Paper Title

Ellen & The Real Girl: A Narrative Approach to Mastectomy, Reconstruction, & “Going Flat”

Location

Room 212, West Center

Start Date

April 2016

End Date

April 2016

Keywords

mastectomy, reconstruction, ideal womanhood, going flat, narrative

Abstract

Using personal narrative I examine in this paper what gets constructed as choice and how we, as women, are constructed in interpersonal communication about mastectomy and reconstruction. On the one hand, when we undergo a mastectomy, our decision to do so is often framed as either a prudent, legitimate course of action or an extreme, unnecessary choice. Women having mastectomies are similarly constructed depending on whether or not we have reconstructive surgery, make use of prosthetics, or “go flat.” What this shows us is that, as a society, we in the U.S. have somehow come to preference one kind of mastectomy and reconstruction narrative over another; we have dichotomized our responses to women in these circumstances. Our messages to women have power; they influence how and what kinds of decisions women make. What is important here goes beyond my personal experience. Narratives like mine exemplify that, because of our social construction and reinforcement of ideas of ideal womanhood (Wolf, 1991; Grogan, 2007), the individuals who are in positions to support women in these circumstances (women working for the American Cancer Society who come to our bedsides immediately following mastectomy surgeries, hospital or insurance medical equipment supplies personnel, or “Pink Ribbon” boutiques, etc.) reify versions of womanhood that might no longer be available or attainable by these women.

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Apr 1st, 5:00 PM Apr 1st, 6:15 PM

Ellen & The Real Girl: A Narrative Approach to Mastectomy, Reconstruction, & “Going Flat”

Room 212, West Center

Using personal narrative I examine in this paper what gets constructed as choice and how we, as women, are constructed in interpersonal communication about mastectomy and reconstruction. On the one hand, when we undergo a mastectomy, our decision to do so is often framed as either a prudent, legitimate course of action or an extreme, unnecessary choice. Women having mastectomies are similarly constructed depending on whether or not we have reconstructive surgery, make use of prosthetics, or “go flat.” What this shows us is that, as a society, we in the U.S. have somehow come to preference one kind of mastectomy and reconstruction narrative over another; we have dichotomized our responses to women in these circumstances. Our messages to women have power; they influence how and what kinds of decisions women make. What is important here goes beyond my personal experience. Narratives like mine exemplify that, because of our social construction and reinforcement of ideas of ideal womanhood (Wolf, 1991; Grogan, 2007), the individuals who are in positions to support women in these circumstances (women working for the American Cancer Society who come to our bedsides immediately following mastectomy surgeries, hospital or insurance medical equipment supplies personnel, or “Pink Ribbon” boutiques, etc.) reify versions of womanhood that might no longer be available or attainable by these women.