On the day of an annual photo shoot for the school yearbook, Hanna Bolander's class came up with the idea that one of the girls should bare her breasts, and Bolander volunteered.
“My classmates are politically active. We just thought somebody should take a stand and show her boobs and it just felt natural,” she told The Local.
And she doesn’t regret it in the slightest.
“I just thought: Why shouldn’t I be able to do that if guys can take their tops off? It was kind of spontaneous but I do really care about these questions.”
Bolander pointed out that she had met men with bigger breasts than hers and they never felt the need to keep them under wraps. As a feminist she should be free to reveal as much flesh as the opposite sex, she said.
“I think it’s a social construct that we should think of breasts as such a big deal.”
Bolander, who studies aesthetics and theatre, said she was surprised but pleased that her school had gone ahead and published the yearbook despite their reservations.
“My principal and the photo company weren’t thrilled but they respected it and said they just wanted to inform me of the risks.”
Her equally topless male friend was not given any such information, she noted.
Reactions to the photo have mostly been positive she said, and her family gave their full backing despite being “a bit scared”.
With the story making waves in the Scandinavian press, Bolander said she had noticed a stark difference between Swedes and Norwegians.
“The strongest reactions have been in Sweden, and more Swedes were against it. Norwegians were just like: that’s great, well done.
“My favourite reaction came from a Norwegian man in his seventies who told me if he had a granddaughter who’d done this he would have been so proud.”
The 19-year-old said she would continue to fight for equal rights, “but I don’t see the need to show my breasts all the time”.
Feminists in Sweden have previously fought for the right to bare their breasts in public. The Local has reported on topless activists who in 2009 won the right to swim without their bikini tops in Malmö’s public swimming baths.
Hanna Bolander has published the full photo on her blog.