It did not take long for a feminist to rally behind Bahar Mustafa. I mentioned in my prior post that Mustafa faces criticism, job termination, and potential criminal charges as a result of hate-speech she used on Twitter. Mustafa defended her use of the hashtag #killallwhitemen by claiming they were “in-jokes and ways that many people in the queer feminist community express ourselves.”
Keep in mind that Mustafa is Goldsmiths’ University union’s welfare and diversity officer. Her job is to be unbiased. Her job is to speak out against in-jokes told at other groups’ expense. To claim that the jokes are acceptable because of past wrongs is illogical and indefensible.
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 labeled “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.
Hess failed to mention she is one of those “young feminist Internet natives.” She has a long history of engaging in the same “ironic misandry.” The problem with this form of “irony” is that it is often the only form of discourse one hears from these feminists. At that point, it is no longer irony; it is their stated position. As Hess notes:
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.
And that is kind of the point of the backlash. In-jokes that mock other groups of people are typically bigoted, biased, and hateful. They also tend to demonstrate how the community views the targeted group. If police officers created in-jokes like #killallblackboys as a result of criticism against their frequent shooting of young black males, few people would write those off. They would take them as evidence of how officers think of black males.
The same applies to feminists. If the only things they say about men are sexist jokes, it is fair to conclude they legitimately do not like men.
But Hess is intent on defending Mustafa:
When I first heard about the Mustafa fracas, I paged through link after link in story after story, searching for evidence of the actual tweet that Mustafa tagged #KillAllWhiteMen. I couldn’t find a single news story with a screenshot or a transcript of the supposedly genocidal tweet. That’s because Mustafa disabled her personal and professional accounts back when the press first zoomed in, and the pages are now lost to Google cache and the Internet Archive. All the press knows is that an unidentified group of students of an indeterminate number is upset that Mustafa deployed a hashtag that sounds bad out of context. The Daily Mail even dismantled the hashtag entirely to claim that what Mustafa tweeted looked like this: “kill all white men.”
I fail to see the point. Mustafa blocked public access to her accounts. It is possible that someone saw the comments prior to her blocking access but did not screen capture them. It does not matter at this point because Mustafa admitted to sending the tweets.
As for the complaint about context, Hess already stated that the context was an “in-joke,” which Mustafa again admitted. We have the context: Mustafa intended it to be a joke at white men’s expense directed at “the queer feminist community.” It does not matter how she told the joke. She already informed us of her intent.
That’s kind of a big deal.
As I explained, it is not, but go on:
As Slate’s Julia Turner wrote in a 2012 New York Times Magazine piece, the hashtag “gives the writer the opportunity to comment on his own emotional state, to sarcastically undercut his own tweet, to construct an extra layer of irony, to offer a flash of evocative imagery or to deliver metaphors with striking economy.”
That is utter nonsense. A hashtag is nothing more than a catchphrase with a pound sign in front of it. There is no deep level of imagery or metaphor inherent to hashtags. They are just fast ways to convey an idea. They are the digital equivalent of saying “meh” rather than explaining why one does not care what gets made for dinner.
And the wordplay is only half the equation. Hashtags also act like portals into alternate corners of Internet discourse: Click on one, and you’ll find everyone who’s been coaxed into the same marketing gimmick (#ItsMillerTime) or discovered the same semisecret code (#EggplantFridays). These pathways are being constantly rewired, so it can be hard to pinpoint what a hashtag signified a couple of days or years before. Search for #KillAllWhiteMen now, and you’ll mostly find people commenting on the meaning of the hashtag itself. Should we call the cops on them, too?
Like the way feminists swat people (call in the swat team) using the #Gamergate tag?
I agree that calling the police on Mustafa was a bad move, unless she actually threatened harm to someone. I also agree that the meaning of a hashtag can change once outsiders get their hands on it. That would not change, however, the original intent of the hashtag. One would only need to follow the thread by to the first usage.
This is the time we live in: Thousands of people have signed a petition to unseat a woman they’ve never heard of from a position they don’t understand at a school they’ve never visited over a tweet they’ve never seen.
How is this any different from the numerous times feminists have signed petitions against people they know nothing about because of a random, unsubstantiated claimed made on a feminist site?
Hess is also dishonest here. Mustafa has been in the news for several weeks. She made a public speech defending herself against accusations of sexism and racism. She also admitted to using the hashtag. People know who she is.
I’d bet that none of them knows that part of the mission of Goldsmiths’ student union is to facilitate campaigns on behalf of “liberation groups.”One of its meeting rooms is named after Angela Davis. Contrary to the breathless recent coverage, minority-specific events are standard practice across British universities.
That does not make them any less biased. It is as if Hess is arguing that because something has been done for a long time it must be the right thing to do.
And as for Mustafa, she ran for student office under a “WOmanifesto,” which touted her experience securing women-only gym time and financing a “welfare bus” where “vulnerable students” can retreat during organized sporting events. And she won! Twice. Most of the people who don’t like Mustafa’s tweets don’t like anything else about her either.
Whether people who object to Mustafa’s tweets like her is wholly irrelevant. They could hate her to the core and still have a point about the bigotry she displayed. The reason people object to Mustafa’s behavior is because she is supposed to be the welfare and diversity officer yet acted in a way contrary to that office. That the organization that voted her in holds the same bigoted views she does is only more troubling.
Mustafa identifies as a “queer, anti-racist feminist killjoy.” She got her master’s degree in gender and media studies from Goldsmiths last year, where she performed Foucauldian readings of Japanese anime porn. She uses the term safe space. She is, in short, anti-feminists’ nightmare.
I would agree. Mustafa appears to be a highly uneducated, entitled, egotistical bigot hiding behind labels to protect herself from criticism. Most anti-feminists would be terrified if someone like that ended up in a position of power.
And now, they’ve alighted on the rare opportunity to turn her own PC tools against her. Forget ironic misandry: For a certain class of white male (and his allies), crying racism, co-opting the Change.org petition, and appealing to the cops provides its own ironic thrill.
How ironic that Hess admits that the PC tools are “crying racism, co-opting the Change.org petition, and appealing to the cops.”
This is precisely why people do not like feminists. It is also why people are wallowing in schadenfreude. They relish this because feminists made this possible. They made this the way of the world. They created these policies and now they have the temerity to complain when someone applies their own tactics against them, tactics feminists claim are completely fair game.
Yes, it is supremely ironic that the person supposedly against bigotry turned out to be a bigot.Yet it is more ironic to see feminists complaining about jokes taken out of context and unfair attempts to get someone fired. After all, this is the milieu feminists thrive in.