Friday, March 16, 2007

Was Leni Riefenstahl an Alpha Girl?

This week's New Yorker contains a chilling article about Leni Riefenstahl, the icily stunning superwoman who was Adolph Hitler's sidekick and official cinematographer. She was a formidible woman who demonstrated great strength, intelligence, and ability. She was also a woman whose protean ego would crash, from time to time, into breakdowns, and whose narcissism would preclude her ability to form enduring relationships (though what a trail of takers she left in her wake!).
As more and more biographical details emerged in Judith Thurmon's overview of recent Riefenstahl bios, Riefenstahl seemed like a prototype for Dan Kindlon's Alpha Girls, a book I recently critiqued for the Professional Woman's Village. Kindlon's alpha girl is poised to become the defining force in American culture and economy in the short years to come. She's determined to advance her career at all expenses, has an overblown image of her ability and accomplishments, and is taken to boastful swagger.
"I am the marathon," Riefenstahl said before she even put a camera to the 1939 Berlin Olympics. It sounded all too recent, as the alphas' overflow of hubris:--“I will get what I want because I am aggressive” and the like--was still rankling in my brain.
My review seriously questions whether we, as women, want to see our young become super women in the alpha mode, and whether "arrival" means stepping onto and getting stuck in the sorely amiss blueprint for the alpha male, rendering quaint all notions of feminine, and of feminism. Or, should we support in our Generation Next a new paradigm of pride, limelight, and accomplishment that's celebrated in humility and wholeness, with room left over to flaunt our wiles and ways?

Find Is Today’s "Perfect" Seriously Flawed? on the Professional Women's site.