Despite Sweden’s reputation for progressive gender politics, two women have had to leave their positions in the wake of sexual abuse and harassment scandal for which they are being held responsible rather than the man who committed the crime.
Sara Danius was the first woman to serve as head of the Swedish Academy, a centuries-old committee which has awarded the Nobel Prize in literature since 1901, and Katarina Frostenson was a poet and member of the academy who was also forced to leave her work. Frostenson’s husband, Jean-Claude Arnault, is accused of sexual assault and harassment by 18 women over a 20-year period (Arnault has denied the claims and remains under investigation). Women around the country are showed their solidarity with these women by wearing one of Danius’ signature looks.
Like Hillary Clinton’s pantsuits, Danius is well known for regularly wearing pussy-bow blouses. Men and women are getting creative to show their support. Many without a pussy-bow blouse are using scarves to recreate the look to post on Twitter.
Alice Bah Kuhnke, Sweden’s Minister of Democracy and Culture, joined in as well, donning her own pussy-bow blouse. “I find it frustrating that such a conflict ends with two women having to step out of the way,” she said later in an interview with a Swedish radio station. “I can’t accept that.”
“Fight the corruption!” writes one woman sharing a photo. Another dedicates her post to “all women taking the fight against male harassment in the literary world and elsewhere.” Others still use the photo as an opportunity to tag Danius and express their support.
In support of #saradanius, and all women taking the fight against male harassment in the literary would and elsewhere, I wear a tie bow blouse today. #knytblus #knytblusförsara #teamsaradanius #backasaradanius #metoo pic.twitter.com/BWzoXZ4lCy— Annie Woods (@anniewoodsYA) April 13, 2018
I had to get out of bed to tie a bow to show my support for the permanent secretary Sara Danius, who was forced to leave the Swedish Academy which awards the Nobel prize in Literature #bowblouse #knytblus #knytblusförsara pic.twitter.com/Vx5TsJC8gM— senjalarsen (@senjalarsen) April 13, 2018
On Thursday, Danius announced that she would be resigning from the otherwise lifelong position. "It was the wish of the academy that I should leave my role as permanent secretary,” she told reporters. As the academy’s deliberations are highly secretive, it is not known who chose to oust her, though many women have spoken out in her defense. Danius also hired a law firm to investigate.
The pussy-bow blouse has a long-standing history of coming in and out of fashion just when women need it most. It was first popularized in the ‘50s and ‘60s by high end designers including Coco Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent as part of the then-radical idea of reworking menswear styles for women. It resurfaced in the ‘80s as a popular style among business women looking for an answer to the suits and ties of their predominantly male co-workers. The blouse has come into fashion once again with the rise of the #MeToo movement.
The scandal has divided the academy with three members quitting in protest. Two former secretaries of the academy, Sture Allén and Horace Engdahl, have publicly expressed critical opinions of Danius, describing the reaction to the allegations as “overblown” and calling Danius as a “weak leader.” To make matters worse, the New York Times reports that textile artist Anna-Karin Bylund reported Arnault to then-secretary Allen for sexual harassmen t in 1996 and he ignored it, saying, “The contents of the letter didn’t seem important.” Allen remains a member of the academy.
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