Britney Spears was born on 2nd December 1981, and most of us would have heard of her. We know her best as an American singer with a multitude of hit songs during the late 90s and early 2000s. More recently, fans highlighted the Free Britney movement due to a series of events that happened with the pop star.
The epitome of teen pop songs and dubbed the Princess of Pop, it seemed like Britney’s future was bright… until it was not.
Britney was placed under a conservatorship in early 2008 due to a multitude of personal struggles. Among some of them were her being constantly harassed by paparazzi, the death of a close aunt, multiple check-ins in drug rehabilitation facilities, and losing physical custody of her sons from the years 2006 – 2008. This conservatorship was led by her father, Jamie Spears, under California state law.
She was 26 years old.
What is a conservatorship?
A conservatorship, according to the laws of the United States, is the appointment of a guardian to handle the financial affairs and daily life of another person. A court may do so based on reasons such as being of old age, to a person deemed incapable of looking after themselves due to physical/mental factors.
In 2021, Britney will be 39 years old. She is still under the conservatorship, despite releasing multiple albums, going on tour, securing a Vegas residency and being a judge on The X Factor, among other work commitments. Though she has been sound enough to work for over a decade, she is still deemed incapable of handling her own money and life.
The term #FreeBritney has become a movement by her fans and friends since 201. This has been even more apparent when the documentary, Framing Britney Spears, highlighting her career and conservatorship, was released in February 2021. There have been allegations of abuse by the hands of her conservators, especially her father Jamie Spears, hence the need to Free Britney.
As the fight to end the conservatorship goes on, I feel that women should pay attention to the Free Britney movement, as it holds important lessons for all of us.
Why we should pay attention to the Free Britney movement
Britney has been in the public spotlight since she was a child. Various people in charge of her career formed and moulded her image. There were expectations for her to look and act a certain way because of this, and she was condemned when she didn’t comply.
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Britney’s current predicament seems to stem from a life where she had very little control of her own choices for decades. Her conservatorship has lasted almost 13 years. In that duration, her father Jamie Spears practically being the sole person in charge of her million-dollar estate.
She isn’t able to get married and have a baby, although she has expressed her desire to do so. It is ridiculous that a woman at 40 cannot make life decisions and be in charge of her own happiness.
Just like Britney, many women have had to battle unwanted expectations and pressures placed on them throughout their lives. For example, I personally was a tomboy as a child, and was told that I should be more feminine and dress a certain way.
There are other common societal pressures that us women may face. This includes the expectations to have a husband and kids, dressing modestly, behaving meekly and having the ‘right’ body shape.
Complying with these pressures without the ability to speak out or have a safe space can have a detrimental impact on one’s mental health. It could perhaps even cause a person to act out in the way Britney did in her mid-20s.
Free Britney and looking after our mental health
Life can get overwhelming at times. While juggling work, friends, family, a pandemic, we should also pencil in time to look after ourselves.
We should take the time to reset our mindsets and do things that will be helpful to our mental health. Whether that is meditation, reading a book, or even buying a punching bag to take your rage out on it, you need healthy outlets to maintain that balance.
Having negative feelings is normal, but it is important to express them in a healthy manner. It is also important to protect ourselves from the toxicity of pressures and demands that will drain us mentally.
The media and the world has hounded her and her actions constantly criticised. She may have made mistakes, and those were thrust into the spotlight due to her fame, but everyone errs too. It is a part of growing up and maturing as a human being.
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Taking control of our lives
At her age and with her ability to work, she should be able to make decisions for her own life. The question is, why is she unable to do so? Why is she unable to take control of her life? The incidents that have affected her occurred more than a decade ago.
In a written court testimony that Britney read out in June this year, she had said, “I’ve done a lot of research, ma’am. There’s a lot of judges who do end conservatorships for people without them having to be evaluated all the time. I shouldn’t be in a conservatorship if I can work. I truly believe this conservatorship is abusive. I don’t feel like I can live a full life.”
“I deserve to have a life.”
Britney continues to fight to have her life back. This serves as a reminder that we shouldn’t bow into the pressure of doing something we don’t want to.
It isn’t selfish to speak up, to take time off to focus on yourself, and demand better and fair treatment. It could be the very thing that saves us. If Britney had had the necessary help back in her 20s when she was starting to spiral, perhaps she could have avoided the events that unfolded.
Update as of 18 October:
On 30th September 2021, Britney’s father Jamie Spears was suspended as the conservator of her estate. In celebration, Britney uploaded a post of herself with her boyfriend Sam Asghari on Instagram having a holiday in an unidentified beachside location the next day, with a caption hinting that she is celebrating the court’s decision.
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There will be a hearing on 12th November to determine if her conservatorship should be abolished entirely. We hope for the best possible outcome for Britney.