Whither The Alpha, Beta Or Omega Female?

Illustration for article titled Whither The Alpha, Beta Or Omega Female?

While talking to a friend about alpha males, he mentioned that I was "kind of like" one myself. Like most women who are likened to men, I was initially proud of this fact, then confused as to what it implied, then dismissive of the notion all together.


My understanding of an alpha male was something akin to a caricature of a frat boy. Someone who made hilarious jokes about nice guys being pussies and fags, and is probably on a protein supplement of some sort.

The word "alpha" -– whose actual definition is someone in a community with the highest rank— is typically associated with men who are powerful, courageous, goal-oriented, and commanding, and is very rarely associated with women.

Sure, there will be articles about "man eaters" like Joan Holloway from Mad Men or "ballbusters" like Hillary Clinton (even writing the word "ballbuster" and placing it near another word, any word at all, is a minor irritant to me), but it seems rare to read a study based around the existence of alpha, omega, and beta females from a scientific perspective.

We know they exist on some level. Thanks to Tina Fey's screen adaptation of the Rosalind Wiseman book Queen Bees and Wannabes, the term "mean girls" is now part of common vernacular for people who were previously ignorant of their existence. And that's where it stops.

Surely there's to more know than that "some girls are mean" and "some girls are nice." But beyond this very limiting idea of an alpha female, why isn't there more coverage of female equivalents of the animal kingdom's beta or omega male? Is there an interest in discovering instances of these long-considered male-only classifications? Or are we merely content to only study the ways that females react to males with varying levels of power?



What you're describing isn't an alpha male, it's a frat boy. Actual alpha males tend to end up with job titles like "CEO", and such behavior is not tolerated at that level, and will not get one promoted to that level.

Alpha females do exist, but the problem is that social rank among women is much more subtle and unspoken than among men. You often end up with women who think of themselves as the alpha because they're a lot like the men you describe above, but other women do not defer to them in the way men defer to alpha-type guys, because they don't really have the alpha-type personality, they're just sort of arrogant. So what usually happens with these women is that they attempt to boss other women around, the other women get annoyed, and either start to avoid the bossy person, or decide to just indulge her delusion that she's in charge because it's easier than trying to reason with her. I work with a woman like this, and she's a pain in the ass. I tend to roll my eyes and just let her think I'm deferring to her, and then just do whatever I wanted to do in the first place, or just very blatantly ignore her when she gets bossy until she stops. These women tend to end up in low to mid level management roles, in which they stay forever. We've probably all worked with one at some point.

Actual alpha females in my experience have very little interest in those kinds of management jobs (in fact a tendency to want to micro-manage others is about as un-alpha a trait as you can find - real alphas are comfortable delegating and too busy to want to run around micro-managing anyone). They tend to be rather iconoclastic, and often end up in jobs where they work alone a lot. My theory is that this is because society isn't really set up to deal well with alpha-type traits in women, so it ends up being easier for women with those traits to go it alone. They often make great enterpreneurs.