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The important reason women in Sweden are wearing pussy bow blouses

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Susan Devaney
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Two women in Sweden have been forced to step down from their jobs in the wake of a sexual abuse scandal engulfing the body of the Nobel literature prize. Now, women are turning to social media and pussy bow blouses to show solidarity.

From actresses wearing all-black ensembles to the Academy Awards to women opting for all-white outfits to the Grammys, fashion has proved to be powerful in the progression of the #MeToo movement and Time’s Up initiative in 2018.

Now, women in Sweden are following suit by showing solidarity in the wake of a sex scandal, with their sartorial choice of the pussy bow blouse.

The movement comes after Sara Danius and Katarina Frostenson were forced to step down from their positions at the regulating body for the Nobel Prize for literature. In protest, women have taken to social media wearing the blouses.

Here we break down everything you need to know about the escalating scandal, and subsequent string of resignations due to one man.

What’s the backstory? 

In November 2017, a Swedish newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, ran a story about Jean-Claude Arnault, a leading cultural figure in Sweden, accused of allegedly sexually assaulting and harassing 18 women over a 20-year period. Arnault has since denied all accusations made against him and remains under investigation.

However, Arnault is married to Swedish Academy member and poet Katarina Frostenson, and the pair run a cultural club together. According to the The New York Times, the club has, in the past, received money from the academy. 

Sara Danius, a literary historian and head of the academy (the first woman to hold the post since its foundation in 1786), had the task of deciding how the academy would react to the alleged accusations. In short, Danius made the executive decision to cut ties with Arnault and hired a law firm to investigate the business relationship between both academy and club.

But, after a three-hour meeting in Stockholm on Thursday 12 April, Danius stepped down from her position. As too, did Frostenson.

“It was the wish of the academy that I should leave my role as permanent secretary,” Danius told the Swedish press.

The Swedish Academy appointed a new head, Anders Olsson, a writer and professor of literature, the following day, after the king of Sweden and the Nobel Foundation, which funds the world’s best-known literary award, said the scandal risked damaging its reputation.

The reasons for both Danius and Frostenson stepping down remain unclear – especially since the academy’s 18 members are appointed for life and are not permitted to resign. 

How are people responding on social media? 

After Danius stepped down from her position on Thursday, people have started sharing photos of themselves wearing pussy bow blouses on social media platforms, using the hashtag #knytblusförsara (tied up for Sara). 

Alice Bah Kuhnke, Sweden’s Minister of Democracy and Culture, posted a photo of herself in a white pussy bow blouse. Later, Kuhnke told a Swedish radio station: “I find it frustrating that such a conflict ends with two women having to step out of the way,” she said. “I can’t accept that.”

“In support of #saradanius, and all women taking the fight against male harassment in the literary world and elsewhere, I wear a tie bow blouse today,” one person posted, while using a scarf as a makeshift pussy bow. 

“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,” another person posted. 

“Fight the corruption,” another user wrote. 

Men have also gotten involved by tying their scarves or ties around their necks in the shape of a bow, too.

What’s the significance of the pussy bow blouse?

The pussy bow blouse was first popularised during the Fifties and Sixties, by French designers Coco Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent, and was looked upon as a reworking of menswear for women. However, the blouse then resurfaced again in the Eighties as business attire for women in the workplace.

Not only is the pussy bow blouse Danius’ signature sartorial staple, but the blouse has found its place in fashion once more since the last USA presidential election and #MeToo movement.

After Melania Trump wore a bright pink take on it for a presidential debate in 2016, the irony was not lost on the public. Just weeks before, Donald Trump had bragged about “grabbing women by the pussy”. Some believed it to be a quiet protest from her.

Then, actress Emma Stone wore a pussy bow blouse in support of Hillary Clinton during her presidential campaign.

And now, women across Sweden are wearing them in solidarity with Danius and Frostenson. 

Arnault denies all claims of criminal activity and other allegations brought against him.

Images: Getty / Twitter / Instagram