This is a guest post by Casey Edison. Casey is a blogger/writer living in northern NJ. She's been writing stories since she could spell and has been a feminist since the first time she was told she couldn't be on the New York Giants when she grew up because she's a girl. She runs a Misogyny in Comic Books Tumblr and is currently working on two books: a mystery novel and a book about sexism in geek culture.
On Tuesday, May 14th, Angelina Jolie made an announcement that shocked many fans: She had a preventative Mastectomy, after having found out that she had BRCA+1, a cancerous gene that ensures breast cancer. Her many male fans took to the internet to proclaim their sadness over her loss… Wait, her loss? Yes, as it turns out, her fans weren’t happy she had gotten a surgery to greatly reduce her risk of getting a horrible disease, but rather sad- sad she had her breast tissue removed. In a move that greatly showed the patriarchal sense of entitlement, many men wrote RIPs for her breasts, as if there wasn’t a woman attached to them. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time this very serious form of cancer has been sexualized.
For years the patriarchy has had a “feel good” approach to breast cancer; pink ribbons and “saves the ta-tas” stickers are the norm, and we often forget the very real women who are developing a cancer that will rip apart their lives. 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetimes, and 1 in 36 will die of it. Breast cancer causes more deaths in women than any other cancer, other than lung cancer, and is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women alongside skin cancer. 1 in 10 men will get breast cancer; a fact many people tend to forget with the focus being on saving “the tatas”. The approach taken toward breast cancer is condemned by most feminists, who would rather such a horrible disease be taken seriously than used as another way to objectify us (and don’t get me started on the “free breast cancer screenings” pick up line, as if there wasn’t enough to deal with at the bar besides a guy using one of your worst fears to try to pick you up).
So why don’t people take this cancer more seriously? A male colleague of mine speculates that the fixation on boobs as an object and not the women who are attached to them stems from biologically being programmed to want the most attractive partner, to which I say, breasts don’t make you attractive. I think it’s because men like boobs, and by appealing to that, we can get a horrible life-threatening disease on their radar. If it weren’t for the feminine images of the Susan G Komen Foundation or the breast-centered slogans of the Save the Ta-Tas Foundation (yes that is a real thing), would the patriarchy even care about breast cancer? Would breast cancer research even have as much media attention and support as it does now? Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not condemning these foundations (well, maybe Save The Ta-Tas a little for their name), but wouldn’t it be nice if when a major celebrity gets a painful and difficult decision to get a mastectomy, society at large didn’t criticize her for “lopping off her boobs”?
Sources: breastcancer.org and cancer.org
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