Opinion

Editors’ voices

The fatality of stupidity– Elizabeth Reynard

While I haven’t read them for many years, this week I was reminded of the Darwin Awards – books that chronicled acts (and lives) of stupidity that, unfortunately, resulted in their premature departure from this mortal coil. As an aside, I highly recommend them as a light-hearted form of escapism for the darkly humoured reader. The event that reminded me of them? Donald Trump’s unhelpful and potentially rather lethal suggestion that people could inject themselves with disinfectant in order to ward off coronavirus. The quote itself: “is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets inside the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that”.

Fortunately for the American public (or those – and there were a surprising number – who thought they could try it out), the comments were met with huge backlash from the medical community as well as disinfectant suppliers. Apparently, depending on quantity and concentration of disinfectant administered, it would cause anemia, organ failure, cardiac arrest and death. While the Darwin awards have been proving that stupidity (coupled with curiosity and imagination) really can be fatal since 1985, it’s refreshing to see their poster-President reminding us of this in 2020 in the midst of a global pandemic.

No, the government is not doing all it can– Oliver Shaw

The Sunday Times’ damning report on the complacency and unpreparedness that has defined the UK government’s approach to COVID-19 should represent a national scandal. Unfortunately, much of the media and many front pages continue to play down the severity of the crisis, talking about the easing of lockdown restrictions and confining the official death toll – which reached 16,000 on Sunday – to the small print. It’s clear that the government and the prime minister repeatedly ignored scientists’ warnings about coronavirus in January and February and failed to implement necessary testing when it mattered. Johnson missed five emergency Cobra meetings and vanished to a country retreat for twelve days in February, at the same time as major UK flooding. The report also reveals that ‘herd immunity’ was the government strategy from as early as January and that low PPE stocks were the product of years of NHS cuts.

Downing Street and government insiders have expressed anger and exasperation at the lack of urgency and seriousness in Johnson’s approach and, despite ministers’ insistence that all is in hand, their claims do not match up with what is being reported from the NHS and social care frontline, where staff risk their lives without, in many cases, basic protection. We should never be content that a government is doing ‘all it can’. Demanding better of our politicians is essential in a democracy, especially when it’s clear that a lack of leadership and responsibility might have cost thousands of lives.

Empty shelters are not something to celebrate– Molly Archer-Zeff

Facebook has been littered with posts of animal shelters proudly displaying empty cages that were full only a few weeks ago. In normal circumstances, this would be a heart-warming achievement, however, in the current climate we should refrain from celebrating. Like Christmas time, many people are rushing into adopting animals with little thought of the future. While the family is at home with seemingly endless time a new pet can seem like an exciting and charitable way to sweep away the lockdown blues. However, our current way of life does not reflect the past or future and some adoptees will find their new pet a burden when we return to normal life. 

Further, Dr Samantha Gaines, an expert at the RSPCA explains that getting a dog from a trustworthy seller is unlikely at this time. With orders to stay at home and to only go out when necessary, many rehoming charities have stopped adoptions for the time being with respectable private breeders taking similar actions. Thus, a majority of the available sellers will be irreputable and unreliable. Shelters such as Battersea Dogs Home and the RSPCA are appealing to potential buyers to consider the long term before irrationally buying a pet. If this is ignored, we may soon see social media posts of animal shelters once again full. 

Barbie takes on sexism in the art world– Margot Harvey

Try to recall an artist who has achieved household name status. Try to recall ten. How many of those who spring to mind are not white men? One young lady has taken on the sexism which underpins the art world over the last few years, gaining national attention.

With the motto ‘small signs, big questions, fabulous wardrobe’, ‘Art Activist Barbie’ spends her days calling out injustice, sat beside ‘iconic’ works with bitesize bits of feminist wisdom. Greatest hits include calling The Ashmolean’s portrait of Proserpine a ‘pre-Raphaelite wet T-shirt competition’ and drawing attention to the fact the National Gallery in London holds 2,300 works by men and an astounding 21 by women.

The woman behind the protests is Sarah Williamson, senior lecturer at the University of Huddersfield. What started out as a way to engage her students in just how problematic the treatment of women in art is, subsequently caught on far more widely. Barbie, in an effort at poetic justice, is getting her own back. You can find her here.

Williamson’s work is reminiscent of the work of Guerrilla Girls, a 1980s group of feminist artists active in New York City. They highlighted explicit and implicit gender and racial bias in the art world, often by conducting ‘reviews’ of specific galleries and museums and holding them to account. One iconic piece read ‘Do women have to be naked to get into the Met Museum? Less than 4% of the artists in the Met are women but 76% of the nudes are female.’ Only time will tell if these methods, jointly humorous and hard hitting, will find success in encouraging equality in the art world.