Comedian Kumail Nanjiani took to Twitter earlier this week to share memories from when his then-girlfriend, Emily V Gordon, was admitted to the hospital with an undiagnosed condition. Gordon’s mother recently found an old visitor’s badge with Nanjiani’s phone number written on the back for reference, which inspired the actor to open up about the struggles he and his now-wife faced during those early, uncertain times.
Fans of the Pakistani comedian soon began to share their own stories, for which Nanjiani was more than grateful. “The stories of illness that people have shared over the last two days have been really moving,” Nanjiani tweeted. “Emily & I have gotten a tremendous sense of hope & understanding from those who have conditions similar to hers. It makes us feel less alone. It makes us feel connected. Thank you.”
But it was in the wake of Nanjiani’s tweets that the media revealed its own illness—an unnamed disease that had dominated the industry for much too long.
Multiple news outlets reported on Nanjiani and his free-flowing emotions as these events were the inspiration behind the 2017 romantic comedy “The Big Sick.” However, as those connected to the project noted, Nanjiani was not the sole creative behind the film, nor was he the one suffering from the particular illness.
On multiple occasions, publications neglected to refer to Nanjiani’s wife, Gordon, by name. Zoe Kazan, the actress who portrayed Gordon’s character in the film, called out Twitter when those who compile “moments” failed to use Gordon’s name in its collection of posts regarding her life and illness.
Nanjiani followed Kazan’s post with his own request when the Washington Post chose to refer to Gordon as nothing more than the “inspiration” for “The Big Sick.” While that’s true, she also co-wrote the film alongside her husband.
Publications seemingly find it hard to call women by their name or refer to them by title. Instead, women’s identities are limited to who they are in relation to the men in their lives. Mother, daughter, sister, wife—in Gordon’s case, she’s Nanjiani’s inspiration, too. It wasn’t until others called them out on their inherent bias that these publications saw the error of their ways and corrected their mistake.
After years of suppressing women, society seems reluctant to allow these individuals their moment in the spotlight. Gordon’s willingness to share something incredibly personal, however, was the reason “The Big Sick” came to be in the first place. She deserves recognition for both her writing and her bravery. It’s not easy to share the intimate details of one’s illness, but it’s even more difficult when your courage and talents go ignored by those who feel more comfortable praising the male colleague who also happens to be your husband. (And don’t try to rationalize this decision by claiming that his name will draw clicks. She’d have a “name,” too, if you actually used it now and then.)
Publications have disregarded female accomplishments for years in exchange for touting men’s successes instead. Said references have become so subconsciously pervasive, we rarely notice the ways we rob women of their identities anymore. (Why do you think women, such as Selena Gomez, must spend half of any given interview detailing their relationship status, while men are free to discuss their work?)
Thankfully, stars like Kazan and Nanjiani are willing to raise awareness about this silent plague running rampant throughout society. Perhaps if we continue to pinpoint every such infraction, we’ll inevitably find the cure for our sexist, dismissive culture.
(This post originally appeared on Storia.)