Alpha Females Part 4 – From Psychiatrists and Counselors: How and Why Being a Beta Female is Harmful and Damaging to Women
This commentary will be divided up among a few posts. Here is part 4.
(This post may be edited in the future to re-word things, polish things, add new thoughts or links / For Twitter: #TheAlphaFemalesGuide )
From this series:
Visit Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Part 3B: Response to Venker: Re: Personal Experience
For those new to my blog:
I am a right winger. I was a Republican until recently. I am now a conservative Independent.
I was a conservative Christian for many years (I am no longer sure about what my religious views are), and I (Link): Am A Former Gender Complementarian (someone who believed in and lived out traditional gender roles (what Venker would describe as “feminine” or “beta”), views which are based in large measure on incorrect interpretations and applications about gender in the Bible).
I sometimes agree with secular left wing feminists on some topics, but not always. At times, I disagree with secular and religious left wing feminists and have written several blog posts critiquing some of their views.
This series of blog posts is addressing the dating and relationship advice of author Suzanne Venker, who wrote a book called “The Alpha Female’s Guide to Men & Marriage” which she has lately been marketing online and on TV news shows.
Here is one article by Venker about her relationship views:
(Link, off site): Society is creating a new crop of alpha women who are unable to love by S. Venker
As many books and articles on the subjects of boundaries, codependency, and even domestic violence explain, when or if a woman exhibits codependent behaviors or attitudes (such as being passive, having an unwillingness to say no to others, doesn’t put her own needs first), she will tend to attract abusive, selfish, or exploitative individuals.
Unfortunately, many of these same codependent traits are considered “feminine” by many conservatives and by Christians (under the teaching of gender complementarianism). Author Venker touts such traits under the heading of “Beta” or “being nice” or as “being feminine” or “being soft.”
While I myself do not agree with every last facet of secular (or even Christian) feminism, they are at least correct in fighting against expecting such behavior from girls and women, because they realize it leaves females open to being exploited, or treated unfairly at jobs or in relationships.
As this Christian-authored piece explains, feminism (not even secular feminism) is entirely bad, wrong, or off-base:
(Link): Perhaps Feminism is Not The Enemy
I also explained in (Link): Part 2 how many conservatives (and Venker herself) misunderstand, wrongly explain, or misunderstand feminism.
As I explained in (Link): Part 3 of this series, I was a “Beta” myself for many years (as was my mother), which is what Venker says women should be, if they hope to marry or have a happy, stress-free, marriage once they marry.
However, being “Beta” does not guarantee that a woman will attract more men, get more dates, or have a happy marriage – again, as I already explained in Part 3.
WHAT THE EXPERTS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT WOMEN BEING BETA
Psychiatrists and therapists have written books and articles explaining how and why taking advice such as Venker’s can lead to problems for women, including in the area of dating and marriage.
Below, I will excerpt content from the books The Disease to Please by psychiatrists Harriet B. Braiker, PhD, and counselor Beverly Engel from the book The Nice Girl Syndrome.
First, here are the relevant portions from Venker’s article on Fox News:
(Link): Society is creating a new crop of alpha women who are unable to love by S. Venker – on the Fox News site
Today they abound. There are several reasons why, but it’s in large part due to women having been groomed to be leaders rather than to be wives. Simply put, women have become too much like men. They’re too competitive. Too masculine. Too alpha.
That may get them ahead at work. But when it comes to love, it will land them in a ditch.
Every relationship requires a masculine and a feminine energy to thrive. If women want to find peace with men, they must find their feminine…
In essence, being feminine means being nice. It means being soft instead of hard…
…What men want most of all is respect, companionship and sex. If you supply these basics, your husband will do anything for you…
There, Venker is telling women to deny who they truly are and downplay their personalities, desires, and so on (don’t come on “too strong”), because if they stay as-is, they will repel men, but if they change themselves to make a man happy, they can attract men, or the man they have won’t want to divorce them.
