I have heard on the radio repeatedly over the last few news cycles how wonderful Angelina Jolie is because she has just had an elective total hysterectomy because she is at a heightened risk for certain women’s cancers.
I don’t know this because I star-gaze, or because I follow the lives of movie actresses, but because during every hour’s news reports the broadcast includes a breathy gushy report about how brave and heroic Jolie is for getting most of her lady parts removed as biohazardous to her own body.
I must right now state a disclaimer: I am only aware that Jolie has a relative (her mother?) who I think I remember as having breast cancer. I don’t know if there is a link between breast cancer and other types of women’s cancers, but I also think I remember a few years back that Jolie- equally heroically in the eyes of the media- had her breasts removed so she wouldn’t get that type of cancer either… I also must say here and now that once you eliminate that risk, I have no idea if you are clear or not. But since that isn’t the topic of this post, I will plunge ahead…
What I find notable is that in the year 2015 the best treatment for a risk of woman’s cancers is to carve up one’s body and throw away your parts. I don’t imagine Lance Armstrong’s sons one day removing their testicles and everyone shouting, “Wow guys- great job! That was so awesome of you because now you won’t get testicular cancer!What a super smart thing to do!” And if they wanted to be extra careful and took out their prostates and maybe their colons and rectums- because, hey- it’s all in that general area, and you can never be too careful when you’re talking about cancer, for goodness sake… Can you even fathom that conversation taking place- much less among journalists? I hardly think so.
I am not a person who sees misogyny or paternalism lurking behind every comment. But I find it interesting that society seems very willing to accept that for women’s cancers it is perfectly reasonable to carve up your body and rip out your insides- but for men’s cancers such a thing is completely preposterous. I could talk about how medications are routinely developed for men, or how women with the same exact medical complaints as men are frequently diagnosed as having a psychological issue whereas the men are treated medically. However, this post is not meant to be an inclusive list of every way the medical establishment is skewed against women.
This is only about how Angelina Jolie has been held up as a false hero for doing something that may be based on a false understanding of her own risk factors or may be evidence of a medical model that is so archaic that people a hundred years from now will look at us and wonder how we could have been so barbaric. How can a society that is so advanced in some ways still treats women with a family history of cancer with what is the modern-day equivalent of blood-letting? And why do we think it is praise-worthy that Jolie chose to undergo this assault on her person?
Does this piggyback onto my last post? Is this a case of ‘Look how much she was willing to sacrifice herself? She must be a great woman!’
I really can’t tell. All I do know is that in 2015 this seems very Alice Falls Through The Looking Glass to me…