Note to Misogynists: Angelina Jolie's Preventative Mastectomy Is Not Your Business

A few days ago, Angelia Jolie revealed that she had undergone a double mastectomy after finding out she had an 87% chance of developing breast cancer due to a faulty BRCA1 gene. Angelina’s mother died of breast cancer at the awfully young age of 56, so the actress fully understands what it’s like to have someone you love taken away from you. She went through this painful and arduous process of having her breasts removed so she wouldn’t have to go through radiation and chemo. She went through this for her kids. Her husband. Her self. It was later revealed that she will also have her ovaries removed in another procedure.

Per usual, there’s a special segment of the world that feels like it’s appropriate to express their sexist and misogynistic feelings via the Internet. Assholes of the world are whooping and howling in the name of Angelina’s breasts, and it’s a shame, because this shows how some people only value women based on their bodies. To reduce Angelina Jolie to just her breasts is sickening, because it means our society will forever prioritize body image over the important things: family, sacrifice, bravery and character. Why should a woman be identified by a body part?

Men aren’t the only ones out there who are ridiculing Angelina; there are women who are now insinuating that they can now take Angelina’s place because they have breasts and she doesn’t. Please, girlfriends. Don’t even.

Not only is breast cancer a serious, life-threatening disease, it is completely life-altering. So many women feel as though their femininity, sex appeal and beauty is being ripped away from them; it’s psychologically damaging and heart-wrenching. So when Angelina had her breasts preventatively removed because she feared she would develop cancer, she made a choice. A brave one. She parted with her breasts for her children, husband and life. Her actions should be celebrated, not mocked. She shared her story to inspire women, to promote awareness of a deadly and common disease, not to encourage derogatory, immature and disgusting backlash.

It’s not funny to joke around about Brad now having to “f**k his kids’ nanny.” It’s not funny to tweet: “In other news, Angelina Jolie killed her breasts and the boners of millions of men today,” because it wasn’t her JOB to give men boners; she doesn’t owe anyone her breasts. It’s not funny to “feel sorry” for “poor” Brad. Brad is a lucky man. He’s lucky to be with a woman so courageous and beautiful inside and out.

Featured image via ShutterStock

  • Chelsea Hickman

    Amen! It would be so difficult doing what she did, but she made a choice and stuck by it. So awesome.

  • Eric Janes

    I don’t have a problem with her having the procedure done. It was her choice and her business, and if it saves her life in the future it was for the best. I just have always thought she had really nice breasts and it’s too bad that it had to come to this.

  • Kelli Jackson Broers

    I thought her mom died of ovarian cancer. And while you’ve managed to find some negative comments, I think the overwhelming response was one of support. I’m not sure the few trolls out there warranted this op. ed. And actually, her breasts are now our business. She took the time to make it so because she wanted people talking about it. The dialouge is important.

  • Matthew Riddle

    I can’t even begin to measure the amount of courage a person has to have to willingly give up parts of their body in hope of improving their future health. Much respect to Angelina.

  • Charity Blaine

    Well said! I’ve never really known how to take Angelina, but this… she’s a strong and beautiful woman.

  • Lennart Wollmershäuser

    Yip. And it’s an absolute shame that an article like this even has to be written. It should be a matter of common decency and intelligence to not make a mockery of someone who unfortunetaly had to make that decision. Some people just seem to thrive on celebrating their own ignorance.

  • Joshua Aaron Rappaport

    I would be proud of anyone I knew brave enough to do what she did. Forget what other fools say. She is a hero to all those who dont have the courage.

  • Anne Labaye

    Thank you for that article! I’m from France, and a French political woman (Christian right wing party) tweeted this about Angelina’s mastectomy: “to look like men? I would laugh if it wasn’t actually so sad!” (it’s not a very good translation sorry, the “sad” was not for Angelina of course) and loads of French people reacted by posting “:poop:” everywhere on her facebook page, which was kind of hilarious, she had to close down her public accout… ^^ People can be so selfish and ignorant……..

  • David Stinnett

    “To reduce Angelina Jolie to just her breasts is sickening, because it means our society will forever prioritize body image over the important things:…”

    No. I hate when people say this. To say “society” does anything, is to imply that al or most people behave this way. This simply isn’t the case. I do not act this way, and I know many who don’t either.

    “It’s not funny to joke around about Brad now having to ‘f**k his kids’ nanny.’ It’s not funny to tweet: ‘In other news, Angelina Jolie killed her breasts and the boners of millions of men today,'”

    Well no, nothng is funny when you have a complete lack of an ability to take a joke. The second one literally made me laugh out loud. It’s funny and ironic. Just because it doesn’t play into YOUR worldview does not make me wrong for feeling that way.

