Alpha (Fe)males

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By Joel Achenbach
Sunday, October 15, 2006

Newsweek recently ran a cover story titled "20 Powerful Women on How to Take Charge." These are bold, butt-stompin' women who do all the things men do, like run corporations and race Indy cars and incite clashes of civilizations. Newsweek published 10 "power tips" for women, the top three being: "Be competitive"; "It's not about friendship"; and "Stand up for yourself." The latter tip culminates in a quote from a woman saying that when people interfere with her interests, "I cut them out like cancer."

Boys, switch to the Kevlar underwear.

What we are witnessing is the Rise of the Alpha Woman. Of course it's not truly a new trend, in that women have, in their own way, been running things for a long time. If you don't think we live in a matriarchy, you're not paying attention. A friend of the distaff persuasion recently told me, "I don't know why women keep talking about equality -- that would be a step back!"

The scary possibility is that women may someday try to do without men altogether. Our contribution to the replenishment of the species is, after all, microscopic. Women could undoubtedly harvest enough male genetic material for the foreseeable future just by erecting a sperm-donation booth in some downtown park and putting up a big sign that says "Free Beer and Porn."

The one thing we men have going for us is that we're brave and willing to take risks, which is why you're not truly a man until you've broken a limb doing something stupid right after saying very loudly, "Watch this!"

What's disturbing is that now women are taking over this gender role, too. Indeed, the political activist and blogger Arianna Huffington has come out with a kind of how-to book called On Becoming Fearless.

She had a book party recently in Washington, on a rooftop high above Dupont Circle. I went, somewhat concerned that she would celebrate her new book with the ritual of throwing from the roof a foolish male. The day had been gloomy, but just as the party began, the low clouds vanished, the high clouds flashed orange with the light of the setting sun, and everything suddenly sparkled. Message: Arianna now controls the weather.

She had cameramen documenting her party and waiters serving drinks and nibbles. It was impossible to avoid noticing that the male guests were shorter than the female guests. In the future, men will be like those tiny male angler fish who attach themselves to the larger females and wither away until there is nothing left but testicles.

Arianna herself is, by my estimate, about 6 feet, 11 inches tall. She is tall enough to rest her drink on top of a man's head. Be fearless, but also be tall, rich and good-looking like Arianna, would be my advice.

I suggested to Ms. Huffington that women already have power.

"Power and fearlessness are different things," she said. "There are women in the House and Senate who have power, but because they're not fearless, they're not exercising it."

I have a bias in all this. Like any sensitive, liberal-minded, enlightened person, I am completely in favor of women becoming fearless, just not when I'm trying to be powerful and godlike. I am completely surrounded by, and vulnerable to, the inscrutable whims of females. Wife, Mom, three daughters, my boss -- go down the list. They're all women, and they all think of me as staff.

As a self-respecting "head of household," I have to maintain, at all cost, the fiction that I do not know that my wife knows that I know that she's in charge. Because that would undermine my stature.

Clearly over the years, I have made, in regard to being feared, some strategic blunders. The kids all discovered at roughly the age of 3 that I was not actually going to stop the car and leave them by the side of the road.

They learned, too young, that men are full of guff and bluster. They realized that the male of the species is easily manipulated by expressions of affection and gratitude, that making him feel like a king, for even a moment, would blind him to the plundering of his realm. They learned to seize control of the remote and switch from the ballgame to "Project Runway."

They took over. But that's not going to last. I'm coming back strong. They will learn to fear my mighty and terrible power. Because I've got On Becoming Fearless -- the other team's playbook!

Read Joel Achenbach weekdays at washingtonpost.com/achenblog.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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