Waterstones slammed for sacking TikToker who said she would ‘tear up and bin’ gender-critical author’s work

Exclusive: Her sacking has sparked a backlash from the LGBTQ community against the retailer

Emma Guinness
Wednesday 10 July 2024 16:54
Waterstones slammed for firing bookseller over threat to 'tear-up' gender critical book

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Louise Thomas

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Waterstones has come under fire for sacking a bookseller who claimed she would “tear up and bin” an author’s novel over their gender-critical views.

Book influencer and Waterstones employee Tilly Fitzgerald, who uses the TikTok page Tilly Loves Books to share her reviews of novels, was fired after breaching the retailer’s social media policy during an interaction with author Christina Dalcher.

Ms Dalcher was subject to Ms Fitzgerald’s criticism after the author appeared to endorse a new publishing network for those “concerned about the impact of gender ideology” and the safeguarding of women’s rights.

This prompted Ms Fitzgerald to write on X/Twitter: “Ooh I’ll enjoy tearing up your books and popping them in the bin today. Thanks for the heads up.”

The bookseller was subsequently dismissed from her job and took to social media to tearfully express her sadness – and clarify her stance on Ms Dalcher’s books.

She said her intention was not to have the author removed from the shelves of Waterstones - merely that she did not want to personally support the author.

“My initial comments weren’t trying to get anyone cancelled or taken off shop shelves - I was speaking of my choice to throw my own books of theirs away as I didn’t want to personally support them,” she wrote.

The bookseller was left distraught after loving her dream job.
The bookseller was left distraught after loving her dream job. (Tilly Loves Books)

The situation has now ignited a fierce debate around free speech, with many arguing that she had every right to make the comments on her own account and it was no reflection of her ability as a bookseller.

Speaking to The Independent, Ms Fitzgerald added: “I’m absolutely devastated that this escalated to me losing a job a love.

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

Ms Fitzgerald has also taken to social media to urge others in the publishing industry to be careful about what they say online.

“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,” she added. “It had nothing to do with my team in my shop. They are the best team and that’s why I’m sad.”

Following news of Ms Fitzgerald’s dismissal, supporters of the LGBTQ+ community have flooded Waterstones’ social media posts with comments encouraging the bookstore to reinstate her.

“I always found comfort walking into a Waterstones shop. This changes today with the news about @tillylovesbooks,” wrote one supporter on Instagram.

“Like many others, I hope Waterstones head office take a hard look in the mirror and decide to support not only Tilly, but also stand behind the LGBTQ+ community. In the meantime, I will be shopping elsewhere and hope others do to.”

LGBTQ+ advocates and activists are now calling on Waterstones to reinstate the bookseller.
LGBTQ+ advocates and activists are now calling on Waterstones to reinstate the bookseller. (PA)

A third user criticised the bookshop for supporting Pride Month in light of its recent actions.

“Like many others have said - the sacking of @tillylovesbooks not only seems unfair but is not a good look for you Waterstones,” they wrote.

Another commentator said that the book influencer did a fantastic job promoting Waterstones with her platform.

“Badly done @waterstones , badly done,” they wrote. “@tillylovesbooks does nothing but sell your store and her love for her role there.

“It’s looking very knee-jerk reaction to tweets by a person who can’t take a differing view. Is this the correct way to handle your loyal team members? Did you really look into it, talk to your employee?

“The PR isn’t going to look good on you amongst book lovers. I think you need to review….quickly!”

Ms Fitzgerald has stressed that she was only referring to her personal books and not those by the author in store.
Ms Fitzgerald has stressed that she was only referring to her personal books and not those by the author in store. (Tilly Loves Books)

The issue has caused such a storm that the bookstore is still trending on Twitter/X this morning, with countless users calling for the bookseller’s reinstatement and a boycott of Dalcher’s books.

One user also noted that an account belonging to Waterstones retweeted Scottish author Irvine Welsh questioning what a woman is.

“Hi @Waterstones, I assume that since you so quickly fired a member of staff over their comments about a transphobic author, you’ll also be firing the member of staff who retweeted this post from the @WstonesLeeds account?” the poster wrote.

“Or is it ok because they were reposting transphobia?”

Ms Fitzgerald further told this publication: “I was an exemplary employee as evidenced by my performance reviews and statements from my team. I have seen comments about me destroying work stock which was absolutely not the case.

“I was talking about my own personal property on my personal social media account, and I have every right to get rid of books by an author I no longer wish to support based on their behaviour.

“I’m so grateful for all the support people in the book community have shown. The last thing I would consider myself is an activist (although I’m forever in awe of those who are brave enough to fight so relentlessly), but to me, it’s fairly simple - we just let people be who they want to be and begin with kindness.”

Waterstones told The Independent that they are an inclusive employer, who follow due process in HR matters, and for obvious reasons are unable to comment on individual cases.

The Independent has reached out to Christina Dalcher for comment.

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