Women and men alike are in awe of Angelina Jolie's decision to publicly discuss her decision to have a preventative mastectomy to reduce her likelihood of contracting breast cancer. She is being hailed as a feminist hero for giving women the strength to publicly discuss their battle with the deadly disease and reduce the stigma associated with it.
It looks like it's working.
Zoraida Sambolin, a CNN anchor, has already come out this morning on live television explaining that she will be undergoing her own mastectomy later this month. Many cancer survivors are now taking to their laptops to share their appreciation for the actress and director for courageously sharing her personal story. Here are the five reasons that Angelina Jolie's move is amazingly feminist.
Jolie decided to use a title emphasizing her medical choice, rather than ones that concern her body or appearance. Obviously, any decision she makes will impact how she looks, but the tone she set out in her piece emphasized that her body is instrumental rather than ornamental. As a sex-symbol, whose body is constantly glamorized and revered, it takes a lot of courage to speak about it in such truthful terms about ones body.
Our breast cancer culture can stigmatize feelings of resentment or anger in female breast cancer patients because they are expected to be pink ribbon-ney and perky in spite of battling a fatal disease. Angelina Jolie's story doesn't play into those narratives. She expresses her feelings of sadness and anger along with her optimism about the future.
"Cancer is still a word that strikes fear into people’s hearts, producing a deep sense of powerlessness. But today it is possible to find out through a blood test whether you are highly susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer, and then take action."
In her essay, the actress addressed herself to all women. "I wanted to write this to tell other women that the decision to have a mastectomy was not easy. But it is one I am very happy that I made," Jolie wrote.
"For any woman reading this, I hope it helps you to know you have options. I want to encourage every woman, especially if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, to seek out the information and medical experts who can help you through this aspect of your life, and to make your own informed choices." Jolie added. 'I hope that this will be helpful to other women."
In her op-ed, Jolie sends a clear message to women who have undergone a mastectomy (or who will in the future): You are no less of a woman.
"I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity." she said. "I do not feel any less of a woman."
I'm the first one to say that we don't need to raise awareness about breast cancer, because everyone knows it's bad. However, I do think it's important to have discussions about breast cancer prevention. That's what Jolie did today.
Did you know about BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations before this morning? Me neither. Although experts are saying that most women will never carry the mutation of the gene that can increase one's likelihood of getting cancer, it's still important for women to get tested. Jolie has encouraged all women to do so. This being said, many women can't afford the 3000$ test or the reconstructive surgery that Jolie has undergone. The test is expensive because a pharmaceutical company actually owns the gene. (Yes, companies can actually do that.) The ACLU is fighting this case in court and a decision should be reached this summer. Maybe a celebrity like Jolie can help tip the scales? Let's hope so.