One of today’s big news –only sidelined by the plane crash in the French Alps– is that Angelina Jolie had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed. The news is reported in virtually every news-platform from around the world, in USA, Britain, France, Switzerland, Spain, Mexico, Colombia, to mention just a few places.
Why the fuss? What’s the big deal? Why is her decision presented by all these media as uncommonly brave? I didn’t have the patience to read any of the dozens of articles that were thrust upon my TL because I seriously cannot care any less. The woman is nearly forty and has already six children –three of which are biological children– so why is her decision framed as being a huge and brave step?
The only quick answer that comes to my mind is that the issue has perhaps to do with essentialist questions about ‘sex’. Jolie has been made to stand for the femme of the century, the ultimate female sex symbol, the ideal embodiment of what any ‘woman’ should aspire to be: she is beautiful, successful (reports always ignore the blatantly obvious fact that her success is highly dependant on her looks), and a ‘fulfilled mother’ of six. She has been construed as the epitome of ‘the woman’, the epitome of ‘femininity’, and we know that in Western culture, when it comes to discussing womanhood and femininity, the female body is what matters. But then she has no longer ovaries nor fallopian tubes: is that to be read as a challenge to her uncompromising femininity, the essence she is supposed to be the embodiment of?
Perhaps this is what is going on in here: an emphasis (or backlash?) on an essentialist approach to sex and femininity of which she is a major symbol. Curiously as I was writing this post one of the Twitter accounts I follow –@ThisIsFusion– sent this tweet with a picture of her, a quote of the text she published in the New York Times where she discloses what she did, and a link to the article in question. Again, being as busy as I am, I don’t feel like spending time in reading any of her ‘Diary of a surgery’. I will just point to the first words cited by @ThisIsFusion which are ‘I feel feminine’. This type of utterance exasperates me. It also makes me wonder what the person who utters it means by it. Although I am –and have always been– a self-identified woman, I truly don’t know what ‘feeling feminine’ refers to. I will perhaps end by reading her ‘Diary’ looking for an answer.