The Importance of Angelina Jolie

The Breast Conservationists are on full alert. Angelina Jolie bares everything but her new rack, and now responsible scientists and doctors are scared that stupid, stupid women will be lining up for bilateral mastectomies like it’s the wedding dress sale at Filene’s Basement. Otherwise healthy women will be demanding expensive genetic testing, insisting on amputations, and requesting Jolie Boobs from their plastic surgeons. If Angelina Jolie did it, then it’s possible that stupid, stupid women will start shopping for their own, Celebrity Cancer-Preventing Surgery.

Have we demonstrated an uncontrollable need to Be Like Angie? Do we all have slit-up-to-there dresses in our closets and a gazillion babies? (To be fair, I do have my own, Asian Brad Pitt… but I had mine first.) I have to believe that we’re smarter than this. Most of us aren’t Golden Globe-winning UN ambassadors. And most of us don’t carry BRCA mutations: only about 5% of us with breast cancer have the unlucky genes. Angelina Jolie’s story is one of access to superb health care, intelligent, informed consent to risk reduction treatment, and bad-ass, story-sharing bravery. The Breast Conservationists worry that her boldness will undo years of work informing women that they do not need to suffer barbaric surgery to live. But I think Angelina Jolie has done more for breast cancer awareness than all of the pink crap in the world. Angelina heralded the possibility that breast cancer isn’t a dreaded path to ugly.

Perhaps we are all a bit more informed about BRCA mutations and statistics and recommendations than we were on Monday. But what this beautiful woman did in one day was to put a spotlight on breast reconstruction after mastectomy. Living in Boston, and specifically in the same home as someone who does this sort of surgery every single day, (and personally with my own set of silicone bags), it is impossible to believe that only 30% of women are offered or encouraged to seek breast reconstruction options after body mutilating surgery. Despite many, many studies showing that quality of life is significantly improved with breast reconstruction, many women are still discouraged from “unnecessary” or “cosmetic” or “long, painful, and risky” operations that would restore their sense of self. They are (ill-) advised that reconstruction will delay their cancer treatment. Of course I need to insert all sorts of disclaimers that some women are not eligible for current reconstructive efforts because of radiation or extent of disease or other underlying conditions, that some opt out of reconstruction and live comfortably with that choice, that there are always more risks with more surgery. However, everyone should have the information about and access to breast reconstruction. And although there are thousands of cancer bloggers cheerfully over-sharing about their bikini-rific , gravity-defying post-Cancer boobs, you know who they’re really going to believe? Angelina Jolie.

Because Angelina went public with the story of her reconstruction, it’s possible that she has inspired other women to advocate for their right to restore their bodies, to feel empowered, to feel whole. While any diminishment of her hotness was always impossible, she explains how it is also surgically preventable. She writes,

“On a personal note, I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity.”

Of course, those of us in the shitty sorority know what she’s not telling us: that she is changed, she’s scarred, and where there was once sensation, there is now the numb reminder of an ever-lurking Cancer. Strong, indeed. And she’s more beautiful than ever.

Bringing sexy badass to the Big Cancer Fight

Bringing sexy badass to the Big Cancer Fight

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11 responses

  1. I agree with your perspective on this, Britt, but what I’m waiting to see is how her cultural status as bad-ass hot chick shifts. What I mean is this: I think she’s terrifically brave for what she’s done… but what about all the people (guys?) who loved her just cause she was freaky (a vial of blood around her neck!) mysterious (Wait, did she just kiss her brother? On the LIPS?) and hot (see photo above). Are they still going to be drawn to her/lust after her/support her now that she’s done something so radical and real? Maybe. Cause everyone has a mother/sister/girlfriend etc after all who deals with real shit all the time. But then again, maybe not… because our culture doesn’t really have a great track record when it comes to accepting the reality of women and their bodies. So I’m looking forward to see how she plays this… and how this all plays out. I’m also wishing her well!

    • Me, too! Totally interested to see if she still grabs (or wants) the super sexy roles, if she stops going strapless, if we still maintain a collective lust for her mouth-plumpy-might-be-crazy-look-at-this-leg-ness. Angelina Jolie removed her breasts and everyone knows. Now maybe all of the 1 in 8 of us will get similar information about how to make that a little less awful.

      • It will be important to remember, though, that she has been pushing for roles that require more drama and less sex appeal for awhile, and as a mother to (how many?) she may CHOOSE different and/or fewer roles rather than being forced into them.

  2. My two cents is that she’s matured an amazing amount since she first came on the scene and her private and public life has reflected this. I note that she’s always stretching herself professionally (Salt, Changling, etc) and is doing the same in her personal life. For that, I’d continually watch her film, regardless BUT this move does make me respect her all that much more.

  3. I’ve suppose I’ve always been a “boob” guy over, say, a “leg” guy*. Big, small, real, augmented, reduced, reconstructed, lopsided, symmetrical (I can certainly go on). What I’ve found out though is I’m actually more of a whatever-keeps-women-alive-healthy-happy-and-around guy. Boobs don’t make the woman, the woman makes the woman.
    *Full disclaimer, I like legs, too. Truth be told, I really like just about everything about women. You guys are the bees knees.

  4. Easily the most interesting, informed, thought provoking discussion i’ve read on this subject yet!. You’ve helped me form an opinion, actually, as I just didn’t really have a good grasp of the issues before and why it had raised such apparent ‘controversy’. I also quite liked what the last commenter said…. a little ego boost for women everywhere!

    • Wow, Nadine. Thank you for these nice words. And Drew is a doll. Back in high school we said his great appeal (apart from a killer bi-level haircut) was his ability to make you feel like the only girl in the room. He can still do this. On a Cancer Blog. xoxo

  5. Pingback: A new kind of awareness | East Meets Breast

  6. Pingback: Already Aware | Blooms and Bubbles

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