Jada Pinkett Smith says her husband, Will Smith, can sometimes make insensitive comments about women, but she and daughter Willow Smith teach him what is and isn’t appropriate.
The actor offered the example to rapper T.I., aka Clifford Joseph Harris Jr., and his wife, Tameka “Tiny” Harris, on “Red Table Talk” about the enormous backlash over his comments earlier this month about his daughter’s virginity.
T.I. drew outrage after he proudly announced on a “Ladies Like Us” podcast that he had escorted his 18-year-old daughter, Deyjah Harris, to the gynecologist after her birthday each year to ensure her hymen (and, in his mind, her virginity) was “still intact.”
On Monday, Pinkett Smith tried to clarify to the rapper why his comments and actions ― which T.I. defended as being “terribly misconstrued and misconceived” ― were so offensive, drawing from her own parenting experience.
“I live with a man that loves his daughter, and the conversations that I’ve had to have with him in regards to what is protecting her, what is educating her, what is actually allowing her to self-actualize as her own individual self ― versus control,” Pinkett Smith said.
She could see how T.I. could be ignorant about certain sensitive issues, she said, given that she and 19-year-old Willow even have to call out Will Smith from time to time when he unintentionally makes comments that could make women uncomfortable, including jokes about menstruating.
“I understood that because I’m in this house with Will, and he be saying the craziest stuff. He don’t understand the level,” she said. “And thank God he has me and he’s got Willow.... We educate that joker before he leaves this house. You know what I mean?”
The mother of two said her daughter had schooled her father on several occasions after he took a joke “too far.”
“Willow has gone at her dad several times for very insensitive comments, whether it’s around menstruation or, you know, like ‘You must be PMS-ing,’ and she’s like, ‘Uh, that right there, we not gonna do that.’”
“I don’t see no problem with that,” T.I. responded, adding that he viewed this whole experience as a lesson. “I understand that I don’t understand.”
The rapper apologised to his daughter on the Facebook talk show and walked back his account of events, saying that he had told an exaggerated version.
Deyjah Harris has not commented publicly on the controversy, but T.I. acknowledged she was unhappy that he had discussed her private life in the media. She had unfollowed her father and other family members on social media following the initial comments.
T.I.’s comments drew condemnation for an array of reasons earlier this month, including their lack of scientific basis (Planned Parenthood pointed out that hymens can be broken any number of ways and that virginity is a social construct), as well as being an inappropriate use of control over his adult daughter, which Me Too movement founder Tarana Burke slammed as being linked to the problematic notion that men “own” their daughters and must ensure their “purity.”
The “Red Table Talk” segment can be viewed below.