Angelina's Choice

Angelina Jolie is a controversial figure.

Some people think she's a talented, tattooed actress; some think she stole Brad Pitt from Jennifer Aniston and tops the weird chart for wearing (second husband) Billy Bob Thornton's blood in a vial around her neck. 
Some people admire her work as an ambassador to third world countries; some think she adopted too many kids, birthed too many and should marry Mr. Pitt.   

Some have sympathy for her because her mother died fairly young from cancer; some criticize her for being estranged from her father, Jon Voight.

She's certainly led a colorful life, and this week, she made headlines again when she announced she had a double mastectomy (and reconstructive surgery) because her BRCAI genetic testing revealed she had an 87% chance of developing breast cancer.


Whatever your view of Jolie, this recent decision probably has you thinking about cancer and motherhood and femininity and breasts.

I assume Jolie is a multi-faceted woman, just like all women are.  She made some provocative professional choices, and we would not be political allies, but I have felt a kinship with her since she made the announcement she is choosing life over natural flesh.  Given the same circumstances, I believe I would strongly consider doing the same thing.   

Jolie's mom died of ovarian cancer at 56.  Ovarian cancer is not breast cancer, but they are both estrogen-fed.  Jolie, who is known for her sensuality and having a hunky life partner, decided her breasts were not worth dying for.  Her womanhood, femininity, and value are not reliant on her breasts.  She still views herself as beautiful and productive and whole without them.

Life is more important than breasts.  If only women everywhere, young and old, could understand and embrace this.

In this country, breasts have been idolized and glamorized and exploited to the point where twelve-year olds who are late to sprout them begin to hate their bodies.  This is completely misguided and so damaging.  Our breasts are not who we are. 

What we think, how we care for others, what we create, what we contribute - that's who we are.   Our bodies are aging  "earth suits" that propel us around the planet thinking and caring and creating and contributing.   These are the things by which we will be remembered.  Breasts are nature's method of feeding our babies (but not the only method) and we need to stop viewing/offering them as playthings and marketing tools for a greedy world.

I applaud Jolie for making a loving, sacrificial choice for her six children and their future.  She wants to be in their lives for as long as possible, to guide, protect, nurture, and love.  This trumps all else, as it should.  I'm sure there was a grieving process for Jolie when she decided to remove (at the moment) healthy tissue, but her wisdom in looking long-term at her life is admirable. 

Breasts, diseased or healthy, should not define any woman.  Even women who have survived breast cancer eventually report they are tired of talking about it.  They want to go back to work, run a marathon, move to the country, write a book.  They want to take back their lives, which they still have because they chose it over a body part that has sadly and erroneously become the epitome of a woman's sexual value.   

Jolie has shown us that womanhood is about courage, strength, sacrifice, love, and wisdom.  It has nothing to do with breasts.



Chatty Crone said...

I agree with what you said about her! sandie

J said...

I also applaud her for going public with what she did. This will give other women information and courage to do the same if it applies to them.

Joyce said...

I also have admiration for her courage in facing something I'm sure was difficult, and especially her ability to place her role as mother above all else. Going public takes guts, no matter who you are.

Paula said...

Well said. I have nothing to add

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Well-said. It couldn't have been an easy decision for her, but I respect her for making it. But, um, she wears a vial of blood around her neck? Reeeeally?

mare ball said...

Susan - not anymore. When she was married to Billy Bob. :-)

Retired Knitter said...

Actually, she rose greatly in my esteem when she took that step.

I am 66 right now, but at 26 - 6 months after giving birth - I had to have a lump biopsied and removed from one breast. At that time, you had to sign away that breast - allow them to remove it entirely and all the nodes, if they found cancer - BEFORE you went into surgery. I remember the night before a nurse was prepping me for surgery and asked me how I would feel about having a breast removed if it was cancer. I remember very clearly saying: "They can take the whole right side of my body if it will save my life. I have a son at home to raise."

I am glad to see that common sense has not been lost in attacking such a problem.

Rita said...

She wouldn't have had to tell, either, because she had reconstructive surgery. I went into surgery to have a lump removed decades ago, like retired knitter, and had to agree to them taking whatever they needed to. I readily did, too--had a young son. Makes you wonder if that surgery would be covered by most insurance companies as a preventative surgical procedure.

Dana said...

Very well-said, Mare. Thank you.

Jennifer - The Deliberate Mom said...

I would definitely do the same. I value my children and my life with them. I want to be with them as long as I can.

Very well written Mare - I appreciate and agree with your take on this.

Marianne said...

Very well written & thought-provoking piece. I kind of blocked the story out, but am giving the whole thing a re-visit because of you! Cancer screening scares the bajeezus out of me!

Lynda R Young said...

I also applaud Jolie. I think her experience will help a lot of women.

Misha Gericke said...

So well-said. It was a brave, strong move worthy of admiration.

Danielle L Zecher said...

Very well written post. I admire her for what she chose, and I especially admire her for going public with it. Maybe seeing a beautiful woman who chose life over breasts will help with some of the issues you mentioned. That can't be an easy decision and it seems that she is using her status for good, so maybe that will make it a little less difficult for other women.