Readings Julie Bindel controversy: culture wars at a bookshop near you
Evans, an award-winning Melbourne author who writes queer sci-fi for young adults, tweeted on Monday: “I agreed to do this event providing Readings publicly apologise for hosting Julie Bindel. Where is this apology?”
The next day, the bookshop put a statement on its website: “Readings prides itself on ensuring everyone in our community feels safe, respected and considered. We apologise for any hurt caused by highlighting the work of an author whose current stance is to divide our community.
“To that end, Readings regrets programming Julie Bindel in 2018 and thank our community for opening the dialogue with us.
It is believed that Rubbo did not write the apology but, as the owner and managing director of Readings, did give final approval.
As soon as it was released, all hell broke loose. The story, thanks to Bindel’s high profile, has gone global. Stories appeared in The Times and the UK Spectator as well as The Age. Bindel and her supporters accused Readings of anti-intellectual censorship. The company’s head office has received hundreds of critical emails, many of which threatened to never again to darken the doorstep of a Readings bookshop.
All retailers are mindful of the consumer boycotts triggered by last year’s statement from Harry Potter author JK Rowling, who said that while she supported transgender rights, she was a gender-critical feminist. UK-based chain The Body Shop, which sell soap and skincare, criticised her on Facebook — in a somewhat light-hearted way — and the backlash was instant with the subsequent boycott of the shops by certain groups who disagreed with the store’s statement. While soap and books are not similar, they are both predominantly bought by women, who are not averse to using their purchasing power to express disapproval.
Julie Bindel is publishing another book this year, due to come out in July.
Mark Rubbo told me this morning that when it came out, he would stare down any pressure to boycott the book.