Poor Britters. Almost every vile idea western culture has cultivated about women in the last two centuries has come home to roost on the half-bright pop starlet from a trailer trash town in Louisiana. She was a fried-chicken loving, Bible-believing, pre-pubescent beauty queen once. Now she’s a combination of Ophelia, the mad woman in the attic, Rapunzel, the wicked witch of the west and a plain old hysteric.
I use that word advisedly, in the Victorian sense. A woman driven mad by her womb. Because motherhood, surely, was the catalyst that turned her from your average drinks-too-much-and-takes-her-clothes-off-teeny bopper into a prisoner of someone else’s device. Literally. Not content with taking away her children, the court then took away her personhood – handing the 26-year-old superstar and her estimated $40M fortune to the conservatorship of her oft-estranged father Jamie Spears (himself reportedly an alcoholic).
It was a disturbing and unbelievably sexist decision made – incredibly – by a woman: Reva Goetz. Handing Britney’s estate, temporarily, over to the care of her mother, Lynn, would have made a lot more sense, if parental oversight was merely the issue. After all, the singer and her mother appear to have a deep and loving, if troubled, relationship. The singer and her father didn’t appear to have a relationship at all, until he suddenly petitioned the court for unhindered control over ever aspect of her life (he has access to her medical records, control over who visits her houses, he can even change the locks on the doors) and her immense fortune. The message couldn’t be clearer: an out of control woman needs a man.
Most people, even if they wouldn’t agree Britney should have been handed over to her father like – literally – a piece of chattel, would probably agree she needed some kind of intervention. In itself a temptingly paternalistic view. Imagine, for a moment, she were a man. No need to imagine, actually, just trawl your memory for the countless stories of male rock’n’roll wildness ingrained in our cultural history:
Britney romped topless in a swimming pool.
Keith Moon drove a car into one, but no one thought to lock him up.
Motley Crue’s Vince Neil killed his friend in a drink driving accident and got 30 days in jail.
Britney once drove briefly with her baby son in her lap, no harm done apart from to her reputation – yet her house arrest has just been extended to six months.
Led Zeppelin made a habit of throwing televisions out of hotel windows and they were hailed as the hottest thing on the planet.
When Britney hit a car with an umbrella the tabloids went into meltdown, tutting over her “out of control” behaviour.
Britney was accused by “insiders” of feeding her kids junk food and trying to get her toddler’s teeth whitened.
No one seems to recall that during the making of Exile On Main Street various Stones’ babies were left to wander through the French farmhouse-come-recording-studio with feeding and nappy-changing done at the random impulse of whatever groupies were hanging around.
Britters, in short, hasn’t been anywhere near as mad or bad as the [male] music stars that have gone before. Yet when she transgressed she was swiftly locked up in the gilt cage of her Beverly Hills mansion. It wouldn’t happen to a man. But then, lacking the appropriate reproductive organs, men can’t be hysterics, I guess.
Interestingly, one of the arguments trotted out to ultimately justify this was her “suicidal” tendencies. Jesus lord. Kurt Cobain had suicidal tendencies. Ian Curtis had suicidal tendencies. Jim Morrison had suicidal tendencies. When a man is driven to despair and kills himself it is poetic, heroic, noble even. When a woman betrays signs of the same despair it must be because she’s crazy, dangerous, unfit to make decisions for herself.
Why? Because ultimately, she is someone’s property. Why should daddy Spears have to give up such a prime piece of stock? Who gives a damn about the feelings of the goose who laid the golden egg?