Wherever you are in the world, I’m sure news that Angelina Jolie has had a double mastectomy has made your radio, television and print news today.
I have to say that I’m delighted, not because I wish any negative thoughts on Angelina Jolie, but because she has bravely, in an industry that demands a certain standard of ‘beauty’ and also demands that she removes her clothes ‘for the sake of reality’ (and we won’t comment on why her cinematic paramour keeps his boxer shorts on in the love scenes).
While searching and researching for this post I found a huge number of ‘nude’, many probably faked, Angelina Jolie photos, which goes to demonstrate just how mankind values her breasts. To a degree, she is practically defined by them, rather than her acting abilities.
The reason why I’m delighted that she has come out and told the world about this is because it raises the profile of this cancer, and goes some way (for at least a period of time) in getting women to get checks, investigate if they may have a faulty gene that causes the cancer and may, just may, save lives. Ms.Jolie also speaks of her decision in a NY Times article you can find here.
For that, I applaud Ms. Jolie. I wish her a speedy recovery from surgery and a return to full health.
On the back of the initial report, the BBC has sought the opinion of ‘ordinary’ women (with the caveat that none of us, female or male, are ever ‘ordinary’) who have undergone the same procedure. That report is here.
I would urge all women who may be in that risk zone to read all of those (and more) reports.
Here in SL, we’re pretty good at a rolling support for breast cancer (pink ribbon) charities, with events from time to time that also raises the profile of the cancer.
Those who’ve read this blog for a while will know I previously wrote for another blog, one on which a contributor went through the process of discovering she had breast cancer and undergoing a (single) mastectomy. Thanks to early detection, she recovered fully, but opted not to undergo any further reconstructive surgery and live with a prosthesis (a false breast in her clothing). Having heard and read Ms. Jolie’s story, I emailed that avatar who is no longer particularly active in SL, to ask for her input on the day’s news. This afternoon, I was delighted to receive an email back from her, with permission to reprint it in full.
‘As women, we’re very often defined by our breasts. Or so the media would have us believe. They epitomise our femininity, our sexuality. It’s a traumatic experience to not only hear you’ve got cancer, and the prospect of surgery and possibly chemo and radio therapy, but there’s the feeling you are losing your attractiveness. If you have a loving partner, their support is vital. You won’t cease to be attractive, you won’t cease to be a sexual being. There’s now excellent reconstructive surgery, but I opted not to go through this. I don’t expect to ever go through this, and instead will wear a prosthetic breast for the remainder of my life. I’m in a settled relationship, where it doesn’t really matter much, but I can see younger women being afraid no one would ever find them attractive. You have the choice for reconstruction. Remember that if you’re ever diagnosed.
“After my surgery, I was still active in Second Life, and made a decision in that context to live it as real as I could. I tried to source a mastectomy skin, without success, and tried to adopt a male shape, without breast tissue, also without success. At the same time, being given a second chance in life, I gave up the better-paid job I was doing and went to work for a cancer charity so that I could, from experience, speak of it and maybe inform others of choices and their prospects. I reached the point where that work overtook everything else and while I enjoyed Second Life I gradually withdrew from it simply through lack of time, although my account is still active I think. Today, I’ve been inundated by meals and messages, and I’m looking at working long into the night and over the course of coming days because there will be a ‘Jolie effect’ on the back of this. Her announcement will save lives, and if she never does anything else with her life in terms of movies, she has made a very, very positive declaration today and in time may well be much more remembered for that as for her acting career.
“I hope that you can raise some further awareness through your blog, and I hope that Second Life continues to be supportive of whatever pink ribbon campaigns bloggers and avatars choose to highlight and support. I think I probably speak for everyone working in breast cancer awareness and support around the globe in saying that continued support, even in a niche game like Second Life, is greatly appreciated. Keep on supporting us, Second Life people, and one day soon we’ll be able to effectively, if not ‘cure’ the cancer and the causes of it, then at least ensure women are effectively screened around the globe to ensure it’s always survivable. That’s what I strive for.
“PS. Let me know if you come across a feminine looking SL male skin that could effectively be adopted as a ‘post mastectomy’ avatar. I might be tempted to come back into the game regularly if there’s one I could wear and get the chance to talk about my work in the context of the game’
There you have it, SL skin designers. A challenge!
SLN would be in full support of the existence of a post single or double mastectomy skin, and willing to promote that to the max if anyone can point us in the right direction.
While not ‘naturist’ in its (initial) scope, this article is intended to show that those of us who are female in SL are still defined to a degree by our breasts (the current fad for breast enhancements demonstrate this). If our, and our male counterparts in SL, focus of attention is on breasts, it seems correct to highlight another perspective of them and underscore the fact that those of us nude in SL, be it on a beach of in the privacy of a SL bedroom, are much more than the size of our boobs!