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Intermediate level

#FreeBritney: Why is Britney Spears in the news?

Episode 210624 / 24 Jun 2021

The story

US pop star Britney Spears has spoken out against the "abusive" conservatorship that has controlled her life for 13 years. She said she was traumatised and cried every day. Her father was granted control over her affairs by court order in 2008.

Useful vocabulary

traumatised – extremely upset and shocked

granted – officially allowed something, often used in a legal context

affairs – situation or matters of a person’s life

address – formal speech

embarrassing – making someone feel ashamed

humiliating – making someone feel stupid

campaigned – organised a series of events to achieve something

suffering – experience negative effects of something – causing physical or mental pain

estate – everything someone owns

accusations – claims that someone has done something wrong

contraceptive – something to prevent pregnancy

alleged – claimed something bad or illegal happened, often without proof

bipolar disorder – mental illness causing people to change moods rapidly

activist – person who believes strongly in political or social change

mocked – laughed at in a bad way

Questions about the story...

1. How long did Britney Spears’s speech to the court last?

2. What does the fan-led movement, known as #FreeBritney, want?

3. What was Spears’s father’s response to the accusations?

4. Why is a conservatorship usually granted?

5. What were some of the accusations Spears’s made regarding the conservatorship?

More about the story…

What has been happening?

A special hearing on Wednesday was the first time Spears has spoken in open court about her case. Spears spoke passionately in an address which lasted for more than 20 minutes.

Spears told the court she wanted the conservatorship to end. She described the guardianship as "embarrassing and humiliating".

Spears said she believed conservatorship was doing her "way more harm than good".

A fan-led movement, known as #FreeBritney, has campaigned for her legal freedom for years. There will probably be a long legal process before any decision is made on ending the conservatorship, the Associated Press reports.

A lawyer for her father, Jamie Spears, told the court: "He is sorry to see his daughter suffering and in so much pain," and that "Mr Spears loves his daughter, and he misses her very much."

What is a conservatorship?

A court can grant a conservatorship for people who are unable to make their own decisions, for example people with dementia or other mental illnesses.

Spears's conservatorship controls her estate and financial affairs, and her as a person.

What happened in court?

Britney Spears spoke for more than 20 minutes. She seemed isolated, lost and lonely – coming across as a superstar who has been relentlessly manipulated.

Among the accusations, Spears, a mother of two, said she wanted to marry her boyfriend and have another baby, but the conservatorship would not permit it. She accused her conservator of preventing her from having a contraceptive intrauterine device (IUD) removed so she could get pregnant.

She also alleged she was then put on the drug lithium - a common medicine for bipolar disorder - against her wishes.

What other reaction has there been?

A number of celebrities have issued messages of support. Pop star Justin Timberlake, her boyfriend in the 1990s, posted a thread of tweets calling for people to stand by her.

Spears's current boyfriend, the personal trainer and actor Sam Asghari, posted a picture on Instagram of himself in Free Britney T-Shirt.

Singer Mariah Carey tweeted: "We love you Britney!!! Stay strong."

Rose McGowan, the actor and MeToo activist, said Spears had every right to be angry, also adding: "How would you feel if your life was stolen, dissected, mocked? STOP CONTROLLING WOMEN."

Find out more from the original BBC news report.

The answers

1. How long did Britney Spears’s speech to the court last?

Her address lasted more than 20 minutes.

2. What does the fan-led movement, known as #FreeBritney, want?

The #FreeBritney movement has campaigned for her legal freedom for years.

3. What was Spears’s father’s response to the accusations?

A lawyer for her father, Jamie Spears, told the court: "He is sorry to see his daughter suffering and in so much pain," and that "Mr Spears loves his daughter, and he misses her very much."

4. Why is a conservatorship usually granted?

A court can grant a conservatorship for people who are unable to make their own decisions, for example people with dementia or other mental illnesses.

5. What were some of the accusations Spears’s made regarding the conservatorship?

She claimed she was prevented from marrying her boyfriend or having another child. She also stated she had been put on the drug lithium without her consent.

Next

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