A woman was forced to scrub “Happy International Women’s Day” off steps while men watched, and the pic is going viral

Yesterday, March 8th, International Women’s Day urged women to continue to fight for change under the theme #PressForProgress. People everywhere remembered history-making women and honored those who had inspired them. They posted inspirational quotes on their Instagram pages, wore shirts showing their feminist pride, organized protests, and shared information about gender inequality. But, sadly, not everyone was on board with the spirit of Women’s Day. In one viral photo, a cleaning woman was ordered to scrub the words “Happy International Women’s Day” off a flight of steps while a group of men watched her.

On the day of the celebration, Sophie Smith, a professor of political theory at the University of Oxford noticed male security guards standing around while a woman scrubbed the chalk writing off of the steps of the university’s Clarendon Building. She snapped a picture and shared it on Twitter, where it has been liked more than 24,000 times and retweeted more than 17,000 times.

"Oxford security makes a woman cleaner scrub out 'Happy International Women's Day' on the Clarendon steps," Smith wrote in her tweet. "What an image for #IWD, @UniofOxford."

The university quickly issued an apology in response to Smith’s tweet.

"We are deeply sorry for this and for offence caused," Oxford tweeted in response to Smith. "International Women's Day is hugely important to Oxford. This should not have happened."

Smith replied to the university’s apology by saying that the woman from the photo should receive “a heartfelt apology, a warm cup of tea, and the rest of the day off, and, along with all our precarious staff, good enough pay to live in this city.”

The citizens of Twitter were quick to point out the irony of the woman having to clean the writing off on Women’s Day.


Others criticized Oxford for seeming to encourage the erasure of the message.


The idea of a woman having to remove a message celebrating Women’s Day is incredibly ironic and undermines the importance of honoring women’s accomplishments. And the contrast between the female cleaner working and the male security guards standing around is also telling. Pictures speak volumes, and we’re glad that Smith captured this image on camera. This photo is a reminder of why we need International Women’s Day, and we will keep fighting for gender equality.