December 4, 2023
Trish Arab

The Woman in Me - Britney Spears Autobiography Review (2 minute read)

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It's taken me a while to write this post. The book took me only one day to get through. It was straightforward and easy to read in style, but the subject matter was hard to digest.  

Britney Spears, the Princess of Pop, sits down in this memoir and finally gets to tell her side of the story. Most know by now that Britney spent her entire 30s (13 years of her life, to be exact) in a conservatorship controlled by her father when she was forced to work gruelling hours, and make millions of dollars for the members of her family without having a say in any aspect of her life (including pregnancy as she was forced to have an IUD and by LAW was not allowed to remove it). She was manipulated and taken advantage of by the people who should have been there to protect her. And while I don't know how she can ever repair the relationships we had with all of her family (although I do see she has started to mend her relationship with her mother and brother), she has been a victim to an entire world, not just the Spears household.  

Several documentaries show how disrespected she was by the media, other stars, and friends. Go back and watch that Diane Sawyer interview if you're able, and you'd be appalled that a "respected journalist" would ask such low-brow, sexualized questions of a young girl. This was gaslighting and narrative-creating to the extreme. We turned this talented, kind young lady into a sex symbol and then vilified her for it, and in this book, reading her side of the story makes it all feel even more shameful.

This book is poorly written. At first, I questioned why she wouldn't have gotten a ghostwriter. Still, honestly, after spending the majority of her life without a voice (ironic considering she's a singer, but you know what I mean), I get why she would want to be the one to write this herself. It is, at best, the equivalent of a tenth-grade essay - I mean no disrespect, I think she is brilliant; it's just hard to write when you're still so very much in the thick of the experience and not on the other side of it like you might believe.  

I compared this memoir and Matthew Perry's over the weekend. Matthew Perry wrote with a precise and painstaking awareness of who he was, what he had become and how he needed to get through it (extra sad to think about now that he has passed away). He was someone who had done the work and worked through his mental health issues and addictions and wrote about it in a frank way. Britney's memoir is a lot like Prince Harry's book "Spare" They both write as people who have already gotten through the hardship of their life and processed their grief and trauma - they write as if it's already done, not realizing that they are still in the thick of it. Which makes both reads, like the mindset, very immature. All I can hope for both Britney and Harry is that the book's writing process helps them identify the work that is still to come.

This autobiography also made me hate Justin Timberlake. I know, I'm sorry. I realize he was a kid at the time, and I know I've only heard her side, but I also lived it. I saw him rise to fame because of his breakup with Britney, as the world vilified her. Do I blame him for taking advantage of this for his success - yeah, I do. And perhaps he's apologized now, but it's too late. He could have defended her and still been a star, but instead, he used her back as a stepping stool and kicked her once he got up. It isn't enjoyable and has forever changed how I think of him.

If I'm being honest, though, Britney's story has changed how I think and feel about many people and things. I spend a lot of time questioning the state of the world we currently live in, and while there are a lot of things to worry about when it comes to attitudes and media and the cultures of cancelling and influencing, at least we don't see history repeating itself on the same level when it comes to our sexualization and disrespect of young girls in the public spotlight. We don't live in a world where it's okay to do that anymore, at least not without fear of being cancelled. Maybe that is something to be happy about in a world with great unhappiness.

I don't think you have to be a huge fan of Britney Spears to enjoy "The Woman in Me," and you don't have to be a big reader either, but I think for any of us who lived even a tiny part of her time in the spotlight, it is worth it. It may only get three generous stars for writing, but it's a five-star review for honesty and insight.