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Pamela Moberg

Swedish Academy in turmoil

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You might have read in the press that the Swedish Academy - an institution founded towards the end of the 18th century - is on the brink of collapse. There are economic issues, members departing (they are actually elected for life), a bit of #metoo stuff, permanent secretary asked to resign, etc.etc.  I really do fear for this venerated institution - when six members already gone, who is there left to choose the laureate for the upcoming prize in literature? The situation is so serious so if they do not get their house in order soon, there might not be a prize in December. It is regarded as a monumental scandal here - I will keep you updated.

 

  

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Oh dear -- very sorry to hear about this.  I'm grateful for the heads-up, but so sad about the actual news.

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Posted (edited)

Hopefully they have time to right the ship before the autumn announcements.  

Edited by Jayne
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18 hours ago, Pamela Moberg said:

You might have read in the press that the Swedish Academy - an institution founded towards the end of the 18th century - is on the brink of collapse. There are economic issues, members departing (they are actually elected for life), a bit of #metoo stuff, permanent secretary asked to resign, etc.etc.  I really do fear for this venerated institution - when six members already gone, who is there left to choose the laureate for the upcoming prize in literature? The situation is so serious so if they do not get their house in order soon, there might not be a prize in December. It is regarded as a monumental scandal here - I will keep you updated.

  

It's very hard to imagine there won't be some kind of intervention to keep the Academy afloat...I suppose that might come with some changes (?). Will look for your reports.

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Not really important to the current goings on, but there is actually something ballet related here. A previous permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, Horace Engdahl, is actually very interested in ballet and has written a book: "Swedish ballet and dance: a contemporary view". At one time Mr. Engdahl and I both wrote articles and book reviews for a Swedish dance magazine.

His seat in the Academy is very rickety at the moment, probably he will have to leave. Well, if so, he is a professor of literature so he can always fall back on that and as a ballet critic! 

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The news are not good - no, this is what I called it at first - a turmoil (which is pretty serious). Now it has grown into a full blown scandal - heavens only know what will happen now. Odd things  happen - Ms. Sara Danius has favored blouses with a bow at the neck - now suddenly there are demonstrations in major cities where women appear with bows. To be quite honest I have rummaged through my drawers and next time I venture out I will wear a bow. Though I must say that I find the whole thing somewhat ridiculous  and infantile - but I understand that if there really has been harassment of women that must be stopped .  Well, one can only wait and see. but I do think it is rather tragic for an old institution which had a venerable reputation for so many years to come to this sad end. Tragic! (Sorry folks if this sounds like a Trump tweet) I did not mean it that way.

 

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Thank you for keeping us posted, Pamela. Looks like the rules make it difficult for the Academy to clean house. It seems as if most of the current crew need to go......

Quote

Rules also stipulate that a minimum of 12 votes are needed to select new candidates. Only 11 members are currently active following the recent withdrawals.

King Carl XVI Gustaf, who is the formal patron of the Academy, said reforms to the body might be in store, including giving members the right to resign.

 

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BBC is reporting that the husband of a board member groped Crown Princess Victoria at a 2016 meeting, in addition to other (less powerful) women.  A female security service person intervened, and there were 3 witnesses.  

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-43942106

 

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Sandik - "Yikes indeed". Well, I agree, this is way beyond what one is supposed to stomach.  Anyway, now it has been decided that no Nobel prize for literature will be awarded in December.

The other prizes, physics and so on, have nothing to do with the Swedish Academy and will be awarded as usual.

Must say, as a Swedish citizen, I find the whole thing a tad ridiculous - a guy patting the bum of the Crown Princess!  Now, really!!!  Is not that totally outrageous, but there was not a need for the total scandal that ensued. Well, we  will see what will happen - for myself I fear for the worst.

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I've seen more of the press coverage and was dismayed by the whole thing.  I hope that the Academy can reorganize itself and get back to the task.

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I've also been reading the press coverage...the pattern of sexual abuse by Arnault via his Academy connections seems to go back as far as the 1990s and the current list of women who have come forward is up to 18. As with other powerful institutions that have been in the news for similar issues, there seems to have been a pattern of ignoring or burying the attempts at reporting sexual misconduct/assault (different countries have different legal terms/distinctions and I am not familiar with Sweden's). It's disheartening to see all of the dirty laundry coming out in so many esteemed institutions, but hopefully this wave of accountability will bring needed change. Institutions, like families, tend to be "as sick as they are secret" when it comes to these things.

And I find the patting of the Crown Princess on the bum to be VERY telling of Mr. Arnault's attitudes. It seems to say that he respects women so little that even a royal title and the status it carries is negated by his view of women as sexual objects for his own ends.

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The problem with the “little pat on the bum” is that if we treat it too lightly, molesters think they can go much further, and have, without penalty.  

Would Prince William put up with his testicles fondled in an elevator as a minor tresspass of his personal space?

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On 5/6/2018 at 1:12 PM, Jayne said:

The problem with the “little pat on the bum” is that if we treat it too lightly, molesters think they can go much further, and have, without penalty.  

Would Prince William put up with his testicles fondled in an elevator as a minor tresspass of his personal space?

While I agree with the spirit of the analogy, you're looking at different strains of apples here -- fondling someone's "package" is like grabbing their "p-----."  And we know where that seems to lead. 

I think that patting someone on their a-- is a gender neutral insult -- an inappropriate action from anyone.

