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Criticism of Chrissy Teigen proves we're still defining women by their relationships

Nice one, Heidi.

AT THE 2015 Golden Globe Awards, George Clooney was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

46th AFI Life Achievement Award Honoring George Clooney - Los Angeles Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

Announcing the actor as the recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille accolade, hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler made reference to a long-running and well-known narrative within Hollywood.

And that is? Well it’s that the achievements of a woman will regularly be seen to pale in significance to that of her husband if her husband happens to have a higher public profile.

Or in other words, it’s commonplace to define a woman by the man to whom she’s married.

George Clooney married Amal Alamuddin this year. Amal is a human rights lawyer who worked on the Enron case, was an advisor to Kofi Annan regarding Syria, and was selected for a three-person UN commission investigating rules of war violations in the Gaza strip, so tonight her husband is getting a lifetime achievement award!

While the message was loud, clear and warmly received in that moment; it evidently hasn’t stood the test of time if a stream of recent media faux pas are anything to go by.

While being interviewed ahead of the release of BlacKkKlansman in August, John David Washington felt compelled to remind the host of his mother Pauletta’s achievements in the field of performance when the interview looked set to focus solely on that of his father, Denzel Washington.

BlacKkKlansman Premiere - New York Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

Encouraging John David to consider the impact his proximity to showbusiness had on his childhood and subsequent aspirations, Craig Melvin mentioned only Denzel.

“As you got started in this business, being the son of Denzel Washington-” began Craig.

“And Pauletta Washington,” John David quickly interjected.

Aware that Craig hadn’t intended to mention his mother, John David reminded viewers that long before we had ever heard of Denzel Washngton, Pauletta was the performer in the family. 

In other words, Pauletta is more than just Denzel’s wife.

She was earning more money than he was before they got married. She was on Broadway working and she paid for the first date, paid the bill, paid for the cab ride. She’s a classically-trained pianist, went to Julliard. She’s a great artist in her own right and I learned a lot from her.

While there undoubtedly exist couples where one happily steps into the shade while the other positively revels in the spotlight, these couples aren’t the focus in this instance.

We’re talking about a default response within media which often results in the woman being defined by the man to which she is married or in a relationship with.

Sure, there is the anomaly – here’s looking at you, Queen Bey – but there will always be an anomoly.

Earlier this week, Heidi Alagha, a news reporter in the States, made a ham-fisted attempt to belittle Chrissy Teigen in the wake of John Legend’s EGOT status by suggesting her success comes down to little more than the fact she once said ‘I do’.

2018 Creative Arts Emmys Awards - Los Angeles Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

In a tweet which has since been deleted, Heidi wrote:

Chrissy Teigen is beautiful, but does she have to be included in everything just because she’s married to John Legend?

For the record, 32-year-old Chrissy had carved out her own successful career as a model before meeting John in 2007.

And over the course of the last decade, she maintained that career, successfully branched into television presenting, established a name for herself in the culinary industry, penned cookbooks – one of which earned her a place on the New York Times Bestseller List – and still manages to curate one of the most entertaining Twitter accounts in history.

But yes Heidi, you’re right; she also married John Legend.

Without listing his wife’s accomplishments, John simply replied: “A reporter who doesn’t know how to use Google. How sad.”


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About the author:

Niamh McClelland

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