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“Why we all need to STOP feeling sorry for Irina Shayk”

The world has unleashed an outpouring of grief for “poor Irina Shayk” following Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s intimate performance at the 2019 Oscars. Here, digital editor Kayleigh Dray explains why we need to stop assuming that women are victims of circumstance – and start respecting them as the agents of their own destiny. 

A lot happened at the 91st Academy Awards: Olivia Colman won her first Oscar, Rami Malek delivered an impassioned speech about identity, women of colour made history at pretty much every turn (think Regina King, Rayka Zehtabchi, Domee Shi, Ruth E Carter, Hannah Beachler and Elizabeth Chai, to name just a few) and Netflix broke menstruation taboos in a very big way.

The trending #Oscars topics on social media, though, paints a very different picture of a brilliant night. In fact, one might be forgiven for assuming that Hollywood’s elite filed into the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, sat down on their plush red chairs, and spent three hours watching Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper have sex on stage.

And Irina Shayk – Russian supermodel, Hercules actress, amateur pianist and Cooper’s long-term partner – had a front row seat. Poor, poor Irina. 

Of course, we know (and by ‘we’, I mean the intelligent people of the world) that Cooper and Lady Gaga’s performance of A Star Is Born’s ‘Shallow’ only lasted, in reality, for three minutes and 48 seconds. We also know that they are actors, acting at a ceremony which has literally been put on to celebrate very good acting.

Other people, though, seem to have blurred the lines of reality and fiction. They believe that Gaga and Cooper – both of whom have won awards for their performance skills – are not actors. Rather, the duo are living out their truth on screen (their truth being, of course, that they are hopelessly and desperately in love) and the A Star Is Born cameras were just lucky enough to be switched on and pointing in the right direction when s**t went down. (This theory, of course, also means that Gaga is a bloodthirsty and sex-starved alien witch (Men In Black 3, American Horror Story), and that Cooper is a hungover raccoon (The Hangover, Guardians of the Galaxy) but… well, you know.)

“Poor Irina,” these people tweet gleefully in their droves, because everyone loves a victim of circumstance (and hates the idea of a woman feeling comfortable in herself and her relationship). “I feel so sorry for her.”

The tabloids, similarly, have had fun with this ‘scorned woman’ narrative, refusing to believe that Shayk (who, as mentioned, is also an actress) would be able to watch her partner and his co-star perform in character and understand that it was just that: a performance. 

We did a quick Google search for ‘Irina Shayk’, and here are just a handful of the headlines she’s faced over the last few days…

Even Mel B – oh she of ‘girl power’ fame – felt the need to sit down on Good Morning Britain and pour pity down upon Shayk from afar.

“I felt so uncomfortable for Bradley’s girlfriend, oh my gosh,” she said (because why refer to a successful businesswoman by her own name, eh?). “I would like to think it was part of the whole performance, because there’s a women’s code and hopefully that’s not…hopefully, it’s only professional.”

It’s a long-perpetuated myth that women absolutely cannot get along: in fact, for as long as we can remember, we’ve seen women in the spotlight dogged by catfight rumours.

Don’t believe us? Cast your mind back to the media’s coverage of the all-female Ghostbusters remake, or Sex and the City, or Ocean’s 8, or Snow White and the Huntsman, or, ya know, any film with a predominantly female cast: all were unfairly accused of on-set squabbling, all were forced to issue denials. And it seems women cannot get away from this tired old narrative, even when it comes to their personal lives. Because, every single time we say “poor Irina”, we’re actually saying that women cannot get along. That Gaga is a traitor to womankind.

That she has – shock horror – broken the “women’s code”.

Irina Shayk and Lady Gaga at the 2019 Oscars

Strangely, for rules that exist solely to police the behaviour of women, the women’s code seems to exist only in relation to men and heteronormative dating. Aka don’t flirt with someone else’s boyfriend, don’t be “friendly” with a married man, definitely don’t date your friend’s ex, and so on.

In fact, the underlying message of the women’s code is the same one that’s taught in abstinence-only education classes: men can’t control themselves when alone with women, and it’s absolutely not their fault if their heads are turned. Women, like Eve of the classic Bible story, are the sinners of this story: they lure Adam with their apple, and he blindly follows the sweet scent of fruit wherever it goes. He has zero control. 

Infidelity, then, sees men excused from blame; instead, it’s the woman who’s betrayed her sisters. She has broken the code. And we’re sure you don’t need us to point out that this is an insulting view of men, a limiting role for women, and an outrageously archaic take on gender roles in general.

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It is highly doubtful that Shayk is lying in a darkened room at her luxury LA abode, hand pressed weakly to her face, obsessing over the nature of Cooper and Gaga’s relationship. She’s far too busy for such nonsense, preferring to spend her time walking red carpets, attending fashion shows, playing with her and Cooper’s one-year-old daughter Lea, and generally getting s**t done.

And, while the internet may continue to speculate about Shayk’s true feelings about Cooper and Gaga, we doubt she will ever open up about the subject, given that she prefers to keep her personal life just that: personal.

“Because my work requires me to be out there, I just decided my personal life will be quiet,” she said recently. “That’s why it’s called personal, because it’s something for you and your family, and I feel happy with it.”

And yet, sometimes, actions speak far louder than words.

It seems Shayk doesn’t think Gaga has overstepped some invisible line that keeps women from supporting one another. Quite the contrary, in fact: if you watch the Oscars properly, you’ll notice that she spent much of her time chatting and smiling with Gaga, and was the first to stand up and applaud when that “internet breaking” rendition of ‘Shallow’ came to an end.

Shayk also made a point of leaning in and warmly congratulating Gaga on her success with a hug, too.

But why mention any of this when you can instead stir the woman vs woman pot, eh? 

Exactly.

Image: Getty

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