Why The #FreeBritney Movement Is Gaining So Much Momentum
The #freebritney movement has exploded online over the past few weeks.
Users across TikTok and Instagram are calling for Britney Spears to be freed from her conservatorship, which is a legal arrangement that means her father Jamie Spears has near-complete control over her life and estate.
Fans are pushing for the conservatorship to be reviewed because they believe that Spears is being held against her will and possibly exploited under the arrangement.
I want to understand why the arrangement is so controversial, and why is the #freebritney is gaining so much momentum right now?
What’s Going On With Britney?
Spears has been the centre of a lot of social media interest in the past few months.
In May she accidentally burnt down her home gym with candles, and her bizarre social media appearances have also led to some viral attention.
All of this has culminated in a lot of renewed attention for the #freebritney movement, especially because another court hearing for Spears’ conservatorship is due to happen this week.
So, what is the conservatorship and why did Spears need to be placed under it in the first place?
What Is Britney’s Conservatorship?
The arrangement was started at the end of 2008 after she was hospitalised for psychiatric issues.
Spears was being extremely targeted by the paparazzi at the time and a lot of her mental health issues were captured on camera by photographers who would hunt her down mercilessly.
Stephanie Anderson: “It had been a really rocky year for Britney. February of 2007 was when she shaved her head. It was kind of a scary time because it seemed like every time she left the house, things were not going in a good direction.”
That’s Stephanie Anderson, an entertainment reporter who’s been following Spears’ story for a really long time.
Conservatorships are granted to people who are incapable of making decisions for themselves, such as people with mental disabilities or dementia.
SA: “You have the legal rights of a child; you can’t drive, you can’t marry, you can’t have kids. If her dad told her she had to brush her hair, she’d have to.”
So, was the arrangement ever perceived as a good thing for Spears?
Anderson told me that at the time it was first put in place, the conservatorship seemed like it was a positive move for the singer who had been spiralling for a while. And it appeared that her dad had stepped in and helped to save her life.
But the momentum of the #freebritney campaign recently has brought up a lot of questions about how Britney is being treated under the arrangement, and there’s a lot of speculation online that the singer is being exploited by her father and record label.
Anderson said there’s a lot of misinformation about the conservatorship going viral right now but ultimately, there’s one sticking point that audiences should be paying attention to.
SA: “Over the years it has become a question of ‘if this woman is so ill that she needs to be under permanent conservatorship for the rest of her life, why has she been working so hard?’ She was a judge on The X Factor, she did a four year Vegas residency, she toured the world. If she’s that mentally ill, why is she doing that amount of work?”
What Happens Now?
So, what’s the best way forward here?
The general consensus from fans is that the conservatorship needs to be reviewed to ensure that what’s happening is in the singer’s best interests. One petition for this has already ensured the Spears’ case will be looked at by the White House after it got more than 100,000 signatures.
Anderson believes the case needs an independent review with a panel of lawyers and doctors, who don’t have any commercial interests in it.
With all of this social media storm and campaigning in mind, I also want to understand: why is it that Spears seems to draw so much attention and sympathy from audiences?
SA: “To be a 16-year-old girl and asked if you’re a virgin at a press conference in a room full of mostly male journalists, you know, I think a lot of that has made people in hindsight have a lot of compassion for her and what she’s been through, and for the sexism she’s had to put up with throughout her entire career. I think people have a lot of newfound respect for her because she’s always kind of spoken up against that.”
So there are legitimate questions to ask about the conservatorship that strips Britney Spears of her rights, when it’s placed against the idea that she still works extremely hard under the arrangement.
And the fact that the #freebritney movement has risen so significantly on social media and in the press is a sympathetic turn of events for a woman who was treated so horrendously by the media in the past.