Oh, Fox & Friends. When you’re not hosting all-male panels that judge women wearing leggings, you’re allowing your female co-hosts to be openly harassed on the air. But somehow, you’ve still managed to top yourselves with this segment that claims “alpha” women make terrible wives because the “natural state” women is to “be compliant,” “exude softness,” and serve as her husband’s live-in maid.
The argument comes from anti-feminist author Suzanne Venker (who just so happens to be Phyllis Schlafly’s niece), an anti-feminist author who once said that feminism has eliminated men’s incentives to marry because now they can get the milk for free.
The entire segment is nauseating, but here are some of the most blatantly misogynistic parts:
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): And one of the problems you say is, when men and women enter a relationship, in the beginning, generally the man is the alpha and the woman is the beta.
VENKER: So, that’s how almost all relationships start, right? You, as a man, make the phone call. You pay the bill. You actually even ask the woman to marry you, right?
KILMEADE: Unless it’s a Sadie Hawkins dance, right?
VENKER: Right, unless it’s Sadie Hawkins. So, in that natural state, a woman is much more receptive to your energy. They are on the receiving end. And I think what happens over time after you have been married a really long time, especially once kids come into the picture, is that women get into this mode of just sort of micromanaging everything. They’re working, they’re not working, but if they’re not working they’re raising their kids, so they’re working at that, and therefore they’re micromanaging that. And that’s all fine, but if they don’t switch over into wife mode, kind of back where they were when you started, I think the relationship begins to deteriorate.
These poor, browbeaten men! Don’t these horrible modern women know that when a woman lets a man buy her dinner, she’s obligated to be submissive towards him for the rest of her life??
Let’s get this straight: women are naturally more “feminine” (read: “submissive”), and that’s why they are often less likely to instigate the relationship (not because there are societal pressures for women to be passive and “dainty” so men won’t feel threatened). Then, once they get married and feel secure that the man won’t leave them, they start to act more like “alphas.” Even if this ridiculously stereotypical portrayal of modern marriage were true (which it isn’t), this could easily be an argument for women naturally being just as “alpha” as men are.
EARHARDT: So you’re alpha when you go to work. You’re powerful, you’re strong. You come home, what does the husband need from the woman?
VENKER: The husband needs from the woman softness instead of hardness. So happiness instead of anger. Being more compliant and less dictatorial. Basically not telling him what to do. I don’t know how else to put it. Men don’t like to be –
KILMEADE: And you say emphasize the positive, not the negative, and don’t do that…
VENKER: Nagging, perfectionist, telling him what he’s doing wrong.
Okay, obviously wanting women to be “soft” and “compliant” is ridiculous, Victorian-era bullshit. But there has to be some truth to the “nagging” complaint, right? No person of any gender likes to be nagged, so this is pretty good relationship advice, right?
It might have been, if she didn’t feel the need to put literally all of the responsibility on women.
VENKER: Men are so simple to love. All they want is sex, companionship and respect. And women are so complicated that they need a whole lot more. But they don’t realize how easy it is if you tap into that femininity to get that man to be more receptive to what you want.
Oh, I see. So all women have to do is be sweet and obedient and never call the man out on any of his shit, and then your marriage will be smooth sailing? Why didn’t you just say that to begin with?
The sexist double-standard was so blatant, a FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT called her out on it:
Earhardt: As a woman, are you getting some [blowback], because I don’t expect to hear this from a woman, because we all think that it’s just the man’s problem. [Laughs.]
Venker: That, to me, is the problem, that we’re constantly pointing fingers at the men, when in reality, we’re kind of the problem-
Earhardt: Don’t you think it can be both? I mean, why is it always our fault?
In response, Venker tells her that no, it’s not women’s “fault,” but that women generally “steer the relationship” while men “respond to it,” so “you kinda have to go first, and be good with that.” So, in other words, it’s all women’s fault.
This argument was met very favorably by the white male hosts, as you can imagine:
Kilmeade: So we can leave our socks out, and we would expect the wife to just ignore it after a while.
Doocy: Maybe [she] should put them away and not cause a problem.
Venker: Or she needs to understand that those socks are there not because he expects her to pick them up, but because you just don’t see the socks, or you don’t care about the socks!
OHHHHH, I see, so he just doesn’t care about the socks! I guess a magical cleaning fairy will eventually pick it up for him, so there’s no need for either partner to worry about it!
In all seriousness, this is all a load of horseshit, and not just from a feminist perspective. While relationships can never be boiled down to a science, because everyone is looking for different things, studies consistently show that people of either gender have more long-lasting relationships when they’re–nice. This is not groundbreaking, it’s common sense. While I’m no expert, all of the most successful relationships I’ve ever seen involve two “betas,” if an “alpha” means someone who is unwilling to compromise and is too self-involved to think about the other person’s needs. Because of course if you’re with someone who is horribly bossy and has retrograde beliefs, there will be more peace in the home if you act like a sweet, demure slave. Venker isn’t giving advice for having healthy relationships; she’s telling people how to make it work with their terrible, selfish partners rather than just finding better ones.
So when Venker says women shouldn’t “tell men what to do,” she actually means that we shouldn’t expect our partners to have as much personal responsibility as a ten-year-old. I’ve got news for you, Venker, if these men you’re talking about think that women are being “bossy” or “emasculating” because we expect them to do basic adult things like pick up their socks, then THEY ARE THE PROBLEM. They should either grow up and clean up after themselves, or find a doormat that they can abuse with impunity (kidding about that last part, they should definitely die alone).
From Venker’s book, The Alpha Female’s Guide to Marriage:
What men want most of all is respect, companionship and sex. If you supply these basics, your husband will do anything for you—slay the dragons, kill the beast, work three jobs, etc.
Oh sure, they’ll “slay a dragon” for you, but they won’t pick up their socks.