Twitter Hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen Sparks Firestorm

The Twitter logo is shown on smartphone. Dado Ruvic/Reuters

A woman in the U.K., Bahar Mustafa, has ignited a virtual firestorm after she tweeted out controversial hashtags, including #KillAllWhiteMen and #Misandry, and blatantly excluded white people and men from diversity events at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her outspokenness has prompted petitions, harassment, death threats, organized calls for her resignation, an abundance of crude and unusual comments on Reddit and now a formal investigation from authorities at Scotland Yard.

Mustafa, the welfare and diversity officer for the student union at Goldsmiths, faced immediate backlash after she specifically barred white men from an event intent on diversifying the university’s curriculum. Mustafa posted on Facebook, pleading for men and/or white people to “PLEASE DON’T COME,” adding that she hoped people would respect the “BME women and non-binary event only.”

Following criticism that the diversity event was exclusionary, Mustafa responded by saying that as an ethnic minority woman, she is incapable of being racist. In a statement read out to students, she said: "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.”

Critics have noted that Mustafa’s tweets—which are difficult to find, given that she has disabled her personal and professional social media accounts—were likely ironic, part of an Internet-driven movement poking fun at men and identifying with misandry (a prime example: these best-selling mugs intended to hold “male tears”). Mustafa herself identifies as a “queer anti-racist feminist killjoy,” descriptors that alone cause the Internet to bubble with controversy.  

Still, the vitriol against Mustafa has been extraordinary to witness. Graphic rape threats have been made against her, and a petition on 4Chan calling for her resignation garnered more than 19,000 signatures. While people will debate her response to accusations of racism and her refusal to change her stance, Mustafa’s outspoken effort to empower women and “non-binary” individuals is undoubtedly bringing up pressing questions of expression in today’s social media sphere, a place that in theory is safe but where women and minorities continue to face similar threats.

Slate’s Amanda Hess put it best: “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.”