We Owe an Apology to Britney Spears

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Anyone who spends time scrolling through social media has seen that Britney Spears has been in a cruel conservatorship under her father ever since February of 2008. A conservatorship is when a judge appoints a caretaker for an adult who is said to be incapable of caring for themselves, as well as their finances. This legal bind is typically only applied to dementia patients,meaning that people are not meant to get out of them until death. However, Britney Spears was stripped of all human rights at just twenty seven years old.

In February of 2008, the Pop-Star had a public “breakdown” where she shaved her head and took an umbrella to a paparazzi car. She was labeled by a huge portion of society as a failure as a role model to young girls and was the punchline to a series of brutal jokes. After rehab and hospitalization, it was reported that Britney was suffering from Manic Depressive Disorder or Bipolar Disorder. From that day forward, she was dehumanized and treated like a toy to the media. “[You] made me feel like I was dead — like I didn’t matter, like nothing had been done to me, like you thought I was lying or something,” Spears said in an interview with CNN.

Although it became illegal for Britney to see friends, get married, have a baby, and care for her children, she was forced to go on tour to make money that did not even go to her name simply because she had a mental disorder in which she was not getting help for at the time. According to the New York Times, Britney referred to her conservatorship as an abusive system where she was abused and forced to work against her will. With the #FreeBritney movement on social media, the world is beginning to recognize that the pop star is being punished for a mental illness and trauma that is far out of her control. Instead of being supported and helped through years of indescribable pain, she is being treated as if she has committed a crime.

Many people are unaware of the trauma that has shaped Britney’s mental health struggles behind closed doors. Tracing back decades, the corruption that young women with fame faced was disturbing. Britney was sexualized at just fifteen years old by older men and her own boyfriend at the time, Justin Timberlake, and had a teenage life that was manipulated by the media for entertainment. She had been suffering under the spotlight for decades, and no one had seemed to notice until now. If society had seen her infamous “breakdown” as the cry for help that it was, her whole life would not have been stolen from her.

As the world tries their best to “free Britney” from the possession of her own father and support her as she tries to take legal action, Spears deserves far more than her fans and allies in the industry can ever give her. However, we must honor her name as we develop into a society that recognizes what it means to be mentally ill and that it is our responsibility to show those, famous or not, that struggling with mental health is nothing to be ashamed of, and an individual will not be labeled as a failure or a bad role model for opening up about it.