“I experienced a sense of being subjected to ritualistic torture”: the most surprising events in Britney Spears’ autobiography.

She has not experienced true liberty.

When Britney was young, she found solace in nature to escape her challenging family situation. Her father’s alcoholism often led to arguments with her mother. Being in the outdoors gave her a thrill and a sense of risk, as she writes. Additionally, performing gives her a feeling of invincibility. However, as she turns 16, she becomes a public figure, unable to go out without being swarmed by people. Her passion for singing and dancing has now become a profitable asset.

During the release of her second album, she had very few desires. One of her fondest memories was when she went skinny-dipping with her dancers after performing at Rock in Rio in January 2001. She describes it as a moment of rebellion and freedom, but also just having fun as a 19-year-old. After her breakup with Justin Timberlake, she daydreams about leaving the pop industry and opening a shop. Looking back, she realizes that she didn’t give herself enough time to heal from the breakup. However, when she requests a break, it is not only denied but also seen as a potential act of rebellion that needs to be suppressed and questioned.

In a restrictive setting, small acts of kindness hold a significant value, such as Paris Hilton encouraging Britney to enjoy herself after a long time. This resulted in some infamous nights out with the heiress and Lindsay Lohan. However, Britney’s actions were once again viewed as inappropriate, potentially impacting her ability to earn money. On one occasion, she asks her mother to babysit her sons while she goes out and returns home under the influence. Her mother, Lynne Spears, yells at her, causing Britney to feel immense shame. She realizes that she is not allowed to have fun. As the restrictions on her life become stricter, Britney begins to act out, eventually leading to her being placed under a conservatorship controlled by her father for 13 years.

She felt like her body was open to the public.

Since the beginning, Britney’s appearance has been open for criticism. Even as a 16-year-old going through puberty, the media speculated that her physical changes were due to breast implants, rather than a natural part of growing up. She noticed that she was often asked about her body while her boyfriend Justin Timberlake was asked more serious questions about his music. This added pressure eventually led to her breaking point, and she later characterized shaving her head in 2007 as a rebellion against the impossible beauty standards she was expected to meet. She recalls being scrutinized by talkshow hosts for her breasts and receiving backlash from American parents for wearing revealing clothing.

After a brief moment of freedom, her rights are once again restricted when she is placed under a conservatorship a year later. This conservatorship also has control over her physical well-being. Despite her efforts to maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise, her father constantly criticizes her for being overweight. The intense workout routines she is forced to endure leave her feeling mentally drained. In addition, her diet is closely monitored, along with every other aspect of her life, while she continues to perform in Las Vegas. She reflects on how her body was once strong enough to carry two children and execute flawless dance routines on stage, yet now it is being scrutinized and used for profit.

She explains that freedom to her means not being criticized for gaining weight and being able to enjoy eating chocolate. It also involves being able to post selfies on Instagram, whether they are nude or clothed. She acknowledges that some may not understand this, but she believes it stems from being constantly photographed and judged by others, so taking control of her own image brings her joy.

Her chastity was like a confinement.

Britney was actively marketed as a virgin, a repulsive, archaic premise that made the 16-year-old’s inevitable sexuality into a kind of timebomb. In fact, she writes happily, she first slept with her older brother’s best friend when she was 14. Yet the fixation on her “purity” took “the focus off me as a musician and a performer”, she writes. “All some reporters could think of to ask me was whether or not my breasts were real (they were, actually) and whether or not my hymen was intact.”

Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake in 2002.

When Timberlake publicly reveals that she was unfaithful, she is heavily stigmatized. She is aware that she cannot combat this narrative, as Justin holds the power to shame her. His disclosure of their sexual relationship, however, brings her a sense of freedom. She admits that she appreciates Justin’s admission. She questions why her managers went to such lengths to portray her as a young, innocent virgin even in her 20s. She wonders why it mattered to anyone whether or not she had engaged in sexual activity.

However, she was unable to break free from the pattern that Timberlake initiated. She reflects on her 2004 Onyx Hotel tour as being overly sexual, likely in response to the public embarrassment caused by Justin. Her attempt to retaliate on stage only made things worse and she recalls it as a terrible experience.

She has an immaculate sense of shade

Britney appears to have a kind and innocent nature, but she possesses a skill in portraying characters with precision. According to her, Timberlake’s band ‘NSync was heavily influenced by hip-hop and would occasionally make an effort to blend in with Black artists. At one event, Timberlake became ecstatic upon seeing Ginuwine and exclaimed loudly, “Oh yeah, for sure! Ginuwine, what’s up, my friend!”

