Justin Bieber: Issues in Feminism and Celebrity Worship Syndrome

Love him or hate him, Justin Bieber is one of the most influential musical artists of this generation. His rise to fame via the video-sharing website YouTube is a rare occurrence for several reasons. Not only did he quickly become a famous musical artist, but also this is one of the first instances where a social media greatly impacted the promotion of an average person to musical artist. Because this individual attracts such a large amount of attention on a regular basis and maintains a relationship with his fans, as well as continuously influences several kinds of audiences, I believe this musical artist’s efforts concerning feminism in the modern age is worth discussing. While there have not been many notable strides from “J. Biebs” in feminism, Bieber has been involved with several issues revolving around women’s rights and interests which impact his career as well as his personal life; important to discuss for someone constantly in the spotlight.

Although Bieber has not stated that he is in favor of or against women’s rights or feminism, he has been quoted in response to similar topics and issues. This essay will share and attempt to explain the implications of these quotations and will also examine his music as a part of feminism in this day and age, specifically “slut-shaming.”  This essay will also focus on the concept of “celebrity worship syndrome” and the effects this disorder has on Bieber’s fans and their responses to his career and the “slut-shaming” Bieber does as well as times where he has been “slut-shamed.”

During his childhood, Justin Bieber had a variety of interests, but most of all he loved music. He taught himself to play multiple instruments, including the trumpet, guitar, and drums. He entered a singing contest at the age of 12 where he sang R&B artist Ne-Yo’s hit song “So Sick” and placed second. His mother, Patricia “Pattie” Mallette, posted this video and several others of her son demonstrating his singing abilities. This bold move would cause Bieber’s life to change forever. (

While searching for musical talent on YouTube, his current manager Scooter Braun accidentally clicked a link in the sidebar to the home video Pattie shared. Braun contacted Pattie regarding the opportunity for Bieber to record demo tracks. He was placed in a head-to-head competition against another young Canadian female singer for the attention of well-known record producers. One week after Braun contacted Justin’s mother, he performed for R&B artist, Usher Raymond. Raymond actually “outbid” Justin Timberlake for the opportunity to mentor Bieber and produce his music. The rest, as they say, is history: From there, Bieber recorded multiple albums, performed at several prestigious events, and received seemingly endless awards. His relationships would become a spectacle and his downtime would become an opportunity for paparazzi to earn more money. (

The first place I would like to examine where Bieber and feminism collide is an interview the singer had with The Rolling Stone magazine in 2009; Bieber was only 16 years old. In this article, Bieber attempted to tackle more “mature” topics including sex and politics. Bieber was not well-received by fans and haters alike for his response to the interviewer’s questions, after he stated his strong opinion regarding abortion in relation to the aftermath when a woman is raped.

“‘I really don’t believe in abortion,’ Bieber says. ‘It’s like killing a baby.’

How about in cases of rape? ‘Um. Well, I think that’s really sad, but everything happens for a reason. [I don’t know how that would be a reason] I guess I haven’t been in that position, so I wouldn’t be able to judge that’” (Grigoriadis 58).  

The portion of the quotation in brackets was originally omitted from the published, printed version of the interview. After Bieber’s crew contacted the magazine, their representatives cleared up the confusion and revised the quotation to its original form. However, the damage had unfortunately already been done. In the same publication, Bieber was quoted regarding his opinion on sexual intercourse.

“‘I don’t think you should have sex with anyone unless you love them,’ Bieber says.  When asked if he believes in abstinence until marriage, Bieber – who is reportedly dating fellow teen star Selena Gomez – seems wary: ‘I think you should just wait for the person you’re…in love with.’” (Grigoriadis 58)

Since Bieber was only 16 at the time of the interview with Rolling Stone magazine, many considered his responses inappropriate.  This is interesting because the magazine was not ridiculed for suggesting the sensitive, more controversial topics in the first place.

