The reaction to Britney’s holiday photos shows nothing has changed in the court of public opinion

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Christobel Hastings
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Britney Spears recently enjoyed a trip to French Polynesia and let the world know with a series of joyful photos on Instagram. Needless to say, the internet wasn’t happy about her reclaiming her body…

It’s been three months since the notorious conservatorship that ruled Britney Spears’ life formally came to an end, and the pop star has been making the most of her newfound freedom with a variety of simple pleasures: buying alcohol, going for a drive with her boyfriend and posting joyful, impromptu dance videos on Instagram.

Unfortunately, it appears that Spears is still very much being tried in the court of public opinion if the reaction to her new holiday photos is anything to go by. 

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Over the past few days, Spears, who is currently on holiday in French Polynesia with her fiancé Sam Asghari, shared a series of topless images of herself playing in the sand on the beach.

But while some fans praised the singer’s self-expression, Spears was hit by an onslaught of vicious comments dissecting everything from her appearance to her mental health.

There were the trolls, of course, who branded Spears “disgusting” and “needy” and for showing her body.

“You aren’t a porn star,” one troll wrote. “It’s coming off desperate and you’re degrading yourself.”

Others predictably took issue with her age and declared that her photos were inappropriate given that she’s a mother.

“Spinning, swaying, or titties. I guess that’s freedom?” one troll wrote. “We’re all sorry your twenties were taken from you… but reliving them at 40 isn’t it. Maybe instead of #freebritney it should have been #findbritneytherealhelpsheneeds”

“No more. She has teenage boys,” another chimed in.

“I’m all about you having your freedom, but your a mom and this isn’t a good look for you,” another commented. “I know there’s probably lots of trauma from what you’ve been through, but seek therapy. This is not the way to show your freedom.”

Then there were those who came with the insidious accusation that Spears was struggling with her mental health, labelling her “unhinged” and struggling with “attention and insecurity issues”.

“I think she’s losing it again,” one troll wrote, while another commented that “she needs therapy and back on meds”.

“Can someone please take away her phone and put her under medical care,” a third added.

Shockingly, there were those who joked that the photos explained Spears’ long-running conservatorship, and even suggested that it should be reinstated.

“It is so clear why you had the conservatorship now,” one troll wrote. “This is too much; you are showing the world everything you should want to keep private. I’m sorry but this isn’t self esteem or self respect; this is trashy.”

“This just cheapens you….and is quite honestly reminiscent of you shaving your head,” another commented. “You have gained your freedom….do not make the courts second guess their decision.”

“Starting to rethink the whole free Britney thing!” a third added.

It wasn’t long before Spears herself posted a rebuttal to the vitriolic abuse.

Posting a throwback red carpet photo in the wake of her holiday, Spears shared what appeared to be a defiant shutdown of her critics.

“Alrightyyy then folks … showing my bod in French Polynesia as a rebel and free WOMAN!!!!! I WILL DO BIG LETTERS CAUSE I THINK THAT MEANS IT’S IMPORTANT AND I DON’T WANT TO BE LEFT OUT’.”

While it’s brilliant to see that Spears isn’t here for negative comments about her body or behaviour, the severity of the reaction to her holiday photos shows the vicious misogyny that she was subjected to the late 90s and 00s is still alive and kicking. Despite the fact that Spears lacked autonomy over her body for well over a decade, the abuse shows that many people aren’t happy to see a woman joyfully reclaim what’s hers; and judging by some comments, would much prefer if she subscribed to puritanical attitudes about sex, gender and femininity.

It’s important, therefore, that we shine a light on how Spears is still being abused for sport on social media. As the media continues to explore how Spears was wronged during her heyday, we must ensure that the bigotries of the present remain part of the cultural conversation. In the meantime, if anyone has a problem with Spears enjoying life on Instagram, they’d do well to keep on scrolling.

Image: Getty