Recognizing the #FreeBritney movement

One of the world’s biggest pop stars, Britney Spears, was forced into a conservatorship after suffering a public mental health crisis in 2008. Ever since, her career, finances and personal life have been controlled by her father, Jamie Spears, and others. 

Throughout history, men have controlled women in many ways, and Jamie Spears’ treatment of Britney is no exception. In this case, he has exploited all aspects of her life simply because she showed symptoms of mental illness. 

Millions of people face mental health conditions but that alone is no reason to warrant total control over a person’s life. But the unfortunate fact is that once a woman is labeled “mentally unstable,” it can diminish future credibility in authoritarian eyes.

Recently, the case took an even scarier turn when she lost all body autonomy. Spears requested in court that those in charge of the conservatorship permit her to remove her IUD so she can have a third child — but she was denied. 

Because abortion rights are being revoked in Texas and potentially in other states, it is crucial that people recognize her strength, while also realizing what happened to her is not an isolated incident; in actuality, it is happening to women around the world. 

Conservatorships are arranged for people who cannot take care of themselves. Throughout the past 13 years, Spears has sold 4 hit albums, headlined a global tour that grossed over a hundred million dollars and performed for four years in a Las Vegas residency. Despite these successes, the conservatorship team did not permit her freedom. 

After years of battling and a threat to sue, the court ruled on Sept. 29 that Jamie Spears be removed from the conservatorship. He only agreed to step out after officially being promised $1.2 million in attorney’s fees, plus compensation. Although this is a monumental step, it does not mean the end of her conservatorship. 

In an effort to expose the conservatorship abuse, Netflix and Hulu recently released respective documentaries covering the Spears case. 

In “Britney vs. Spears,” directed by Erin Lee Carr, several interviews of people in Britney’s life were conducted, from former boyfriends to geriatric psychologists, in order to gauge the reasonability of her situation. 

During an interview with probate conservatorship attorney Tony Chicotel, he affirmed "Let me put it this way: I've represented dozens of conservatees in court. Not one of them has ever had a job." Britney’s case is all the more rare and difficult to grasp, being that she doesn’t just have a regular old job.

The Hulu documentary from The New York Timesentitled “Controlling Britney Spears,” follows a similar structure and includes an interview with a former employee of the security firm that guards Spears. To give insight regarding how much she was monitored, he disclosed that the company placed listening devices in her bedroom, as well as mirrored her phone.

The terrifying details of her conservatorship brought to public attention is massive for her case, yet thus far, sympathy has not accomplished enough. Both of these documentaries make powerful arguments for the amendment or outright removal of the conservatorship. 

Over the past few years, the #FreeBritney movement has grown exponentially, with marginalized communities voicing their own experiences and rallying, not just for the singer, but for freedom in the bigger picture. 

Spears’ hypervisible case exemplifies a struggle we can all empathize with in one way or another. With government measures posing an even bigger threat to women's reproductive rights as well as LGBTQ+ rights this year, the concept of freedom for all has become outlandish. 

When our own choices can only do so much under a fake democracy, we have become disillusioned with the idea of freedom.

The abortion ban proposed by the conservative majority in the Supreme Court could have a direct cost on constitutional rights under Roe v. Wade. As so many American women fear the court’s decision to strip these protections, Spears' case is especially significant: She represents all of the freedoms women in the US have fought so hard to obtain.

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