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Just why do strong independent women submit to the men in their lives?


 Gerard Pique of Barcelona with Shakira. Photo: Getty

Gerard Pique of Barcelona with Shakira. Photo: Getty

Gerard Pique of Barcelona with Shakira. Photo: Getty

THERE has been quite a bit of discussion over what exact message Shakira intended when she told an interviewer that she could no longer do raunchy videos with men.

Her boyfriend, footballer Gerard Pique, didn't like to see the mother of his child rolling around with other blokes in the name of selling a song.

But it was grand if she wanted to give it a shot with women so Shakira's first foray into Sapphic-styled music videos was with the ever game Rihanna.

The debate has centred around why a strong, independent, clever, successful, rich, philanthropist would bow to the wishes of her boyfriend.

What kind of a message is that sending out to other women? It's a valid question and indeed there are quite a few valid questions arising out of this.


Like why does a strong, independent, clever, successful, rich, philanthropist need to be writhing around with anyone?

And there are serious issues around pandering to that incredibly annoying porn-born notion that all women will go for another woman if there's no bloke around.

But, despite their validity, most of the questions are missing the point.

Which is that Shakira said this in an interview in order to get publicity.

The same reason she and Rihanna shot their video on a bed as opposed to say a golf course – so far the video has had over 200 million hits on Youtube.

In other interviews Shakira has made similar reference to her boyfriend's power. She calls him "my man" for a start, which is all quite Tarzan.

She has said that she stopped dieting after she had her baby because "my man" likes a bit of meat on a woman.

She said in another interview that she gave "my man" final approval on the video with Rihanna.

Another day she parked badly outside a Barcelona recording studio and "my man" came along and parked it properly.

In one way it seems rather submissive on her behalf. But in another it seems like a slightly clumsy and very public display of the dynamic that takes place in a lot of relationships.

A dynamic that to some degree or other is what makes a relationship work long-term.

Shakira, the strong, independent, clever, successful, rich, philanthropist is 37. Gerard Pique is 27. He is a footballer and, fairly or unfairly, the average footballer is not much regarded as clever or cultured.

Whatever way they play it in private, in public she is bigging him up, bolstering against a sense that she might be the dominant one. Whose sense that it, whether his, hers, theirs, or what they think everyone else thinks, is unclear and to an extent doesn't matter.

Perhaps Shakira underestimated the reaction there would be to her pronouncements as she has recently watered them down, telling E! Online that she has rules too and that Pique is not allowed pose with models.

But the truth remains, submission is a part of every successful relationship, what differs is the extent.

"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the Church, his body, and is himself its Saviour.

"Now as the Church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands."

That's Ephesians 5:22-33, a Bible gem on which vast tracts of history are based and to which huge amounts of the internet are devoted. From the carefully reasoned to the plain nuts they make for superbly addictive reading.

Presumably because it lacks the Bible seal of approval there is substantially less thought devoted to husbands submitting to wives and what there is often involves spanking paddles. Which is a little off message for now.

Any relationship is some form of dance around power. Who has it, who wants it, who thinks they have it, who needs to be made to believe they have it and every other combination of "who" and "has it" possible.

It's the same in friendships, in work, between parents and children and in romances. The thing that matters is that it not be one-sided and it not be all of the time.

I've often heard people, mostly women, say that they prefer to be single because they don't want someone telling them what to do.

And perpetuating that myth is perhaps the greatest disservice performed by Shakira's description of her relationship with "my man".


Of course there are spouses who tell their other halves what to do, but by and large these people are some class of maniac. Even back when wives swore on an altar to "obey" there probably wasn't that much obeying.

Few people want absolute power, most of us are happy to relinquish entire areas of control, not only in terms of responsibility but also in terms of sheer effort. Being controlling is a full-time occupation.

However not many relationships can be on equal terms all of the time.

It mightn't ever be an issue around bossiness or being told what to do, but it can often be a question that one partner needs to subjugate their desires, ambitions, plans or wishes while the other partner seems to have more freedom.

Compromise is vital and it's a fabulous theory, but it tends to crumble when a couple has dependents, little children or needy parents or where there is illness.

These changes are huge, life-altering and relatively swift. In a matter of months life as you know it seems over. That in itself is a stress, but because two people will deal differently with situations there's a wedge even when you're doing your best to be fair.

It's the interpretation of fair that seems to cause most issues and in practical terms, when there are children involved, compromise generally means that one person compromises much more than the other.

Myself and my husband both worked full-time in offices when our son was little. If he wasn't well my husband felt no guilt calling on a grandparent. I did.

When we had two little children I wanted to work and we needed the money but neither of us wanted the children to be in full-time childcare.

My work was more flexible so I tried to combine work and some childcare. For a million reasons that a million other people live every day it never seemed to work out the way it was meant to.

Being able to work all the hours and do all the travel and pay all the attention meant my husband's career took off where mine stalled.

I got to spend a lot of nice time with my kids but I also worked a lot of nights, nothing felt like it was done properly, I'd be desperate for them to go to sleep so I could do an hour of work and it felt like nothing I wanted, or had to do, could be done without at first sorting out everyone else's needs.

I felt like I always came last and I really hated it. But there actually wasn't much of a way round it.

By then he was making a lot more money than I was so short of selling up and moving to a cave on the Blaskets to attempt self-sufficiency it was a case of accept/submit or forever whine.

No matter what style of parenthood people choose, and no matter how they think they will do it, in the vast majority of cases having children changes a mother's life far more than a father's. And that causes friction.

The stuff that couples fight over is more often than not based around power and choice in the broadest sense.


And most of those fights actually translate as some version of "Why do I not have the freedom you have?"

And issues beget issues: "He can't seem to think of emptying the dishwasher/buy milk/wash the school uniforms but he can get it together to look for a bit of how's your father? I don't bloody think so."

Submitting to circumstances is not the same as submitting to another's will but the end result is the same. Ephesians or not, submission really goes against the grain for most of us.

And by the time you start to get your head around it the kids have grown up.

Maybe Shakira is just very wise.