[Marxism] Statement: Refusing to Accept Sexism

Dan R proletariandan at gmail.com
Fri May 31 11:16:25 MDT 2013

I actually tried to unsub from the list after reading the responses to this
pathetic (at least from CP's side) debate but it didn't work. I'll wait to
try again when I have time to write up my own thoughts. Meanwhile...


RUTH FOWLER has used two CounterPunch columns to criticize Angelina Jolie
for writing a *New York Times* essay to discuss her decision to have a
double mastectomy, while not recognizing and acknowledging: 1) the economic
means she holds to undergo an expensive medical procedure other women can't
afford; and 2) that a corporation called Myriad Genetics is generating
enormous profits by driving up screening tests for breast cancer. Fowler
argues that these contradictions undermine Jolie's credibility to speak for
survivors of breast cancer.

We disagree.

First and foremost, all medical patients diagnosed with potentially fatal
illnesses deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Jolie deserves
respect as someone who spoke out bravely about the difficult decision to
have a double mastectomy rather than risk getting breast cancer. Fowler
fails to acknowledge this and uses Jolie's celebrity to try to strip her of
her fundamental humanity. The title of her first
"Angelia Jolie: On Privilege, Tits, and Being Dumb," reduces Jolie to a
pair of "tits" in a move not that different from the sensationalist media
that routinely objectifies women.

As Sharon Smith noted in her critique of Fowler's original
which CounterPunch refused to post, "[U]sing boob jokes to introduce an
article about undergoing a double mastectomy to prevent a potentially
deadly disease constitutes a descent from sexism to misogyny."

Julian Vigo, in her response to
focuses her critique on the use of the term "tit," defending its use by
Fowler and responding with what we expect a typical male undergraduate
student to say when first introduced to the notion of women's
objectification: "CounterPunch also uses titles with 'dick,' 'penis,' and
'cock' in them."

The problem with these articles in CounterPunch is that they use a left
cover to recycle sexist tropes while hiding behind class outrage.

Second, Fowler ruthlessly attacks Jolie's apparent ignorance about the
sexist machinations of the medical industry without noting that a lack of
information under capitalism is fairly common. Information about
pharmaceutical companies and the role they play in shaping our health care
"choices" are neither easily accessible nor discussed openly in mainstream
media. While Jolie surely could have done more "homework" on the health
care system before writing her piece, we should acknowledge that Myriad
Genetics and the health care industry are what deny women access to good
health care, not Jolie.

Since Jolie's article, there has been widespread media coverage of breast
cancer as well as preventative measures open to women. Surely, as feminists
we should welcome this development. Additionally, the ACLU has taken Myriad
to court <http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/05/12/us.genes.lawsuit/> about its
patent monopoly, creating an opening to critique the for-profit health care

Third, Fowler ridicules Jolie's wealth and celebrity in a mean-spirited
effort to discredit her attempts to educate other women about how to
preserve personal dignity in the face of medical trauma.

When women negotiate the health care industry, they face a double jeopardy:
the everyday scrutiny of female bodies and sexualities are heightened and
pathologized. To this is added the fear and horror of care being solely
determined by affordability.

Any attempt to shed light on this difficult process, regardless of the
class of the person that it comes from, should be welcomed. When a
"celebrity" such as Jolie speaks about double mastectomy not affecting her
femininity, she is bringing relief to many women who are caught in this
trap of gender and class. And because she is a celebrity (who need not have
exposed herself to such scrutiny, we might add), she created a larger space
in the mainstream media to reflect on these issues.

To be sure, Angelina Jolie is not a revolutionary. Nor is she, quite
probably, what we could agree is a feminist. What we wish to defend in this
statement is less Jolie and her politics, but rather her boldness in coming
forward and the opening that has created to discuss this painful issue.

We are disappointed that CounterPunch has run three articles on this
question, but has refused to spend a second being self-reflexive about the
sexism in these articles and their headlines, much less provide a space for
those who wish to articulate a different and non-sexist position.

*Deepa Kumar*, Associate Professor, Media Studies, Rutgers University
*Tithi Bhattacharya*, Associate Professor, History, Purdue University
*Bill Mullen*, Professor, English, Purdue University
*Ania Loomba*, Catherine Bryson Professor of English, University of
*T. J. Boisseau*, Director, Women's Studies, Associate Professor, History,
Purdue University
*Janet Staiger*, Professor Emeritus, Radio-Television-Film and Women's and
Gender Studies, University of Texas-Austin
*Janet Afary*, Mellichamp Chair in Global Religion and Modernity,
Professor, Religious Studies and Feminist Studies, University of California
Santa Barbara
*Radhika Parameswaran*, Professor, School of Journalism, Indiana University
*Deborah Tudor*, Associate Dean, College of Mass Communication and Media
Arts, Southern Illinois University
*Lisa McLaughlin*, Ph.D., Department of Media, Journalism and Film and
Program in Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Miami University-Ohio
*Cynthia Carter*, Co-editor, *Feminist Media Studies*, Senior Lecturer,
Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, Cardiff University
*Vicki Mayer*, Editor, *Television & New Media*, Professor, Communication,
Tulane University
*Liesbet Van Zoonen*, Professor of Communication and Media Studies,
Loughborough University, Professor of Popular Culture, Erasmus University,
*Margot Mifflin*, Associate Professor, Lehman College/CUNY Graduate School
of Journalism
*Nirmala Erevelles*, Professor, Social and Cultural Studies in Education,
University of Alabama
*Robin R. Means Coleman*, Associate Professor, Communication, University of
*Radhika Gajjala*, Professor, School of Media and Communication and
American Culture Studies, Bowling Green State University
*Abbie Bakan*, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada
*Bill Keach*, Professor, Brown University.
*Karin Wahl-Jorgensen*, Professor, Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and
Cultural Studies, Cardiff University.
*Helen Scott*, Associate Professor, English, University of Vermont
*Saadia Toor*, Associate Professor, Sociology, Anthropology and Social
Work, College of Staten Island
*Des Freedman*, Reader, Media and Communications, Goldsmiths College,
University of London
*Kavita Krishnan*, Secretary, All India Progressive Women's Association,
New Delhi, India
*David McNally*, Professor, Political Science, York University
*Paul Kellogg*, Assistant Professor, Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies,
Athabasca University, Canada
*Sue Ferguson*, Associate Professor, Wilfrid Laurier University, Brantford,
Ontario, Canada
*Dana Cloud*, Associate Professor, University of Texas-Austin
*Pranav Jani*, Associate Professor, English, Ohio State University
*Pam Tracy*, Associate Professor, Communication, Longwood University
*Regina Marchi*, Associate Professor, Media Studies, Rutgers University
*Maurice Stevens*, Associate Professor, Department of Comparative Studies,
Ohio State University
*Basuli Deb*, Assistant Professor, English and Women's and Gender Studies,
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
*Patrick Jones*, Associate Professor, Department of History, University of
*Patrick L. Gallagher*, Associate Professor, Department of Modern and
Classical Language Studies, Kent State University
*Jeff Bale*, Assistant Professor, Dept of Teacher Education, Michigan State
*Phil Gasper*, Philosophy Instructor, Madison Area Technical College
*Keith Danner*, Lecturer, English, University of California Irvine

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