How Tyrese used misogynoir and Black patriarchy to gain sympathy, support, and joint custody
The reality is that Tyrese’s actions are not uncommon for abusers attempting to regain access to their victims.
This is a man’s world.
This is a world that is designed to coddle and protect men from the consequences of their actions and interactions with women. This is a world where men are given the immense power to define these interactions and single-handedly deem their retelling of it as an unchallengeable truth.
If a man says that he has slept with a woman, it is accepted as fact, no matter what she says. If a man says his ex partner is “cr*zy,” it is accepted as fact, no matter how much psychological and emotional abuse he put her through. Men are nearly-always believed before women, so much so that it took more than forty women to accuse a single man of sexual abuses before the allegations were taken seriously, and even they face doubt from the public. The scales are forever tipped in the favour of men, and they know it well.
While all men rely on this imbalance to escape accountability, some male abusers of women strategically and intentionally use it as a way to continue unleashing violence against their victims.
Since this imbalance is rooted in the larger ways that societies value men and their word over women and their experiences, abusive men often enlist others to be active partners in their targeted abuse. This is usually thought of and discussed within the context of romance and sex, but much like all patriarchal concepts, it spills over into all interactions between men and women.
A fitting example of this dynamic can be seen in the case of Tyrese Gibson and his ten year-old daughter, Shayla Gibson. In September, Tyrese’s ex wife, Norma Gibson, was granted a temporary restraining order and full custody of their daughter Shayla. This was given to her due to accusations of him beating Shayla so severely that she was unable to sit down for three days afterwards. For weeks following this decision, Tyrese turned to social media to air out his pain, posting long captions on Instagram about his love for his daughter, along with videos of him crying for/about her, and even going so far as to violate the restraining order by flying a banner over her school.
Due to these antics, the general public began to pay attention to him, worry for him, and even support him, despite the active investigation of accusations of abuse against Shayla. To his supporters, it didn’t seem to matter whether or not he had done it.
Tyrese has relied heavily on understandings of Black patriarchal concepts and practices to entice the public and get their support. When the restraining order was first issued, he accused Norma of only doing so because she was “bitter” over his new marriage. The “bitter baby mama” trope is rooted deeply in misogynoir, targeted towards Black mothers in conflict with the father of their children. Black men often get away with completely dismissing a Black mother’s concerns and legitimate issues by simply labeling her as “bitter” and painting the conflict as nothing more than “baby mama drama.”
There is a lot of social pressure on Black women to be with Black men, and this pressure often looks like a Black woman’s words/feelings/life not being affirmed or validated without the approval of a Black man. This approval often takes the form of entering into a relationship with him. Those who are single, whether by choice or circumstances, are often coded as “not worthy,” “not good enough,” etc. We see this when Black women are berated for not being able to “keep a man.” Even when she is cheated on, she is told that she was not “doing enough to keep him.”
So, when Tyrese decided to refer to Norma as “bitter,” he was using it as weapon against her. Tyrese relied on misogynoir in order to escape accountability for allegedly harming his daughter.
Not only did Tyrese rely on racial stereotypes against Black women, but he also drew from ideas about how the system punishes Black fathers. He played into racial stereotypes in order to demonize Norma and to paint himself as the victim of not just her, but also the system. He now claims to be working on a documentary entitled Fathers, about his ordeal and the plight of Black fathers.
Following through with the bitter baby mama trope, Tyrese positions Norma as a wielder of white supremacy, using the court system to inflict racialized violence on a Black man. This allows for Black people to further sympathize with him, especially those who see things like child support as a means to put Black men “in the system.”
Many of these sympathizers have armchair diagnosed Tyrese with mental illness(es). When they saw Tyrese, a masculine Black man posting videos of himself crying online, they assumed that he must have been experiencing some sort of mental breakdown. Able-minded and neurotypical people have little to no understanding of mental illness and believe that those who live with mental illnesses are violent, out of control, and most importantly, not responsible for their actions. This ableist thinking allows them to completely separate Tyrese from his actions, words, and decisions.
The reality is that Tyrese’s actions are not uncommon for abusers attempting to regain access to their victims. These acts are most effective when they are public because, much like public proposals, they place a woman in a position of pressure from a large group of people. If she rejects him, even if he is abusive, she is viewed negatively by the bystanders while the man receives sympathy for “putting his heart on the line.”
This sympathy is dangerous as it causes the public to pressure Tyrese’s victims while he looks like a loving, weepy father who is, by his interpretation, “caught up in the system.” This makes the public both passively and actively complicit in his abuse.
Given the extremely low standards that we have for fathers in this society, seeing Tyrese proclaim his love for his daughter through things like the banner and endless gifts convinces the general public that he deserves access to his daughter due to his love for her, regardless of what she wants.
The banner made her so embarrassed that she stayed in the principal’s office for the rest of the day. There seems to be no concern about what she wants and how she feels throughout this whole ordeal. Rather, Tyrese’s supporters have assumed that, because he claims to love her, he is automatically entitled to her time, space, and custody.
He recently admitted to lying about various claims he once made on his social media in order to garner sympathy from the public. Most important is the reveal that his current wife is not and never was pregnant, which is a detail that many pointed to as evidence of Norma’s “bitterness” and “false accusations” against him.
Tyrese’s every move has been for his benefit alone and not at all for his daughter’s. Her privacy was constantly violated by her own father, to the point where she was left crying and embarrassed, all so Tyrese could center himself and paint himself as a victim in a situation in which he was the aggressor and abuser.
By framing himself as a victim to systemic racism and a Black woman’s “bitterness,” Tyrese successfully changed the narrative to one that demanded sympathy for himself rather than his victims.
Now that the case has been dropped and he has won joint custody, he posts about how he has been exonerated after a decade of “lies,” as if he this situation makes him some kind of hero, rather than a villain.
Despite being the reason behind both his daughter’s and his ex wife’s pain, both physical and emotional, Tyrese has successfully evaded accountability — and we have actively encouraged him to do so.
Idiley is a Somali-Canadian immigrant who’s found a home in the Black Mecca of the South. She is a recent graduate, a sometimes writer, and a full time goddess.