Britney Spears is certainly embracing being a free woman. The star was officially released from the conservatorship with her father Jamie in November, giving her back control of her personal and financial independence for the first time since 2008, and has been a wildly whirling ball of energy and positivity ever since –at least on social media.
To take a look at Britney’s Instagram page is to be drawn into a dizzying kaleidoscope of tearful gratitude for good food, unselfconscious dancing to Madonna, raw honesty when she’s wounded by hurtful comments online, a gushing tribute to her first high-waisted bikini (random, but let’s go with it). It’s a trip, basically. I wholeheartedly recommend it. She does not disappoint.
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And now, a nude. Whereas Instagram doesn’t allow posts featuring nudity, and has previously deleted provocative snaps by stars including Madonna, Britney, my new favourite follow, wore nothing but a white lace choker and white knee-high socks in the photo, facing a mirror with her arm across her breasts.
To go some way towards protecting her modesty, the star added a pink heart emoji between her legs and a flower to cover her nipple (Instagram is particularly strict on nipples in line with its nudity policy, a move which has long been subject to debate and sparked the hashtag #freethenipple). She appropriately captioned the photo: “Free woman energy has never felt better.”
It’s not the first time the singer has made this kind of bold move – she previously shared a series of censored nude photos in the summer of 2021 during the court battle over her conservatorship. Some fans questioned how well Britney was at the time, suggesting the stress of the case may well have taken its emotional toll – an absolutely valid concern, for we all want Britney to be both free and happy.
If you take her posts at face value however, there’s something sinister in the backlash to her behaviour that seems to outweigh any genuine worries for her wellbeing. I’d hazard that the social media pile-on towards Britney for sharing snaps of her body hasn’t actually got an awful lot to do with who she is at all, but what people expect of women of her age.
Perhaps that’s why Britney disabled the comments on her post; perhaps that’s why so many of us do the same – because being a woman online can be absolutely savage.
It’s classic, isn’t it? People pulling Britney apart for stepping outside of the boundaries of what they expect of her because of the type of baseless societal standards we see exacted upon women all the time – an ageist take if ever we saw one.
But Britney is 40, not 80 – and she’s got an absolutely killer body, no matter what you think of people “baring it all” on social media. For some, it can be truly empowering. Plus, let’s not forget, she looks like this and she’s the mother of two teenage sons. Britney, I salute you.
Madonna, who is 63 (but looks 30 years younger), got the very same backlash when she posted (now deleted) shots of herself on Instagram wearing fishnets and writhing, Botticelli-esque, atop a bed, and again when she sashayed down the runway at the MTV’s Video Music Awards ceremony in September last year – a move which, in my opinion, proved that her bottom deserves an award all of its own.
It’s the ultimate irony: from the moment teenage girls are old enough to be considered “fair game” we tell women they “should” be sexy (and who can forget the sexualisation of Britney’s “Hit Me Baby One More Time” schoolgirl-outfit music video), then shut them down the moment they have the self-confidence to show it. We “slut-shame” them, tell them they’re “too old” to look good or assume there must be something terribly wrong. As a woman, you simply cannot win.
A recent Twitter thread made me pause, which I even sent to all my friends. It asked: “Would you rather be 25 or 45 for the rest of your life?” The comments were overwhelmingly stacked in favour of being older.
I’m not quite 45, so I can’t play along – but I am 40, the same age as Britney. And while I’m not posting nudes on Instagram, I’m in hell-yes full support of anyone who chooses to.