On being an alpha female

This morning I was pissed off because my house is a tip, I’m behind at work and the kitchen ceiling is leaking because the sealant round the bath has gone. None of these constitute massive worries in the grand scheme of things, but they’re enough to make me think “I’m a bit rubbish at this whole ‘being an adult’ business”. In the grand hierarchy of privileged people, I’m not exactly what you’d call one of the alphas. Or so I thought …

This evening I discovered that I am in fact an Alpha XX female. Who’d have thought it? Go me! Watch that glass ceiling smash!

Okay, I’m exaggerating. What I actually learned is that I meet at least three of the criteria for “alphas” as defined by Alison Wolf in her new book The XX Factor: How Working Women Are Creating A New Society:

Wolf cites eight ways to spot an alpha XX woman, from being highly educated and not dropping out of work, even after childbirth, to having less sex and possibly having no children at all.

To be fair, I don’t know for sure how much sex everyone else is getting, so this is just a guess. But since I do have children, a full-time job and a PhD, it’s obvious which of the criteria I’m talking about. I might not run a company but as long as my kids keep interrupting my every attempt at a shag, it seems I’m up there with the likes of Sheryl Sandberg. High five, alpha sisters!

The Guardian is asking website visitors to vote on whether Wolf’s Alpha XX woman is a real phenomenon. Naturally most people think she is – but alas, Alpha XX woman is a total cow:

Wolf claims that women in low-paid work are facing longer hours as cleaners and nannies in order to keep ‘alpha women’ in their high-powered roles. What’s more, only young, full-time, professional women can hope to make it to the top. When they’re there they create networking groups, but only to help each other progress.

Yeah, the sods! Screw them and their “equality”!

This stuff really frustrates me, not just because I’m now, as of this evening, one of the alphas (albeit minus the cleaners and nannies to enable me to do my high-powered role miss out on sex). It annoys me because it’s dishonest to talk of an “equality” that is only available to a privileged few, yet at the same time I mistrust the media who remind us of this. Yes, people with privilege employ other people, on pitiful wages, to do all their crap jobs for them. But just where is this particular argument going?

To be clear, are we saying:

  1. Inequalities in wealth and employment conditions are outrageous and no one who claims to stand for equality should disregard them? (in which case, yes)


  1. Women who are in positions of power are total bitches therefore what is the fucking point of feminism? (in which case, sod off)

The trouble is, I can’t always tell one from the other. Hell, I don’t even know how cross to be, or whom I should be cross at!

Most of the feminists whose blogs I read state the former position, that is that it is meaningless to discuss gender equality without taking class inequalities into account. I think this is true; if your own advancement depends on the oppression of others, what right do you have to claim it as a victory for justice? But there’s a bastardised media version of this position, one which seems to exist only to ridicule the idea that feminism can be principled. It’s an almost gloating “ha! Look at the powerful women, feminists! Is that what you wanted, huh? See what you’ve done!” But is it fair to hold up this image of powerful women as more representative of feminism than it is of power and what it currently means in a grossly unfair society? Surely women like me – those who are, on a global scale, extremely wealthy, leaky ceilings notwithstanding – should feel ashamed of their wealth, but not of their feminism.

Anyhow, I’m still behind at work, my house is still a tip and the self-adhesive sealant strip I got from Homebase is bloody useless. Never mind, though. Providing I don’t get a shag tonight I can still consider myself one of life’s winners.


8 thoughts on “On being an alpha female

  1. Alpha Female: The Alpha Male requires an Alpha Female; she is in fact a direct contrast to the alpha male in a sense that she exerts ultra feminine qualities. As opposed to the alpha male who exerts ultra masculine qualities.

    1.) She is feminine and she fosters her femininity to the fullest.

    2.) She accepts her female body and soul and is content with it; she does not try to become a man. Nor does she fulfill her life by seeking masculine virtues. Thus, she only fosters feminine virtues.

    3.) She is loyal and submissive in accordance to her alpha male guardian.

    4.) She is pure and chaste before marriage. As a result, she becomes the ethereal virgin.

  2. This kind of theory makes me cross. All to often the starting position is feminism and everything else revolves around this central theory. This, in itself, is sexist. The very notion that Alpha females are damaging women lower down the food chain with their excessive demands is annoying for two reasons.

    It assumes that these chores (cleaning and childcare) remain the responsibility of women and therefore must be delegated to other women. I would argue that a sizeable number of women also rely on their male partners for cleaning, cooking and childcare.

    For what it’s worth, I do have a cleaner (although I am very far from a high earner) as I am terrible at it and would rather earn money doing something else. She runs a very successful business, drives a better car than me and organises all her appointments on a brand new ipad (which I don’t have).

    It is lazy to assume that it must be oppression.

    Successful men delegate more manual or menial ‘manly’ tasks to other men on a daily basis without being called on it. Very few men fit their own kitchens, mend or service their own cars or even clear out their own guttering (speaking from bitter experience).

    Either we all take care of our own shit, or we all get the choice to pay someone else to do it.

  3. oh fluff. I am probably a zeta. But Catherine is all welsh and beautiful and therefore that isn’t so bad huh?!? Presumably all them nannies and cleaners are keeping a bunch of alpha males in their jobs too, but why should they allow minor details like who is feeding their children and ironing their shirts to play on their conscience, only the alpha women need to take responsibility for keeping others in impoverished servitude.

    Servitude. Makes me think buxom thoughts. I transgress…. I salute you Alpha Female.

    p.s. You should call yourself Alpha Girl and get a superhero suit, that would be more fun that grouting.

  4. Balls. I wouldn’t call myself an ‘Alpha’ anything, but I do have a nanny and a cleaner. Both are paid very well, and have very good working conditions, I think anyway. Actually, when I think about just how high my nanny’s salary is it does spur me on to become a bit more Alpha – nothing pitiful about it!

  5. If I can possibly afford it I’ll have a housecleaner once I get out of grad school. This is, however, because I can’t rely on my brothers to come clean my apartment for me forever. They’re much better housekeeper people than I am. 😦

    I also won’t be rich. Public librarians generally aren’t.

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