Kumail Nanjiani, Emily V. Gordon, and the Struggle to Call Women By Name

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

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.)


Geraldo Rivera Can’t Comprehend the Difference Between Flirtation and Assault

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Ever since the New York Times and the New Yorker unearthed Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s decades-long history of sexual assault and harassment, the deluge of accusations against other prominent men continues to dominate the 24-hour news cycle. Every day, another public figure comes under fire for past behaviors they likely thought would never come to light. Although somewhat shocking, TV host Matt Lauer’s “inappropriate sexual behavior” probably won’t be the last revelation to flow from this widespread wave of accountability.

But, as such allegations are revealed, the public must also grapple with the naysayers — those who choose to believe the accused over the accuser. In response to Lauer’s scandal, for instance, Geraldo Rivera took to Twitter to show support for his longtime friend. Rivera defended Lauer by claiming that “news is a flirty business” and that the “current epidemic of #SexHarassmentAllegations may be criminalizing courtship & conflating it w predation.”

However, Rivera then contradicted his prior tweet by asserting sexual harassment “should be confined to situations where superior imposes himself on subordinate who feels unable to complain because of power of perp or feared consequences to victim’s employment.”

If both of Rivera’s tweets are meant to support each other, as one would assume, then his stance implies that the allegations against Lauer are merely playful. However, most will agree that Lauer’s lewd actions — which include summoning women to his office for sex and exposing his genitalia to female colleagues — does not, in any way, constitute flirtation. Rivera seems to have misplaced his dictionary, if that’s the case.

For reference, here’s a vocabulary lesson:

flir·ta·tion: (noun) behavior that demonstrates a playful sexual attraction to someone.

sex·u·al ha·rass·ment: (noun) aggressive pressure or intimidation (typically of a woman) in a workplace, or other professional or social situation, involving the making of unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks.

Rivera’s perspective, however, comes from a position of power. As a 74-year-old man in a male-dominated industry, he’s been the accused, but never the accuser. (Bette Midler, for example, claimed Rivera groped her during her 1991 interview with Barbara Walters.) It’s easy for someone in his shoes to prescribe how the law should work because, historically speaking, the law usually favors men — particularly those whose money equates to clout.

Only someone who’s never been victimized — who’s never faced the physical and emotional aftermath of such an encounter — would suggest this approach to obtaining justice. Forcing women to come forward in an orderly, timely fashion, with evidence in tow, puts the burden on the victim, which is why so many women refuse to report the incident in the first place.

Victims must struggle with the shame and fear that often comes along with assault and harassment. Not only must they worry about retaliation, but they must also consider what it’ll be like to recount the experience and have their name dragged through the mud as the accused attempts to discredit their reputation. For those who are suffering, there’s never an easy path forward.

Thankfully, Rivera’s comments have come under scrutiny. Fox News, where Rivera has served as roaming correspondent since 2001, issued a statement regarding Rivera’s tweets, telling Entertainment Weekly that “Geraldo’s tweets do not reflect the views of Fox News or its management. We were troubled by his comments and are addressing them with him.”

Twitter users have also responded in kind, tearing Rivera’s logic to shreds.

While everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, implying that these victims are merely jilted lovers seeking payouts as retribution for rejection undermines the strength these women demonstrate by coming forward and sharing their stories. Rivera’s position further perpetuates the culture that’s kept these women quiet for so long. We must continue to shut down any and all deniers in order to maintain society’s newfound willingness to listen to — and believe — the women who’ve been wronged by men who wield their power as their primary weapon against culpability.

(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

Stop Using Social Media as the Scapegoat for Society’s Demise

During the early morning hours of May 7, Nicki Minaj took to Twitter to help fans in need. Over the course of this dialogue, Minaj agreed to pay out an estimated $30,000 of her own money to help the fans in question afford their college tuition and school supplies. While many critics might be skeptical about the motive behind her random acts of philanthropy, it’s hard to ignore that Minaj’s generous soul would never have connected with these struggling individuals had it not been for social media.

Of course, it’s easy for people to focus on social media’s failings. It promotes narcissism. It’s an unyielding distraction. It hinders everyone’s attention span. However, along with the bad, we’ve been exposed to a world of good that outweighs any negative sentiment. We now have an outlet for connecting with people outside our immediate circle, allowing us to learn and grow in ways we never could have before its creation.

Thanks to Twitter (and the Web, in general), we have the opportunity to remain abreast of international news in real time. Yes, there’s an enormous amount of content to sift through at any given moment, but by adopting healthy social media habits, it’s simple to filter through what’s important and what’s frivolous fluff. You see, those who claim that social networks drain people’s time and ruin kids’ attention spans are those who’ve failed to master healthy social habits themselves. All good things must be consumed in moderation—even media. We may live in the era of the Netflix binge, but that doesn’t mean such behaviors are smart. When used properly, social media arms us with the tools necessary to dismantle widespread ignorance and hold public figures accountable. Social media acts as the weapon we need to effectively fight for what’s right.

Following the U.S. presidential election, for instance, voters quickly took to social media—in some cases to celebrate, in some cases to express their disbelief and anguish while establishing the foundation for what’s now known as The Resistance. Women came together via social to plan and execute the Women’s March on Washington, as well as its sister marches across the world. And organizations, such as Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, have turned to social media to mobilize supporters and bolster donations. Without such outlets, these groups never would’ve come together so quickly and effectively. Without social media, it would’ve been much more difficult for these like-minded activists to find one another and turn their mutual disgust into productive outreach.

