Waiting for the other bra to drop: The inevitable Angelina Jolie backlash

English: Angelina Jolie and Condoleezza Rice d...

Angelina Jolie doing something positive in the world, again. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday, in an op-ed piece for the New York Times Angelina Jolie wrote a moving and courageous account of her decision to have a double mastectomy due to a very high risk of developing breast cancer given her genetic background and family history. It was intimate and objective at the same time, and it could do a world of good for women who are at similar risk but are afraid to undergo a life altering operation or afraid of the stigmas they will be attached with after. It also put a well needed light on preventative medicine and how much more in control we are when it comes to fighting illness. Science has been making great progress towards predicting future disease, it’s about time our social norms caught up with the medical advancements. It’s no longer enough to simply “wait and see” when it comes to our health. Angelina Jolie, always on the cutting edge, boldly and unflinchingly went where many will soon follow and took control of her health.

I was surprised to see that so far most of the response from social media has been overwhelmingly positive. Her article was having the desired effect, as the conversation about breast cancer, predictive science, and preventative measures began emerging in the wake of her announcement. Many people tweeted well wishes, or that they were inspired by her courage, or spoke of their own experiences with cancer. It was enough to make your spirits soar. But I couldn’t get too excited because I haven’t forgotten Jason Collins. He became the first openly gay major sports figure in America, and in similar fashion, the initial response was one of overwhelming support and positivity, and then it turned kind of ugly. And then it turned really ugly:


Soon, the dialogue became less about Jason Collins’ groundbreaking and courageous act and instead turned into a character assassination targeting Jason himself, but also – inexplicably – Obama, the media, our “politically correct” society, and, of course, Tim Tebow. If I’ve learned anything from that sad affair it’s that if we give this thing a day or two, terrible people will come out of the woodwork to say terrible things. Angelina Jolie probably doesn’t care because Angelina Jolie rocks (and if you bring up Billy Bob Thorton or her brother and ignore the last decade of her rocking in every way imaginable then I get to bring up that time in college where you did that idiotic thing that was really embarrassing and you hoped would never be remembered).

Here are the two prongs of what we can expect, illustrated by two harbingers of poisonous vitriol:

1. “She’s rich, therefore what she did wasn’t brave at all.”

As seen by:


Yes, Angelina Jolie has a ton of money. Obviously. But that doesn’t somehow prevent her from being at risk for breast cancer. In her article, she explains why this is a deeply personal decision that she made with her children in mind and her future at stake. And while she can afford the best treatment, she also can expect the most scrutiny. As a public figure, she has, in the eyes of many, become public domain. She knows this. That’s why she wrote an article about it, explaining her decision and that’s why it’s news worthy. (Bonus eye roll if the person saying this respected Mitt Romney for his wealth but hate celebrities for theirs. It’s almost like capitalism can afford some people “unfair” advantages huh guys?)

2. “Those glorious breasts! What a tragedy!”

As seen by:


Yes, shed a tear, Andy. The breasts that were never yours are now gone. How will you ever cope with this terrible, terrible news. This is objectification at its finest. A glorious cesspool of entitlement and creepy misplaced adoration. It blows my mind that people can feel so attached to something that they have never actually seen except in movies and of which they have zero chance of ever interacting with (Brad Pitt withstanding, of course). But, going back to this idea that her body is public domain, we find that people feel, in a very real way, that they’ve lost something. Nevermind that her choice gives her a better chance of being around a lot longer to do real and lasting good work in the world, or what it means to her family to know they don’t have to worry, or the sheer importance of her own commitment to staying alive as long as she can, because you know, boobs. (Bonus eye roll to the many people who have joked about buying her removed breasts. You guys are a real treat.)

This is the “new normal”, a phrase I fully intend on running directly into the ground until it’s completely meaningless. We HAVE to provide two perspectives on any event. No matter how ridiculous one side is, they need to be given equal footing in a discussion. We saw this with Jason Collins and the ESPN Chris Broussard debacle. We see it when creationists sit alongside scientists to discuss evolution. We see it in every political story that flares up. Freedom of speech has somehow turned into “every voice is equally valid”, which just isn’t true. We have become a culture of point-counterpoint mentality, when in many cases none should exist. Somethings are just wrong. We need to be brave enough to say that.




  1. 1barefootgirl

    The nah-sayers and the praisers – all are valid. I am a women and I actually don’t find what she did brave or inspiring. As much as I know her public persona which I do not follow closely at all, I really wonder what this is about – besides trying to “avoid” getting cancer – or dying? Not sure which. But she’s getting the attention she craves. Wonder what happened in her life to precipitate this. I am a nah-sayer and a women.

    • jamesonstarship

      I disagree. I don’t think this story requires any more explanation than that she knew the risks that she faced and had the guts to make a smart decision, and one that she knew as a actress and as a woman was going to have very public consequences. That’s why I think what she did was brave. I also think it’s great that she wrote about it because, like it or not, she is a public figure and has the chance to reach a great deal of people (her name was trending worldwide on twitter for over 24 hours STRAIGHT, for example). She, unlike many doctors or medical professionals, has the power to bring this to light and also destigmatize preventative actions. Thank you for commenting though, I love hearing people’s opinions and I know full well that I don’t have anywhere near the full truth to any thing I write about so it’s good to hear your thoughts on the matter.

      • 1barefootgirl

        I appreciate your comment. Although I still don’t believe that this is about her. It’s really about the medical professionals making a lot of money convincing women to lop off (or take out) a healthy part of the body because MAYBE something’s going to happen. What is being brought to light is really how sinister the medical profession is towards people’s bodies, especially women’s and encouraging unnecessary surgery (hysterectomies for instance). And please don’t tell me that this is “preventative”. No one can see the future – including Drs, and there is a lot of science out there that would disagree with doing this. Tell me – and this is a question being thrown around – would a Male Doctor lop off his testicles to Prevent cancer? I don’t think so. Thanks

  2. jamie (the other one)

    Do you really have to go all the way back to college to think of something embarrassing that Ive done? That’s a compliment.

  3. Pingback: Know a climate change denier? Turn up the heat |

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