The power of TikTok is a force to not be reckoned with, second only to BTS stans. As a platform, it allows for a quick rise to fame for new artists, the sell-out of previously underrated products, and most importantly, the attention brought to various social causes. In particular, #FreeBritney started trending after TikTok user ‘blueshoulderpads’ commented on Britney Spears’s video that if the popstar needed help to “wear yellow in [her] next video.” This comment was one of the top ones due to the thousands of likes it initially received and the influx of more after Britney posted an Instagram video of her dancing in a yellow crop top along with another post of her in it captioned: “[y]ellow is my favorite color.”
While this started off as just a TikTok conspiracy theory, recent events revealed that Britney is being held under a conservatorship. A conservatorship is when the court appoints a guardian or guardians to manage someone due to mental or physical limitations. Her father James ”Jamie” Spears was in charge of both the financial and personal aspects of this conservatorship up until 2019, when he stepped down as personal conservator and was replaced by Jodi Montgomery, an experienced conservator.
Let’s start from the very beginning. Britney Spears became a household name after the 1999 debut of her hit song “Baby One More Time” to premiere her album. Things were about as normal as they can get for someone who becomes a pop star at 16-years-old until 2007. In a custody battle with her ex-husband Kevin Federline, Britney locked herself in the bathroom. The infamous head shaving took place. Subsequently, she was sent to a mental hospital where she was held for 24 hours. The conservatorship did not begin until 2008, where Britney’s continuous struggle with mental health had her hospitalized. Upon release, a court granted James a temporary conservatorship that was later extended to a permanent one under the pretense that Britney was mentally unable to take care of herself.
Under this conservatorship, everything Britney does is regulated. She cannot see her friends, drive with her boyfriend in his car, was forced to take lithium, cannot have therapy in privacy, and has an IUD (a form of birth control) in her that she cannot remove. In November of 2020, Britney filed a request to remove her father as co-conservator. Ultimately, the court denied it, stating in the filings that “[t]he conservator’s request to suspend James P. Spears immediately upon the appointment of Bessemer Trust Company of California as sole conservator of estate is denied without prejudice” (not dismissed forever).
Countless celebrities are showing their support for Britney. Iggy Azalea shared her strange experiences with James where he forced her to sign an NDA before performing and watched the amount of sodas Britney drank. Madonna and other celebrities are even setting up a legal fund for Britney. On the other hand, James’s response to the #FreeBritney movement was calling it a “joke” and claiming that “[a]ll these conspiracy theorists don’t know anything” (Page Six).
During the July court hearing, Britney told the judge that she wanted to press charges against her father for conservatorship abuse. Since, Jodi Montgomery and James began a court dispute regarding her mental health and a potential 5150 psychiatric hold. Montgomery, through her lawyers, claims that she never said Britney qualified for the hold in their phone call, but James misrepresented her concerns for Britney’s mental health even stating that, “Jamie Spears continuing to serve as her Conservator instead of a neutral professional fiduciary is having a serious impact on Ms. Spears’ mental health” (TMZ). In a recent court filing, James states that there are “no grounds whatsoever” for his removal as co-conservator.
James can argue all he wants to prove his “innocence” and “love” for his daughter. However, there is something exploitative and evil about Britney being forced to release albums, perform at award shows, and go on tour without any of her own freedom and access to her own finances from the revenue she generates.
Despite James’s doubts of the movement and removal, it appears that public pressure finally got the best of him. After Britney’s new attorney filed a petition, James finally agreed to step down from the conservatorship on August 13th, but only after an orderly transition and a “resolution of matters” (AP). It’s still unclear when exactly this will happen. Although Britney will still remain under a court conservatorship, it’s a step in the right direction.
On August 5th, Britney received her first iPad, and shared her excitement on Instagram. It’s great to see Britney finally be able to buy her own things, but also equally heartbreaking to know that she has not been able to all these years. The fact that she has been under this conservatorship and is still struggling to remove it even with all the public pressure raises questions about non-famous women who also have to suffer under the control of others. While Britney is stripped of her reproductive rights with a forced IUD, it is still legal in many states for disabled women to undergo non-consensual sterilization. Every woman out there deserves complete autonomy–especially regarding reproductive rights.
“I deserve to have a life” -Britney Spears.
– Tia Nguyen
Cover Photo Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/15/us/politics/britney-spears.html