I Don’t Care About Justin Bieber (But Maybe I Should)

Is JBiebs still figuring himself out, or is he actually a problematic guy?

Katherine Singh
Justin Bieber and Hailey Baldwin hold hands as they exit a building
Photo: Getty Images

It’s turning in to the summer of the Biebs, but maybe not for the right reasons. On July 1, choreographer Emma Portner called out the singer for using his platform to harm other female collaborators, citing her own experience with the Biebs.

This accusation is just one of many instances of bad behaviour by the Canadian singer. And while Bieber may sing about not caring, we definitely should—at least about his behaviour, because it’s problematic AF. Here’s why.

He’s not great to women he’s *not* dating

Taking to Instagram stories on July 1, Portner detailed her experience working with the Biebs on his 2016 Purpose world tour. According to the choreographer, she made less than minimum wage for the countless hours she worked with the singer, claiming that she couldn’t afford to eat and was forced to sweep studio floors for extra money. “I regret working under your name,” Portner shared on her story. “I gave your universe my naive body, creativity, time, and effort… For content that you made millions off of. While I made zilch… Barely anything. Less than minimum wage for the hours I invested.”

“The way you degrade women is an abomination,” she continued.

Portner’s allegations came on the heels of some other not-so-great news for the Biebs, after he was accused of bullying Taylor Swift in the fallout between Scooter Braun and Tswift. In a Tumblr post detailing her tiff with Braun, Swift accused the famous manager of urging artists like Justin Bieber and Kanye West to direct vitriol at her. Swift pointed to a 2016 Instagram photo of Bieber, Braun and West, posted by Bieber to his Instagram and captioned: “Taylor Swift what up.”

In response to her post, Bieber issued a non-apology, calling Swift out for blasting someone he cares about and alleging that the singer posted the blog as a means to garner sympathy and have her fans bully Braun. Bieber also referenced the pairs “differences, hurts [and] frustrations.”

View this post on Instagram

Hey Taylor. First of all i would like to apologize for posting that hurtful instagram post, at the time i thought it was funny but looking back it was distasteful and insensitive.. I have to be honest though it was my caption and post that I screenshoted of scooter and Kanye that said “taylor swift what up” he didnt have anything to do with it and it wasnt even a part of the conversation in all actuality he was the person who told me not to joke like that.. Scooter has had your back since the days you graciously let me open up for you.! As the years have passed we haven’t crossed paths and gotten to communicate our differences, hurts or frustrations. So for you to take it to social media and get people to hate on scooter isn’t fair. What were you trying to accomplish by posting that blog? seems to me like it was to get sympathy u also knew that in posting that your fans would go and bully scooter. Anyway, One thing i know is both scooter and i love you. I feel like the only way to resolve conflict is through communication. So banter back and fourth online i dont believe solves anything. I’m sure Scooter and i would love to talk to you and resolve any conflict, pain or or any feelings that need to be addressed. Neither scooter or i have anything negative to say about you we truly want the best for you. I usually don’t rebuttal things like this but when you try and deface someone i loves character thats crossing a line..

A post shared by Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) on

While the Biebs may have thought his post was commendable, if anything, it just drew further attention to the fact that he’s been a bully to several women throughout his life: Taylor, Emma Portner and even his former love, Selena Gomez.

He let Beliebers trash Selena Gomez

Speaking of Selena… Although their relationship has officially ended with his September marriage to Mrs. Bieber, the longtime on-and-off relationship between Bieber and Selena Gomez has been fodder for magazines and fans since they first started dating in 2011. And while their relationship status may changed frequently over the ensuing years, one thing that remained constant is the barrage of hate towards Gomez by Beliebers.

When photos of the pair first emerged on vacay in Hawaii in 2011, the Revival singer and actor was hit with some pretty horrible backlash online.  At the time, fans of Bieber tweeted insults and threats at the singer’s teenage girlfriend, including: “Dear Selena Gomez. I hate you more than life. Go jump off a cliff. K (OK)?” and  “Stay away from Justin pedophile. I’m gonna kill ya in the night underneath your smelly bed.”

And that type of vitriol continued throughout their relationship, going largely unaddressed by Bieber himself. Which is kind of awful. By failing to address the unfair treatment of Gomez, Bieber is essentially condoning it, or at least letting it slide.

That whole Chris Brown thing

Less than a week before the release of his latest song, the Biebs took to Instagram to share a post in celebration of singer Chris Brown. “Everyone wants to wait til people die To give them the credit they deserve,” the singer wrote. “I’m calling it now when CB passes away after a long full life, you will miss what you had in front of you the whole time … trust me watch you will see. the people who have over looked this mans talent because of a mistake he made…you need to reevaluate! Love you @chrisbrownofficial.” The caption was posted alongside an image of Michael Jackson and Tupac, pretty much implying that Brown was on the level of this “legendary equation.”

And I just have to say: Justin, WTF are you talking about?

