Britney Spears has never been able to stay out of the limelight. Since 1999, when she debuted on MTV’s TRL in a scanty schoolgirl uniform singing “Baby, One More Time,” the former Mickey Mouse Club member has been a global Pop icon.
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Unfortunately, behind the star’s considerable achievements lurked a scandal only now reaching the light of day – a scandal in which America has seen the most unlikely of bedfellows come together with one voice and declare “#FreeBritney”. From her bipartisan fandom, Republican lawmakers and Hollywood elites, it seems the majority of America is unified. The only concerning thing is the lack of support from Hollywood’s prominent women’s rights activists. The same women who pushed the #MeToo movement and #ShoutYourAbortion are eerily quiet regarding Britney Spears’ current situation, namely Alyssa Milano, Michelle Williams and Busy Philipps.
What happened with Britney and why does the silence of these actresses speak so loudly?
In 2008, 9 years into her journey to superstardom, Spears was put under conservatorship amid several unfortunate and highly publicized events that suggested she was unfit to manage her own affairs. These events reached back into 2006 and included pictures of her baby sitting on her lap while she was driving, the public shaving of her head, attacking paparazzi’s cars with an umbrella and a rather embarrassing performance at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards. Britney’s father, Jamie, sought conservatorship of her finances and a judge granted the motion.
Between 2008, which was the beginning of Britney’s life being controlled by everyone but herself, the star has achieved an eye-popping amount of success and worked harder than most people do in their whole life. She has released four chart topping albums, completed four tours, held a residency show in Las Vegas, became a Guinness Book of World Records Holder for most songs debuting at #1, acted in films and on TV, completed a season of the X-Factor as a judge, and remained one of the sexiest women in all of entertainment… while also being a mother and navigating personal relationships.
In 2019, after the suspension of her Las Vegas residency, the #FreeBritney movement was born. At the time, Jamie Spears suffered a medical emergency which caused significant stress on Britney’s personal life which led her to seek medical treatment at a psychiatric center… or at least that was the official story. According to a voicemail leaked on a Britney Spears fan podcast, supposedly by someone who used to work from Britney’s legal team, the conservatorship was supposed to end in 2009. It also alleged the Vegas residency was cancelled directly by Jamie because Britney allegedly broke her no driving rule and refused to take her medication. The devoted fandom who followed Britney from the beginning began protesting in West Hollywood on April 22nd, 2019, about the star’s apparent life of subservience and two days later, Britney left the hospital.
Today, 11 years after being consigned to this agreement, Britney Spears is attempting to free herself or at the very least, remove her father as conservator and sign over her financial well-being to another entity.
In bombshell testimony last week, Spears carpet-bombed the judge with disturbing facts about how the star has been forced to live over the past decade. In her 23-minute testimony, the “Toxic” pop goddess revealed that not only were her financial affairs completely controlled by her father and others, but even her reproductive abilities were not in her control either. She’s been forced to wear an IUD against her wishes because those in control won’t let her go to the doctor to have it removed.
While reproductive healthcare remains a largely partisan and deeply divisive topic in America, one would be hard-pressed to find anyone of the Left or the Right who thinks that forcing sterilization on a woman is anything short of a human rights abuse. Human Rights Watch has even retweeted “#freebritney” tweets over the past five days. The only people who haven’t said anything in her support are those one would imagine would be screaming from the rooftops—actresses who have made names for themselves as women rights activists.
Michelle Williams, Alyssa Milano and Busy Philipps leap immediately to mind. Williams famously delivered a speech at the 2020 Golden Globe’s show in which she claimed that her abortion made it possible for her to win the award. While the Manchester by the Sea star does not use Twitter or Instagram, apparently Britney’s woes don’t serve Michelle’s interests enough to find an outlet to display her support for the singer.
Alyssa Milano, whose twitter activity can only be described as incessant, has also remained silent on Spears. This is the same woman who has been hashtagging “#metoo” for years and showed up to Brett Kavanaugh’s hearing in support of Christine Blasey Ford’s claims. A show of social media support for Britney, which would cost the actress nothing, is clearly not a Charmed decision for her.
Busy Philipps , the #shoutourabortion advocate and someone who has even testified to Congress, has mostly ignored the #freebritney movement as well. Other than one vague tweet regarding whether a man has ever been put under conservatorship (a silly question because thousands have throughout our judicial history), Philipps has stayed mute. In my attempt to goad an opinion out of the actress, I pointed out that her tweet was a far cry from actual support to Britney. Surprisingly, busy Busy responded to me. “Shh. Joel. You don’t have any lines in this play.” The Dawson’s Creek star left my last question unanswered – “It really is all an act, isn’t it Audrey?”
If Hollywood royalty want to be regarded as sincere activists, they ought to be consistent in their actions. Rose McGowan, for example, while arguably one of the most progressive members in the upper echelon of Hollywood activism, at least remains consistent in her approach. She even took the opportunity of calling into the Tucker Carlson show, no friend to Hollywood, to show her support for Britney Spears last week.
As the Britney saga unfolds, it’s quite remarkable that this Femme Fatale has brought unity to such different groups of people – Republican Lawmakers, Hollywood Elite and the Human Rights Watch among millions of fans around the globe. It remains uncertain whether Britney’s conservatorship will be dissolved or merely transferred away from her father as the artist has requested, but many in Hollywood have rightly come to support Britney, including Cher, Miley Cyrus, Justin Timberlake and Mariah Carey, and they deserve applause for such actions. However, some of the most prominent women’s rights advocates seem unconcerned with a situation that has all but imprisoned a young mother. Until they use their voices, they continue their Hollywood walk of shame as disingenuous advocates for women’s rights.