Britney Spears is a multi-award winning American singer and one of the world’s best-selling artists and influential people. After appearing as a child performer on the All-New Mickey Mouse Club, Spears signed a multi-album deal with Jive Records in 1997 when she was 15-years-old. Her first studio album, … Baby One More Time (1999), brought Spears enormous global success. The record sold 25 million copies worldwide and was certified 14x platinum (diamond) by the Recording Industry Association of America. It is currently Spears’s bestselling album and is considered one of the bestselling debut albums of a female artist of all time. Her second studio album, Oops!... I Did It Again (2000), debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and sold 1.319 million copies in the first week of sale, breaking records for the fastest-selling album by a female artist. After her successful debut, Spears was given the title the Princess of Pop, and has been credited with ushering in a new era of teen pop in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
In 2008, Spears was placed into a conservatorship, after a public meltdown. Her father and an attorney were placed in charge of the conservatorship which would last 13 years. The conservatorship was subject to a lot of curiosity, and later scrutiny, from the public after allegations of conservatorship abuse began to surface. In June 2021, Spears made a public statement in court about the conservatorship, where she voiced her emotional distress about the situation, and accused the people in charge of the conservatorship of coercion, mistreatment, and having a conflict of interest. A judge granted Britney the right to choose her own attorney, Matthew Rosengart, who immediately filed paperwork with the court to terminate the conservatorship. On 12 November 2021, a judge agreed to terminate the conservatorship, giving Britney her freedom.
In February 2022, three months after the end of her conservatorship, Spears announced that she had signed one of the biggest book deals of all time to write a memoir about her life. On 24 October 2023, Spears released her much anticipated memoir, The Woman in Me. The book was 288-pages long and published by Gallery Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, and was reportedly ghost written by journalist Sam Lansky. The internet went wild when The Woman in Me was announced. Prior to its release, the book broke sales records for pre-orders. After its publication, The Woman in Me debuted at number one on the New York Times bestseller list, and it sold 1.1 million copies in the United States in its first week making it Simon & Schuster’s quickest-selling title.
I’ve always had a lot of sympathy for Britney’s situation. I can remember thinking back in 2007 when she had her meltdown, why were people being so cruel to Britney? It was so bad to be a woman in the public eye back then. The media took so much pleasure in mocking Britney, slut-shaming her, harassing her, and dissecting every part of her life. When she shaved her head, everyone reacted with horror and disgust, which made me so mad on her behalf. I didn’t get what the big deal was. Who cared that she shaved her head? She was a grown woman she could do what she wanted. But other people did not see it like that. The media began to spread the narrative that she was “crazy” and a “bad mother” which directly contributed to her ending up being put under a conservatorship. When Britney talks about shaving her head in The Woman in Me, my heart just broke for her:
“Shaving my head was a way of saying to the world: Fuck you. You want me to be pretty for you? Fuck you. You want me to be good for you? Fuck you. You want me to be your dream girl? Fuck you. I’d been the good girl for years. I’d smiled politely while TV show hosts leered at my breasts, while American parents said I was destroying their children by wearing a crop top, while executives patted my hand condescendingly and second-guessed my career choices even though I’d sold millions of records, while my family acted like I was evil. And I was tired of it.”
Spears, B. (2023). The Woman in Me. Gallery Books.
In The Woman in Me, Spears talks about the problem of misogyny in the entertainment business, how it affected her, and the double standards that there are for men and women. From the start of her career, Spears was criticised for being too sexy, dressing provocatively, and was accused of being a bad role model for children. People saw her body as something they felt ownership of, and this disturbed her. Spears is honest in her book that she did have a problem back in 2007 with drinking, partying, and abusing the drug Adderall. She admits that she made some bad choices, but points out that she was very young at the time, suffering from postpartum depression, and overwhelmed with grief and stress. Why were the press so eager to label Spears as crazy and an unfit mother, but never stopped to interrogate the men in her life for their bad behaviour? One word: misogyny. Britney Spears's conservatorship was never about her mental health. It was about controlling her behaviour, her body, and her voice to make money off her name.
After reading The Woman in Me, I have so much respect for Britney Spears. I cannot believe that after all she has endured, she still has a sense of humour and finds things to smile about. What’s sad is a lot of the media still won’t leave her alone and continue to criticise her behaviour and push the narrative that she is mentally unwell and needs help. Britney Spears’s story shows that society needs to improve the way we talk about mental illness and we need to stop trying to control women’s bodies. No one deserves to have their personal freedoms taken away for drinking, partying, or having a mental illness. What happened to Britney Spears was criminal and I hope that everyone who was involved pays the price for what they did to her.