I saw this photo on the web today and I just had to buy the poster. To me it says so much about what so many women I know yearn for in relationship: To be able to be the driven woman, charging ahead towards her goals and yet to also enjoy the feeling of being held by powerful arms. This guy is so clearly un-threatened by her power. He doesn’t have a problem letting her drive, he exudes confidence, intellect, sexiness and fun. He trusts her enough not to second guess the direction she’s taking and is on the look out for something awesome on the way that they can share and enjoy together.
The alpha woman and relationships
The subject of the alpha woman and relationships has come up twice this week, once in a fascinating chat I had with a dynamic woman who is a highly successful entrepreneur and mega star of the blogosphere and again on Twitter, in tweets between Patti Stanger, of Bravo tv’s Millionaire Matchmaker fame (@pattistanger) and reality tv star and Pageant Queen, Monica Pietzrak (@Monicawickedfit).
The first conversation revolved around the fact that for women entrepreneurs success can actually put more strain on a marriage than failure. We got to talking about the subtexts in a relationship to do with money and power. The Twitter exchange went like this: Monica tweeted “Why do successful alpha women crave the alpha guy? Will it truly never work? I’ve always been told “can’t have two #1′s” and Patti quipped in reply, “Ha! Yes it’s true we want a man to overpower us. So when you get an alpha man you become a beta woman!”
Patti’s use of the word “overpower” makes me flinch a little. This is a highly controversial area, not least because of the historical abuses of power and violence between the sexes. Many women fear to disclose a secret desire to be ravished, lest it is taken as an invitation to rape. But it’s worth venturing into the breech and talking about because it’ s an issue that many of the brilliant and beautiful women I know wrestle with: How do we reconcile our desire and ability to equal and even exceed men in business with our secret yearning to be “treated like a woman”. Just to be clear, whilst referring to straight women here, this issue relates to anyone of any gender whose preference lies in predominantly “feminine” traits and who enjoys intimacy with someone whose preference lies in predominantly “masculine” traits.
Why do I have to choose?
This is the dilemma of the modern woman - whilst I may be an expert at skilfully utilizing the “masculine” traits of my personality to kick butt in the world, when I come home, akick off my shoes and wonder in to the bedroom, my comfort (and pleasure!) zone lies in being in my feminine in relation to a partner who is exhibiting “masculine” traits. Critics accuse us of wanting to have our cake and eat it but why can’t I be an equal in the boardroom and still get the door opened? Why do I have to choose? For more on this ideology, check out the work of David Deida, no stranger to controversy himself, and his best-selling book The Way of The Superior Man.
The feminine feminist
Living 21st century, post-modern, industrial society, the pace of life is overwhelmingly masculine. It’s all about action and achievement and the faster the better. I wonder if that’s why we sub-consciously absorb this assertion that the feminine traits are in some way less powerful and judge them in ourselves. Growing up as a girl in the seventies, equality of the sexes was drummed into us at school at every opportunity, our anthem was “Anything you can do, I can do better”. The underlying message was that Pink was both Powerless and Pathetic. I exchanged it for black as soon as I could and didn’t wear it again until my thirties, when I decided to come out of the closet as a feminine feminist.
In theory the battle of the sexes should be over, but have we really come that far? What messages about being feminine and being powerful are we offering to girls – (or even more pointedly to boys who exhibit feminine traits) today? Women are certainly seen to be powerful, yet the power they exhibit often follows limiting stereotypes. Look at the media and you would be forgiven for thinking that there are only two ways to the top. One involves selling your body and the other selling your soul. Where is the middle ground between “pussy power” and being “an alpha male with a vagina”?
Vive La Différence
I think the answer for these successful women lies in giving up competition – not in favor of becoming submissive, (heaven forbid), but exchanging it for a paradigm of cooperation (which is of course, the feminine model, technically speaking). The road to peace and passion lies in embracing the concept of complementary opposites. I’m in favor of valuing our different qualities equally instead of trying to dilute them into an equal similarity, or as the French put it, Vive La Différence.
One of the biggest relationship mistakes that people make is to express anger instead of fear or sadness. That anger often arises from a sense of betrayal derived from the idea that an unwritten rule has been broken, the thought being ‘This is not what I signed up for’. But more often than not, instead of sharing the thoughts and feelings underneath it all, we ignore the elephant in the room and fight about the symptoms instead of the causes.
For Brad and Julie it all started when they had twins, right around the time he got his big promotion. All of a sudden their worlds were upside down. Between recovering from the caesarian and taking care of two babies with colic, Julie was completely overwhelmed and couldn’t wait for Brad to get home from work to give her a break.