Man Without Qualities

Tuesday, February 26, 2002

The Zeta Girl

Maureen Dowd says that she is puzzled.

Specifically, Ms. Dowd attributes her puzzlement to the lack of persistence through the human life cycle of “Alpha Girl” dominance. Ms. Dowd explains that “Alpha girls ruthlessly rule junior high school, a la ‘Heathers,’ with cold shoulders, hot clothes and withering looks known as ‘deaths,’ jettisoning pathetic Wannabees from their popular Queen Bee hives.”

Ms. Dowd says “But here is what puzzles me: If schools are overrun with alpha girls, why isn't America run by alpha women?”

Yes, indeed. Why doesn’t it last?

Despite her puzzlement, Ms. Dowd has no shortage of possible explanations for the failure of the Alpha Girls to retain their dominance in adulthood. And – is this a surprise? – all of Ms. Dowd’s suggestions portray women as victims, and not one of them suggests that any of the women involved bear any responsibility whatsoever for their ultimate position in life.

Ms Dowd’s suggestions:

“Could it be that alpha men do not want to share their alpha zone with alpha women?”

“Could it be that they don't want women to challenge them, question them or, heaven forbid, outmaneuver them?”

“Could it be that they prefer the less competitive and more appreciative company of beta, gamma and va- voom girls?”

Well, Ms. Dowd, here is another suggestion. Perhaps life outside of junior high school does not favor those who attempt to ruthlessly rule with cold shoulders, hot clothes and withering looks - or whatever the adult equivalents of those may be. And it's probably not a sexually specific phenomenon. Men who attempt to ruthlessly rule with cold shoulders, hot clothes and withering looks likely also find themselves generally less influential as time goes on. And - this seems to be a place where I particularly differ with Ms. Dowd - none of this is a bad thing.

One certainly can understand Ms. Dowd’s puzzlement and evident disappointment that the rule of the Alpha Girl is less persistent than she would prefer. For there is surely no columnist in major media today whose writing is more evasive, catty and insubstantial, whose viewpoints are more juvenile, and whose approach depends more on the personal, than Ms. Dowd. By way of example only, there is no other such columnist with a mind and style so degraded that with the bodies still being pulled from the remnants of the World Trade Center only blocks from her office, it could seem clever to characterize the Administration’s efforts to fight a war on future perpetrators of such and worse horrors with “The manly men of the Bush administration have their own axis-of-evil ‘hottie board’ to rank the nuclear threat of world dictators.” That is, there is no such columnist about whom it could more truly be said that she attempts to ruthlessly rule with the literary equivalent of cold shoulders, hot clothes and withering looks.

But, Ms. Dowd, is it still working as well as it did when you were an actual Heather?


While she says that I agree with more of Ms. Dowd's premises than I believe I do, Diane has some interesting things to say on this subject.

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