Outrage in Sweden as 2 women pressured to leave Nobel group

Outrage and photos of blouses sprouted Friday across Swedish social media in support of the ousted female leader of the prestigious academy that awards the Nobel Prize in Literature.

'Feminist battles happen every day,' Swedish culture minister says on social media

Outrage and photos of blouses sprouted across Swedish social media and beyond on Friday in support of Sara Danius, the first female leader of the prestigious Swedish Academy that awards the Nobel Prize in Literature. Danius is believed to have been ousted, along with another female member, over the alleged sexual misconduct of a man linked to the group. (Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images)

Outrage and photos of blouses sprouted Friday across Swedish social media in support of the ousted female leader 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 Sweden's 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.

"Feminist battles happen every day," 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 Danius' departure, including Social Affairs Minister Annika Strandhall, actress Helena Bergstrom and fashion designer Camilla Thulin.

Upheaval of academy membership

Danius, a 56-year-old literature professor and the the Swedish Academy's first-ever female leader, resigned on Thursday night after a contentious three-hour meeting.

Members of the secretive academy are appointed for life and resignations are extremely rare.

Shortly afterward, the academy announced that another female member, Katarina Frostenson, was "leaving." 

Frostenson is Arnault's wife, prompting some in Sweden to note that it is sexist to punish a wife for her husband's alleged abuses.

Swedish author Katarina Frostenson, whose husband faces multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, also said she was leaving the academy on Thursday. (Olafur Steinar Gestsson/AFP/Getty Images)

The prestigious academy has been in turmoil after the resignations last week of three men — Klas Ostergren, Kjell Espmark and Peter Englund — 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 Arnault's, 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 — chiefly men — go against Danius and all those who supported her have now left the academy.

Before the departures of Danius and Frostenson, seven of the academy's 18 members were women.

In a statement, the academy said Thursday night that "Frostenson has announced that she is leaving her assignments ... with the hope that it [the academy] will survive as an institution."

Neither Frostenson nor the academy would elaborate.

Danius appears with British writer Kazuo Ishiguro, the 2017 Nobel Literature Prize winner, in Stockholm in December. (Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images)

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.

Links to #MeToo, Time's Up movements

Bah Kuhnke, the culture minister, said she was following the crisis at the academy "with sorrow."

"The conflicts obscure the important work of this independent [cultural] institution," she said, vowing as culture minister that "I will do everything in my power to protect art and literature's freedom and position."

Since a wave of allegations of sexual harassment and assault against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein started last fall, multiple men in entertainment, media, politics and beyond have faced allegations ranging from inappropriate sexual behaviour to rape.

Sweden itself saw thousands of sexual misconduct allegations surfacing.

"The aftermath of the autumn's many calls from thousands of women continues. Now it is enough, we refuse to go back," Bah Kuhnke said.