By Mae Brennan
On 23rd June 2021, Britney Spears publicly addressed a Los Angeles court, pleading “I just want my life back”. Following this blistering testimony, Spears was permitted to hire a lawyer of her choosing. Consequently, federal prosecutor Matthew Rosengart secured the suspension of Jamie Spears, Britney’s father, from the almost 14-year conservatorship that had previously dictated Spears’ every move. On 12th November 2021, Spears’ conservatorship was officially terminated, an outcome that mere months ago seemed an impossible feat.
Since the Womanizer singer’s infamous breakdown 12 years ago, Britney was controlled by a conservatorship helmed by her father Jamie Spears. Long-time Britney fans vocalised a collective dissatisfaction at witnessing the exploitative parameters of Britney’s court-ordered guardianship. This led to the launch of the #FreeBritney movement to raise awareness of the discrepancies surrounding the conservatorship.
In June 2021, Spears publicly spoke about conservatorship. Britney cited that she was forced to work against her will and that Jamie Spears continued to control intimate details of her life, including access to birth control, social life and romantic relationships.
Despite the termination of Britney’s guardianship, she now enters a legal minefield with Jamie Spears as well as former management companies to battle for ownership of assets. A plan is now in place to ensure Britney’s successful transition into independence. Britney’s case has shone a critical spotlight on the guardianship system by which those that are ‘protected’ become entrapped in isolating and exploitative agreements. The #FreeBritney movement has now become a human rights movement itself, advocating for judiciary reform to abolish such systemic injustice.
More than just exposing the inequity of conservatorship, the #FreeBritney movement reflects the larger reality of stifled artistic expression and the lack of female autonomy within the music industry. The TV show Black Mirror tackled issues of artistic exploitation in its episode featuring Miley Cyrus as Ashley O. Cyrus plays a globally renowned pop star exploited by her aunt who is also her manager. The undeniable parallels sparked widespread speculation that Ashley O was basely largely on Britney. Regardless, both Britney’s and Ashley O’s exploitation have become symbolic of the chilling reality endured by many female artists. Lady Gaga commented at the LA premiere of House of Gucci “the way that women are treated in the music industry is something that I wish could change”, concluding that Britney “would forever be an inspiration to women”.
Beyond the widespread impact of Spears’ conservatorship, many are curious about what is next for Britney herself. Whilst the desire to control one’s narrative could be deemed the bare minimum, for Spears, it remains a luxury to be able to enjoy the day-to-day freedoms that most take for granted. Spears explained, “I’m just grateful, honestly, for each day and being able to have the keys to my car, and be able to be independent and feel like a woman. And owning an ATM card, seeing cash for the first time”.
On 12th September 2021, Spears became engaged to Sam Asghari. Following the conclusion of Spears’ conservatorship, Spears is now able to get married. Spears has also publicly announced her desire to have another child which previously would have been dictated by Britney’s court-appointed conservatorship. Moreover, as one of the most renowned recording artists in pop history, many are curious whether Britney’s newfound freedom will signify a return to the stage. In response to this Rosengart has said, “whether Britney performs again will be up to Britney”.
The termination of Spears’ conservatorship testifies to the immense power of public voice. The #FreeBritney movement previously deemed by Jamie Spears as “a joke” and a “conspiracy theory”, signals the end of Britney’s silencing. There is the rise of a new era of Britney Spears ahead, one defined by freedom and self-expression.
Britney is now able to enjoy the right to privacy, the right to healing and fundamentally, the right to be happy. Leanne Simmons, an activist who helped organise the Free Britney L. A group, told Variety, “We fought this fight to get her the ability to speak for herself and more importantly, to be free from the conservatorship. Now, it’s Britney world, and she can do whatever the hell she wants”.
Illustration Credit: Verity Laycock