Pioneers in Flat Advocacy
A blog series designed to highlight and amplify the voices of the flat advocates whose work built – and continues to strengthen – the foundation for the work that other advocates are doing now.
Marie-Claude Belzile of Quebec, Canada began her advocacy work in 2017 after being diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer, undergoing a double mastectomy, and noticing that medical professionals and the public at large seemed uncomfortable with her new body.
You can find her work on her Facebook page Tout aussi femme. Marie-Claude recently published a book in which she deconstructs the cultural narrative about breast reconstruction, Penser le Sein Feministe. She also founded a French-speaking flat support group called Les Platines.
When you were making your reconstructive choice, how did you end up choosing flat?
“I knew from the beginning that I wanted to go flat. I wanted only one surgery and the fastest recovery and less complications as possible. Also, after all the photos I saw for breast mounds reconstructions, I saw nothing that could fit with me, as nothing looked like the breasts I naturally had. “
How has your surgical result affected your healing process moving forward?
“It helped me, because the outcomes of the surgery were as expected : no extra skin, nice scars. “
How did you decide that you wanted to be an advocate?
“When I had to fight with my breast surgeon to be flat. At first he was trying to convince me by telling me I was too young to be flat. Then even after I told him multiple times I wanted to go flat, he wrote on my surgery form “reconstruction, expanders”. I had the chance to see it in the hands of a nurse before the surgery and go fight with my breast surgeon for him to give me the surgery I wanted. He finally respected my choice and did a good job, but the fight I had to go through should have never happened and that is why I started to question myself about the pressure to opt for reconstruction after a mastectomy. I knew I was not alone and I started a page on Facebook, called Tout aussi femme, to help woman who decided (or want) to go flat. “
What is your proudest accomplishment as an advocate?
“I published a book about how women are pressured in society and among the medical corps to choose reconstruction. I have a feminist approach on the question and the book being published now is a first in French language, so I’m very proud.”
What has been your biggest challenge as an advocate?
“To be listened to. To have to explain again and again why this choice should be the one of the woman having a mastectomy and no one else. To find a way to reach the surgeons and oncologists about this reality too, and make them realise that those behaviors are not right.”
What have you learned as an advocate that you would like other advocates to know?
“That you have to work very hard to get the message out, but to never give up because it does make change possible. “
What is your vision for flat advocacy generally? What do you want the future to look like for women going flat?
“My vision is that the more we speak out about our realities and our fights, the more it’ll change the culture and society. I see flat advocacy to be a way for women to be emancipated by the way our bodies are policed and managed by social constructs. I see a way for getting visible to each other and to others and get validated for who we are. I see a future where women are respected and taken as the only person competent on what’s best for her.
“I would like to see flat women free of fears, anxieties, disrespect, rejections, etc. I see a world where our choices are fully taken into account without being questioned. Normalizing flat bodies will help women to feel adequate and valuable and worthy. Flat advocacy will also end wrong practices that surgeons allow themselves to do without consent like ‘leaving extra skin in case they change their mind’.”
A pioneer may start as a lone voice in the wilderness, but their passion for and commitment to their cause inspires others to join them. This has led to exponential growth in the field of flat advocacy over the last decade or so. In 2020, we have flat photography projects, full length memoirs, nonprofit organizations, communities on social media, and even gatherings across the world… all made possible by the work of the advocates who blazed the trail.
If you know of a pioneer in flat advocacy that you’d like to see featured, please let us know!
Disclaimer: Any and all information published by Not Putting on a Shirt (NPOAS) on behalf of a third party is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as a substitute for medical or legal advice from a licensed professional. Views expressed and claims made by third parties do not necessarily represent the views of NPOAS.