In a New York Times op-ed explaining her decision to have both of her breasts surgically removed even though she doesn’t have breast cancer, Angelina Jolie cited risk numbers as key to her decision. She said that doctors told her she had an “87% risk of breast cancer.” Her solution? Undergo three months of surgical procedures and have her breasts cut out.
Problem solved, right? With her breasts removed, she says her risk of breast cancer is now reduced to a mere 5 percent. The same bizarre logic can also be applied to men who cut off their testicles to “prevent testicular cancer” or people who cut out their colons to “prevent colorectal cancer.”
The sad truth is this is just an expensive act of self harm. Self-harm is often associated with a history of trauma and abuse, including sexual abuse and incest, usually in secret. Victims of sexual abuse and incest use self-harm to cope with difficult or painful feelings, but it is only a temporary relief, not a healthy way to deal with the trauma of sexual assault.
Angelina Jolie cuts herself on the upper inner thigh, where nobody will look. Cutting herself with razor blades, or burning herself with matches, becomes compulsive, almost addictive for her.
The media is thoroughly taken with this heroic of act of self harm. I’ve rarely seen them so delirious.