TikTok creators are responding to sexist podcast hosts who describe themselves as “alpha males” by parodying their content in a new viral trend.
Elsa Lakew was one of the first in the trend to post a video with the “Bearded Cutie” filter. The filter gives the user dark, defined eyebrows, a septum piercing and manicured stubble.
“Someone said if you don’t like the male version of yourself, you should humble yourself,” Lakew said in a video, which has over 14 million views. “But [expletive], if I looked like this I would start a podcast. ... You know what women don’t be doing?”
Lakew's decision to make the video stemmed from her frustration with countless podcasts that push the so-called “alpha male” lifestyle, which encourages men try to establish social dominance through aggression based on now-debunked theories about wolfpack hierarchies.
Common themes include aggressively pursuing women regardless of consent, treating relationships as transactional and basing women’s value on how conventionally attractive they are — only to discard them once they age or gain weight. Many self-described “high value men” or “alpha males” refer to women as “females.”
“It feels like a new video clip was going viral every other week of some guy spewing some garbage take on women,” Lakew told NBC News. “I got pretty sick of it. And so when I saw that filter on TikTok and used it, I immediately thought of these podcasts guys. ... Since we couldn’t fight logic with illogical takes, parodying them was the next best thing.”
Other creators quickly began stitching Lakew's video using the bearded filter to riff on the preposterous statements common in “alpha male” podcasts. TikTok tags like #alphamale, which has 619.6 million views, and #highvalueman, which has 119.3 million views, were once populated by men boasting about devaluing women. Now, they’re overtaken by parody videos.
Toxic male podcasters are usually met with some backlash from women online, but the collective frustration bubbled over to become a TikTok-wide trend this year. Comedy became an outlet for responding to unfounded sexist claims.
In a recent video, the Australian singer Peach PRC mocked the toxic mentality that many "alpha male" podcast hosts embody.
"If you're going to be a disobedient female, I will have a tanty," she said, using Australian slang for childish tantrums. "I have a podcast. Relatively successful, 37 listeners each week. And what I'm bringing to the table is that. What are you bringing to the table? Stretch marks."
The video seemed absurd, but it mirrored actual statements by male podcasters. In response to a commenter who insisted that "nobody has ever said anything remotely close" to what was in her video, Peach PRC posted a follow-up TikTok video juxtaposing her parody quotations with jokes from actual podcasters.
Lakew said she hasn’t been “keeping a close eye” on any hate from men in response to the trend she helped start. Instead, she’s encouraged by the response from women who feel similarly fed up.
“Overall the duets to my video and all the videos that have sprung up on my FYP [For You Page] of other women making similar videos have been the best part of all this,” Lakew said. “And that’s the only response that really matters to me.”
The trend reflects the ridiculous statements that misogynistic podcasters endorse. TikTok users turned the hosts' outdated values against them by applying the same unreasonable expectations to men.
This 'alpha male' type is so easy to parody because they get away with saying so many ridiculous and harmful things. We want to show how utterly ridiculous they sound."
tiktok creator and comedian hayley hirsch
"This 'alpha male' type is so easy to parody because they get away with saying so many ridiculous and harmful things," TikTok creator Hayley Hirsch said. "We want to show how utterly ridiculous they sound."
Hirsch posts one-person skits on TikTok, acting out different characters. Her video parodying male podcast hosts obsessed with cryptocurrency has over 6 million views. She said that as a female comedian, she has been the target of hateful attacks from men. It's "almost like a reflex to some of these guys," she said.
"The people online who’ve made fun of them don’t even need to twist these men’s words that much to make it funny," Hirsch said. "I think collectively we’re just tired of this ‘alpha male’ type with huge platforms."
Many "alpha male" podcasters, creators say, hold women to an unattainable standard of beauty, such as believing women "lose value" if they gain weight during relationships or after pregnancy.
TikTok creators Kimber Springs and Lilly Brown post videos satirizing the "alpha male" mentality with a podcast for "high value women." In a recent video, they insisted that men should "make more of an effort to keep their hair," even though, like weight changes, losing one's hair is a natural part of aging.
"With every hair that falls off, I get less and less attracted to you," Springs said in the skit, mimicking what toxic male podcasters have said about weight. "If you start balding after we get married, which happens all too often, if you're going to let that happen, I don't know if I can stay around."
Springs described making fun of the "alpha male" values as "empowering." It's shedding a light on just how ridiculous such values are, and it provides a platform to "respond to outdated ideas that get perpetuated through podcasts all too often."
"Instead of airing out their grievances and half-baked ideas to a therapist, they use podcasts to spread hateful, regressive messages about women and gender roles," Springs said. "It is open season on misogyny in 2022!"
Reasoning with men who hold such values is largely unsuccessful, so creators turned to mocking them, instead, they said.
TikTok creator Drew Afualo built an audience of 5.6 million followers by responding to videos of misogynistic rants by brutally dragging the posters' hairlines, outfits and looks.
The creators who use the trend to respond to misogyny also fight fire with fire. Persuading "alpha male" zealots to change their ways through productive conversation may be futile, but publicly shaming them as online laughingstocks is at least uniting women on TikTok.
"I think comedy is a great tool to mirror back the ridiculousness of society, especially when these 'alpha male' types claim to be speaking with such objectivity," Hirsch said. "We're basically telling them: 'No, you actually don't have that power. Your opinions are not scientific fact. On top of that, you sound absurd.'"