It isn’t often that Oxford University finds itself in the midst of a heated controversy, but if there’s one takeaway from the first quarter of 2018, it’s that anything is possible.
A photograph posted by Sophie Smith, Associate Professor of Political Theory at the University of Oxford went viral after she posted it to her Twitter account on Thursday. Pictured is a woman washing off the phrase ‘Happy International Women’s Day,’ which had been chalked onto a flight of steps outside a university building. Smith captioned the image: “Oxford security makes a woman cleaner scrub out “Happy International Women’s Day” on the Clarendon steps. What an image for #IWD.”
— Sophie Smith (@DrSophieSmith) March 8, 2018
The tweet quickly went viral, resulting in over 30,000 likes, 20,000 retweets, and one very heated debate. Though the University issued an apology tweet, Smith was not convinced:
“I appreciate your apology, but far more importantly can you please make sure that the woman asked to remove the message receives a heartfelt apology, a warm cup of tea, the rest of the day off and, along with all our precarious staff, good enough pay to live in this city.”
Many on Twitter agreed with Sophie’s sentiment and shamed the University for what they deemed to be female degradation.
While others argued that the woman was just doing her job, and who else was supposed to clean the steps if not the person being paid to do it?
Counterpoint: The meat of the image is in the irony, and people are commenting on its symbolism rather than its morality as an isolated incident.
Though it’s true the woman was doing her job, it’s also true that the photograph screams irony. Everything in context, y’all. Thus:
Art is controversial, y’all.