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Justin Bieber's Big Reveal: America Still Loves to Punish Women

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 20/10/2015 David Michael Conner
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Pun intended: The big news this week was Justin Bieber's dick. You've read about it. You've seen it on the news. Justin Bieber's dick is an inevitable point of discussion, so much so that his father now has gained fame by virtually high-fiving his son on Twitter for inadvertently flashing his goods to the world. "What do you feed that thing? #proud daddy," Jeremy Bieber tweeted at his son while the onlooking world vomited, perhaps in the greatest collective gurgitation throughout human history.
Justin Bieber's dick is a great unifier: I'm seeing it, no surprise, celebrated in the LGBT media, and equally faux-awkwardly discussed by standard news outlets. The puns come so easily that we are all obligated to lead with them, if only to get them out of the way.
Within the past week, there have been multiple mass shootings on college and university campuses. Vladimir Putin has joined the United States in our efforts to pockmark the lands of the Middle East and Central Europe with explosives. In April, the New York Times reported that the U.S. had "carried out over 400 drone strikes in Pakistan" since 2004. When I read such things, I hear in my mind not "carried out drone strikes" but "terrorized countless regular people in their home towns," which immediately identifies me as a lefty liberal. Guilty as charged. Lives are being devastated as I write this, but these events aren't the big news: the big news is a certain mop-headed Canadian pop star's penis size.
I have a hard time watching the news because of the constant barrage of violence. So, partially out of habit and partially to get a less graphic and (occasionally) more diverse array of perspectives on current events, I get news online and watch more panel-discussion shows than straightforward television news reporting. The TV news today amounts to the most graphically violent information available being recited while the most graphically violent stock footage available is cycled through, leaving viewers terrified of everything from anyone not born within our borders to today's greatest force of evil, gluten.
What does this have to do with Justin Bieber's dick, you ask? Well, I always feel a need to qualify why I watch The View, as it has evolved and in most ways devolved over the years. Still, I watch it nearly every day and I gather a lot of perspective from listening to the all-women hosts discuss their perspectives on current events.
I am not a woman, and so with what follows, I recognize that I am venturing into dangerous territory by criticizing what I've observed to be common among some women. My intention isn't to antagonize, but simply to relay what I witness regularly. I hope it will be taken in that spirit.
A while ago, the women of The View dedicated a lengthy (pun required), lighthearted discussion to Justin Bieber's penis. A couple of the hosts briefly suggested, as is required, that Bieber's privacy was invaded. A couple, including Celebrity Millennial Raven-Symone, suggested that Bieber should expect to have his junk broadcast worldwide via a telephoto lens if he is going to have the nerve to walk around naked in an isolated South Pacific bungalow, simply by virtue of his fame. Fine, OK, whatever. Most of the discussion, though, really was a jaunty, giddy celebration of Bieber's schlong. One co-host said she remembers meeting a young Bieber on the show when he sang "Baby, Baby, Oh," and now all she sees is "Oh, baby, oh baby!"
Ha ha. So clever -- do you see what she did there?
What no one discussed was Bieber's past antics, which have ranged from urinating in the middle of a crowded restaurant, acting like an entitled a-hole while being interrogated by police and generally living up to a "bad boy" image that is particularly useful in transitioning a Disney-friendly child star into adulthood in the public's eye. Perhaps the accidental worldwide broadcasting of his genitalia will be the final step in this transition, and he will be able to act a bit more like a decent human being without having to prove his product is not only for tweens.
What is discussed daily, everywhere, from my Facebook and Twitter feeds to every news broadcast in the world it seems, is Kardashian. Any Kardashian will do, as long as the name comes up, and the discussions almost always, after all these years, lead back to Kim, the one who started it all oh so infamously by starring in a private recording of sex acts that, as with "that thing," as Jeremy Bieber so paternally describes his son's appendage, is now within the public domain.
So when the Kardashians are mentioned (daily, everywhere), they are almost inevitably described as "talentless" (the whole family), and in many of these discussions, it all comes back to placing blame on Kim Kardashian, that horrible, talentless, disgusting, monstrous whore of a woman who is known only because she had sex and she has a fat ass. Why are we even discussing this slut?
