After 13 years, Britney Spears is finally free! You all probably all have read about the conservatorship she was under for more than a decade, stripping her of her rights and leaving all the decision-making and control to her father. Endless court hearings, gut-wrenching testimonials and an extremely dedicated and passionate fanbase finally led to an end of the conservatorship. If you don’t know exactly what a conservatorship is and why it can easily be extremely harmful, check this CNN article out.
While I could not be happier for Britney to finally be able to do what she wants with her life, this moment is also an important time to have a bigger conversation about conservatorships and why the end of Britney Spears’ conservatorship should be a start of a new feminist and disability movement and why we should talk about the ethics of conservatorships and the problem of ableism all together.
There are millions of people living under a conservatorship worldwide; many of them are women and a large number of people have some form of disability. In the U.S. alone, there are more than 1.3 million people living under a guardianship or conservatorship. The majority of people living under these circumstances do not have the means nor the public support to end a potential unethical and unnecessary conservatorship. In my opinion, there are three major topics that need to be discussed when talking about conservatorships and the ethics of these laws.
Hearing Britney’s testimonial about how she wanted more children but was forced to have an IUD was absolutely heartbreaking. No woman should ever be forced to take birth control. Neither should they be denied access to it. Forced sterilizations and putting people with disabilities on birth control without their consent are still widespread practices. Taking away a woman’s right to choose is definitely a feminist issue and this includes the rights of people with disabilities who are often overlooked. Also, I have yet to hear about a male celebrity who dealt with similar issues in his life being forced to have a vasectomy or anything similar.
Being financially independent is very important to most people. It gives you the chance to make your own decisions about what to spend your money on. Many people around the world, especially women, are still prohibited from handling their own finances. Look at Britney. One of the greatest pop stars of our time, creating multiple albums over the past years, going on world tours, having a residency in Las Vegas and doing so much more—and yet she is not allowed to handle her earnings she worked so hard for. She only got an allowance. Stripping people off their financial independence takes away their independence as a whole and gets them stuck in a hard-to-escape cycle.
Many people struggle with their mental health. So has Britney Spears, and she had to go through a lot of struggle publicly which eventually led to the conservatorship. Yet, women are more quickly deemed unstable or crazy than men. I could give you a list of ten male celebrities who had similar or even worse struggles with mental health and public breakdowns and none of them was put on such a tight leach as Britney was and definitely was not scrutinized so much.
If conservatorships were created to help people who are unable to make their own decisions or function properly, then how was Britney able to do so many things for her career during that time? If she was able to perform and create more music, get in a new relationship, be a judge on American Idol, why was she still seen as unable to take care of herself and what she has worked for? Women are gaslighted for their emotions and their mental health struggles. How many people across the world have mental illnesses and yet, they are more than capable of making their own decisions.
It’s a feminist and disability rights issue
No person should be stripped of their basic human rights to such an extent. Being forced to take birth control or worse—being sterilized without consent, should not be something that needs a debate. It’s basic human decency. Moreover, how we talk about and deal with mental health issues, especially when it’s about women, needs to be reassessed. Since the start of Britney’s conservatorship the conversation around mental health has gotten a lot better, but we are not where we should be yet. There is still a lot of stigma and lack of awareness. The way, people with disabilities are often still treated through other people and through discriminatory laws should also not be overlooked.
Everyone deserves the right to live their life the way they want. Britney deserved so much better and so do millions of other people. We must keep the conversation going and must stand up for everyone who has suffered under a misplaced conservatorship.
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