We Should Have Held T.I. Accountable Years Ago

What’s it going to take for us to see the red flags for what they are?

David Dennis, Jr.
LEVEL
Published in
6 min readMar 4, 2021

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T.I. and Tameka ‘Tiny’ Harris attend “LIBRA” album release party at Gold Room on October 16, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo: Prince Williams/Wireimage/Getty Images

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Everything should have changed for Clifford “T.I.” Harris in November 2019. That’s when the rapper went on the Ladies Like Us podcast and talked about traumatizing his daughter, Deyjah. “Not only have we had The Conversation,” he said when asked about sex education in his household, “[but] we have yearly trips to the gynecologist to check her hymen.” The tradition, he said, began the day after her 16th birthday.

After mentioning how he pressured his daughter into waiving her medical privacy during these trips (“I’m like, ‘Deyjah, they want you to sign this so we can share information. Is there anything you would not want me to know? See, Doc? Ain’t no problem.’”), T.I. described how he responded to the doctor’s suggestion that nonsexual activity can break the hymen as well: “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.’”

Here’s how the World Health Organization (WHO) described the practice of “virginity testing” in a 2018 report: “The examination has no scientific merit or clinical indication — the appearance of a hymen is not a reliable indication of intercourse, and there is no known examination that can prove a history of vaginal intercourse. Furthermore, the practice is a violation of the victim’s human rights and is associated with both immediate and long-term consequences that are detrimental to her physical, psychological, and social well-being.” That WHO report was published in English and Farsi — because these hymen checks are all too common in repressive regimes like Iran. That’s what T.I. took pride in subjecting his daughter to.

After the podcast aired, Deyjah Harris called the comments traumatizing, saying she felt “very shocked, hurt, angry, [and] embarrassed.” And anyone with any understanding of abuse and how we violate women’s bodies — including Planned Parenthood — saw the incident as a bright red flag. This was an act of abuse.

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David Dennis, Jr.
LEVEL

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