Going Viral

Life imitates art: Women surgeons are recreating a magazine cover to challenge stereotypes

The inspiration came from The New Yorker’s cover art featuring four women surgeons.

It all began with the the cover of the April 3 edition of The New Yorker magazine – a illustration of four women surgeons in surgical masks and gowns looking down at a patient in an operating theatre. French artist Malika Favre who drew the “operating theatre” for the magazine’s health, medicine and body issue was trying to capture a patient’s feeling of being watched as they lose consciousness under anesthesia. Favre was drawing form her own experience of being operated on when she was a child.

When endocrine surgeon at the University of Wisconsin Dr Susan Pitt saw the image, she immediately wondered what it would look like to recreate the image. “The instant I saw it I thought about how cool it would be to replicate in real life,” Pitt told BuzzFeed. While attending a meeting of endocrine surgeons, Pitt gathered three other women surgeons and took a photo. She tweeted it out using the the hashtag #ILookLikeASurgeon and challenging other women surgeons to do the same.

Women surgeons across the United States and in other parts of the world – Mexico, Brazil, Turkey and Saudi Arabia – have quickly stepped up to take photos of their own recreations of the magazine cover. The challenge has now been trending on Twitter as the #NYerORCoverChallenge.

While the New Yorker cover challenge has certainly thrown up some great photos, the women taking part are hoping it will help challenge assumptions women in medicine. Surgery is a male-dominated profession around the world. Only 19% of surgeons in the US are women, according to statistics from the American Medical Association.

The Association of Women Surgeons of India contends that only 700 of 25,000 Indian surgeons are women. In March 2016, the Times of India reported that women surgeons were a “vanishing tribe” in Hyderabad. Records from corporate hospitals across the city showed that only 10% of their surgeons were women and almost all of these were restricted to gynaecology and obstetrics departments. There were few women in ophthalmology or general surgery. There were even fewer in super specialities within surgery like cardio-thoracic surgery, oncology, urology, paediatrics, plastic surgery, neurology and gastroenterology.

This is largely because surgery has mostly been an all-boys club, points out Dr Sristi Sharma, a surgery policy researcher and founder of the Association of Women Surgeons of India. “It is difficult for a woman to break in and be a part of that club not only because of their own fears but also because there is an inherent bias against women from the existing male surgeons as well as general public,” said Sharma. “Rampant sexist comments including ‘how will you manage?’, ‘You will destroy your family’, ‘Who will replace you when you are pregnant? We will be short staffed.’ Ask any woman surgeon-at some point of her life she has heard one of these cutting remarks.”

Sharma recounted a story from her time at NRS Hospital in Kolkata, where the head of surgery was a a very capable and experienced woman. However, when she did her rounds in the wards with other surgeons, patients would always direct their questions to the male surgeons.

With so few existing women surgeons, the newer generation of medical students have few women mentors and role models.

The social media campaign #ILookLikeASurgeon started much before The New Yorker’s April cover this year. It took off on Twitter in August 2015, with women surgeon using the hashtag to draw attention to problems of gender, racial and ethnic diversity in the profession of surgery. The tweet and the hashtag have brought together women in surgical and other medical organisations and is fast becoming a movement with goals to address problems of diversity in surgery, the wage gap, leadership barriers, work-life integration, burnout, surgical and workplace culture, and surgical stereotypes.

Trauma surgeon Jamie Jones Coleman writes in The Huffington Post that she took part in the #NYerORCoverChallenge to counter the predominant assumption of what a surgeon should look like. “Let’s say every surgeon you have met in your life is male and every nurse you have met is female. Therefore, when a male walks into the examination room you mistake him for the surgeon when he is, in fact, your nurse. This doesn’t make you a bad person, again, a good portion of this is unconsciously done... his is how we unconsciously send messages to our children and young people that women shouldn’t be surgeons because we don’t expect them to be, and that a person’s appearance, race, or gender should dictate who they are and what they become.”

Indian women surgeons do not want to be left behind in this movement. The Association of Women Surgeons in India has asked their members to join in the highly visible New Yorker Cover Challenge on social media. “Currently, the state of affairs is such that women surgeons in our country do not even realize the biases they face,” said Sharma. “Sexist comments are normalised, being passed over for leadership positions are accepted, even patient attitudes are tolerated. However, things will not change unless the 700 or so women surgeons stand up and say ‘Look at us-we do exist. And we are no different from you.’”

Here is their first #NYerORCoverChallenge photo.

Photo: Association of Women Surgeons of India.
Photo: Association of Women Surgeons of India.
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Advice from an ex-robber on how to keep your home safe

Tips on a more hands-on approach of keeping your house secure.

Home, a space that is entirely ours, holds together our entire world. Where our children grow-up, parents grow old and we collect a lifetime of memories, home is a feeling as much as it’s a place. So, what do you do when your home is eyed by miscreants who prowl the neighbourhood night and day, plotting to break in? Here are a few pre-emptive measures you can take to make your home safe from burglars:

1. Get inside the mind of a burglar

Before I break the lock of a home, first I bolt the doors of the neighbouring homes. So that, even if someone hears some noise, they can’t come to help.

— Som Pashar, committed nearly 100 robberies.

Burglars study the neighbourhood to keep a check on the ins and outs of residents and target homes that can be easily accessed. Understanding how the mind of a burglar works might give insights that can be used to ward off such danger. For instance, burglars judge a house by its front doors. A house with a sturdy door, secured by an alarm system or an intimidating lock, doesn’t end up on the burglar’s target list. Upgrade the locks on your doors to the latest technology to leave a strong impression.

Here are the videos of 3 reformed robbers talking about their modus operandi and what discouraged them from robbing a house, to give you some ideas on reinforcing your home.

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2. Survey your house from inside out to scout out weaknesses

Whether it’s a dodgy back door, a misaligned window in your parent’s room or the easily accessible balcony of your kid’s room, identify signs of weakness in your home and fix them. Any sign of neglect can give burglars the idea that the house can be easily robbed because of lax internal security.

3. Think like Kevin McCallister from Home Alone

You don’t need to plant intricate booby traps like the ones in the Home Alone movies, but try to stay one step ahead of thieves. Keep your car keys on your bed-stand in the night so that you can activate the car alarm in case of unwanted visitors. When out on a vacation, convince the burglars that the house is not empty by using smart light bulbs that can be remotely controlled and switched on at night. Make sure that your newspapers don’t pile up in front of the main-door (a clear indication that the house is empty).

4. Protect your home from the outside

Collaborate with your neighbours to increase the lighting around your house and on the street – a well-lit neighbourhood makes it difficult for burglars to get-away, deterring them from targeting the area. Make sure that the police verification of your hired help is done and that he/she is trustworthy.

While many of us take home security for granted, it’s important to be proactive to eliminate even the slight chance of a robbery. As the above videos show, robbers come up with ingenious ways to break in to homes. So, take their advice and invest in a good set of locks to protect your doors. Godrej Locks offer a range of innovative locks that are un-pickable and un-duplicable. To secure your house, see here.

The article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Godrej Locks and not by the Scroll editorial team.