[Marxism] Counterpunch at a new sexist low, still digging

Dan R proletariandan at gmail.com
Fri May 17 09:28:25 MDT 2013


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http://socialistworker.org/2013/05/16/they-owe-women-an-apology

Why CounterPunch owes women an apology

Sharon Smith argues that Angelina Jolie deserves better than derisive and
sexist "humor" for making public a health decision that all women dread
being faced with.

May 16, 2013

Angelina Jolie

BREAST CANCER is no laughing matter--certainly not for the roughly 232,340
U.S. women who will be diagnosed with it this year, or the 39,620 women
expected to die from it.

Yet the editors over at the CounterPunch website were apparently guffawing
over Angelina Jolie's recent decision to undergo a preventative double
mastectomy. Their e-mail promo for an article posted on the site on May 14
reads: "Ruth Fowler unsnaps Angelina Jolie's bra and exposes privilege,
health care and tits." Presto! A double mastectomy morphs into locker room
fodder.

Fowler's article never actually mentions the word "tits." But like smirking
adolescents, the editors insert it yet again in their contemptuous title:
"Angelina Jolie Under the Knife: Of Privilege, Health Care and Tits." One
can almost hear them howling with laughter at their own perceived
cleverness. Presumably they also laughed their way through Seth McFarlane's
sophomoric "We saw your boobs" spoof at the Academy Awards, while millions
of women cringed.

But using boob jokes to introduce an article about undergoing a double
mastectomy to prevent a potentially deadly disease constitutes a descent
from sexism to misogyny.

Like so many Hollywood actresses, the sexual objectification of Jolie's own
face and body has been a key component of her fame. Jolie should certainly
be commended for her courage in choosing to make her double mastectomy
public--in order to help reassureother women confronting the possibility or
reality of mastectomy to understand that losing one or both of their
breasts does not mean losing their sexuality. In her May 14 op-ed piece in
the New York Times, she wrote, "On a personal note, 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."

In a society as sexist as ours, in which women are so often judged in
relation to the perceived desirability of their individual body parts--as
if in suspended animation from the rest of their personhood--this message
could not be more timely.

The essence of this message is entirely lost on the CounterPunch gang. They
seem blissfully unconcerned that their own use of the degrading term "tits"
is yet more evidence of the damaging impact of the sexual objectification
of women. The fact that they do so under the guise of left-wing commentary
only compounds this damage.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

FOWLER'S ARTICLE is devoid of boob jokes, but is also teeming with contempt
toward Jolie.

Fowler ridicules Jolie for "your elaborately reconstructed chest and your
incredible bravery in submitting to top-end, essential preventive
treatments in order to avoid a painful and abhorrent death," as if Jolie
endured multiple surgeries over a period of months as a colossal act of
narcissism.

But Angelina Jolie made the decision to undergo a double mastectomy because
she heard the news that every woman dreads: She tested positive for a
faulty BRCA1 gene, which gave her an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a
50 percent risk of ovarian cancer. The fact that her mother died of ovarian
cancer after a nearly 10-year struggle at the age of 56 is a further
indication of what the future would likely hold.

One might reasonably ask why Jolie has been singled out for such scorn.
Fowler's article uses reverse (some might even say reactionary) logic: She
disparages those who do have access to quality medical care instead of
demanding that all women gain access to the same standard of care. Thus,
Fowler dismisses the option of genetic testing in asking: "[W]hat good is
knowing that there's a test out there only privileged rich people can get?"
This is bad advice for women facing the possibility that they carry a
defective gene.

Jolie is far from silent on the issue of access. As she argued in her op-ed
piece:

Breast cancer alone kills some 458,000 people each year, according to the
World Health Organization, mainly in low- and middle-income countries. It
has got to be a priority to ensure that more women can access gene testing
and lifesaving preventive treatment, whatever their means and background,
wherever they live. The cost of testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2, at more than
$3,000 in the United States, remains an obstacle for many women.

Fowler dismisses Jolie's comments above as offering merely "a trifling nod"
to class inequality, asking, "Why don't you raise our awareness of your own
overpriced, privileged medical treatment a little more, and continue to NOT
raise awareness of any actual fact?" Yet since Jolie's op-ed was published,
the Internet has been abuzz with debate and discussion about this important
subject, demonstrating that Jolie has indeed opened a much-needed
conversation.

Fowler's resentment is misplaced. Hollywood actors neither created nor can
resolve the health care crisis. That responsibility lies squarely with the
medical-industrial complex, including its government lackeys, who sustain
the class disparities of the for-profit health care system. The conditions
are ripe for a movement that demands health care for all, but it must take
aim at the appropriate targets to be effective.

It should not be difficult to understand why millions of women who, facing
an epidemic of breast cancer, breathed a sigh of relief on May 14 upon
reading Jolie's honest and eloquent account of removing her breasts to save
her life.

And I strongly suggest that those who find her struggle amusing lift their
snouts out of the trough long enough to discover why so many women are not
laughing. An ounce of empathy for women's health and dignity would go a
long way.



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