My love affair with Sweden has hit a road bump.
A nude painting named Juno, which was painted by baroque artist G E Schröder and has hung in the dining room of the Swedish Parliament for 30 years has been taken down for fear of offending the sensitivities of feminists and Muslim visitors, Swedish newspaper, The Local reported on Thursday.
Explaining the ban on the baroque breasts, a source from the parliament said: "You have to think of the foreign guests, especially those from Muslim countries."
The deputy speaker of Sweden's parliament, Susanne Eberstein, also a prominent Social Democrat, added:
"I think it is more a feminist issue. It's tiresome (looking at) a bare-breasted woman when I sit at public dinners with foreign guests. I think it feels a little hard to sit there with men who look at us women."One humourist in Britain wondered why Swedish lawmakers could not have emulated the famous English comic Mr. Bean (who once posed in a movie as an art critic) and get someone to paint a bra on top of the offending mammaries in order to preserve modesty and thus prevent offence.
In Sweden, the move is being lambasted as political correctness gone mad. It is not clear whether the Swedish Parliament will now stop taking women, and guests from Muslim countries to art museums.
Sweden is known for a conflictual relationship with issues of tolerance. The country recently attracted international attention for allowing a convicted paedophile man in his 60s to adopt a young child.
As a lover of art and history, I am baffled by censorship of this kind. I recall the how ridiculous it was when Brigham Young University refused to exhibit Rodin's The Kiss because it allegedly lacked "dignity" (i.e., it depicted nudity). Come on folks! Rodin is the foremost sculptor of the modern era. The Kiss is an exquisite piece and one of his most famous. It is not degrading or offensive in any way. The fact that Sweden seems to be going the same direction is scary given their otherwise stellar track record on religious issues. I think the issue here is that Sweden is the most gender-equal country in the world. Recently, the country proposed to have politicians use gender-neutral pronouns in order to break down any difference between genders. However, there is a big difference between "art" which might allegedly exploit women and historically significant art that depicts women in ways consistent with that historical period. If anything, such depiction can provide opportunities for education about gender stereotypes in the past.