“I want to learn from you,” he said to Tiny, Smith and Adrienne Banfield-Norris, Smith’s mother, who often appears on the show. “I have three powerful, independent, brilliant women, and I want to know: What is the purpose and place of a father in this society? Because a father like myself, who just wants to be as involved and attentive as possible, we could draw the conclusion of, we just donate sperm and come pay for things and we don’t get to have no say in how things are handled.”
“I don’t think anybody has a problem with you protecting your daughter,” Smith responded. “That’s not the issue. It’s the hymen part.”
What T.I. referred to on the show as “hymengate” stems from a conversation he had on the “Ladies Like Us” podcast with Nazanin Mandi and Nadia Moham. He told the co-hosts that after his daughter Deyjah turned 16, he began to accompany her to the gynecologist to “check her hymen,” a thin membrane at the opening of the vagina that many falsely believe to be an indicator of a woman’s virginity. His comments drew outrage from the public, including from Gloria Steinem and Planned Parenthood.
The “Red Table Talk” episode enlisted Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement, to concisely explain the backlash in a cutaway interview: “It opens up this can of worms that I don’t think he really was prepared to open up. We’re talking about this long tradition of checking the purity of women’s bodies, and I think that a lot of men have this idea that being a good father is protecting your daughter’s virginity. But it’s so problematic in so many ways. It lends itself to this notion that men own their daughters.”
T.I. defended himself by saying he had made the comments in a “very joking manner,” and that he had spoken from a “place of truth” but then “began to embellish and exaggerate, and I think a lot of people kind of took it extremely literal.” He added that the gynecologist appointments had taken place when Deyjah was 15 and 16, and that her mother, singer Ms. Niko, was present at both.
After Smith asked if he understood the sensitivity of the situation and why so many people were quick to criticize his actions, T.I. responded that he didn’t at the time but now does. He then apologized on air to Deyjah — but not to “any of these weirdos who just tossed around lies for fun” — before asserting that he had just been acting out of concern as a “protective” father.
“In order to guide or direct, you must have a certain level of control,” he said. “In the age or the time when our women, black women, are the most unprotected … disregarded women on the planet, I’m being criticized because I’m willing to go above and beyond to protect mine. And I’m talking about all of the little slimy, grimy, chubby-fingered little boys who just want to come and defile and destroy the sanctity that I have —”
Smith began to laugh at this point, cutting him off. Later on, after T.I. again used the questionable phrase “defile and destroy” to refer to the motivations of his daughter’s potential sexual partners, Smith remarked that she finds it “so interesting how men treasure their daughters’ virginity, but not their sons'.”
“This is what you have to understand, though,” she said to the rapper. “It’s a patriarchal structure that —”
“— I heard that word before,” he cut in. “I didn’t know that term was a thing, ‘patriarchal.’”
The second half of the “Red Table Talk” episode, concerning T.I. and Tiny’s marriage, airs Wednesday.