Britney Spears Gets Her Voice Back

Britney Spears’ heartbreaking testimony shows the importance of letting mentally ill people speak for themselves.

Jude Ellison S. Doyle
5 min readJun 24, 2021

#FreeBritney protesters. Their signs are very pink.
It takes thousands of people screaming for Britney before Britney herself can be heard at all. Photo from Ringo Chiu on Shutterstock.

At the end of the day, no matter how much I thought I knew about Britney Spears, I couldn’t understand how much pain she was in until I heard her tell her own story.

I’ve been writing about Britney Spears for a long time. My first book, Trainwreck, was about how women are demonized and dehumanized by the media, which sets them up so that we can always have someone to tear down. As you can imagine, Britney was a major part of the book. What I learned about her, back in 2014 and 2015, is what everybody seems to know now: She is much smarter than she’s given credit for. She is keenly aware of the ways capitalism and misogyny have combined to destroy her life. She probably does have a form of mental illness that requires treatment, and that illness has served as a pretext for her to be held prisoner, for over ten years, by a father she’s described as abusive whenever she is free to speak.

The gruesomeness of Britney Spears’ “conservatorship,” nominally established so that her father could keep her from hurting herself, was revealed in full by her court testimony on Wednesday. Spears said that her father “loved” the control he had over her, and that he seemed gratified when he could make her cry. She said she was being forced to work against her will, and that when she asked for breaks, she was called “non-compliant” and punished by being put on medication with disabling side effects. She said that she was legally unable to marry her boyfriend, and that though she wanted more children, her doctors had forcibly administered an IUD and refused to take it out.

Britney Spears said a lot of things, in that testimony, but most importantly, she’s said that she doesn’t believe anyone will listen.

“The last time I spoke to you by just keeping the conservatorship going, and also keeping my dad in the loop, made me feel like I was dead,” she said to the judge. “Like I didn’t matter, like nothing had been done to me, like you thought I was lying or something. I’m telling you again, because I’m not lying. I want to feel heard.”

If you’ve established that a…

Jude Ellison S. Doyle

Author of “Trainwreck” (Melville House, ‘16) and “Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers” (Melville House, ‘19). Columns published far and wide across the Internet.