Whether you’re a die-hard Britney Spears fan or just the occasional listener, the news that her stifling and controlling conservatorship appears to be coming to an end should be celebrated.
On Tuesday, her father Jamie Spears filed a petition to end the 13-year arrangement which gave him an alarming amount of power over his daughter’s estate. Until 2019 he also had the legal right to control aspects of her freedom, health, bodily autonomy and career. They say you should never mix family and business but this arrangement took it to a whole new bizarre level.
Jamie seeking to end this controversial conservatorship is certainly a surprising one. In August, he told a court that there were “no grounds whatsoever” for removing him after the singer’s lawyer requested during a court hearing to suspend him. Yet the application filed with the Los Angeles Superior Court this Tuesday suggests that Jamie is now ready to accept that his daughter’s freedom is necessary and that his role is no longer justified.
Within the papers filed, it stated that Britney “is entitled to have this court now seriously consider whether this conservatorship is no longer required”. Furthermore, “as Mr Spears has said again and again, all he wants is what is best for his daughter. If Ms Spears wants to terminate the conservatorship and believes that she can handle her own life, Mr Spears believes that she should get that chance.” Britney’s attorney Mathew Rosengart called the development “vindication” and stated that it’s a “legal victory”.
However, you have to wonder whether Jamie came to this decision of his own volition or if Rosengart’s call for him to step down “before he is suspended” gave him the final nudge. Britney told a judge recently that she wishes to file charges against her father for “conservator abuse” after his 13-year stronghold apparently threatened her from visiting her children, forced her to take contraception and would dictate medication against her will. Jamie Spears has denied these allegations.
Therefore when Jamie describes “recent events” being the motivation behind his agreement to step away, it’s unclear if this is in relation to Britney’s allegations. Indeed the only change within the past few months has been the public outcry from the #FreeBritney movement leading to widespread bafflement and outrage.
Here is a 39-year-old woman simply stating that she “wants to be able to make decisions regarding her own medical care” and to “control the money she has made from her career and spend it without supervision or oversight”. She also claims to have been prevented from being able to marry and to have a baby.
This case shows that regardless of wealth, fortune and fame, women are still routinely controlled by the men in their lives and often within the legal framework. A conservatorship of this nature is usually only handed out to the elderly and infirm, so why was it deemed necessary for a woman who has held down a Las Vegas residency and enjoyed a stint on American X Factor during this time?
Of course, we all know about Britney’s infamous “meltdown” in 2007 but it is unreasonable and cruel to punish her for such a lengthy period for an episode that may have been built out of all proportion. Just 25 at the time, she had already lived a long life in the spotlight. Looking back at the early Noughties onslaught of paparazzi pressure doled out to female stars, we should reflect sympathetically on her case. Many male stars go off the rails from time to time but we tend to view these episodes as mere evidence of genius – Kanye West being one example.
Yet Britney, who was attacked daily for her parenting and for expressing a perfectly natural urge to have fun was – and still is – pathologised by strangers. Her decision to shave her head upset the “America’s sweetheart” image and confused the public so much that we instantly viewed it to be evidence of a breakdown. And yes, maybe Britney was suffering from mental health issues, but her choice to abolish her sweet femininity disturbed many into believing that she wasn’t of sane mind. Her reluctance to conform arguably led to Britney being placed under one of the tightest and most extreme cases of conservatorship imaginable.
So three cheers for Britney and one huge clap for her fans (Dominic Cummings, you as well). Without their support and people power, perhaps she would still be in the same suffocating position. Now that she has realised her strength, will she allow her father to retire quietly? Time will tell, but I certainly hope not. There are still many questions that need answering.
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