A Woman’s Worth Is Not Determined by Her Proximity to a Man

Women like Vanessa Bryant and Lauren London are deserving of respect, regardless of their connections to beloved men

Vanessa Bryant speaks at the Celebration of Life for Kobe & Gianna Bryant at Staples Center on February 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Over the weekend, Vanessa Bryant logged onto Instagram to once again address a grievance on behalf of her family. This time it was about an ill-considered punchline from Meek Mill on a recent song: “If I ever lack, I’m goin’ out with my chopper, it be another Kobe.”

Bryant’s response was short and to the point. “I find this line to be extremely insensitive and disrespectful. Period,” she wrote. “I am not familiar with any of your music, but I believe you can do better than this. If you are a fan, fine, there’s a better way to show your admiration for my husband. This lacks respect and tact.”

It’s another in a long list of times Bryant has had to speak out publicly to defend her and her family’s peace. It seems like every month she’s either dispelling rumors, asking the media to respect her family, or checking someone for the way they address her husband and his legacy. It’s all so sad, honestly, that this grieving widow and mother has to keep doing this. And it’s even more infuriating how people react to her when she does.

Much of social media focused on the idea that Bryant was being disingenuous about her lack of familiarity with Mill, and rather was simply throwing shade. I don’t know if she knows his music or not or if she was trying to insult Mill; it really doesn’t matter. What matters is the way we keep treating these women who are left behind when the men we worship are no longer here.

Just last month, an erroneous rumor spread that Lauren London was pregnant. She was trending on Twitter for an entire day while people trashed her for having the audacity to find love… two years after Nipsey Hussle was murdered. The rumor wasn’t even true, yet she, like Bryant, had to take to social media to defend herself while she healed.

Imagine us treating these women better because of who they are individually and the care they deserve simply for existing. Maybe then we can free them from the continued trauma that has delayed their healing.

London has been guarding herself since mere weeks after Hussle was killed, when Kodak Black made comments about utilizing her grief to start dating her. “I’ll give her a whole year,” he said then. “She might need a whole year to be crying and shit for him.”

Members of the rap community immediately went after Black — but the language they used was telling.

The Game: “This goes for Kodak Black and any other n*gga disrespecting my n*gga Nip name. His family. His legacy. Keep my n*gga name out your fucking mouth. Keep his girl’s name out of your fucking mouth.”

T.I. had a more longstanding feud with Black that included this bit: “If a muthafucka were to speak out and say something out of line about my old lady after my untimely demise, I feel like Nipsey ain’t just gon’ speak up — he gon’ pull up. And I owe him that same respect. I owe him that exact same respect, so I’ma go hard.”

Tank spoke about people who love “Nip and Lauren.” Radio DJ Big Boy posted on IG saying, “To disrespect the King Nipsey and The Queen Lauren is where I draw the line.”

Notice a pattern? All of these men were focused on defending Hussle and his legacy — not the woman who was directly aggrieved and still alive to feel the impact of these comments. These men didn’t defend London; they defended Hussle’s wife. London and Bryant are only as valued as the legacy of the men we deem as owning them. T.I. starred in a whole-ass movie with London, and still couldn’t address her as anything but a reflection of Hussle.

We haven’t allowed these women the agency they’ve earned. We don’t see them for the lives they lead. We don’t even see them as mothers. We see them as Bryant and Hussle’s wives, and the women responsible for raising Bryant and Hussle’s children. If there’s anything we know about the way society treats women, it’s that if Mill and Black had insulted two women unattached to men’s legacies, there wouldn’t have been any outrage. There are plenty of women alive and untethered to deified men who are victimized by men every day in rap lyrics, on Instagram Live, and in dark rooms. T.I., for instance, is in the middle of a PR blitz to discredit dozens of credible sexual assault accusations against him. But it doesn’t matter to many, because those women aren’t conduits for men to whom they’ve been attached.

I don’t know how anyone who has lost a life partner goes through the process of finding peace and healing. I do know that Lauren London’s and Vanessa Bryant’s pathways to peace have been unnecessarily public and tattered by the way we have burdened them with our baggage. We say we want them to be happy — but not too happy, not too soon, and not in a way different from how we define their happiness. We say we want them protected, but only in a way that reflects how we should feel about their partners.

Imagine us treating these women better because of who they are individually and the care they deserve simply for existing. Maybe then we can free them from the continued trauma that has delayed their healing. In the meantime, we’re just putting them through yet another cycle of trauma that hasn’t ended since they experienced the darkest tragedies of their lives.

Level Sr. Writer covering Race, Culture, Politics, TV, Music. Previously: The Undefeated, The Atlantic, Washington Post. Forthcoming book: The Movement Made Us

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