What the heck is “#Free Britney”?


The New York Times

Outside of her court hearing, fans protest in solidarity with Spears.

Anna Anderson, Staff Writer

Arguably one of the most well-known singers in American pop culture, Britney Spears, became a household name during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Known as the “Princess of Pop”, at 16 years old, her worldwide record sales topped at over $73 million. Known for hit singles such as “Toxic” and “…Baby, one more time,” Spears has scored six number-one albums on the Billboard 200. 

At surface level, Spears had everything anyone could ever want. However, amongst the talent, millions of loyal fans and countless hit records, Spears was battling an ongoing internalized battle with anxiety and depression which became more pronounced from her fast rise to fame. Through the mass following of paparazzi to her split from husband Kevin Federline in 2008, Spears began a downward spiral that brought her demons to the spotlight. As her mental decline began to make headlines, Spears was exposed in her most private moments. After several failed rehab attempts, various therapists and rounds of medication, Spears lost custody of her two sons, Jayden and Sean. In response to this news, Spears resorted to barricading herself in the bathroom with her children for three hours before she was carried out on a stretcher and placed on a minimum 14-day hold in a psychiatric ward. 

When Britney emerged from this hold at UCLA Medical Center, she was placed on a temporary conservatorship by her father Jamie Spears. In most states, considered guardianship, a conservatorship is a court-appointed agreement legal decision that is intended for those that struggle with physical or mental incompetence. Due to this new court-appointed conclusion, J. Spears now had full control over her daughter’s economic and personal decision-making, taking all the profit from her tours and music down to the basics, like who she could hang out with and where she could eat. 

Since her conservatorship began in Feb. 2008, Spears still managed to produce hit albums and go on various world tours. All while under the watchful eye of J. Spears the sole inheritor, giving Spears a measly allowance each month. When Spears arrived for her court hearing this summer, she alleged that her father and other members of the conservatorship put a much greater emphasis on her career, rather than her mental state. Spears also claimed she worked seven days a week with no days off, even comparing her once idolized music career to sex trafficking. Spears also alleges she was prescribed lithium against her will as well as not being able to remarry or even to get her IUD removed. 

Fans became skeptical of this conservatorship as early as 2009, expressing feelings of doubt that this was what was best for Spears. In recent years, this ignited the #FreeBritney trend– a movement in which fans claim that Spears is being held against her will and is being denied basic freedoms, a human rights violation. In July of 2021, Spears came forward with her allegations and formally asked the court to remove J. Spears as conservator. Spears addressed the court on Jul. 23, 2021, speaking on the trauma and abuse she had endured over the last 13 years. Judge Brenda Penny ruled in this hearing that J. Spears will no longer serve as Spears conservator, which went into effect immediately. An additional hearing was set for Nov. 12 to determine whether the conservatorship will be ended permanently.