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Question of the Day: Alpha and Beta 7 February 2007

Posted by SA'ILA in Culture, Relationships, SA'ILA.

A basic phenomenon studied in social psychology is that of alpha and beta males and females. Simply put, the former type is characterized as a leader; one that others in the community follow and defer to, whereas the latter type is considered to be the individual that is subservient to the alpha.

Aldous Huxley touches upon this phenomenon extensively in his book Brave New World, where characters are variations of one or the other type. In the real world, the alpha male syndrome is studied in the business sector, where it is thought that 70% of all senior executives are alpha males. As far as a family unit is concerned, many cultures prefer the alpha figure to be the male; it is intertwined with the idea that the man should have strong leadership skills, as ultimate authority lies with the man in a family.

Should a Muslim man want to attain the (positive) characteristics of an alpha male? Given cultural expectations, what role can a beta male play in the household?



1. Irving - 10 February 2007

I think this is the wrong question. As social mammals, which is what humans are, the question should be one of justice and equality for both sexes. Like puppies wrestling to establish dominance in the pack, the human mammal is not far from this genetic inheritance. In a just societial framework, the rights of both males and females are equal, and though the male may be the breadwinner, the female the childbearer and nurturer, both are of equal importance. It is only in primitive societies that the female is considered property of the male, as are the female children and the males also to a certain age. This kind of thinking, coupled with patriarchal religious underpinnings, leads to such primitive behavior as honor killings, stonings, spousal and child abuse both physical and sexual, and a shame/honor based family life.

The sooner this is brought out into the open and eradicated, the sooner a society becomes truly civilized, no matter what other sceintific of scholarly accomplishments it has made. It is in the treatment of women and childen, and by extension, minorities of both race, culture and religion, that a society is known as just.

Ya Haqq!

2. VARANGALI - 10 February 2007

Is it rather not patriarchal to measure how civilized a society is by the actions of men? Perhaps patriarchy should be assumed, and assessment should rest on good v. bad patriarchy.

3. Irving - 12 February 2007

Is a benelovant tyranny still not a tyranny? I am not sure there is a good patriarchy, no matter how well intentioned.

4. Asma - 26 February 2007

i recently read an article in the NY Times about husbands and wives who cook together at home, and one of them assumes the role of alpha chef. interestingly, the alpha chef tends to be the husband, which isn’t surprising I guess … any arena where competitiveness is encouraged *seems* to often breed alpha-ness in men. in any case, how interesting that the initial struggle was to get men to share in the cooking responsibilities, only to now see some such men bullying their wives in that area too…further, many of these women who were made to feel like beta chefs by their alpha-chef-husbands were, after they got divorced, surprised to find that they were capable of being amazing chefs…

the article suggested that to keep marriages intact, it may be better to divide the tasks and let one spouse be the alpha cook, and the other the alpha cleaner. so my answer to your question – find what you do best and then divide and conquer. let women be alphas in some areas and men be alphas in other areas, and don’t decide where each plays this role on the basis of outdated gender roles. let merit decide who gets to be an alpha where.

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