By Ayisha Karim (Clinical Pharmacist)
When you think of Britney Spears, what comes to mind? A life of glamour, fame and ‘freedom?’. I know that when I first heard about the #FreeBritney movement, I instantly laughed at it. I automatically shirted it off thinking it’s nothing to do with me. What does a woman with fame and fortune really need to be ‘free’ from? Having been a Britney fan since I was a young teen, I loved her songs, some of which I could resonate with, such as “Overprotected” or “I’m not a girl, not yet a woman”.
After watching the documentary “Britney Vs Spears” on Netflix, my eyes opened with shock, at how oppressive Britney’s situation is/was. It opened my eyes to the common themes that too many women around the world also experience. For those who have no idea about what has been happening to Britney, she has been under a ‘conservatorship’ which meant that someone else had full control over her decisions legally. This is usually for people with limited mental capacity, due to conditions such as dementia.In Britney’s case, full control was given to her father- he controlled her finances, her work, her medication, her monthly allowance, her legal team, and even who she could see. She was not allowed to hire her own legal team, without permission from her father. According to the documentary, her father paid himself a huge fee from her earnings. Essentially, he would profit from her earnings, make her work, but he would decide how much she can spend, who she can see, where she can go etc.
Unfortunately,this is a harsh reality for many women happens to many women, who don’t get any media attention.
Thinking about this, I could only think about women across the world who also have family members/partners who decide everything for them: controlling who they speak to, where and if they work, limiting finances, controlling their lives. Unfortunately, this is a harsh reality for many women happens to many women, who don’t get any media attention. It may seem archaic, but actually Britney’s case highlights that it is more practiced (even in the West) than I thought. I am aware that there are many Muslim women’s organisations like Musawah who have spent decades challenging how ‘Guardianship’ is understood and practiced in Muslim communities across the world. Unfortunately for some, this is enforced by local ‘Muslim’ laws, where ultimately many men have implemented their cultural and advantageous (to them) versions and of ‘Islam’.
My understanding of what the Qur’an tells us about the role of families is that we have been put on this earth to protect and care for one another- in equal measure. However, some verses from the Quran, such as Surah Nisa (4:34)...
“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allaah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means. Therefore, the righteous women are devoutly obedient (to Allaah and to their husbands), and guard in the husband’s absence what Allaah orders them to guard (e.g. their chastity and their husband’s property)”
...are often taken out of context, causing men to oppress women, resulting in a very sad, restrictive, reality for some Muslim women. For example, this has caused women to be told they are not allowed to work, when Islam in fact allows women to work. For example, in the Prophet’s (peace and blessings be upon him) time, there was a woman who set up a tent outside of the Prophet’s Mosque and worked to treat wounded men and women. However, you will see in some parts of the world, that some men will say that women have no choice to be able to work at all. Women used to ride on horses, but in some places in the world are still not allowed to drive.
Although Britney is one of the ‘fortunate’ ones, in that she has fame and money so people will talk about it– there are women out there who don’t even get fed a slice of bread without permission from their male counterpart, sadly without anyone knowing/caring for them.
#FreeBritney is more than just about Britney and her rights, it’s about justice and freeing women across the globe who are also oppressed.
#FreeBritney is more than just about Britney and her rights, it’s about justice and freeing women across the globe who are also oppressed. If a celebrity in America with fame and fortune can be controlled and financially abused, what hope do the rest of us women have? It shows that this is not just a ‘developing country’ issue, but that every woman from any part of the world can be abused and we have so much more work to do in order to be treated fairly. It also reflects the hypocrisy of some western nations who tend to point the finger at other countries in how they treat women.There are many advocates for Women in Islam, standing up against oppression and standing up for justice for women in Muslim families, such as Musawah. Talking about these topics with friends or increasing awareness about these movements can help to keep the conversation going, and to help get more women seen, heard and respected. We cannot forget that only around 100 years ago, women got the right to vote. We are still not paid the same as men. We have a long road ahead to stand up for justice and to ensure that women are treated like human beings.
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