Britney Spears’s memoir is each a horror story and a cautionary story. There’s quite a bit to remove from it, however at its core, it is a story a few lady whose bodily autonomy was primarily stripped from her at a younger age — by her dad and mom, by the media, by her companions, and by the world at massive.

“The Woman in Me” is certainly Spears’s story, however it’s additionally a narrative that is been repeated in numerous types many instances earlier than. After studying it, sitting in a state of semi-shock whereas digesting the horrors Spears went by way of, I discovered myself pondering of Andrew Dominik’s nightmarish 2022 movie, “Blonde,” which portrays a dramatized model of Marilyn Monroe’s life. That movie arguably exploited Monroe’s legacy and repeated a few of the identical errors it tried to criticize, however it additionally tells the story of a lady whose look was commodified and profited off of to the purpose that it broken her irreparably.

“There’s a reason why women who misbehave are so often turned into witches, Jezebels, sirens, Medusas, and other monstrous creatures, and Spears’s words remind us of the age-old practice of associating deviant femininity with monstrosity.”

However whereas each “Blonde” and “The Woman in Me” inform the story of girls whose our bodies have been consistently utilized by each the general public and the lads of their lives, Spears’s memoir is a much better rendition of an analogous narrative, as a result of it is her personal. Like so many individuals who’ve lived by way of comparable experiences, Monroe could not be capable to inform her personal story, however now that we’ve got Spears’s in her personal phrases, we might all do nicely to take heed to what she has to say.

And numerous what she says is difficult to listen to. From the start, Spears’s memoir traces ways in which her rights to her personal physique and personhood have been commodified, criticized, and stripped away. The primary headlines to return out concerning the e book detailed an abortion that Spears says she underwent whereas she was courting Justin Timberlake, which she says wasn’t her alternative.

“If it had been left up to me alone, I never would have done it,” she writes. “And yet Justin was so sure that he didn’t want to be a father.” The expertise, which she describes as “agonizing,” is a vital reminder that really free, equitable abortion entry means permitting ladies to decide on whether or not or not they need to get abortions, not forcing them to make a sure alternative a technique or one other. From begin to end, Spears’s memoir particulars the terrible penalties of what can occur when alternative is taken away many instances over.

It isn’t information that Spears’s look was consistently managed and exploited by others over the course of her profession. Throughout her rise within the wilderness of the early 2000s, when thinness was all the trend and girls have been anticipated to one way or the other each be extremely sexual but additionally candy and demure — although that arguably that hasn’t modified — Spears was each extremely sexualized and demonized for it.

“The Woman in Me” additionally explores simply how a lot of Spears’s profession, look, and decisions weren’t truly hers to make in any respect. In her memoir, she claims that she was fully blindsided by her well-known interview with Diane Sawyer — who accused her of getting “upset a lot of mothers in this country,” and referred to as her abs “the most valuable square inch of real estate in the entertainment universe,” to call a few of the interview’s many slights.

However Spears was nonetheless coping with the fallout of her and Timberlake’s breakup when she was knowledgeable by her father that she would converse to Sawyer. “I felt like I had been exploited, set up in front of the whole world,” writes Spears. “That interview was a breaking point for me internally — a switch had been flipped. I felt something dark come over my body. I felt myself turning, almost like a werewolf, into a Bad Person.”

There is a motive why ladies who misbehave are so typically changed into witches, Jezebels, sirens, Medusas, and different monstrous creatures, and Spears’s phrases remind us of the age-old apply of associating deviant femininity with monstrosity. So typically, ladies who do not comply or align with the world’s typically unimaginable requirements typically find yourself demonizing themselves, too, which Spears clearly did at this level, unable to forgive herself for being forcibly contorted into somebody she did not acknowledge.

The nightmare was solely starting for Spears, although. Most of us know the info of what occurred subsequent by now — Spears had two kids with Kevin Federline, however misplaced custody of them in 2008. She was then all however compelled right into a residency in Las Vegas, which additionally hearkens to a different story of an exploited megastar, solely this time named Elvis Presley. Pushed right into a Vegas residency by his corrupt supervisor, Elvis spiraled into habit and sickness whereas compelled to carry out the identical present time and again on a Las Vegas stage. (In fact, Elvis exercised his personal management over his spouse, Priscilla, which is yet one more instance of how exploitation and ache can ripple from one particular person to a different, affecting many lives within the course of.)

