As you read Britney Spears’ book, just remember the story of how it got into our hands.

If you haven’t been hiding in a closet for the past month or so, you’ll know by now that Britney Spears’ memoir The Woman in Me hit the shelves this week, and it’s selling like copies of Baby One More Time back in1999. 

The book presents an interesting challenge to those of us who want to do the right thing by Britney – or even just be the sort of people who do the right thing in general.

It’s a moment of cognitive dissonance: can we feel like Britney is empowered here to share her story in her own voice, while also acknowledging that this is a person who has been exploited pretty much her entire life?

Watch: The New York Times Presents  Framing Britney Spears. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

As a society, we’ve come a long way since Britney’s famous head-shaving incident of 2007, which was gleefully leapt on by the paparazzi at the time ( Britney even says in her book it was her way of ‘pushing back’ against living in the public eye). Back then, the clip was laughed at on talk shows, shared among friends, and generally used as joke fodder if anyone was feeling a little ‘crazy’. 


We now (mostly) have the decency to look away or speak more sensitively about people – even celebrities – who are clearly struggling in such a public way.

I think most of us would say we think Britney, now 41, deserves respect, and to have her power back, wouldn’t we? But what does that power actually look like?

On the ‘empowering’ side, Britney was reportedly paid $15 million to write this book, and now that her 13-year conservatorship under her father is over (although legal battles with Jamie Spears are ongoing), that money should go to her and to her only.

And, in the midst of divorce proceedings from husband Sam Asghari, Page Six reports there was an iron-clad prenup and Sam won’t see a cent of that book money. So let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Britney is $15 million richer.

I don’t think any of us would begrudge this woman $15 million for all the BS she’s had to put up with since she burst onto the pop scene as a pretty and talented 16-year-old.

But on the ‘exploited’ side, let’s take a closer look at how this book is being rolled out. This is a tell-all book, and look how hungry everyone is for the gory details. 

Before the books were even unboxed, we were given the juicy titbit that Britney had an abortion when she was with Justin Timberlake, saying that she would have kept the baby, but that she felt pressured by him into a termination.


The book also details a tough childhood with a father who was an ‘extremely mean’ drunk, her sexual objectification by older men from a young age, her loss of virginity at 14, her relationships and break-ups, her peri- and post-natal depression, her strained relationship with her sons, the abuse she endured under her father’s conservatorship, and, of course, her infamous 2007 head-shaving ‘breakdown’.

Are we empowering Britney by reading this stuff? What dollar figure do you need to make you feel good about having the world raking over your most personal details and stories?

A tell-tale sign that Britney's mental health and well-being might be negatively affected by the book's release was her lack of publicity around it leading up to the release.  

Granted, a book with this much anticipation around it hardly needed the Grammy winner to hit the publicity trail too hard, but it's also very telling that Britney's only interview, with People magazine, was conducted via a brief exchange of emails. 

“This book has been a labour of love and all the emotions that come with it,” she told People. “Reliving everything has been exciting, heart-wrenching, and emotional, to say the least. For those reasons, I will only be reading a small part of my audiobook.”

Britney has also opted out of doing any TV interviews, which is not really surprising after she said she felt ‘exploited’ by an interview she did with Dianne Sawyer after her 2002 break-up with Timberlake. It’s hard to infer anything other than that Britney feels vulnerable and on high alert.


The other clue that Britney isn’t feeling solid about the release is that she made the decision to not narrate the audiobook, except for a recording a short intro, and opted instead to have actor Michelle Williams read it for her.

This is a woman who, by her own admission in the book, has always been a people pleaser, and she’s already released a statement on social media saying she ‘didn’t mean to offend anyone’ with the book.

Britney smiles for the cameras and she tries to give people what they want, but reading the words she has written and going over it and over it in TV interviews is clearly just too much.

Make no mistake, this book is monetising trauma. Yes, the victim of that trauma will end up with the proceeds (we hope), but does that make the trauma worthwhile? Are we entering into some sort of social contract that says it’s okay for people to be treated the way she was, and continues to be, if they can spin a profit?

I don’t see that there’s a right or wrong answer here. Britney deserves to be compensated for her very public life, but should she have to offer up the last remaining personal details for that to happen?

To read or not to read? It’s up to each of us to make a decision we’re comfortable with.

Feature Image: Getty