Bahar Mustafa’s supporters defend minority-specific events, ironic misandry, fight against female oppression

A caption of Bahar Mustafa´s campaign video for Welfare and Diversity Officer. Video: Goldsmiths´Studen Union

A caption of Bahar Mustafa’s campaign video for Welfare and Diversity Officer. Video: Goldsmiths’ Student Union

Support has been growing for Bahar Mustafa, the Welfare and Diversity officer at the centre of a racism and sexism row.

They defend Mustafa for organizing minority-specific events and say her tweeting of hashtags such as #killallwhitemen has been misunderstood.

The president of Goldsmiths’ Student Union, Howard Littler, and the co-convenor of the MA in Gender, Media and Culture, Sara Ahmed, are among those who have publicly supported Mustafa.

Amanda Hess, staff writer at Slate, says in her article: “Mustafa is not the first to have her reputation raked across the Web on account of some lousy tweets. But she may be the first to crumble over a case of ironic misandry, a tongue-in-cheek form of discourse favored by the young feminist Internet natives. You may have spied them on Twitter or Tumblr, working on their “KILL ALL MEN” cross-stitch or sipping from a mug labelled “MALE TEARS.” Ironic misandrists say they’re poking fun at long-standing stereotypes about militant feminist man-haters.

“That seems to fit Mustafa’s tweets. In a statement to Goldsmiths students, she owned up to using the hashtags, calling them “in-jokes” between herself and other members of ‘the queer feminist community.’ If some people failed to get the joke, well, that was kind of the point.”

Max Benwell, writer and Commissioning Editor at The Independent’s Independent Voices, said of the uproar: “Men – be honest. Have you ever found yourself walking home at night, and been stopped in the street by a woman masturbating at you?”

Benwell goes on to say: “Even when you put aside the fact that #KillAllWhiteMen is essentially an ironic meme, it still doesn’t matter. As a white man, I’m lucky enough to be in a position where it has literally never crossed my mind that a woman may one day abuse, assault or kill me because of my gender. Yet according to Women’s Aid, an average of two women a week are killed by a current or former male partner in the UK. And according to the Office for National Statistics, approximately 85,000 women are raped on average in England and Wales every year.”

Jemima Thackray, writer for The Telegraph and Church Times, says in her article: “Sure, we can have a debate about whether inflammatory language and extreme hashtags are an effective way of progressing the debate. But let’s not throw around big words like ‘hate speech’, ‘sexism’ and ‘police investigation’, because this dilutes and undermines the crucial efforts of people around the world who are trying to liberate those who are actually oppressed.”

She continues: “Ultimately, the entire premise of this petition is wrong – Ms Mustafa’s words may be immature, unpleasant and ill-conceived, but they are not ‘hate speech’ in the true sense and when considered in context.”

Bahar was first attacked for organising separate events for women and ethnic minority students.

Mustafa's Facebook post: if "you're a man and/or white please don't come". Pic: The tap

Mustafa’s Facebook post: if “you’re a man and/or white please don’t come”. Pic: The tap

 

On the necessity of minority-specific events, a post on feminist group Sisters Uncut´s blog reads: “We recognise the need for women-only spaces, as well as women of colour-only spaces. We are intersectional feminists who believe that oppressed voices should be front and centre of our movement. These tactics are part of the necessary work to be done; when the rest of the world is fundamentally unequal, safe spaces temporarily redress the balance.”

Maya Goodfellow, staff writer at LabourList and columnist at Writers of Colour, says in a piece published by Media Diversified:“We are forced to exist in a society where we are the minority, the ‘other’. We’re always reminded in subtle but damaging ways that most spaces (think certain careers or residential areas, for instance) are supposed to be for white people. We are seen as a disruption.

“It gets tiring attempting to navigate our way through this world and often it’s hard to see how we can change it. So at times we want to come together and discuss these issues in a place where we feel wanted and valued. Until white people begin to understand this, we’ll continue to need these spaces. And that’s why #ISupportBaharMustafa.”

The editors of Everydayvictimblaming say in a post: “The misogynistic and racist abuse directed at Mustafa is a clear exemplar of why safe spaces are necessary in order to both fight the white supremacist, heteronormative, capitalist-patriarchy and to recover from it.”

 

Sara Ahmed, co-convenor of Goldsmiths’ MA in Gender, Media and Culture, convenor of the Feminist Postgraduate Forum and director of the Centre for Feminist Research posted a series of Tweets defending Bahar:


Goldsmiths’ Student Union president, Howard Littler, publicly defended Mustafa at a student event on 5 May. Littler said Mustafa was  the victim of “opportunistic, trashy journalism.”

Littler said of the controversy surrounding Mustafa: “There has been harassment, and it has been over a particular type of person. It has been consistent; it’s been pretty awful, actually. Politically, it’s been attacking BME women, it’s been attacking those migrant groups that we stand for.”

At the time of Littler’s speech, media attention was focusing of Bahar’s requests for “man and/or white” people to not attend minority-specific events. Her tweets using #killallwhitemen and other hashtags, or her use of pictures featuring women with weapons for her election campaign had not yet emerged.

On the same 5 May Student Assembly, Mustafa, surrounded by her supporters, gave a seven-minute address in which she denied that it was possible for her comments to have been racist or sexist: “I, an ethnic minority woman, cannot be racist or sexist towards white men, because racism and sexism describe structures of privilege based on race and gender.

“Therefore, women of colour and minority genders cannot be racist or sexist, since we do not stand to benefit from such a system.”

 

Mustafa, 27, has said in an online statement that she  posted a series of  tweets that included the hashtag #killallwhiteman.

She described the posting of the hasthags in her personal account as “in-jokes”. She says her statement: “It’s a way of reclaiming the power from the trauma many of us experience as queers, women, people of colour, who are on the receiving end of racism, misogyny and homophobia daily. These are not political stances.”

On using the #whitetrash tag in her official Student Union account, she says: “I can accept that it was not professional and I do apologise for this.”

Goldsmiths students have started a petition demanding the Students Union hold a vote of no confidence in Mustafa, which could have her effectively removed from her job.

Police have launched an investigation into a complaint about alleged ‘racially motivated and malicious’ communications involving the hashtag #killallwhitemen. While they did not confirm the names of people under investigation they have said it involves tweets using the #killallwhitemen hashtag.

Littler and the Goldsmiths Student Union have declined Eastlondonlines´ requests for further comment. Mustafa has not responded to requests for comment.

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