Retail giant H&M has been accused of glamorising rape after unveiling its Girl With A Dragon Tattoo collection.
The range, inspired by the film of the same name, features leather jackets, hoodies, mini-skirts and boots, all in the edgy style of the protagonist Lisbeth Salander.
Salander, played by Hollywood actress Rooney Mara, is traumatised by a violent rape, yet transforms from victim to avenger in the hit Steig Larsson adaptation.
But in an open letter on her blog, rape victim Natalie Karneef claims H&M is “putting a glossy, trendy finish on the face of sexual violence and the rage and fear it leaves behind.”
She continued: “I wonder if you’ve considered how a survivor of sexual violence chooses her or his fashion choices. I wonder if your designers researched what we think about when we get dressed, how some of us will opt against a revealing outfit because we’d rather not deal with unwelcome advances or sexist slurs.’
Lisbeth Salander, played by Rooney Mara, is the victim of a violent rape
While Karneef makes clear she believes women should be free to wear what they want, she points out: “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 Lisbeth Salander, it's because I want to send a message to men: to stay the f*** away.”
Writing for the Montreal Gazette, she asked: “What message is H&M sending to the world?
“’Look at the trendy rape survivor? Look how strong she is, that she can get through all that hell and still wear cool leather jackets?’”
In response to Division Designer at H&M Anna Norling’s comments that she is “proud” of the line because Lisbeth is “the very essence of an independent woman”, the film’s star is in fact “severely emotionally scarred” after years of abuse and violence.
Karneef said: “If H&M really believed in promoting the essence of independent women, it would donate to organisations that promote prevention and help the survivors of gender-based violence, not create a fashion line to glamourise it.”
H&M have apologised for causing offence by the collection, but added: “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.”