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Gabrielle Union isn’t here for this disgustingly sexist cheating narrative

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Kayleigh Dray
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BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MARCH 04: Actress Gabrielle Union attends the 2018 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on March 4, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

Gabrielle Union has been forced to address the Khloe Kardashian and Tristan Thompson cheating rumours – and it has highlighted a tired old gendered stereotype about infidelity.

The ongoing Khloe Kardashian and Tristan Thompson infidelity story is, without a shadow of a doubt, the sort of salacious gossip which we try to rise above. But, plastered across the front of every tabloid newspaper and website as it is, the ‘scandal’ has become simply impossible to ignore, bulldozing its way into our sub-conscious, seeping into our chit-chat at the hairdressers and, above all else, fuelling office small talk with all the fury of a fiery furnace.

For all those who have somehow managed to tune the noise out, here’s a quick overview: on Tuesday 10 April, the Daily Mail (of course) posted a grainy video in which they claimed that Thompson appeared to kiss another woman while in New York City. However, the faces could not be clearly seen.

Later that same day, TMZ posted their own footage of a man they claimed to be Thompson, this time with two women at a bar outside of Washington, D.C. They also had several blurry photos of a man (again said to be the NBA star) entering and leaving a hotel with a woman.

Then, adding fuel to the fire, a website known as The Shade Room posted a few more Instagram snaps of Thompson with the mystery woman, but they decided to take things a step further: in their photos, actress Gabrielle Union could be seen in the distance.

So, naturally, the Shade writers decided to imply that the actress and women’s health activist knew something about Thompson’s alleged infidelity.

“#GabrielleUnion was spotted minding her business in the background of the footage of #TristanThirdTrimesterThompson and his side piece,” they wrote, adding: “Inquiring minds want to know – what’s the tea, sis?”

Right. Because stepping onto the same busy city street as a complete stranger – whole minutes after they did – somehow makes us privy to all of their personal information.

Union, unsurprisingly, wasn’t happy about being dragged into the baseless narrative, and made a point of shutting down the story as quickly as possible.

“Don’t know her,” she wrote. “Didn’t see her. I was enjoying my night with my mama and aunt.

“We ain’t involved in this.”

And, while many have praised Union for her graceful response, it’s worth pointing out that she is not the first woman to be written into a tale of infidelity – despite all evidence to the contrary.

During the collapse of Brangelina, many gossip mags claimed that Pitt was having an affair with Marion Cotillard, solely because they had starred in a movie together (a “crafted conversation” which the actress was forced to shut down during her subsequent pregnancy announcement). Jennifer Lawrence was, for similarly stupid reasons, labelled the “other woman” in Chris Pratt and Anna Faris’ marriage. And Olivia Munn, after daring to enter the same restaurant as Pratt in the wake of his and Faris’ divorce announcement, was also forced to share a number of home truths on Instagram.

They, alongside a screengrab of Munn’s recent text conversation with Faris (a friend of hers), read:

  1. Not every woman is scorned and upset after a breakup.
  2. Not every woman is ‘furious’ at another woman for dating her ex.
  3. So even if I was dating @prattprattpratt, some tabloids got me and @annafaris all wrong.
  4. Women respect and love each other a lot more than some people like to think.
  5. Chris and I would have a horrible celebrity name: Crolivia, Prunn, Chrisivia, Olipratt.

These women are far from the only ones to be falsely painted as the wicked mistress, the temptress, the jezebel and – perhaps a favourite trope among haters – the home-wrecker. 

Indeed, ever since Eve was blamed for “tempting” Adam with that shiny red apple, women have been blamed for the vile stuff men do. It’s a tradition as old as time, blaming women and wondering what the women did to make the man do [insert behaviour here].

Obviously, it goes without saying that it is hateful and wrong to force these women into a narrative that simply does not exist. That, by supporting these narratives, we are only encouraging a sexist and objectifying stereotype of women using their sexuality to further themselves in life.

But it is also worth remembering that, by placing the blame solely on women, we are saying that men are somehow faultless when it comes to cheating on their partners. That they are merely the victims of temptation. That they have no degree of self-control. That, when faced with a beautiful woman, they are helpless to their most primal urges. That boys will be boys.

It’s a dangerously slippery slope – and one which allows harmful behaviours to persist unchecked and possibly worsen over time. It’s high-time we stop contributing to it.

Image: Getty

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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