Britney Spears Conservatorship Draws Attention to Disability Rights

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By now, most of us have seen the harrowing Framing Britney Spears documentary.

Britney's conservatorship may have served a real purpose at one point.

These days, it seems that it is now nothing but a leash wielded by her father.

But this clear violation of Britney's fundamental human rights happens to so many others.

Britney Spears in Japan

Conservatorships are established via court order within the United States.

In many cases, they act as a guardianship over a ward, even though the conservatee is an adult (and often elderly).

In theory, this is supposed to apply exclusively to people who are alive, but need thier healthcare, day-to-day routines, and finances managed.

Britney Spears Framed With Light

There are certainly cognitive disabilities that make self-management nearly impossible.

From recovering to a stroke to certain non-neurotypical states of mind to people whose mental well being is failing due to dementia, some people do need help.

There is a process by which courts order a conservatorship and appoint a conservator.

Jamie Spears Image

The ease at which people imagine the benefits is why these laws are in place and so widely unchallenged.

Whether we're talking an elderly conservatee who can no longer remember to pay bills or someone who has always been disabled ... it makes sense.

The problem is that, in practice, the conservatorships are ableist, vulnerable to abuse, and almost impossible to get rid of.

Britney Spears VMAs 2016 Red Carpet

Britney Spears is not the only example, just a prime example.

That's why organizations like the ACLU have drawn so much attention to the injustice of her situation.

It's not just about #FreeBritney because it's not just about Britney herself. Like so much injustice, there are systemic issues.

Britney Spears Works Out

First up, ableism -- one of many types of explicit and implicit prejudice that are backed up by massive, oppressive power structures.

The short version is that while some disabled folks need specific types of help and accommodations, they're still people.

Whether they have limited mobility or limited senses or mental illness, society cannot write them off or their ability to have autonomy in their lives.

Britney Spears in Her Favorite Dress

That's vague and more than a little preachy -- so what does it mean?

People under conservatorships like Britney's can be forced into unwanted treatments and involuntary confinements.

It has been strongly hinted by those who know Britney that does not even get to choose if or when to have more children.

Britney Spears Looking Hot in Japan

Choosing where to live, where you go, whom to love and marry -- these are all basic decisions made by adults.

These are part of people's fundamental human rights.

Under this kind of conservatorship, however, someone else makes those choices -- in many cases, choices that the conservatee could have made.

Britney Spears is a Boss

After this theft of basic human rights, keeping people from traveling, selling their art, or voting -- comes abuses.

This can take many forms, of course, the most obvious being mistreating someone whose life and movements are totally under the conservator's control.

The disabled community and the elderly are both targets for monsters, but not all misuse of conservatorship is so obvious.

Britney Spears Selfie

A conservator doesn't have to personally extract wealth from someone's savings to profit.

First of all, Jamie Spears pays himself a sweet 6-figure salary every year for the privilege of micromanaging his 39-year-old daughter's life.

And until the court appointed Bessemer Trust as co-conservator at Britney's request, Jamie had absolute control over Britney's investments.

Britney Spears Looks Flawless

How is that relevant, if every penny is accounted for? Well ... that depends upon how you invest Britney's fortune.

We can only imagine the benefits that one might reap from making specific choices of where to invest money -- even if the investments pay dividends.

Britney is not alone in this. How many wealthy widows or forgotten child stars have relatives more than eager to control a tidy sum of money?

Britney Spears Is Supreme

What many people were stunned to learn in Framing Britney Spears is that conservatorships are almost impossible to abolish once put into place.

The legal reasoning behind this is likely that an adult already found incapable of making decisions by the court is unlikely to get better.

Medical progress aside ... we all know that this is untrue, particularly because courts make catastrophic mistakes every single day.

Britney Spears in a Quiet Moment

Britney, a millionaire and international celebrity with an army of fans and supporters, could not even hire her own attorney in 2008.

She was unable to fight her conservatorship then, or even keep her dad out of it.

She has not yet been able to end her conservatorship.

Britney Spears Performs Her Greatest Hits: 2016 Billboard Music Awards

At this point, we have to consider how much worse it is for a random heiress or a 78-year-old woman with mild memory problems.

Conservatorship laws need to be dramatically changed in order for the disabled community to have equal rights.

Yes, some people do need help in their lives. But we must absolutely guarantee that the systems used to help people are not used to harm them.

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Britney Spears Biography

Check Please!
Wow. Britney Spears is ... just.... OMG. Wow. Just wow. With this girl, that's about all we can say at this point. Once the biggest... More »
Kentwood, Louisiana
Full Name
Britney Jean Spears

Britney Spears Quotes

I miss it here so much! I love it so much! It makes me it's kinda like bittersweet coming here because I used to live here for two years. And when I come here, it's like, man, I wish I had my apartment here still.

Britney Spears [on New York City]

MTV has long played an important role in my career. How can I not be there to kick off their 25th VMAs?

Britney Spears