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Black Girls Don't Get To Make Mistakes

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Photo by Randy Shropshire / Stringer / Getty Images.

Why it's important to protect Jordyn Woods

When news broke that Tristan Thompson had cheated on Khloé Kardashian (again), the only part that was hard to believe was that he had done so with Jordyn Woods, a woman who is perhaps best known for being best friends with Kylie Jenner, Kardashian's half-sister. But the news was detailed: Reports claimed that Woods attended a party at Thompson's house where he confiscated everyone's phones and made out with Woods, who then spent the night. People believed this version of events, and ran with the notion that Woods was disloyal and deceitful. And yet, I had questions about the drastic about-face in Woods' allegiances. Woods has benefitted from a solid friendship with the Kardashian-Jenner families; she's been brought in on their business ventures and expanded her own brand thanks to the added exposure. A hookup with Thompson would risk all that, and wouldn't benefit her at all. So, why would she do this? It didn't ring true.

But, after Kardashian and her friends commented on social media, tacitly confirming the rumors, Woods' role as a villainous side chick seemed confirmed. The whole idea of Woods as villainous side chick was inherently problematic, because of the way this stereotype is often dipped in misogynoir, and put upon women of color, as being evidence that they're only motivated by short-sighted, shallow desires. It also casts WOC in the antagonist role; they're the evil-doers trying to disrupt the harmonious lives of white women.

That narrative changed abruptly, though, when Woods appeared on Facebook's Red Table Talk—the web-based talk show starring Jada Pinkett Smith, Willow Smith, and Pinkett Smith's mother, Adrienne Banfield-Norris—to explain her side of the story. This interview was masterful damage control in response to a potential public relations disaster for Woods. But it was also an example of the importance of influential people wielding their power to protect Black girls.

Woods always seemed to be a Kar-Jenner affiliate with "sense," a coded word that Black aunties and grandmas use to describe a set of basic moral values they want their progeny to embody, no matter what company they keep. This means that even though Woods stood silently neutral while her best friend was rumored to have stolen one boyfriend (Tyga) from her sister's (Kim Kardashian) good friend (Blac Chyna); and another (Travis Scott) from one of her own pals (Justine Skye), her own behavior never revealed such deviance. This is not because Woods is better than Jenner, but is rather because Black girls aren't afforded the same amount of freedom to be the bad guys. We don't get to make mistakes—which also means we don't get to learn from them. Our grandmas and aunties want us to "act like we got some sense," because the stakes are higher for us when we do not. People mock, denounce, erase, pathologize, dehumanize, and turn their backs on Black girls who act immorally while looking the other way when their white counterparts engage in the same behavior. For example, Khloé's own relationship with Thompson began when he was still dating his previous, pregnant partner. Her affairs with French Montana and Trey Songz were also thought to be betrayals of her friendships with other women, all of whom are Black, and whose pain has yet to be centered in public discourse like Khloé's has.

However, the Smith family is helping to make sure that erasure doesn't happen to Woods. On the episode, Woods—who, along with the Kardashian-Jenner clan, has a close relationship with the Pinkett Smith family—shared her version of events, saying that she'd gone to the party with friends, already drunk; and that while she stayed till the morning, she had not slept over. As she was leaving his home, Thompson, Woods says, kissed her taking her by surprise. Later that day, Woods told Kylie and Khloé about the party but didn't mention Thompson's indiscretion, saying she was afraid to add more drama to Khloé and Tristan's already tumultuous relationship. (Can't say I blame her.) Woods took responsibility for being at the party in the first place, and for not being forthcoming with all the details. She says she messed up, but never intended to hurt anyone, and doesn't deserve the level of hate she's received.

She's right. The Kardashians (and white women, more generally) get to move on when they're caught doing dirt. They're still entitled to happy endings and get to keep their autonomy, no matter who they hurt. Women like Woods—Black women—do not. Khloé and her supporters were okay with the idea of Woods ending up in obscurity or forever fighting against a tide of negative press that reduces Woods to this one faux pas. But this hardly demonstrates some larger disloyalty on the part of Woods, who has long been privy to enough confidential information about the family, from business ventures to Jenner's top secret pregnancy, to wreak havoc on the entire Kardashian clan, if she wanted to. That they're ready and willing to throw her away because she got caught in an awkward situation with Khloé's (frankly trash) boyfriend is indicative of how little they valued her in the first place.

But none of that is so surprising or noteworthy. White women have been throwing Black women under the bus for ages. What was different this time is that, rather than run from the mess that was being created for Woods, the Smith family stood in front of it as a barricade. They couldn't clear her name, but they still created an outlet for Woods to be fully human, to be a 21-year-old who put herself in a vulnerable position after drinking; not just a Jenner accessory who owes the Kardashians or the Jenners credit for every move she makes. Jordyn Woods is a Black woman who is loved and cherished—thankfully, in this case, by families with just as much media clout and a willingness to go to battle for her if necessary. But this isn't just about Jordyn Woods. It's about Black women no longer having to be pawns to other people's pride and interests. In my wildest dreams, all Black girls have that kind of support and protection.

