Jeannie Mai, And Anyone Else Who Supports T.I. Checking His Daughter’s Hymen, Is Perpetuating Toxic Views About Women’s Bodies & Ownership
Just a few days ago, T.I’s comments on attending gynecologist appointments with his daughter Deyjah to ensure she is in fact, still a virgin, went viral online. While recording an episode of Nazanin Mandi and Nadia Moham’s podcast “Ladies Like Us,” the southern rapper told the hosts that he and his daughter “have yearly trips to the gynecologist to check her hymen.”
The discussion unleashed a firestorm of conversation online, with supporters calling his involvement good parenting and critics damning the practice as creepy and mysogynistic.
During the “Girl Chat” segment of “The Real,” Jeannie Mai revealed she was in the supportive camp, explaining that she was a “wild girl” when she was younger and her dad used to check her bed sheets to make sure she wasn’t sneaking boys into her bedroom. Because of that experience, Jeannie said, “I support what T.I is doing because I understand how hard it must be to communicate with an opposite gender daughter, especially in this time, and especially what he must have seen and known of what boys are like.”
While the above is a normal example of parenting (making sure strangers aren’t in your home), there is something intrinsically demeaning about actually inspecting your daughter’s body to make sure she is still “whole,” that makes T.I.’s actions an outlier.
As someone who was raised in and seeped in southern Baptist traditions, I’ve had to do a lot of work to undo archaic narratives around virginity and the idea that our worth as women is tied to our “purity.” These teachings were always one-sided, as boys were allowed to do whatever they wanted with their bodies, while young girls were instructed to give chastity vows to God at a young age. The gender bias in these lessons make one thing clear: religion and men’s obsession with purity is not about alignment with God, it’s about controlling women.
On an episode of “T.I. & Tiny’s Friends And Family Hustle,” T.I admitted he knew his son was being sexually active, but felt differently because he was a boy.
“I don’t want any of my children to have sex before it’s time for them, but who’s to say when it’s time?” he said during the clip.
“However, I will definitely feel different about a boy than I will about a girl. And that’s just the God’s honest truth. I don’t think there’s any father out there who’ll tell you any different.”
In this age of unlimited access to information, it is our duty and responsibility to dig into our long held beliefs and get to the root of why we think the way we think and behave the way we do. Why does T.I. feel differently about boys having sex versus girls? The evolved answer is simple: misogyny. Using “this is just what it is,” or “these are just old school values” is not a sufficient reason to perpetuate toxic beliefs about femininity and womanhood. From Baby Boomers to Gen Y, we witnessed firsthand how harmful it is on a woman’s psyche when we are raised to believe that we depreciate in value like cars when we have sex. And if we are haunted by this narrative from our own upbringing, it’s important we don’t bring that energy to this new generation of young girls.
The truth is, men clinging to the pure virgin girl rhetoric is patriarchy’s final stronghold on controlling the “whore.” It’s a way to maintain ownership over women’s bodies and ensure that we still behave in ways that deem us worthy of respect. Unfortunately, women, who were subjected to this doctrine, became participants and enforcers of this line of thinking. But the truth is, virgin or sexed, pious or “hoe”, every single iteration and manifestation of womanhood deserves and is entitled to respect.
While I am not a parent, it is clear that trying to control your child with fear is the best way to lose them. Instead, children should be armed with the tools to protect themselves, inform themselves, and feel comfortable enough seeking advice when they need it without feeling judged or condemned. Monitoring your child’s virginity won’t keep her “safe,” in fact, it cripples her from the ability to transition into making autonomous decisions for her relationships and her body once she hits adulthood.
So control what happens in your home, what you teach, how you instruct, and what you show your kids, but trying to coerce your child into chastity by controlling their bodies isn’t about “keeping them safe,” it’s satiating your need for control and ownership.