The paragraph above doesn't relay my thoughts: it paraphrases what the women of The View typically say when any Kardashian/Jenner name comes up, and also what most of the women I know say when one of those names comes up. This is important.
Bieber has been, truly, celebrated -- and with some sympathy for the invasion of his privacy -- all week because of his dick.
Kim Kardashian, and every single person who shares her name or likeness, has been truly vilified -- oftentimes, if not most of the time, by women -- for having had sex with her boyfriend in 2003. Even many who don't buy into the idea that Kardashian masterminded a public release of the tapes in order to become The Most Famous Woman In The World Who Would One Day Break The Internet (personally, I don't get the indication that she's that much of a visionary) suggest that she can't be very bright simply by virtue of having participated in a recording of her intimate encounters with her boyfriend.
It's 2003, and we still haven't forgiven Kim Kardashian, her mother or her sisters, for Kim's atrocious human sexuality. Several days after Bieber's dick announced itself to the world, we already know that he will for the rest of his life be the beneficiary of virtual high-fives from, well, everyone, with passing mentions of his apparent abundance.
I set these two individuals in opposition because Bieber really has displayed some vile behaviors, publicly, that should be difficult to forget if not forgive -- but they've only worked in the favor of his evolution to adult because he is, after all, a man. Kim Kardashian, on the other hand, will always be known as a slut, no matter what she does or says through the rest of her life.
Have you seen Monica Lewinsky's remarkable TED Talk on "The Price of Shame"? If not, watch it. You must watch it. The Price of Shame applies not only to Kim Kardashian, but almost every other woman. Let's face it: we'll never forgive her, or Lindsay Lohan, for intentionally and accidentally behaving similarly to the way Bieber has, just as Lewinsky will never be anything but... well, you know, because it's how you think of her, isn't it? Whatever you think of any of these women, if you're a woman, you should be very uncomfortable with their singularly sex-oriented cultural identities. I'm not saying you should blame them; I'm saying you should be careful what you say about them.
Lewinsky is more articulate than many, and impressively balanced given the grinder she was fed through in the aftermath of her scandal. If you can admit it to yourself, Kardashian is, as well; I've watched her discuss her scandal and what she knows to be others' opinions of her, and she certainly has weathered the storm better than I would have in a similar situation. But then, I am a guy, and I wasn't brought up to expect that any expression of sexuality can and will be used against me in the public court of opinion and tragically in many cases in courts of law, as well.
I am writing this primarily for women, and also for gay men (since, as a gay man, I feel I can speak for at least some of us), and it's a plea. I don't love Kim Kardashian; I don't know her or have any investment in her, although I think what she's done with her career has been harmless at worst, and at best has had the positive side effect (through no effort of her own) of expanding what's acceptable for women's body types among the general public and particularly among younger women. This isn't about defending Kim Kardashian, but invoking her persona is important to making this point, and in this point, I am speaking directly to the women of The View and to many of the women I know.
The point is: our culture is more latently anti-woman than we recognize; ironically, our population is more than 50 percent women. That's my way of easing into a statement that I am certain will get me a lot of lectures about staying in my lane, but which I just feel compelled to say: In order for women to be respected in our society, and women deserve respect, women need to do a better job of respecting women. Truly. If Kim Kardashian annoys you, ignore her; don't say, explicitly or through implication, that she's a "slut" who doesn't deserve her perceived success. Saying that is undermining your own interests; it's no different than blue-collar workers voting against their own interests because they identify with the rhetoric of a particular political party. Don't make Monica Lewinsky blowjob jokes. Don't hold it against Hillary Clinton (I know many women who do, incredibly, even to this day.) that she didn't walk out on Bill Clinton and the White House when she found out he had had an affair.
And please, please, please, if you are a woman, be very conscious of ever uttering any version of "women are so difficult to work with!" in your workplace. Literally every single woman I've worked with, and many with whom I don't work, has said something like this to me. "Women are the worst." "Women are catty." "Women are too dramatic in an office." "Too many women make it impossible to get anything done." Do I have any right to give advice to women overall? I probably don't. My heart sinks into my stomach, though, when I hear women say this because -- something to think about -- men take women as the authorities on women, and when women consistently say that women are "the worst" and "catty" and "gossipy" and criticize their attire for being too sexually appealing, well, you're giving men all the excuses they need to think of women in these terms.
