In an interview on the podcast Ladies Like Us, rapper T.I. stated rather proudly that he makes yearly trips to the gynaecologist to check and ensure that his daughter Deyjah’s hymen is still intact. The episode has now been taken down.
“Is there anything you would not want me to know?” he asks his daughter, he said, before he prompts her to sign documents which would allow the family to have access to her test results. In the interview, he even spoke of how after her 16th birthday party, he stuck a note in her room that read, “Gyno, tomorrow, 9:30 am.”
Instead of celebrating his daughter’s birthdays, the rapper has spent years unabashedly fixated on her hymen.
While it appears T.I is ignorant about women’s anatomy, it should be imperative that such doctors are also stripped off their licenses for allowing a misogynistic ritual violation of the young woman’s medical privacy.
Nobody should have to go through something like this.
The hosts of the podcast, Nazanin Mandi and Nadia Moham, also laughed off these horrifying statements, and jokingly referred to Deyjah as a prisoner. A gross violation of her body was watered down to chatty banter, for which the internet will probably slam them – only for it to be forgotten with the oncoming wave of the next news cycle.
Now, apart from the general toxicity this story evokes, it is a reminder of the important lessons that not just T.I., but all of us should be aware of:
1) Hymens have nothing to do with virginity. The hymen is a thin tissue that surrounds the vagina. While the hymen can keep germs and dirt out of the vagina and a damaged hymen can indicate abuse, its protective purpose in no way is related to virginity. You can end up with a broken hymen by falling off a bicycle. You can end up with a broken hymen during sports. Some girls are even born without a hymen, while some have it just barely. In some cases, when bleeding occurs during first time sexual encounters, it is not always because of the rupturing of the hymen.
2) The concept of virginity is personal, has emotional undercurrents, and is about far more than just the hymen. Virginity can mean different things to different people, and hence a universal definition is not just difficult to enforce, but is also not recommended. Only you can decide what virginity means to you and when it can be lost with your consent. No one should be allowed to make a decision about it, or shame you for your choices.
3) A test of virginity, essentially a hymen inspection, cannot prove a woman’s sexual status. In 2018, the UNHCR, UN Women and WHO collectively stated that “this medically unnecessary, and often times painful, humiliating and traumatic practice must end”.
Due to requests from parents or partners, many are coerced into these malpractices, which have no clinical basis, and are used primarily to evaluate the morality and “purity” of a woman. It is not only unnecessary and unethical, but is sometimes also used to confirm rape of a woman in assault cases in humiliating circumstances. These tests are traumatic and violate several human rights.
While it is imperative to educate your peers and parents about this, what is of far more significance is them understanding boundaries. As an adult, you are entitled to your choices and the fact that Deyjah had to go through tests for her father’s reassurance is beyond shocking. It furthers the belief that women’s bodies must be seen in the context of their reproductive functions and nothing else. It is a dehumanising trauma that calls for serious action.
Sarah Carlos is a student and writer in Mumbai, who runs @sarviving on Instagram – a platform for advocacy, acceptance and some bits of poetry.
Featured image credit: Reuters