Conservatorships meaning: A legal order for the finances or property of a person, organisation, or company to be controlled by another person or organisation.
Conservatorships are primarily a US legal term, the UK equivalent is referred to as deputyship which can be for personal welfare (decisions regarding an individual’s medical treatment and care) and property and financial affairs.
For the last few years I have been fascinated by the #freebritney movement initially regarding it as an overreaction from eager fans who simply fail to have a full understanding of the complete picture regarding Britney Spears. She is clearly unwell and not mentally capable right? We all remember her erratic behaviour of 2007, the photographs the stories, her extreme and very public fall from grace? My own exploration and personal education / enlightening has shown me the shockingly lazy gaslighting adopted by the mainstream media. The intolerable techniques used by the big media groups in order to sell publications at the expense of a woman’s dignity has had me questioning my own view of several situations regarding famous females. Britney is one of them. Has the media circus that revelled in her very public breakdown in fact enabled a dangerous level of control over a woman’s life unnecessarily?
For 12 years Britney Spears has been under a conservatorship controlled by her father. In 2008, following erratic behaviour including the shaving of her head and hitting a photographers car with an umbrella, she was put in a psychiatric hospital for mental health evaluation and lost custody of her children. It was at this time that her father petitioned the courts for an emergency ‘temporary’ conservatorship for fears that she would be unable to care for herself and her family whilst battling her mental health struggles. It was at this point that her father was given the legal right to oversee and make decisions regarding Britney’s finances, health, business deals and personal life. His role in this conservatorship has continually been extended every year and is ‘under assessment’. The details surrounding the conservatorship had never been made public and Jamie Spears managed all her affairs until 2019 when he stepped down because of his own health concerns and Jodi Montgomery, a care professional, replaced him on a temporary basis. Britney has requested that this be made permanent and made several allusions to the fact that she is fearful of her father regaining full control of the conservatorship.
Her fans have been questioning the length and need of this extended conservatorship for several years now because throughout this time she has continued to tour the world, release multiple albums and work on several television programmes. In testimony last week where she spoke openly for the first time about this, she herself said: ‘I shouldn’t be in a conservatorship if I can work…the laws need to change…I don’t feel like I can have a full life’.
Whilst her online persona and presence has appeared to outsiders that all is fine, she is starting to speak out against the way her life is managed. After several years of secrecy this last week has shone a spotlight onto the reality of her life and her discontent living within the confines of it. A lawyer representing the singer has asked the judge to end the “abusive” conservatorship so she can get married and have more children. She has requested that it ends without the need of an evaluation. She claims that the conservatorship is doing her more harm than good and she has stated that she ‘deserves a life’. There has been testimony from her that she is forced to use birth control so as to prevent her from getting pregnant – this very notion is so archaic because on the one hand she is clearly deemed mentally competent to go out and earn plenty of money – even hold down a 4 year long Las Vegas residency, but she is too fragile to decide about the future of her body and general family set up? It confuses me greatly that those apparently with her best interests would allow her to experience life in his way. When you break it down you would be forgiven for assuming that this was a surreal psychological thriller. The control handed over to another to mange someone else’s life so completely is terrifying.
Cases like this are thankfully incredibly rare but it did surprise me how many well known names have been put under conservatorship, names such as Mickey Rooney, Joni Mitchell, Brian Wilson and Amanda Bynes. A conservatorship only lasts for 1 year before being reassessed so to see one last this long would make you feel that it is justified but hearing Britney speak out against the control she has to endure makes me question that something that is designed to protect is actually causing far more harm than good.
Discussions surrounding mental health are so important and are happening more and more readily in 2021 – we as a society are more open to talking about mental health and well-being, the stigma that surrounds it is definitely lessening. However there is still a fear of extreme reprisal when someone admits to needing help. The way this case is handled will do wonders for others, especially women, seeking help in the future. If a woman feels like she will loose everything when seeking help, there will be less chance that they will seek the help when it is most needed.
UPDATE: I wrote this blog a few days ago now and today have heard the verdict that the conservatorship can continue with her father at the head of it. I feel desperately sad for this woman and hope that she continues to speak out against what she feels is her injustice. I hope that they all find a resolution that they are happy with and they can live with. Ultimately I hope that her mental health will continue to flourish not diminish under a control masquerading as help ‘for her own good’. She can petition against her situation but according to legal experts she could remain in the conservatorship for months, even years. The guardian reports that ‘the process to get out of a conservatorship could require an investigation and several court hearings before the court makes a decision’ I hope that she continues to be heard.