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Calderdale Libraries Hides Feminist Books

From TJ

Tuesday, 8 August 2023

Another twist in the latest adventures from Unhappy Authoritarian Valley.
It has recently come to light that books by gender critical feminists such as Trans by Helen Joyce, Time to Think by Hannah Barnes and Material Girls by Kathleen Stock have been removed from public view. They are not allowed to be kept on open shelves and are instead kept out the back somewhere hidden from public view.

These books are academic, they are rigorous in their content and they are important studies. Libraries are supposed to support education and to disseminate educational material, literature, and knowledge. There is however, a plethora of books from the Trans perspective on view on the shelves in both the children's and the adult sections of the library. How very strange. 

Public Libraries have a statutory duty to the tax paying public and cannot remove books from the shelves from public view. Librarians have no right to censor materials unless required to do so by law.
I believe that Mein Kampf is not on public view in libraries for very obvious reasons.. 

It would be good to have some  some clarity as to why these type of books are being treated in the same way as Mein Kampf.

Censoring gender critical books would appear to be nothing short of an authoritarian decision. 

The decision to censor these books is now all over GB news, Twitter & Mumsnet.

I feel like I am living in a dystopian nightmare. 

HandMaid's Tale anyone?

From Viv Boardman

Tuesday, 8 August 2023

I agree with everything TJ says. However, the books in question are not being put in the back - they are being taken to a book storage place in Halifax. If you want to read one, you have to go online to the libraries catalogue, type in what you want and order it.

Our library offers a comfortable and welcoming space, and, usually, titles you can browse. Unless, that is you are a woman who dares to criticise the establishment view that women's views are irrelevant.

From Sue

Tuesday, 8 August 2023

"A great library has something in it to offend everyone. " Or if a library is going to offer a range of views then there are going to be books you don't agree with. Someone needs to tell Calderdale Council though.

Calderdale Library Services are allowing a form of censorship of political views.  Books critical of gender ideology are not kept on the shelves, (unlike the multitude of books promoting gender ideology), but in a store with no public access. Whilst you can still request these books you need to know the title and author. They are not available to anyone browsing the shelves . Furthermore the council are discriminating against specific beliefs through this action.

Currently the council are claiming this is an internal HR matter that can't be discussed but since when have such matters had anything to do with where books are kept and effective political control? 

Surely everyone understands the dangers of censoring views with which you don't agree? One day they will be coming for you.....

From Anon 19

Tuesday, 8 August 2023

Mein Kampf is available at Todmorden Library, according to Spydus, but neither Helen Joyce nor Kathleen Stock are. As I remember, Mein Kampf were the ramblings of a man developing megalomania, Kathleen Stock and Helen Joyce are both measured and thoughtful women who are articulate and reasonable. 

From Debra King

Tuesday, 8 August 2023

What if I objected to books on Christianity? What if I found the content didn't tally with my firmly held belief in paganism? 

Would it be ok Christian texts to be put in to vault?

Would it be ok for the pagan books to also be put into a vault? 

Oh what about if I object to books on vegetarianism if I am a carnivore? 

For one the list is endless. And the vault will be stuffed full of books that you can order online but you can't come across by happy accident. That you can't call in and pick off the shelf.

This is indeed a slippery slope of authoritarian dictatorship.

This is the mind police and is against the very ethos of learning and access to alternative views being readily available. 

The question is why is the trans lobby being so mean and unkind to object to an alternative view? Why are they scared that you might find a book on the shelves in libraries which counter their insistence that sex is not a biological fact...

From Anon 19

Wednesday, 9 August 2023

Debra King, I am sure that if you objected to books on Christianity because they did not align with you Pagan beliefs then you would not get the same no debate stonewalling response as in this case: ".... arose as a consequence of an internal HR matter and as such cannot be discussed further"

! I believe that the library will not discuss anything further for the same reasons that the whole trans movement of recent years has run the mantra, "no debate" because their ideology has no defensible substance. 

From SuS

Wednesday, 9 August 2023

This is a debate which cannot and should not be closed down.

I've just looked at the Calderdale Libraries website and searched for Material Girls by Kathleen Stock. There is one copy available which is out on loan currently, with 4 reservations for borrowing. I have added my name.

Perhaps if there is an interest in reading these books, which appear to be causing so much anxiety to Calderdale Council, more people could consider borrowing them.

From Emily Stead

Thursday, 10 August 2023

When we found out that Calderdale Library Service had removed gender critical books to the storage depot, we made contact with them. Despite an initial unwillingness to engage with us, we've now been assured by the CEO of the Council that this matter is being investigated by the Director of Public services, and we await further news.

