Britney Spears’s memoir is each a horror story and a cautionary story. There’s loads to remove from it, however at its core, it is a story a couple of girl whose bodily autonomy was basically stripped from her at a younger age — by her mother and father, by the media, by her companions, and by the world at giant.
“The Woman in Me” is certainly Spears’s story, but it surely’s additionally a narrative that is been repeated in numerous types many occasions earlier than. After studying it, sitting in a state of semi-shock whereas digesting the horrors Spears went via, I discovered myself pondering of Andrew Dominik’s nightmarish 2022 movie, “Blonde,” which portrays a dramatized model of Marilyn Monroe’s life. That movie arguably exploited Monroe’s legacy and repeated a number of the similar errors it tried to criticize, but it surely additionally tells the story of a girl whose look was commodified and profited off of to the purpose that it broken her irreparably.
“There’s a reason why women who misbehave are so often turned into witches, Jezebels, sirens, Medusas, and other monstrous creatures, and Spears’s words remind us of the age-old practice of associating deviant femininity with monstrosity.”
However whereas each “Blonde” and “The Woman in Me” inform the story of ladies whose our bodies had been always utilized by each the general public and the boys of their lives, Spears’s memoir is a much better rendition of an analogous narrative, as a result of it is her personal. Like so many individuals who’ve lived via related experiences, Monroe might now not be capable to inform her personal story, however now that now we have Spears’s in her personal phrases, we might all do properly to hearken to what she has to say.
And quite a lot of what she says is tough to listen to. From the start, Spears’s memoir traces ways in which her rights to her personal physique and personhood have been commodified, criticized, and stripped away. The primary headlines to come back out in regards to the ebook detailed an abortion that Spears says she underwent whereas she was courting Justin Timberlake, which she says wasn’t her selection.
“If it had been left up to me alone, I never would have done it,” she writes. “And yet Justin was so sure that he didn’t want to be a father.” The expertise, which she describes as “agonizing,” is a crucial reminder that actually free, equitable abortion entry means permitting girls to decide on whether or not or not they need to get abortions, not forcing them to make a sure selection a method or one other. From begin to end, Spears’s memoir particulars the terrible penalties of what can occur when selection is taken away many occasions over.
It isn’t information that Spears’s look was always managed and exploited by others over the course of her profession. Throughout her rise within the wilderness of the early 2000s, when thinness was all the fad and girls had been anticipated to by some means each be extremely sexual but additionally candy and demure — although that arguably that hasn’t modified — Spears was each extremely sexualized and demonized for it.
“The Woman in Me” additionally explores simply how a lot of Spears’s profession, look, and decisions weren’t truly hers to make in any respect. In her memoir, she claims that she was fully blindsided by her well-known interview with Diane Sawyer — who accused her of getting “upset a lot of mothers in this country,” and referred to as her abs “the most valuable square inch of real estate in the entertainment universe,” to call a number of the interview’s many slights.
However Spears was nonetheless coping with the fallout of her and Timberlake’s breakup when she was knowledgeable by her father that she would communicate to Sawyer. “I felt like I had been exploited, set up in front of the whole world,” writes Spears. “That interview was a breaking point for me internally — a switch had been flipped. I felt something dark come over my body. I felt myself turning, almost like a werewolf, into a Bad Person.”
There is a motive why girls who misbehave are so typically was witches, Jezebels, sirens, Medusas, and different monstrous creatures, and Spears’s phrases remind us of the age-old follow of associating deviant femininity with monstrosity. So typically, girls who do not comply or align with the world’s typically inconceivable requirements typically find yourself demonizing themselves, too, which Spears clearly did at this level, unable to forgive herself for being forcibly contorted into somebody she did not acknowledge.
The nightmare was solely starting for Spears, although. Most of us know the details of what occurred subsequent by now — Spears had two kids with Kevin Federline, however misplaced custody of them in 2008. She was then all however pressured right into a residency in Las Vegas, which additionally hearkens to a different story of an exploited megastar, solely this time named Elvis Presley. Pushed right into a Vegas residency by his corrupt supervisor, Elvis spiraled into dependancy and sickness whereas pressured to carry out the identical present again and again on a Las Vegas stage. (After all, Elvis exercised his personal management over his spouse, Priscilla, which is one more instance of how exploitation and ache can ripple from one particular person to a different, affecting many lives within the course of.)