Bieber was patronized for his beliefs that stem from his religious upbringing in Catholicism, which is ultimately a form of religious discrimination, as this contradicts the rights of freedom of religion and freedom of speech as guaranteed by the American constitution. These two portions of the first amendment were demonstrated and placed at odds with each other regarding these statements. Many people believe that since Bieber decided to place himself in the spotlight, he should be able to handle the consequences of such actions.

Another instance in feminism between Bieber occurred in late 2011.  A woman named Maria Yeater announced she was impregnated by Bieber, causing a somewhat lengthy and unnecessary paternity suit. Yeater, 20, claimed Bieber, 17, took advantage of her backstage during his “My World” tour. Eventually, the charges against the singer were dropped because Bieber was willing to undergo multiple rounds of DNA testing. Yeater’s ex-boyfriend and the child’s true father admitted Maria falsely accused Bieber for impregnating her in order to compensate for the money the once-couple was not able to provide for their “family.” Not only did Bieber sue Yeater for the trouble she caused, but also he wrote a song based on the debacle. This song was titled “Maria” and was the last track included on his “Believe” album, which was considered the singer’s first album as a “man” because the songs are written about more mature topics. (Huffington Post)

This is not the first instance where a woman willingly used her body – Not just her sexuality, but also the womb – for monetary benefits or reward. In general, feminism involves the woman’s right to choose and take responsibility for her actions. Feminism is also loosely meant to break stereotypes, rather than demonstrate and give truth to them. Bieber’s paternity case might have encouraged women to believe these acts are acceptable  (I.E. Profit from a relationship; consider “The Real Housewives” series). Unfortunately, women today are sometimes expected to take advantage of men and many people consider monetary benefits as a purpose for relationships. In turn, the lack of criticism towards those women proves there’s a double standard, as male celebrities are often frowned upon and viewed as “tools” for doing similar things; having humble beginnings and producing honest work is considered respectable and preferred for men.

The singer’s lyrics have also undergone scrutiny for sexist themes and double-standards. “Boyfriend,” especially the music video for the pop song, is what we consider hyper-sexualized. The video portrays Bieber as an older, more “mature” musical artist, attempting to separate the singer from his former pre-pubescent persona but still portray him as a “teen heartthrob.” Alternatively, when Miley Cyrus debuted “Can’t Be Tamed” as a shift from her “Hannah Montana” persona, she was received with a less than warm welcome for dressing provocatively and being suggestive in her music video, while Bieber’s career continued to skyrocket. Ironically enough, after conducting research and googling “Justin Bieber “ with the term “slut-shame” on multiple search engines, more articles defending Miley Cyrus appear that simply refer to Justin Bieber, rather than articles that slut-shame him.

Most recently, Bieber has received backlash for sexist lyrics which he has proudly identified as songs he wrote himself. Bieber, in coordination with his record label Island Def Jam, has been releasing a previously unreleased track each Sunday at midnight.  The series is called “Music Mondays,” and began running on October 6th; it is expected to run through mid-December. One of Bieber’s more recent tracks as of November 18th is titled “Bad Day”:

“…It’s another, if it ain’t one thing Instigators, like pouring fire on propane The wrong thing, they be worried about  Ooh, you know females And how they like to run their mouths…”

This song was released at the end of a bad week Bieber was having. Prior to the song’s release, a short video came out by a previously unidentified woman of the singer sleeping in bed; this occurred while he was touring in Brazil. The following morning, Bieber, covered in white bedsheets, was photographed by paparazzi exiting a brothel. Many people assumed that the woman was a prostitute, even though Bieber’s “camp” denied the allegations. The woman was later identified as a Brazilian porn star named Tati, who is currently married and shares an “open” relationship with her husband.