    This whole article is childish and pedantic.

    • David Ekrut

      Essentially, you do not like the fact that other people have belittled your point of view. But, your point of view has been shaped by societal standards. These standards suggest that a women is only worth as much as her beauty. These same standards absolve people from empathy, in the name of humor.
      Even an insipid moron, catering to his mindless programing, can see the insensitive nature of quips at the expense of a woman’s suffering.
      Get over yourself, this article is not about you and your sick desire to make “humor”, at the expense of another’s suffering. It is about decency and empathy for the human condition, regardless of gender.
      Calling the article/author “childish and pedantic” may make you feel better about your position, but it doesn’t make your assessment any less pathetic.

    • Mackenzie Taw

      David, she is saying most people behave this way, because they do. Are you most people? No, you are one person. So saying that just because you don’t behave this way doesn’t change the fact that a large number of people do prioritize body image. Also, I can’t imagine what about this article you find childish. It’s a serious response to the inappropriate reactions of others. as if all she had to offer was her sexuality.

    • Richard Cadman

      “Well no, nothng is funny when you have a complete lack of an ability to take a joke.”

      Let’s cut of your cock and see how funny it is then. Moron.

    • Jessica Jeffers

      Oh, that’s right. I forgot women’s aren’t funny and that’s why we get offended by being objectified. And yes, jokes like “In other news, Angelina Jolie killed her breasts and the boners of millions of men today,” DO objectify women. Jokes like that reduce women to nothing but their breasts. Angelina has a lot more to offer the world than just her breasts — as do all women.

      I commend Angelina for her courage in making a scary and difficult decision to undergo a serious medical procedure that may save her life, and for spreading awareness of the BRCA1 gene. I imagine she’s probably pretty lucky to have a husband like Brad who would support her in this decision.

    • Jennifer Edmondson

      I am sure, if you had to make a decision such as hers and your manhood was taken from you-jokes such as those would NOT be funny.

      The majority does NOT think it’s funny because most people have souls and like to stand up when they see someone being put down.

      I hope you lose your penis, you big penis.

  • Margaux Cahagne

    In France we just had a polemic because of a famous catholic political woman who said that Angelina Jolie only wanted to look like a man. I thought it was very insulting and it really shocked me. Especially when it comes from a woman, i mean, hey, if women do not stick together against all this sexist bullshit i don’t know who will ! I think Angelina Jolie is very brave and i admire her. Screw the bullshit sayers.

  • Britta Berlitz

    Eric, again, that’s just being a bit misogynistic. It’s a pity it came down to this because she had to face the facts that she is genetically more likely to develop breast and ovarian cancers without drastic preventative measures, that she had to fear for her own health and how that could effect her loved ones, and that she had to go through such procedures of preventing these cancers and all the emotional and, apparently, social side-effects that come along with them. It is NOT a pity for the reason that you think she had nice breasts and now they’re gone. That is still just valuing her body parts and not her humanity. It wouldn’t be any less worthy of our sympathy if another woman – with breasts maybe not a size or shape you like as much or not as famous as Angelina Jolie’s – had to go through the same process.

    • Eric Janes

      It’s not misogynistic to appreciate that someone has a nice body. I’ve said that I understand why the procedure was done, and that it was a necessary preventative measure. But I assume that because I’m a guy and this happened to a woman that I’m just automatically wrong on the issue, I’m apparently not allowed to feel sorry for the fact that it had to be done for health reasons AND for the fact that her body has changed as well.

      • Eric Janes

        And it would be a pity for this to happen to any woman, not just her. But this just happens to be the person that the news it talking about at the moment.

      • Katie Isabella Wildig

        Eric, to liken it to another part of the body highlights how ridiculous it is. If someone got frostbite of their left hand and had their fingers removed to prevent gangrene spreading, no one would comment about how it was such a shame, because they had such good-looking fingers. If your instinctive reaction is that a double mastectomy is a shame because Jolie had nice breasts, you might want to question yourself privately about what caused you to have that reaction, and you definitely should rethink expressing it in public. It’s pretty hurtful, regardless of the body part.

  • Christian Zucca

    I think that preventive double mastectomy it’s only an abomination created by true misogynists surgeons in nearly every cases men craving to mutilate and cut as human being as possible. I think that a periodic mammography it’s enough to prevent breast cancer.

