How to look at a breast differently…

Les Amazones (Amazons)

Like the mythological Greek warriors, women who undergo a mastectomy become familiar with the asymmetry of their bodies. Modern day Amazons are women who have struggled against cancer, but, fortunately, not at all against men.
They may have lost a breast but not their femininity nor their humour.

s’exposent (show themselves)

The association took a bet on changing the way in which they were being looked at. this they did through creative art permitting us to familiarise ourselves with what we never see : a woman with only one breast.

Stéphanie Chardon

The Association

Most Amazons hide their asymmetry.  But why?  Through exhibitions, shows, videos and this website, the Association has opened the debate and is lifting the taboo surrounding Amazons.

Origins of the Association

Annick Parent

“Before having been concerned by the illness myself, I never imagined for a moment that I would become an Amazon, a woman who had become asymmetrical as a result of breast cancer.  I discovered this silent population by tumbling into their midst several years ago.  I told the story of this adventure in my book, “Itinéraire d’une amazone” (éditions Ellebore, 2006).  Having been confronted with a serious illness, I wanted to help others avoid what I call “added violence”, the violence of the illness itself being unavoidable.  Confronted with hospitalisations, suspended diagnoses, the waiting for results, the treatments, we’ve each of us had all these problems to deal with … and there’s no transmission.  Each one of us discovers what it means to be torn out of our daily routine and to become dependent on the medical world, the waiting, the insecurity, to see one’s life suspended…  A diagnosis of cancer and one changes world.

Having learned that I had to have a breast removed, and being curious by nature, I asked questions about what I was going to look like, waiting for words or images which would help me discover my fate.  In vain.  There were no words, no pictures.  It was extremely difficult to imagine myself as I would become.  I was confronted with an uncertain future, a galloping imagination and nothing to enlighten me.

I had the good fortune to see Art Myers‘ black and white photographs.  Amazons posing with their partners, smiling, the living proof of a well-being I could never have imagined.  There and then they opened up my universe.  There was a “beyond” cancer, a “beyond” mastectomy, the possibility of a pleasant life in spite of this loss!  This discovery helped me enormously.

Art Myers

I wanted to share this good fortune.  I wanted other women to have access to these images, far removed from the dramatic scenarios one too often hears.  Femininity and charm are no more related to the number and perfection of one’s breasts than to the size of one’s waist or the colour of one’s hair.  I don’t deny the loss of a certain harmony, but asymmetry can be tamed and if the prospect of the several operations necessary to recreate the lost volume repels certain women, why then hide it?

In my search for collaborators with whom to concretise this wish to change things, I met Lillian Stirling in Strasbourg, who immediately adopted the project.  Two artists, Monique Riond and Sylvie Rabant, who are particularly aware of the subject, joined us to create “les amazones s’exposent” in early 2007.  Sandrine Pignoux, an actress, joined us in 2008 and Bettina Granier, a doctor, in 2010.

Monique Riond

Lillian Stirling

Sylvie Rabant

Sandrine Pignoux

Bettina Granier

A difference which can be accepted

Each year in France, around 15 000 women with breast cancer learn that they will need to have a mastectomy.  They are not told how they will become or what they will look like.  In some hospitals an “immediate reconstruction” is proposed which consists of substituting the sick breast with one surgically remodelled during the same operation.  Elsewhere, they are advised to postpone “reconstruction” and to wait for several months before making their decision.

Coverage of breast cancer in the French press is based on women who have chosen to have a “reconstruction”, supported by real-life stories, as if the thousands of women with one breast didn’t exist.  Thanks to our engagement, we are beginning to see and hear women who, having accepted their difference, have regained their sense of stability and well-being.  Making a decision in full knowledge of the facts is all the more difficult because of the lack of information about “becoming an Amazon”.

We have created the Association in reply to this shortcoming and to lift the taboo by provoking the debate through exhibitions, videos followed by discussion, text readings, etc.  This difference should no longer be harboured in secret.  The general public, as well as the medical profession, have to become aware that, some time after the illness, it is possible to accept this difference and feel good in oneself.

A website to share and exchange experiences

Discover artists who have worked on the asymmetrical body, the questioning of a norm and criteria of feminine beauty…
Read real-life accounts by Amazons, discover their photos…
Share your experience …
Discover Amazons from different countries…

Les amazones s’exposent.