Arnhault's behavior overall is indeed disgusting, but after getting away with it for so long, I can see how he might think that he's in the mainstream.  One of the things I find heartening about the reporting aspect of "me too" is that we're in the process of making it clear these kinds of activities (from patting and groping to rape, and everything in between) are not ok.  They are wrong.  How we handle the knowledge that people we might admire otherwise have done despicable things is one part of the process, but just defining what those things might be is equally important, as I see it.

 

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Posted (edited)

Curious how you view sports games over the last fifty years such as coaches when a runner reaches the base, huddles, or music videos.

or all the explicit (forced or consensual) scenes in ballet, like Carmen, Romeo and manon prostitutes and manon's jailer , lady of camellias etc 

Edited by Vs1

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11 hours ago, Vs1 said:

Curious how you view sports games over the last fifty years such as coaches when a runner reaches the base, huddles, or music videos.

or all the explicit (forced or consensual) scenes in ballet, like Carmen, Romeo and manon prostitutes and manon's jailer , lady of camellias etc 

I'm not sure if this is a question or a comment -- I'm going to assume it's a question (forgive me if that wasn't your intent)

Sports are an activity where the goals are pretty clearly defined -- the way that they are played may reflect certain aspects of the culture, but the actual thing they are trying to do isn't necessarily tied to those behaviors.  (or, to be less academic, you don't have to be a jerk to make goals)

Artworks (ballets in this case) are a more complex problem -- the matrix of good and bad is more varied as it's modeled on stage and in the studio.  There is already a lot of discussion about the studio part (how do we deal with great art made by crappy people), but the work itself, as far as the stories it tells or the behaviors it models, is being discussed as well. 

Yes, many of the classic works are about some pretty crappy behaviors.  There's rape and prostitution, there's murder and extortion, there's profiteering and abuse and doubledealing and all sorts of awfulness.  And that doesn't even get into the more subtle aspects (Mel Johnson's plea for "no more pedophiliac Drosselmeyers" in an old commentary about Nutcracker is floating around here right now) that have more to do with individual interpretations rather than major plot points.

Pacific Northwest Ballet just performed a production of Yuri Possokov's RAkU, which include stalking and rape -- there was a lot of discussion in the press materials and in the audience, but in the end the company thought it was worth bringing a difficult topic to the stage, if only because it helped some people in the audience confront the issue, and possibly bring it to light in the "real world." 

Is art there to model good behavior, or to show us the complex outcomes of a wide variety of behavoirs, good and bad?

I think art isn't always at its most powerful when it works literally (or there would be a lot more ballets about standing in line at the grocery store behind someone that has more than 15 items or less).  Wheeldon's new Nutcracker for the Joffrey has an immigrant/single mother theme -- I didn't see the ballet and so don't have a personal opinion, but in general that aspect of the work didn't seem to get the most attention/praise from those who were there.

I have used your comment as a question, and yet have not really given you an answer -- I'm sorry for that.  I do think that what we see on stage does help shape us, and I do wonder about the long-term consequences of reinforcing conventional gender roles (more princesses need to rescue themselves, thank you).  But I worry about throwing out the baby with the bathwater, to use an old cliche.

Edited by sandik

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Posted (edited)

Well the commenter above seem to suggest conflating all behaviors and practically equating them. ("Everything in between")

Not being paid equally is not rape.

 

i don't think slapping a ball player on the bottom is part of the game (which structure you responded  to ) but I don't think most would be offended.

 

but I wonder what the ballet performer feels esp when young 

Edited by Vs1

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8 hours ago, Vs1 said:

Well the commenter above seem to suggest conflating all behaviors and practically equating them. ("Everything in between")

Not being paid equally is not rape.

...

but I wonder what the ballet performer feels esp when young 

Pay inequity is not rape, as you point out -- I don't think I implied it was.

As far as what performers feel/think about the characters they portray:  PNB usually holds Q/A sessions after performances, and during this recent run of RAkU, one of the men who danced the role of the predator was the speaker.  Kyle Davis said he was extremely bothered by the part, and had to work very hard to create a character that despicable.

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On 5/6/2018 at 4:50 AM, kylara7 said:

And I find the patting of the Crown Princess on the bum to be VERY telling of Mr. Arnault's attitudes. It seems to say that he respects women so little that even a royal title and the status it carries is negated by his view of women as sexual objects for his own ends.

 Serial sexual harassers are known for preying on lower-status women, who are less likely to speak out and less likely to be believed when they do. A demonstrated willingness to treat a woman with a title just as he would any other woman is arguably a very small point in M. Arnault's favor. :)

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On 5/5/2018 at 5:15 PM, Pamela Moberg said:

Sandik - "Yikes indeed". Well, I agree, this is way beyond what one is supposed to stomach.  Anyway, now it has been decided that no Nobel prize for literature will be awarded in December.

The other prizes, physics and so on, have nothing to do with the Swedish Academy and will be awarded as usual.

Must say, as a Swedish citizen, I find the whole thing a tad ridiculous - a guy patting the bum of the Crown Princess!  Now, really!!!  Is not that totally outrageous, but there was not a need for the total scandal that ensued. Well, we  will see what will happen - for myself I fear for the worst.

Thanks for the update, Pamela. I understand that Arnault is accused of a good deal worse than a butt pat. This was the right decision and given the current chaos, probably the only decision. Looks like the Academy will double up next year, giving out two prizes for literature:

Quote

The Nobel literature prize was not given out on seven occasions, primarily due to war but in 1935 because no candidate was deemed worthy of the prize. On a further seven occasions, the award has been postponed, as is proposed in this case.

 

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