Belfast Telegraph

Friday 31 October 2014

Angelina Jolie should forget the trolls, she's pure inspiration

Brad Pitt said it had been 'an emotional and beautifully inspiring few months'
Brad Pitt said it had been 'an emotional and beautifully inspiring few months'
Angelina Jolie
Angelina Jolie

I didn't think I'd write about Angelina Jolie this week. I didn't imagine there would be much debate about her frank, thoughtful and sensibly unsensational piece in the New York Times explaining why she'd chosen to have a cancer-preventative double mastectomy.

The revelation was shocking at first, as it would be to hear of any woman having her breast tissue removed without absolute necessity. Then, having taken it in, it was inspiring and hope-provoking. I assumed pretty much everyone would feel the same.

I was wrong. Judging by internet discussion forums, many regard Jolie's decision to make the details of her surgery public as an attempt to grab headlines, retain her crown as the patron saint of victimhood and even to show off about what a selfless mum she is and what a great relationship she has with a Hollywood heartthrob.

Jolie's announcement has also inspired a deluge of misogyny, which showed its ugly face (and presumably tiny penis) in various chatrooms, most of them sports-related. One thread, charmingly entitled 'Angelina Jolie has her t*** cut off', offered vivid insight into what goes on in some male human heads, with contributors opining that Brad Pitt would be 'out the door', another suggesting a 'national day of mourning' for Jolie's breasts and some offering women in similar circumstances advice I'll not repeat because it's grotesque.

The misogyny is depressing, but I suppose we all know there are knuckle-grazed sex-starved losers loitering in the corners of every society. Perhaps it was for them, and for the vulnerable women who fear such thoughts lurk in the backs of their own partners' brains, that Jolie made a point of saying she doesn't feel 'any less of a woman' after her surgery. "I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity," she declared, and you could imagine her saying it, standing tall, back straight, her big beautiful blue eyes looking directly at you and daring you to disagree.

What's more surprising than the women-hating bunkum is the more considered cynicism which has greeted Jolie's publication. Are we now so savvy to contrived celebrity publicity that we're incapable of telling the difference between a desperate grab for attention, and a genuinely responsible act?

I wonder how Jolie's acting agent felt about her client, famed for her ungovernable sexuality, telling the world she's had a double mastectomy.

It would be nice to see Hollywood respond with some nice meaty roles but the truth is, the top end of the film industry is a ruthless business driven by greedy blowhards chasing bums on seats via lowest common denominator product.

They're more likely to listen to the guys on the sports forums than they are to support the A-list mum who prioritises her family and talks about the plight of rape victims in the Congo rather than indulging male fantasies by revealing how she slips into silky knickers to satisfy her man in bed.

Some accuse Jolie of ignorant complacency, as she has access to reconstructive surgery that not everyone can afford. Are they suggesting she should refuse to look as nice as possible to become a global martyr? Imagine what they'd say then!

Bottom line, by drawing attention to the benefits of getting tested for faulty genes, and proving that a mastectomy diminishes not an iota of a woman's power or sexuality, Jolie will spread hope and probably save some lives. Not the worst thing a woman could do. Even a celebrity one.

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