What we can say is that for too long, Council staff who are in disagreement with those who have questions or critiques of aspects of gender identity ideology and Queer theory, have been emboldened to take matters into their own hands by trying to suppress public debate whenever possible, even to the extent of making sure members of the public do not get to see certain books on their library shelves. We should mention for the record that the books in question are entirely lawful, and include evidence-based research. 

The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals expressly states that librarians should not censor materials unless required to do so by law.

Since the Women's Rights Network has tweeted about this matter we have been contacted by a wide range of people from journalists to authors, as well as from ordinary men and women who share our concern that blatant censorship is occurring in Calderdale libraries.  

We believe this stems from a pernicious narrative, which suggests that any open discussion of these matters is akin to denying the existence of trans/queer people. The main proponent of this narrative is the lobby group, Stonewall (which the Council has paid thousands of pounds to, in order to be part of it's Diversity scheme) .

We would like to remind Calderdale residents that the issues organisations like ours actually wish to discuss are:-

  • What happens to women's single-sex spaces such as toilets, prisons, and changing rooms, when men who identify as trans wish to come into them?
  • What happens to women's sport, when people who have had all the benefits of male puberty wish to enter women's sporting competitions?
  • What happens to lesbian spaces and communities when heterosexual men who become trans-identified wish to come into them?
  • What happens to gender non-conforming children (mostly whom are gay) when they present with gender distress at the UK's only Gender Identity Development Service(GIDS)?  Why are they not being given holistic care rather than being rushed to medicalisation - when all research shows that the vast majority of children grow out of this distress and make peace with their sexed bodies during the maturation process of puberty?

It is only through the campaigning of concerned parents and organisations like ours, that has led to the exposure of  of GIDS as an ideologically captured service that has failed to adequately safeguard children and has been not fit for purpose. (For those who wish to know more about this and the imminent closure of GIDS,  please read the interim findings of Dr Hilary Cass's review into the service).

The suppression of debate has all the hallmarks of an authoritarian regime.  Information should be freely available so that we can make our own minds up about these issues. This is not about the rights of groups of people to exist. It's about how we organise society and what happens in one area of public life (such as women's single sex spaces), when de-facto policies of self-ID are adopted (which by the way, is not currently UK law, but advocated by Stonewall and other local LGBTQ groups).

The Bradford and Calderdale Women's Rights Network has only been going just over a year. We have thousands of supporters on twitter and requests for new membership every week.  We are here to stay. The days of 'no debate' are over, and we look forward to the Council showing principled leadership in this matter.

If you would like to get involved with our grassroots movement to support the rights of women and girls, please check us out at www.womensrights.network

From Wendy Barton

Thursday, 10 August 2023

I suspect Calderdale council have been captured. These books are not "freely available" if they take a long time to get hold of e.g. if they have been "lost in transit", if there is a long waiting list because they have so few copies etc. In the same way that justice delayed is justice denied, access delayed is access denied - and that's censorship. I don't want to see that in our public library.

From Vivienne

Friday, 11 August 2023

Yesterday, I attended a new-to-me writing group on Thursday at a pub in Sowerby Bridge. It seemed like a pleasant group & I was happy to be there.

The facilitator gave us the prompt "Write a piece expressing an opinion". No caveats or guidelines, just that.

When it was my turn to read what I'd written, I said I didn't have a finished piece, because I was comparing the 17th-century Puritan witch hunts, & the aggressively misogynistic and implicitly homophobic faction of the current transgender movement. This morning, I got an email from the group leader, banishing me from the group because I had hurt someone's feelings. So it's not just the library which is a problem around here.

From Vivienne

Saturday, 12 August 2023

For those people waiting to borrow books by screened authors such as Stock, here is an informed discussion of the issues by Joanna Williams, for Civitas.

Civitas is one of those ostensibly socially liberal but right-wing think-tanks, & I'm sorry to find myself dependent on people I disagree with about almost everything. But the Left is not stepping up to promote freedom of mind & expression, rationality, science, the materiality of the world, or women's sex-based rights. Postmodernism has a lot to answer for.

From Dave Boardman

Friday, 25 August 2023

I am astonished that a Labour Council can hide books by feminists and female sports people. This is apparently caused by council leadership/ managment responding to a complaint that these books are upsetting. One of them is about safeguarding children. The council says it can't discuss the issue because of HR 'confidentiality'. What nonsense.

