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Edinburgh’s Radical Bookshop

Home of Word power Books

To platform or not to platform: Where we stand.

We are at our core an intersectional and inclusive radical bookshop. What this means is that we recognise myriad vectors of oppression exist in our society, based on race, gender, sexuality, class, physical ability and neurological divergence….and that they are interrelated. We do not believe in the zero-sum rhetoric that some of these oppressions must be resisted at the cost of others, or that any particular one is of primary importance.

Through the books we stock and the events we host, we always strive to platform a wide and diverse range of voices. There are however limits to who and what we are willing to platform, and going forward we want to make these parameters explicitly clear.

We have absolutely no interest in - or obligation to - platform anyone whose ideas and arguments diminish or exclude people based on any aspect of their identity, either by stocking their books or inviting them to events.

There may be those who object to our use of such restrictions in the context of a progressive, radical bookshop on the basis of free speech. To them, we say the following: the notion of the ideologically neutral space is a myth.

The so-called “marketplace of ideas” favours already-entrenched power structures, and does little to resist corresponding systems of oppression. Lighthouse is a space which is explicit about its ideology, and we thus reserve the right not to platform writers and speakers whose work amplifies oppression of any sort. Furthermore, free speech absolutism carries with it a disregard for the violence that words can do to vulnerable people, and ensuring that the Lighthouse remains a safe space for those who need it is of primary concern to us.

We believe it is necessary to illustrate these points with an example currently generating much discussion in radical circles, that of trans rights.

As an explicitly feminist bookshop, at a time when there are fundamental disagreements in the movement, we feel it is important to re-state clearly that ours is an inclusive, intersectional feminism, and that we thus reject all politics that marginalize or target any woman, including trans women.

In our view, trans-exclusive rights campaigns, whether they call themselves feminist or use the term “gender-critical”, are reactionary rather than radical, and knowingly cause harm to women. As such, people and organisations who share such views with the intention of spreading misinformation that harms trans and non-binary people have absolutely no place on the shelves of our bookshop or speaking at any of our events.

These statements are not intended to be intimidating, but rather act as a summary of our position in as direct and dispassionate a way as possible. We feel this directness is necessary because groups seeking to demonise or marginalise trans and non-binary people under the banner of feminism have been disruptive at various recent radical and anarchist gatherings in the UK.

At Lighthouse, we believe that we rise together, or not at all. We want to forward the cause of the most persecuted, exploited and overlooked. If we raise the lowest bar, we elevate everyone - but if we pull the ladder up behind us we are no better than those who persecuted us.

Many of us have the privilege of not needing to check whether we are safe and included in radical and feminist spaces. This policy is intended as a statement of reassurance to those who unfortunately do. It is first and foremost meant to let our staff and our whole community know that the bookshop (and all its events) will be a safe and welcoming space for them.

The feedback we’ve received in emails, messages and feedback forms over the last two years suggests that we have been successful in maintaining a space that is welcoming, accessible and thought-provoking to visit. That said, we have also received a great deal of online abuse, mostly through social media (much of which was so hateful it was found to be in breach of Twitter rules), all of which took direct issue with our explicit inclusivity, namely the championing of all vulnerable women - including those who are trans, and those who are sex workers. We make no apology for this.

This purpose of this statement necessitates a grim tone, but going forward we will seek to use more positive rather than negative language, making noise about what we stand for rather than what we oppose.

If any customers have legitimate concerns about this policy, they are welcome to discuss them with us in a constructive fashion, but we will not give time to people who act in bad faith and from a position of prejudice. We owe nothing to those who are not a part of the bookshop community - who do not browse or buy our books, who do not attend our events, who do not visit for anything other than a chance to stand on a soap box and pontificate.

It is not “shutting down the debate” if we refuse to discuss, for example, whether trans women are women; to hold such a debate would itself be immoral. No serious discussion is ever held in progressive circles about whether human rights should apply to all human beings, for example, because a truly just society should stand upon certain bedrock principles which are not up for debate. Such is the case here, as far as we at Lighthouse are concerned.


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