Author and cultural critic Suzanne Venker thinks feminists sabotaged women’s chance at happiness, but that’s not who she’s addressing in her new book, The Alpha Female’s Guide to Men & Marriage (How Love Works). Instead, Venker is addressing the rest: Women who are among the four in 10 women who probably wouldn’t identify as feminists, who have gone along with so-called feminist directives that pushed women into the workplace; that told them to put their careers first, hold off on children and to look for equal partnerships at home — only to find out they were left angry and defensive when they realized that “having it all” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. She believes men and women are essentially different, and that modern society has forgotten that. You might call her a red-pill woman, this new breed of deferential lady who wishes the feminist movement had never touched her.
Venker, whose aunt was conservative anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly, straddles the careerism of a woman who’s written multiple books and makes regular rounds on Fox News and other conservative outlets with the deference of a woman advising other women that nobody wants a hard-charging career woman for a wife. At least, not if she shows it at home. MEL spoke to Venker about her book, featuring chapters such as “Learn the Dance,” “Own Your Femininity (or Your Inner Beta),” “Have Zero Expectations,” and “Speak Less — You’ll Say More,” and why feminists have gotten love all wrong.
As someone who grew up in the South, I was struck by the fact that everything in this book is pretty much the advice I heard growing up from older women about how to deal with men.
You know, I thought that at some point writing the book, that the only people that really get this are Southern women. I didn’t have anything truly to base that on, but it occurred to me.
So you acknowledge this approach is pretty antiquated?
Maybe it is antiquated, but not everything that’s antiquated is bad. My philosophy is don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater, so progress doesn’t have to mean that you can’t take what’s good and what works about something that’s timeless, and fold it into a new life with new ideas. Human nature is human nature and doesn’t change. To me, this book is forward-thinking because it says this is where we are, and where we’re headed, and this is how to move forward with respect to sex and gender roles.
What’s the target demographic for this book?
Ideally, women aged 35 to 55. I feel the younger generation isn’t quite ready for the message, just because they are so besieged with a different message every day, and until you have some experience and maturity you will resist things you don’t necessarily understand or want to believe. I think it takes someone getting to a place and being married for a while and it’s not working and they don’t have an answer and are like, Well, let’s try this on for size. The book has been 100 percent positive for those people. Whatever negativity I’ve gotten hasn’t been that bad, but it’s people who either haven’t read it or don’t want to think about it.
You talk about the feminine-masculine energy in the book and how women and men need to learn this dance. Let’s say there is a feminine and masculine energy that works best in relationships, or even partnerships involving raising children. Why does it need to align with gender? Some men choose to be stay-at-home dads because they don’t like their careers that much and maybe have wives who are more ambitious and earn more, or they simply aren’t that ambitious and prefer to stay home. Do you not think that can work?
It can and it does for some people. However, two things: One, I’m speaking to the majority with my book, and I’m generalizing. There are always exceptions, and far be it from me to tell them what works — who am I to complain if it does. If you’re happy and it’s working — you don’t need this book.
However, that is concerning to me because research shows by and large, back to the norms, that the whole men-at-home thing can work for a certain period of time and logistically if her career makes more money. But for a lifetime, it doesn’t tend to work. It means he loses ground and doesn’t get back on his feet for a while, or doesn’t find something, and he’s always home and she’s the money-maker. The culture will make him feel bad for that, and over time she’s going to resent him for not making money, even if she was thrilled he was home when the kids were young. I’m all for a parent at home, but over time and once those kids are no longer young, they potentially have a problem at home.
Men don’t really care if their wives are employed or not. Men assume it today because that’s the way it is or they say they want it to work that way, but they aren’t basing their decision to marry you on what you bring to the table financially. But a woman will. That’s nature. Women have the babies, and it’s normal, and his instinct to care for the family is normal. When you mess with that, it eventually rears its ugly head. There always exceptions. This book is about the rule.
