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T.I.: Violation of Women’s Rights Everywhere

By: Julietta Bisharyan

On an episode of the podcast “Ladies Like Us,” it was revealed that rapper T.I. visits the gynecologist every year with his 18-year old daughter, Deyjah Imani Harris, to check if her hymen is still intact. This statement was met with outstanding criticism across social media and news platforms as it is clearly a violation of human rights, specifically women’s rights. Harris even liked tweets condemning her father, which called him “possessive and controlling.” The podcast episode, hosted by Nazanin Mandi and Nadia Moham, has since been deleted from Apple Podcasts, and rightfully so.

Many found an issue with T.I’s “virginity testing,” a practice that is outdated and inaccurate. The stretching or tearing of the hymen can be caused by many activities outside of sexual intercourse. This includes sports, horseback riding, tampon use, and even doing the splits. Some women aren’t even born with a hymen, so to base a person’s virginity on a thin membrane is both illogical and damaging.

To this, T.I. disturbingly responded with, “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.” This assertion that he holds a right to his daughter’s intimate information is beyond controlling and inappropriate. Virginity testing should not be done by any means.

T.I’s intrusiveness is highly problematic as a parent. Gynecologist visits already place patients in a vulnerable state. To have a parental figure demand personal information only ruins the child’s relationship with their parent more and detests children from confronting their parents about serious topics. As long as there is a conversation or understanding of safe, consensual sex, there is no need for an individual’s sex life to be scrutinized.

It’s important to note that safe sex is regarded as sexual activity in which individuals take precautions to protect themselves against sexually transmitted diseases or unplanned pregnancy. This implies the use of contraceptives as well as a conversation between the two consenting partners beforehand. 

Consensual sex involves a mutual agreement between both parties before engaging sexually. Consent is informed, voluntary, and revocable at any time. Consent is not possible when someone is incapacitated, underage, or unconscious. Parents should take responsibility in educating their children on how to practice safe sex and the importance of consent rather than dismissing taboo topics altogether.

Furthermore, establishing the absence of a hymen as a loss of virginity invalidates sexual activity beyond penetration. This age-old myth, therefore, seems to suggest that only heterosexual intercourse can determine if an individual is a virgin or not. This is damaging to LGBTQ communities as it constitutes sex as an act solely between a male and a female.

There is also a clear double standard when it comes to men and women and their sexuality. T.I. has previously stated,  “… 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 reference to his sexually active 15-year old son. 

While men are praised for their sexual encounters, women are perceived in a negative light and often discouraged from engaging sexually, especially at a young age. If a woman engages in sexual activity with multiple partners, they are labeled as promiscuous. There is a disturbing level of hypocrisy behind T.I.’s parenting. It is one thing to be concerned about your child’s initial sexual explorations, and another thing to demand their intimate details.

T.I.’s parenting is also a representation of a misogynistic society that still prevails. Policing his daughter’s body implies that he has complete ownership of her, which is a dangerous notion. When an individual turns 18, legally, parents cannot have access to their child’s medical record and need to ask permission directly from the individual. Not only are T.I.’s actions harmful, but they are illegal. T.I. states that he forces his daughter to sign a waiver allowing him to see the results of her examination. Forced consent is not consenting and doctors should be able to recognize this as coercion. The extent T.I. is willing to go to obtain confidential information to possess her is dangerous. 

Time after time, women have fought for the full autonomy of their bodies. Whether it be reproductive health, issues of consent, and virginity, there is still an ongoing struggle to claim what is ours. At the end of the day, virginity is a social construct and cannot define an individual any longer. What one person’s idea of sex and virginity may differ from another. Women should be encouraged to safely explore their sexuality and themselves, instead of being regulated by parental figures or anyone else.

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The Deception Behind the Girl Boss Narrative

By: Julietta Bisharyan

Scrolling through your social media feeds, you might notice videos of your former classmates trying on new face creams or hairsprays. The caption beneath might inform you how great the product is and how much money they have made just by being a “market partner” for this brand. Behind the screen, they appear to be living the sought-after “girl boss” life right at the tip of their fingers. 

Although these posts seem innocent enough, your female followers are most likely victims of a multi-level marketing scheme––a business model in which a company distributes products through a network of distributors who in turn, earn income from retail sales and recruitment (Holden 2019). MLM companies include Avon, Monat, Mary Kay, Herbalife, among many others. Each brand specializes in its own distinct products and it’s up to the market partner to determine what would be most sellable to their followers. 

If you reach out to these friends or even receive a private message from them, they most likely want to recruit you into their company upline. And while that sounds like a “girls having each other’s back” moment in our journeys to success, the reality is that they are most likely trying to earn back the money they have already spent in becoming a member themselves. 

In order to become a recruiter, you’re responsible for purchasing all the products that you intend to sell. And if no one wants to buy your products, then you simply lose all the money. 

Women, in particular, play a key role in MLMs. They account for 75% of distributors even though 99% end up losing money from MLM companies (Bond 2019). So why are women such huge targets? 

MLMs sell a deceiving image of feminism in that they entice women with promises of financial autonomy, flexibility, and the opportunity of advancement. Though tempting in this age of female empowerment, these levels are difficult to achieve and end up costing women lots of money as well as friendships. Three vulnerable groups of women, in particular, are targeted for MLMs. 

Above all, new moms are main targets. With high costs of childcare, moms tend to stay home for the first couple of years in order to take care of their new children. This idea of domestication and being the “stay at home mom” no longer sounds appealing for women, especially women who are career-driven. Unfortunately, MLMs push this angle by shaming mothers who go back into the workplace after giving birth instead of staying home and being a “real mom.” MLMs thus provide an ideal option, in that moms can make money through their phones and not have to leave their children at home. 

Secondly, military spouses. Due to the constant moving and jobless locations of many military bases, the unemployment rate for military spouses is high. MLMs, therefore, offer a 

great way for women to make additional income in their nomadic lifestyles. MLMs can also be the only way for military spouses to meet new people and form female friendships. 

Lastly, MLMs tend to target young college students. Looking at my own Facebook and Instagram feeds, I noticed a lot of my former high school students participating in various MLMs. When I asked them why the response I received was “It’s a side hustle.” 

With college tuition high and schoolwork overbearing, it can be difficult to manage both a real job and school. Therefore MLMs seem like an easy way to make additional money on the side to fund your education. Unfortunately, many women get caught in the cycle of MLMs as they desperately attempt to earn their money back. The constant advertising and recruiting on social media can even push friends away as every conversation can become revolved around their new business. 

The images of “boss babes” on Instagram, flaunting their paid-for cars and vacations by the company, can be toxic to other women. False income claims of over 6 figures a year can also be discouraging to others who work difficult traditional jobs to make ends meet. The phrase “boss babe” almost seems to suggest that female entrepreneurs are rare and belong in a separate sphere from men. 

The best way to combat this fraud form of feminism is to spread awareness of the potential risks and dangers of joining MLMs. Instead of recruiting other women to join your upline, send women real job listings or information on how to gain financial aid. Support real businesswomen through social media and share their success stories. Feminism doesn’t have to overcompensate itself through false narratives. Women should help other women with genuine intent, not out of self-desperation and piling debt.