By Cathy Corman
Back in 1998, I tested positive for the same genetic mutations that led Angelina Jolie to have a double mastectomy. When I talked with my doctor about the surgery to remove my healthy breasts and ovaries, I asked her what would be left of my femininity. “You still have your brain,” she told me.
I’ve thought about that exchange as I’ve read commentaries weighing in this week on the meaning of Angelina Jolie’s decision to undergo prophylactic mastectomies and to go public with the details. Most have focused on the impact of Jolie’s decisions on her film career and on women’s assessment of cancer risks. They have missed an important point: Jolie’s revelation is ultimately as much about her brain as her body.
There’s a reason Jolie has been the highest paid actress in Hollywood, earning up to $30 million a year. Sure, she’s got bee-stung lips, big boobs, a tiny waist and comely hips. But she’s not just beautiful. She’s brainy. Jolie has cannily put her physical assets to work in roles that have allowed her to link sex and power: as video-game heroine Lara Croft, a super spy in Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and as a daring CIA agent in the film Salt. Jolie has taken her body to the bank by choosing to be seen as active and able.
Jolie consciously continues in her role as action/adventure hero in the way she shapes her decisions to undergo genetic testing and surgery.
• She remains powerful because she controls the flow of information. She managed to keep her mastectomies private until she was ready to share. And when she chose to share, she “bared all” on the opinion page of what is arguably the most respected newspaper in the world. Continue reading