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  • Grace Brown

Britney's battle bears broader significance

Former popstar and contemporary celebrity Britney Spears finally attained freedom from her father last week after a hard-fought battle within the courts. (Wikimedia Commons)

On Sept. 29, Britney Spears and her team of attorneys finally achieved success in regaining control of the pop star's life after a long-fought legal battle. Britney had been surviving under a “conservatorship” for over 10 years.

A conservatorship is a legal relationship intended to assist and protect individuals incapable of caring for themselves, for whatever reason, by providing a guardian to supervise their every action. Though for some this may prove extremely helpful, such as those incapacitated by injuries, disease or emotional distress, for a competent individual such as Britney, it was quiet the contrary.

Britney’s lifestyle has been subjugated by the conservatorship — implemented under her father Jamie Spears — for a decade. During her 2009 Circus tour, Britney was unsuspectingly subjected to psychological tests. Despite promises of the tests being insignificant, Britney’s life changed invariably from then on. This past week has seen the first unrestricted days of her existence since 2009.

In that time, the singer-songwriter has suffered cruelty at the hands of her father: less access to her fiance and children, a restricted diet and confiscation of her drivers license. According to her testimony on June 23, Spears was allegedly unaware of her legal right to petition for the end of her conservatorship as well.

Spears confessed that a fear of her father and his intoxication suppressed any quells of rebellion that may have arisen from her in years past, therefore permitting him to control her for so long. She said to Glamour Magazine, “I was always extremely scared of my dad and scared he was going to show up drunk somewhere.” Her allusion to his alcoholism highlights an alarming flaw in the convention of conservatorships: how can one human be deemed more fit to wield responsibility than another, when all are vulnerable to vices?

Due to the enumerated cruel treatment, a fan-led campaign emerged over the summer to raise awareness for conservatorship abuse. The slogan #FreeBritney began appearing all over the internet, on local publications, in the news and social media outlets — even at formal protests.

Their mission statement reads, “For more than 13 years, Britney Spears has been denied basic human rights under a legal tool reserved for incapacitated individuals. The conservatorship generates millions of dollars in revenue for her team, yet 39-year-old Britney has no access to her own money.” Evidently, Jamie Spears has been routinely channeling the revenue from his daughter’s 1990s fame into his own pocketbook as a makeshift salary.

Though the fixation of the protesters might seem to observers as myopic, focused intently on a single case of unfortunate circumstances, they actually expand their argument broader. The website additionally comments on the nationwide pervasiveness of conservatorship abuse, thereby illustrating that newfound public concern over the issue is not merely a result of Britney’s fame, lingering from her previous fame.

Given the recent verdict liberating Britney, she is ecstatic to resume living life for herself, her children and her family. Though fans may rejoice and #FreeBritney champions can relish in their relative success, the problematic legal convention of conservatorships still remains.

Spears’s sanity may have at times appeared frenetic, especially at an early age under the influence of drugs or alcohol — her groundbreaking “Baby One More Time” was released when she was a mere 17 years old. Moreover, her mental clarity demonstrated further deterioration under the conservatorship of her father, as she divulged into self-professed “episodes” due to the stress of confinement.

Though she may have exhibited signs of instability on various occasions, mental health is a fluid state of wellness that fluctuates regularly and differently in each individual. A variety of factors from stress to medication, sleep or even the season can all alter a person’s general demeanor.

Jamie Spears, for example, reportedly became affected by unsafe behaviors upon the consumption of alcohol, a habit that may have not-so-profoundly influenced him in 2009 when the conservatorship over his daughter was first established.

If all people are subject to feelings of wellness and unwellness throughout their lives, how can their liberty be vanquished away so easily as it was in the case of Britney Spears? Arguably, she became so deeply entrenched in the conservatorship of her father due to her ignorance of the ability to petition.

Yet if this is true, there are undoubtedly millions of other individuals of clear mind and heart who are helplessly bound by a legal agreement resigning all of their free will to another — possibly biased — person.

Routine psychological checkups and investigation by third parties should be implemented within these types of legal relationships in order to prevent, or at the very least reduce, the prevalence of conservatorship abuse as was suffered by Britney Spears. Though the existence of conservatorships may prove beneficial to the survival of many incapacitated people, it may simultaneously inhibit the survival of an equal amount of others.

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