Credit: Valerie Macon / Getty
Britney Spears has had enough. In recent years, members of the #FreeBritney movement have dissected her Instagram page, picking up on clues they believed Spears or her handlers might be dropping in her posts that gave insights into her mental state, the abuse they suspected she was suffering, and her general well-being. But the days of combing her posts for coded messages may be coming to a close.
After 13 years in a conservatorship, Spears has finally spoken on the record about the arrangement that she calls abusive. Among the many allegations she made during an explosive June testimony were that she was forced to keep her IUD despite wanting to have children with her partner, and that she’d been made to perform against her will even when she was sick. Last week, Spears finally caught a break when Judge Brenda Penny ruled that she’d be allowed to hire her own counsel. Spears acted quickly, retaining lawyer Mathew Rosengart, and although she likely has a long fight ahead of her, at least on her social media channels, there’s been an immediate shift: Suddenly, on her Instagram account, she’s speaking with the very raw honesty and a no-fucks-left-to-give attitude that fans have wanted for her. It feels like a victory.
The shift in tone began with a post on July 15, a video in which Spears is riding horseback and doing cartwheels near a grassy pond to celebrate getting “real representation” in her conservatorship case. She thanked fans for their support and, most tellingly, added the hashtag #FreeBritney, addressing the movement by name for the first time ever. Then, over the weekend, Spears unleashed two fiery posts calling out haters and the hypocrisy of unnamed people in her inner circle who are now speaking out in support of Spears.
“How dare you make it public that NOW you CARE … did you put your hand out when I was drowning ???? Again … NO … so if you’re reading this and you know who you are … and you actually have the nerve to say anything about my situation just to save face for yourself publicly !!!” she captioned an image post from July 17 that read “Never forget who ignored you when you needed them and who helped you before you even had to ask.”
While she didn’t name names, fans understood that Spears could be referring to her sister, Jamie Lynn, who has been vocal on social media about her part in the conservatorship and is selling a memoir titled I Must Confess.
Each subsequent post has further removed the need to do any detective work as to who and what Spears is talking about. In a July 18 post, she confronted those who ridicule her dancing videos, mentioned discomfort she felt when her sister performed her music, and admonished recent documentaries that have discussed “humiliating moments from the past.” She wrote, “Look I’m not gonna be performing on any stages anytime soon with my dad handling what I wear, say, do, or think!!!! I’ve done that for the past 13 years … I’d much rather share videos YES from my living room instead of onstage in Vegas…”
“My so-called support system hurt me deeply !!!! This conservatorship killed my dreams,” she wrote.
Britney is talking her shit—shit she deserves to talk loudly and freely—and it’s a powerful thing to behold, especially after having her every move and public appearance dragged through the media since her teen years. The conservatorship is still in place, but these expressions on social media are a major sign that she’s getting her voice back. Fans speculate that her new representation has helped her regain some autonomy in her day-to-day life, especially as many of those placed in charge of her conservatorship have begun to bail. For now, it signals that she is getting some freedom back; that she’s on the path to healing and vanquishing those she says have exploited her. And these seemingly small victories aren’t just social media-related. She was recently able to drive a car with her boyfriend, Sam Asghari, an everyday act she claimed during her statement that she had been barred from doing. It may seem mundane, but it feels huge considering she’s alleged that everything from her food intake to her kitchen cabinets have been strictly monitored by her father.
Seeing Spears talk her shit, especially after everything she has been through, is a beacon of hope, not just for her own future but for other survivors of abuse. To talk shit is to be free; it’s to claim the space and rights you’re owed; it’s to own yourself and your strength; it’s to inform those around you that abuse will not be tolerated or accepted. Spears still has a long road ahead as she, along with her new team of lawyers, seeks to end the conservatorship and hold her father accountable for conservatorship abuse. Her fans will be there every step of the way, supporting in myriad ways.
On Monday, Spears addressed her posts, captioning a silly meme with “Ok … so I got a lot off my chest last week … I said what I needed to say … and life goes on … where’s my yoga mat now 😂🧘🏼♀️🤪 ????”
The more the public has learned about Spears’ life under conservatorship, the more we’ve understood how her situation is also a disability rights issue. Her testimony was a heart wrenching moment of realization for Spears’ supporters, but also a powerful one, and her subsequent posts have built on that stake in her life she is bravely reclaiming. Talk your shit, Britney. The world is listening.
ORIGINAL REPORTING ON EVERYTHING THAT MATTERS IN YOUR INBOX.
By signing up to the VICE newsletter you agree to receive electronic communications from VICE that may sometimes include advertisements or sponsored content.