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Photo by Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images.

Things have gotten so much gayer

These days reality television is prime ground for LGBTQ representation: Love & Hip Hop is applauded for its strides in representation; one of my favorite HGTV hosts, David Bromstad, is gay; and let's not forget Project Runway, Queer Eye, and RuPaul's Drag Race. But I remember a time when this was not the case. Back in the days when MTV's The Real World and Road Rules were my only reality show options, queer people were few and far between, and they were usually men. That was until Aneesa Ferreira joined the cast of Real World in my hometown of Chicago.

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FROM THE WORLD WIDE WEB

And how it's all too easy to paint trans characters as simply caricatures

Media personality and civil rights activist Ashlee Marie Preston sat down with writer (and NYLON contributor) Devan Díaz in conversation to discuss representation and shortcomings in media when it comes to trans writers. Díaz brings up the trap of being pigeonholed in topics to write about, to which Preston pointed out that trans media personalities—and trans people in general—are anything but a "monolith." Yet they're still portrayed as "caricatures," as Preston put it, in television and otherwise. "I would like to see complicated, flawed trans characters and not just the martyrs, the saviors of humanity, and the moral compass," Díaz states.

But in real life, Preston points out that for Black trans women, "there's always a demonizing narrative that's attached to us already. Even in 2019, there's been 11 trans women who have been murdered, and they've all been Black." Preston's media work attempts to go directly against this, underlining the "heart" of Black trans women.

Get to know Preston and Díaz in the video, above.

Check out the other videos in our series where we placed queer people from different generations in conversation with one another:

Dani and May Okon
Rob Smith and Eddie Jarrel Jones
Lauren Morelli and Garcia
Marlene Colburn and Naima Green

Produced by: Alexandra Hsie
Directed by: Charlotte Prager
Camera: Charlotte Prager + Dani Okon
Edited by: Charlotte Prager

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She considers herself "one of the luckiest kids on the face of the earth"

Dani Okon, NYLON's associate creative director of video, sat down with her great-aunt, May Okon, to talk about their shared experiences—despite vastly different time frames—living as queer women in New York City. Prior to retirement, May was a journalist for the New York Daily News, having first entered the male-dominated workforce when "the boys were all at war." And, of course, she absolutely killed it. Her only regret? "Retiring at 55," she tells Dani, joking, "Who the hell knew I was gonna live to 100?"

Upon retiring, she moved out to the Hamptons with her partner and bought a home. If she had to do it all over, May says "there are a lot of things I wouldn't do," but she still considers herself "one of the luckiest kids on the face of the earth." Get to know May in the video, above.

Check out the other videos in our series where we placed queer people from different generations in conversation with one another:

Rob Smith and Eddie Jarrel Jones
Lauren Morelli and Garcia
Marlene Colburn and Naima Green
Ashlee Marie Preston and Devan Diaz

Produced by: Alexandra Hsie
Camera: Gretta Wilson + Katie Sadler
Edited by: Madeline Stedman

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MORE in VIDEO

Here's how they're making sure it doesn't happen

Lauren Morelli, the showrunner and executive producer for the new Netflix show Tales of the City, is fostering a space where multiple queer realities can be shown on-screen. She spoke with one of the cast members, trans actor Garcia (who plays Jake Rodriguez on the show), and, in the video above, they explore why it's wrong to treat queer stories as representative of the entire community. Tokenization is something that they both want to avoid at all costs, and they're on the right track.

Check out the other videos in our series where we placed queer people from different generations in conversation with one another:

Dani and May Okon
Rob Smith and Eddie Jarrel Jones
Naima Green and Marlene Colburn
Ashlee Marie Preston and Devan Diaz

Produced by Alexandra Hsie
Directed by Charlotte Prager
Shot by Gretta Wilson + Charlotte Prager
Edited by Gretta Wilson

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"Nothing is truly a binary"

We put non-binary activist Eddie Jarrel Jones and The Phluid Project founder Rob Smith in conversation with each other, and the two spoke some powerful truths about the continued gendering of products like makeup and clothing. Smith recalls that 30 years ago, the only way that he was able to experience the joys of playing with makeup was to work at a beauty counter. Even today, Jones notes that it's hard for non-binary femmes like them, or even trans women, to get that experience in stores.

In the video above, get a sense of why Smith created a genderless store, and see how important it is for people like Jones to have a space where they don't feel criticized for dressing like they want.

Check out the other videos in our series where we placed queer people from different generations in conversation with one another:

Dani and May Okon
Lauren Morelli and Garcia
Naima Green and Marlene Colburn
Ashlee Marie Preston and Devan Diaz

Produced by Alexandra Hsie
Directed by Charlotte Prager
Shot by Charlotte Prager + Dani Okon
Edited by Gretta Wilson

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