Please Stop Asking Shay Mitchell Why She Isn’t Married

It’s giving obvious sexism…but also some racial bias, and here’s why.
written by ZARA HANAWALT
shay mitchell"
shay mitchell
Graphics by: Caitlin Schneider
Graphics by: Caitlin Schneider

Every time I come across an interview with Shay Mitchell, I brace myself for it: The topic the star—who, for the record, has built a wildly successful career as an actress, entrepreneur, and social media personality—will inevitably find herself addressing. And sure enough, when I saw a clip of her recent appearance on The TODAY Show, the topic did, in fact, come up again.

The topic in question, of course, is marriage. Mitchell has been with her partner, Matte Babel, for years, and the couple shares two daughters. They’ve remained unmarried—which comes as a real shock to people. And look, I get it. I myself (as someone who was raised in a very traditional nuclear family and have admittedly old-school partnership wants for my own life) tend to automatically assume that people want to get hitched, especially if they’ve had kids together like this particular couple has. But that doesn’t always have to be the case, especially in 2024. So, why can’t we just let Shay Mitchell’s relationship status go? Ahead, I’m diving into the ridiculousness of it all, but the TL;DR version is this: Let Shay Mitchell (and all other women, for that matter) live her own life.

Shay Mitchell doesn’t owe anyone answers

Mitchell doesn’t want that traditional family setup, and she’s made this clear over and over again. It’s worth noting that the actress plays in Hollywood circles where nontraditional partnerships like hers are super common. So why do people constantly question and center her views on marriage? Why can’t we just let her live the life she designed for herself? 

For reference, Mitchell and her partner have been together since 2017, according to PEOPLE. They share daughters Atlas, who is 4, and Rome, who is 1. Their arrangement is not so different from other celebrity couples who had unmarried partnerships after kids. Yet people just cannot seem to wrap their heads around Mitchell’s desire to stay unmarried. She’s addressed this so many times. During a 2020 interview, for example, she shared the idea of getting married is something she’s “never cared for.” She brought it up again during a 2023 Call Her Daddy appearance

It’s not just that Mitchell is constantly being put into positions where she has to address her choice to remain unmarried to the father of her children. It’s also the way this addressing is handled after the fact: It is always a headline. Interviews with the star are always led with teasers featuring her talking about her thoughts on marriage. The treatment Mitchell receives feels so different than what other celebrity couples who have kids outside of marriage receive. But here’s the thing, despite being asked about her relationship status all of the time and addressing it very clearly, Mitchell doesn’t owe anyone an explanation. So, why do people keep asking?

Shay Mitchell is proof we hold AAPI women to unfair standards

I know what you’re thinking: No one has ever brought up race when questioning Mitchell about her views on or plans for marriage. And sure, that may be true. However, racial biases are often unconscious, and it often takes someone who has been personally affected by them to detect them. I certainly don’t think anyone is consciously thinking about the relationship between race and marriage here, but stereotypes are real, and they’re insidious. And the fact of the matter is, we expect certain things from Asian women: That they’re ultra-traditional, for example, and hold very old-fashioned, conservative views of partnership and family.

I’ve faced it so many times myself. In my early 20s, people would constantly assume I’d want to get married soon. And when I did get engaged, people commented on how my family and I were probably “so relieved” I’d “found someone.” I was, for the record, still in my mid-20s at the time. When it comes to Mitchell, the constant questions regarding her relationship are further proof that our world doesn’t know how to handle an AAPI woman who breaks free of their stereotypes.

… to a lot of people, the idea of an independent Asian woman with unconventional ideas about partnership and marriage is confusing and shocking—whether or not they’re conscious of that. 

Take Goldie Hawn, who’s been with her partner Kurt Russell for 40 years and has remained unmarried, for example. Hawn is widely viewed as the poster child for a cool, modern way of approaching partnership. Mitchell, on the other hand, doesn’t get afforded the same treatment or attitude toward her choice. Instead, her decision is treated like it’s confusing or shocking. That’s because, to a lot of people, the idea of an independent Asian woman with unconventional ideas about partnership and marriage is confusing and shocking—whether or not they’re conscious of that. 

But Mitchell is not the only Asian woman to choose a nontraditional approach to family. See: Mindy Kaling, who is also a mom of two and has remained single. People have been scrambling to figure out Kaling’s relationship status and her children’s paternity for years. Time and time again, we see people scratch their heads when Asian women take this sort of approach to their lives. 

A woman’s relationship status doesn’t define her

Of course, race isn’t the only element here. There’s also a very real, very pervasive element of sexist pressure on women to settle down and do the old-fashioned thing. That’s why Mitchell’s views on marriage always make headlines, even when she’s talking about her businesses, her accomplishments, and her projects. We have this enduring cultural habit of celebrating only women’s relationships. The focus on Mitchell’s relationship status and views on marriage is absolutely linked to how we view women. After all, does anyone ever ask Leonardo DiCaprio why he isn’t married? No. We let him talk about his roles and his advocacies. We allow that work to be his legacy.

I’m a mom and a wife, and those are truly the most important roles I play in my own life. But, let’s be very clear: They don’t determine my societal value—and… these roles were not what I was “most excited about” when I was a 22-year-old college grad.

Proof of this gender bias is everywhere. In Harrison’s Butker’s commencement speech heard ‘round the world, he told a group of brand new college grads that the women in the graduating class were probably “most excited about [their] marriage and the children [they] will bring into this world.” 

I’m a mom and a wife, and those are truly the most important roles I play in my own life. But, let’s be very clear: They don’t determine my societal value—and (contrary to what people assumed about me based on stereotypes of AAPI women), these roles were not what I was “most excited about” when I was a 22-year-old college grad. Instead, I was excited about career prospects, moving to a new city, and living completely independently for the first time. 

Above all else, I was most excited about crafting my own life on my own terms—just like Shay Mitchell is doing. Unfortunately, I, like she likely has, have realized just how much pushback women receive when they stretch the full range of their personal agency.

The bottom line: Shay Mitchell choosing a nontraditional path shouldn’t matter at all

Women all face judgment and shame regardless of the choices they make. But for AAPI women, making those personal choices is especially loaded. We’re held to so many standards—from our own families and communities and from the outside world as well. All that noise makes even identifying our own choices, let alone pursuing them, so hard. 

And that’s why we have to confront it. Race is a real element in attitudes and treatment towards Shay Mitchell’s decision to remain unmarried.

Being happily partnered and unmarried, having a child without a ring on your finger—those scenarios are really not at all uncommon in Hollywood. So why is everyone so surprised when a woman like Shay Mitchell does the thing other stars do all the time? Why is it such a big deal that she’s also taken the nontraditional path? It’s worth thinking about—and it gives us yet another lens through which we can examine our unconscious biases.