“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.”
These were the words of Angelina Jolie, as she recently openly discussed her choice to have a double-mastectomy to reduce her chance of getting breast cancer.
Media outlets have been focusing a lot of attention on this news and the public reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. Seeing a Hollywood star speaking candidly about her mortality is refreshing, and shows that fame and fortune cannot alter the laws of nature. Angelina Jolie, with her world-famous status as a sex symbol, is just like the next woman who worries about her health and hopes to see her children grow up. In that sense, she’s just like you, your best friend, or the person behind you at a red light. Her message unites humanity.
But it is her message of empowerment that I believe is so inspiring to women. Her message is that despite losing her breasts, she is no less of a woman, because her femininity does not rely on her physical attributes. It’s a state of mind, a spirit, an acceptance.
Many women encounter this struggle in their sex lives, and may feel ‘less of a woman’ because of imperfections in their bodies. We often meet women who report feeling less feminine because they are older, or because they can’t have an orgasm, or because they have painful intercourse. No doubt that in today’s world, there are many societal forces that make it difficult to maintain a femininity that is independent of one’s physical form.
But Ms. Jolie’s actions — and her brave choice to speak out about it — is a testament to the potential to transcend the superficial measurements of femininity. That being a woman is not exclusively about physicality, that a woman doesn’t need to feel shame about her body, and that every woman- regardless of age, fame, race- has her own feminine struggles to fight.