Her account of being encouraged to abort their pregnancy at home, lest anyone see them going in and out of hospital, is horrifying. Britney, with no pain relief, is writhing on the floor. Timberlake proves to be the last person you’d call in a crisis. “At some point he thought maybe music would help, so he got his guitar and he lay there with me, strumming it,” she writes. Almost as embarrassing is husband Kevin Federline’s attempt to start a music career. “He really thought he was a rapper now,” she writes, with the bafflement of someone who has never known pretension. “Bless his heart – because he did take it so seriously.”

to feeling pain

Being a mother makes her susceptible to experiencing pain.

After Britney becomes pregnant with her first son, she hopes that it will shield her from the paparazzi: “I wanted everyone to keep their distance and leave us alone. There’s a baby here!” However, this strategy proves unsuccessful. The paparazzi become even more aggressive, especially when she becomes pregnant again only three months after giving birth to her first child. She experiences postnatal depression and fears that she cannot keep her sons safe: “I became depressed once my sons were no longer protected inside my body … I wished they were back inside me so the outside world couldn’t harm them.”

She has a keen sense of injustice regarding a perceived contract that she never signed with the public and the press. “They just kept acting like I owed it to them to let the men who kept trying to catch me looking fat take photos of my infant sons.” Her postpartum body and shots of her without makeup were treated as “some kind of a sin – as if gaining weight was something unkind I’d done to them personally, a betrayal. At what point did I promise to stay 17 for the rest of my life?”

She explains that her current understanding is that she had lost all aspects of a typical life – being able to go out in public without drawing attention, making common mistakes as a new mother of twins, and having a sense of trust in those around her. She felt trapped and had no sense of both freedom and security. In addition, she was experiencing severe postpartum depression. This caused her to have thoughts of suicide. She admits that at that time, she believed she couldn’t continue living if things did not improve.

She is aware that she is stuck in a stage of growth and progress.

Many people believe that celebrities are forever stuck in the age they became famous, but for Britney, she never had the chance to experience a true childhood or adulthood. Her song “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman” from 2001 may have been a foreshadowing of this as she is acutely aware of the gap between the two stages of life. Following her breakup with Timberlake, she compares herself to the fictional character Benjamin Button. She explains, “In some way, that year, as I became more vulnerable, I began to feel like a child again.”

The circumstances become more severe due to postpartum depression. In a remorseful passage, she describes feeling like she had turned into the baby herself and took out her frustrations on her interior decorator. She explains that one part of her was acting like a demanding adult, while another part of her suddenly acted childishly.

When she is placed under the conservatorship, she not only experiences a decline in her progress, but also feels dehumanized due to the constant monitoring. She describes feeling like a robot, specifically a child-like robot, as a result of the conservatorship. She explains how she was stripped of her femininity and made to feel like a child. She finds it difficult to convey how quickly she would switch between feeling like a little girl, a teenager, and a woman due to the restrictions imposed on her freedom. She reveals that she was expected to be wild and perform on stage, but act like a robot in all other aspects of her life.

in today’s society.

It appears that music has become a secondary consideration in modern society.

In the early days, Britney expressed her love for creating music. She conveyed to producer Max Martin her desire for a more R&B sound rather than pure pop. Before recording “Baby, One More Time,” she listened to “Tainted Love” and purposely stayed up late to achieve a gritty and “fried” vocal quality like Marc Almond. Britney was a stickler for perfection in the studio and would spend hours in the recording booth. The concept of a school setting and uniforms in the music video for “Baby, One More Time” was her own idea. She reflects, “That was probably the period in my life when I had the most passion for music. I was unknown and had nothing to lose if I made a mistake.”

Following this, her music is barely mentioned in A Woman Like Me. There is a brief acknowledgement of her record-breaking success, and the iconic song Toxic is briefly mentioned. The only album that receives in-depth attention is 2007’s beloved Blackout, which was created during a tumultuous time in her public life but was still full of promise. The recording studio provided a safe haven from the constant paparazzi harassment she faced outside; even though the DIY music video for her single Gimme More was “by far the worst video [she] ever shot in [her] life”, its roughness caught the attention of “more interesting people” who wanted to collaborate with her. While there is some praise for her later album Glory and her collaboration with Elton John in 2022, she states that she currently has no plans to make new music.

