Britney Spears Defended Her Nude Instagram Pictures And It’s Sparked A Conversation About Ageism And Policing Women's Bodies After She Was Praised For Posing In Underwear At 17
Britney was glorified for posing in underwear on the cover of Rolling Stone at 17, but over two decades later, she’s having to defend her own nude Instagram photos and remind people that she’s a “free woman.”
Fans of the pop star will know that over the past months, and especially since the termination of her conservatorship last November, Britney has shared several naked pictures of herself on Instagram, often barely censored.
She attracted a lot of attention with a string of topless photos posted at the height of the legal battle last summer, and she ended up explaining to fans that she was attempting to reclaim her body after years of feeling constrained under the arrangement.
“I bet you’re wondering why I’d expose my body NOW … well it’s because I was born into this world naked and I honestly feel like the weight of the [world] has been on my shoulders and it’s made me view myself that way,” she wrote in a caption last August. “I wanted to see myself in a lighter way … naked … like the way I was born.”
She continued, “I am a woman …. a beautiful … sensitive woman who needs to look at myself in my purest form … I’m not going to do topless pics for the rest of my life cause that would get boring but it sure as hell helps when you need to be enlightened.”
However, despite having explained why she shares the revealing photos, Britney was faced with another barrage of criticism from internet users this week after she posted a new batch of nude pictures while on vacation in French Polynesia.
Captioned with several strings of roses — a symbol she’s long used in reference to her freedom throughout her legal fight against the conservatorship — Britney’s photos saw the singer posing completely naked on a beach.
While some users found the photos enlightening and praised Britney’s approach, others expressed their disagreement with the take, calling the pop star “embarrassing” and “disturbing” online.
Shortly after they were posted, Britney defended her pictures with a direct Instagram caption making reference to her liberation and freedom.
“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,” she wrote.
But the bout of hate that Britney received for showing her body off actually sparked a much wider conversation online around the policing of social media and women’s bodies. The same singer was glorified for posing in underwear on the cover of Rolling Stone when she was just 17 years old.
Back in 1999, Britney made her debut on the magazine’s cover with a photo shoot in her underwear. Later in 2003, when she was in her early 20s, she appeared on the front page again — this time posing topless.
And throughout the course of her career, Britney hasn’t shied away from showing her body for other publications too, with collections of her raciest shoots circling the internet time and again.
As many fans are rightfully pointing out, Britney was praised throughout her 20s for posing on covers all but naked in lingerie. So, why is she now being berated by some who find what’s virtually the same content — given that her Instagram pictures are censored — uncomfortable?
Calling the subject into question, one person wrote: “Ppl have no issue w/ magazines & execs making money off a 21 yr old Britney’s nudity, but are up in arms when 40 yr old Brit chooses to do it for herself?”
“It’s like people forgot this is BRITNEY SPEARS. She was naked at 16 too,” another echoed.
Some users argued that other women in the entertainment industry don’t face the same onslaught of criticism that Britney does, while bringing the topic of age into view.
“she is allowed to do what she wants. britney is 40! a grown ass adult. her posing naked dont mean she lost her mind. nobody says shit bout any other celebrity who poses naked, 'specially that family who make money from their bodies but when its britney spears its an issue,” one person wrote.
“Aren't half the influencer women on instagram naked all the time? I'm the same age as Britney and if I had her body, you better believe I'd be flaunting it,” added another, pointing out that the majority of Instagram’s “influencers” — who are typically in their 20s to 30s — are often glorified for posing with most of their skin on show.
And the conversation around ageism only continued to unfold, with fans ultimately praising Britney for seemingly defying ageist stereotypes with her carefree content.
“Everyone making ageist tweets about Britney today (because after 40 a woman should stay home and knit sweaters)… and most of these come from women,” one user tweeted.
As mentioned, Britney’s naked photos mark her attempts to reclaim agency and power after years of being controlled — and sexualized — in the industry.
Beyond the public praise over her near-nude teenage body, the “Gimme More” singer was asked an inappropriate question about her breasts by an older male interviewer when she was just 17.
“There’s one subject we didn’t discuss. Everyone’s talking about it. Well … your breasts,” Ivo said, before telling Britney that she would seem to get “furious” when the topic was brought up in other interviews.
Britney responded, “I think it’s sad that people think I’ve done that … the press started that. If you want to do that, that’s fine, but I personally wouldn’t do that.”
Years later, Britney found herself being sexualized in the media once again — this time, however, at the hands of her ex-boyfriend, Justin Timberlake.
Following their highly publicized breakup in 2002, Justin made crude comments about their sex life while insinuating that she’d cheated on him with several pointed lyrics.
Speaking with Hot 97, Justin laughed and said, “I did it. I'm dirty” when asked if he’d had “oral intercourse” with Britney. His treatment of her in the public eye led to her being scrutinized, villainized, and sometimes even ridiculed in the media for years.
And just six short years on from all of this, Britney would be placed in a restrictive conservatorship that saw her life and finances tightly monitored by her father and lawyers until November 2021.
Under the legal arrangement, Britney found all aspects of her life being controlled. She claimed in court last year that she’d been forced to have an IUD inserted despite wishing to have more children. She also revealed on Instagram months later that she was made to give “tons” of blood weekly against her will.
With Britney’s history of being controlled and managed from such a young age, her recent attempts to express her freedom by posting unconventional photos to her own account seems to be a liberating approach, and — in her own words — an act of rebellion.