#FreeBritney was a phrase that resonated with me. The hashtag emerged years after Britney Spears was placed in a 13-year-long conservatorship and under the strict direction of her father. The idea of a woman being held captive, dehumanized, and stripped of her autonomy is one that could resonate with me as a Black woman. While my history is as a descendant of enslaved African Americans and Britney’s is one of rich pop star—there are similarities and so much of her story can touch other Black women.
In her new autobiography, The Woman in Me, the 41-year-old seethes with rage while also being transparent and honest about her life, love, and the pain of being in a conservatorship under her father’s rule that denied her even the basics like having an ATM card.
The horrific stories about her father and his control of her name, her music, her life, and in many ways her soul are summed up when she writes, “I just want to let you know,” he said, “I call the shots.” He added, “I’m Britney Spears now.”
But, it was her tales about her relationship with Justin Timberlake—including his cheating and encouraging her to have an abortion during their relationship really made recent headline news. Some fans reacted supportively while the music industry offered an expected response with one of Timberlake’s frequent collaborators, Timbaland, saying the pop star should have “put a muzzle” on Britney. He has since apologized.
It is a story that many Black women can recognize—being blamed for the bad behavior of men. But, it isn’t where Britney’s story begins and hopefully won’t be where it ends.
For me, my go-to karaoke song is “Baby One More Time,” there is nothing like it in a karaoke bar full of people who have had a few drinks. The way the crowd chimes in on “My loneliness…is killing me…” makes me feel like a pop star. The song oozes 2000s-era nostalgia and Britney was the queen of said era.
She represents a time in my life in my own 20’s when anything seemed possible. Her book gives back a dose of that time.
“That’s probably the moment in my life when I had the most passion for music,” Britney writes of that time, “I was unknown, and I had nothing to lose if I messed up. There is so much freedom in being anonymous…I t was kind of liberating that I didn’t really have to care if I made mistakes.”
The overarching theme of The Woman in Me is freedom. It is the ability to do be yourself, to dare to dream, even to fail and make your own mistakes. It is a story of womanhood and I think it could be a story that almost any Black woman can read and see a trace of herself.
On the back cover of the book, Britney writes about being a child in Louisiana and laying down and looking up at the sky thinking, “I can make my own way in life. I can make my dreams come true.”
I felt that. Cuz Britney, baby… nobody dreams like sistahs do.