    • Bekah Freeman

      No. No its not. First of all, mammograms dont PREVENT anything.
      I had never had a mammogram until last December and the only reason I had one was because I pitched a FIT to have one. They told me no no no you are tooooo young to have breast cancer! Your insurance wont like it! Its not normal for us to recommend one even though you have scary lumps in your boobs! Well. I have breast cancer so my insurance and the stereotype that only older women get breast cancer can suck it. The ONLY thing that would have PREVENTED my breast cancer would have been to have a prophylactic mastectomy. That is literally the only thing I could have done to PREVENT going through cancer treatment– I didnt have any choice but to have a mastectomy, making me feel completely out of control. She took cancer by the balls and showed it whats up. THAT is preventative.

    • Taylor Medway

      Here we go with the feminazis vs surgeons bit… did you think after you posted that that it sounds logical? Get a grip on reality.

      • Katie Isabella Wildig

        Quit with the word ‘feminazis’. The person above isn’t representative of feminism, and that word is used to discredit the whole movement.

    • Katherine Presley

      A mammogram doesn’t prevent cancer, it only alerts you to it’s presence after it has already developed, at which point, you have to undergo various treatments to try and get rid of it, which you may not be able to do, at which point you may die. What you said is just ridiculous. I’m not saying that every woman out there should immediatly go and remove her breasts or whatever else, but I’m am saying that what you said is just dumb.

    • Yazzmyne Latinelli

      I agree, except for that mammography is enough to prevent breast cancer as mammography actually INCREASES the risk on breast cancer, especially under the age of 50. Professor Michael Baum, breast cancer surgeon says that to promote mammography to women under the age of 50 is absolutely unethical.

      There’s so many other things that women can do to prevent, cure and test for breast cancer (breast thermography) yet the conventional medical industry driven by profit at all costs has only very limited options to offer women, either invasive preventive mastectomies or lifelong testing with cancer-causing mammograms.
      BTW the toxic breast implants Angelina got instead isn’t going to help her prevent cancer either, neither the oophorectomy she’s planning to have done, which increases her risk by 7 times with cardiovascular disease and because doing it before the onset of natural menopause, doubles her risk on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease as well increases her risk on osteoporosis. I suspect she will be put on some sort of Hormonal Replacement Therapy to make up for the lack of hormones which is also known to increase her risk on various other cancers she still can get. So I can’t see how celebrating her actions will do anything good for women worldwide except for harming them if it inspires them to do the same. I can not see how this could be an informed choice from Angelina’s part if her reasons are to be there for her children as her actions may just as well increase her overall mortality risk and severely reduce her life quality.
      The jokes being made aren’t always based on sexism, some of them are using humour in an attempt trying to deal with this utter insanity that surrounds them where people are giving standing ovations for the totally unnecessary act of a celeb voluntarily hacking her breasts off and having herself castrated.

  • Bianca Genchi

    If one actually reads her NYTimes article, she clearly states that everything was reconstructed with implants, and her nipples were saved via a new technique.

    • Lindsay Robin Anderson

      Yes! exactly haha you posted before me.

    • Shelby Hintze

      Thank you!

  • Lindsay Robin Anderson

    She had reconstructive surgery no? I’m proud of her and everything she did, just saying no one would even know or notice she had her breasts altered in any way. So the fact that “boners” have been killed seems like a stupid comment. Her breasts will look as they always have id assume.

  • Loretta Oliver

    She didn’t have tell anyone… she could have just gone about her day as usual and no one would have ever known. There are plenty of prosthetic breast enhancers and reconstructive options, combine that with smart dress choices and you would have never known the difference when she walked the red carpet at an event…

    I APPLAUD her for talking about her decisions in this because by doing so she raised awareness in the process.

    This isn’t just a random “hollywood” decision, real women make this decision often when they have the gene issue and family history to back it up, but those women don’t always have the opportunity to get in front of the media and say “this is what happens,” so seriously, standing ovation for Angelia for being brave enough in a world where appearance matters and her appearance is constantly under scrutiny to stand up and say this is important to her, that she would rather be around for her kids in the future and live her life to the fullest extent possible than to have real breasts just because people think she looked good.

    Anyone that says a yearly mammogram is more than enough prevention is a fool. You know what cancer can do to your body in a year’s time? Even in a single month’s time? It can eat away every healthy cell in your body from the inside out. It can hide out and make you think you’ve just had the flu. It can f###ing kill you in a single month’s time (or less) if it so desires.

    If any person has a family medical history and testing that suggests they are extremely likely to develop a specific type of cancer, there is nothing wrong with taking preventative measures against that cancer.