Let’s see what Dr. Braiker has to say about that type of reasoning (spoiler alert: Braiker totally disagrees with Venker).
From the book The Disease to Please:
…If you are the people-pleaser [people-pleaser = Venker’s Beta, Nice, or Feminine] in an unbalanced relationship… you will be forced to deny or suppress your own needs. Inevitably, even the nicest people will become frustrated and angry when their emotional and sexual needs are denied indefinitely.
Healthy relationships that endure are balanced and interdependent. Balanced interdependence means that both partners are aware of and sensitive and responsive to the needs of the other.
From pages 93-94:
Many people-pleasers [people-pleaser = Beta, Codependent, Nice, or Feminine women] who have used this approach [making a man dependent upon them by doing nice things for him all the time, stifling your own needs, etc., and using other approaches Venker recommends] sadly discover that manipulating a man into an excessively dependent position – no matter how nice and well-intended your motives – may actually push him into doing the thing you most fear: abandoning you.
From pages 94 to 95, Braiker gives a case study of a patient of hers named Jennifer who utilized Venker-type methods to hold on to her husband [she always was available to him sexually, she sacrificed her needs to meet his at all times, and sought to “spoil” him].
The result? Jennifer’s husband Ron began having an affair on her with another woman, and later, Jennifer came home one day to find a note of good-bye from her husband, Ron, where he said he was divorcing her for the other woman.
A little later in this same chapter, starting on page 95, Braiker discusses how many career women are what Venker would refer to as ‘Alpha’ in the workplace (confident, competent, assertive, and so forth) but think that to attract or retain a man in their romantic life, that they must behave in what Venker would refer to as a “Beta.”
Braiker explains in this book that this is not so – that acting “Beta” (or “nice” or “feminine” – all which amounts to the same thing, regardless of the terminology used: being a codependent with bad boundaries in practice), causes such women to attract abusive or selfish men. Braiker then spends the rest of the chapter cautioning women from being passive in their romantic life to avoid users, abusers, and narcissists.
Here are a few excerpts, by Braiker (pages 95, 96):
… I have treated many highly successful career women who have entrapped themselves in bad relationships with men by their self-imposed people-pleasing [people-pleasing = being Beta, Nice, Feminine, Codependent] subservience.
A large number of these women who are now at the pinnacle of their professions grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, in an era when femininity and sexual attractiveness still carried with them certain gender stereotypes such as submissiveness, dependency, passivity, and sensitivity.
Today, many of these women, and even a significant number of younger women too, fear that the very traits that account for their success in the workplace – assertiveness, mental toughness, aggressiveness, competitive-ness – become liabilities in their romantic relationships with men.
[Here Braiker inserts the case study of one woman patient who is a CEO]
Many women like my [C.E.O.] patient, harbor misgivings about whether their achievements might boomerang when it comes to relationships with men and come back to haunt them.
…. As a consequence of this dangerous combination [fear of success combined with people-pleasing], they may engage in a range of self-defeating behaviors that can sabotage either their careers or their personal relationships, and often both.
… Some people-pleasing women attempt to resolve the dilemma by splitting their personality traits into two discrete “sides.” They may display their competitive, assertive, and aggressive side at work.
In their personal relationships with men, they may adopt an exaggerated “femininity,” displaying passivity, submissiveness, and compliance. This masquerade, of course, is no solution at all. Rather, it is a recipe for inner conflict, anxiety, identity confusion, and lowered self-esteem.
Braiker then next, on pages 96-97, offers up the case study of one of her women patients, Helene, who was a successful business woman who was living out what Venker suggests in her book for women to do: be assertive at the job, but be the passive, sweet, sex kitten at home with her mate.
The result of this for Helene? Lots of abuse.
…behind closed doors when they are alone, Bob [Helene’s boyfriend] treats Helene abusively. [Helene has a far more successful career than Bob does, which Bob is aware of.]
Helene defends Bob’s behavior by “understanding” how difficult it is for a man to stand in her shadow.
