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Why Gabrielle Reece’s retro recipe for marital bliss is, uh, wrong

By April 22, 2013 3 Comments

I’ve never really followed Gabrielle that closely, but she’s always been on my radar as a solid, inspirational role model for young women—someone strong, disciplined, and self-possessed. Someone who hasn’t been seduced by her own her fame and glamour. Given that the archetype of women that’s most often celebrated in the media is often complete opposite, I’d say some of the words I associated with Gabrielle were “fresh” and “modern.”

Well ooooh wee, did I ever back the wrong horse! Because as you might have heard, her new book My Foot is Too Big for the Glass Slipper advocates an “old-fashioned” marriage dynamic and that women take on a submissive, serving role in romantic partnerships and in the home.

Photo of Gabby Reece and husband Laird Hamilton.

Dude looks a little smug in this photo. But frankly, Gabby’s giving him good reason.

In the past few days, Reece has been making the rounds on TV and in the blogosphere to explain herself. On NBC’s Rock Center, she said:

“I’m clearly the female, Laird is clearly the male. I’m willing and I choose to serve my family, which means dinner and laundry and organizing his schedule as well as mine. And I’m choosing this because it works well for us.”

To top that off, she threw in that “To truly be feminine means being soft, receptive, and — look out, here it comes — submissive” and that “the language men understand is food and sex.”

This was a point she underscored in an internet he-said-she-said “Secrets to a Happy Marriage” list where her #5 is “Put out” and her #9 is “Did I say put out?”

Yeah, you did. And it made my skin crawl the first time. Because while these might be her choices—they are just that. Something that works for her and her (very possibly Neanderthal) husband. Which is why I’m bummed that they’re being framed as solid advice for young women.

I mean, ’80s supermodel/the former Mrs. Mick Jagger, Jerry Hall, famously said keeping a man requires women to be “a maid in the living room, a cook in the kitchen, and a whore in the bedroom,” but she didn’t hawk it as a blueprint for marital success (which, might I add, it seems to have turned out not to be in her situation anyway).

Y’know, I get it. Everyone wants to preserve that sexy spark from the early days of their relationships. Plus, no woman wants to become the drudge who’s more about menial tasks than making out. But is going retro really the way to make that happen?

Laird Hamilton on surf board.

Way to go, man! Not only did you nab the hottest hottie in Hawaii, she cooks and cleans, too. Gnarly!

Ultimately, the person I really want to hear from right now is Reece’s husband, famous surfer dude Laird Hamilton, whose #5 in the aforementioned Happy Marriage list is “Don’t tolerate too much s**t” and his #8 is “Don’t treat her like your wife or your mom, treat her like your chick.”

If he’s so busy treating her like some hot chick instead of a wife or mother, what the heck is Reece doing slaving over loads of family laundry, menu planning, and booking his haircuts/doctor appointments?

And how does he feel that his wife, who has been an undeniable icon of strength and independence, is publicly talking about the sacrifices she’s making so that (it would seem) he can continue to top out in his career?

Maybe he’s fine with it. I mean, I guess I’d be fine with having someone standing by to satisfy and help me, too. But in this moment, when we’re all figuring out just how much we should be Leaning In in our lives and professions, Reece’s advice seems more out-out-touch and unpalatable than ever.