Swedish Lucia advert sparks love and hate online

An advert for Sweden’s Åhléns has unleashed a heated online debate after the department store chain unveiled a new campaign featuring a dark-skinned child, whose gender wasn’t obvious to all, dressed as a Lucia.

Swedish Lucia advert sparks love and hate online
Photo: Janerik Henriksson / TT

Shortly after the campaign was launched earlier this week, racist and sexist comments began to flood the group’s Facebook page, questioning why Lucia was represented by a person of colour and whose gender wasn’t clear. The negative comments, however, were soon met with a strong response from people defending the Åhléns group’s choice of Lucia, prompting the involvement of Facebook groups and hashtags.

#JagÄrHär (I am here [for you]) quickly became one of the most popular hashtags used in the online dispute that ensued.

“It was only hate when we got to it,” Mina Dennert, who created the hashtag and Facebook group earlier this year to fight these kind of online hate attacks, told Swedish news agency TT.

On Sunday, the Åhlens campaign had received about 200 negative comments on Facebook against more than 20,000 likes or “love” reactions.

Although Sweden’s Lucia celebration hails from St. Lucy, a young Catholic woman who was martyred in Syracuse in 304 AD, the Swedish Lucia has often been represented by a stereotypical Swedish blonde, long-haired, woman. This, however, is no hard and fast rule and has in recent years become less and less the norm as the Swedish population is becoming increasingly eclectic.

“This is about racism, this is about sexism, this is about hating people,” Dennert said about the hateful comments, adding it was therefore a good situation to put the #IamHere hashtag to good use.