Equality for Women: From Hitchcock Movies to Engineering to Lung Cancer Advocacy

Last updated: May 2020

Women experience changes in many aspects of life. The movement of “men and women are equal” has been there for a quite long time. I am going to give my two cents based on my experience.

Women in Hitchcock’s movie The Birds

Alfred Hitchcock directed and produced The Birds in 1963. The movie is a horror-thriller film and was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress. In 1980, China “opened the door” to the western world after 40 year’s isolation. The Birds was one of the first movies imported in China, and I watched several times. I could not say that I enjoyed the movie much, but I knew that Hitchcock was a famous director.

Before this New Year, I watched The Birds again on TV by chance. This time it left me a deep impression that the women, in The Birds, were so weak and continuously needed to be protected. Melanie, the leading lady character, said few words and most time showed no emotion and held the fear inside her, even when birds attacked her. Cathy, the sister, always walked under somebody’s arms. (I thought she could walk or run faster by herself.) Lydia, the mother, was always panicked and nervous. The only “strong” person is Mitch, who was decisive and a pillar of the family.

The women in Hitchcock’s movies were a merely honest reproduction of the way women were perceived at that time -- women were weak and needed men to protect them!

Women in science and engineering

It is well-known that women in science and engineering are sparse. People used to think women were not suitable to study engineering because of the high demands on mathematics and physics. After two decades of efforts, according to research in 2017, fewer than one in five engineering graduates are female in the United States.1 The lack of women in engineering leads to problems in skills shortage, limitations for equal opportunity, productivity, and diversity. So around 2,000 universities all over the USA, Canada, Europe, and China started the movement to encourage women to study engineering. Now at my university, about 10% of students are women engineering students. Not ideal but not bad after 20 years.

How many are these women engineering students working as engineers after they graduated? That is another bottle-neck problem we face. Raising the kids stops many women from advancing in an engineering career. This is no longer a women problem now, but it is a social problem.

Walking hand-in-hand with men

It is interesting that Dr. Jack West interviewed a number of women doctors working on lung cancer.2 He specifically asked about their husbands and family lives. One thing interesting is that most of these women have career-focused husbands and most of them are doctors themselves. These husbands shared at least half the housework (and this was mentioned by more than one of the women surveyed). I think this is the only right way to solve the hurdle.

Women are no longer weak and need to walk “under somebody’s arm” but cannot do it alone. They need to walk arm in arm with men.

Women with lung cancer are making a difference

Time is pushing forward quickly. In 2019, there were about 228,150 new cases of lung cancer (116,440 in men and 111,710 in women).3 In the lung cancer community, I have found many more woman with lung cancer to give lung cancer a face. Also, more women with lung cancer are into advocacy and very creative in their work. I am not overlooking the man advocates, but comparing men and women, the difference is huge. Women are very vocal to raise awareness of lung cancer.

If women in science and engineering are struggling, women with lung cancer have truly achieved “equality”. We are dedicated to awareness and advocacy of lung cancer and we are fierce.

It's about men and women being equal

From 60’s Hitchcock’s movie The Birds to 90’s women in science and engineering and to today’s women with lung cancer, we can see a clear trend that women with lung cancer have truly achieve “equality”. We are taking the clear lead of advocacy of lung cancer. When it comes to the war to conquer cancer, we need both men and women working together equally.

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