When it was announced that H&M would release a Girl with the Dragon Tattoo-inspired line designed by the film’s costume designer, Trish Summerville, some die-hard Lisbeth fans balked. Lisbeth, a loner misfit who shuns society, wouldn’t be down with the the commercialization of her image, was the criticism. Summerville’s appropriate response? “She’s a character from books,” she told the NY Post. “So she doesn’t really have a voice in it.” But a new, more serious, issue has come to light regarding the collection, in stores on December 14, and the fact that Lisbeth’s character is a rape survivor.
The WSJ noticed some internet rumblings about the questionable propriety of basing a clothing line on a rape victim, whose experiences essentially cause her to “retreat into a dark, genderless, punk shell of a life — with a tough-but-listless wardrobe to match.” Lisbeth Salander is one of those literary characters who stays with you a long time after you shut the book–just imagine how strongly she must resonate with people who have had similar experiences.
Writer Natalie Karneef, who is a rape survivor, posted an open letter to H&M about the collection. She made some really thoughtful points about what a rape victim thinks about when getting dressed–that concept of clothing as armor–and about the issues she faces getting dressed everyday:
I am an ardent supporter of the Slutwalk movement. I believe that what a woman wears should not have any bearing on whether or not she is sexually assaulted or harassed. But many of us who have been there still decide against the short skirt. We place our bets, hoping that our camouflage will protect us from a rude catcall in a subway station, and the subsequent anger, shaking, tears. When I dress in the spirit [of] Lisbeth Salander, it’s because I want to send a message to men: to stay the fuck away.
In the letter, Karneef takes H&M to task for glamorizing a wardrobe that has roots in such awful emotional trauma. And it’s something that we, who have been lucky enough not to be the victim of such a disgusting crime, didn’t really consider.
We understand why H&M wanted to do this collection–there’s the obvious Swedish connection and Lisbeth has a strong sartorial point-of-view. But should they have considered the motivations of her sartorial choices?
UPDATE: H&M replied to our request for a comment about this story with the following statement: “We have read the open letter by Natalie Karnef [sic] and we apologize if she or anyone has been offended by the Stockholm collection – this has not in any way been our intent. The collection is based on and inspired by the film and character Lisbeth Salander and though we think Lisbeth is a strong woman who stands up for her ideal, we are not trying to represent her specifically. Our goal is to rather offer a collection that we see in today’s trend picture that will appeal to many customers. We do not view this collection as provocative—it contains pieces that are staples in many people’s wardrobes: jeans, biker jackets and t-shirts. It’s all about how you wear them. We encourage our customers to find their own personal way to wear our products.”