So I've been noticing a trend. On a romantic writer forum I'm on, whenever the subject of #metoo or sexual harassment or sexual assault comes up, the subject is taken over by women sympathizing with men. Once the topic was taken over by a romance writer complaining how other romance writers objectify male cover models. And another time many romance writers talked about how their husbands were now scared to go to work because they worry about sexual harassment charges.
To be perfectly honest, as the recipient of sexual harassment on an academic level to the point where six long years of work and my future was taken away from me by one man, I was a little floored that the conversation ALWAYS kept going back to how bad men have it. Well, floored and wondering where the sympathy was for the women, the majority of sexual harassment/sexual assault victims, was.
So, okay, yes, I'm here to point out one more sexism that romance Author's are overlooking: beta/alpha heroes.
Sure, sure, in all writing we have seen some of the characters enough we call them names--Mary Sue, Bad Boy, etc. But calling male characters either betas or alphas is sexist, pure and simple. We wouldn't stand for a male writer to call female characters alpha or not. Oh, and most romance authors when talking about beta males versus alpha males seem to be referring to a weird 1970s and outdated anthropologist take of wolves. Or maybe they're talking about those desert baboons who do seem to have rather rapey male alpha leaders. I'm not sure, and whenever I've asked romance authors to specify, there's a strange silence with looks like I should know better than to even ask.
So I'm not 100% sure what romance authors mean when they're talking about alphas versus betas, but from what I've heard it's incredibly sexist. Some label a beta hero as any male character who can express himself without fists or anger. Some label a beta hero as any male character who respects a woman to NOT to be sexually harassed and/or assaulted. In other words, sadly, some label a beta hero as a normal nice guy.
I've read enough of the history of romance to know that the rapey, alphahole hero has been around for a long time. When I started reading romance, admittedly only a decade ago, it took more than five years to find a rapey, alphahole hero. Five years of reading about blissful relationships where a couple thought of each other as equals. Yes, I probably lucked out. But my point is that several romance books feature just men. Sometimes, really nice men too.
(As an aside, many romance lovers have taken to reading queer romance because there is less of a prevalence of the alpha male in gay romance books. And, honestly, I adore queer romance books and (knock on wood) have not found one alpha male so far.)
Anyway, in an age when justice, true justice, is (hopefully) around the corner, and men are reckoning about their behavior and treatment of women, isn't it time to reexamine the label of alpha versus beta? Isn’t it time we romance authors call out our own sexism?
Lastly, in a Brene Brown book or lecture--sorry! I can't remember which--she was pulled aside by aman who had an urgent question for her: When was she going to cover men and men's shame? And this part stuck with me when he told her he needed help not only for himself but for his wife and daughter because sometimes he just wanted to step down from the damned white horse and just be. So that's what I write. And that's what I've always written. Men who don't have to worry about their masculinity if they want to get off that damned white horse of theirs and just be real and authentic.
So my other question for romance authors is this: besides examining the sexism in labeling men alpha or betas, can you please allow a male character to just be a human being? That's all women want. Why can't we let our fellas?