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Are Things Better Left Unsaid? - Is Justin Timberlake’s Apology Enough? - Framing Britney (And Janet

Updated: Jul 24, 2021

After watching ‘Framing Britney Spears’ and reliving Janet Jackson’s shaming at the Superbowl, watching public opinion of Timberlake be - quite frankly - in the toilet. He comments via Instagram if you missed it

Is it enough? Comments came both ways - ‘why has it taken 17 years’, and ‘thank you for saying it’.

What did JT ‘do’ to Britney?

Neither Britney or JT - to this day, have said why they broke up. However, the song and video ‘Cry me a River’ released just after his break up with Britney Spears has been cited as ‘the truth’. The only truth we (think we) know is that he was in the studio after an argument with her.

The video shows the back of a woman who looks like Britney. The press and public were desperate to know more. JT was launching himself as a serious pop star, edgy.

What better way to create some publicity than to suggest the song and video were directly about his relationship with the biggest pop star in the world.

Let’s analyse - If you look at the words of the song, he isn’t even talking to her (‘You don’t have to say, what you did...I found out from him’), he is assuming. The video shows him breaking into her house, getting it on with another woman and leaving her the video of them together.

If this video is what anyone accepts as the truth - then he should have been arrested.

People cheat on each other, some relationships don’t work out- she was made a villain, he didn’t come to defend her although she was slut shamed.

Maybe he was hurt and he enjoyed the revenge. He was 21 years old.

Does anyone think an ex Mickey Mouse, N-Sync young lad will have had that much say in what he says, how he says it, what he does and when he does it - especially at 21 years old.

He may have had privilege, but I would bet he would have been supported.

True. he didn’t support her - this happens in real life - except on this occasion, the world is watching, and can rewind 20 years to relive it.

Superbowl 2004

It’s election year, there is war, JT rips Janet’s costume right at the end of the performance where it exposes Janet’s nipple (for half a second). Janet looks shocked, it’s touted as a publicity stunt (although that is not Janet’s style- it was ‘supposed’ to rip, but reveal a red bra underneath). JT and Janet are friends, having worked together many times.

So what happens. JT got away with it (being asked to perform at the Superbowl a few years later). Viacom (owner of MTV) put Janet on a blacklist and removed all her music being shown on many video and audio channels worldwide.

JT revelled in the ‘show’ “Hey man, we love giving y'all something to talk about,” Janet was the villain, she lost out. He is 23 years old and is flying.

Janet had since been on Oprah, Justin, years later, said that she unfairly got 90% of the blame.

He got even more famous from this (just like from his Britney video), had more opportunities at his door, he was the man. Why would he be sorry? Maybe what he didn’t grasp at the time was how badly this ‘hurt’ Janet ,it wasn’t positive publicity for her, it hurt her career and her reputation. For him, it was laughed off (men ripping women’s clothes is ok).

For her, she was slut shamed, she shouldn’t have got her breast out (remind you of any other attitudes? she was wearing a short skirt, so she was ‘asking for it’).

In 2017 (for those folks that are weary that JT has all of a sudden reflected)- JT talks about being raised by a strong woman and marrying one “.........We need to go to work. It’s not our responsibility; it’s our privilege, because at the end of the day if you can be lucky enough to be raised by a strong woman and convince a strong woman to marry you, you will realise that we are nothing without the strength of women.”

Although we are in the 21st century and in the western world, women are still treated like a commodity, even more so 20 years ago.

Less than 15 years ago UK tabloids were counting down to when actress Emma Watson would be 16 years old - to be ‘legal’.

2012 Scarlett Johannsson was being interviewed about the Avengers film and asked what underwear she wore, what diet she was on - meanwhile her male co stars were asked thought provoking questions.

2016 - Rio Olympics - Fox news reporters were talking about women wearing makeup and how they should look pretty when collecting their medals.

Lady Gaga apologised (in 2019) for a song and working with R Kelly (2013) - again, she was questioned, some liked, some loathed.

This Stylist article shows recent history where women have been degraded as part of getting a job (some of it sadly recent).


I think we can all admit that we have said things, done things, and had opinions (especially in our youth), that we are not proud of. Justin cites his white male privilege as a reason he didn't appreciate what this did to the women.

I’m not a judge. But what I will say is that we all have to be better.

(Men and) Women have to stand up for women - not helping shame other women to make ourselves feel better (including buying magazines or commenting on how ugly, fat, or old celebrities are).

Women have to be in positions of power, so they can help eradicate this, more female bosses, in the room, at the table.

Parents have to teach their children, to stand up for themselves, to teach them self worth, to understand the value of girls and women.

Most of all for women to feel their own self worth, have confidence, find a sisterhood, feel beautiful, not to feel pushed into doing something they don't want to, or not being able to speak out in case it hurts their career.

Many women earn a great living from ‘the male gaze’ and there is nothing wrong with that. But having more women help creatively make decisions to support it done in the right consensual way, and it not just be about perving over women, or being on a power trip (we see you Josh Wheedon).

What about the female gaze? Women also appreciate female form, love a female role model - and have money to spend.

Justin Timberlake's responsibility is to his two young sons, teaching them to be better men. Holding them to account (it’s not as if his wife Jessica Biel won’t have faced issues in the industry, I’m sure she has made him a better feminist).

Isn’t it brave to actually speak up, acknowledge mistakes we have made, no matter how uncomfortable, even if you are being pushed to comment. At least we are progressing.

But how do we go to the next level. Calling out bad behaviour when it happens, not 20 years later. Have a conversation with women, don't place blame.

Make sure we are being equal, not turning a blind eye.

If you wanted to explore this with me or to ask more questions - book a free discovery session to see whether coaching is right for you.

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Show/Girl does Pro Bono work for domestic violence survivors and most recent ‘pay what you can afford’ sessions for people who have found themselves out of work due to the global pandemic.

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