April 24, 2018

A Very IgNobel #MeToo Crisis, Part Två


A couple of weeks ago, we wrote about some #MeToo drama that has sent the Nobel committee into a full-on Blåsväder (a Swedish cousin to our own “shit storm”). Well, the Blåsväder has yet to abate. In fact, things are really stinking for the Swedish Academy right now.

For those new to the story, it’s a doozy. Jean-Claude Arnault, husband of Academy member Katarina Frostenson, was investigated for sexual misconduct stemming from claims by eighteen different women. Arnault’s heinous behavior and subsequent societal downfall have opened such a sink hole that Frostenson’s role as lifetime appointee to the Academy—the body that awards each year’s Nobel Prize in Literature—has been jeopardized.

After Frostenson was investigated and cleared of having any prior knowledge of her husband’s crimes, three of her fellow board members, all male, resigned in protest. Now, three more have now voluntarily stepped down: Frostenson, Lotta Lotass, and, as we wrote a few weeks ago, the Academy’s first-ever female permanent secretary Sara Danius, who has been criticized for her handling of the situation by other members of the committee. In a twist, the nuances of that criticism have turned out to be overtly sexist, and the Swedish public are just not having it.

As Jan M. Olsen and David Rising report for the Associated Press, Danius’s ouster has led to large-scale protests being held outside the Swedish Academy, calling for the resignation of all remaining board members. Women among the protestors took to wearing pussy bows, a nod to a style favored by Danius. The look has become a rallying symbol for the protest movement. Even Sweden’s cultural minister posted a selfie in solidarity.

“There are still differences, in wages and in honors and in professions,” Birgitta Hojlund, who traveled hours to attend the protests, told the AP. “[It should] recreated from the bottom, and balance male and female.”

“They’re pushing women away, saying that sexism is OK, in this academy,” said Torun Carrfors. “They should leave, and we need to have new ones.”

Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustav, in a statement noting how the scandal has endangered the reputation of the Nobel, has said he is having discussions with the Nobel Foundation about implementing term limits on the Academy’s members. “The number of members who do not actively participate in the academy’s work is now so large,” he said, “that it is seriously risking the academy’s ability to fulfill its important tasks.”



Michael Barron is an editor at Melville House.