I stumbled across this meme over at Tumblr tonight.
For context, the Bieber quote comes from a February 2011 interview with Rolling Stone, just before Bieber’s seventeenth birthday. He was a kid who instead of figuring out what he really believed and going through the normal teenage process of growing into an adult, was jetting around the world as a teenage music icon. The students in my college ethics class often can’t do any better. I’m talking about people who typically have nearly five years on the Bieb and who have had significantly more time to think through what they believe, if they’re inclined to do so, and who certainly have been exposed to at least two essays looking at the ethical issues at play in this issue. Quite often they’re coming from a place of naivete and privilege.
To be clear: I disagree with them. And him. But I do understand where they’re coming from: a conviction that every human life (meaning, unique life of the human species) is good, is worth protecting and nurturing. And rape throws a monkey wrench in that approach because it’s viscerally unpleasant to think of a raped woman having to go through nine months of her rapist’s offspring growing within her, getting attached to it at some leve, and then either raising it or handing it off to someone else for adoption. Faced with that, it’s natural enough to want to comfort yourself, tell yourself that even good can come out of rape, that it’s not really that bad. It’s also philosophically immature, I think, because you’re comforting yourself rather than facing the implications of your views. I think women who choose to continue pregnancies under these conditions should be supported in that decision, but I also think that women who are raped should absolutely be offered the morning-after pill and shouldn’t face any guilt or condemnation for taking it. But at the same time, I can definitely see why a seventeen-year-old kid, coming out of the evangelical culture and as the child of an unmarried mother himself, I can see how he would come to this idea that every child is a blessing even those conceived in bad circumstances.
Which is actually what he was saying. The context from the Rolling Stone article:
Other highlights from the story:
- The Canadian-born Bieber never plans on becoming an American citizen. “You guys are evil,” he jokes. “Canada’s the best country in the world.” He adds, “We go to the doctor and we don’t need to worry about paying him, but here, your whole life, you’re broke because of medical bills. My bodyguard’s baby was premature, and now he has to pay for it. In Canada, if your baby’s premature, he stays in the hospital as long as he needs to, and then you go home.”
- He isn’t sure what political party he’d support if he was old enough to vote. “I’m not sure about the parties,” Bieber says. “But whatever they have in Korea, that’s bad.” He does have a solid opinion on abortion. “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. [emphasis mine]
This is standard, basic evangelicalese. Everything happens for a reason, God can make good out of everything going on in your life, and you don’t sin [have an abortion] simply because you’ve been sinned against – you trust in God. I’ve been on the receiving end of this kind of rhetoric enough to know how it can be used to minimize the often unbearable toughness, badness, evilness of the situations people are in. And that’s not okay. But it’s also a response to a very intricate philosophical problem: how can you believe in God and still believe horrific things like rape, including pregnancy stemming from rape, can occur? You ask a theologian about that. You ask a philosopher. You don’t ask a not-quite-seventeen rock star if you want to do anything more than make him look dumb.
And you really don’t juxtapose that against a quote telling girls and women to confront their attackers. (Which, practically speaking, may not actually be a particularly safe course of action.) The juxtaposition makes it sound like Bieber is saying girls are wearing too high of skirts or getting drunk or hanging out on the wrong neighborhoods, and that’s why they’re getting rape. Which isn’t what Bieber was saying at all.
I don’t know why this meme bothered me so much. It’s not like I particularly like Justin Bieber, and I certainly don’t agree with his views here. I guess I just get frustrated with the way we misquote people and even the way we expect celebrities to have more enlightened views than the rest of us. I sympathize with anyone asked tough questions and expected to give right answers, when professional scholars can’t often agree on those right answers (in the sense of being correct), and politicians need a consultant team to help them figure out how not to drive off 51% of the population. I disagree with Bieber, but I also kind of empathize with him.