The Blog

Bahar Mustafa: Beating Sexists and Racists at Their Own Game

This isn't a case of lacking a sense of humour, or of genuine safety concerns - it's about double standards and equality. No amount of obfuscation should justify a scenario in which a WASP in a suit is fired, but a shrew in a dirty cardigan is celebrated. Nay, we should boo the shrew.

As a 'BME, queer, disabled woman from a working class immigrant family', Bahar Mustafa, the multi-hyphenate Welfare and Diversity officer at Goldsmiths University, should be well attuned to the needs of disadvantaged groups on campus. Yet in this role she's organised racially segregated events, referred to people as "White trash", and tweeted #KillAllWhiteMen from her official GSU account.

Quite predictably, in going full on Mugabe, she ruffled many an old cock's feathers. But even if you aren't offended and fully support her right to free speech - this wasn't her personal profile (where she can talk freely, like "Omg... Kill them all. What's wrong with white people?"). This has all been done in her official capacity as a university representative - and somehow she's kept the job.

It might be the 'white fragility' speaking, but if I was in charge of the Hentai Society, organised an event prohibiting Japanese people from attending, and then repeatedly state online that I want them dead - my days of leading this merry band of perverts would be numbered. So why is this not the case for Mustafa?

The fact is that out of 8000 students, only 165 signed the petition calling for her resignation (falling short of the 3% needed to trigger a referendum). Meaning that the students at Goldsmiths support her; or they're in a blissful state of lock-jawed ignorance - too high on Miaow Miaow to care.

This shouldn't come as a surprise, as in the world of safe spaces and trigger warnings, hate speech is fine as long as it's the right kind. For example: the dirty and insidious language of The Protocols of The Elders of Zion can land you in jail in some countries, but on campus it's perfectly kosher (if you're discussing Palestine, that is).

Relativism, psychobabble and an unhealthy obsession with identity politics has resulted in a bizarre situation in which who's saying it is more important than what's actually being said. This is precisely the case with Mustafa. And interestingly - it now seems that "I'm not racist but" has been replaced by "I cannot be racist because" in the lexicon of the sheepish bigot:

"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."

You don't need a postgraduate degree in Gender and Media studies to see that us whiteys-with-willies have blood on our pasty hands. That said, she's clearly talking rubbish here.

Indeed, beyond the realms of white men, in Kigali, Yerevan, or Darfur - you'll hear first-hand accounts of some of the worst racially motivated crimes in the course of human history. There I doubt they'd have much time for the structural argument she's presented (they're probably far too busy raising the children of men who raped them).

"But they were racist brown MEN!"

Well, then what were the unpleasant group of black girls on the Victoria line doing recently when they called me "white boy" and "Harry Potter" (while sucking their teeth in disapproval)? As black women I could have just as easily called them all Angelina Weasleys (née Johnson), and added that we were actually in-laws through Ginny - making them look stupid. Instead I left the carriage dejected, thinking to myself "this would never happen on the Hogwarts Express".

A cursory glance at the divorce courts, war memorials and prisons of this country will tell you that women, even brown ones, do benefit from these structures of privilege - albeit in different ways. For example, the news is full of stories of women complaining about harassment from builders, waste collectors and a host of other poorly paid, dirty and physically demanding professions (and rightly so). Less vocal, however, are the calls for greater representation in these near exclusively male professions. If Mustafa went to a building site on a cold, rainy morning, and tried her argument there - she'd be carried back to campus in an angry tornado of wolf-whistles and pinches on the arse.

Indeed, the selective acceptance of traditional gender roles is surprisingly common, even amongst those who profess to be feminists (many are happy for a man to pay for dinner, or give up their seat on the tube). This form of sexism - or chivalry, is so deeply ingrained in our culture that that men are even expected to split the loo roll bill with female housemates. Outrageous! Either you agree to subsidise their extra wipes, or you take a stand (and use the advertising material posted through the front door). The dolorous touch of an Iceland pamphlet against your sphincter, glossy and cold, is hardly tantamount to a lifetime of patriarchal oppression - but it's a pain in the arse nonetheless.

Most would accept that as the main statistical beneficiaries of these power structures, white men do have a moral responsibility to help even out the playing field. But the implication that only they can be sexist or racist is not only unhelpful - it is an insult the memories of those whose experience says otherwise. For someone with such an interest in all things 'non-binary', Mustafa has an alarmingly black and white outlook.

This isn't a case of lacking a sense of humour, or of genuine safety concerns - it's about double standards and equality. No amount of obfuscation should justify a scenario in which a WASP in a suit is fired, but a shrew in a dirty cardigan is celebrated. Nay, we should boo the shrew.

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