Surrender. That’s the underlying message of Gabrielle Reece’s statements last week about marriage. The former volleyball star and current fitness expert—a woman who has literally made a living being strong—has dubbed submission a strength.
“I choose to serve my family and my husband,” says Reece, “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.” NBC’s Brian Williams called it a “new and provocative take on how to keep a marriage together.”
But is it? "The Today Show’s" online survey asked the public on whether or not they agreed with Reece’s statement: “To be truly feminine means being soft and receptive and look out, here it comes, submissive …” The majority of its audience—a whopping 55%—agreed that embracing femininity and being submissive is the way to go. Only 19% disagreed.
For more than a decade, I’ve been trumpeting the sound of this silent majority. It’s one that believes marriage is about embracing human nature, rather than trying to make the sexes interchangeable in the name of “equality.” We don’t need a revolution to make men and women equal. They’re already equal.
But they are very different. A woman’s femininity, for example, is very powerful. It doesn’t lower her status or preclude her from being an independent woman. Go! Do what you want with your life. No one’s stopping you. But when it comes to love, surrender. It’s OK to let your guard down. It’s OK to serve your man.
That’s what Gabby Reece meant when she used the word submissive. Admittedly, it’s a loaded term. But it doesn’t mean being less than, or subordinate to, one’s spouse. Submission means to defer to another person’s judgment, opinion or decision. It means you trust your partner. If that trust exists, submission is a no brainer.
And it goes both ways. “I’m just sort of surprised at the way people took the word ‘submissive.’ The idea of trying to make the lives of the people in your home, including your husband, better…that is a form of choice of service. I really believe in that idea that we should all make our lives, each other’s lives, better. And by the way, my husband lives by that same code.”
Funny, when we talk about husbands being submissive, or deferential, to their wives, no one raises an eyebrow.
Turn it around and women get heart palpitations.
They assume that deferring to a man means women aren’t strong or capable all on their own. That was the script their generation was sold, but it just isn’t true.
When I wrote The War on Men last November, urging women to get in touch with their feminine side, there was a strong backlash.
The most common response was, “What do you mean by the word feminine?” People assumed I think women should be doormats, or that they should ask “How high?” when their men ask them to jump. Nothing could be further from the truth.
What I meant is that the faux version of equality women have been taught undermines love. The tools women were taught to be successful in the marketplace are the same set of tools that will screw up their love lives.
I know women pride themselves on being in charge. And when channeled properly—at work, for example—the quality is a good one. But when it comes to love, it’s the kiss of death.
As Reece said, being married is a form of service. So get comfortable taking care of your husband. If he’s one of the good guys, I promise: he won’t swallow you whole.
Suzanne Venker is an author, a cultural critic. She tackles a range of subjects surrounding marriage and the family, including the infamous gender wars. Her most recent book is "The Two-Income Trap: Why Parents Are Choosing to Stay Home." To learn more about Suzanne, visit her website. Follow her on Twitter@SuzanneVenker.com.