…Helene realized [via therapy] that she needed to correct some of her own gender stereotypes. Helene believed that by demonstrating her people-pleasing [Beta, nice, feminine] behavior in her personal relationships with men, she was being more feminine and, therefore, more sexually attractive.
[At her place of employment, where she was CEO, Helene tolerated no sexual harassment for herself or for any woman]. However, because of her Disease to Please [being codependent, Beta, nice, and feminine], Helene was actually rewarding a man for treating her abusively behind close doors.
From page 97:
It is imperative that you recognize how dangerous and self-sabotaging your people-pleasing tendencies with men can become so that you can change the unhealthy dynamic of your relationships. Otherwise, the Disease to Please [being codependent, Beta, nice, and feminine] will serve as a veritable mating call to men who have a perverse need and desire to control nearly every aspect of your behavior. Worse yet, you will allow them to do so.
Unless you repair the damage by curing the Disease to Please [being codependent, Beta, nice, and feminine] that produced it, you will limp away from the relationship with the brand of “damaged goods” on your ego. [Then the cycle will repeat itself as you attract yet another abusive, selfish, or jerk boyfriend who mistreats you all over again.]
As you can see from those excerpts (and there are plenty more in the book), Dr. Braiker strongly warns and advises women against the very traits and attitudes that Venker is telling women in articles, books, and TV appearances that she thinks they should have!
While there are plenty of selfish or abusive men who would enjoy being able to thoroughly control a woman, and a woman who, per Venker’s teaching, willingly goes along with it, a lot of men soon tire of this extreme “feminine” type of woman and dump her.
In her book, starting on page 100, Dr. Braiker discusses a male patient she had once who admitted that he loved to date the sort of women Venker advises women to be, because they were so easy to control. But, the guy soon got tired of dating these passive, wimpy, Beta women.
Here’s what he said:
“…One day, I realized I’m sitting in the boat [of life] all alone. I don’t want the kind of woman who will do anything to please me anymore. It’s boring and lonely. I want a partner who can sit on the boat next to me and keep me company. I want us to please each other without losing all boundaries or identity.”
Another male patient said (page 101):
“I do like to be in control, but I really want someone who will push back. I like steak because it gives me something to chew on. I don’t want to eat pre-chewed baby food. That’s how I wind up feeling about a woman who will give up her own substance just because she’s trying to please me. There’s nothing to chew on; there’s no challenge there at all. I just get bored.”
As Dr. Braiker so succinctly puts it (from page 106):
-There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make a man you love happy or wanting to please him. Just be sure that you’re not pleasing him by hurting yourself in the process.
-Any man who is threatened or feels diminished by your intelligence, achievements, success, or talent is NOT someone with whom you are likely to have a gratifying relationship with anyway. Look elsewhere.
Earlier in the book starting around page 49, Dr. Braiker discusses a single woman patient she had named Miranda who wants badly to get married. Miranda cannot figure out why she can’t seem to hold on to a man.
Miranda wrongly assumes the way to “catch” a man is to take the sort of advice Venker gives in her relationship book – she tries to be very pleasing and agreeable with every man she dates, she molds herself into whatever type of woman she assumes her current boyfriend of the month likes, and so on.
The result is that all these men eventually become bored with Miranda – and break up with her.
As Braiker describes it in the book (page 50), Miranda puts on the “beta” routine that Venker advises:
So, as soon as Miranda finds herself attracted and interested in a man, she puts herself in a subservient, submissive, position. She lavishes men with attention, adoration, and praise. Miranda believes that to be worthy of a man’s love, she must prove she will always put his needs first.
…The truth is that she [Miranda] cannot offer the one thing a healthy man wants and needs the most: the ability to truly share herself because she knows and values who she is.
Notice that Miranda’s assumptions on how to attract a man are similar to the tactics Venker puts forward in her Fox news article. And, as Braiker goes on to explain, Miranda was her patient because her “beta” femininity was driving men away, and she could not figure out that it was her very beta-femininity-ness that was at fault.
