Surgeons Are Recreating This Illustration For An Amazing Reason

by Eliza Castile
The New Yorker

On April 3, The New Yorker released an edition with a particularly arresting cover illustration: Four faces, half-obscured by surgical masks, peering at the viewer from an operating theater. A few days later, the cover, created by French artist Malika Favre, had taken on a life of its own. The illustration depicted four women, you see, and it inspired women surgeons to recreate the New Yorker cover in order to challenge stereotypes about their profession. Surgery may be a male-dominated field, but that's rapidly changing — and women all over the world are making their presences known.

The first recreation was posted on Twitter on April 4 by Susan Pitt, an assistant professor of endocrine surgery at the University of Wisconsin. (Bustle has reached out to Pitt for comment and will update if/when we hear back.) According to BuzzFeed, she caught sight of the cover on her way to the annual meeting of the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons, and she thought it would be interesting to recreate the illustration with four real surgeons. After rounding up three other women for the photo (sans operating theater), Pitt posted the recreation on Twitter. In a separate tweet, she challenged other surgeons to do the same.

It didn't take long for women to respond. Within a few days, numerous surgeons had hopped on the trend, tweeting their own replicas of the cover illustration. Often, they tagged their posts with the hashtag " I Look Like A Surgeon," which dates back to 2015 and celebrates diversity in the field. Despite the popular perception of surgeons as white men, anyone can be a surgeon, and the New Yorker cover recreations reflect the changing face of the profession.

Although the #NYerORCoverChallenge, as it came to be called, began with American doctors, women and minority groups from around the world joined in. Replicas have been posted from England, Ireland, Mexico, and numerous other countries — like this tweet from Saudi Arabia, posted by Dr. Haneen Gomawi.

It's no secret that surgery is often seen as a "man's profession." While women have worked in the medical field for thousands of years, they were historically kept out of prestigious, highly-skilled areas like surgery. This isn't to say there weren't any women doctors in ancient times, but the traditional "female nurse, male doctor" dynamic has persisted long after the first woman doctor in the United States, Elizabeth Blackwell, received her medical degree in 1849.

That's started to change, albeit slowly, but while more women are graduating from medical school these days, gender still appears to influence the areas in which they choose to practice. Women are the majority in specialties like family medicine and gynecology, but men still dominate the fields of surgery, anesthesiology, and emergency medicine. (Incidentally, these areas tend to be higher-paying — not that women are likely to be paid the same as their male colleagues anyway.)

However, as the New Yorker recreations show, women and minorities are perfectly capable of becoming surgeons. Assumptions about what a surgeon "should" look like reinforce the idea that women and minorities are limited in their capabilities, when that's anything but the case.

The New Yorker has tweeted and written about the recreations, as well, helping to get the word out. Favre, the artist whose illustration sparked the trend, has also made no secret of her support.

Talk about role models — let's hope the "cover challenge" inspires a new generation of girls to become whatever they want to be.