'Ride or die chicks' are prepared to do anything to show dedication to their gangster boyfriendsWednesday, July 28 2010
Aug 02, 2007 04:30 AM
Sarah Drayton shudders as she imagines how different her life would have been.
What if she had that child with her "ex-wannabe-gangster-boy- friend"? The one who, when she was 17, persuaded her to get an abortion – all while sleeping with other girls in the neighbourhood – because it would be "better" for their relationship in the long run.
The one who stood with her in the abortion clinic, a long loaded rifle hidden down the leg of his baggy jeans, and told her that everything would be all right.
The one who almost got her killed, when guys from a feuding neighbourhood shot at them as they were walking down the street holding hands.
"It's a much harder story to tell," says Tonika Morgan, project manager at the Jane and Finch Community Family Centre in Driftwood Park, explaining why stories of gang members destroying each other with bullets are easier to tell than the stories of young women who are dating these young men, having their children and living in the same destructive environment.
"It's harder to tell the stories of young women because it takes so much more to tell their stories. There are so many things that impact (their lives). There is so much that they hold on to," she says.
"That's why no one tells it."
Drayton, holding a squirming toddler in a two-bedroom apartment in North York, attempts to tell hers.
"My life hasn't been very good," says Drayton, now 20, tapping her feet as she plays with her 11-month-old daughter Sherika. "I've had some pretty bad experiences."
Since the age of 15 she has been taking care of herself.
After running away from an abusive home environment and into the care of the Catholic Children's Aid Society in Scarborough, she has struggled to find her way.
In and out of high school after being suspended a few times for fighting with other girls, she admits she even did a few brief stints in jail after another girl pressed charges against her for "issuing death threats."
But in a world where other girls respect you by how tough you are and constantly test you at school, Drayton says she was just doing what any other girl in her position would have done.
This is why dating a guy a little rough around the edges can be intriguing to a young woman.
These guys, with the easy cash they make from dealing drugs and their flippant I-don't-care attitude, can at times seem sexy and alluring.
It's the whole Bonnie and Clyde phenomenon turned into modern-day dating. And the streets have a name for the girls who can handle such an extreme form of love.
They are "ride or die chicks."
"It's the whole gangster attitude. They would never (use it) with you, but they would (use it) with other people, so you feel like you're special and you feel attracted to it," says Drayton.
"They are really nice at the beginning. They can be really sweet and do anything for you. They can actually seem like a normal guy, except for a few flaws," she says.
"But then they start treating you like crap after."
In the United States there has been a growing trend of young girls who see themselves as "ride or die chicks," says Gwendolyn Pough, associate professor of women's studies at Syracuse University.
"A ride or die chick is basically a girl who will do anything for her man. She will put the gun in her purse, she will hide the cash, she will hide the gloves, and she will drive the getaway car. Whatever she needs to do for him, she will do," says Pough, adding, "I think a lot of girls do buy into it."
For years, she has seen girls in her neighbourhood play into being a "ride or die" type of chick, says Amanda Cain, the editor of Yo' Mamma, a Toronto magazine for pregnant teens. In a sense, because she used to let her boyfriends use her, she was one, too.
And it's still happening with many girls in the GTA.
"Go to the courtrooms. That's where you will find them," she says, referring to girls who wait to bail their boyfriends out of jail.
These guys trust their girlfriends with everything, Cain says. "So for a guy to let you know he has a gun underneath his bed, you have to be ready to ride or die for him. He basically needs to know that you would use that gun."
These girls, who are "down for whatever," show their love by doing anything that's asked of them. Or as R&B singer Monica sings in "U Should've Known Better:" You should've known that I would stay by your side, you should've known your girl was gonna ride or die.
While it can be seen as a romantic notion to stick by someone's side regardless – it could be argued women have een taught to do so for centuries – with the wrong guy and especially in the street context, it can turn dangerous.
"They are going to jail being `ride or die chicks,' being involved with drug dealers and getting mixed up with that kind of stuff," says Pough.
Morgan says for young women in communities with few support systems, it's ultimately about survival, and many issues – poverty, racism, family issues – have to be seen in context to understand why a young girl puts up with it.
"Some girls think of it as normal. Everybody rationalizes his or her way out of the situation. A baby mother might think, `Well do I really want to take my child up to Kingston (jail) to see his dad? Or would I rather not tell anyone that he's keeping a gun here and let him see his daddy every day,'" she says.
Cain says what's needed is for young women to look within themselves to find the confidence to leave. "Women are becoming wiser and they realize this is a game that men play by pitting us against each other." She eventually realized that "no man has ever supported me like I have supported them."
For Drayton, it took finding the right guy to show her how much better a relationship could be.
Two years ago after meeting Carlos, who she calls loving and responsible, she felt ready to have a child with him.
Now the young mother is working hard to pull it all together.
"I can't believe how tired I get watching her," she says, laughing. "Sometimes I even have to wait for Carlos to get home before I even have time to take a shower."
Words any mom, even "ride or die," could relate to.