ICYMI,  that “mistake” the Biebs so flippantly refers to? That was Brown’s now infamous February 2009 assault of then-girlfriend Rihanna after a pre-Grammy’s party. Brown pled guilty and was sentenced to five years of probation and 1,400 hours of community service for the crime, but his career—and reputation in the music industry—has largely gone unscathed.

In response, fans of the Biebs replied to his post, commenting:

“I’ve loved u since I was a KID Justin but there is NO justification for beating someone to near death… I’m sorry but it’s true,” one fan wrote.

Another commented, “Most of your fans are girls/women and we are scared to death of men like CB. And to see someone like you stepping up to praise him is very disappointing… It’s really dangerous to praise him regardless of how talented you genuinely think he is. It wasn’t just ‘one mistake.’ It’s just so much more than that.”

And they’re right. Brown has a pretty contentious and inarguably problematic history. In addition to his physical assault on Rihanna, the singer has been accused of sexual assault by numerous women, and had a restraining order filed against him after allegedly threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend Karrueche Tran. Most recently, the rapper was arrested in Paris in January 2019 after a woman accused him and two other men of rape. He was later released and no charges were made. So, Brown’s behaviour *is* much more than a one-time mistake: it’s a pattern.

And FYI, Bieber knows his comment was rotten. Because after receiving backlash for his post on social media, Bieber removed the phrase “because of a mistake he made” from his Instagram caption. But before we go thinking lessons have been learned, the rest of the post remains the same.

In addition? In this whole CB debacle, many have largely overlooked that the Biebs not only supported one problematic man—but two. Unless you’ve been living in a bubble, WHY would you ever want to associate yourself with Michael Jackson after the most recent 2019 documentary Leaving Neverland provided the strong evidence that he was a child predator and sexual abuser? Really, really bad choice, Biebs.

His history of bad behaviour is hard to forget

And the thing is that, while we’d love to give JBiebs the benefit of the doubt, his history of less-than-desirable behaviour is hard to overlook.

Listen, we’ve all done our share of stupid stuff while growing up—and luckily for many of us, we didn’t have to do it in the public eye. Since coming onto the scene, Bieber has gone from a floppy-haired Stratford, Ont. native to teeny-bopper, hoodie-wearing heartthrob, to the millennial answer to Brad Pitt, to a church-going, slipper-wearing married man. But he didn’t get to where he is now without a few bumps along the way.

Between 2013 and 2017, it seemed like the golden-boy pop prince of Canada was on a *bit* of a downward spiral after several run-ins with the law (including a smiling mugshot for a DUI in Miami), an incident in which he peed in a janitor’s bucket whilst yelling “F-ck Bill Clinton,” and literally being banned from performing in China in 2017 (putting him among other celebs like Katy Perry, Gigi Hadid and Lady Gaga).

Further incidents included groping fans, videos of the star as a teen using racist language, and—in 2016—the singer was accused of punching a fan in Barcelona. Oh, and he also got dreadlocks.

It was *a lot* to take in. In many ways, it’s easy to brush these indiscretions off—for both the singer and his fans. Hey, he’s young and famous! He’s learning! Who among us hasn’t peed in an industrial mop bucket? (Me, for one.) And I can appreciate that Bieber was young when many of these incidents occurred; but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t immediately think back to them when I saw his recent post about Brown, because TBH it just seems like the evolution of seriously problematic behaviour.

Are we being too harsh?

Maybe? But also, maybe not. The fact remains that Bieber isn’t some misguided teen anymore. As someone firmly cemented in their mid 20s, Bieber is way past the point of being able to brush off his bad comments and indiscretions as the result of a kid trying to find his way. And the thing is, his recent comments and indiscretions mean something. This isn’t just a case of being disrespectful and peeing in public places or being kind of a sh-tty boyfriend. Saying that domestic violence or someone beating up their partner is simply a “mistake” is not only incorrect, but extremely harmful. It not only trivializes the experience of abuse survivors, but it diminishes the onus on abusers, downplaying the severity of their actions and making room for abusive people—like Chris Brown—to continue being abusive.

And they allow his fans to react the same way. We saw it with their mirrored treatment of Gomez—to be fair to Bieber, fandoms are a crazy beast of their own—and we see it in the comments on the Biebs’ post about Brown, with fans commenting in support of Brown, calling out Rihanna, saying the assault was inevitable and saying Brown has atoned for his past (he hasn’t). While Bieber may not have signed on the dotted line to be a role model or someone that hordes of people take after—that’s part of his job.

With great power comes great responsibility; a concept that many of our faves have struggled with. And while it may not necessarily be fair, when it comes to important issues like domestic abuse, what celebs say becomes even more important.

Related:

Why 2019 Is the Year I’m Over Drake
Let’s Not Make Justin and Selena 2018’s Brad and Jen, OK?
Dear Justin Bieber, Let’s Never Celebrate April Fools’ Day Again

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