Confidentiality means we don't get to know who complained. We don't need to know who complained, so they can keep their confidentiality if they like, but a complaint that affects everyone in Calderdale should be discussed publicly, so the public can have a view. 

The Labour party also uses the word 'confidentiality' to suppress discussion of issues internally. However I'd like someone from the Labour Party to explain to us all why I may have to wait a week or two to read the words of swimmer Sharron Davies but I can walk into Todmorden library and walk out with a book by Adolph Hitler. Are feminists really more dangerous than Nazis in the eyes of our council and its library service? 

From Chris Reason

Sunday, 27 August 2023

I have been in correspondence with councillor Josh Fenton Glynn in regard to this issue. He refuses to offer a straight answer and persists in hiding behind the HR smokescreen. I suggested he take a look at this thread so as to become acquainted with the strength of feeling over this issue. He responded that it was just "one side only". So can I invite someone who thinks banning books is a good and justifiable idea to make the case. I would really be most intrigued to hear the argument.

From Alan Truman

Sunday, 27 August 2023

10 voices including a husband and wife team all from Hebden Bridge, all over 50 I'll wager likely 60+, all homeowners, all well off, do not represent a wide strength of feeling, Chris Reason. This is another storm in a teacup whipped up by small but noisy local anti trans brigade.

Ed - I hope in the spirit of debate and openness you'll publish this from a 67 year old man who does believe trans rights are human rights.

I'll defend the right to exist for any disadvantaged or berated groups. Women, Bame groups, LGBTQIA+, non-binary - whoever. I'm not alone in this feeling either with many of my peers of all genders agreeing with me, most young people too would think this thread a nonsense but have far better things to do than rant on facebook or local websites.

From Anon 6

Monday, 28 August 2023

Alan Trueman, not anti-trans just anti-stupidity. Being of a certain age, we were the generation for free speech and equal human rights which sadly now seem to be diminishing and where will it end? Already the NHS cannot be saying the word 'mother' as it could offend. One day it will all turn round.

From Chris S

Wednesday, 30 August 2023

Over the last decade, public libraries (and smaller branch libraries in particular) have borne much of the brunt of Tory cuts. This has resulted in less physical space, and the ability to buy fewer titles. Many libraries (including Calderdale libraries) have attempted to make the best of this situation by having a circulating collection, with copies of books being passed from one library to another depending on need and request. Simply because a book is not immediately visible on the shelves does not mean that it has been hidden in a vault, nor lost in transit, nor supressed in any way.

I am mostly a reader of contemporary fiction, and often find that titles I am looking for are not on the shelves. A quick search of the library catalogue often informs me that the book is available on request – a couple of clicks and (if the book is not already out on loan or has a waiting list), I most usually get a message within a couple of days informing me that the book is available for collection, and I go and pick it up from the (friendly, helpful) librarians. 

A simple catalogue search reveals that Helen Joyce's book is (as of this morning) easily available in hardback, paperback, or ebook formats. Exactly the same goes for Kathleen Stock's book. 

Due to the aforementioned cuts, many libraries (Hebden Bridge included) have less space to display books, and instead have opted with good reason to give space over to children's play areas, computers for people who do not have internet access, and to quiet spaces for reading and working. Libraries are no longer potentially forbidding spaces with dense forests of shelves overstuffed with books. 

A brief visit to Hebden Bridge library this morning, however, saw a good number of books clearly displayed. Without even taking a careful look at the shelves, I clearly saw: Sheila Heti's 'Motherhood'; Anna Burns' novel 'Milkman'; Sola Mahfouz and Malaina Kapoor's 'Defiant Dreams' (on schooling for girls in Afghanistan); Holly Lewis' 'The Politics of Everybody;' Lily Dunn's memoir 'The Sins of My Father'; an entire section on Anne Lister; Jean Williams' 'The History of Women's Football'; Tuula Karjalainen's biography of Tove Jansson; Margaret Atwood's 'Good Bones,' and Angela Carter's 'The Bloody Chamber.'

While debates on what exactly feminism is, and how best to achieve its aims, may continue (and long may they do so), if we cannot agree that by any definition these books are not broadly feminist, we might as well give up and let the patriarchy have its way. 

Please, no more of this pointless, misinformed arguing. Our libraries are vital resources, and need to be defended.

From Viv Boardman

Monday, 4 September 2023

In response to Chris S: the point about books by gender critical authors being removed from shelves is that it has been done as a result of an HR issue. As far as I am aware, this is not the case with other unavailable books.

