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Booker Prize told to ‘do better’ after issuing tepid response to vice president Baroness Nicholson’s ‘racism and transphobia’

Vic Parsons June 24, 2020
Booker Prize Baroness Nicholson

Baroness Nicholson. (UK Parliament, cropped. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)

The Booker Prize Foundation has issued a tepid response after receiving complaints about “racist and transphobic” abuse shared by its honorary vice president, Baroness Nicholson, about Black model Munroe Bergdorf.

Baroness Nicholson, who has been a Tory life peer since 1997, has also been reported to the House of Lords standards commissioner for bullying.

In response to a number of complaints, the Booker Prize Foundation issued the following statement on June 23.

“The trustees of the Booker Prize Foundation wish to point out that the views expressed by Baroness Nicholson on transgender issues are her own personal views.

“Baroness Nicholson has herself recently said that she retired as a trustee of the Foundation in 2009, and was then made an honorary vice president.

“She has no role in the governance or operations of the Foundation. She is not involved in selecting the judges nor in choosing the books that are longlisted, shortlisted and win.”

The tepid response followed Nicholson repeatedly sharing “racist and transphobic” abuse about Bergdorf, who is trans, on Twitter.

Moreover, Bergdorf was called a “weird creature” by Nicholson, 78, who is the co-founder of children’s charity Lumos with anti-trans author JK Rowling.

In response to Nicholson’s tweets – which included sharing memes about anti-trans feminist Germaine Greer – people complained to the the House of Lords commissioner of standards, Lucy Scott-Moncrieff CBE, and wrote to the Booker Prize Foundation.

The Booker Prize Foundation’s response has been heavily criticised online.

“This is an absolutely despicable response,” the first person to reply to the statement said, adding the hashtag #BoycottBookerPrize.

Amid calls for Nicholson to resign, one person pointed out: “I doubt she would resign but she certainly should have had her honorary role withdrawn as soon as her bigoted comments were made. But obviously yhe Booker Prizes condone them if they’re keeping her on.”

Author Sam Baker added: “This is a non-statement and wilfully ignores her position on same-sex marriage. You can do better.”

And one person pointed out that a non-binary Dutch author, Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, has been shortlisted for the International Booker Prize, calling the Booker Prize Foundation statement “hollow”.

Earlier this month, Baroness Nicholson was widely condemned after launching an astonishing attack on equal marriage.

She suggested that the introduction of same-sex marriage in 2013 has degraded “the status of women and of girls… as a binary class”, saying nothing of the fact the law has given thousands of lesbian, bisexual and queer women the right to marry other women.

Children’s author Adam Kay also referred to this, saying: “Can you also please comment on her views on same-sex marriage and whether they tally with your values? Should she really have a position in your organisation, even an honorific one?”

Multiple commenters pointed out that the statement was “disappointing”, “worthless” and “not good enough”.

“This is somehow worse than saying nothing,” one person replied to the Booker Prize’s tweet.

More: baroness nicholson, booker prize, booker prize foundation, house of lords, Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, munroe bergdorf, racism, transphobia

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