A few weeks ago I became aware of a story circulating facebook about a protest against a Student Union Diversity officer called Bahar Mustafa at Goldsmith’s University (yes, I had never heard of it either) centring around a meeting she had organised for Black and Minority ethnic women and “non-binary” people to discuss a campaign aimed at addressing the issues the group faced.
The meeting was advertised via facebook with the following post made on the subject.
“Hey I made as many of you hosts so please invite loads of BME women and non-binary people!!”
“Also, if you’ve been invited and you’re a man and/or white PLEASE DON’T COME just cos i invited a bunch of people and hope you will be responsible enough to respect this is a BME Women and non-binary event only… Don’t worry lads we will give you and allies things to do”
The issue for me is not so much that she organised an event aimed at a particular group of people whereby others are discouraged from attending. We do not know if she had previously arranged such meetings that had been disrupted by those that were not her intended audience.
As human beings, it’s quite natural that we would want to form social groups around things that we have in common with people and I think it is important to uphold the rights of individuals that want to be with other fellow-minded beings without outside interference (unless of course we’d doing something illegal).
This is why I take issue with some feminists that wish to have their women’s only gyms, ministers for women and television shows aimed solely at women but at the same time want to force male only institutions to accept women. How can female exclusion be sexist but male exclusion be justified? Anyway, I digress, back to the story in question.
The passive-aggressive nature of the facebook comment did not escape me. Sympathetic male students were not permitted to attend this event but they should not worry, as long as they submit like animals, she will “find a use for them”.
The post caused a reaction amongst some of the students and a petition was started against the continuation of her role in the University.
What was to follow was the posting of an image of her stood in front of a door with a sign saying “No white – CIS – Men PLS” along with a drawing of a cup filling with “male tears”.
Whether this was meant as humour, mocking the way she had been portrayed or whether it was further indicative of a deep-seated prejudice is difficult to establish but she then organised and recorded a response to the accusations.
In her speech, amongst other things, she made the following claim:
“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.”
This statement conflicted with my comprehension of what racism and sexism are so I decided to take a look at a dictionary, maybe I was wrong!
The definitions I found were as follows:
As you can see from the definition of racism, there’s no prerequisite that stipulates that the victim has to be from a minority group or that the perpetrator can only be someone from a so called “privileged” group.
Even if this were to be an accepted interpretation of racism and sexism, Bahar is a middle-class woman, living in London who has had the privilege of a University education so even by her own definition of racism and sexism, in her position of power as a diversity officer, she can and has indeed been racist and sexist or is it the case that she defines privilege itself as something that only applies to white males?
Her definition seems to leave more questions than answers. For example, what happens when someone of one minority group is prejudicial to another such as a Pakistani origin person and an Indian or an Irish person and a Chinese person? What happens in a situation where a white male child is adopted by black parents? Who holds the power and the privilege in that dynamic? The child or the parent? What about countries such as Zimbabwe where it is white people that are the oppressed minority? Can they be the victims of racism?
As a diversity officer, she seems to think that her role is to only represent people that fall into the same demographics as she does but this is not what diversity is about. Diversity, at least in my opinion, should be about acceptance and tolerance of other people whether they’re like you or not. Her rhetoric of hatred against men and white people does not sit well with the post that she has.
In addition to the posts I’ve mentioned, she also posted from an official @GSU_Welfare twitter account calling someone “white trash” and used the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen. She claims the hashtag was an “in-joke” but there’s no such thing as an “in-joke” when you’re using an official channel on a public social platform like twitter, yet still the Goldsmith’s University Student Union have done nothing to discipline her so they are condoning racist and sexist behaviour in their inaction.
Is Sexism Sexist?
On a related side-note, you may have noticed that in the official definition of sexism there was the phrase “typically against women”. It was a surprise to me to see that wording and it brings me back to the title of this piece. If the mere definition of the word sexism itself demonstrates a prejudicial and stereotypical bias towards the sexism experienced by one gender over the sexism experienced by another gender, does that not mean that the notion of sexism is in itself is sexist?
How many times do we see the media representing examples of sexism that men experience? A feminist will tell you that is because it simply doesn’t happen or that if it does it’s either rare or insignificant but I argue that all human beings experience prejudice in one form or another as it stems from our primitive animalistic “fight or flight” instincts that enabled our species to quickly determine whether another being is a threat or dinner.
Men are statistically far more likely to be the victims of violence yet most anti-violence campaigns are centred around violence against women. Men are five times more likely to commit suicide but society discourages men from talking about their feelings. Male genital mutilation is considered an acceptable cultural practice but we’re quite rightly disgusted and outraged by Female Genital Mutilation. Women outlive men but guess whom is entitled to claim pensions earliest?
In industries or positions that are heavily male dominated, we incentivise and lower the barrier to entry for women to address the imbalance but in female dominated industries we do little to entice male entrants.
When it comes to crime, women receive lighter sentences than men for the same offence. In family courts, it is almost always assumed that the mother is a more suitable custodian of a child. We hear very little of all these issues because Men’s Rights Activists are instantly perceived as chauvinistic misogynists even by other men.
It’s time to stop hatred and prejudice based on gender or race but we cannot do that by nurturing an environment of positive discrimination where the roles are simply reversed. Two wrongs do not make a right and hatred and bigotry will only lead to further hatred and bigotry.
Instead, look to the example of Nelson Mandella. A man that suffered oppression at the hands of racism and bigotry but when released from prison, he did not seek revenge for the crimes committed against him, no, instead he made peace and worked for a better future for all.