By now, most of us have seen the harrowing documentary by Framing Britney Spears.
Britney’s Conservatory may have served a real purpose at some point.
Nowadays it seems like nothing more than a leash that her father is leading.
But this clear violation of Britney’s basic human rights happens to so many others.
Conservatories are established by court order in the United States.
In many cases, they act as guardianship over a community even though the preserve is an adult (and often the elderly).
In theory, this should only apply to people who are alive but need their health care, daily routines, and finances.
There are certainly cognitive disabilities that make self-management almost impossible.
From recovery to a stroke to certain non-neurotypical mental states in people whose mental well-being is failing due to dementia, some people need help.
There is a process whereby courts order a conservatory and appoint a conservator.
The ease with which people imagine the benefits is why these laws are in place and so largely unchallenged.
Whether it’s an elderly canned person who can’t remember paying bills or someone who has always been disabled … it makes sense.
The problem is that in practice the conservatories are manageable, prone to abuse, and almost impossible to get rid of.
Britney Spears isn’t the only example, it’s just a prime example.
This is why organizations like the ACLU have paid so much attention to the injustice of their situation.
It’s not just about #FreeBritney because it’s not just about Britney herself. Like so much injustice, there are systemic problems.
First, ability awareness – one of many types of explicit and implicit prejudice supported by massive, oppressive power structures.
The short version is that while some disabled people may need certain types of help and shelter, they are still human.
Whether they have limited mobility or limited senses or mental illness, society cannot write off them or their ability to have autonomy in their lives.
This is vague and more than a little preaching – so what does that mean?
People under conservatories like Britney can face unwanted treatment and involuntary prison sentences.
Those who know Britney have made it very clear that they cannot even decide if or when to have more children.
The choice of where to live, where to go, who to love and marry – all of these are fundamental decisions made by adults.
These are part of the basic human rights of the people.
However, under this type of conservatory, someone else makes those decisions – in many cases decisions that the conserved could have made.
After this theft of basic human rights, there are abuses of preventing people from traveling, selling their art or choosing.
This can, of course, take many forms. The most obvious thing is to abuse someone whose life and movements are completely under the control of the restorer.
The disabled community and the elderly are both targets for monsters, but not all conservatory abuse is so obvious.
A restorer does not have to personally draw wealth from someone’s savings to benefit from them.
To begin with, Jamie Spears pays a sweet six-figure salary every year for the privilege of micromanaging his 39-year-old daughter’s life.
And until the court named Bessemer Trust as co-curator at Britney’s request, Jamie was in absolute control of Britney’s investments.
How is that relevant when every penny is taken into account? Well … that depends on how you invest Britney’s assets.
We can only imagine the benefits of making certain decisions about where to put money – even if the investments are paying off.
Britney is not alone in this. How many wealthy widows or forgotten child stars have relatives who are more than out to control a tidy amount of money?
What many people at Framing Britney Spears were amazed at is that once they are in place, it is almost impossible to get rid of conservatories.
The legal rationale behind this is likely that an adult who is already unable to make judicial decisions is unlikely to get better.
Medical advances aside … we all know this is not true, especially since courts make catastrophic mistakes every day.
Britney, a millionaire and international celebrity with an army of fans and supporters, couldn’t even hire her own lawyer in 2008.
At that time she was unable to fight her conservatory or stop her father from doing it.
She couldn’t finish her conservatory yet.
At this point we need to consider how much worse it is for a chance heir or 78-year-old woman with mild memory problems.
Laws to protect the population need to be changed dramatically so that the disabled community has equal rights.
Yes, some people need help in their life. However, it is imperative that we guarantee that the systems used to help people are not being used to harm them.