Her life under the conservatorship is a horror story

It feels fitting that The Woman in Me is being released a week before Halloween. No matter how much we already know about the 13 years that Britney lived under a conservatorship, her recounting of its imposition, life under it and her inability to escape it is nothing short of a horror story. It is appalling, like something out of a Victorian novel, not the very real experiences of a thirtysomething in the last decade.

When she becomes concerned that Federline might take away her access to her children, she barricades herself and one of her sons in a bathroom. Suddenly, a Swat team dressed in black bursts through the door, as if she had harmed someone. She is then placed on involuntary hospitalization. Shortly after, her mother invites her to stay at her beach house, claiming that the police are looking for her. However, upon arrival, another Swat team appears. Despite being a petite pop singer who addresses everyone respectfully, she is treated like a dangerous criminal.

The control of her life is held by her father through a conservatorship. She claims that her father is an alcoholic who has declared bankruptcy and failed in business, and who had scared her as a child. She is prescribed medication and monitored closely. Any potential dates are required to undergo background checks and blood tests, sign non-disclosure agreements, and be informed of her entire sexual history before the first date. Britney writes that this system has prevented her from finding basic companionship, having a fun night out, making new friends, and falling in love. She believes that it has had a negative impact on her music, career, and mental well-being.

She agrees to the terms in order to maintain contact with her sons, but wonders how she can perform at such a high level when she is perceived as “too sick to make her own decisions”. She makes futile attempts to break free from the arrangement; meanwhile, her father sends her to rehab and Alcoholics Anonymous because she has been taking over-the-counter energy supplements. The women at AA inspire her to start taking control of her life, but she continues to face obstacles. Her father refuses to let her remove her IUD to start a family with her then-boyfriend, now ex-husband, Sam Asghari (they have since divorced after Britney completed the memoir). When she objects to a new dance move proposed for her Las Vegas residency, she is sent to a secluded rehabilitation facility for two months, which is the most distressing part of the book.

She is imprisoned, prescribed lithium, subjected to constant testing and required therapy, unable to see her children or dog, unable to have privacy while bathing or dressing or closing her room door, and has strict bed and wake times. During blood tests, “the person taking my blood was accompanied by a nurse, a security guard, and my assistant. Was I a cannibal? A bank robber? A wild animal? Why was I treated as if I were about to burn down the place and kill them all?” She questions if her family is plotting to murder her. She explains feeling slow and sluggish, writing “I began to feel like I was being tortured in a ritualistic manner,” and feeling disconnected from her own body. She realizes that if the intention of being in that place was to heal, it had the opposite effect.

After going through that ordeal, she claims that she is not afraid of anything. However, this does not give her a sense of strength, but instead makes her feel melancholic. She believes that she should not have to be this resilient.

#FreeBritney protestors in 2021.

A nurse introduces Britney to a growing fan movement that is raising awareness about concerns with her conservatorship. In June 2021, she contacts 911 to report her father for abusing his role as her conservator, just days before a court hearing. In her own words, she explains, “My voice has been manipulated and used against me so many times that I fear it will not be recognized if I speak freely.” When she is finally released from the conservatorship in November 2021, she experiences a range of emotions including shock, relief, happiness, sadness, and joy.

and her

She has no affection for her family and herself.

Britney recounts her experiences of constantly feeling inadequate during her childhood, due to her father’s rumored alcohol addiction, neglect, and harsh expectations. She also acknowledges her mother’s role in making her feel inferior. She does not hold back when describing her younger sister as a spoiled individual who was shielded from the struggles of their impoverished upbringing because of her achievements. Britney and her mother had to endure the ugliness and aggression without any hope of escaping.

Despite being the top pop star in the world, Britney’s parents continue to exert significant influence over her career. This includes forcing her to participate in degrading TV interviews, although the reason for this is unclear. Through the conservatorship, her father gains legal control and ominously declares, “I am Britney Spears now.” It seems that her family relies on her financial support while she lives a highly regulated life.

After completing a mandatory stay in a harsh rehabilitation facility, she returns home to discover that her childhood possessions, including a binder filled with her poetry, have been discarded by her parents. The act of throwing away her written words, which were deeply personal and meaningful to her, caused her to feel overwhelming sadness. Despite never intending to share her poetry with the world, it held great value to her. Realizing that her family had essentially thrown her away like her belongings, she decides to start anew with a fresh notebook. She reflects on this experience and comes to the realization that she no longer wishes to have any contact with her family, and she is content with that decision.

Britney states that she is making an effort to have “more empathy than resentment” towards them. “It’s a challenge.”

Source: theguardian.com

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