Ryan Gosling Justin Timberlake
Ryan Gosling Justin Timberlake (Warner Bros., NBC Universal)

Britney Spears’s Depiction of Justin Timberlake Gives Off Massive Ken Vibes in All the Worst Ways

Target goofed and sent me Britney Spears’s book, The Woman in Me before its official release on October 24. As a result, I devoured it over the weekend, and am here to tell you one definitive truth: Justin Timberlake is simply the worst.

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***Spoilers for the book, and Barbie, are below!***

As any geriatric millennial can tell you, Spears and Timberlake were the couple in the early ’00s. Much of what revolves around Timberlake in the book has already been leaked pre-release, including the fact Spears had an abortion during the relationship. However, the details surrounding the abortion are what stuck out most to me.

Spears writes in her memoir:

We also decided on something that in retrospect wound up being, in my view, wrong, and that was that I should not go to a doctor or to a hospital to have the abortion. It was important that no one find out about the pregnancy or the abortion, which meant doing everything at home.

First, how disgusting is it that a medical procedure has so much shame surrounding it that Spears felt compelled to hide it? Abortion is an incredibly safe procedure but the circumstances Spears describes—shame, stigma, and coercion—can result in some very unsafe choices.

Spears continues:

On the appointed day, with only Felicia [Spears’ assistant] and Justin there, I took the little pills. Soon I started having excruciating cramps. I went into the bathroom and stayed there for hours, lying on the floor, sobbing and screaming. They should’ve numbed me with something, I thought.


When I tell you it was painful—I can’t begin to describe it. The pain was unbelievable.

If there’s one central theme to Spears’ life that comes through in the book, it’s how essentially everyone failed to protect her. It’s heartbreaking. Spears was in her early twenties in the relationship and was forced to go through a traumatizing medical experience because her pain and discomfort weren’t taken into account when she made the decision to have an abortion. How was this an acceptable outcome for her, for the medical professional who prescribed the pills? It should be noted, that Spears does not explain how the pills were procured for her.

Now comes the part that made me want to throw the book across the room:

Still, they didn’t take me to the hospital. Justin came into the bathroom and lay on the floor with me. At some point he thought maybe music would help, so he got his guitar and he lay there with me, strumming it.

What the actual f***? Here is Spears, in agony, on the bathroom floor in horrible pain, and Timberlake thinks “Oh, geez, better go get the guitar”?! How is that helpful to anyone other than maybe Justin Timberlake?!

It reminded me of one of the truest-to-life scenes in Barbie, when all the Kens get out their guitar and play the guitar and sing at the Barbies, oblivious to their plan to thwart the patriarchy, or general interest in their desire to sing at them.

I don’t know what it is about men with guitars, but in my experience, they tend to think taking over the conversation and singing at you (never to you, because you’re merely an audience of one and not a willing participant) is appropriate at simply the worst times. I love this scene and thought of it when reading the book because it shows how women, to some men, are not centered in their own lives. They’re merely an audience for the men, and not considered autonomous human beings who have different wants and desires that could be independent of the man.


Here is Spears describing the abject physical agony of an abortion procedure with dubious medical guidance, and Timberlake decides to bring a guitar in to sing at her. Never once is it mentioned that someone asked Spears whether she wanted to go to a doctor during this, or whether the misery was too great for her to bear. No, Spears was made to power through the pain, to the soundtrack of Timberlake “strumming” the guitar. The amount of sympathy I have for Spears, after reading her book, is endless.

The Woman in Me is a fantastic, if harrowing read, that is ultimately about how one wildly successful woman was systematically and repeatedly discounted throughout her life. The Timberlake guitar anecdote is one, of many, that demonstrate how Spears was not centered in her own life. It’s a sad reality that may strike a nerve with you, as it did me. The entire book is well worth the read, and I’m happy Spears is finally getting a say in her own legacy, and getting the definitive word on her extraordinary life.

(featured image: Warner Bros., NBC Universal)

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Image of Kate Hudson
Kate Hudson
Kate Hudson (no, not that one) has been writing about pop culture and reality TV in particular for six years, and is a Contributing Writer at The Mary Sue. With a deep and unwavering love of Twilight and Con Air, she absolutely understands her taste in pop culture is both wonderful and terrible at the same time. She is the co-host of the popular Bravo trivia podcast Bravo Replay, and her favorite Bravolebrity is Kate Chastain, and not because they have the same first name, but it helps.