Alphabet of Maleness

By Yatharth Banerjee Singh 2023-07-27 15:34:17

Teenage trends come and go. However, there is one that has captured the hearts and minds of young men - The Greek Alphabet of Maleness. It assigns each letter a trait associated with masculinity. At the top of the hierarchy, the magnanimous Alphas embodying confidence and leadership. Following are the sensitive Betas with empathy and emotional intelligence. The more “normal” Deltas have a balanced approach to life, while adventurous Gammas embrace a daring spirit. The fun-loving but non-aspirational Omegas provide an alternative. On the other hand, independent Zetas carve their own path. Finally, the reticent Sigmas emerge as the most admired male archetype online, intriguing with enigmatic and introverted nature.

These terms were used almost solely in animal ethology prior to the 1990s, but researchers started drawing parallels to human power hierarchies. With social media, mainly for adolescents in pursuit of self-discovery, these terms have become increasingly popular. This trend offers teenagers a compass to navigate choppy waters, instilling purpose and direction. However, it is pivotal to not feel confined by these labels. Associating complex human behaviour with single archetypes leads to pigeonholing individuals into narrow definitions of masculinity, which can be restrictive and have a detrimental impact on mental health.

Like a wolf pack where each member has an essential but distinct role, the system can offer a healthy alternative to toxic masculinity and even bring a sense of community. The reality, however, is slightly different. For many aspiring to be Alphas or Sigmas the results are alarming acts that involve subjecting supposed Betas to oppression, both physical and emotional, causing mayhem through violence and, indulging in substance abuse.

For me, true masculinity encompasses a wide range of virtues, including empathy, hard work, discipline, responsibility, calmness, self-awareness, and above all, resilience. These attributes form the pillars of true strength and character, surpassing any narrow definitions imposed by many teenagers. It is vital to recognise that abusing others does not demonstrate masculinity but rather represents a menacing threat to the fabric of society. In many ways, such behaviour is closer to weakness than strength. The true measure of an individual’s worth lies in treating others with respect and kindness. Instead, we should embrace inclusivity, creating a space where individuals of all genders can freely express and cultivate their unique traits, regardless of their alignment with traditional notions of masculinity. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” So let us embrace our individuality, and redefine what it means to be truly strong and masculine.


Yatharth is a gap-year student about to start at NYU Shanghai. Fun Fact: He won the first Shanghai Family Student Voices competition.