Waterstones faces criticism after TikToker Tilly Loves Books was sacked over threats to destroy ‘gender critical’ books

Waterstones has come under fire for sacking a bookseller who claimed she would rip up and throw away an author’s novel because of the author’s 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 violating the retailer’s social media policy during a conversation with author Christina Dalcher.

Ms Dalcher was criticised by Ms Fitzgerald after the author appeared to support a new publishing network for people ‘concerned about the impact of gender ideology’ and the protection of women’s rights.

This prompted Ms. Fitzgerald to write on X/Twitter, “Ooh, I’m excited to rip up your books today and throw them in the trash. Thanks for the tip.”

The bookseller was subsequently fired and she tearfully expressed her grief on social media, explaining her position on Ms Dalcher’s books.

She said it was not her intention to have the author removed from Waterstones shelves. She said only that she did not wish to endorse the author personally.

“My initial comments were not intended to cause anyone to cancel or remove their books from the store. I was talking about my choice to throw my own books away from them because I didn’t want to support them personally,” she wrote.

The bookseller was distraught after she had found her dream job with flying colours.
The bookseller was distraught after she had found her dream job with flying colours. (Tilly loves books)

The situation has since led to a heated debate about freedom of speech, with many arguing that she had every right to post the comments on her own initiative and that this was no reflection on her skills as a bookseller.

Speak with The independentMrs Fitzgerald added: “I am absolutely devastated that this has resulted in me losing my job and my love.

“I acknowledge that my comments violated the social media policy and I have apologized for any distress caused. However, I believe the punishment was disproportionate and a warning would have been more appropriate.”

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

“I just want to make it very clear that this decision came from the corporate 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 store. 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 enjoyed walking into a Waterstones store. That changes today with the news of @tillylovesbooks,” one supporter wrote on Instagram.

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

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. (FATHER)

A third user criticized the bookstore for its support of Pride Month, given the bookstore’s recent actions.

“As many have said – the dismissal of @tillylovesbooks not only seems unfair but also does not look good for you, Waterstones,” they wrote.

Another commenter said the book influencer did a fantastic job promoting Waterstones through her platform.

“Bad job @waterstones, bad job,” they wrote. “@tillylovesbooks does nothing but sell your store and her love for her role there.

“It seems like a knee-jerk reaction to tweets from someone who can’t have a dissenting opinion. Is this the right way to treat your loyal team members? Have you really looked into it, talked to your employee?

“The PR won’t look good on you with book lovers. I think you should write a review soon!”

Mrs. Fitzgerald emphasized that she was referring only to her own books and not to the author's books on display in the store.
Mrs. Fitzgerald emphasized that she was referring only to her own books and not to the author’s books on display in the store. (Tilly loves books)

The issue has caused such a stir that the bookstore is still trending on Twitter/X this morning, with numerous users calling for the bookstore to be reinstated and for a boycott of Dalcher’s books.

A user also noticed that a Waterstones account had retweeted a post by Scottish author Irvine Welsh, in which she questioned what a woman is.

“Hi @Waterstones, I assume that since you were so quick to fire a member of staff for their comments about a transphobic author, you will also fire the member of staff who retweeted this from the @WstonesLeeds account?” the poster wrote.

“Or is it okay because they’re reposting transphobia?”

Ms Fitzgerald further told this publication: “I was an exemplary employee as evidenced by my appraisals and statements from my team. I have seen comments about me destroying backlogs, 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 remove books from an author I no longer wish to support based on their behavior.

“I am so grateful for all the support people in the book community have shown. The last person I would call myself is an activist (although I am always in awe of those brave enough to fight so tirelessly), but for me it’s pretty simple – we just let people be who they want to be and start with kindness.”

Waterstones told The independent that they are an inclusive employer, that follows the correct procedures in HR matters and for obvious reasons cannot comment on individual cases.

The independent has contacted Christina Dalcher for comment.