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The Woman in Me review – Britney Spears finally sets the record straight

Britney Spears is finally allowed to tell her side of the story, and it makes for sobering reading

Britney Spears - The Woman In Me

When Britney Spears became a pop superstar at the age of 16, it was the culmination of all her childhood dreams. The video for her debut single …Baby One More Time was based on her own concept – schoolkids in uniform busting loose when the bell rang. Spears created that image; she controlled it.

It wasn’t long before she started noticing older men leering at her during live performances. The objectification had begun. There would be no more autonomy for Spears, especially when her emotionally abusive and entirely money-driven alcoholic father was appointed as her legal conservator.

For 13 nightmarish years, he controlled and gaslighted every single aspect of her life and career. Now she’s free, or so one hopes, to tell her terribly sad and angering story. The Woman in Me is an unfiltered howl of rage against a sexist, misogynist, patriarchal culture enabled by a corrupt hand-in-glove media and legal system. A toxic litany of double standards.

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Her first love, Justin Timberlake, broke off their relationship via text message, before releasing a hit album in which he portrayed Spears as someone who broke his vulnerable little heart. Timberlake cheated on her constantly. He also demanded that she have an abortion. Spears complied for fear of losing him. She sank into a deep depression thereafter.

Kevin Federline, a talentless opportunist who fathered Spears’ beloved children, barely spoke to her once he secured a record deal. He gained sole custody when the courts decided that she was an unfit mother (she was, clearly, never a substance abuser). The tabloids lapped it all up, ghoulishly reporting on every harrowing detail of the breakdown that they’d contributed to.

Time and time again Spears was betrayed by people she trusted, before eventually discovering their ulterior motives. By then it was too late. She was – by her own bitterly amused admission – a sweet, innocent, not especially well-educated kid who was never allowed to grow up.

The conversational prose style of Spears’ account intensifies the trauma she’s still recovering from. It’s stark, almost matter of fact. This happened. And it should never happen again, to anyone.

Paul Whitelaw is a book, TV and music critic

The Woman in Me by Britney Spears is out now (Gallery UK, £25). You can buy it from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income. To support our work buy a copy!

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