A group of “anti-feminist protesters” disrupted the official launch of the Vancouver Women’s Library, according to the Guerrilla Feminist Collective. “The protesters held signs and shouted at people entering the space. They poured wine over the books. They smoked inside when asked not to. They pulled the fire alarm. Some of them tried to bar then pushed women entering the space. As far as we saw, men were left alone to come and go as they pleased.” The protesters “shamed and blamed” women for calling the police (who were called due to concerns for the safety of the library patrons and fear of further destruction of library property), harassed and complained about the library’s founders, and demanded that the library remove certain books from the collection.
Following the event, a group called GAG / Gays Against Gentrification who describe themselves as “a radical queer collective bringing a queer & trans perspective to anti-displacement and anti-capitalist-struggles” posted a similar set of complaints and demands on their Facebook page “in opposition to the opening of the Vancouver Women’s Library.” Following several absurd accusations regarding the library’s organizers and misrepresentations of different feminist perspectives, the letter lists six “demands for accountability.”
1. The library needs to be transparent about its funding, organizing policies and affiliations with other institutions, both within the academic system and outside of it.
According to the library’s website, “This library is 100% volunteer-run and funded by library members.” It seems to me that if one wants to understand the library’s “funding, organizing policies, and affiliations,” one might start by becoming a member or a volunteer…
2. The library must elect a new board that is comprised of women that reflect the breadth of experience in our community, so that the organizing committee is not entirely cis and white.
In this context, “entirely cis and white” is simply a “radical queer” activist’s way of saying “women whose existence and work we find threatening.” It’s garbage.
3. The library needs to have a policy of not featuring titles that are written by non-trans women and non-sex workers that dehumanize, speak over and advocate harm towards trans women and sex workers. We have enclosed a list of books from the catalogue that perpetrate these issues.
Demanding that a library remove certain books on the basis that they contain controversial ideas is fascism. In addition, these activists are specifically targeting a women’s library (and the women responsible for organizing it) and demanding the removal of women’s books (and therefore ideas). Activism that is concerned with suppressing women’s ideas and women’s access to feminist texts because they are deemed threatening is men’s rights activism, and it’s misogyny.
4. The library needs to include a vast array of books written by women of colour, sex workers, incarcerated women, and trans women about their lived experiences. We are currently compiling a comprehensive list of suggestions that we will share when the other demands are met.
If one wants to suggest a book, one need only fill out the form on the wishlist page of the library’s website, or you know, donate the book. Instead, these activists have chosen to create a secret list of book suggestions that they threaten to release if their demands are met. WHAT?
5. Current organiser Em Laurent must step down as an organizer and end her involvement with the library because her presence is not safe for community members and after years of violence enacted against women, sex workers and queers, accountability will be a very long process.
This is trashing. The accusation of “violence enacted against women” is disingenuous framing of her volunteer work at a rape crisis shelter for women that recognizes that men are not women.
6. The organizers must also enter into a public meeting with the communities that it aims to serve to discuss the harm done to marginalized women in the community and how the library can move forward.
The harm done to marginalized women… by opening a library for women? Is this a joke?
The entire letter reeks of entitlement. The library’s website explicitly states “we welcome all women regardless of creed/class/gender/race/sexuality” yet somehow this policy is not “inclusive” enough. Seriously, how entitled do you have to be to to feel so threatened by the existence of a library that you demand control over the content?
Following is the list of books GAG demands be removed from the Vancouver Women’s Library: