Y’all. Y’ALL. I was barely thirty pages into this book and I wanted to take up my sword and shield and fight to the death for Britney. And I know that autobiographies aren’t gospel: they’re always going to tell you only one point of view. But damn, y’all. Even if she was exaggerating (and I’ll explain shortly why I don’t think that’s the case,) her family fucked her over.
And honestly, as far as memoirs go, this book feels like it barely scratches the surface of how pop megastar Britney Spears came to be where she is today. She covers in broad strokes — with the help of a ghostwriter, and THAT’S TOTALLY FINE! She’s never claimed to be a prose author, and it’s great that she clearly knows when to rely on the expertise of others — her life growing up in Louisiana, her desire to be an entertainer, her creativity, her love life and the nightmare conservatorship that controlled her every move. While she pulls no punches in calling out her parents and Justin Timberlake for being dicks who capitalized off of her pain to enrich themselves, she’s far gentler with both her sister and the other men who were in her life, including Keven Federline, a trash fire she has every right to cuss out but doesn’t.
What makes her book so convincing is both the grace it’s clear she’s attempting to live with and extend to others, as well as the matter-of-fact tone throughout (and yes, you know Gallery’s legal team fact-checked this book to death and back.) Britney doesn’t care if she sounds stupid or wacky, and she’ll straight up confess when she’s being a bitch. But she also wants to know why she isn’t allowed to be a normal human being with emotions, who makes very normal human choices and, yes, even the occasional mistake. Sure, most reasonable people know that the attention that comes with all the money — especially when you’re an entertainer who needs the fame for your livelihood — can be a nightmare, but the amount of dissection and excoriation she received was next level, and truly appalling.
But what really damned her to years of purgatory was the fact that her parents were just deeply heinous people who chose, every day, to prioritize themselves over their daughter. It was clear that, even as she was the family breadwinner, Britney was also the family scapegoat, forever forced to contort herself in order to make her loved ones feel better. She wasn’t allowed to be indecorous, and heaven forfend she go so far as to be difficult. And then instead of protecting her from predators, her father decided he was going to be Parasite In Chief. His family already had a solid history of institutionalizing troublesome women, so when Britney tried to display any emotion that made her parents feel uncomfortable, she was quickly regimented and restricted, her rights taken away even as she was expected to bring in millions of dollars that she was barely allowed to touch.
As a normal human woman, it was really fucking harrowing to read this true story of how easily the rights of one of the world’s most well-known pop stars was taken away, transferred to a controlling, greedy father because Britney was too naive, too willing to believe in the goodness and truthfulness of others to know how to fight back. It genuinely hurts knowing that she isn’t the only person this has happened to, and that there are likely a multitude of other women enduring this hell of sexism-based legal repression even as I type.
Because visibility, my friends, means nothing without the concern of those viewing. It was the #FreeBritney campaign that brought about enough public pressure to allow Britney the leverage just to hire her own lawyer, ffs. And sure she’s made mistakes since being freed from her conservatorship, but that is totally okay! She’s allowed to be messy and weird! Especially since, for at least thirteen years of her life, she was not allowed to learn how to be a grown-up!
I’m ngl, I had similar crying jags reading this book to the ones I had while watching the excellent May December movie recently. Britney’s love for her kids is so palpable, and the fact that she can care so deeply despite the absolute shit her own parents put her through is a testament to her innate sweetness. I’m genuinely so glad I bought multiple copies of this book from my favorite local indie bookstore to give to friends for the holidays, because while I can’t actually take up arms in her defense, I can spend money to her benefit.
The Woman In Me is an intensely moving memoir that, in telling a very personal story, highlights how far our society still needs to go in its treatment of “difficult” or “indecorous” women. What happened to Britney is a cautionary tale, not for young women testing their freedoms, but for the rest of society who lets these women down when we allow them to be medicated, sequestered and treated like puppets instead of actual human beings.
The Woman In Me by Britney Spears was published October 24 2023 by Gallery Books and is available from all good booksellers, including