How Oscar nominees Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon grapple with sexism and racism together

Those who have seen "The Big Sick," inspired by Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon's real-life love story, know that the pair has been confronted with their fair share of discrimination throughout their relationship. 

Now that they've put their relationship on full display through the script they co-wrote, the prejudice has only broadened. Nanjiani was recently confused for Aziz Ansari -- and Gordon is frequently referred to as "wife" or "inspiration," when she actually co-wrote the Oscar-nominated script. 

Speaking at the 2018 MAKERS Conference, Gordon recalled a recent luncheon during which several industry insiders congratulated Nanjiani for his nomination, while she, also a nominee, uncomfortably stood and stared. She also described the frustration of people assuming she wrote all the "emotional stuff" in the film, and Nanjiani wrote all the "funny stuff."

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LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 05: Jill Soloway, Rashida Jones, Nina Shaw, Tina Tchen, Natalie Portman and Melina Matsoukas speak onstage during The 2018 MAKERS Conference at NeueHouse Hollywood on February 5, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for MAKERS)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 05: Jill Soloway and Rashida Jones speak onstage during The 2018 MAKERS Conference at NeueHouse Hollywood on February 5, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for MAKERS)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 05: Ava DuVernay speaks onstage during The 2018 MAKERS Conference at NeueHouse Hollywood on February 5, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for MAKERS)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 05: Gabourey Sidibe speaks onstage during The 2018 MAKERS Conference at Hollywood Palladium on February 5, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for MAKERS)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 05: Mary McCormack speaks onstage during The 2018 MAKERS Conference at Hollywood Palladium on February 5, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for MAKERS)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 06: Betty Reid Soskin speaks onstage during The 2018 MAKERS Conference at NeueHouse Hollywood on February 6, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for MAKERS)
Activist Gloria Steinem, left, speaks with activist Barbara Smith during the 2018 Makers Conference in Hollywood, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. The event gathers industry leading females for roundtable discussions to help inspire the women of tomorrow. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Activist Gloria Steinem speaks during the 2018 Makers Conference in Hollywood, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. The event gathers industry leading females for roundtable discussions to help inspire the women of tomorrow. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 06: Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon speak onstage during The 2018 MAKERS Conference at NeueHouse Hollywood on February 6, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for MAKERS)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 06: (L-R) Editor in Chief at HuffPost Lydia Polgreen, Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon speak onstage during The 2018 MAKERS Conference at NeueHouse Hollywood on February 6, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for MAKERS)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 06: Chief Executive Officer, Shift7, Megan Smith and Karlie Kloss speak onstage during The 2018 MAKERS Conference at NeueHouse Hollywood on February 6, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for MAKERS)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 06: (L-R) Chief Executive Officer, Shift7, Megan Smith, Karlie Kloss and Gitanjali Rao speak onstage during The 2018 MAKERS Conference at NeueHouse Hollywood on February 6, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for MAKERS)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 06: Gitanjali Rao speaks onstage during The 2018 MAKERS Conference at NeueHouse Hollywood on February 6, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for MAKERS)
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But the husband-wife duo has learned a "trick" to help each other navigate the intricacies of inequity. 

"One thing we've learned is if someone's racist, I take that on, and if someone's sexist he takes that on," Gordon said. "Because so often when you have to confront it yourself, it's not only belittling, but it makes people sometimes dismiss you because you're 'crazy.' But when you're coming to the aid of your partner, that's a different thing."

Working with his wife for many years on several projects has opened Nanjiani's eyes to how the system is set up in a way that "voices of women are not considered on the same level." Frequently, he said, Gordon's thoughts aren't acknowledged in meetings until he or other men make the same point moments later. 

"These people weren't people who were bad people. They were sexist, but not in like really obvious ways. I think that stuff is really really insidious. There's a lot of obvious sexism that's really aggressive and really easy to point out but then there's a lot of this other insidious quiet ... it's just in the water," he said. 

See the trailer for "The Big Sick" below:

 

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