In a recent piece for the New York Times, Chrissy Teigen shut down a street vendor who referred to her as “John Legend’s wife,” and for talking about her like she wasn't even there.
She's not alone, and our tendency to view powerful women in relation to men is a long-standing problem.
We see it all the time.
Questions directed at female celebrities are often equal part guy-related as they are work-related.
To be honest, I’m surprised more actresses don’t openly lambaste those who constantly refer to them as Tom Hardy’s wife, Harry Style’s rumored girlfriend or so-and-so’s former flame.
These are accomplished women who had careers in the making long before these dudes hit the scene, yet we treat them as if their own identities are not self-sufficient.
Not to be the girl who cried patriarchy, but this is most definitely a gendered thing.
Seth Rogen admitted he’s often shocked by the "gall" interviewers have by asking him soft questions, before aggressively pursuing a demeaning line of questioning for his female costars, often pertaining to some famous men they may have previously had relationships with.
Frankly, I’d hand over my firstborn son if you could show me five examples of powerful men playing second fiddle in their own press headlines.
Yet it's very much the norm for women, to the extent that we hardly even question it.
Thankfully, that’s changing.
Women are pushing back, whether it’s by politely warning the press beforehand that any questions about significant others will immediately shut down their interviews, or by openly confronting the sexist way their work is only discussed in relation to their relationships with men.
Others are making more deliberate choices.
When George Clooney married Amal Alamuddin, one site brilliantly subverted these patronizing norms by going with a different headline from the majority of the press: "Internationally acclaimed barrister Amal Alamuddin marries an actor."
Instead of focusing on Clooney, it shed a light on Alamuddin and her accomplishments so for once, the man was depicted as living in her shadow.
He was the nameless supporting character. It was empowering and refreshing.
But defining oneself outside of a relationship proves just as difficult for us non-celebrities. Even worse, it's often a problem we create for ourselves.
Whether it's our actions or the language we use, it's easy to fall into a trap where you subconsciously surrender your own identity in a relationship.
Part of that is perfectly normal, as welcoming another person into your life is bound to take up some of your space.
But often, after exiting the honeymoon period of a new romance, you start to realize you've taken the back seat.
Many of the questions directed at you are about your significant other, your invite to a social gathering is for you and your bae and worst of all, people start giving you two a shared Christmas present.
No one wants that.
So, here are a few of the biggest hurdles to look out for, so you don’t get demoted to a supporting role in a relationship:
1. Having your partner accompany you for every single outing.
We all have the friend who texts at the last minute, saying, “Do you mind if I bring X along?”
At that point, you can hardly say no, but you’re, of course, secretly annoyed he’s there.
He could be the loveliest guy in the world, but maybe your friends just want to hang out with you for once.
By always socializing in tandem, you cement the idea in your friend group that you guys are one entity, which means they start referring to you as one person.
If you fly solo one night, suddenly everyone is questioning you about what happened.
Did you have a fight? Why isn’t he here with you?
No one wants that reputation.
One time (the only time) my boyfriend asked my permission to hang out with his friends, I think my pupils burst into little flames.
It wasn't because I didn’t want him to leave, but because I hated the fact he was treating me like his mother or guardian.
Having people try to cast you as the nagging girlfriend figure is horrible, and it's something you should nip in the bud the second you feel it growing.
2. Adopting your partner's habits and preferences.
He hates olives? So do you. He can’t stand that band? You delete them from your iTunes.
Letting someone else’s opinions seep into your own taste should be push-and-pull.
It’s normal to have your taste affected by a supporting character in your life, but you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your own to make room for his.
A friend of mine once celebrated a breakup by listening to all the music she had ignored when she was with her ex.
If a relationship is stifling your taste to that degree, you really should rethink your dynamic.
3. Bragging about his successes as if they’re your own.
There’s being proud of your man, and then there’s being a tacky boast.
Your boyfriend getting a promotion at work is great, but don’t talk about it as if you’re the reason he got there.
How would you like it if he was halfway across town, telling his own friends he’s the reason for your own career progression?
4. Watch your language.
There’s no need to refer to him as your “other half.”
Perhaps I’m being nitpicky about this one, but it’s something I personally find very grating.
The same goes for phrases like “he completes me,” or when men refer to their girlfriends as “the Mrs.”
While they're cutesy to some people, they can also give the illusion you're not your own person and mostly exist in relation to your partner.
Sometimes, you might even have people mistakenly refer to you as Mr. and Mrs. [insert your partner's surname]. Don't feel shy about correcting them.
It’s pretty harmless, but if you’re trying to make a conscious effort to retain your identity in a relationship, it couldn’t hurt to refrain from these things.
Remember you are your own person.
If you ever feel your identity is being swallowed up in your relationship, channel the frustration of female celebrities and push back, making sure the world knows your name stands on its own.