When I turned on Facebook today and saw posts about Angelina Jolie’s article in New York Times in which she talks about her preventive double mastectomy (and it sounds like an upcoming preventive oophorectomy), at first I thought it was yet another Facebook joke. Then I thought it was one of those nebulous articles Star magazine invents. But then I clicked on the article and the click lead me to the unspeakable truth: Which is – it’s true! Angelina Jolie has seriously had both healthy breasts removed because gene tests showed she has BRCA1, a “faulty” gene which her doctors told her means 87% chance of developing breast cancer. Her mother died of breast cancer at the age of 56. So she had her breasts removed. Now, her doctors claim that her chance of getting breast cancer lowered to 5%. She still has 50% chance of getting ovarian cancer, so I do see her removing her ovaries in near future.
Now, what Angelina Jolie decides to do with her body is absolutely her choice. We have to respect that.
Going out in public, glorifying this decision and advising women to follow her example is just beyond any…. Words. I seriously lost words here. What is even worse are public comments describing this new Jolie press craziness as brave and strong and a great example. (Same Jolie was all around media in 2006 because she was flying herself, her husband and her 3 small children in a Cirus SR 22, a plane aviation specialists say was extremely dangerous as she was not ready to master it. She was greatly risking not only her life, but lives of her 3 children as well).
This is not about Jolie. This is about all women.
Just as they had fought for their rights for centuries, women had always fought for the control over their bodies. Doctors are traditionally male and medicine is male dominated. Throughout generations, women have been mutilated and stripped of their sexual organs: breasts, ovaries, cervix and uterus for what only later turned out to be not valid reasons (and let’s not forget the still existing problem of genital mutilation). They have been given hormones against menopause that only ruined their health. They are given birth control that can cause serious health issues. Throughout the history, women have been messed with and brutally “punished” for being women (remember witch hunts?). Women would sneeze (I don't mean this literally!) and doctors were cutting out cervixes, uteruses and breasts, leaving a damaged body, destroyed sexual life and ruined psyche. But medicine advances. And great developments have been made. In only one generation, medicine has stopped doing this (I am saying this remembering what doctors used to advise my mother and her geneation): Now, cancer patients often don’t need to have breasts removed at all; instead of cutting off the cervix because of HPV, there are other methods such as laser, medication or vaccination. Women keep their uteruses and ovaries. And we are very happy about this!
I have bad cancer history in my family. There were five cases of cancer in my immediate circle. Women in my family have been told to quickly have their breasts removed – only to later be praised for not having done so as it turned out to not having been necessary after all. Same goes for uteruses, ovaries, bladders and cervixes. Medicine is advancing from year to year. What had to be “immediately removed” one year, turned out to be treatable next year. If Jolie did get breast cancer, that doesn’t mean that she would suffer or die young like her mother did.
And then there is a very important spiritual aspect of this story. There are other things that can happen to dear Angie. She can get brain cancer. Have a car accident. Plane crash. Die in the big earthquake California is expecting. God forbid, but something could happen to one of her six (or seven, I forgot) kids – which is something she can’t avoid but is way more horrible than any health issue she herself could have to face. A great, strong and brave person is working on their spiritual advancement which will help them face, fight and win any difficult situation. Including cancer. The highest spiritual advancement is not fearing death and not fearing one’s destiny. Putting oneself under a glass bell is not brave. Howard Huges is popping to my mind. Is a person who locks themselves in and disinfects their entire life for fear of disease strong and brave?
Really world, leave us women alone! Let us be women. Let us love our bodies the way there are. Let us not hate them for being too big, too small, too crooked, too hairy, too soft, too undefined. With this fake beauty dictatorship that started 20 years ago, we have it hard enough. But now to fear our own bodies and mutilate them - especially to mutilate our sex organs, the very part what makes us women - out of fear?
No! This is not OK. Jolie should not be celebrated for her public craziness. She should rather be sent to a therapist to try to heal her fears and problems with her own sexuality in private - and not use her status to influence lives of millions of women out there.
Women (and men): LOVE YOURSELVES!
P.S. It feels banal bringing up money when talking about this philosophical and spiritual disaster. But: Jolie herself admits that only the gene test cost $3000. Her surgeries must have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Really, this is what she is giving women of the world as a solution?