Boobs and Bathos

Well, this article is going to make people rather pissed off. I’m fine with this. I feel the need to address this because I’m sick of celebrity worship.

I am of course talking about Angelina Jolie’s press about her having a preventative double mastectomy, that lowered her chances of contracting breast cancer from 87% to just under 5%, all because she carried the cancer gene. This article, beautifully written by the amazing Mandy Stadtmiller, really says everything about the issue that needs to be said.

Because I’m a cynical asshole, part of me wondered if this whole thing wasn’t just the sly way of preventing scrutiny for wanting a boob job. Again, cynical asshole. But, I’m going to assume that she’s not “Hollywood-through-and-through”, and that she went public for the reasons she said she did, “To help women make informed decisions about their health.” For the purposes of this article, I’ll accept that at face-value.

My irritation (and that’s really all it is) doesn’t stem from her decision, nor Mandy’s article. (Her article was simply about the impact the event had on HER personally and I agree with every point she makes.) My irritation stems from the public perception of this event, tweets and reports I’ve read.

  • She raised awareness of breast cancer and possible preventative options. Great, good on her. If just one person actually gets tested and a life is saved because of her decision, I applaud her.
  • She took control of her health and made a decision that virtually eliminated her chances of dying in the sordid manner that cancer causes. Awesome, and I couldn’t be happier for her.
  • So, her having this series of operations done doesn’t diminish her femininity in anyway. Um, okay. I agree, but I don’t recall ever having that questioned. I’ve always thought she was beautiful and truth be told, I thought she had fake breasts to begin with. (and honestly, I’m a fan of the fakes) Whatever. I realize that my opinion has no bearing on whether or not her femininity has diminished, I’m just specifying a preference.
  • So, Angelina is brave and ground breaking. Okay, NOW we have a disagreement.

Angelina Jolie is NOT brave. She is lucky and smart. She is lucky because she is one of the minority who can actually afford health care measures like this. This is not bravery. Bravery is the confrontation of fear. She had a series of operations designed to make sure she never has to deal with that fear. She was smart because she made that decision.

I’m not saying at all that what she did was weak or anything like that. I’ve always thought of her as a strong (yet slightly loopy) female figure that is a positive role model for a lot of women, and I admire her body of work, both on screen and in charity. She made the BEST decision for her family and for her own health.

But, as per usual, the media is blowing this SO out of proportion that it takes a lot of the joy of the situation away. I have read so many reports talking about how brave she is. Their comments reminded me of reading about someone last year doing the exact same thing, and no one raised a stink about it. Not everything has to be this grand gesture of revelation when it’s done be a celebrity.

And it’s not ground breaking either, it has been done for YEARS and has been a viable option for those with the breast cancer gene and failing that, the hypochondriacs among us. To be fair, only one report I have read on the subject has said that, so I might just be picking on that particular argument for my own gratification. Whatever.

I’m not saying any of this to ridicule her decision. I simply think it’s being blown out of proportion by the media. If you’re a woman, and you need a celebrity to make you aware of breast cancer and the related treatment options (even the preventative ones), then there truly is an incongruence in people’s comprehension of what could possibly happen to them.

That’s just some sad shit, if that’s the case.

I am so glad she did what she did, because I really enjoy her as an actress and I hope she continues to perform for years. I also am glad she did, because it shows remarkable foresight into her health and decision making processes for the good of her family and her own health. But please, let’s look at this event through an appropriate prism. Namely, one that realizes that to mislabel something as “brave”, does not make it so.

To say that what she did was brave spits in the face of every cancer patient who bears their disease, whether they’re stoic, or kicking and screaming.

The woman who looks death in the face without squinting and smiles right back at it, THAT’S bravery.

The woman who doesn’t have the money to afford cancer treatment, including mastectomy, but still lives her life. THAT’S bravery.

The woman who contracts cancer and resists it, and beats it. THAT’S bravery.

If Angie is brave for replacing body parts, then my car is brave for getting new tires.


2 thoughts on “Boobs and Bathos

  1. What an incredibly insightful blog on this issue. You are as always my hero and you write things that most barely think of. You dig into the issues and tell it like it is. Bravo!

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