#killallwhitemen: the end of political activism?

The national backlash against Goldsmiths University Welfare and Diversity Officer Bahar Mustafa started back in April, when she asked white individuals and cis men not to attend an anti-racism event she was hosting at Goldsmiths University Union. Conservative publications such as the Spectator were quick to denounce the event as introducing “racial segregation” and smacking of “reverse racism,” both popular criticisms undoubtedly behind Mustafa’s decision to tweet “#killallwhitemen”.

On October 6th, Mustafa received a court summons for for sending a “letter/communication/article conveying a threatening message.” Rhis has been controversial, and rightly so, with many arguing that the summons represents an attack on freedom of speech in UK universities.

But, hailing Mustafa’s freedom of speech as her saving grace opens an uneasy door for allowing racist activism into our universities and gives a false equivalency to those who would complain “if a white man said that…” Such an approach ignores the absence of institutional power that woman of colour like Mustafa possess. The many individuals subsequently sending both rape and death threats to Mustafa will evade punishment whilst the event that sparked it all, intended as a safe space for oppressed individuals from white, male dominated institutions with white, male dominated debate, was hijacked by exactly these people.

Women have often uttered the words “Kill All Men,” it’s a politically potent expression of exasperation towards constant objectification and harassment, and a counter to the constant societal limitations that women, particularly women of colour, face. It’s an example of linguistic retribution from women who are exhausted with oppression, and is especially valid as it was estimated earlier this year that 1 in 3 female students in the UK would experience sexual assault or abuse. #Killallwhitemen is not a literal cry for white, male genocide: it’s a recognition of how much more power and safety these women would possess if white males weren’t societally ever-dominant.

I doubt any man reading #killallwhitemen has a legitimate concern for his own safety. I doubt further that any man has worried about his own safety walking home at night from an under-lit Glasgow University Library. It is these differences between women of colour and white men’s experiences that highlight the disparity, and rather than rallying for a recognition of Mustafa’s freedom of speech, we should be rallying against the summons as the silencing of a potent political action against the dominance of white men in universities and elsewhere, and the silencing of political activism in UK universities as a whole.

[Liam Harrison]

3 Comments

  1. Still a shit thing to say and shouldn’t be defended. Best thing to do would be to apologize and open the anti-racism event to everyone (why on Earth would one exclude others from attending something like that?).

  2. If the goal is to make a bunch of tumblr savy feminists nod their heads and say “oh yes this behaviour exemplifies the things we are talking about privilege and rape culture etc etc” than i would say that she did a fantastic job. If the goal is to radically alter a power structure i dont see how this does anything but piss a bunch of people off who already are ignorant and dont understand. Calling people out, causing all this juvenile ruckus is pointless and only angers and antagonizes people who are ignorant. Ignorance is by and large a lack of education and empathy through experience. When will people stop focusing on trying to look cleaver and start focusing how to convince all these evil white men rape culture jerks to actually join the movement. Space is either won via fighting or its given up willingly. I can honestly say the fighting has done or species nothing but harm. Im over this cleaver news article feminist that is waiting for applause from the people who already get it. Big fucking deal, it all sound so worn out.

  3. The thing is though is that there is another false equivalency here though: that is that Bahar Mustafa made her statements from a position of comparative power. Yes, the position of diversity officer absolutely SHOULD cater mostly to women and PoC – I don’t think that the initial thing about the meeting was strictly bad, just ill phrased – however, #killallwhitemen when you also represent the disabled, the poor, LGBTQIA+ men is inherently problematic, bordering on indefensible.

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