Fifth Letter to Uncle Sam

May 26, 2013
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Fifth Letter to Uncle Sam


Hey Uncle Sam,

Hope April showers have beautified your garden with Mayflowers. Speaking of beautification, dear Uncle, a delicate topic’s on my mind this beautiful May morning: breasts. Yes, women’s breasts. Actually, one woman’s breasts. Angelina Jolie’s breasts. Awk, you day? Not the sort of thing a niece normally discusses with her grand ol’Uncle, you say? But surely, you’re too old and I’m too millennial be embarrassed by breasts. Used to sell everything from razor blades to motorcycles, breasts are every tit as American as motherhood and apple pie.

So lend me your ear, Uncle dear, for boobs are quite serious, I fear.

Cancer – the very word strikes a chill in very person’s heart. Yet millions of women are diagnosed with breast cancer every day and forced to make some terrible choices. Which brings me to Angelina Jolie. As I’m sure even you know by now, Jolie found out she was at 87% risk of breast cancer and at 50% risk of ovarian cancer due to a genetic mutation. She also knew she had a risky family history, having lost her mother to cancer. So she made the choice every rational woman in her position that also has the means would make: she opted for double mastectomy and then, some beautiful reconstruction.

Now, I admire Jolie as much as the rest of the world and totally applaud her bold preemptive strike on the deadly disease. But I confess I’m a bit disturbed by one statement in her op-ed piece: “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.” Why on earth would Jolie make such an assertion? Did she expect to feel less of a woman without her breasts? Does she think other women or men will see her as less of a woman without her breasts? Do breasts alone a woman make? You're a wise old, dude, even if you’re a dude, so tell me what you think Jolie was thinking.

Media coverage of Jolie’s news too reflects a disturbing cultural obsession with women’s breasts. For example, the cover article in Time magazine titled “The Angelina Effect,” which includes some excellent information on Jolie’s medical history and genetic testing, concludes with this revealing statement: “She has long been a symbol of the feminine ideal – which in its shorthand sense has meant feminine beauty. Her body has been a key dimension of her fame; now it may be an even bigger dimension of her influence.” Why, Uncle dear, is the feminine ideal equated only with physical beauty? And why is Jolie reduced to her body and her body reduced to her breasts? The same Time article found the most moving parts of Jolie’s op-ed were her comments that “the results [of reconstruction] can be beautiful,” and that her children know “everything else is just Mommy.” No kids, it’s not everything else that’s Mommy. Everything is Mommy. Breastless and scarred, reconstructed or not. The Time article ended saying “the most stunning woman in the world redefined beauty.” She had, Uncle dear. With her work in Darfur and Libya and “In the land of blood and honey.”

The women who are really redefining feminine beauty in the land of the free and home of the brave, dear Uncle, are the women who are opting NOT to have breast reconstruction. Perhaps you’ll take the time to pay these bold pioneers a visit and learn more about why it makes just as much sense NOT to reconstruct.

How long, Almighty Uncle, how long will breasts a woman make?


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