Angelina Jolie has just announced via the New York Times that she underwent a surgery to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes to address her increased risk of developing gynecological cancers. The decision has attracted widespread commentary, and it’s an important contribution to the ongoing discussion about women’s health and autonomy in the United States. Jolie-Pitt is an adult woman who can make her own informed choices, yet some seem convinced that she owes them her body—and her life.
The story follows on her 2013 decision to undergo a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction, a procedure she also wrote about for the Times. Medical testing revealed that she had a BRCA1 mutation, a genetic twist of fate that made her more vulnerable to breast and ovarian cancers. Her mother, grandmother, and aunt had all died of such cancers, making her acutely aware of the risk and the tragedy of being the family left behind.
“I am writing about it now,” Jolie said in 2013 after completing the series of surgeries necessary to remove and reconstruct her breasts, “because I hope that other women can benefit from my experience. Cancer is still a word that strikes fear into people’s hearts, producing a deep sense of powerlessness. But today it is possible to find out through a blood test whether you are highly susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer and then take action.”
Her decision to be frank about the details of her medical history and proactive steps sparked what some called the “Angelina effect,” as the Internet, and the world at large, started talking about breast cancer. The specifics of who should be tested for BRCA mutations and how they should handle such mutations was a particular topic of interest, particularly for those with close relatives who had died from such cancers.
Carrie Murphy put it at the Gloss. Sexist commentary, mostly from men, crawled out of the woodwork to trash Jolie’s decision, with many comments implying a sense of entitlement and ownership of her breasts. Jolie said that she didn’t feel any less feminine or empowered because of her decision, but sexist trolls begged to differ. Similarly snide comments have appeared this time: