Outrage in Sweden as 2 women pressured to leave Nobel group
This photo posted on the Instagram account of Alice Bah Kuhnke on Friday, April 13, 2018 shows the Swedish Culture minister posing for a photo in support for ousted head of the Swedish Academy awarding the Nobel Prize in Literature, saying the âfeminist battle happens every day.â Kuhnke is seen wearing a white high-neck blouse with a knot, similar to those worn by the academyâs former member Sara Danius who stepped down Thursday. In Fridayâs posting, Bah Kuhnke added the hashtag #knytblus _ Swedish for knot the blouse tie. (Johannes Bah Kuhnke/Instagram via AP) April 13 at 11:00 AM
STOCKHOLM â" Outrage and photos of blouses sprouted Friday across Swedish social media in support of the ousted female lea der of the prestigious academy that awards the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Many in gender-neutral Sweden are upset that two highly respected women are being forced out of top positions, effectively paying the price for the alleged sexual misconduct of a man, Jean-Claude Arnault, a major cultural figure in Sweden.
The departures came after a week of turmoil that has shredded the reputation of one of Swedenâs most famous cultural institutions and prompted both the Swedish king and the Stockholm-based Nobel Foundation to demand that the group get its act together before it tarnishes the reputation of the Nobel prizes.
âFeminist battles happen every day,â wrote Swedish Culture Minister Alice Bah Kuhnke, who posted a picture of herself Friday in a white high-necked blouse with a knot like those worn by the official, Sara Danius.
Other Swedish women also posted blouse pictures as anger grew over Daniusâ departure, including Social Affairs Minister Annik a Strandhall, actress Helena Bergstrom and fashion designer Camilla Thulin.
Danius, a 56-year-old literature professor, resigned from the Swedish Academy on Thursday night after a contentious three-hour meeting. Shortly afterward, the academy announced that another female member, poet and writer Katarina Frostenson, was âleaving.â
Members of the secretive academy are appointed for life and resignations are extremely rare.
Frostenson is Arnaultâs wife, prompting some in Sweden to note that it is sexist to punish a wife for her husbandâs alleged abuses.
In a statement to Swedenâs TT news agency, Danius said she had agreed to become the leader of the Swedish Academy âbecause I perceived a support for the ambition to cautiously but purposefully modernize the academy.â
âCaring for an inheritance must not mean arrogance and distance to society,â added Danius, who joined the academy in 2013.
âEthics must be in the highest seat ... crimes and cheating must be reported to the law enforcement authority,â she said. âThe academy should be a force that clearly acts against untimely power relations or womenâs degradation.â
The prestigious academy has been in turmoil after the resignations last week of three men â" Klas Ostergren, Kjell Espmark and Peter Englund â" who quit after the 18-member academy voted not to remove Frostenson.
Arnault was banned in December by the Swedish Academy from attending a Nobel banquet after the Swedish paper Dagens Nyheter published allegations from 18 women claiming to have been assaulted or raped by him.
Arnault denies the alleged assaults, which reportedly occurred between 1996 and 2017. Swedish prosecutors said last month that an investigation into reported rape and sexual abuse by Arnault from 2013 to 2015 had been dropped, but a probe into other criminal acts would continue.
Earlier this week, academy member Horace Engdahl, reportedly a friend of Arnaultâs, lashed out at Danius in a scathing editorial where he accused her of being the worst permanent secretary ever. It seems Engdahl got his supporters to go against Danius and all those who backed her have now left the academy.
Before the departures of Danius and Frostenson, seven of the academyâs 18 members were women.
On Wednesday, the Nobel Foundation sharply criticized the Swedish Academy, saying it had damaged its own reputation and was threatening to tarnish the reputation of the Nobel Prize itself.
Bah Kuhnke, the culture minister, said Friday she was following the crisis at the academy âwith sorrow.â
âThe conflicts obscure the important work of this independent (cultural) institution,â she said, vowing as culture minister that âI will do everything in my power to protect art and literatureâs freedom and position.â
Since a wave of allegations of sexual harassment and assault against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein started last fall, men in many fields have faced allegations ranging from inappropriate sexual behavior to rape.
Sweden itself saw thousands of sexual misconduct allegations surfacing.
âThe aftermath of the autumnâs many calls from thousands of women continues. Now it is enough, we refuse to go back,â Bah Kuhnke said.
The academy commissioned lawyers to investigate the ties between the Nobel body, its members and the cultural center led by Arnault. It announced Friday that the report is ready and said a press release on it will be sent out next week.
Olsen reported from Copenhagen, Denmark.
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