In a video recently posted by music producer Jermaine Dupri, Mimi Faust of “Love and Hip-Hop: Atlanta” declares that it’s wrong for people to criticize her for staying with the father of her children, Stevie J, despite his long history of cheating. Why? Because all women get cheated on. She’s just “real enough” to let her story play out on television.
Mimi’s angry rant provides a clue into why she stays in an unhealthy relationship with a “good-for-nothing” man — the acquiescence to victimhood mentality.
The clip is difficult to watch and the words are disturbing to hear. It starts with a group of men listening to Stevie J’s explanation of his relationship with Mimi’s nemesis, Joseline. The men respond by laughing in comedy show fashion (“This is the best [expletive] in the world; you couldn’t make this [expletive] up.”). They then take the cameras to Mimi and she gives them exactly what they’re looking for — unadulterated drama.
She’s in the camera saying, “I may have had a drink or two,” and using every expletive there is. The men enthusiastically incite her to continue.
Mimi’s statement is bold: There’s no difference between her and the rest of us. According to Mimi, all women are victims of men’s inability to be faithful. She would like us to believe that she’s an innocent bystander, hurt by the hit-and-run whims of a cheating man, just like all women.
My heart breaks for Mimi. Behind her hostile “I’m a handle mine the way I handle mine” mask is a woman who is clearly hurt, insecure and embarrassed. She’s right in saying that she’s not the only one who has been unable to leave a man who’s not worth the pain that comes with him. But she’s wrong to suggest that her situation is out of her control.
Mimi is a textbook example of the kind of person that I recently heard a minister preach about. In a sermon titled “From Victim to Victory,” the minister described people who had acquiesced to a victimhood mentality. It’s a mindset that justifies one’s own weaknesses and failure by placing blame on another person; someone who chooses to do nothing or surrenders to powerlessness because he or she doesn’t want to face the consequences of their actions.
I’m not faulting Mimi for being cheated on, but I am faulting her for staying in a relationship that makes her miserable. Fearing a life without Stevie J (for whatever reason), she would rather have him on his psychologically and emotionally abusive terms than to live without him.
There’s a thin line between saying Mimi should be accountable to her own actions and saying that women who stay in abusive relationships are to blame for their circumstances. I understand that line, but I must also acknowledge Mimi’s decision to allow her twisted love story to be broadcast for the world to see. There seems to be a pattern of exploiting her own tragedy that she must one day acknowledge.
A lot of us have been where Mimi is now. Looking back on some of my past relationships, I know I’ve blamed the men in my life for my unhappiness. I critiqued them for not being what I wanted and for doing things that upset or hurt me. I should have instead been accountable to my inability to walk away. Rather than trying to control and manipulate them, I should have just left or not been in the relationship to begin with. I may have walked away more often and faster than a lot of other people, but there’s no denying that there were times in which I exceeded the threshold of second chances. And there have also been times when men have put me above their own self respect. Victimhood mentality is not limited to women.
Mimi and the countless other women who came into instant fame and fortune through reality TV shows are paying the ultimate price. Accused of being the minstrelsy and “coon shows” of our time, shows like “Love and Hip-Hop” feed off every racial, gender and class stereotype imaginable. Heavily built on the backs of women, particularly women of color, these shows capitalize on human weakness and insecurities in the worst ways.
But in spite of that, Mimi and her cohorts have the power to make different kinds of choices.
Rahiel Tesfamariam is a columnist and blogger for The Washington Post and The RootDC. She is the founder/editorial director of Urban Cusp, an online lifestyle magazine highlighting progressive urban culture, faith, social change and global awareness. Follow her on Twitter @RahielT.
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