An illustration of Britney Spears for an article about her push to end her conservatorship..
Spears deserves liberty — both in her creative process and in her life decisions. (Illustration by Katelyn McManis, Columbia College Chicago)

Britney Spears’ Push To End Her Conservatorship Highlights the Issue of Sexism in Hollywood

#FreeBritney is at its peak — and through it we see a woman trying to regain control of her life being met with corruption, sexism and abuse.

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An illustration of Britney Spears for an article about her push to end her conservatorship..

#FreeBritney is at its peak — and through it we see a woman trying to regain control of her life being met with corruption, sexism and abuse.

Women in Hollywood have long been deprived of respect from the industry — that’s never been a secret. But as Britney Spears’ fight to end her conservatorship pushes forward, it’s clear to see that these power dynamics go far beyond a breach of respect: They’re becoming violent and irreverent violations of human rights. After years of speculation, Spears has finally publicly pushed to end her conservatorship — a reclamation of respect, humanity and identity that has pulled the blanket spread over Hollywood’s corruption.

Let’s Start From the Beginning

To properly assess this issue, it is vital to explore where it all began. Spears has been under the control of a conservatorship, sanctioned by the state of California, since 2008. This followed a series of public meltdowns, one in which Spears shaved her head and hit the car of a paparazzo with an umbrella. She was also placed on a psychiatric hold for a mental health examination.

Despite Spears explaining her frustration in several interviews, the state of California agreed to place her in the hold of a conservatorship at the request of her father, Jamie Spears. The media worked overtime, painting a picture of Spears that resembled that of a film-style maniac, or a wounded deer if they felt kind enough. The one picture that the media failed to paint of Spears was the true one: a woman whose mental health was suffering openly to a public who, for the most part, laughed at her.

Support and Ridicule

Out of this widespread humiliation formed a group of online supporters backing Spears, perhaps sensing a greater evil lurking much earlier than the rest of the public did. This accounts for the creation of the now-popular hashtag #FreeBritney. A fan-run website, FreeBritney.net, questioned the conservatorship and began discussing Spears’ declining mental and physical health.

When it first circulated, the hashtag was mocked endlessly and the site was widely regarded as a conspiracy theory, grouped in with discussions of the Illuminati and an alien government. Spears kept her push against her conservatorship quiet for many years in the wake of this reaction toward her supporters. Despite being absent for the majority of her early life, her father has been a consistent opponent throughout her fight, but the court denied his removal from the conservatorship in November 2020.

Spears’ Restrictions

In the past few weeks, Spears has finally made her first public statement against the conservatorship, speaking with a desperation and vulnerability that shut down all forms of mockery. This statement came in the form of a speech addressed to the court. In it, Spears listed the numerous restrictions that the conservatorship has placed on her. Her rage-inducing list included being forced to work while very ill, not being able to remove her IUD from her body in order to get pregnant and not having any control of her money.

In a heartbreaking statement, she detailed, “I was told right now in the conservatorship, I’m not able to get married or have a baby. I have an I[U]D 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.” She went even further as to refer to the conservatorship as abusive — and she’s right.

The policing of women’s bodies is abusive, no matter what public form it takes. Spears has proven time and time again that motherhood is her number one priority and to deprive her of that does not align with the “protection” or “guidance” that this conservatorship allegedly provides her.

Arguments Awaiting Answers

In truth, as the court continues to extend this regime, its details become more and more questionable. If Spears was so incapable of being in control and making decisions, how did she manage to make most of her artistic decisions for the past few years? If her father cares so much about her well-being, why did he only play a key role in her life after money was involved? Most importantly, assuming she really is incapable of making financial decisions, what relation does that have to control over her body — whether that be her pursuit of motherhood or not wanting to perform with a 102-degree fever? Why should a woman who has toured several countries, judged a musical competition and garnered $140 million in sales have to ask a team of people to go visit a doctor?

It’s beginning to look like, in classic Hollywood style, the conservatorship is not about protection — it’s just another way of controlling and exploiting a powerful woman. When you really think about it, Spears’ meltdown in 2008 wasn’t unwarranted. This was a young girl who grew up in a world that watched her every move. Her life lacked any semblance of privacy at a time when she was mentally, emotionally and physically still developing — and she explained this several times over. She didn’t need to become a spectator in her own life on the excuse that her mental health wasn’t doing well. She needed help, support and privacy, and both her family and the public failed her.

The light that has been shone on relations in the entertainment industry shows that corruption spares no one, not the rich nor the famous. Spears should not have to fight to be in control of her own financial success or to be able to have a child when she wishes to — no woman should. The conservatorship should be thoroughly examined by the court, both in its necessity moving forward and in its abuse of the past few years. Above all, this proves once again that women will never truly be in power in Hollywood. The issue of these imbalanced power dynamics is a sad, frightening truth — that where there is a woman who finds success, there will be wreckage at her feet, and Hollywood is the ultimate crime scene.

Writer Profile

Mariam Nasief

Columbia University
Biomedical Engineering

Mariam Nasief, originally from New Jersey, is currently a rising sophomore and self-proclaimed pop-culture connoisseur. Although she’s studying engineering, she loves to stimulate her creative side in whatever way that she can.

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