EXCHANGING AGENCY AND INDEPENDENCE FOR BEING OVER-RELIANT ON A MAN
Continuing with my critique of Venker’s views; more from her article at Fox news:
(Link): Society is creating a new crop of alpha women who are unable to love by S. Venker – on the Fox News site:
And because I had zero interest in my husband adopting a more feminine role, I set about to become the feminine creature our culture insists women not be.
And here’s what I learned: It’s liberating to be a beta!
I’m an alpha all day long, and it gets tiresome. I concede that I thrive on it; but at the end of the day, I’m spent. Self-reliance is exhausting. Making all the decisions is exhausting. Driving the car, literally or figuratively, is exhausting.
So, Venker is apparently fine ceding normal adult and personal responsibility to her husband because it makes her life easier. What she’s also sacrificing is her independence, dignity, and agency by doing so.
I take it that Venker is a right winger or conservative: right wingers and conservatives support personal responsibility; they don’t recommend that adults neglect it.
As I explain in an older post, I am a FORMER gender complementarian. Sometimes people on other sites have asked me, “Why do you suppose so many Christian women willingly endure the sexism known as complementarianism?”
One of several reasons so many Christian women remain “stuck” in complementarianism and go along with it is precisely to ride the coat-tails of a husband, because it’s easier going through life with someone taking care of you than it is for you to take care of yourself, by getting a job, taking care of your own car, and so forth.
Christian women are willing to trade off their autonomy, dreams, goals in life, and independence in exchange for male-provided financial stability and having a husband who is like a “father figure” who they can rely on.
In the book of Genesis of the Bible, God, by the way, actually predicted this would happen as a result of sin, when He told Adam and Eve that the woman would desire her husband and turn to the husband – rather than to God.
Ever since, yes, many women have indeed traded off God-reliance (or self-reliance) to depend on a husband for emotional and financial stability. And women like Venker (along with hordes of Christian gender complementarians) are prodding women to keep this up. It’s so sick, and rather tragic.
Women depending on men to this degree – and giving up their identity, needs, and self-hood in the process – is a RESULT of the Fall, a RESULT of sin entering humanity – but Venker and complementarians and other conservatives think this is awesome, healthy, or great for marriages and dating. Sick, sick, sick.
Secular feminism seeks to correct this type of sin that impacts women so strongly (and so this is one aspect of feminism that is good!), ironically.
Secular feminists are trying to free women from this very sin God predicted back in Genesis (and secular feminists – and a smaller number of Christian gender egalitarians – see how damaging it is), but many Christians and conservatives keep trying to cram women back into this same “sin box” and tell them it is “good” for them and for their relationships.
So, Venker finds being responsible and making decisions all day tiring. Well, yes, most people do. But the solution is not to hand over all or most of your personal responsibility to another adult.
Counselor Beverly Engels warns women against this very temptation in her book (Link): The Nice Girl Syndrome.
Engel discusses in the book (pages 212 – 214) that during her early 30s, on a month long trip to Europe, she met a European guy named Jacob. By the time she met this guy, she had been in Europe for a few weeks, was exhausted.
She ends up going to his place, they had sex a time or two, though the second time she didn’t really want to. The guy wasn’t exactly overtly abusive, but she felt she “owed” him sex to be nice to him, since he was now taking care of her. He was making her breakfasts, letting her stay at his home, etc.
For a period of time, due to exhaustion, Engel says she let this Jacob man control her, she was tired of making decisions for herself, she was tired of all the responsibility on this trip, so she was willing to turn the steering wheel over to Jacob – as Venker is asking women to do in their own relationships.
Engel says that is a bad move, and she has regret over her interactions with Jacob to this day. Even though she kept turning the guy down sexually, so long as she stayed at his home, he kept repeatedly bugging her for sex and for more sex. He was super persistent.
Venker’s advice to women boils down to that they infantilize themselves to be more attractive to men. This is bad and dangerous advice.
