Britney Spears’ conservatorship has gone on for too long, borders on abuse

Even casual pop culture followers know Britney should be freed from conservatorship

The+Free+Britney+movement+is+even+bigger+than+Britney.+It+is+sparking+conversations+about+mental+health+and+women%E2%80%99s+experiences+in+the+music+industry+in+a+cultural+shift+like+we+have+never+seen+before.+

KESTRA ENGSTROM

The Free Britney movement is even bigger than Britney. It is sparking conversations about mental health and women’s experiences in the music industry in a cultural shift like we have never seen before.

KESTRA ENGSTROM, Evergreen columnist

When Britney Spears suffered a very public mental breakdown in 2007, resulting in her running over the foot of a paparazzo with her car and shaving her head, mental health was still highly stigmatized. Britney never got the help she truly needed and instead was put into a conservatorship that gave total control of her estate and health to her father, Jamie Spears.

Britney’s conservatorship has gone on for thirteen years, meaning she has had virtually no control or agency over her own health, finances or work for those years. 

For much of this time, Britney has kept her legal battles against her conservatorship and her father’s role in it very private. However, on June 23, she spoke for herself in court for the first time and revealed some of the true horrors she has been through.

She told of her experiences with a lack of privacy, being forced to take drugs and, most appallingly, being forced to keep a contraceptive device in her body to prevent her from having another child (her full statement can be read here).

Conservatorships are generally appointed to adults who are incapable of making their own decisions, including comatose people, the severely physically and mentally disabled, and seniors, especially those who have Alzheimer’s.

If carried out correctly, conservatorships can be extremely valuable for adults who need them.

“There are a wide range of circumstances that could result in this removal of rights from an individual … with the purpose being to protect the individual from making any unsound decisions that would be harmful to themselves, their quality of life and others,” April Oviatt, Regency Pullman resident care coordinator, wrote in an email. “Conservatorships serve to ensure proper care and safety and can be beneficial for an incapacitated adult.”

Oviatt currently works at the senior living facility Regency Pullman, where she cares for some of Pullman’s senior citizens. Due to her job, Oviatt has some firsthand experience with conservatorships, although she stressed she is no expert.

Still, with the knowledge she does have, Oviatt wrote that she has a hard time understanding the need for the continuation of Britney’s conservatorship.

“If what I have read of the situation is true, her conservatorship has taken advantage of her and stretched far beyond the timeline it should have,” Oviatt wrote.

Indeed, Britney’s conservatorship continued to be extended at yearly check-ins over its course, extending far beyond her father’s original “temporary” request. 

She has also continued working, performing, touring and releasing new music. Not only does continuing her work in the music industry prove that Britney is far from incapacitated, but the money she has brought in also represents an even bigger problem.

Because he is in charge of her finances as her conservator, Jamie has been using his daughter as a source of income throughout the entire course of her conservatorship. This is a major legal conflict of interest, besides being crazy unethical.

These facts alone are strong evidence for removing Jamie as Britney’s sole conservator, if not ending her conservatorship altogether. They are also the reasons for a massive movement in support of Britney, the Free Britney movement, which has been gaining traction since 2009 but exploded in 2020.

Even those with little knowledge of the situation or Free Britney acknowledge its cultural significance, such as junior music education major Jason Kochis.

“It’s probably important for future discussions on mental health. However, I personally don’t know enough about the movement to say anything too specific,” he said.

Not knowing much about the situation is completely valid — due to the hush-hush nature of the conservatorship and its complex legal history, it is difficult to find accurate and easy-to-understand information if you are not actively seeking it out.

In any case, the Free Britney movement is representative of a massive cultural shift in regards to mental health, women’s rights and the music industry.

It has sparked conversations about the treatment of women in the spotlight, forcing society to come to terms with a disappointing history of making jokes at the expense of women like Britney, who have suffered at the hands of the music industry.

It has also altered the way we view mental illness and treat mentally ill people. 

In 2007, when Britney first had her mental breakdown, she was treated like either a complete joke or an enemy to society. Today, her story has helped to shift how society perceives mental health, and she now has a legion of fans and supporters behind her.

Overall, even those with mere fragments of knowledge about Britney Spears’ situation can see that her conservatorship has gone on far too long and is far too severe for someone who is able to continue working and bringing in tens of millions of dollars of income. 

It is outdated, inappropriate and abusive. The time has come to free Britney and allow her to take back control of her own life.