The autumn of 2021 has brought a mix of news addressing the abuse of women in the music industry. The world saw R. Kelly found guilty of sexual abuse after a 25+ year string of horrific ongoing allegations. In the following week, UK pop singer Sophie Ellis Bextor and model Emily Ratajkowski shared in their upcoming respective autobiographies their stories of abuse – Ellis Bextor of being raped by a prominent musician when she was aged 17, and Ratajkowski of being groped by Robin Thicke while filming the Blurred Lines music video. It highlights a huge amount of work still to be done when it comes to protecting women and girls, and across these stories from recent times it’s quite unbelievable that there are even discussions – or legal battles – about what is and what isn’t acceptable when it comes to the physical, sexual abuse, extortion, coercive control and manipulation of human beings.
The #FreeBritney Campaign
Following the Britney Spears legal battle progress since the summer of 2021, it’s been some consolation to see the publicity around the case work in the singer’s favour, and to observe the end of the conservatorship from her father Jamie Spears. At the same time, it’s been bittersweet as more details have been revealed about the singer’s life over the last 13 years and the effect this has had on her.
Britney recently claimed her father had abused the conservatorship and that he had “ruined her life”. In July, her newly appointed lawyer Mathew Rosengart, (who Spears had hired herself) began the process to remove Jamie Spears. By September this finally came to pass, with Jamie Spears relinquishing the conservatorship and dropping his request to extract a multi-million-dollar settlement in doing so.
Judge Brenda Penny has assigned a new, temporary conservatorship over Britney Spears’ estate and financial affairs in accountant John Zabel, who was chosen by Britney and her legal team. This temporary measure is undoubtedly a huge win for the singer, who has had no say or control over her finances in 13 years.
What happens next?
Britney Spears’ legal team then submitted a request to have a new hearing take place that would address ending the conservatorship completely. This is scheduled for 12th November. It will be interesting to see what transpires from this request, as a ruling on either side will raise significant questions once more about the ethics of the singer’s ongoing situation; if Spears is ruled as capable and not in need of a conservator then it will beg the question of why this situation continued for so many years without opposition, and conversely, if she is ruled as incapable and in need of a conservator then we must ask whether it’s morally acceptable to expect someone to work without control of their payments.
Additionally, the technical details of this ruling from Judge Penny mean that Jamie Spears is ‘suspended’ and not ‘terminated’ from the conservatorship which is an important detail – by suspending him, means the courts can investigate further details from the case relating to allegations of his coercion and extortion. Most notably, these claims were highlighted in the recent documentary Controlling Britney Spears, outlining the information that the singer was bugged, monitored, and surveilled around the clock by a security company hired by Jamie, and that anyone close to her was obliged to sign a non-disclosure agreement. There are rumours circulating that Britney’s lawyer will pursue action against both Jamie Spears and the team behind the scenes who benefited from her work over these years.
As the next legal installment is prepared in the coming weeks, it’s safe to say that Britney is pleased with the progress thus far – the singer shared a video while taking a flying lesson on Instagram after her win, saying that she was “on cloud 9 right now”. The public reception to the news from fans and celeb friends alike has been overwhelmingly supportive. We hope the next November hearing has a positive outcome for the singer and will prove to be a step in the right direction in supporting women who are fighting for autonomy that rightfully belongs to them.