Professional volleyball player Gabrielle Reese is promoting a new memoir, My Foot Is Too Big For The Glass Slipper, which hops on the bandwagon of a somewhat popular theme for memoirs-by-strong-ladies these days: she says her life and marriage have improved by being “submissive” to her husband, pro surfer Laird Hamilton.
As Reece told “The Today Show,” she and oft-shirtless Hamilton considered divorce after only four years of marriage. Listening to her talk in her “Today” interview, it’s refreshing to see how candid she is about how their relationship was not perfect; they both had careers in sports, a gaggle of small children, and a beautiful home, but their marriage was in crisis. Yet by choosing to adhere to traditional gender roles and “serving her husband,” the couple has managed to stay together, happily, for 17 years.
As quoted by Huffington Post, Reece writes in her book, “to truly be feminine means being soft, receptive, and — look out, here it comes — submissive.” Reece expounded on this on “Today,” explaining how their marriage was falling apart until she decided to submit to him:
“I think the idea of living with a partner is ‘How can I make their life better?’ 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. I’d like to be cherished and I’d like someone to look after me as well in that role. And I think because women have the ability to set the tone, that the ultimate strength and showing real power, I believe, is creating that environment. I think it’s a sign of strength.’’
The interviewer than asks her to clarify that it’s some submission from “weakness.” Reece responds, “Well, he’s not saying ‘dinner on the table at six.’ We’re not talking about that. I’m saying, hey, I’ll lift up my side and I’ll do it happily and also the expectation would be and the hope would be, he comes with the same attitude. Is it a form of service? Yes, absolutely. But it’s the place where I can express that part of myself and my personality.”
She doesn’t go so far as to prescribe submission to all women, just poses it as something that worked for their marriage. I’m relieved that Reece doesn’t bash feminism and seems to be the primary agent behind submitting to her husband, something she came to as a personal choice. Having not read the book but nevertheless having a little bit of insight into relationships like this, I would imagine she likes this dynamic because it allows her to not have to be Superwoman in control all the time.
Still, there are some problematic things about what she says. “If they want to empower their male partner,” Reece explained on “Today,” “this would be the way to do it.” Now, generally speaking, I don’t care how couples make a dynamic work privately in their home and it’s fine with me if individual couples choose to divvy up their dynamic along traditional gender lines. But there are plenty of partnerships that don’t shake down to traditional gender roles and plenty of men who don’t need to be leaders of their relationships to be “empowered.” So it’s concerning that Reece’s book poses that all women are this way and all men are that way. I’m glad she phrases this decision as a personal choice, rather than an absolute prescription for everyone. (I’m also concerned that one of the problem’s in Reece and Hamilton’s marriage was Hamilton’s “moodiness.” Not sure I’d want to submit to someone who has wide-ranging moods.)
What do you think about Gabrielle Reece’s submissive relationship to her husband? Let us know in the comments!
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