Office of Assemblywoman Michaelle C. Solages
New York State Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages stared in horror last month at a newspaper feature with the headline, “T.I. takes his virgin daughter for annual hymen check.” It explained, in detail, how the Atlanta music artist forces his 18-year-old daughter Deyjah to undergo the archaic practice once a year.
The “Whatever You Like” rapper, whose legal name is Clifford Joseph Harris Jr., first disclosed his medieval version of the “sex talk” on Ladies Like Us, a podcast billed as a “modern day women’s perspective on the universal issues we face each and every day.” Every year, on the day after his daughter’s birthday, T.I. posts a sticky note on her door: “Gyno. Tomorrow. 9:30.”
Podcast hosts Nazanin Mandi and Nadia Moham laughed at the idea. Solages, a third-term legislator from Long Island, didn’t find it so funny. “Hymen examinations have no scientific or clinical basis and it’s medically unnecessary. The medieval practice is often painful, humiliating, and traumatic. Not to mention it’s a form of violence against women and girls and a mechanism of control,” she told me over the phone. “Mr. Harris is an influencer and if he says he does something, I worry other people might say, ‘Hey, I need to do that with my daughter, too.'”
Last year, the World Health Organization declared virginity testing unethical and recommended it be banned, but currently there are no laws against the practice in the United States. Solages wants to change that; last week she introduced a bill in New York that would stop virginity testing and make performing examinations a type of medical malpractice.
“I want hymen examinations to be a class D felony,” she said. “In a perfect world I wouldn’t even have to submit legislation like this. In a perfect world, women are treated as equal beings. But here we are, with celebrities subjecting or just giving out this message that their daughters are property and not people. How unfortunate that this is something we have to act on today. But I refuse to walk around this topic and not address it directly.”
Solages, who made state history by breastfeeding her now 15-month-old daughter Rose during last year’s opening session, says being a mother was a driving force in her legislation.
“Just like my own mother treated me as a human being and empowered me to be a strong independent woman, I’m going to do that for my daughter,” she said. “I’ll make sure she has all the tool she needs to feel empowered about making decisions that are good for her. But to do a physical exam to determine if she’s a virgin? To me that’s one of the biggest violations of trust.”
T.I. tried to explain himself during an appearance on Jada Pinkett Smith’s Red Table Talk, calling his comments “misconstrued” and “sensationalized.”
But if if the rapper truly wants to make amends, Solages said, he can meet with her in New York and help get the bill passed.
“The best way to solve an issue is to have action,” she said. “I invite Mr. Harris to talk to me. This is something that’s very serious. He has come out and, by talking about it, legitimized and endorsed it. Now must act swiftly to ensure doctors, medical professionals, and caregivers are not performing this traumatic exam on their daughters.”