No, there’s nothing wrong with asking a female cleaner to clean off graffiti celebrating International Women’s Day
This is the epitome of woke-bridge
Yesterday someone graffitied "Happy International Women’s Day" on the steps of Oxford’s Clarendon building. An Oxford professor tweeted a picture of a female cleaner scrubbing it off. The image was captioned: "Oxford security makes a woman cleaner scrub out 'Happy International Women’s Day'". The internet went wild.
Sophie Smith's tweet has been retweeted by 14,000 people, has 19,000 likes and has been covered by the BBC, Daily Mail, Evening Standard and Huffington Post. The university had issued a grovelling formal apology within hours.
At first glance, she’s right. Why on earth is a woman, on IWD being made to scrub off a positive message? Initially the picture is sad. But you'd have to be completely ignorant to seriously call it a "metaphor for our struggle as women".
Let me be clear: I don’t think it’s wrong to graffiti old buildings with important and brave statements. If anything we should be doing more of it. Post about International Women's Day on your Instagram story, tweet about it and absolutely go flash your boobs outside parliament.
This picture was unavoidable. A woman comes to work one day, to do her job, you know, the way she earns her living. A student at Oxford decides to grafitti on a 300 year old building. The woman continues to do her job, and clean the graffiti off. Everything is well. Until someone posts a picture of her doing her job on the internet, and, little to her knowledge, she goes viral.
Someone was always going to have to clean that graffiti up. Be it International Women's Day or Christmas Eve.
Was Sophie Smith expecting a man to waltz in and clean for the day so we could have avoided the public embarrassment on Oxford’s part? Surely it would’ve been far more offensive and patronising if a man was cleaning up the graffiti in the photo, just to protect the feelings of privileged Oxford students. Or if the same lady would have had to go back a day later to clean it off, protected only by the fact it was International Women's Day.
In fact, Sophie's Smith's tirade doesn't end there. Here is her response to Oxford's apology, which is another level of belittling. A warm cup of tea and the day off doesn't right any wrongs. Just in the same way the woman cleaning the graffiti the day after, or a man doing it instead wouldn't either.
You can see exactly why Sophie's tweet hit a nerve for thousands. It’s got all the ingredients of a compelling viral tweet: the Oxford University setting, signs of oppression on International Women's Day, a woman in a low income job. I don’t blame people for retweeting it.
Moments like this undermine important causes like IWD. Causes like the one IWD is fighting for. Not every accusation is fair and not every photo on twitter should be quite obviously aiming to break the internet with it’s expose on "oh my fucking god this is what being a woman is ACTUALLY like #sotrue" in a very annoying and cynical way.