Into this, you had modern free thinkers saying, "There's nothing wrong with me just because I don't like to eat pussy," or, "There's nothing wrong with me just because I have extra melanin in my skin," or, "There's nothing wrong with me just because I have XX chromosomes." These people found a life prescribed within the narrow definitions that fell into place with post-WWII society, where the Government was our omnipotent helpful friend and domestic bliss was just a good job and some shrewd purchases away, as not just unsatisfying, but completely unlivable. Blacks started rejecting the notion that they had to act a certain way and embraced what made them what they were (the afro was originally a sign of conformist rejection, not just a hair style). Gays started rejecting the notion that they were sick and damaged. And women started rejecting the idea that their lives were a waste if they didn't act as incubators and accessories for the men in their lives.
As with any sociological shift, there was resistance. Women started forming organizations to defend traditional gender roles, seeing this united front as the enemy. Lost in all this was that gender roles were not under attack, nor were they ever. The central debate was women being allowed to do as they wished. If they wanted to be homemakers or mothers, they should be so. If they wanted to have a career or be the primary breadwinner or not have kids (especially shocking since, all through time, not having kids was seen as the ultimate failure of humanity. A lot of your old folklore stories, dying in battle was noble, but being unable to reproduce was shamefully and a curse, like the story of the mermaid on the black rock), they could do so. Both sides became more interested in telling each other what the correct life exit was than simply asserting their choice to live in a way that made them happy.
In the 80's, during my formative years, the so-called "traditional" view was the clear winner, with women who wanted more out of life being branded as uppity, man-hating, or in some unfortunate circles, being labeled as lesbians. There was an active campaign to marginalize such women out of existence. But times changed, and soon the independent woman became the norm, and the "traditional" view became the mindset to be smirked at as people congratulated themselves for being so much more enlightened than those people from the Stone Age.
And it continues to this day. Women are still in a tug of war to determine what constitutes a fulfilling life in the eyes of society. Should I get a career? Have a baby without a husband? Or should I get married? Have a baby with a husband? Once again, a dichotomy, only two choices, and the dominant one is the correct one. Completely ignoring that no one is one extreme or the other, or people can change their minds, or some people just aren't interested in using their lives to prop up a bullshit social war. Some women want to be independent, some women want to be homemakers, and they want to be happy without being pulled into the fight, thank you very much.
Which brings me to the current brouhaha surrounding Gabrielle Reece. Gabrielle Reece is a professional beach volleyball player who somehow managed to parlay it into a modeling career. I say "somehow" because she does not fit the traditional parameters of the glamour model. She didn't have the classic facial proportions, she was actually tall (I think she's a couple of inches taller than me), and her body was lean instead of voluptuous. Not that I cared. I like active women, I like athletic builds, and she spun my crank. Part of the appeal, I think, was just that she was an athlete. That meant she was active, dominant, but by being a model, she was still living a feminine role that girls daydream about. She eventually married Laird Hamilton, a professional surfer. She eventually became a fitness advocate, doing what so many people do when they can't get modeling or acting gigs anymore -- started an online website to dispense life advice. In her case, naturally, it was health stuff.
Reece has written a new book, My Foot Is Too Big For The Glass Slipper, and has been doing the talk show rounds to promote the book. And in it she says the reason her marriage is a success now (they were separated for four years early on) is that she submits to her husband. As she explained during a recent appearance on the Today show:
"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."
Realizing this might cause a stir online, she added, "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, or the hope would be, that he comes with the same attitude. Is it a form of service? Absolutely. But I think it's the place I can express that part of myself and my personality."
So there's all these people who just last week were shocked and appalled that Wil Smith has an open marriage who are now seeing this a sign that Reece is selling out all the advances women have made since the Suffrage movement started.
Strictly speaking, she's not.
When you are in a committed relationship, you do things you may not want to do but they help make your partner happy. It's never the big things like finances, those get hammered out immediately. It's the little things that you don't have to do, but you do anyway. Guys will put the seat down. Women may dress a little differently. It's not submission so much as trying to be a more appealing partner. And ideally, your partner is inspired to do little things to be more appealing to you.
And if something that you yourself label as submissive makes you both happy without anyone being taken for granted? Hey, it's your life, you aren't hurting anyone, go ahead.
The fact is feminism is about letting women live how they want, whatever that choice is. But by either holding Reece up as proof that women are meant to be submissive or as an enemy to rally against, it undermines and defeats the whole point of feminism (it wasn't long ago that Rush Limbaugh was saying that Beyonce saying she likes to be submissive to her husband is proof that he was right about gender roles). Reece is not offering herself up as an example of anything other than what works for her, no one has the right to redefine her to suit their own purposes. That is using a woman with no regard for her humanity or desires. And is the very thing everyone says they are trying to stop.
We are most dangerous when we don't realize we are what we hate.