This newspaper had the perfect response when called out for a sexist headline

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Kayleigh Dray
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Kumail Nanjiani spoke out against a headline that referred to Emily V. Gordon as merely “his wife” – and the newspaper at fault had the perfect response.

Comedian Kumail Nanjiani and screenwriter Emily V. Gordon co-wrote the critically-acclaimed movie The Big Sick, which is based on the true story of their relationship.

In the film, we see Nanjiani – who plays himself – grow worried about what his traditional Muslim parents will think of his new girlfriend, Emily (Zoe Kazan). However, when Emily is diagnosed with an illness that leaves her in a coma, Nanjiani finds himself developing a bond with her deeply concerned mother and father – and finds the strength to face up to his own family’s expectations.

The couple have both been working hard to promote their movie and generate plenty of positive press about it ahead of awards season. However, when Nanjiani noticed that one such story had reduced Gordon’s involvement in the project to that of a silent muse and “his wife”, he decided to call them out on it.

“Hey @washingtonpost,” he wrote on Twitter. “Big fan, love what y’all do, [and] appreciate you covering this.

“Could you add my wife’s name to this headline please? She is Emily V Gordon and not just the inspiration, but one of the writers of The Big Sick.”

The original headline read: “Kumail Nanjiani opens up about his wife’s illness, the inspiration for The Big Sick.”

Thankfully, though, the Washington Post responded positively to the criticism – and quickly worked to change the headline.

“You’re right,” they tweeted. “We’ve changed the headline.”

The article is now titled: “Kumail Nanjiani opens up about his wife Emily V Gordon’s illness, which inspired them to write The Big Sick.”

Nanjiani replied: “Thank you, you rock. Continue your awesome work. We need it.”

It is not the first time that Gordon’s role in the project has been diminished by the press – and, sadly, it seems unlikely to be the last.

Earlier this month, Kazan – who played Gordon in the film – noticed that a media outlet had published a Twitter Moment about the film.

The headline for this piece was titled: “Kumail Nanjiani opens up about his wife’s illness.”

Kazan tweeted: “She has a name, she has a name, she has a name – Emily V Gordon, now a multiple-award-nominated screenwriter.

“It’s HER body and HER illness. The least you can do is put her name in the headline if you’re going to make a ‘moment’ of her life.”


Gordon recently revealed to Deadline that she found it incredibly difficult to rehash her personal experiences in a screenplay.

“The writing was definitely a process,” she said. “Luckily, we wrote for such a long time that I had a while to get comfortable with the idea. A lot of my close friends didn’t know that I had been sick at all, so that was something I was trying to deal with in little increments along the way. I think eventually, I went from being frightened about it to hoping, in some way, that it could be something that could resonate with a lot of people.

“Thinking about it that way helped me with the naked feeling that you’re referring to, which is absolutely how I felt, many times along the way.”

Gordon added that she and Nanjiani are “trying to figure out what thing we’re going to write together next”.

“I think it might, at this time, not be something that’s so personal to us, but I really like writing together, so we’re trying to figure that out. I want to keep writing stuff that’s messy and funny and also serious at times,” she said.

“I think that’s my favourite pocket to be in, and it’s what I really like doing. I’m going to keep going in that vein.”

Images: Rex Features


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.