    • John Rudd

      I agree. Having come forward, everyone else who has to go through the same decision, who has to balance the various factors, has someone they can look to, who said “making this decision is ok.” And, hopefully, Angelina will also be able to show them (through her own recovery and future career) that “making this decision doesn’t end your life as you know it.”

  • John Rudd

    To me, the legit discussion is whether or not society is conditioning us to have an inflated sense of the risk (the part about “87% greater chance of developing cancer” does not mean “87% chance of developing cancer”), and what effect that has upon our decision making processes and assessment of risk. As a man, I don’t think it’s wrong for me or any other man to question that part of things. That’s entirely different from questioning whether or not she should have done what she did, whether she had a right to make that decision, whether or not it’s ok that she doesn’t have the same shape she used to, etc. (she DOES have the right to do those things, and while I might question the part about society, I don’t for a second question her decision for herself, nor her right to make that decision)

    And, just to reiterate, your article says “after finding out she had an 87% chance of developing breast cancer due to a faulty BRCA1 gene”. That’s not what she found out. She found out she had an 87% _greater_chance_ [than a typical person] of developing breast cancer. The two statements are WORLDS apart.

    • Katie Isabella Wildig

      I just took a look and I can’t see any articles on this that explained that the percentage quoted meant what you say, John. Even New Scientist and the medical papers just say 87% (As in, hypothetically if you had 100 identical Jolies, 87 of them would develop breast cancer).

      Where did you get that idea from?

      • John Rudd

        1st, I was talking about what stats are, not what her doctor told her directly (he could have worded it either way, and I’d have no way of knowing that).
        2nd, I went back and re-read the literature on the gene… and I had read it wrong. Myriad Genetics (who has the patent on the test) actually does say “risks of up to 87% for developing breast cancer”. Not “87% greater chance”. See, the wording is confusing people :-) (I’ve been seeing it argued/discussed in both directions — thanks for calling me on it, because I clearly had the wrong one)

      • Laura Peuquet

        Oh snippity snaps. I feel like an old lady. This is where I meant to reply originally, but my page didn’t load properly. I found Kate. ha. Please just laugh. Then go do some reading about genetic testing, heritability, and throw in some stats for good measure :)

    • Robert Remillard

      Well Dr Rudd you had better go back to medical school. What she found out was that she has up to an 87% chance of getting breast cancer. This is not an 87% greater chance than a non defective gene person. This is exactly how misinformation stains the internet and how fools like you come to impress other fools like you.

      • John Rudd

        I’m a fool for having misread something, re-stated it, and then retracted it? Sounds like you need to switch to decalf.

        • Laura Peuquet

          No, you are right!! These genetic results are often misinterpreted by the public. Also, I have no idea why I posted my original comment to a “Katie”…especially because “Katie” and “Robert” don’t resemble each other at all. Oops.

          Regardless, do some reading about heritability, genetic testing, and results interpretation. It might just blow your mind.

  • Christian Zucca

    What if you discover you have an high percentage of developing intestine cancer, testicoles cancer what would be the exact preventive surgical procedure?

  • Jenny Samuel

    agree, agree, agree.
    It’s terrible what people are saying. They’re the same people who would do what she did given the chance to save their lives and live healthy for the ones they love.

  • Amalia Trujillo

    It’s a bit exaggerated… Sexism, bad stereotypes and the “a woman be identified by a body part” happen all the time. In and out of Internet. And come on… How do you expect that the people don’t mock? All the people express themselves and say things all the time, about EVERYTHING, especially if is a celebrity. The point is, that it’s not surprising that this happened… it’s evident. And with the vast that is the world… The jokes and the humor happen, a lot. It can be cruel, rude, inapropiate and about pretty delicate things, and I understand the seriousness of the subject, but this sort of things are there, all the time, don’t need to be surprised or be that level of disgusted because of the *worst people in the world*.

  • Laura Peuquet

    Katie, John is right about the interpretation of 87%. I know this because of personal experience with genetic counseling and taking the test for BRCA genes and from teaching Psychology. When you get results that say, “You have an 87% chance of developing cancer” is does not mean if you lined up 100 clones of you 87 of them would get cancer. It does, however, mean that you stand at a greater risk for developing cancer than an otherwise normal healthy person without the gene you have. The articles you are reading might not explain this because the audience they are written for does not need it to be explained. This difference in meaning might not seem like much, but it cuts to the issues John raises about how marketing this new science and creating a consensus that its results ought to dictate our choices. THIS is the discussion we should really be having.

