F-Word Britney Spears Daddy’s Little Girl

Britney Spears & dad Jamie

Britney Spears & dad Jamie

Posted by Cila Warncke

I wrote this feature on Britney’s conservatorship titled Britney Spears, Daddy’s Little Girl? for UK feminist blog The F-Word.

When Britney’s life went into a flat spin two years ago, the tabloid knives came out, not just for her, but also for ‘stage mom’ Lynne.

Anytime anything goes wrong with a child (even a grown-up child) bad mothering is an instant blame button and Britney’s hard-drinking, head-shaving, fanny-flashing antics were taken as classic delayed teenage rebellion.

The tabloid press had a field day when Britney served her mother with a restraining order in 2007. Obviously it was Lynne’s ‘pushiness’ that finally sent Britney to the brink. After Britney was twice-sectioned in early 2008, the courts made dad Jamie her conservator and Lynne, once a constant presence at Britney’s side, pretty much vanished from the scene.

Jamie’s absolute control over Britney’s finances, property, business ventures and person (she reportedly isn’t even allowed phone calls without his permission) has been widely lauded as a very good thing. “Too bad he didn’t step in years ago when Lynne was in charge. Britney might not have been this much of a mess!” is a typical fan-site comment.

Luckily dear old dad, a big, silent, crumple-faced man whose only previous public role was standing at the back of the occasional family photo-op looking awkward, has done what any good paterfamilias would and stepped in to set things straight
The minor matter of Britney’s human rights, or rather her total lack thereof, is accepted on the basis that the conservatorship is ‘working’ and that she is ‘stable’. The courts said as much when they made the situation permanent in late 2008, meaning unless Britney – who isn’t allowed to hire her own lawyer – is able to challenge it, Jamie will be her legal guardian until he dies.

This ties up the loose ends in a neat, patriarchy-approved package. According to the script, Britney is a flighty, irresponsible female who cracked under the strain of overzealous mothering. Luckily dear old dad, a big, silent, crumple-faced man whose only previous public role was standing at the back of the occasional family photo-op looking awkward, has done what any good paterfamilias would and stepped in to set things straight….

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One down, the Great American Short Story collection to go

Finally! A day off

Finally! A day off

I suspect my four blog followers are down to one or two now, thanks to my egregious neglect. For once, it’s not wilful laziness on my part. At least not entirely wilful laziness. Right after my last post Britney-blizzard struck and my lovely interlocutor Helen Skyped me a bunch of revision notes. A rush of freelance work (most of it odious) came rushing in at the same time. So I did the usual: panic. Cue 10 days of hyperventilating, staring at my laptop screen until my eyes wouldn’t focus then working more anyway (hurrah for being able to touchtype! It’ll come in double handy when I go blind) and going to bed every night with an unwritten-word tornado churning in my head.

It got done, somehow, in a flurry of strong coffee, biscuits, midnight MSN chats and the odd sneaky drag of a menthol. My last deadline proper was this morning. It was a strangely silent afternoon. Having no pressing work is far worse than having too much. After exhausting the entertainment potential of Facebook (about seven minutes) and a largely unsuccessful bash at making cheesy potato mash patties I decided to start studying for my UK driving theory test. Abandoned it to go running, then spent half an hour reading hostel reviews online.

I have a half-baked lot of short story ideas I want to tackle next but can’t bring myself to put my feet properly under the desk just yet. Hence blog-waffle. Ten days of hard writing-to-order has squished all the creative cells in my brain. They need a little time to ping back into functioning order, I figure. That, or I’m being lazy.

In Search of Integrity

Welcome disruption in the form of an impulse journey to Cork. The familiar is useful for many things: ease, security, comfort. But not for progression or intense coversational cogitation. There are, in other words, good reasons for seeking out a strange, half-lit living room in which to drink endless cups of hot water while reading Erik Erikson’s Childhood and Society.

I bought it on a hunch, following the trail of a couple of paragraphs excerpted in a website about child development. My hope was it would shed some light, or offer a referential framework, for understanding the miseducation of Britney Spears. In the course of three mornings slung across the sofa it has proved more indicative than even I hoped. One sentence seems to summarise the whole problem, to hint at root of all root causes: “The ego, in the course of its synthesising efforts, attempts to subsume the most powerful evil and ideal prototypes… and with them the whole existing imagery of superior and inferior, good and bad, masculine and feminine, free and slave, potent and impotent, beautiful and ugly, fast and slow, tall and small, in a simple alternative, in order to make one battle and one strategy out of a bewildering number of skirmishes.”

I say “the whole problem” not “her whole problem” because the more I read, and think, and look for the links from A to B to K to Q, the more it looks like not something one person has tried and failed to reconcile, but something which we are all impelled to negotiate. The “it”, the “something” is, of course, our relationship to the world. Who and where we are, what we do, why we do it. As Erikson phrases it: “The acceptance of one’s one and only life cycle as something that had to be and that, by necessity, permitted of no subsitutions.”

He calls it “integrity” — the same word Woolf uses to describe the essential quality of great art. It is a word usually deployed as a synonym for “honesty” or “rightness” but it signifies more than just following the rules. In fact a person “of integrity” in the conventional sense might not actually have any integrity at all. Submission to social mores can often be aggressively anti-integrity, if it separates a person from themselves.

This is where my conventional beginning-middle-end journalistic dialectic breaks down and I have to stop writing because the particular verbal pathway I’m on leads to complication, not resolution.

Daily Pennsylvanian: Pop Music Lacks a Feminist Perspective

In 1999 I took issue with Britney Spears. I didn’t like …Baby One More Time and I wrote a column to say so. Some of my views have changed (I like Britney, love the record) and some haven’t (I still object to self-objectification for male titillation). Read on.

Britney... Baby...

Britney... Baby...


Once upon a time girls hummed along to the catchy strains of Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive. Or joined Aretha, singing about R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Turn on the radio, or television, these days and you’ll hear young women singing a very different tune. In fact, chances are if you listen to any pop music station for more than an hour, your ears will be tormented by the grating Britney Spears single, …Baby One More Time.

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