This is worth noting because this relates to the issue or concept of “slut-shaming.”  “Slut-shaming” is where a woman is scrutinized for openly discussing or demonstrating her sexuality and/or sexual actions. Basically, this is when a woman doesn’t conform to society’s expectations regarding sexuality, in the most patriarchal sense. In an interview, the Brazilian woman described Bieber as “well-endowed” and “very good in bed,” referring to the night as “so delicious.”  This is interesting because this is a form of slut-shaming that is affecting a male singer, rather than a female celebrity. Bieber wasn’t defended and the woman exploiting his “openly” sexual actions did not receive a negative response. Rather, she was praised and admired for the taking advantage of this “opportunity” she had been given.

One blogger compared Bieber’s more recent actions, like pissing in a custodial mop bucket in the back of a club, to those of Amanda Bynes (E.G. Running into a gas station to clean gasoline from her pet canine’s fur), who has recently been committed to a facility diagnosed with an unhealthy mental state. What’s surprising is that female celebrities are more often considered victims of their own actions in addition to those of the paparazzi (E.G. Britney Spears having her head and attacking the paparazzi with an umbrella), whereas males are naturally accountable for their actions and deserve criticism and ridicule for their actions in order to correct their unsavory behavior (E.G. R. Kelly urinating on an underage girl).

Many questionable things Bieber says and does are glossed over not only the teenage girls who make up the majority of his fan base, but also many other people. These reactions could potentially be linked to a disorder known as “Celebrity Worship Syndrome” or “CWS.”  “CWS” was originally coined to represent the “Celebrity Worship Scale” in an article published by the Daily Times in London. This initialism eventually turned into “CWS,” an unhealthy interest or obsession with celebrities and the most minute details of their lives. There are multiple stages in this version of “CWS,” ranging from “entertainment social” to “borderline pathological.” (The Daily Mail UK)

Health professionals suggest our DNA is formulated to naturally radiate around individuals with leadership qualities, such as celebrities. (WebMD) When exposed to things that pleasure a person, the chemical dopamine is released in the brain. This is an effect that seems to happen among Bieber’s fans causing a temporary high and feeling of happiness. Although dopamine is released in much smaller amounts through this form of mental stimulation, as opposed to drugs or alcohol, this can affect the level of “CWS” a person has. A smaller level of dopamine released in the brain of a person can lead to the constant want or need of a celebrity in addition to their music or movies. Physical symptoms of “CWS” can be voluntary and may otherwise range from a compulsive need to check a Twitterfeed to fainting upon receiving fresh information. (ABCNews)

Justin Bieber has managed to develop a dedicated fan base who acknowledge themselves as “Beliebers,” a play on the word “believers” or, rather, the people who follow and believe in Jesus Christ. The pandemonium that has developed around the musical artist and his “Beliebers” is known as “Bieber Fever.”  This is an actual “illness” that can infest the minds of listeners of his music.

Since Justin has developed such a large and dedicated fan base, his image consistently remains positive. One concept vital to “CWS” is admiration for a celebrity. People ranked highly are often perceived as potential role models, even though this is not necessarily true of their character. Obviously, escapism or living vicariously through the lavish life of a celebrity can cause their perceptions of celebrities and reality to become skewed. This often occurs among “Beliebers” because the artist’s actions have been less-than-inspiring and/or inappropriate as of late (E.G. Confiscation of marijuana on his tour buses). I believe this causes many people to overlook or simply under think the statements he has made regarding women’s rights and feminism, which is incredibly interesting and possibly a shocking way to look at things because his fans are mostly young females. Depending on the severity of “CWS,” this disorder may also cause Bieber’s followers to share similar beliefs and therefore consider his actions acceptable. These children and young women may not be educated enough, or have similar views regarding feminism, and naively trust Bieber. Considering Bieber is one of the most influential musical artists of this generation, his views regarding women are important. Bieber has “slut-shamed” women throughout his musical career even though he’s been “slut-shamed” himself. Celebrity worship syndrome has played a significant role in Bieber’s career causing many people to overlook the negative things he has said about women.  Bieber is a prominent male artist in today’s society, so hopefully, the way he demonstrates his religion and “feminist beliefs” will improve.


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