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'The Goal Was To Make Me Feel Crazy & I'm Not' — How Mental Health Is Weaponized Against Women Like Britney

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britney spears

"Their goal was to make me feel crazy, and I'm not," Britney Spears told a California judge as she pleaded to remove her father from her conservatorship. 

"And that's not OK," she added, stating she wanted Jamie Spears to be investigated for “conservatorship abuse” and arguing that her father had ruined her life while controlling her life and estate. 

Spears’ conservatorship and her relentless fight to end it is an enduring consequence of cruel mental health stigmas that we all played a collective role in. 

Her words ring true in the minds of every woman who has been called “crazy” and demonstrates the unjust way in which mental illness is weaponized against women in order to keep them in subservient positions. 

Labeling Britney Spears "crazy" became a life sentence. 

Media portrayals of Spears today are laced with empathy and compassion thanks to the #FreeBritney movement, but it may be too little too late for a star who has paid a hefty price for a few bad decisions made during a highly publicized mental health crisis. 

In 2007, as her crisis crescendoed, tabloid coverage of Spears’ life used terms like “Shear Madness,” journalists nicknamed her “Unfitney,” and her every move was stalked and documented in headlines like “Britney’s 60 Crazy Hours.”

By 2008, Spears’ family were granted a conservatorship over her personal care and estate, just weeks after paparazzi photographed the singer being wheeled out of her Los Angeles mansion on a stretcher. 

According to reports, it took just ten minutes for a court to rule that Spears was in need of an involuntary conservatorship. 

RELATED: Britney Spears’ Lawyer Has Made $3 Million From Her Conservatorship Yet Never Told Her She Could End It

Laws that require conservatees to be given 5 days notice before a conservatorship takes effect were bypassed because of perceived danger, and Spears, who was being held under an involuntary 5150 at a medical facility, wasn’t given the chance to object the conservatorship until it was too late. 

Regardless of whether or not the conservatorship was necessary back in 2008, the quick decision to deem Spears incapacitated should not have defined 13 years of the singer’s life and career. 

Britney Spears’ conservatorship exposes stigmas in our mental health system.

Once a few powerful people declare you “crazy” or unfit, that is what you become. Compliance makes you a passive, willing participant, and objection makes you unstable and unwilling to cooperate. 

The stigmas that follow mental illness create a catch-22 for people like Spears.

Her conservatorship appears to be riddled with “benevolence stigma,” which assumes it is in the best interests of someone with a mental illness to be cared for and have their autonomy taken. 

A lack of understanding about how mental health issues ebb and flow means that legal decisions made based on someone’s mental state may have “worse consequences than the conditions themselves.”

These stigmas have created an entire broken mental healthcare system that is built on force. 

A 2019 study out of UCLA found that, over the past decade, involuntary psychiatric commitments over the past decade outnumbered population growth by three to one. 

A last resort, traumatic intervention stigmatizes mental illness as something that requires extreme action against a person’s will. 

This kind of extreme reaction to mental illness can have damning life consequences for those suffering. 

Driving licenses may be revoked, voting rights can be denied, parents of children with mental illnesses may even be forced to relinquish custody in order to seek care. 

In Spears’ case, she was barred from making decisions about her own medical care, reproductive health, and more. 

RELATED: Jamie Lynn Spears' Role In Britney’s Conservatorship — And Why People Say She's 'Guilty By Association'

Mental health stigmas are often sexist. 

Men and women suffer from mental health issues and are both subjected to harmful stigmas. 

However, Spears’ treatment in the media and under the conservatorship is laced with sexism, and much of her life has been defined by the unique way in which women experience mental health stigmas. 

Many of the disparaging adjectives used to describe mental illnesses are almost exclusively reserved for women — crazy, hysterical, emotional.

Hysteria — derived from the Greek for “uterus” — was once an official diagnosis for women who were perceived as overly emotional (read: difficult to control).

Mental health stigmas have long been used to exert dominance over women who are deemed incapable of making their own decisions. 

Keya Murthy, a California-based life coach and neurolinguistic programming expert, says women and men experience mental health stigmas differently. 

“Escaping the stigma of being ‘crazy’ for women is harder than for men. Women are still marginalized. If a man had to live through Britney's life, society would have handled it differently,” she tells us, explaining that men tend to garner more support and are believed more than women. 

“Some might sigh and say ‘he's a man and had it rough growing up’ or ‘media should lay off him’ or ‘he deserves a break’, but women do not get privileged treatment or cut any slack when it comes to motherhood or marriage the way society still hands it out to men.” 

RELATED: Michael Jackson Allegedly Called Britney Spears With An 'Eerie Warning' Weeks Before His Death

Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Catch her covering all things social justice, news, and entertainment. Keep up with her Twitter for more.