    Let’s be honest: some part of her did this FOR HERSELF, out of fear, fear of getting breast cancer and being forced to have a mastectomy. How can we applaud Angelina–or any woman–for doing anything other than elective preventative surgery after some genetic testing? The choice is: keep your breasts and risk getting cancer or have them removed and know you will not. This is _very_ different from “keep your breasts and get cancer or have them removed and don’t get cancer.” We need to stop pretending that we are certain she would have developed breast cancer if she did not have the surgery. Without the surgery, she still might have died an old cancer-free woman. I’m aggravated that she’s applauded as a public heroine, as a caring and selfless wife and mother, who avoided chemo and/or radiation treatments she might never have had, in the face of survivors, as if survivors chose to have cancer on behalf of their family members.

    Without doubt, Angelina is a physically and emotionally strong woman, but so too are the women who test positive and forego a mastectomy in favor of maintaining a healthy life and routinely screening (which involves more than mammograms), as are the women, like myself, who have family history of breast cancer, but test negative, and nevertheless continue to maintain a healthy lifestyle complete with regular testing. If I were to elect a double mastectomy (my paternal grandmother died of breast cancer too) people would just think I’m nuts. And yet, according to what we know about genetics, even without the BRCA gene, I must be at a higher risk for _some_ cancer.

    • John Rudd

      Thank you :-)

      • Laura Peuquet

        You are welcome :) Sorry for my accidental mis-posts with the other replies. You are absolutely right, and even “Up to 87% risk” does not meant that she is 87% likely to develop cancer. Although Myriad would LOVE for you to think that!

        • Juliana Mancini Hudoba

          Laura, YES! Perfectly said. I am so confused about how most people are either freaking out about her boobs or freaking out about getting cancer. I, for one, do not rely on Western medicine or testing to make life-altering decisions, but that does not mean that all people should not. That is my choice. This is her choice. End of story.

    • Katie Isabella Wildig

      If that is the case, the statistics being touted are absolutely meaningless. Without reference to what percentage of women will develop breast cancer, an 87% greater chance means nothing to me, or to anyone else. That’s incredibly shoddy reporting. With respect, New Scientist is not written with an advanced readership in mind, and *all* the articles are based on Jolie’s original editorial, so the target audience has nothing to do with this particular phrasing.
      Nobody is making the assumption that her choices were: a) get cancer, or b) have a double mastectomy.
      We’re assuming that her doctor told her the risks and she made an informed decision based on those risks. If somebody gave me the same information, I think it likely I would make the same decision. I don’t value my breasts above any other part of my body, and if the odds looked bad ‘might have died an old cancer-free woman’ wouldn’t be good enough for me, as it proved not to be good enough for Jolie. ‘People would think I’m nuts’ isn’t a good enough reason either. They’re just breasts. You calculate the risk, you take personal responsibility, you choose what to do. What do ‘people’ have to do with it?!

      The only difference: I wouldn’t have had implants. However it’s none of my business that she did, just as it’s none of my business that you opted to keep your breasts and have regular mammograms, just as it’s none of your business that she chose to have a mastectomy.

      • Laura Peuquet

        Well, that’s why I said “might” regarding the writing of what you were reading and its intended audience. Also, I did not know if you were reading multiple sources, which is always a great way to be sure you’re well informed. As for the statistics, you are right, it IS difficult to garner meaning from them.

        Unfortunately, as romantic a notion as “it’s on the inside that counts” our breasts are well, quite visible, quite noticeable, and shamelessly part of what makes us women. Small, large, saggy, rotund, firm, no matter how they come (or when!) we got ’em. Not having them is, well, rather difficult! And get married–to a man or a woman–then say that losing a sexual part of your body is a decision you make without the influence of other people. Okok, person.

        Regardless, you missed my point altogether, which is that this is undeniably misplaced admiration. We shouldn’t admire her for doing ANYTHING for her family or her spouse or not getting cancer we don’t know she would have gotten! In saying things like “she chose family over breasts,” people imply the false dichotomy of breasts or cancer. So yes, people ARE making this assumption. It’s a presupposition!

        Bottom line for the author of this piece is that this is not only misplaced admiration, but also misplaced advocacy. I’d be the first to stand up for a woman or politely assert that I feel a man is crossing a boundary with his remarks towards another woman, but honestly, did you have to go looking for the argument? I’m much more offended by people who say things like “Oh yeah, and like she won’t have some fakes put in their place?” That’s ignorant. Reconstructive surgery is painful, risky, and the breasts you achieve in the end are nothing like the real thing.

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