Did Justin Bieber suggest that Hailey Baldwin is his property?
Love can make us do and say any number of vaguely embarrassing things, but some are suggesting that Justin Bieber’s gushy comment on fiancée Hailey Baldwin’s recent Instagram post is a “problematic throwback.”
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The comment in question was made on a glamorous picture Baldwin posted to the social media site that she captioned with the two hearts emoji. Bieber’s reaction: “Dat’s mine.”
But is the comment merely a sweet reference or does Bieber’s use of language, that implies Baldwin is something he owns, set a dangerous precedent?
“I think people are reading too much into it,” says Dr. Natasha Sharma, a relationship psychologist in Toronto. “It’s just reflective that they’re happy and exuberant.”
Sharma also points out that the comment could have been more negatively layered if the picture had been a full-body bikini shot — in that case, it could have been easy to see his comment as objectification. But as it’s simply a portrait, she thinks it indicates pride in his bride-to-be.
“If we heard someone say that at a party about their new fiancée, no one would read into it. But because of the permanence of social media, people can spend hours trying to interpret his comment,” she says.
While the majority of the reactions to Bieber’s comment were positive and indicated pleasure at seeing him gush over his fiancée, some experts say any backlash could be simply a case of context, or lack thereof.
“In [healthy] relationships, we have respect, equality, power-sharing and humour,” says Natasha Sandy, a Toronto-based registered psychotherapist. “This kind of language is understood in a very different context than abusive relationships where a person is truly treated like one’s property to do with as one pleases.”
Because our culture doesn’t “brim over” with respect for everyone, Bieber’s comment becomes something to debate.
“Dominant culture has much to learn about respect, and larger conversations about how we treat people is desperately needed,” Sandy says.
There’s also the concern that even when a word or comment comes from a loving or humorous place, its message can easily be subverted by others.
In the hit movie Mean Girls, Tina Fey plays a math teacher who tries to reason with her female teenage students that using derogatory language towards one another, even in jest, can normalize it and make it OK for others to use toward them. Namely, boys.
“[Some of these words] carry a lot of negative connotation. There’s no hidden meaning,” Sharma says. “When you throw toxic words around in jest, you don’t just normalize them but you also start to absorb the toxicity of those terms.”
However, she points out, “Dat’s mine” are semantic words that are reasonably neutral.
“I don’t think anyone believes that he thinks she’s his property.”
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