COLUMN: Its time to axe the alpha beta distinction

Within some communities of men, theories have developed regarding “alpha” and “beta” males. In this system, it’s desirable to be alpha. You assert your dominance over other people, often by being rude or aggressive.

Undesirable is the status of beta, where you’re submissive, accommodating and harmonious. Aware of this, my group of friends decided to mock this binary, and we made a chart measuring just how alpha we were. Within 20 minutes of creating our chart, it become a constant presence on our minds. Anytime one of us would so much as say “please” to someone else, we would subtract points for being beta. Whenever one of us wanted something, we would just take it from each other. Because we were all friends in on a joke, it wasn’t harmful, but it did start to shape our actions. This made me realize that for those who actually believe in these notions of alpha and beta it isn’t as friendly. This aggression and lack of niceties is pressed upon everyone in their lives.

This isn’t a healthy lifestyle for them or for those in their life. This is called toxic masculinity, and it’s a legitimate problem. A product of social expectations on men, toxic masculinity is a set of gender roles that’s completely unreasonable for us to conform to.

The result is this constant state of conflict and a focus on verbally, physically and sexually aggressive behaviors. This lends to little tolerance for anything that could diminish a state of masculinity.

But sometimes the consequences are more concrete than simply hateful slurs and ideologies. A perfect example is hazing. With fraternities holding such a centerpiece on IU’s campus culture, it’s important to acknowledge the role they have in 
perpetuating these ideas of masculinity. I think hazing is the notion of asserting dominance taken to the extreme, it affirms the members’ masculinity by demeaning the pledges. It literally creates alphas and betas in this world of greek letters. Delta Tau Delta at IU was suspended after hazing, which I believe relate to the alpha-beta masculinity issue.

But as individuals we need to notice instances where someone is spreading toxic masculinity, and admonish them. We just need to take steps to put an end to this sort of thinking. When masculinity becomes an obsession to the point where it negatively affects the way men view and treat others, that’s where it becomes a problem.

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