Waterstones sacks Tilly Loves Books over gender-critical author post

Waterstones sacks Tilly Loves Books over gender-critical author post

TikToker Tilly Loves Books

Booksellers Waterstones have come under fire for sacking a member of staff and TikTok influencer known as Tilly Loves Books, who threatened to “tear up and bin” a gender-critical author’s book.

Tilly Loves Books, real name Tilly Fitzgerald, who posts book-related content on social media and worked at one of the firm’s bookstores, was sacked by Waterstones after a social media post where she took aim at author Christina Dalcher, who holds gender-critical views.

Fitzgerald criticised Dalcher after the author expressed her support for a network created for those in the publishing sector “concerned about the impact of gender ideology” on literature – a group which has previously been slammed by book-lovers and authors alike.

“Ooh, I’ll enjoy tearing up your books and popping them in the bin today. Thanks for the heads up,” Fitzgerald wrote on X/Twitter.

After her dismissal, Fitzgerald took to social media to clarify that it wasn’t her intention to have Vox and Femlandia author Dalcher’s works removed from shelves in Waterstones but instead that she personally would no longer support her or her work.

In an interview with The Independent, Fitzgerald said the situation, which has escalated into to full-blown social media debate about freedom of speech, had left her devastated.

“I acknowledge that my comments were a violation of the social media policy and I did apologise for any trouble caused,” she said, “however, I think the punishment was disproportionate and a warning would have been more appropriate.

“I just want to be really clear that this decision came from head office, from someone I probably don’t even know and who doesn’t know me. It had nothing to do with my team in my shop. They are the best team and that’s why I’m sad.”

The situation only deepened when the X/Twitter account for Waterstones seemed to promote gender-critical perspectives by retweeting Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh questioning what a woman is.

A Waterstones store front
Waterstones has been criticised for firing a staff member over her social media posts (Geography Photos/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

This is the second time in recent months that Waterstones have found themselves in the LGBTQ+ community’s sights.

During Pride month, the book chain was criticised for publishing social media posts celebrating Pride and LGBTQ+ authors, only for it to include a gender-critical book in its round-up of best new titles one day later.

The book of 30 essays, entitled The Women Who Wouldn’t Wheesht, was published on 30 May and contains works by JK Rowling, gender-critical ex-MP Joanna Cherry and a former prison guard who opposed trans women being held in women’s jails

Trans broadcaster and advocate India Willoughby called the post “dreadful” and “really disappointing”, adding that Waterstones were “famously trans-supportive” and that its staff are “great allies”.

Several other people also expressed their disappointment.

“T*rfs screaming that they’re being kicked out of publishing when the Queen of T*rfs herself regularly tops best-seller lists (with a male pseudonym) have now successfully lobbied Waterstones to sack a trans ally bookseller. Yeah, OK. I hate it here,” Love Me Love Me Not author Kirsty Capes wrote.

Comedian Aidan Comerford also weighed in, saying: “I’ll never buy another book from Waterstones. It’s a moral duty to call out bigotry when you see it, and firing an employee for doing so sends an horrific message to LGBT+ customers & staff.

“It says that Waterstones protects the free speech of bigots but not those they target.”

In a statement shared on social media, the bookstore chain responded: “We have received some messages about an employee who has been dismissed. This was on the grounds of contravening Waterstones’ policies and has nothing to do with transgender rights.”

And in a statement shared with PinkNews, a spokesperson added: “We are an inclusive employer and follow due process in HR (human resources) matters. For obvious reasons, we are unable to comment on the specifics of individual cases.”

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