Almost all my friends are women, and a few are gay men, and I don't have any friends who I don't truly respect and love for their intelligence, humor, integrity, courage and overall goodness. Men and women are equal, or have the potential and capacity to be equal, in every single way (except giving birth -- women will retain the upper hand on this arduous and admirable job at least for the foreseeable future). So women need to be portrayed that way, extending even to Kim Kardashian and any other successful person who happens to be the norm, not the exception, by virtue of being a sexual being.
Let's let this unremarkable Justin Bieber incident be a lesson to everyone that one of the reasons for gender inequality is that we view and discuss men and women on unequal terms. Women have made advancements in the workplace, but in all matters related to the bedroom, the cultural norm is to celebrate manhood -- both literally and figuratively -- while demonizing and diminishing women for their sexuality. Yes, we have Madonna, Rihanna and some other public figures who aren't ashamed of their sexuality, but can we take a moment to acknowledge that they've been lionized for doing so because they are exceptions to the rule, and not because they represent our common interpretation of what's normal?
Just think about it. Monica Lewinski "had sexual relations" with a man when she was young and presumably naive nearly 20 years ago, and every single time you and I see her name, all we think is "blow job" or "blue dress." That's it. That's her entire identity as far as most of us are concerned, whether or not we want it to be. Kim Kardashian's then-boyfriend recorded a single sexual encounter over a decade ago and she still wears the scarlet letter and despite having given a number of thoughtful and carefully worded interviews, she exists publicly exclusively as a sexual object: a hollow fascination who, it is usually implied, is as dumb as a pumice foot scrubber. These are complete, complex human beings whose whole existence has been simmered down to a couple of activities that all of us have done -- and which fortunately for most of us, haven't turned any of us into Hester Prynne. You can resent Kardashian for having capitalized on her infamy and appearance if you want to be envious of someone. That's human nature for many. Just don't say she doesn't deserve it because she had sex. I hate to break it to everyone who is reading this, but your mother had sex, and so did her mother and her mother before her. That's sort of how we all got here, denial of women's rights to be sexual beings withstanding.
As for Bieber... I don't care about his dick. Actions speak louder than dick pics (something gay men tend to learn more and more as we get older), and all in all, anatomy has nothing to do with one's character. He's been a little jerk throughout much of his young adulthood, and he has a lot of amends to make for his words and actions before I'll stop thinking of him as a total prat. It seems everyone else has let all that baggage fall away as they swoon over his naked splendor. Have at it, but learn something from that reaction and compare it to the way you think about women whose private bits have been publicly displayed.
A side-by-side comparison of how his photos have been received -- that is to say with great admiration and appreciation, even by the women of The View, whose job it is to speak for women, and even as they consistently vilify all Kardashians for one woman's one-time sex act, is telling. And the story it tells is that despite advancements in the workplace, American culture -- including the half who are women -- still resent women's sexuality and, given any opportunity, will hold it against them until the day they die, whereas men become heroes when they express theirs. I don't understand this collective and cruel behavior, but I see it clearly every single day. Fortunately the ones who have the power to stop it are the slight majority: there are more women in this country than there are men.
My challenge to all of us, but especially to women, and also to gay men who so often have close friendships with women (speaking for myself, yes, acknowledging this is a stereotype) is this: start with Monica Lewinsky and any member of the Kardashian/Jenner family. When people make jokes about them, shut it down. Maybe learn a little about them, from their own mouths; I think you'd be surprised to find that all of us, including the infamous, have more in common than not, and these women are not living blow-up dolls. They're savvier than most of us in many ways if only because they've been crucified and have had to develop incredible personal fortitude. Stop hating them. Stop letting others hate them. And for God's sake, realize what you're saying and conveying when you say that "women are hard to work with." You may believe that's true, but like a poor southern gas station attendant voting to support the Koch Brothers' favorite political puppet, saying that is casting a vote against your own interests, fueling the very system that is working against your interests.
Now you may resume talking about Justin Bieber's big dick. Just know that your words have the power to influence the inflation of an already overblown ego, or to deflate the interests of an entire gender. Choose wisely.

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