One of the biggest pop stars in the 21st century, someone who is still active to this day, legally does not have control of her own life—neither in terms of her finances or her reproductive health. How does that make sense?
The star’s battle against her conservatorship became more widely known because of The New York Times’ documentary “Framing Britney Spears,” but most of her fans have known about it for years. Ever since her extremely public meltdown in 2007 to 2008, itself fueled by intense and often vitriolic public scrutiny and personal issues, she’s been under a conservatorship, with her father James P. Spears named as her conservator. This means that he has full control of her businesses, finances, and other personal affairs—including her ability to drive her own car.
I may be biased as a baby Britney bitch, but even when it sounded like a good idea to the public, it didn’t sit right with me. There’s frankly something a little bit ableist and exploitative about using someone’s visible mental struggle as an excuse to take control of their life. As Craig Ferguson famously pointed out in 2007, Spears was just a young woman who clearly needed help and was incredibly vulnerable.
On June 22, The New York Times reported that Spears had been fighting against her conservatorship for years, way longer than was previously known. It detailed how she had to be “tested for drugs numerous times weekly, and her credit card was held by her security team or assistant and used at their discretion,” and how she wasn’t even allowed to change the color of her kitchen cabinets.
“The arrangements are supposed to be a last resort for people who cannot take care of their basic needs, such as those with significant disabilities or older people with dementia, yet Ms. Spears has been able to perform and profit for more than a decade,” the report stated.
It also noted that in a previous hearing in 2019, “[She] asserted that she had been forced into a mental health facility against her will on exaggerated grounds, which she viewed as punishment for standing up for herself and making an objection during a rehearsal.”
On Wednesday, June 23, Spears once again went to court and spoke up about her experience. She called out both her family and her management (through the years, her conservators have been a mix of her father, her manager Jodi Montgomery, and the multi-family office Bessemer Trust), likening her conservatorship to sex trafficking: “Making anyone work against their will, taking all their possessions away—credit card, cash, phone, passport—and placing them in a home where they work with the people who live with them. They all lived in the house with me, the nurses, the 24/7 security. There was one chef that came there and cooked for me daily during the weekdays. They watched me change every day—naked—morning, noon and night. My body—I had no privacy door for my room.”
It gets worse. Spears goes all in, calling her conservatorship “abusive” and “demoralizing,” what with the multiple rehab stints and her management working her to the bone.
She even mentions that, right now, she doesn’t even have control over her own reproductive health. “I was told right now in the conservatorship, I’m not able to get married or have a baby. I have a (IUD) 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 any more children.”
“I’m not here to be anyone’s slave,” she says at some point. “I deserve to have the same rights as anybody does by having a child, a family, any of those things. And more so.”
Reading the transcript of her statement, it’s hard not to feel emotional. You can tell just how much of a toll it took on her, and how much she felt denigrated by the system. No human being deserves to be put in that place. As Spears herself points out, many other conversatorships are similarly fraught with abuse. If something like this could happen to Britney f*cking Spears, what more to other people with disabilities who aren’t public figures?
From the outside looking in, it seems that it was so easy for the conservatorship to be put in place and for her father and management to take over her life, and how hard it is for her to take it back.
“I want changes, and I want changes going forward. I deserve changes. I was told I have to sit down and be evaluated, again, if I want to end the conservatorship… But honestly, I don’t think I owe anyone to be evaluated. I’ve done more than enough. I don’t feel like I should even be in [a] room with anyone to offend me by trying to question my capacity of intelligence, whether I need to be in this stupid conservatorship or not. I’ve done more than enough,” she declares. “I just want my life back.”