Men – be honest. Have you ever found yourself walking home at night, and been stopped in the street by a woman masturbating at you? Or has a woman ever followed you down the street, while shouting that she wants to “shag” you? Likewise, white people: has someone ever followed you around a shop suspiciously? Have the police ever stopped and searched you for no reason? Has someone shouted a racial slur at you, or treated you as somehow inferior to them because of your race?
If you have, then I’m sure you’ll be letting me know. But my guess is that for most of you, the answer is: no, of course you haven’t. Which is why, as a white man, I didn’t really mind when I saw Bahar Mustafa, Goldsmiths’ Diversity Officer, tweet “#KillAllWhiteMen”.
It’s not the first time Mustafa has erred on the radical side. In April she organised an event with the caveat “if you’re a man and/or white PLEASE DON’T COME”. Following an outcry, she then said that it’s impossible for non-white people or women to be racist or sexist.
As you’d imagine, this has all led to a lot of controversy. A Change.org petition to get Mustafa sacked has already gained almost 17,000 signatures. And without a trace of irony, some have responded by sending her death threats.
I may not be getting an invite to one of Mustafa’s next non-binary, BME women-only events – but that doesn’t mean I’m going to sign the petition. First of all, when David Cameron is hosting white men only events like the one below, then how can anyone complain if someone wants to try doing the reverse? (Also, if you read her original Facebook post, she wasn’t saying that “lads” or “allies” were barred from all events, just this one.)
And I’m not fearing for my life either. Mustafa’s #KillAllMen tweet was obviously tongue-in-cheek (kind of like this lovely embroidery of the word “Misandry”). As she's said herself, it was just one of the “in-jokes and ways that many people in the queer feminist community express ourselves.”
And she's right. Playing up to the assumptions many men have made about feminists – that they’re all man-hating she-witches armed with specially designed knives that are shaped to the exact curvature of a ball sack – is actually quite funny. No-one actually thinks that she was actually calling for a male genocide, do they?
Although this isn't to try and discount the rhetorical point the hashtag makes. Do any white men actually feel threatened by it? For #KillAllMen to actually be as scary as some people are making out, there would have to be some sort of precedent. You know, like a history of violence towards white men, led by non-white women. When when you try to imagine if someone had tweeted #KillAllNonWhitePeople, or #KillAllWomen, it's completely different. Or less hypothetically, just look at the promoted tweet that emerged yesterday, calling on trans people to kill themselves – it's terrifying. And these hashtags have been trending long before Twitter existed.
I asked Dr. Linda Chavers, who lectures in African-American studies, what she thought about the incident. "Of course it's not ok to actually kill anyone, let alone tweet about it," she said. "But for some reason nuance goes out the door when a non-white person dares to demonstrate intelligence and play with language. It's crazy the level of vitriol that people of colour face for emoting anything besides graceful quiet graceful sorrow.”
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 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.
Being white, I’m also in a position where it's unlikely a Police officer will end up killing me after they've taken me into custody. For some reason, I have a better chance of being employed. And if, by chance, I was to get into a biker gang brawl, riot, or go on a racist shooting spree, it’s much less likely that the media will dissect my whiteness and its sociological significance, or call me a terrorist or "thug". And as we all know, I could go on.
So what’s actually more surprising that non-white women still trust men, and that there aren’t more hashtag wielding misandrists about. Because “not all men” may hate women, but statistically speaking a lot of them seem to. As Louis CK says: “How do women still go out with guys when you consider the fact there is no greater threat to women than men? Globally and historically we’re the number one cause of injury and mayhem to women, we’re the worst thing that ever happens to them!”
If you’re a white man and you’ve started to feel excluded, or anxious that someone who isn’t white or male may get preferential treatment over you, then all you’re doing is experiencing the same feeling everyone else has had for centuries. So please, if someone tweets something against you like this, just let it go.
As someone once put it on Twitter - “the most radical, the absolute, most revolutionary political act a white person can do is shut the fuck up”. So, with all the requisite self-awareness, I’ll be quiet now. White men – will you join me?
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