Britney Spears + the American Mom-Shaming Culture

It seems like we keep learning new vocabulary words.

Replacing pandemic and social distancing, we discovered a new one: conservatorship. My social media feed and conversations with friends and co-workers all used this word alongside pop star media sensation Britney Spears. Even my husband joined in the conversation!

But what does this have to do with mom-shaming culture?

Or even just being a mom existing in America?

Why are millennial moms particularly fascinated with Britney Spears?

Britney Spears and the Millennial Mom

I, like many millennial moms, grew up with Britney Spears. Her CD was the first I bought with my own money (does that age me a little?). In the age of boy bands, it was encouraging to see a girl singing! She looked like she was having fun, enjoyed her craft, and was SO approachable. I grew out of my Britney Spears phase, but I noticed that tabloids couldn’t get enough of her even as a teen. I remember hanging out with my friends and calling people “as crazy as Britney Spears” or even threatening to shave my hair because I felt stressed out for an upcoming test—all things that were entirely taken out of context.

I’m ashamed to think that I joined in on the jeering. But I didn’t know any better. Is that an excuse? Absolutely not. Now that I know better, what does that say about American culture and how it encouraged Britney’s media frenzy? What does that say about how American society viewed women? And what did that say about the average teen at the time?

While women weren’t in the spotlight at that time, it’s evident that American culture stepped in to say something loud and clear: young women were only allowed to be a certain way. Anything outside of that is vilified. Also, any woman in the spotlight seeking any privacy meant they were trying to hide something. As millennial moms, that means one thing—that statement is made about us as well. We’re now placed in the spotlight to objectify.

Magnified Mom-Shaming Culture 

Back then, we could only stare from grocery store checkout lines where we could read the latest headline. Now we don’t have to go far to do that—social media can begin the feeding frenzy. How many times do we now see the mom-shaming culture on Instagram or Facebook? Oh, that social media influencer buckled up her child the wrong way? Here comes the endless stream of comments that remind her about why she’s a horrible mom. Oh, what about that one time she shared a breastfeeding photo? Yep, that’s not okay either. Girl, cover yourself up. We’ve all heard it before.

The thing with Britney Spears is that what happened to her was revealing something ugly about our culture—and it gave way to mom-shaming jabs at people like Chrissy Teigen, Kim Kardashian, and other women culture has deemed appropriate to taunt. But, it didn’t stop there. Now we have social media influencers. From there, it continues until, ultimately, the ridicule settles on us. Mom guilt didn’t just come out of thin air; it grew in an environment where it was encouraged. Now, during a pandemic, we see it even more. This behemoth is not too weighty for us to fight off individually—what can we do now?

What It Can Teach Us

If you haven’t seen the documentary Framing Britney Spears, I highly recommend it. I will say it is a little challenging to watch, but it is necessary.

For moms specifically, it’s our chance to band together and understand that mom-shaming culture is not okay. The buck should end with us.

Culture does not have to dictate how we treat women regardless of the choices they make. Should it come as a surprise that different women from different backgrounds parent, well, different? If a child is in trouble, as it turns out, more than likely, there’s a mom in trouble, too. The choice is up to you—will you let this be a story you see on TV? Or do you think we could step in and change the narrative? 

For Britney Spears and all mom kind—speak up. 

Neidy (pronounced "nay-dee") is a native Georgia girl, but moved to Omaha in 2012 and hasn't looked back. She lives in East Council Bluffs with her husband Zach, her sons Charlie and Eddie, and her daughter Tegan. Neidy met her husband while in college and married him while he was still serving active duty in the Marine Corps. After a brief stint living in San Diego, they decided to move back to her husband's native home in Omaha. Neidy finished her degree at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, pursuing Film Studies, which has cemented her love of Omaha. She's now a homeschooling mom and works at her church as the children's ministry site manager. She also loves a great cup of coffee, exploring various locally-based restaurants, indie movies, experimenting with new recipes, finding new ways to teach her children, and cheering on the Huskers.