Britney Spears, a feminist martyr?

Britney Spears’ memoirs The Woman in Me, have had a great start since their release in bookstores on Tuesday, including in Quebec. A quarter of a century after the very suggestive Baby One More Timethe former Lolita still fascinates despite her escapades and her objectively limited vocal talents.

This is because, more than a singer, the American pop star became a symbol of resistance to patriarchy two years ago, by freeing herself from her father’s tutelage. Enough to partly fuel this improbable revival of interest.

“Britney Spears speaks a lot to young feminists today. It is not so much by her gestures or her way of being: it is rather because of her personal story, which clearly illustrates the difficulty women have in having control over their own lives,” observes the director of the Institute for Feminist Research and Studies at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM), Rachel Chagnon.

The evil tongues will see this as a political recovery on the part of the feminist movement. Would we try to attach meaning to a phenomenon that fundamentally has no meaning? Because unlike some of her peers, like Beyoncé and Taylor Swift, Britney Spears has never made the “f word” her standard bearer.

In the past, this former child star, from a modest background in deep white America, was not distinguished for her social commitments or her geopolitical knowledge. In his 25-year career, his most in-depth position essentially boils down to his clumsy support for George W. Bush during an interview given in 2003, at the time of the invasion of Iraq.

“Is Britney Spears personally a feminist? That’s not the question. But the story of the life of Britney Spears certainly allows us to think about issues that affect feminism,” says Sandrine Galand, author of the work. Pop feminism. In this book published two years ago, she dissects the feminist discourse that is very popular among American stars.

For her, the media treatment reserved for the pop princess, particularly during her famous “descent into hell” in 2007, crystallizes all the sexism to which starlets are victims.

” THE show business — and Hollywood in particular — is still a system that oppresses women. There is a double standard that is evident between men and women. The press portrayed her as a bad mother. But would we do the same for a man who is experiencing setbacks, like Justin Bieber? Of course not,” notes the woman who also teaches literature at Collège de Maisonneuve.

Slippages and settling of scores

In The Woman in Me, Britney Spears is settling scores with the men in her life. Her ex-boyfriend Justin Timberlake is portrayed as a total cad who forces her to have an abortion and breaks up with her via text message. His father Jamie Spears, who enriched himself at his expense during his guardianship, also takes it for his cold.

The book, full of shocking revelations, is currently on Amazon’s best seller list. The Renaud-Bray channel assessed Tuesday that pre-sales of The Woman in Me were comparable to those of Spare, the highly publicized autobiography of Prince Harry published at the beginning of the year. Some branches were already running out of copies on Wednesday.

An interest, it must be recognized, which is not only due to the star’s new status as a feminist icon, but also to a morbid fascination of the public for her tumultuous life. This is evidenced by the number of views on the videos that Britney Spears posts on Instagram, where her strange behavior raises serious questions about her mental health.

“The public has always loved seeing young women suffer in front of the cameras. We only have to think of Marilyn Monroe or Whitney Houston. Britney Spears’ life is no less chaotic than theirs. But the difference is that Britney is the first to resist the sacrifice that the system tries to impose on her. And that, I think, is what people find interesting about her,” analyzes Sandrine Galant. “When she shaved her hair in front of the paparazzi, for example, it was a way of getting out of the system, of putting to death her own femininity, which served to objectify her. »

The rehabilitation of Britney Spears

Thus, Britney Spears is now elevated to the rank of feminist martyr. The time when he was accused is long gone Conversely to push back the cause of women with his double meaning songs and revealing outfits. In the early 2000s, it was even blamed for part of the scourge of the hypersexualization of schoolgirls.

“The way of representing women in the public space is something to which today’s young feminists pay much less attention than Generation X women like me,” notes Professor Rachel Chagnon. . “When we were 20 and 30, we really had the impression of having an image imposed on us that didn’t correspond to our desires, to our priorities. We always had the impression that we had to meet criteria that were there to please heterosexual men. This perception is much less present now. »

Feminists have changed in 25 years, and so has academia. Today, we do not hesitate to intellectualize a phenomenon from popular culture, like Britney Spears. At the time, there was much less interest in what a star like Madonna represented sociologically, although she undeniably has more depth than her former protégé.

Some purists will see this as a regression. Not Rachel Chagnon. “There is still snobbery in the intellectual community. Some people still try to reduce popular culture to entertainment that only serves to sell pop corn. I’m sorry, but Britney Spears is much more than that. It’s now completely part of our culture, and it’s normal to be interested in it,” proclaims the director of the Institute for Feminist Research and Studies at UQAM.

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