Justin Bieber as Teachable Moment


I think I’m going to have to have a talk with my daughter tonight. She, like many many MANY 6-12 year-old girls, is a fan of Justin Bieber. I wouldn’t say she’s a Belieber (thank goodness for small favours), but as I type this sitting on her bedroom floor, I can see a poster of the Bieb and his fancy androgynous dykey haircut looking down at me from her wall.

Why on earth would I have to talk with her about her crush on Bieber?

Rolling Stone has made it necessary. In the issue being released February 18, coverboy Justin’s interview includes his opinions on the Canadian healthcare system (awesome), premarital sex (do it with someone you love – way healthier message, in my opinion, than the whole Jonas Brothers Promise Ring business), and abortion. It’s his response to the last issue that has the internet buzzing today: Justin Bieber doesn’t believe in abortion. Not only that, but he thinks that “everything happens for a reason” (his opinion on whether women who’ve been raped should have access to abortion).

Okay, first, he’s 16. He was raised as an Evangelical Christian, and told The Guardian that he still does daily Bible study. He’s had his life micromanaged for a years, and hasn’t been given a whole lot of time to develop his own opinions about major issues. I get that. I also get that reporter Vanessa Grigoriadis likely knew exactly what she was getting into by asking him questions for which the answers might be inflammatory. Where Bieber’s handler was during this interview, who can say. Somebody dropped the ball in letting this kid answer that question, though.

So why do I need to talk to my daughter about this, and my son, for that matter? We’ve had conversations about body autonomy, sexual violence, consent, and rape. They have a decent understanding of sexual assault, and that no one “asks for it.” We’ve started talking about contraception, unintended pregnancy, and the options women have if they find out they’re pregnant and don’t want to be. They know the word abortion, and they know what it means. They know I will support them through whatever option chosen, should they/partners/friends find themselves unintentionally pregnant. We’ve talked about how some people believe abortion is murder, but that I feel the woman carrying the fetus has the final say in whether she stays pregnant, and the law gives women the right to make that decision as well.

But now we have this teen icon who says that abortion is “like killing a baby,” and I may have to do some pre-emptive damage control. I’d like to believe that I have a greater influence over how my kids develop opinions than random stars of the week, but I don’t discount the power of celebrity.

I’m not upset or angry about Bieber’s media SNAFU. In fact, I think it’s going to give me a great opportunity to talk about the influence of celebrity, how we develop opinions about things, how to respectfully disagree with people, and — the lesson Bieber missed — how to identify when you’re in over your head, and choose to stop talking before sinking further.

Now, to circumvent the likely atrocious rewriting my son will do to Bieber’s hit, “Baby” after this chat. I can already hear the possibilities.

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1 Comment

  1. Carolyn said,

    February 16, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    Believe it or not, I can respect the opinions of those who are pro-life/anti-choice in all cases. (I don’t believe it, but I can respect it)
    I never understood how someone could believe that abortion was wrong…but only most of the time. I understand why he would say that.

    (This is from a non-religious, highly Pro-Choice person)


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