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“The online reaction to Channing Tatum and Jessie J’s relationship is deeply disquieting”

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Kayleigh Dray
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Jessie J and Channing Tatum

The celebrity romance has triggered yet another wave of truly disgusting comments on social media.

Just weeks after apparently confirming their romance, Channing Tatum has paid tribute to musician Jessie J (real name Jessica Ellen Cornish) on Instagram.

“Wishing you the happiest day filled with all the love and all the light. You came into this world on this day and lit it on fire,” he wrote, alongside a black-and-white photo of the Price Tag singer.

“You have blessed our eyes, our ears, our hearts and our lives. So thank you for just being you. You are so very special. Happy birthday baby.”

At a glance, the majority of comments on the post were positive, with many insisting that Tatum and J are “couple goals”. 

And yet, buried in between the congratulatory messages were a number of… well, less than positive ones. Or, to put it more bluntly, downright sour ones.

“What are you doing with her?” wrote one.

Another added: “OK, so he left Jenna [Dewan] for someone who looks like Jenna.”

And still one more wrote pointedly: “Happy birthday JENNA.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many view these messages as an unwelcome throwback to October 2018, when reports of Tatum and J’s relationship first made headlines. You know, before J showed her support for the actor at the opening night of Magic Mike Live in London, and way before Tatum turned out in support of the songstress at her Royal Albert Hall show last year.

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“Who knew a mini golf job could be so crazy,” read the tweet that first kicked the rumour mill into action. “Tonight I had to watch one of my asshole ex professors make out with his fiancé, then my co-worker cut his hand open and had to go to the hospital, and finally Jessie j and Channing Tatum came in to play a round.”

When someone asked for more info on the celebrity sighting, @mpower127 replied: “They were hella nice. Jessie came down and I was shook and then when I went to get them to play, Channing turned around and I was like [eyes emoji].”

“We hugged and got a pic and then I got to hear Jessie singing Somebody To Love with the radio at the end of the course.”

As if that didn’t all sound legit enough, People and US Weekly magazine both upped the ante by seeking out an anonymous (and, therefore, 100% genuine and true) source to confirm the news.

“It’s very new,” said the source, whom the publications imply is a close friend – albeit a very loose-lipped and totally traitorous one – of Tatum/J. “It’s new, casual and they’re having fun together.”

That was it: from then onwards, despite neither Tatum or J saying anything to confirm the reports, the pair were officially dating, five months after confirming Tatum’s divorce from Dewan… a fact which many a screaming headline made a point of thrusting under the public’s noses. 

While we ourselves didn’t qualify the rumoured romance as news (here at Stylist, we make a point of only ever printing stories which are 100% true and validated), we weren’t against it. Good for Tatum and J, we guess. What wasn’t fine, however, was the public’s reaction to this story – because the comments online were truly disgusting.

“Channing Tatum, you can do better than this,” wrote one.

“Jessie J is a s**tter version of Jenna,” added another.

And one more chimed in: “What a weird pairing!”

There were more, almost all of which were utterly abhorrent and unexpected in their cruelty.

The overriding sentiment, essentially, could be broken down into three distinct complaints:

  1. Tatum is ‘too hot’ for J
  2. J and Dewan are basically one and the same person, because – presumably – they’re both dark-haired women (THAT’S ALL IT TAKES, PEOPLE!)
  3. J has ‘stolen’ Tatum’s husband (despite the fact that this rumoured sighting comes almost half a year after their decision to divorce)

Right. Let’s tackle this in stages, shall we?

Firstly, rating somebody’s attractiveness is entirely subjective: what you consider a 10 could be someone else’s six. It’s also, of course, deeply sexist, judgemental and reduces people to the sum of their physical parts. Let’s not, shall we?

Secondly, it makes sense that Tatum – like all of us – has a ‘type’. Possibly his ‘type’ involves some potent mix of dark hair, a blunt bob, and some degree of musical ability (although, let’s face it, none of us close enough to the situation to know anything about it). What’s interesting, though, is that people have specifically compared J to Tatum, which brings us neatly to our ‘thirdly’…

It’s a long-perpetuated myth that women absolutely cannot get along: in fact, for as long as we can remember, we’ve seen women in the spotlight dogged by catfight rumours.

Don’t believe us? Cast your mind back to the media’s coverage of the all-female Ghostbusters remake, or Sex and the City, or Ocean’s 8, or Snow White and the Huntsman, or, ya know, any film with a predominantly female cast: all were unfairly accused of on-set squabbling, all were forced to issue denials.

And this endless comparison of J to Dewan seems women cannot get away from this tired old narrative, even when it comes to their personal lives. Because, let’s face it, J is not the ‘other woman’ who broke up a relationship: she’s just… well, she’s the ‘next woman’. She’s the woman who, if you believe the sources, decided to go on a date with a guy who’s been single for over five months. 

Or, if you don’t believe the sources, she’s the woman who was maybe possibly spotted in the vicinity of a guy who’s been single for over five months. And that same guy’s ex isn’t sat home pining for him, either: in fact, she’s apparently in a new relationship of her own (if E! reports are to be believed).

It’s the crime of the century, isn’t it?

Perhaps what’s most interesting about these nasty online comments, though, is the fact that almost all of them have been written by women. And I don’t necessarily think that these women are bad people, either: it’s all too easy to get swept up in the comments section of a celebrity story – and there’s no denying that gossip gives us a heady thrill.

What we need to be aware of, though, is the impact of our snarkier comments: the little cuts, and digs, and sly jabs. Because, while they may seem harmless, these comments give society permission to enforce its more sexist narratives: that women are constantly competing with one another, for example. That we, and only we, should be held accountable for a man’s crimes (again, I urge you to look at the overriding narrative of the ‘Other Woman’: why is she entirely to blame for the man’s transgressions?). That we should bow down to society’s impossible beauty and sartorial standards.

That it’s absolutely OK – normal, even – to judge a woman solely on her appearance.

So what do we do if we really don’t like the woman that our favourite celebrity is dating? Well, to quote my grandmother: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

It’s that or we all make like Amy Poehler and start shouting the phrase, “Good for you, not for me” from the rooftops. 

There’s a lot of power in those six little words: they help us to build one another up, rather than tear one another down. They reinforce the bonds of sisterhood, rather than pit us against each other in yet another boring “catfight”. And they champion kindness (and, boy, does this world need a lot more of that right now) above all else.

Most vital, though, is the fact that “good for you, not for me” celebrates both difference and an assertion of self, making it the ideal response to someone else’s life choices. These six little words channel nothing but empathy, appreciation and esteem. I suggest you write them on a post-it note and stick it on your mirror so you can be reminded of it before you go to bed and when you wake up. It is a philosophy that works for all walks of life.

This article was originally published in October 2018, but has been updated to reflect new comments and information.


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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