Before the interviewer Lorrie Irby Jackson read the book…
With serial monogamy becoming the norm rather than the exception and nearly half of all American marriages ending in divorce, it’s hard to avoid skepticism when anyone other than a proven expert offers advice on what works.
And when you’re already a high-profile celebrity, those doubts only multiply, especially when you’re a woman who seems to endorse a concept that can perpetuate gender inequality and servitude. That’s how many are approaching My Foot Is Too Big for the Glass Slipper: A Guide to the Less Than Perfect Life by former beach volleyball star Gabrielle Reece, due to the fact that she claims being submissive is the key to the preservation of her 15 year marriage to professional surfer, Laird Hamilton.
In excerpts that have been widely circulated and criticized in the blogsphere, the occasional “Biggest Loser” trainer and mother of three (including a stepdaughter she’s raising from Hamilton’s previous marriage) candidly reveals that, despite the picture-perfect images of the bride, groom and Hawaiian paradise where they exchanged vows, their day-to-day life as a couple has been an imperfect struggle that brought them to the brink of divorce in 2001.
According to Reece, what helped them to reconcile was her willingness to embrace a softer side: “To be truly feminine means being soft, receptive and—look out, here it comes—submissive.” “I think the idea of living with a partner is ‘How can I make their life better? ’” Reece said in a visit to The Today show. “So if I’m the woman and he’s the man, then yes, that’s the dynamic. I’m willing and I choose to serve my family and my husband because it creates a dynamic where he is then in fact acting more like a man and masculine and treating me the way I want to be treated.”
Responses were as instant as they were explosive, thanks to many women objecting to her narrow definition of womanhood (“Don’t tell me and all women everywhere that we’re not “truly feminine” if we choose not to be that way,” said one commenter). Many also wondered if Hamilton reciprocates, especially after Hamilton admitting in the same interview that his moodiness made the marriage a difficult one by inhibiting Reece’s ability to cope and express herself.
Were those dilemmas solved solely with Reece’s willingness to acquiesce, and if so, what does that choice teach the children in their home about the give-and-take within the framework of a healthy marital relationship?
Opinions are fine to have, and if that approach works for the Reece-Hamilton household, so be it, but from where I stand, my femininity doesn’t—and shouldn’t—hinge upon how obedient I am to Calvin or on how expediently I dust, cook dinner or get the laundry folded. And if Calvin’s ability to be a great husband and father is diminished by how often I dare to speak my mind or disagree with his point of view, then I’m the wrong woman for him and he’s not the type of man I need to have in my life or raise my children with.
Contrary to what most have been led to believe, submission is meant to be applied as a mutual proposition, not a one-way mandate that makes one spouse a dictator and the other a doormat. If a man wants to earn the trust of his partner, then he needs to demonstrate, in words and deeds, that he has the best interests of the family in mind and accomodate her desires as well.
Gender differences aren’t deficiencies, and expecting someone to relinquish their personal preferences in favor of your own just because they’re of the opposite sex isn’t ‘submission’—it’s ‘surrender.’ And despite Reece’s assurances that she’s not promoting fairy tales, those antiquated views on fragile male egos and what constitutes an ideal wife come across as an old-fashioned fable with a ‘happily-ever-after’ only intended for one.