On Saturday, I browsed around a Liverpool bookshop. It’s a co-op, with a radical ethos, and “alternative” atmosphere. It has a table with a pile of petitions on it, and a very extensive Mind Body and Spirit section. You know the kind of thing. I was looking for a particular book in the fiction section, but rather than a straight A-Z listing, they have organised fiction into particular types, so that the shelves start with Asian fiction, then Black fiction, and so on. To add to the confusion, the lower shelves are organised alphabetically, containing those books which, presumably, don’t fit their eccentric system. As I browsed, I got to L, which is Lesbian fiction. Fine, except there’s a notice on the shelf saying that this section is for women only. I was tempted to browse furiously there, or even to buy one of the books just to see what would have happened. Would alarms go off? Would burly female bouncers chuck me out?
Imagine if Waterstones had a section which restricted browsers by gender – “this section is for men only…” There would be an outcry, wouldn’t there, led by people exactly like those who run this bookshop. They’d probably get up a petition.
I couldn’t find a copy of the novel whose title gives the bookshop its name. Maybe I didn’t see the White Male Victorian Utopian Vision with Arts and Crafts Overtones section.
Wimmin Only by Dr Rob Spence is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.