While fans and supporters of Britney Spears are celebrating her newfound freedom following the termination of her conservatorship, some worry that society will be just as cruel to her as before.
Spears’ conservatorship was dissipated on Friday in Los Angeles by Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny.
“[The] court finds it was voluntary before and therefore there is no need to submit to capacity testing for termination,” the judge said in court. Spears’ attorney Mathew Rosengart, who was met with cheers on Friday as he entered the courtroom, had asked the judge to end the conservatorship without any medical evaluation of his client.
And while the ruling was met with cheers outside of the courtroom and across the globe, some have expressed fear that society and the media have learned nothing since Spears’ conservatorship was put in place in 2008.
“Britney’s Gram” podcast hosts Tess Barker and Barbara Gray worry that the pop icon will continue to be the subject of intense, unwarranted scrutiny, recreating the very pressure that is said to have laid the ground for the arrangement in the first place. They noted that people are already criticizing her mental health following the removal of the conservatorship.
“That’s certainly never any sort of grounds for anyone to be in something like a conservatorship, but you will see comments on her Instagram like ‘Oh, maybe she should be in a conservatorship’ and like ‘Are we sure if she’s OK?’” Barker told NBC News. “That’s not how the system is supposed to work.”
“And it feels very ableist,” she added. “Really poking fun at her, infantilizing her and maybe not really understanding the gravity of the situation that she’s been in.”
Gray expressed concern that the paparazzi could still hound the “Toxic” star.
“I doubt that they’re going to stop out of some kind of moral higher ground, but you’d hoped that people would learn their lessons and, and just kind of let her live her life,” Gray said. “And that’s what I hope for the most is that she can walk down the street and not have to worry about those kinds of things.”
Spears has also expressed worry about the paparazzi and of people contorting situations to make her seem “crazy” in an October Instagram post
Culture critic and author Gerrick Kennedy wrote an essay in October called “We May Destroy Britney Again” that we may have collectively learned nothing.
“Britney Spears is finally being freed from conservatorship but I’m afraid we will break her again with our expectations and judgement of what she does next,” he wrote.
He told NBC News that what happens next really depends on how society shows up for Spears and refrains from judgement of her choices.
“Well, did we learn anything? Because we like to, we like to say and we like to pretend that we’ve learned,” Kennedy said. “So this is a moment for us to show that we have.”
“Whether or not we show up, you know, and meet that moment is yet to be seen,” he added. “But right now, it doesn’t give me the impression of people who have learned.”
Prior to a June hearing in which Spears calling her conservatorship “abusive,” the pop star had made few public statements about the arrangement — though reporting in the wake of the hearing suggests that her communications with the outside world were strictly monitored and controlled under the conservatorship. She told the court that, at one point during the 13-years conservatorship, she had been placed in a psychiatric hold against her will. She also alleged that she was forced to perform at times while ill, as well as to take lithium, and was told that she could not get her IUD removed.
Still, she has also expressed feeling more comfortable speaking out once there was a societal shift from scrutiny of her to empathy with her and her struggles.
“What’s next for Britney, and this is the first time this could be said for about a decade, is up to one person: Britney,” Rosengart said at press conference after Friday’s court hearing.
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