Possibilities

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FEBRUARY 8, 2011 12:59PM

Why guys love to hate Justin Bieber

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Kudos to Justin Bieber for appearing in a Best Buy Super Bowl commercial making fun of himself. When Ozzy Ozbourne looks at the Justin Bieber in his real guise he asks, “What’s a Bieber?” Bieber, in cognito looking scruffy with a beard answers,“I don’t know, kinda looks like a girl.”

Why do guys love to hate Justin Bieber. Why do they care if he “kinda looks like a girl.”

I call it the Barney syndrome. One day your preschoolers are singing along with Barney. In a blink of an eye they are coming home singing, “Joy to the world, Barney's dead. We bar-be-cued his head!”  It’s a declaration of independence: “I’m not four, some itty-bitty little baby! I’m five and ‘So. Over. Barney.’ ” Now my eighth graders turn to their third grade brother and say, “I can’t believe you like Legos.” In fact, they’re pretty sure they were never in third grade.

So what does this have to do with Justin Bieber? Guys hate that he’s popular when he doesn’t fit into the gender norm of male and macho. His songs aren’t peppered with “fuck” and “bitch”, for one. Then, he has a high voice and is thin and swings his hair. Face it, he is pretty. On the puberty scale he's slower than the norm. In they're mind this proves he's gay. (Had they seen his interviews and how he serenades his fans you'd know he's definitely into women, and he's maturing nicely for that matter.)

What it boils down to is, by saying they hate Justin Bieber, when they say he is a girl, they’re proclaiming: “I am not thin and pretty with a high voice,” which in their mind means, “I’m macho and I’m not gay. I fit in.” In our culture it is extremely important for young people, especially guys, to not appear to be gay. In a New York Times magazine article “Coming Out in Middle School” Benoit Denizit-Lewis reports that more and more gay and lesbian students are being accepted in middle school as long as they are “perceived as conforming to adolescent gender norms.” You can be gay as long as you don’t look it. Why that’s true, why our predominant culture so angrily rejects anything other than binary gender roles is another whole research project.

So when my eighth grade boys sneer at their sixth grade sister and ask, “How can you like Justin Bieber?” I tell them, “I’m glad you made that clear to me that you are macho and don’t at all appear to be gay because if you hadn’t told me you hated Justin Bieber, I wouldn’t have been clear on that.” They just roll their eyes. They are ‘So. Not. Their mom.’

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