From page 131 by Engel:
You can’t expect anyone else to take responsibility for your welfare. You are the only one who can take care of you.
The price you pay for looking to someone else to take care of you is dependency, the loss of self, and, ultimately, the inability to control your life.
YOU DON’T WANT TO DATE OR MARRY THE SORT OF MEN VENKER’S ADVICE WILL ATTRACT
From page 45 of Engel’s book:
It used to be that the payoff for being sweet and nice was that one was taken care of and protected by the men and authority figures in one’s life.
Girls and women were perceived as weaker and in need of protection from the “big, bad world,” and boys and men took on the responsibility of making sure that nothing bad happened to them. But those days are gone, along with chivalry and manners.
Most boys and men today do not feel responsible for protecting girls; in fact, many view girls and women as objects to be exploited.
…This doesn’t mean that there aren’t men who like taking on the role of provider and protector. But these men are not necessarily throwbacks to an earlier time – unfortunately, they often take on this role as a way of dominating women. In fact, these men often look for women who are passive, who appear naive and innocent, because such women are easier to control.
Yes, as you can see, Venker’s advice, if followed, will open you up to appearing very attractive to abusive, selfish, cruel, or self-absorbed men who only want to use you, not care for you or about your needs.
The sorts of men you will attract if you follow Venker’s advice are not the sorts of men you want to date or marry. You want to avoid these guys, not marry them.
I also find this, from Engel’s book, highly pertinent (from page 126), where Engle is discussing a patient she had named Nina:
Nina was painting a picture of a storybook family life – the dutiful wife, the hardworking husband, the kids who were seen but not heard. Or was it? Nina was a young woman who was raised in the 1980s – not the fifties. Something just wasn’t adding up.
After several more sessions and some gentle prodding on my part, Nina finally opened up more about how it really was in her family. As it turned out, it wasn’t so perfect after all.
Yes, her mother was a dutiful wife, but her father was quite demanding. He expected his wife to wait on him hand and foot when he was home, and he was extremely hard to please.
There were many nights when he refused to eat what she [his wife, who was Nina’s mother] had cooked and insisted that she cook something else entirely. He complained if the house wasn’t immaculate and the kids weren’t bathed and dressed up when he got home.
As we continued to explore Nina’s childhood, Nina admitted that it really wasn’t by choice that her mother didn’t have any friends or didn’t go out much. It was at her father’s insistence that Nina’s mother not associate with anyone outside the family.
If you go by Venker’s marital advice, you may find yourself with a similar dynamic in your marriage that Nina’s mother was in. How many of you married women out there want that sort of loveless, emotionally abusive marriage?
Exchanging your decision-making abilities or duties for a life of ease and simplicity, all so more stress and responsibility falls on your husband, is a lazy, stupid, immature, potentially dangerous thing to do, and it’s actually unfair to your husband. I am dumb-founded that a conservative author any where would recommend that other women do this, or that she does this herself.
I hope this post of mine, with excerpts from books by a psychiatrist and a counselor, both of whom have treated many patients over the years (and hence have way more insight and experience in relationship dynamics than Venker does) clarifies just how terrible, sexist, and harmful relationship advice such as Venker’s is.
If you didn’t want to take my word for it, as (Link): based upon my experience and my mother’s, with how awful it was to utilize Venker-like advice in our own relationships, I hope the insights by professionals (one with a PhD) lends more credence.
I intend on writing a Part 5, if or when I get the time and/or inclination. And then, I think I may finally be done with this series. – Thankfully. This was not something I enjoyed writing all too much.
(Link): Alpha Females Part 1 – Nothing New Under the Sun. Conservative Women Keep Issuing Same Sexist, Unhelpful Dating And Marital Advice to Women
(Link): Alpha Females Part 2 – Defining the Terms – How Anti-Feminists and Complementarians Misrepresent Concepts or Terms
(Link): A Response to Venker: Re: Personal Experience