For many, many years now, no one could say for sure what Britney was feeling, what she wanted. People assumed, based on interpreting her Instagram and the colour of her outfits and whatever emojis she was using, and from whatever court documents they could access. But the reason yesterday’s conservatorship hearing was such a big deal, even before Britney gave her statement, was because no one publicly had heard directly from her, on the record, for a long, long time.
And that’s how the hearing started. Because if you’ve read the transcript or listened to the audio, attempts were made to protect her privacy, and she immediately and deliberately shut it down.
“They’ve done a good job at exploiting my life. So I feel like it should be an open court hearing, and they should listen to what I have to say.”
Who is “they”? Well, the conservatorship and the people who have been controlling and taking advantage of her but also the media, the public, the culture… all of us, from Diane Sawyer to Justin Timberlake to television shows and magazines and me, the internet, I mean it’s a collective. Some are trying to do better now, but doing better means acknowledging the complicity and Britney slapped us with that yesterday with her anger and her frustration. All of these forces, from her conservators to the culture, brought her to the point where she felt she had to share deeply intimate details about her reproductive health in order to get back her basic rights: to have a say in how she gets to live her own life. That should be as shocking, or more shocking, than what she revealed about wanting to have more children and not being able to because they won’t let her take out her IUD.
And then, on top of all of that, it’s members of her family, as she says, who’ve actively traumatised her, as she says, while claiming to be serving her best interests. Her father, Jamie Spears, is the one who’s in the headlines the most and the most controversial but she used the word “family” multiple times in her statement.
“My whole family did nothing.”
“I would honestly like to sue my family.”
“And considering my family has lived off my conservatorship for 13 years, I won’t be surprised if one of them has something to say going forward, and say, “We don’t think this should end, we have to help her.” Especially if I get my fair turn exposing what they did to me.”
There are times when she singles out her dad and she does not spare Jamie at all, but there are also times when she talks about her family as a group. And the reason I want to highlight this is because one of the reasons Britney’s situation is so complicated is because she was ostensibly being “protected” by her family, and the ideal, understandably, is that our family will do best by us. That it’s inconceivable for our family to intentionally harm us. But this is exactly what’s happened to Britney. Because, sometimes, family members are not what we’ve been taught. Especially when this much money and power is involved. And we’ve seen it play out in other very wealthy, very powerful families – and people have been resistant to believe that a family member could be so cruel. But here’s Britney telling the world about her family and what she’s endured at their hands. Conservatorship is a big word, and it’s business word. Family, however, we don’t associate with business. In Britney’s case though, her father has been her conservator. And this is another layer of all that complication, because the conservatorship has taken away from the fact that at the heart of this case is a person who hasn’t been treated like one by her family who has been profiting off her as a business.