- This title sucks.
- This is my third rant-y/complain-y post this month but I don’t really feel sorry about that.
According to Wikipedia Justin Bieber was discovered when he was around 14 years old. For the last five years he’s been growing up in the public eye and he’s been exposed to a lot of harsh criticism. The idea of a teenager being in that hyper-exposed world is something that I have qualms with but for now all I really care about is why we keep making jokes about Justin Bieber being a girl.
When people don’t like Mr. Bieber’s music or how he presents or what his fanbase is like they tend to either bring focus their critiques on his perceived feminine qualities. His hair, his voice, his body, his songs’ content, his clothing, everything seems to be too effeminate for large swaths of our society. Whenever these insults are brought up I end up grinding my teeth until my gums are bloody and ripping the hair from my head.
This form of mockery encourages a strict adherence to gender norms that is restrictive, outdated and generally absurd. Our society already likes its separate gender norms and we really don’t need to be encouraging it. Bashing Justin Bieber based on aspects of his poor adherence to “masculinity” is loud and vocal in prominent areas of our popular culture and the fact that they’re rarely contradicted gives legitimacy to what they say.
While I think this is concerning for all members of our society (I think every one is negatively effected by a black-and-white gender binary.) I am particularly worried about children and teenagers who are trying to find their identity. This sort of humor tells them that it’s not alright to go outside of their gender norms, that they should adhere to these norms unless they want to get made fun of.
More specifically I am concerned about males who are growing up while exposed to this. Speaking from personal experience I feel that I can safely say that it’s not always easy being a male who doesn’t always present as your gender is expected to. We need more people telling boys that they can have “feminine” characteristics if that’s what they feel comfortable in and that we’re not going to laugh at them for it.
I’m also irritated by that saying that Justin Bieber has “feminine” qualities is meant to be offensive or degrading. What message are we sending to young children when we say that having stereotypical feminine features is bad? Are we telling girls that they way society wants to them to behave are ways that are less-than the way we want boys to behave? Are we telling boys that it’s beneath them to have anything in common with girls? There’s an Iggy Pop quote that gets trotted out frequently during discussions like this one and I want to trot it out again (I’m also having a hard time sourcing it and would love any primary sources you can provide me.), “I’m not ashamed to ‘dress like a woman’ because I don’t think it’s shameful to be a woman.”
My final point is that people say really cruel and horrible things to celebrities they’ve never met. When looking through the internet before writing this post I kept coming across slurs and death threats and rape jokes and all matter of general horrendous language. (The “I Hate Justin Bieber” fan-page on Facebook is a pretty good snapshot of the shit being thrown.) Look, I get that when you put yourself into the spotlight by becoming a celebrity you need to expect a level of hate coming at you. Can we just think about the fact that Justin Bieber is still a teenager, though? I mean, since he first became famous adult men and women have been saying really cruel things about him in public forums. What sort of society are we that seems to think this is alright?
I’m not saying that you need to love Justin Bieber. What I am saying is that we can think before we can speak. Yes, he is a celebrity and yes, he’s probably not going to hear what you or your friends say about him but this doesn’t mean that other people won’t hear it. Be aware of the words you use and the weight they carry in society and the context in which they use them. We don’t need to perpetuate a society where boys are afraid to expose their less “masculine” sides. We don’t have to encourage people to use slurs and other terrible language about a teenager. We sure as hell don’t need to talk about traditionally feminine qualities as if they’re second-class or something to be ashamed of.
Censorship is a crappy and terrible thing that I want no part of but when we hear this sort of language used we can use it as an opening to start conversations about gender and whatnot. So please, don’t stand silent when your friends are talking about “Justine” Bieber. Please help to end this sort of behavior in our culture.