BAHAR MUSTAFA’S CHARGE SHOWS WHY FEMINISM SHOULDN’T RESPECT THE LAW

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by Robyn Banks

It all started with a Facebook event. Goldsmiths Student Union Welfare and Diversity officer, Bahar Mustafa, wanted to find out how she could help women and non-binary students of colour at her university. Aware that the voices of these minority groups were often difficult to hear, she decided to organise an event to talk to women and non-binary BME students alone. She created a Facebook event and politely requested that men and white people did not attend the event for people who weren’t men or white people. I don’t pretend to understand the reasons that white men at Goldsmiths were so upset that they weren’t wanted at the BME meeting, but they were, and before long the story had made it in to the right wing press and Bahar was splashed across the pages of the Daily Mail. After being put under harsh scrutiny and being the subject of a campaign of harassment, Bahar tweeted that familiar sentiment which has come to epitomise the frustration of third wave feminists, from Bikini Kill to Jezebel, in the form of a hashtag: “#Killallwhitemen”.

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EU NATIONALISM AND THE REFUGEE CRISIS

by Gunnar Eigener

‘Imagine there’s no countries, it isn’t hard to do, nothing to kill or to die for and no religion too.’ John Lennon

As record numbers of refugees flee wars and conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa seeking some semblance of normality in Europe, an ingrained racism and skewed sense of nationalism is seeping out of the barely healed wound of financial recessions and austerity cuts. As front line services are cut to the bone and the ability to look after our own homeless and vulnerable citizens seems distinctly lacking, the idea of supporting other people from other countries is turning into a poisoned chalice. Original plans to relocate 120,000 refugees have reduced the number to 66,000. Balkan states are erecting fences along their borders but to no avail. Far-right parties who were taking ever bigger numbers of national votes before this crisis began, are now exploiting it to spread hatred and fear. Protest movements in Germany and Austria have formed, and shown aggression and resistance to the influx of refugees, while the UK Independence Party allows hate-mongers like Katie Hopkins to speak at their party conference. Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of France’s National Front political party suggested that the Ebola virus would be able to solve Europe’s immigration problem.

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STALKERS ARE NOT TROLLS

by Robyn Banks

A man overhears you saying something he doesn’t like, and yells abuse at you. You leave, but later on he looks up all of your personal information – your work address, home address, your parents’ home address – and sends it to you with a threat to come over to rape and/or kill you. How would you describe this kind of person? A stalker? Possible axe murderer? Would you contact the police? How would you feel if the police told you to just ignore it?

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CAITLYN JENNER CAN HAVE HER GOLD MEDAL CAKE AND EAT IT

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by Robyn Banks

Caitlyn Jenner’s controversial coming out made headlines this month, and attracted hate and support in equal measure. While transphobia is always difficult to accept, the worst kind of bigotry has to be from those who veil it behind half-arsed logic and think they can justify their hate with a rational argument. It was in this vein that #givebackthegold was born.

This petition to persuade Caitlyn Jenner to give back the gold medal she earned competing in the 1976 Olympic men’s decathlon has garnered over 15,000 signatures on change.org. The accompanying text reads “Ms. Jenner (as talented as she is) claims that she has always believed herself to be truly female, and therefore, was in violation of committee rules regarding women competing in men’s sports and vice versa. Therefore, it is with a heavy heart that we must ask whether or not it is proper that Ms. Jenner should retain her olympic records in light of this”.

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THE MALE GAZE WON’T CURE EATING DISORDERS

by Robyn Banks

Eating disorders and low self-esteem in women and girls have been making headlines in both feminist discourse and the mainstream press for years, usually being linked in a variety of ways to the media, be it advertising or the homogenous representation of women. 1.6 million people in the UK suffer from some form of eating disorder, of which 89% are female, and anorexia nervosa has been reported in girls as young as six.

The issue has resurfaced again recently after Dr Aric Sigman, a professor in child psychology, has said that boys are an ‘untapped army’ who can prevent girls’ diet disorders by telling them how attractive they find ‘curvy’ women. At the same time, France unveiled a plan to ban models deemed too skinny from the catwalk. Both of these prevention measures are well meaning, but both are rooted in a profound misunderstanding of eating disorders that could do more harm than good.

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INTERNATIONAL WORKING WOMEN’S DAY — ERASING CLASS STRUGGLE FROM FEMINISM

by Robyn Banks

The United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day on the 8th March in 1975, but the day actually has its roots in a variety of strikes and class struggles across industrialised nations long before.

On March 8th in 1857 there was a strike at a New York City garment factory. Here women and girls between the ages of 13 and 25, mostly Jewish, Russian and Italian immigrants, worked 81 hours a week for three dollars, of which one and a quarter went for room and board. The strike was sparked when factory foremen, noticing that the women were less ‘energetic’ if they were allowed to eat before working, changed the factory opening time to 5AM. For a day the factory workers marched and picketed, demanding improved working conditions, a ten hour day and equal rights for women. Their ranks were broken up by police. Fifty one years later, on March 8th 1908, their sisters in the needle trades in New York marched again in honour of the 1867 March, this time demanding the vote, an end to sweatshops and child labour. And then, in November 1909, came the uprising of the 20,000.

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THE PROBLEM OF EXTREMISM

by Jonathan Lee

Prime Minister Erdoğan was speaking in reaction to the Obama administration identifying Turkey as a moderate Islamic country. The blunt statement challenges much of the narrative coming from Western governments, and forces the West to question the validity of the term as well as another of its favourite loaded words: ‘Extremism’.

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings and the heavily sidelined Boko Haram massacre at Baga, the media’s use of choice words like ‘extremism’, ‘radicalism’, ‘fundamentalism’, and ‘Islamism’ has once once again been unleashed in a daily barrage on our television and computer screens. The corresponding rise of Islamophobia, which was already latent in the West, has reached even higher levels, resulting in liberals, apologists, and leftists having to try and stem the tide of what is sometimes wanton bigotry and racism. An oft deployed tool of argument is the careful labelling and distinction between ‘moderate Islam’ and ‘extremism’, usually in the vein of ‘moderate Muslims are not to blame, extremism is’.

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