Why are successful women so commonly defined by their relationship with men?


Going through the process of filmmaking brings up all kinds of weird observations, but one that has bugged me throughout this project has been the way that successful women are being defined by their relationship to men. I experienced it in Melbourne when Kate O’Toole joined the cast, and the press wouldn’t let the shadow of her father leave the room. I found it bizarre, given that Kate is a well-known actress in her own right, but I ignored it given the enormity of her dad’s contribution to cinema. How are we going to ignore that, right?

When we were fortunate to get Sadie Frost involved in the project, I was getting a bit confused. People would say, ‘oh yeah, Jude Law’s ex!’. I found it really weird, because I’d always associated Sadie Frost with being the really hot woman in the Pulp video for Common People, and for her performance in Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Dracula’, both of which had a huge impact on my teenage years, long before I knew who Jude Law even was.

To add to this confusion, there was my experience on radio the other week. Take a listen to this short clip:

Gemma Atkinson used to go out with Ronaldo? Ok, I knew it, but I wasn’t expecting to talk about it on a radio show. Why do we even feel the need to contextualize a woman by her relationship to a man? Isn’t Gemma Atkinson successful enough as she is?

I remember feeling weird when Victoria Coren Mitchell broke poker history by being the first person to win the European Poker Tour TWICE, and yet try to find an article when her achievement is mentioned without a reference to her husband, David Mitchell.

Ok, the Coren’s and O’Toole’s have famous families and there is something to be said of the fact that they may have enjoyed some privilege in life as a result of it. But why are these women always publicised with a compulsory mention of their relationship to a man, when it doesn’t seem the same the other way around? Take a look at this article where David Mitchell actually mentions that his greatest fear is that his wife might die, and the paper doesn’t even acknowledge who she is.

I’m sure there is an academic out there somewhere who is looking at this, and if there isn’t there should be. From my perspective, it has only really become noticeable to me when talking about these successful women as part of a conversation surrounding the film.

A film, by the way, that is attempting to have gender balance on both sides of the camera and is not yet fully funded, because exploring these kinds of topics doesn’t sell newspapers.

You can support the film here.




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