemed desperate for confrontations to satisfy their own emotional needs.

And then Israel re-entered my life with the Hamas war of 2014. There are times when not speaking up isn’t an option; that was one of those times.

With each confrontation, I became stronger, more confident, more assertive. Israel helped me find bravery and resilience I didn’t know was there. And I will forever be grateful.

Interestingly, the stronger I became, the more I craved feminine — softer — things. I now own an array of miniskirts. Powder pink is my new favorite color. I’m not a pantsuit alpha. I’m more like a lipstick-and-heels alpha.

It makes evolutionary sense. Nature is in a constant struggle for balance. I became tougher but also more emotional and spiritual.

“The key is balance, and it’s going to be different for each of us. I’m thrilled with my newfound strengths. I wish I had had them when I was younger.”

When I wrote my book, “The Lipstick Proviso: Women, Sex & Power in the Real World,” one of my main points was that we now need to refocus on the personal: on women strengthening themselves and taking more responsibility for our lives. That was in 1997. I think it’s safe to say that not many women listened to me. In fact, I think many of the #MeToo “scandals” could have been avoided if some women had not put themselves in irresponsible situations or had taken control of the situation as an alpha female would.

Instead, genderists have taken “the personal is political” to such levels of absurdity that a woman (just like certain minorities) is never held responsible for her action or inaction (unless of course she holds the “wrong” political views). I can assure you this is quite the opposite of what original feminists intended.

The key word in all of this is “control” — being in control of both our emotions and our strength instead of letting either one control us. Not surprisingly, in all of the discussions of toxic masculinity — by which, of course, is meant toxic alphaness — one never sees a point made about control, about how we should teach our alpha sons — and I have one of them — when and how to use their strength. But it’s equally important that women — and men — are in control of their emotions and not ruled by them. 

Genderists try to avoid the emotion conversation by saying that if we would all turn into neutered robots, we would be fine. The fact that I even have to state, “No, all would not be fine; that goes against nature and feminism, not to mention sanity,” shows how base our conversations on the subject have become.

Life is full of light and challenges. The key is to be able to respond to each appropriately — to know when to use and how to nourish our inner resources of strength and bravery. Feminism never intended for that strength to undermine the dance of courtship or the emotional apex of child rearing, and it certainly never intended for a woman to experience the beauty of bringing a child into the world and then having to run back to the office the next day. 

The key is balance, and it’s going to be different for each of us. I’m thrilled with my newfound strengths. I wish I had had them when I was younger. They just helped me get through the most difficult year of my life. My dad, who turns 89 next week, always wanted me to be more alpha; he just didn’t know how to make that happen. 

Happy birthday, Dad.

Karen Lehrman Bloch is an author and cultural critic living in New York City.