“Ultimately, the memoir is really a cautionary tale. It’s also a reminder of the fact that many people with far fewer resources and less support than Spears also currently find themselves in conservatorships, or in prisons, or otherwise exploitative situations, often based on arbitrary mistakes, bad luck, and systemic marginalization.”
Spears’s Las Vegas residency was additionally the start of an unimaginable interval of her life. Whereas nonetheless performing for hundreds of individuals, she was pressured to enter a conservatorship, which subjected her to fixed scrutiny and endless management. She claims that her father took full possession of her funds in addition to what she put into her physique, controlling every part she ate, banning all medicines together with Tylenol and vitamin dietary supplements and always criticizing her physique and calling her fats day in and day trip. Her workforce would additionally inform potential companions of her sexual historical past, and she or he was not allowed to have extra kids. Her physique, as soon as once more, was not hers — solely this time, its outsourcing was all cosigned by the regulation.
Essentially the most horrifying side of the ebook by far particulars Spears’s journey right into a hellish rehab facility, which she claims she was despatched to after she tried to alter a number of the choreography in her Las Vegas present. As soon as there, she claims she was not allowed to wash in personal, needed to give blood weekly, wasn’t allowed to make use of the web, needed to sleep together with her door open, and was forcibly placed on lithium. From the sounds of issues, each scrap of management of her physique was taken from her there. Ultimately, Spears says she started believing her household was making an attempt to kill her, and studying her story, it isn’t onerous to know why.
All through the ebook, Spears additionally always particulars the people-pleasing tendencies that led her to go together with the entire above. All she ever wished, she always reiterates, was to be good and to make the folks in her life — and finally the entire world — completely happy. However it was by no means sufficient; she by no means had an opportunity of being sufficient. On the finish of “The Woman in Me,” Spears appears to succeed in an understanding of this as she particulars her new lifestyle. She now not desires to concentrate on music. As a substitute, she ultimately desires her life to be her personal.
And but nonetheless, even as we speak, her life is up for public consumption, and her each transfer continues to be stalked by photographers and the general public. On Instagram, she posts repeatedly, typically sharing pictures of herself bare, and people have generated criticism as properly. However as a girl whose physique has been so exploited, displaying her pores and skin on her personal phrases looks like her try at a reclamation, identical to shaving her head was: a protest in opposition to the entire individuals who profited off of her physique and managed its each transfer, and a keen embrace of what has been labeled monstrous as a type of discovering liberation.
These days, critics of her Instagram apart, it does appear to be Spears has reclaimed her story. Her each transfer is now not so scrutinized, and she or he has many loving supporters who’ve fought onerous for her freedom and her proper to reside her life the best way she desires. Nonetheless, her story is just not a wholly triumphant one. After the memoir’s launch, Spears lamented her story’s therapy within the media on Instagram, writing that “my motive for this book was not to harp on my past experiences which is what the press is doing and it’s dumb and silly !!! I have moved on since then !!!” in a screenshot. Whereas one would hope that Spears actually wished to put in writing the memoir and that she informed her story on her phrases, it is finally inconceivable to understand how a lot of it was ghostwritten, or how she actually feels about her story being aired for the world to dissect as soon as once more, which provides one other layer of complexity to the entire story.
In the end, the memoir is known as a cautionary story. It is also a reminder of the truth that many individuals with far fewer assets and fewer assist than Spears additionally at the moment discover themselves in conservatorships, or in prisons, or in any other case exploitative conditions, typically primarily based on arbitrary errors, unhealthy luck, and systemic marginalization.
In a submit–Roe v. Wade world, Spears’s story can also be an extremely pressing reminder of the significance of permitting girls, and all folks, to have autonomy over their very own our bodies — to have the ability to change them or allow them to be in a method that feels true to them, not anybody else.
It is also a reminder to look lengthy and onerous at our personal impulse to regulate different folks primarily based on arbitrary magnificence requirements or different conventions. We’d do properly to recollect Spears’s story the following time a serious star appears to be struggling a breakdown within the public eye, or the following time the web chooses somebody to destroy primarily based on their look or just out of spite. And naturally, we’d do properly to test our impulses to show girls, particularly, into monsters, particularly when they’re merely being human.