Stop Saying a Grown Woman Can “Steal” a Man From Another Grown Woman

Newsflash: adults make their own decisions and people are not objects

Justin and Hailey Bieber out in LA after Hailey's episode of Call Her Daddy premiered
Justin and Hailey Bieber out in LA after Hailey's episode of Call Her Daddy premiered
Bellocqimages/Bauer-Griffin via Getty

Justin Bieber, his wife Hailey Bieber and Call Her Daddy podcast host Alex Cooper are 28, 25, and 28, respectively. Each, then, are well into their adult years, with the Biebers moreover having been married for the past four. Yet, when discussing their relationship on a recent episode of Call Her Daddy featuring Hailey, the conversation centered on a truly juvenile concept: whether or not she “stole” her husband from his previous ex-girlfriend, Selena Gomez. 

This conversation has since yielded dozens of pop culture headlines about how Hailey has finally put the theory “to rest,” that Hailey “denies” she took Justin from Selena while they were dating. Specifically, Hailey said on the pod, which aired on September 28th, that though Justin Bieber dated Selena and Hailey in short succession, there was never a period of overlap where Hailey was seeing Justin while he was still involved with Selena. “It’s not my character to mess with someone’s relationship,” she said. However, Hailey claims to have been the subject of online harassment because of the accusation. “A lot of the hate and the perpetuation comes from like, ‘Oh, you stole [Justin],” she continued. “And I guess maybe that just comes from the fact that they wished he had ended up with somebody else.”

All of it sounds like high school drama, and presumably, many of those who actually care about this gossip may well be of that demographic. But nevertheless, it perpetuates an idea that people cling onto well after their teen years have passed — that is, that one person can be “stolen” from another. 

The idea of stealing someone’s partner relies on a belief that the person being stolen isn’t really much of a person at all. They are instead an object, void of their own volition, able to be possessed and transferred from one owner to the next. And perhaps, for the person who has been left by their partner for another person, this is a more comforting frame of mind to have. It’s easier to think that something was wrongfully taken from you than the reality that your partner actually just wanted to be with someone else. For diehard fans of Selena, the idea of Hailey having stolen their favorite celebrity’s boyfriend might be a comfort, just the same. 

It nevertheless follows a similar attitude we’ve seen in recent weeks toward women like Sumner Stroh, who allegedly had an affair with Adam Levine, and even the suspected woman with whom former Try Guys member Ned Fulmer cheated. In all three scenarios, there remains a desire to blame the women involved rather than the men who ultimately made the decision to leave or cheat on their original partner. In the case of Justin Bieber, it appears as though there may have been no wrongdoing at all, but even so, the discourse does not center upon him as an agent in his own relationships. He, like any other person, is not a thing that can be taken. When someone leaves one relationship to enter another, it can certainly feel like a loss. That doesn’t mean it’s theft. 

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