Anyone active on social media during the COVID-19 pandemic can most likely recall the trends that circulated online as people tried to distract themselves from the uncertainty of the times: baking bread, core workouts and “Tiger King” took over the internet.
Britney Spears was also looking for distractions during this time. “I spent days, weeks, sitting in my room, listening to self-help audiobooks, staring at the wall or making jewelry, bored out of my mind,” she writes in her new memoir, “The Woman in Me,” which was released Oct. 24 and immediately topped the Amazon bestsellers list for the week.
2020 was a pivotal time for Spears as the #FreeBritney movement called for the end of her conservatorship, which had been overseen by her father since 2008. After a judge finally ended the arrangement in November 2021, Spears regained control over her own finances and she signed a $15 million book deal with Simon & Schuster.
Through the #FreeBritney movement, headlines and Twitter threads circulated about allegations of abuse in Spears’s conservatorship. But one crucial element was missing through the debacle: Spears’s own voice.
Spears has been a prominent cultural figure for the last 25 years, ranking as one of the most searched celebrities in the entire world throughout the 2000s. There are very few details of her life that have not been splashed across headlines. As a result, few moments in “The Woman in Me” truly come as a surprise. But reading about Spears’s sleepovers with her great-grandmother Lexie or the times she was caught smoking cigarettes as a teenager by her mother reminds readers of the memoir’s main purpose — to show Spears in a new light outside of the shocking blows that the tabloids and paparazzi have been pushing for almost three decades. This is Spears with a microphone and, for the first time in 15 years, she is not being told what to say into it.
Throughout “The Woman in Me,” Spears chronologically traverses her life — at some times frolicking in her youthful freedom and at others trudging through her struggles during adulthood. She describes some parts in great detail, like her admiration of Madonna’s ways of commanding attention, but then only spares a few paragraphs for chronicling the time she infamously shaved her head in front of the paparazzi in 2007.
While Spears has served as a magnet for media frenzies and tabloid scandals, “The Woman in Me” proves that most of the mid-2000s hoopla over Spears’s partying with Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton and her 55-hour marriage to Jason Alexander was blown out of proportion. Spears’s martyrdom to the invasive nature of celebrity pop culture ends up coming full circle in the memoir, as she would rather talk about how much she loves spending time with her children than her most infamous moments in the public eye.
For those who brought a torch, Spears does not scorch the earth, but she also does not hide the truth from the reader. Referencing having her personal and creative freedoms taken away during her conservatorship, Spears writes: “I felt betrayed by my father, and sadly, by the rest of my family, too.” But less than a page later, she adds that she’s “working to feel more compassion than anger” toward her sister Jamie Lynn and others she feels have wronged her.
With “The Woman in Me,” Spears takes control over her own narrative — her father’s lawyers aren’t putting words in her mouth and social media investigators aren’t piecing together clues from her Instagram account. For the first time in thirteen years, Spears is able to show the world who she is.