“Ultimately, the memoir is really a cautionary tale. It’s also a reminder of the fact that many people with far fewer resources and less support than Spears also currently find themselves in conservatorships, or in prisons, or otherwise exploitative situations, often based on arbitrary mistakes, bad luck, and systemic marginalization.”

Spears’s Las Vegas residency was additionally the start of an unimaginable interval of her life. Whereas nonetheless performing for 1000’s of individuals, she was compelled to enter a conservatorship, which subjected her to fixed scrutiny and never-ending management. She claims that her father took full possession of her funds in addition to what she put into her physique, controlling all the things she ate, banning all medicines together with Tylenol and vitamin dietary supplements and consistently criticizing her physique and calling her fats day in and time out. Her crew would additionally inform potential companions of her sexual historical past, and she or he was not allowed to have extra kids. Her physique, as soon as once more, was not hers — solely this time, its outsourcing was all cosigned by the regulation.

Probably the most horrifying side of the e book by far particulars Spears’s journey right into a hellish rehab facility, which she claims she was despatched to after she tried to vary a few of the choreography in her Las Vegas present. As soon as there, she claims she was not allowed to wash in personal, needed to give blood weekly, wasn’t allowed to make use of the web, needed to sleep together with her door open, and was forcibly placed on lithium. From the sounds of issues, each scrap of management of her physique was taken from her there. Finally, Spears says she started believing her household was attempting to kill her, and studying her story, it is not exhausting to know why.

All through the e book, Spears additionally consistently particulars the people-pleasing tendencies that led her to go together with the entire above. All she ever needed, she consistently reiterates, was to be good and to make the individuals in her life — and finally the entire world — blissful. But it surely was by no means sufficient; she by no means had an opportunity of being sufficient. On the finish of “The Woman in Me,” Spears appears to achieve an understanding of this as she particulars her new way of living. She not desires to give attention to music. As a substitute, she finally desires her life to be her personal.

And but nonetheless, even at the moment, her life is up for public consumption, and her each transfer remains to be stalked by photographers and the general public. On Instagram, she posts commonly, typically sharing images of herself bare, and people have generated criticism as nicely. However as a lady whose physique has been so exploited, exhibiting her pores and skin on her personal phrases looks like her try at a reclamation, identical to shaving her head was: a protest in opposition to the entire individuals who profited off of her physique and managed its each transfer, and a keen embrace of what has been labeled monstrous as a type of discovering liberation.

These days, critics of her Instagram apart, it does seem to be Spears has reclaimed her story. Her each transfer is not so scrutinized, and she or he has many loving supporters who’ve fought exhausting for her freedom and her proper to dwell her life the way in which she desires. Nonetheless, her story shouldn’t be a wholly triumphant one. After the memoir’s launch, Spears lamented her story’s remedy within the media on Instagram, writing that “my motive for this book was not to harp on my past experiences which is what the press is doing and it’s dumb and silly !!! I have moved on since then !!!” in a screenshot. Whereas one would hope that Spears actually needed to write down the memoir and that she advised her story on her phrases, it is finally unimaginable to know the way a lot of it was ghostwritten, or how she actually feels about her story being aired for the world to dissect as soon as once more, which provides one other layer of complexity to the entire story.

Finally, the memoir can be a cautionary story. It is also a reminder of the truth that many individuals with far fewer assets and fewer assist than Spears additionally at the moment discover themselves in conservatorships, or in prisons, or in any other case exploitative conditions, typically primarily based on arbitrary errors, unhealthy luck, and systemic marginalization.

In a publish–Roe v. Wade world, Spears’s story can be an extremely pressing reminder of the significance of permitting ladies, and all individuals, to have autonomy over their very own our bodies — to have the ability to change them or allow them to be in a means that feels true to them, not anybody else.

It is also a reminder to look lengthy and exhausting at our personal impulse to manage different individuals primarily based on arbitrary magnificence requirements or different conventions. We might do nicely to recollect Spears’s story the subsequent time a serious star appears to be struggling a breakdown within the public eye, or the subsequent time the web chooses somebody to destroy primarily based on their look or just out of spite. And naturally, we might do nicely to examine our impulses to show ladies, particularly, into monsters, particularly when they’re merely being human.