FREE BRITNEY: IT’S ABOUT TIME SOCIETY STOPS FAILING WOMEN
After being under a conservatorship for over a decade now, it seems like Britney Spears is finally getting to reclaim her freedom. Last September 29 in the US, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny suspended Jamie Spears’ from his role as the conservator of Britney’s estate.
An absolute pop icon, Britney Spears has been a household name ever since the early 2000s. Britney started as a child star being part of Disney’s The All New Mickey Mouse Club along with other cast members who will also go on to become pop sensations.
She rose to superstardom at the age of 16 with the release of “…Baby One More Time.” Given her charm, her talent, and her work ethic, it is no surprise that she was able to sustain the success of her breakout hit. However, being one of the biggest names in the entertainment industry also means that the public’s keen eyes are on you.
The industry has been especially unkind to child stars and especially female child stars. There are issues of exploitation, treatment, and sexualization. Oftentimes, women are much more scrutinized and subject to society’s unforgiving standards.
Ever since “…Baby One More Time”, Britney has been criticized for being a questionable influence on the youth with the ‘suggestiveness’ of her songs and branding. There really is much to say about the sexualization of minors in the entertainment industry. However, the attitude back then especially showed how the blame for being too ‘provocative’ was frequently placed on the young stars themselves instead of the adults working behind the scenes managing them.
Already highly criticized and debated to be a ‘negative influence’, the media coverage around Britney takes a turn for the worst starting the year of 2007 when she had her badly covered public breakdown. Going through a divorce and fighting for the custody of her children all while being isolated and hounded by the paparazzi could all definitely take a huge toll on someone. However, instead of gaining sympathy and respect, she was further ridiculed and shamed.
The following year was when her father, Jamie Spears, would become her conservator (both of the person and of her estate) as they argued that she needed it due to her mental state. This was only meant to be a temporary conservatorship. Although, as we know by now, this would go on for much longer than what was originally stated.
During the hearing last June, Britney shared her testimony which was the first time she was able to talk about her experience under the conservatorship to the public. This arrangement truly robbed her of her agency. Decisions were being made for her because she supposedly needed the help but here was a woman who has worked relentlessly since being placed under a conservatorship. She has continued to make music, perform, go on TV and do tours. If this was truly for her best interests, why was she overworked? Why were her wishes regarding her health and relationships ignored? Why was she controlled to the point of being silenced?
Britney is Britney, she is not her father nor is she anyone else. She is a capable, talented, passionate and hardworking woman who deserves her agency which is hers and hers alone. It is encouraging how errors of the past and the way Britney was negatively framed by the media is being called out now. What the #FreeBritney movement has amounted to and the attention it has called to Britney’s plight as a whole is certainly a cause worthy of recognition.
In talking about Britney it is important to always do so with her best interests truly in mind. After all, this is her story to tell. Hopefully, that is what the media coverage around her prioritizes now. This movement and Britney’s current circumstance is not just another way to use her or profit off of her. Media producers and consumers alike need to do better.
As Marie-Claire Chappet has written in a review of the Framing Britney Spears documentary by The New York Times, “[t]his is the twisted reality of women in the spotlight, held to an impossible double standard, destined to forever be publicly mauled like Britney, never celebrated like Justin [Timberlake]. By the end you ask yourself, what is #FreeBritney really about? Should we be freeing her from her father, or from us?”
We as a society should stop failing Britney—we as a society should stop failing women.
Another hearing will be held on November 12 this year regarding the possible termination of the conservatorship as a whole.