Melbourne bookshop Readings has backtracked after being pressured into making an apology over a 2018 appearance by feminist author Julie Bindel. The apology was demanded by a non-binary author before a Zoom reading.
Readings managing director Mark Rubbo acknowledged he’d made a mistake in hurrying to apologize for Bindel’s event three years ago, telling the UK Times that “bookshops should be homes to all ideas.”
While he admitted that “Julie Bindel has done amazing work for the women’s movement particularly in the area of violence against women,” he nevertheless insisted that “her views on transgender people are particularly controversial and have caused distress in that community.”
He blamed the store’s rush to apologize on “the fact that we programmed an event with [trans author] Juno Dawson” and called the apology “an ill-considered attempt to acknowledge the distress that our event with Julie Bindel may have caused even though it occurred some time ago.”
However, it wasn’t Dawson who had impatiently (and publicly) demanded the apology. Alison Evans, a self-identified non-binary writer of “queer sci-fi for young adults,” was the one who’d threatened to back out of a February 25 Zoom event with Dawson if Readings did not “publicly apologize for hosting Julie Bindel.”
“Where is this apology?” Evans tweeted on Monday. Readings apologized for taking too long to put up the apology before posting it later that day.
Evans eventually made their tweets private, while Dawson did not appear to weigh in on the discussion at all, other than retweeting a post from Readings about the event.
Bindel herself was dumbfounded that a bookstore that had no problem stocking Hitler’s Mein Kampf and other more traditionally disturbing works would cave to such a “ludicrous” demand.
While she was used to being “no-platformed,” and “this [was] not the nastiest example,” it nevertheless “made [her] jaw drop” – especially because she’d been so warmly welcomed at the shop in 2018, before it became politically incorrect to hold her views.
“I’ve been attacked twice now by trans activists but apparently it is the feminists who are dangerous and make everyone feel unsafe,” she explained, declaring the dustup was “about extreme misogyny and bullying.”
If we don’t all stand up against this – as businesses, individuals, political activists or just as decent people – then we’ve had it.
Those following the controversy on social media noted Readings was not broadcasting their “apology for the apology” with nearly as much volume as they had the original post.
Will @ReadingsBooks be apologising for their apology with the same prominence as the original apology? Weird that they haven’t had apologised to you personally
— Simon Edge (@simonjedge) February 11, 2021
How sorry are they? The original apology is still up, as is their grovelling to Alison Evans, and there’s no sign of any apology to you. https://t.co/eRoIFD5sJg
— Anya Palmer (@anyabike) February 11, 2021
Bindel herself weighed in on the controversy with a sarcastic tweet, noting that Rubbo owed her a more personal apology in a way that suggested she didn’t expect to get one.
In which @ReadingsBooks apologise for apologising for their apology and apologise profusely to their community of upstanding warriors that supply Melbourne’s alternative community with pink and blue hair dye.
— Julie Bindel (@bindelj) February 11, 2021
While Rubbo did not explain why he had opted to apologize for the initial apology – and not contact Bindel – the reaction to it on social media had been harsh, with many followers vowing to avoid the bookshop in the future and questioning why Dawson and Evans’ “misogynist and homophobic” views should be privileged while Bindel’s should be exiled. Dawson herself had once commented that many gay men are gay “as a consolation prize, because they couldn’t be women.”
Juno Dawson? THE Juno Dawson who said gay men are just “failed trans women”? That one? Good to know you support vile homophobia.
— Nah. 🐍🟥All out of ducks to sieve.❤️ (@WackyPidgeon) February 11, 2021
Juno Dawson’s views on women & their rights are particularly controversial & have caused distress across the globe. The fact that you programmed an event with Juno Dawson, then intentionally trashing Julie Bindel AND retroactively, brought that back to the surface.
— Michael_A (@Michael_AW77) February 11, 2021
“I hope destroying your reputation was worth it,” one commenter snarked.
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