T.I. is not an anomaly but a representative of a greater framework that dehumanizes Black women.
TW: descriptions of misogynoir, virginity tests and enslavement
By Vanessa Taylor
On the “Ladies Like Us” podcast, rapper T.I. announced that he monitors his 18-year-old daughter’s virginity at annual gynecologist visits to ensure her hymen is intact. While acknowledging that a hymen can break outside of sex, T.I. added, “I say, ‘Look, Doc, she don’t ride no horses, she don’t ride no bike, she don’t play no sports. Just check the hymen, please, and give me back my results expeditiously.”
The rapper’s comments horrified people across social media. Many noted that it was a violation of Deyjah’s privacy. Not just on the part of her father, who broadcasted Deyjah’s medical information on a podcast (presumably, without her prior consent), but for the doctors who have failed her, too. However, the unfortunate reality is that T.I.’s parenting method isn’t fringe, but the predictable product of a culture that views Black girls as lascivious beings unable to control their own desires.
The World Health Organization has repeatedly condemned virginity tests as a form of gender-based violence that can be “detrimental to someone’s physical, psychological, and social well-being.” Still, virginity tests take place worldwide (you can get a certificate, too) and, yes, that includes in the United States. A 2016 survey of 288 physicians found that 10% of doctors had been asked by a parent or family member to perform a virginity test on a patient and 34% said they performed it themselves.
However, T.I.’s violation of his daughter must be read within the specific context of misogynoir and its legacy — particularly within the medical industry. Doctors are often imagined as advocates for their patients, hence outrage that anybody would perform these checks on Deyjah, but that is not the historical experience of Black women. J. Marion Sims, known as the “father of modern gynecology”, tested his procedures on enslaved women. In a field that was built on the violation of Black women’s bodies through torturous operations, is it any surprise that this dehumanization has taken on slightly more acceptable forms?
The Black girl is sexually defiant because she is a Black girl. The Black girl who fucks has, somehow, climbed down lower than worthlessness. The Black girl receives no protection from her father because the patriarchial imagination positions him as her owner; he tends to a field and the field is the womb and the Black girl’s womb is both a factory and means of condemnation and these checks are nothing more than business insurance. Being Black grants no solidarity or recognition of personhood. Because what is it to be a person? Surely not Black and a woman.
T.I.’s sense of ownership over Black women’s bodies extends beyond his daughters alone. On another podcast, ExpediTIously, T.I. said that he and his wife share half of everything — including her vagina. “[T]hat little sex box you got is half mine. So you pick which side you want, and that’s yours. The rest of it is mine.”
In a recent essay, Columbia University professor Saidiya Hartman wrote, “The plot of her undoing begins with the man, the sovereign, the subject, the self-possessed, the able bodied, the reasonable, the gendered, the neurotypical, it begins with the vertical hierarchy of life, with the uneven distribution of death.” And so, this is the logic that drives T.I. and other parents across the United States. He is not an anomaly but a representative of a greater framework that dehumanizes Black women. It is why T.I. had no hesitation to speak so openly of this violation, it is why doctors cooperate, and it is why he refers to checks up on Deyjah’s hymen as his results.
Vanessa Taylor is a writer based out of Philadelphia, although the Midwest will always be home. She has work in outlets such as Teen Vogue, Racked, and Catapult. Her work focuses on Black Muslim womanhood and the taboo. You can follow her across social media at @bacontribe.