5 Reasons Britney Needs a Feminist Awakening

There’s no doubt that Britney Spears is not a feminist icon. But she could very well be the most important female pop culture figure of our times — which is exactly why it would be nothing short of revolutionary if girlfriend ever managed to escape the poptart prison her handlers have constructed around her during her decade-plus reign to realize her own grand significance. Here, we plead our case to the woman behind the Femme Fatale image. Oh, if only we believed she were reading!

Dear Britney,

Here’s why we need you to get with the F-word:

1. Madonna and Christina. Remember how you once made out with these two in a wildly overhyped menage a girl-on-girl-kisses-for-media-attention? We do. And we wish that Madge and Xtina had been able to somehow pass a little feminism your way while swapping spit onstage, because they’ve certainly got girl power to spare. As much as everyone likes to declare you “the next Madonna” — and as much as we understand why — you’re missing that element of self-determination that Madonna’s had since before she was even famous. (That kiss was her idea — go figure.) While you’ve long denied your sexuality even while selling the heck out of it, Madonna has … well, embraced hers. If you haven’t noticed. Same goes for Christina, who grew up with you on The Mickey Mouse Club and faced the same pressures of growing into womanhood very publicly. She may have been the one who ended up in unfortunate assless chaps, but she never pretended not to know exactly what they meant.

2. Your lyrics about sexual autonomy. As it happens, your lyrics have grown in maturity, whether or not you know it. The producers hired to pen your songs have put some increasingly interesting thoughts in your mouth, taking you from the put-upon ingenue of “… Baby One More Time” to the sexually autonomous diva of “I Wanna Go,” off your new album Femme Fatale: “Shame on me to need release uncontrollably/I wanna go all the way/Takin’ out my freak tonight/I wanna show all the dirt/I got runnin’ through my mind.” For more surprisingly interesting lyrics, please see “Inside Out” on Fatale (about breakup sex) and “Unusual You” on Circus (about the shock of finding a guy who actually treats you right). Think what you could do if these were lyrics that you really owned and wrote yourself!

3. You’ve been a projection screen for a nation’s sexual fantasies for too long. We get it, this is why you’re famous. But this does not have to be your job. There are lots of other good jobs for girls like you. Which is to say girls who could retire right now on their millions and never work again.

4. Your sons. Don’t you want them to know how to treat women? That is, with way more respect than the world has given you?

5. Your massive power. You just scored your sixth No. 1 album with Fatale. The biggest producers in the business vie to be on your albums. You can do whatever you want! Wouldn’t it be amazing to harness that kind of power for the good of womankind?


Author: Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

Jennifer Keishin Armstrong grew up deep in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, then escaped to New York to live in a succession of very small apartments and write about pop culture. In the process, she became a feminist, a Buddhist, and the singer/guitarist in an amateur rock band. She also spent a decade on staff at Entertainment Weekly, cofounded SexyFeminist.com, and now writes for several publications, including Women’s Health, Runner’s World, Writer’s Digest, Fast Company, and New York‘s Vulture. Her history of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted, will be published by Simon & Schuster in 2013; her collaboration with Heather Wood Rudulph, Sexy Feminism, will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2013. She is the author of the Why? Because We Still Like You, a history of the original Mickey Mouse Club published by Grand Central in 2010. She has provided pop culture commentary for CNN, VH1, A&E, and ABC, and teaches article writing and creative writing. Follow her on Twitter: @jmkarmstrong


  1. Roane says:

    I feel for Britney, and Christina and yes, even Madonna. I don’t really see how any of them are good role models for our children. Sure, embrace your sexuality – I have no problem with that – but the fact is that these ladies are role models for young children, who should not be exposed to what they are advocating just yet.
    Maybe I’m a prude…

    • I wouldn’t necessarily make the argument that they’re role models for children! But for us grown ladies, Xtina and Madonna are pretty cool. Alas, our poor Brit has loads to catch up on.

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