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What on Earth is an alpha male?

Lauren Haswell, Outlook Layout Editor
Yelling man

Time to get blunt. The concept of ‘alpha male’ is silly, but it exists, and we are pretty much all of us responsible for it.

I may have mentioned this before, but I‘m a bit of an oddity at Clemson University. I’m a 62-year old, disabled, dual British-American citizen, studying for a Political Science BA. Basically, I’m a walking, talking diversity subject heading. And I sometimes get to see things a wee bit differently than the rest of you.

I’m a thousand years removed from the bullying peer pressure of my single-sex British monastic boarding school. Which, just so we are clear, was nothing like Hogwarts. Trust me. Think boot camp, with a hint of juvenile detention center.

And to be doubly clear, the hazing of freshmen by other classes was encouraged. We were told that it built character. We were part of a small island which was supposed to go out and maintain superiority over the remainder of the world. Whether in diplomacy, politics or business—and we did it by learning how to bully, to haze, to be superior at all times.

A thousand years later, I come to Clemson all happy-clappy that I’m finally getting to finish the college career I messed up back in the Seventies, but lo and behold, we have this weird thing called the ‘alpha male’ here, too.

Ok, message to the guys first. Then to the girls. Guys, can it! I’ve been out in the big, wide world for a while. Whatever your mates tell you, your sports jock friends, your parents ‘alpha’ is so very five minutes ago.

I get it. I understand it. I’m British. I can say this. Think Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes. If the Editor doesn’t like it, she can change it. You think it all comes down to ‘size.’ No. It doesn’t. And I don’t really have to define ‘size’ do I?

I can tell you, after forty some years, women really don’t care. As for other guys. If you truly are an ‘alpha,’ why do you care what they think? I understand we were raised to think that being ‘the dude’ is what being alpha is all about. Again, no, it isn’t.

We impress no-one by being strong. Weakness? Anxiety? Heck no. That’s for the girls. Garbage. Humans, all humans, are incredibly fragile. One more time. All humans. You do not demonstrate weakness by standing in front of your mates and telling them precisely who you are and how you are feeling. You demonstrate genuine ‘alpha.’

And guys, that goes for girls, too. I’ve seen the stats. I’ve seen the looks. I’ve heard the locker room chat. Stop it. Again, no-one is impressed.

Our female co-students got here the same way we did. They have the same brains, the same intelligence, the same drives, the same ambitions. They deserve the same respect we demand for ourselves. Whatever it is that makes any one of you think you get something from being alpha, just stop and wonder what it would be like to treat a girl as an ‘alpha.’ Every girl. Why not? Kind of changes your outlook, doesn’t it?

Same thing goes with every other student. I’ve seen the joshing that goes on in and around class. By male and female students. To determine the pecking order. Again, stop it. You think all that talk is just fun? Nope. It’s mean and it’s intimidating. We’re all of us a step away from the safety of our homes, the surroundings where we feel comfortable. What possible joy can you derive from making anyone feel more uncomfortable?

Now, a special word for my female student peers. Girls, you’re at fault, too. You play on gender types as well. If there is a genuine problem, raise it, talk about it. But when you ‘campaign’ on gender, all you do is drive folks back into the comfort of their toxic gender ‘safe zones,’ be it ‘alpha male’ or ‘mean girl.’

We are all of us facing exactly the same pressures at college. Trying to cope with precisely the same difficulties. With no better social skills than the dope standing next to us. So. Instead of making it all a competition of stereotypes, why not actually behave like compassionate human beings?

And if you can’t cope, if you seek an escape in something that embarrasses you, don’t think you are alone. You are not. I sought escape in alcohol for twenty years, before I realized that everyone else was going through what I was experiencing. And all I needed to do was talk about it.

So. To conclude my wee sermon. In case you’re wondering. Yup. I’m an ‘alpha.’ An ‘alpha’ human being. I like who I am. Most of the time. When I don’t, I talk to someone. Then I accept I’m an idiot, who sometimes gets it wrong. I make sure to remember everyone else is much the same way, and I try to treat everyone gently and with respect, because that is what makes a true ‘alpha.’

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