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Actress Angelina Jolie, an international superstar, revealed Tuesday that there is a tie that binds her to thousands of ordinary women. In a revealing New York Times op-ed, Jolie admits to having both breasts removed after learning she carries a mutation of the BRCA1 gene, which drastically increases the risks of developing breast and ovarian cancer.
In the article, Jolie states, "I wanted to write this to tell other women that the decision to have a mastectomy was not easy. But it is one I am very happy that I made." She goes on to write, "I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity."
With that last acknowledgement, Jolie touched on the inevitable discussion that came with her revelation, not about how the procedure could save her life or raise awareness for other women, but how the double mastectomy will affect her appearance.
Slate writer Amanda Hess calls it a "misplaced fascination" and called out Jolie's critics in a new article.
"I was really disappointed, but I was not surprised to see a lot of people really focusing on her breasts, instead of her life," Hess told CNN.
Hess said she read many comments to the effect of 'R.I.P. Angelina Jolie's boobs,' heard people talk about how they respect Jolie's decision, but will miss her curves, and heard others speculate about the size of Jolie's reconstructed breasts.
"That sort of attention is something that every breast cancer survivor has to deal with," said Hess.
The conversation for Hess objectifies not just Jolie, but all women who have undergone similar procedures. Hess's own mother went through a double mastectomy earlier this year.
"In addition to dealing with a lot of pain, and personal decision, a lot of fear - we also had to deal with how people see her, how people will react to her," said Hess. Many reactions lacked understanding, and devalued her mother as a person, said Hess.
The fact that Jolie is a sex symbol, and is someone who is known for her curves, could arguably make her decision even more empowering for other women, because she no doubt will continue to be an international star.
"She has a very powerful platform," said Hess.
"The importance is to accept whatever physical outcome comes from" the decision to undergo a double mastectomy, said Hess, "because the important thing is that lives are being saved."
Of her mother's recovery, Hess said it is going very well.
"She's more beautiful than ever," said Hess. "Watching her wake up from that surgery was such a beautifully powerful experience, and I think that's only an experience people can have when they really view women as people, as opposed to just sex objects."