5 ways the Free Britney movement is about more than just Britney
On June 23rd 2021 The Legendary Ms. Britney Spears spoke out about her conservatorship for the first time in court saying it is “Abusive”and calling for an end to the legal arrangement after 13 years. When i first started posting the #FreeBritney hashtag on social media somewhere around the beginning of 2019 most people who followed my scrappy lil meme account did not know what to make of it and to be honest neither did I.
I had always been a fan of hers, even secretly admiring her at times when maybe it wasn’t so cool or my adoration could quickly make me a target of homophobia. As an American youth who had grown up with her as sort of a mirror to the experience of other xennials and the face of a brand that was to become synonymous with an all american image It’s hard not to imagine just how terrifying it could be to be trapped under such a facade but also to realize the many ways we are all trapped under the same facade.
As a meme maker I have always considered her to be the A list it girl of memes, her all around relatability and warm southern energy is comfortable and charming and despite her constant pleas to paparazzi to leave her alone she is probably one of the living most photographed people in the entire world making almost any emotive face you may need for a meme of any occasion.
What I started to notice as the movement progressed was that not only was this a serious issue that Britney was in fact dealing with but the way that the issue was tied to so many other problems we have in this country, and while it may have seemed outlandish to some people in the social justice circles I was involved with to place Britney alongside other activist movements that needed our serious concern and attention I noticed something start to happen as time went on. Not only did I see stories about Britney’s conservatorship and court appearances (a subject previously given almost no coverage) begin to pop up in mainstream news. There was a growing army of Britney Fans of varying national identities, ethnicities, occupations, sexualities and genders bringing issues like disability justice and prison abolition to the table while talking of her freedom. You may still be among the people, many of whom i respect very much, who say things like “Why should I care about Britney Spears, She’s a famous white woman who has hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Here are 5 reasons why the #freebritney movement is about more than just Britney.
1.) #freebritney is about Disability Justice
“I just want my life back. It’s been 13 years and it’s enough. I truly believe this conservatorship is abusive. There are thousands of abusive conservatorships.”-
We are not here to psychoanalyze Britney’s personal choices or make any kind of assumptions about mental illness she may or may not be living with but what we can do is talk about her conservatorship. Britney’s conservatorship is called a probate conservatorship, which in California is reserved for the infirm and elderly, in other words extremely low functioning patients who are unable to perform basic tasks and would likely make them unable to work most jobs however Britney’s career has not taken a halt at all in the last 13 years.
She has made 4 albums, toured the world multiple times, headlined a Las Vegas residency and hosted X Factor. Whether or not somebody needs treatment for their condition, working this much would imply that they are also able to perform a variety of tasks that would not require constant supervision and oversight of their personal finances. This is actually a very scary reality for some people who are by no means as famous as Britney. This was touched on in a John Oliver segment in 2017 ,as well as in the 2020 Netflix crime thriller ‘I Care A Lot‘ Starring Rosamund Pike
2. #freebritney is a Feminist issue
“I don’t owe these people anything, especially me, the one that has roofed and fed tons of people on tour on the road. It’s embarrassing and demoralizing — that’s the main reason I’ve never said it openly. And mainly, I didn’t want to say it openly, because I honestly don’t think anyone would believe me, to be honest with you”
Britney has been no stranger to controversy over the years, and whether she is being slut shamed or written off as a basic airhead. There is an aspect of her story and the 2007 breakdown that led to her conservatorship that really magnifies some of the most misogynistic aspects of our culture including the double standard of her mental health diagnoses and questioning of her abilities
So while women are no stranger to staying silent due to all the the victim blaming and victim shaming at play there is also the big issue of reproductive control. At one point in her testimony Britney calls her father, Jamie Spears, a trafficker when describing her jam packed schedule and goes on to explain her current situation which has her receiving forced contraceptives.
“I was told right now in the conservatorship, I’m not able to get married or have a baby, I have a IUD inside of myself right now so I don’t get pregnant. I wanted to take the IUD out so I could start trying to have another baby. But this so called team won’t let me go to the doctor to take it out because they don’t want me to have children any more children. So basically, this conservatorship is doing me way more harm than good.”
3. #freebritney is about Workers rights
“It’s been a long time since I’ve owned my money. And it’s my wish and my dream for all of this to end without being tested. Again, it makes no sense whatsoever for the state of California to sit back and literally watch me with their own two eyes, make a living for so many people, and pay so many people trucks and buses on the road with me and be told, I’m not good enough. But I’m great at what I do. And I allow these people to control what I do”
At the beginning of the COVID-19 shutdowns when so many of us were not sure how much longer we would be out of a job or what kind of government aid if any would continue to be provided to us Britney shared a quote about wealth redistribution by writer and Instagram Influencer Mimi Zhu. Out of this the Comrade Britney meme was born and she has become kind of an icon in the leftist meme world.
With a shaky economic future ahead for all of us due to the pandemic and all these employee shortages happening. It really is high time for workers to stand up to these corporations and demand that they pay higher wages or the people at the top are actually gonna have to Work Bitch!
4. #freebritney is about toxic celebrity culture
“But my precious body who has worked for my dad for the past buck and 13 years, trying to be so good and pretty. So perfect. He works me so hard.”
In the Hulu/New York Times documentary “Framing Britney Spears” It became increasingly evident while watching it not only how much the music industry failed Britney Spears and a lot of other artists before her but all of us as a culture as well. The way we consume the messy personal matters of famous people as if it is in their job description to live with absolutely no privacy. The way we strive for those brief hints of limelight and are willing to knock each other out of the way for it at all costs. The way we obsess and project so much of our own beliefs and motivations on to entertainers, it needs to stop.
The way the #metoo movement was able to expose the twisted nature and complicity amongst of some of Hollywood’s biggest names #freebritney is like the sequel to the movement showing yet another life and family shattered by the child star machine that has claimed too many. Who would we be as a society if we just continued to let it happen when the evidence is no longer only speculative. I just wonder if these #pizzagate guys know about this they seem to have stayed pretty silent on a matter that we know for sure is real.
5. #freebritney is about cycles of familial abuse
“I would honestly like to sue my family, to be totally honest with you. I also would like to be able to share my story with the world, and what they did to me, instead of it being a hush-hush secret to benefit all of them. I want to be able to be heard on what they did to me by making me keep this in for so long, is not good for my heart.”
Watching this story unfold there remains one very relatable topic of Families. We all have them and even in some of the most happy normal non-problematic ones there are still issues. Family dysfunction and toxic dynamics are something it seems many people go their whole life without ever confronting and can you blame them, sometimes even coordinating a dinner with your family can turn into a complete nightmare.
The reality is that most of us have at least one toxic family member and some unchecked emotional baggage lurking below the surface of whatever family dynamic we may project to the public. Whether it is abuse, neglect, addiction, mental illness, or something else that has created conflict between you and your kin it is ok to look for help from someone else besides them. Our families can only provide so much to us in our journeys and they might not always be equipped to handle things like our recovery or our global brand. It also wouldn’t hurt the boomers to start trusting their adult children with fixing some of the messed up world they left us with, maybe it’s finally time for them to see some things through OUR perspective.