Even in less extreme cases, social media has the potential to make people feel less alone. Prior to social networks, outcasts likely felt that there was no one else in the world who understood their struggle. But, by being able to express their emotions online, many have found support they might’ve otherwise gone without. Those with minor grievances can also take solace in social media, for the memes and comics that rule the space demonstrate we’re not as alone as we once thought. (No, you’re NOT the only one who feels that way!) Critics will argue that social media has the opposite effect, as Facebook and Instagram posts often make said outcasts feel even more out of the loop than before, but when you stop to evaluate the new connections at their fingertips, it’s easy to see that social empowers them to change their situation for the better.

Face it—bullies will never cease to exist. There’ll always be people who tear others down in order to make themselves feel superior, no matter their platform of choice. But it’s our responsibility to teach today’s children how to navigate these new networks. Our parents taught us how to handle the challenges that came along with growing up, and we’ll have to do the same. Kids still have to face the same battles, even if they’re fighting on uncharted battlefields. Remember! We’re the ones who created this supposed mess, so we’re the ones who will have to right the course. We will have to teach them how to limit their screen time. We will have to teach them how to be mindful of others online. We will have to teach them not to idolize the manipulated images and personas they see across platforms.

Parents and authority figures who believe social media has ruined today’s youth are merely projecting their own insecurities, for they exhibit these less than stellar behaviors themselves. They’re guilty of deifying the celebrities they follow, and checking their phones excessively. They’ve become addicted to refreshing their feeds and awaiting new notifications. Yet, each time another adult gives their child an iPad or smartphone as a stand-in for an actual caretaker, they perpetuate the very problem they wish to rectify. Unless we take responsibility for how we conduct ourselves, we will never be able to alter the issue at hand.

Until then, critics will continue to focus on social media’s failings and blame these networks for what’s wrong with the world. Social media isn’t without its flaws, of course, but we mustn’t overlook the value it brings to the modern world. As with any tool, social can be used for good or evil. Let’s remember what social media can help us accomplish—as was the case with Nicki Minaj—before we vilify these networks once and for all.


(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

No Speed Limit on the Information Superhighway

“Information and knowledge: two currencies that have never gone out of style.” –Mr. Wednesday, ‘American Gods’ p. 24

As a young child, reports were a nuisance. Writing something factual either required a trek to the library or an expedition into the dusty world of mygrandfather’s bookcase. There, he had an enormous collection of alphabetized encyclopedias that dated back to sometime in the1970s. Concise and convenient, these reference books supplied the content for the majority of my writing assignments up until high school, when even Encarta – a program that came free with my first Windows 95 Sony VAIO – would no longer suffice.

Now, if a child were to take one of my grandfather’s beautiful encyclopedias and cite it as a source in any level academic paper, the copyright date would immediately sound an alarm and result in said information being replaced with a more up-to-date source (because we all know how much history can change in 40 years, sure).

In a time when the “Works Cited” page was referred to as a bibliography, information wasn’t as readily available. You had to dig. It was great practice for a child like myself who always aspired to be Sherlock Holmes, Harriet the Spy, or even a less gifted Emily Eyefinger. With a constant desire for information and knowledge, much like Mr. Wednesday expresses, I would peruse my grandfather’s collection for fun, though an odd source for reading enjoyment, I’m sure. Instead, I now surf the Internet. What once took a few minutes to find as a sifted through indexes and pages now takes mere seconds to discover.

Today, our need and consumption of said information and knowledge increases at lightning speeds. Our brains have turned into the Blob – the more we consume, the greater our need to continuously consume becomes. Yet, while our brains keep growing and growing, reading and absorbing facts from anywhere possible, our heads become emptier and more hollow. Our advances in technology have made accessing information as easy as the click of a button. We have social networking sites that not only allow us to stay current with our friends’ lives, but with celebrities and the media, too. (This newfangled thing called a blog, the very format you’re reading, is just another piece of this massively expanding puzzle.) We are constantly inundated with so much information that we become overly saturated sponges laying in a puddle of information we’d love to soak up, if only we could.

The speed at which this information comes flying at us is enough to make one’s head spin. One cannot take their eyes off their computer for a moment without missing another 20 tweets posted or Suzie’s weekend plans courtesy of her Facebook status. We have gone from detectives curiously seeking knowledge, to drones that know only how to point and click their browser’s refresh button.

President Barack Obama made a similar remark during his commencement speech at Hampton University this past weekend:

“And meanwhile, you’re coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t always rank that high on the truth meter. And with iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations — none of which I know how to work — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation. So all of this is not only putting pressure on you; it’s putting new pressure on our country and on our democracy.”

Listen to his entire speech below:

Mr. Gaiman’s writing is beyond correct – information and knowledge will always remain a desire. But, written in 2001, this readily accessible information was merely playing a supporting character that would ultimately lead to a starring role in our daily lives. Now, we gorge ourselves to the point of being obese with information. Like pie-eating contestants, we shovel in what’s put in front of our faces, but much becomes mutilated, soiling everything and creating a mess. To make life less hectic and distracting, perhaps we should simply refer back to our good table manners. Pick up your knife and fork and cut away only those chunks of information you deem desirable. The rest is simply a garnish – nice to look at but never meant to be ingested.