The Sneaky Misogyny and Homophobia of #cutforbieber

[TRIGGER WARNING FOR SELF-INJURY]

For every awesome thing the Internet does, you can almost guarantee that ten truly horrific things will pop up to cancel your renewed faith in humanity. As much as the online world can be a haven for some, it can be a hell for others, as we’ve seen in numerous accounts of cyberbullying and the like. Currently, the #cutforbieber drama has my full attention, and not just because of my fascination with Internet culture or my interest in mental health. It’s because #cutforbieber speaks to me as a lesson in misogyny, homophobia, and the Internet.

Earlier this week, #cutforbieber started trending on Twitter and Instagram. Pictures with this tag featured graphic images of self-injury, mostly cutting, and pleas to pop star Twitter bird logo.Justin Bieber to “stop” and “don’t make me do this anymore.” Trust me when I say that you don’t want to see these images, as they are quite disturbing to behold. When the tag first gained popularity, I (and many others) were under the impression that the fans were injuring themselves as a ploy to get Justin Bieber to stop smoking pot. For legions of youth who have been told that recreational drug use is the worst thing anyone can ever do, one imagines this could be rather distressing for them.  As it turns out, the entire show was simply a cruel “prank” by online behemoth 4chan to get teen and pre-teen girls (and boys, for that matter) to injure themselves, presumably for having the gall to be a fan of an extremely popular singer. Apparently that’s hilarious.

There’s an underlying current in the #cutforbieber incident of misogyny and homophobia that isn’t immediately obvious. When I first read about it, I was upset for reasons that I couldn’t immediately place. It wasn’t just the pictures that, as someone who has struggled with self injury for most of my life, made me angry. It wasn’t just the meanness of the Internet; after all, I’m kind of used to that. It was the sneaky, vile misogyny steeped in homophobia that truly angered me. 4chan is seen as a mostly male entity. It isn’t, from what I know, a place where women venture, probably because it’s positioned itself as the He-Man Woman-Hater’s Club of the deepest and darkest recesses of the Internet. And at some point, someone at 4chan thought it would be just the best thing ever if they could get a bunch of dumb little girls to slice up their bodies. Most of the pictures from #cutforbieber are a hoax. They’re photoshopped or they’re stolen and appropriated from the accounts of real people with real issues. They were, however, stolen with the goal of producing real results from real fans who are really cutting. If a hypermasculine entity tricking a fanbase of primarily girls into mutilating themselves isn’t misogyny in action, I don’t know what is.

One might say that 4chan did this because they hate that so many people are so in love with a guy who produces generic, bland pop music. It’s not unreasonable to roll your eyes at the 12-year-olds blaring “Boyfriend” and swooning over pictures of Biebs. They’re kids, and they have reliably superficial taste in music because they’re kids. I shudder to think of how much I loved the Backstreet Boys at 11, but I can’t imagine doing anything but laughing and shaking my head at 11-year-old me. This incident is more than just a disdain for music that some people think is inferior. It’s a way of lashing out at a guy who isn’t the most masculine in appearance yet still has girls pining for him, a hypermasculine response to a perceived threat. Compounding the issue is the homophobia surrounding Bieber, who according to multiple asshats “looks gay” and is just so horrifically girly that surely he must be a femme gay dude, which is obviously totally insulting and the worst thing in the world. If there’s one thing entitled, misogynist types hate, it’s someone who doesn’t fit their social gender constructions.

This is just the latest and most disturbing incident in Internet misogyny, but it won’t be remembered that way. It will be remembered in the context of typical, if extreme, cyberbullying. Cyberbullying itself is often rooted in misogyny and homophobia, though it takes a backseat to parenting criticism, school administration, and talk about growing a thicker skin. When we have people killing themselves because they’re being slut-shamed or threatened because of their queerness, these issues can’t afford to sit in the back. Unfortunately, we as a society don’t like to dig that deep. It makes us uncomfortable and shakes the norm. But it needs to be done, or things like this will keep happening. Worse yet, we’ll keep shrugging them off.

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Elfity

Elfity, so named for her tendency to be a bit uppity and her elf-like appearance, is a graduate student and professional Scary Feminist of Rage. She has a propensity for social justice, cheese, and Doctor Who. Favorite activities include making strange noises, napping with puppies and/or kitties, and engaging in political and philosophical debates.

3 thoughts on “The Sneaky Misogyny and Homophobia of #cutforbieber”

  1. I hadn’t thought of this incident in quite these terms, but my goodness, great article, Elfity. The hatred towards some people and their fans is one thing, but to then let it grow into a desire to see those people being hurt? I just can’t (and have no desire to) understand why people feel that’s acceptable, or in any way amusing.

  2. If I remember correctly, wasn’t there some bullshit some time ago with fake news stories that Justin Bieber had cancer and a few young girls immediately shaved their heads to send support? Something like that, I know if I go looking for the info I’ll get sidetracked and never actually post this.

    My point is, well about the same as yours. What the fuck is wrong with people that they can’t let people like who they like? How much of a mindless asshole do you have to be to think getting young girls to cut themselves (or shave their heads) is hilarious? 4chan truly is the septic tank of the universe.

    But something else that really bothers the fuck out of me: “don’t make me do this any more.” Just … that is so fucking wrong, to pin that kind of responsibility on someone — anyone — who is just minding his own business. Whether it was 4chan’s cockroaches or actual fans, that was crossing another line, one that speaks volumes about what being a celebrity means in this day and age.

    The whole thing is fucking gross and awful. Burn that place down and sow the ground with salt.

  3. I read about this on ONTD and indeed it was written off as “4Chan are horrible neck beards, Justin Bieber fans (and their parents) should know better”.

    I honestly believe most people don’t even think about it. If both the big bad and stupidly naive are far from your reach and influence, you won’t have to do something, as you say. I also think that ‘daily’ society (ie outside of the internet and its users) still are getting used to the idea of acknowledging cyberbullying as a serious problem. This would simply overwhelm them.

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