By Lynn Cadet
As a 90s baby who grew up on early 2000s music, Britney Spears is one of the highlights of that era. Her stage presence and musicality transformed her into a force, an icon for all pop music. Her unforgettable hits like “Slave For You” or “Oops…I Did It Again” still ring through my speakers as I sing along to every lyric. She was America’s Pop Princess.
But somewhere between the fame and success, the media turned on her, hungry for the next scoop on her increasingly tumultuous life. As more drama arose, the paparazzi followed, painting her in a bad light and leading to her heavily covered mental breakdown. Although the mental health stigma pursued her, she remained successful and released multiple hit albums after that. However, what was not highly publicised was her conservatorship.
As years went by, the unfair treatment and intense control over her life became more apparent to longtime, devoted fans. A rise of theories about what was happening in secret grew, motivating the #FreeBritney movement in tandem.
Here is a brief look at the history of her conservatorship and what you should know about the #FreeBritney movement.
Her Conservatorship History
For almost 13 years, Britney has not held control over her own life. Instead, her father has, as her conservator. To understand the extent, let’s look at the definition of a conservatorship. According to California Courts, a judge grants an individual or institution the rights to care for another adult who is deemed unfit to care for themselves or manage their finances.
Because Britney is an affluent celebrity, her conservatorship splits into two parts. It covers both her personal decisions and any changes regarding her estate, career, and financial affairs.
Since 2007, the singer’s mental health struggles were no longer hidden. They were put fully on public display after her divorce and losing custody of her two kids to ex-husband Kevin Federline. Her infamous head shave garnered much media attention, as did her attack on a paparazzo’s car.
As her erratic behaviour increased, she was placed under a 5150 hold for evaluation in a psychiatric hospital. Her father, Jamie Spears, then petitioned a Los Angeles court for a “temporary conservatorship” of his daughter’s affairs, permitting him to oversee all of her decisions. He continued in this position until 2019, when he stepped down as her personal conservator due to health problems and pressure. But, he remained the head of her estate and financial conservatorship.
Although #FreeBritney is a hashtag now, the movement didn’t begin that way. Her fans have long been suspicious and wary of the conservatorship for over a decade now. They believed it was the wrong move. In 2009, they launched FreeBritney.net, where they shared their concerns and discussed why the singer should not be under restrictive control this far along in her career. They continued to speak out and even protested outside of courts last year.
Throughout the 13 years of her conservatorship, Britney remained active in her singing career, releasing albums, performing weekly for her four-year Las Vegas residency stint, and appearing on television shows like the X-Factor. All of these career moves were dictated by her camp and conservators. They had her working nonstop but wouldn’t let her spend her earnings her way.
If she’s fit enough to work that much, why can’t she make her own decisions? This question and similar holes in the story sparked the #FreeBritney movement to move to new heights.
Britney Speaks Out
As pressure increased, Britney started speaking out on Instagram. She also joined the growing movement, voicing support for her fans speaking out on her behalf. After 12 years of silence, she filed to make parts of her conservatorship documents open to the public.
These documents show how little control Britney holds over her decisions despite her ability to function as a high-level performer. It restricts things ranging from whom she dated and child-bearing to the colour of her cabinets.
While her father continues to profit from her earnings, she has no say. Conservatorship abuse was brought up in her hearings this year. Britney described her experience as oppressive and stated how she felt about being financially exploited, medicated, and emotionally abused. She wanted her father dismissed as her primary conservator. But, the judge denied her request and granted her father an extension.
Thankfully, on September 29 2021, her father was suspended as her conservator, but it is not the end of the battle yet.
The #FreeBritney movement has not only helped her find her voice but shed light on the topic of conservatorship abuse hidden in the shadows.
Britney deserves better, and people with mental health issues should have the right to speak for themselves. In the words of Britney’s “Overprotected”, “I don’t wanna be so damn protected.