By Olivia Bousquet
Oops… she did it again. Britney Spears has been making headlines recently after fans showed concern for her mental and physical well-being. Spears’ social media platforms, like TikTok and Instagram, are filled with comments containing the ‘#FreeBritney,’ while pleading for updates on her fully parental-controlled living situation.
“If this is a secret message show us a rose,” commented celebrity, Vanessa Hudgens, on Spears’ Aug. 6 Instagram post. “And let us know it’s your favorite flower.”
Fans believe the 38-year-old pop star is sending coded messages on Instagram and TikTok for help. At her age, she should be focusing on her career and children, but she legally can’t decide who’s allowed to visit her.
In 2008, Spears had multiple public mental-breakdowns, some where paparazzi had captured her freshly shaved head, as she yielded an umbrella to a car. She evidently overdosed on amphetamines before being strapped down to a stretcher and brought to a psychiatric facility. Spears’ breakdown led to a conservatorship, a legal agreement issued by an LA court, which gave her father, Jamie Spears, complete control of her finances and her life. Spears’ accounts currently have comments asking her to “go live”, a feature on social media platforms that would create an active link of her in real time. This even extended to fans asking her, in the TikTok comment section June 26, to wear yellow in her next post to indicate she needs help.
And she did.
On July 2, Britney Spears posted her most liked and seen TikTok video wearing a yellow crop-top. She has not posted any videos since.
Britney Spears music career took off in 1998, leading to her current large and supportive fan base. Why would she be afraid to speak out against the mass control over her life?
To be blunt, the music industry isn’t known for protecting female artists.
In 2014, well-known singer songwriter, Kesha, spoke out against her music producer, Lukas Gottwald, for sexually, verbally and physically abusing her. Kesha’s fans rallied behind her, trending #FreeKesha on multiple platforms for months, to show support in breaking the contract.
However, their support was not enough.
New York Supreme Court Judge Shirley Kornreich wouldn’t allow Kesha to break her contract, and her music label did not support her. Instead, Kesha paid a $374,000 settlement for royalty of the breached contract this Feb. 4.
Gottwald walked free.
“Survivors of violence continue to be depicted as responsible for the violence committed against them,” Dr. Kollen Duley, a SUNY Plattsburgh Gender and Women’s Studies professor, said about the effects of victim-blaming within the media. “The media and law courts focus on blaming women, which leads women to blaming themselves and staying quiet.”
Kesha is still financially paying for opening up about Gottwald. And Spears could face serious repercussions to her personal life and her career, such as losing custody of her children again. On October 1, 2007, Spears lost custody of her two children to her ex-husband, Kevin Federline, after refusing Federline parental guardianship of their children, and failing to show up in court.
Later that month, Spears was granted supervised visitation three times a week.
Celebrity women try to balance their maternal role with the demanding expectations of stardom. Spears, all women alike, are constantly working for a safe environment to create. Videos and songs sexualize women , but to be a woman producing in an objectified field can create a double standard. Sexual women are too promiscuous, but being too reserved could cost a contract. In reality, men in music are pushed and applauded for being a womanizer.
Music is a male dominated industry, where abusers are given an opportunity to thrive. Well-known musical artist, Chris Brown, pleaded guilty to the assault of his now ex-girlfriend and popstar, Rihanna, in 2009. Rihanna was hospitalized with contusions to her face, a split lip, bloodied nose, and bites and bruises on her arms and fingers. Brown has since been accused of several cases of sexual assault, stalking and violent threats. Yet, he remains a prominent figure in today’s music.
“Victim-blaming plays a pivotal role in sustaining a ‘rape culture’,” said Duley.
Rape culture is the normalization of sexual violence against women perpetrated in the media and popular culture. Society, through social media and print publications, has taught women to believe the way they dress, act and speak is the reason violence is acted upon them through systemic oppression.
The voices of women being silenced is no new virtue.
Spears currently has a net worth of $60 million, which can make her vulnerable to manipulation from those around her. Her mental health and drug problems have been headlined, but her fame cannot be forgotten. Her father has control over every last penny, so why would he allow her freedom?
Music stars are left silently fighting against an industry working against them. Britney Spears could continue battling alone against her control over her life, but she could risk losing everything she’s worked for in the process. Fans can help by joining anti-violence movements, such as ‘#FreeBritney,’ by peacefully protesting against violence against women in the music industry, and advocating to stop popular culture from shunning survivors.