But maybe some women and men fall back on the traditional arrangement because the world penalizes them for attempting a more egalitarian one. Either by penalizing men’s careers if they try to fight for a flexible schedule or not offering paid leave they can take advantage of.
If you’re not going to have someone at home, you need a whole other arrangement at home so you could live that way. I don’t agree with that arrangement and most Americans wouldn’t want to pay for that. It’s a whole new social order that feminists want that’s never going to happen. It goes against what most Americans want.
But what about the fact that most people need both incomes to survive? The economics here is a driver. How many men can offer primary breadwinner status to women anyway?
That’s the two income trap: I have a whole other book that’s different from the alpha female guide. Where they intersect is I’m arguing for going with nature, and the way we are made as men and women. I believe women are the nurturing sex and their desire to be wives and mothers still today is strong, even though the culture has demonized that role for decades. And that men are made to protect and provide for those families. Feminism pulled people away from their natural state where they wanted to be. In the same way that in the 1950s women felt embarrassed to say they’d like a life outside the home, you have the reverse today, where women want a life primarily around the home and are embarrassed to say that.
But now most of us need two incomes to make a family go — surely you acknowledge that.
I acknowledge we’ve screwed it up so badly over the decades that now women are stuck, you’ve created a life that demands two incomes. You stay in school and accrue debt, and every decision you make to postpone marriage and struggle indefinitely getting pregnant. I was always thinking 10 years ahead of the game and it worked out very well. I couldn’t do what I do now if my children were young. Women need to know that choices regarding men and marriage are going to be far more influential in terms of your happiness than any job you ever have.
I think second-wave feminism definitely alienated women who weren’t interested in careers and preferred motherhood, and it’s taken a long time to come back from that.
Camille Paglia has a quote in her new book that feminists have never dealt honestly with the role of motherhood in women’s lives. Again they throw the baby out with the bathwater. Feminism is up a shit’s creek. Even Sheryl Sandberg said that “in the four years since I wrote Lean In… we have fewer women in corporate positions than when I wrote it.” She is out there spouting forth stuff that does not resonate. You have these Lean In circles and that’s lovely, but you’re talking to the wall. Women do not want what you’re selling.
Do you see this book for all those other women, as a kind of red pill woman manifesto?
You know, I guess I do. I’ve never thought of it that way but yeah. I was part of the documentary [The Red Pill] but my part was cut out in editing. I think of it as a man’s cause, and I’ve never thought much about red-pill women.
A lot of them think of Melania Trump as the ideal — would you agree?
I do think she is an ideal wife. They live in very distinct very separate worlds, very traditional gender roles, more so than either you and I would choose to do. He’s said he would never change a diaper, and she didn’t want him to. She likes to do everything herself. Most people won’t relate to that part. She is perfect for my book because she’s an extremely passionate, strong-minded woman. She holds her own extremely well and is clearly her own person. And yet very much, her persona is very beta.
And beta in this case is?
I’m arguing that wives should be much more soft, feminine and receptive to that rougher male energy. That doesn’t mean not having an identity. The left will assume that’s what I mean, that I’m promoting a relationship where a woman has to be submissive. And have no self. I’m saying it doesn’t have to be that way. That’s a narrative you’ve been sold. Women need to accept sex differences and allow the natural energy to do its thing. [Melania is] an alpha woman and a beta wife. Speaks her mind and he doesn’t tell her what to do, but she doesn’t complain or nag. She said that: I’m not needy, and I’m not nagging. That’s an ideal wife to any man.
Your book is all about how women can be better wives, but there’s nothing in the book about men changing in any way. If you wrote a guide for men to succeed at marriage, what would it say?
It would say, Don’t marry a woman who’s fallen for the feminist junk. Don’t marry a feminist. Run when you see that they have feminist attitudes and ideas and a chip on their shoulder and are trying to compete and make everything 50–50. It’s not going to work. I believe the feminist philosophy is so negative and it has been baked into women’s attitudes. They don’t realize men are their greatest assets.