This has got to be the first time a library was accused of violence.
In an interesting display of the blooming neoliberal tendency to turn the world into their self-defined “safe space,” an organization ironically named GAG (Gays Against Gentrification) has demanded the new Vancouver Women’s Library (VWL) ban books written by women. Feminist Mary Lunetta already created a petition in favor of freedom of thought, urging VWL not to ban any books.
The trend of the neoliberal left controlling and condemning thoughts and words is widespread, and damages the movements they are attempting to protect. In this particular case study GAG came out of the gate demanding an outright ban of women’s books instead of asking for a respectful dialog. But then, what would this dialog consist of? What books (and therefore thoughts) are allowed? Anyone who champions freedom of thought wouldn’t entertain such a debate, and women shouldn’t be demanded to comply to such restrictions.
These demands presume feminism, and women, are or should be completely monolithic. That everyone should already implicitly and entirely understand their ideal of accepted language and thought. If you don’t know or accept their concepts, there is no conversation to be had. You are a bigot, and you should get out (like the books).
Not only are the demands about books, but about thoughts, concepts, understandings, ongoing debates within feminism, and language itself. They state in their opening, “we demand the following, because there is nothing radical about replicating settler-colonial violence, transmisogyny, and whorephobia*. *If you are not a sex worker this term is not for you.”
The actual language that they use to describe what they mean can’t be said. Can we ask what it means? What is whorephobia? Am I whorephobic because I said that? There apparently isn’t an aspect of their language or communicative process that allows debate, freedom of thought or questioning, and that isn’t saturated in moral superiority.
The reasoning is presented in their introductory paragraph. The demands are due to “the ongoing violence against trans women, sex workers, and IBPOC (Indigenous, Black, and People of Colour),” and what they call, “settler-colonial violence”. But what connection a Women’s Library has to the violence anyone anywhere experiences remains to be seen, and is not detailed in their demands. As seasoned feminists know and center in their messaging, violence is perpetrated (in a large majority) by men. Furthermore, violent males aren’t taking their cues from women’s books and libraries.
GAG goes on to say that “TERF”s and “SWERF”s are complicit in violence and liken them to Nazis. How long have feminists been called Feminazis? And where is the evidence of the Holocaust perpetrated by “cis white women”? One of the SWERFy books they want banned is called Not a Choice, Not a Job: Exposing the Myths about Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade by Janice Raymond. Doesn’t that sound more like a book which exposes violence rather than perpetrates it? I’m going to have to give it a read.
GAG’s attempt to give proof of violence was to call out women who stand in opposition to the sex industry, and the particular exclusion of a male who identifies as a woman into a woman-only space. Their demands to silence women are ill-founded at best, harmful to the women’s movement at worst, and ironic on all accounts. GAG says they will not sit down with the women of the VWL for discussion because they claim they are being gaslit– as they call women nazis and violent without a shred of hard evidence of physical violence.
And the thing is, the books and ideas they are looking to ban are ones that are still under debate within the feminist community, such as the example of the sex industry and whether it should be abolished or embraced. These demands are an attempt to control this ongoing dialog as well as the outcome of it. Any kind of a book ban would without a doubt hinder feminist movements. All of our movements and ideologies would be strengthened by robust debate and spaces of free thought, something libraries stand for, and something women have been denied time and again since men took the mantle as head of the home and state.
Women don’t need GAGing. Sign the petition.
Here’s the list of books they want banned, so you can read and see what all the madness is about:
Admission Accomplished by Jill Johnston, Against Sadomasochism by Robin R. Linden, Darlene R. Pagano, Diana E. Russell, and Susan Leigh Star, Amazon Odyssey: Collection of Writings by Ti-Grace Atkinson, Buddhism after Patriarchy by Rita M. Gross, The Female Man by Joana Russ, Female Sexual Slavery by Kathleen Barry, Feminism Unmodified by Catharine A. Mackinnon, First Buddhist Women: Poems and Stories of Awakening by Susan Murcott, Gyn/Ecology by Mary Daly, The Idea of Prostitution by Sheila Jeffreys, The Industrial Vagina: The Political Economy of the Global Sex Trade by Sheila Jeffreys, Intercourse by Andrea Dworkin, The Lesbian Heresy by Sheila Jeffreys, Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women by Geraldine Brooks, Not a Choice, Not a Job: Exposing the Myths about Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade by Janice Raymond, Not for Sale: Feminists Resisting Prostitution and Pornography-Of Women Born by Adrienne Rich, Pornography: Men Possessing Women by Andrea Dworkin, Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach, The Sexual Liberals and the Attack on Feminism by Janice Raymond, and Women As Wombs: Reproductive Technologies and the Battle over Women’s Freedom by Janice Raymond.