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Sorry, We’re Not Buying Britney Spears as a Feminist Icon

Britney Spears

Image: WENN

There are classes on Beyoncé, Jay Z and Lady Gaga but there is one pop superstar that has been left out of the fold – at least until now. Brooklyn twentysomethings Rachel Goldberg and Suri Ratnatunga are offering a $20 workshop out of their Brooklyn home exploring Britney Spears‘ status as a feminist icon. 

Goldberg and Ratnatunga don’t appear to have any kind of academic accreditation and it seems the workshop is coming at a time when Britney is having something of a revival in pop culture. Ms. Goldberg considers herself a “Spears scholar” and Ratnatunga has been a fan of the pop singer since “Baby One More Time.” We love strong, independent women of all stripes, but their argument for Britney as a feminist role model seems a little flawed. They note the singer’s rise to fame, how her raunchy teen act was a statement of female power and control: “She’s really played off of this virginal sexual thing as something that’s carried on through her career, and as something she’s profited off of in a feminist way,” Goldberg said. Her decision to shave her head? “This is her divorcing herself from her public image,” Goldberg says. “It’s her being like, ‘Fuck what you think, I’m going to shave off all my fucking hair. And I’m not going to be a sex symbol to you guys anymore.”

Feminism seems to be a word people toss around these days to describe anything a woman does, it seems, including breathing on her own. Britney Spears is a great entertainer, but feminist icon? We’re not so sure. We’re not buying the argument that her “virginal sexual” act was as feminist as it was appealing to the troubling male fantasy of a virginal-yet-lascivious girl child who exhibits as much of an aggressive sexual appetite as she does naiveté. Sounds like a creepy mouth-breathing men’s rights activist’s dream, rather than a feminist statement.

Cosmopolitan points out that Britney Spears’ father, to this day, is in control of her money, due to a court-ordered conservatorship. Pretty sure an “Independent Woman” is supposed to be in control of her own finances. Also, Britney Spears’ infamous head-shaving incident seems as if it was more of a cry for help from the ravages of fame as opposed to a feminist statement. She was clearly unstable during that time (Brit checked into a rehab facility after the incident) and one can argue that Spears’ oversexualized image, controlled by an entire team of people, is part of the reason why she lashed out. 

But you can make an argument for anything as long as you can find evidence malleable enough to support it. We’ve got to applaud Goldberg and Ratnatunga for their entrepreneurial spirit, whether or not we agree with them. But we can agree on one thing: We love Britney Spears and whether she’s a feminist role model or not, she is a fascinating figure indeed. 

[via Daily Beast]