From Sarah B

Monday, 4 September 2023

Censorship is wrong: Sex-based rights of women must be protected. The censorship of CBC Libraries is appalling - by making certain types of books with which they disagree more difficult to get hold of they are pushing their own ideological agenda and engaging in a form of censorship. Everyone should be appalled at this, whether you agree with those campaigning to protect sex-based rights or not. Councillors defending this are an embarrassment to their office. 

From Sarah B

Tuesday, 5 September 2023

Chris S argues that because some books which s/he considers to be feminist-leaning are available, it's okay for other feminist books to be censored. This misses the point. The library shouldn't be censoring any books unless required to do by law.

Feminism is a wide topic and many books could be argued to fall under this heading. Just because the library has a section on Anne Lister or women's football, that doesn't mean that it's then fine for it to censor books on gender criticism.

What Chris is arguing is that the library should be above criticism because it has allowed books on 'some' aspects of feminism, and this gives the library service the right to censor other aspects of feminism that it doesn't like, namely gender criticism. That is wrong.

Calderdale libraries are rightly being criticised. They are there to provide the public with a wide range of books and not push their own worldview onto the public. Censorship is wrong.

From Vivienne

Tuesday, 5 September 2023

Alan Truman congratulates himself on his liberal credentials, but seems not to grasp that LGBT rights were stubbornly fought for by precisely the 60+ year olds he denigrates. Women who want to preserve sex-based rights do not wish to deny trans persons any human or social rights, nor do does anyone argue that they should be informally persecuted.

I recognise that fragile & vulnerable people, of all types, require care and understanding, & that a bedroom where consenting adults do as they please, shouid not be supervised by a government. I simply say there is a difference between sex and gender, and the law should be based on fact & evidence, not self-declarations. 

When a convicted intact-male rapist awaiting sentencing declares they are female, their crime is recorded as having been committed by a woman. If that is repeated on a large scale, it will completely skew policy & funding, & women, who are  mostly imprisoned for theft, will be observed to be increasingly violent.

It is not bigoted to assert that this is nonsensical. Nor is it insensitive or oppressive to say that when an adolescent girl is learning how to cope with menstrual products, she is entitled to privacy & dignity if she has to use a public loo, & doesn't want male-bodied strangers to be inches away. And it is simply a fact that male musculature, & growing up with the opportunities male privilege provides, offer an unfair advantage over athletes with female bodies. This is rationality, not hatred.

From Gavin Bate

Wednesday, 6 September 2023

I would like to comment on the general question of restricted availability of library books in general and the council line that as an HR matter this cannot be discussed.

Others have already addressed the trans versus biology debate and its impact on single sex spaces, so I will not focus on this, but to me, the council line seems most peculiar. Presumably the books in question have been removed from public shelves because a staff member at the library found their content offensive, or distressing to their sense of self. The staff member is entitled to make these views known to the library and to do so with a degree of privacy. Within a normal HR perspective the matter should be confidential insofar as it concerns the individual, unless the individual has themselves decided to go public. But that does not mean that the principles behind the decision are unable to be discussed in public, and for the council to be citing HR as a reason seems to me to be deliberately evasive and (I am sorry to say) less than honest

There are numerous books on the library shelves that contain material that some will find offensive. An obvious example would be religious material - some of which anticipates eternal torture for those it identifies as "sinners". It would be easy for atheists or followers of a different religious tradition to characterise this as hate speech. (This is particularly the case when non-believers, sinners, and "blasphemers" remain subject to murder or execution in quite large parts of the world).

But to start identifying legally allowable material to be removed from the public shelves, on the application of partisans of one side or other of an argument is a slippery slope, which can quickly become discriminatory in itself. The criminal law already bars gratuitously offensive material and that should be protection enough. From what I have read of the removed material it would seem that it is deliberately expressed in a non -inflammatory way, and is no more than a carefully argued and strongly felt contribution to a matter of public interest. Trying to get material that you disagree with banned from public display (whichever strand of opinion is pressing for this) damages the ethos of libraries wherever it takes place, . If library workers are unable to countenance the public discussion of current ssues via material that is made available on the library bookshelves they may be in the wrong job.

I think it is up to Calderdale Council, as an accountable public body, to explain its position more fully (without identifying any individual), and to stop hiding behind the fig leaf of HR.


The HebWeb raised the issue with Calderdale Council who replied: "All the books in our library collections are freely available. Although the books in our lending store are not visible on our library shelves, they are listed in our online catalogue and can be ordered for free." - Ed