The Swedish Academy has been, up until now, a relatively secretive organisation that is responsible for awarding the Nobel prize for literature. Over the last week, however, it has been rocked by scandal, culminating in the resignation of two female Academy members.
Sara Danius, the first woman to ever serve as the head of the Academy, and poet Katarina Frostenson have both left their posts after the latter’s husband was accused by at least 18 women of sexual misconduct. Jean-Claude Arnault, a prominent cultural figure in Sweden, has been accused of molesting women at his private literary club, which received funding from the Academy. He has denied all accusations but, while Danius severed the Academy’s ties with him, growing tensions and various clashes have resulted in her being ousted from her position. Sweden is outraged by the decision, with one columnist for the newspaper Aftonbladet writing: “The crisis at the academy is about a man, and yet it’s the women who have been sacrificed.”
The scandal has proved particularly shocking in a country renowned for its progressive approach to gender politics; once again, women are being punished for the alleged misconduct of a powerful man
Over the weekend, the outrage turned to protest, with men and women using fashion to express their anger and support of Danius. Known for her love of pussybow blouses, Danius inspired the hashtag #knytblus – the Swedish term for pussybow – which was trending on Twitter in Sweden, as thousands of people started posting pictures of themselves in their own pussybows. Leading politicians even joined in, including Sweden’s innovation minister Mikael Damberg, minister for infrastructure Tomas Eneroth and culture minister Alice Bah Kuhnke, who said on Instagram “feminist battles happen every day”.
The scandal has proved particularly shocking in a country renowned for its progressive approach to gender politics; once again, women are being punished for the alleged misconduct of a powerful man. What is comforting, however, is the overwhelming support for Danius from the public and even male politicians, as exemplified by the pussybow protest.
Fashion has recently become a vehicle for protest in the wake of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements. The Golden Globes saw some of Hollywood’s most famous women dress in all black, to signal their solidarity with those speaking up against Harvey Weinstein et al. The slogan T-shirt, birthed by Katharine Hamnett during the 80s, is now more popular than ever, with everyone, from Dior to Topshop, creating tees with empowering, feminist slogans that have galvanised generations of women. And then there were the pink pussy hats that became the symbol for last year’s Women’s March. Highly visual and impactful, the pussybow protest is the latest example of how undeniably powerful fashion can be.