Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Justin Bieber, Rape, and Abortion

In a recent interview for Rolling Stone, Justin Bieber discusses his views on sex and abortion, apparently explaining that he opposes abortion even in cases of rape, which he thinks is sad but "happens for a reason."  While I certainly disagree with this position, it does have the virtue of consistency: if you think abortion is just "like killing a baby," then it's not clear how you could make an acception for "babies" conceived through rape.  More likely though, like many conservatives, Bieber doesn't really think abortion is just "like killing a baby."  That might explain the assurances of a "source close to [Bieber]" that he was only "asking for clarification," not making an assertion.  (The magazine allegedly omitted a crucial question mark. I guess Bieber wasn't just uptalking?)  Let me be clear: Bieber is a teenager who still has a lot of learning and growing to do.  It's not fair to judge his positions on abortion as one would those of a government official, activist, or other person who affects public policy on abortion.  But it's also important to remember that teenagers like Bieber are influenced by the rhetoric of just these kinds of people.  We need to be careful, and consistent, in how we talk about issues like rape and abortion.  I've written more on that topic here.



Abortion, Abortion Bans, Culture, In the Media, Sexual Assault, Teenagers and Children | Permalink

TrackBack URL for this entry:


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Justin Bieber, Rape, and Abortion:


I wrote a funny on this as a comment on a Feministing post last week:


Just one thing to add (or emphasize), it DOES matter what Justin Bieber thinks about abortion, at least if he thinks the issue matters to him, just as much as it matters what any 16-year-old (or 17-year-old, or 15-year-old, etc) thinks about abortion, contraception, access to social services, etc. I doubt that a similar question asked of a 16-year-old female pop star would get the same voices saying it doesn't matter what they think or that any questions along these lines would be unfair, but I don't seem to recall any similar questions being asked of Britney Spears, Lindsey Lohan, Miley Cyrus, or any other similar teen pop or movie stars of the last couple decades.

But it DOES matter, and there was a time that it did matter a lot more how similar aged minors felt about the issue. For a particularly dramatic example, go back to 1976, for "Dawn, Portrait of a Teenage Runaway"


...with none other than seventeen-year-old Eve Plumb as the star. Yes, Marcia from the Brady Bunch. It was waaay edgy for 1976, with major themes involving teen runaways, prostitution, free medical clinics, contraception, abortion, adults divorcing, etc, etc. Oh, yes, and a proto-music-video segment with Eve walking both scared and trying to act grown-up at the same time as she passes through a particularly seedy part of LA, with "Cherry Bomb" by the Runaways as backing music. Joan Jett was listed in the credits as a musical advisor. Yes. Eighteen year-old Joan Jett.

The follow-up was just as edgy, one year later, "Alexander: The Other Side of Dawn"


...which had some of the first imagery and character development of believable gay characters interacting with teen characters, as well -- ever on US network TV. Not only were these docudramas remarkably frank and accurate and helpful to the point of being downright preachy about how young people can take care of themselves and get out of problems remarkably well on their own, they invaribly ended on a note that was positive, upbeat, and affirming that even teens who had been led astray or who had dysfunctional families could ask for help and get it, and clearly help themselves get out of perilous situations -- a world different from dramas today like MTV's "16 and Pregnant" and even worse examples from the movies like "Kids" and "Thirteen"

There's lots of examples that can be found in the professional and academic literature of the day of empathy and respect for the abilities and rights of average older adolescents to make decisions and access services related to these issues, but those two TV specials -- formatted like the "Afterschool Specials" of that era but run later in the evening with "parental advisories" -- may be the clearest example of how the mass media, teen stars, and some intelligent, well-intentioned writers and producers could address some of the most controversial of issues in a way that was -- for the time -- both popular with young people and deemed acceptable to air by the national broadcast media. I can't find ratings of how well it was received, but numerous anecdotes from prochoice folk we've spoken with who were aware of it back then say it was watched and talked about among teens as much as the most popular Afterschool Specials of the time, and searching Lexis-Nexis and similar newspaper databases show numerous listings of it being re-run in major markets over the next year until (and after) the "Alex" sequel/follow-up episode aired.

We've hardly come much further today with even the best that one might find on MTV, and even when we find it it's all but drowned out with loud, flashy, inappropriately sexualized imagery that one can hardly blame young people who never even hear of worthwhile educational content being broadcast on MTV -- assuming of course they have cable, which many people don't.

Kind of makes one wonder if efforts like the "Dawn" and "Alex" docudramas -- and advocacy with similar respect for the significance of minors' understanding of these issues -- had been kept up if we'd be in the predicament we're in now with Title X funding, with so little sympathy for the impact of funding cuts on access for minors and uninsured people to reproductive health care services -- and the gateway that can serve to other essential services, both medical, social, and legal services -- especially for young people, huh?

Well, we might still be fighting for increased funding for Title X, but eliminating it entirely might be less likely, and yes, I think we might be asking a lot more intelligent questions of young people, even of teen pop stars, about access to health care, social services, and legal services -- and yes, including Justin's perspective on the issues.

Posted by: southern students for choice-athens | Feb 23, 2011 8:48:31 AM

Post a comment