Jacinda Ardern was New Zealands’ youngest female Prime Minister. She also was the youngest sitting MP when she was just 28. She took New Zealand through the Covid-19 pandemic very successfully, implementing strict lockdown procedures and tight border control to stop the spread.
Despite her successful two terms as Prime Minister, the media surrounding her has been riddled with sexism.It didn’t take long for the media to start. Three months into her first term as Prime Minister, Ardern announced that she was 12 weeks pregnant. The interviewer made a comment about when the child’s conception occurred. That is disgusting. Ardern herself also discussed how it is unacceptable to ask a woman if she is planning to start a family. I doubt that her successor (Chris Hipkins, 44, male) has been asked the same question.
Boris Johnson had two children whilst Prime Minister, and in the 2019 general election campaign when asked how many children he had, refused to say. Let us just imagine that a woman refused to say how many children she had, I can picture all the vile, vulgar, and derogatory language that the press would use. But, Johnson remained unscathed. I also doubt that anyone asked Johnson when his children were conceived, or widely discussed the fact he announced that he and his now third wife were expecting their first child together just 11 days after his divorce to his second wife was finalised.
Not only have sexist comments been made about Ardern’s timing of having a baby, they have been following her through her time as PM. She has been asked if she dyes her hair to stop greys coming through and if she had met the Finnish PM Sanna Marin (because they were of similar age). Gosh, unimaginable that two women with the same occupation meeting, for any reason, other than they are women!
Her resignation stated that “I am human. Politicians are human. We give all that we can, for as long as we can, and then it’s time.” Ardern has said that it wasn’t misogyny or bullies that led her to resign but has said that it has “taken a lot out of me.” Upon announcing her resignation, the BBC had a headline that created backlash. The headline said: ‘Jacinda Ardern resigns: Can women have it all?’ I think they can. Ardern held a country together throughout 5 years of uncertainty, a global pandemic, passed laws that banned semi automatic weapons after a mass shooting at Christchurch mosque, created better parental leave, and banned anyone born after 2009 from ever buying cigarettes.
Ardern leaves behind her an incredible legacy and the implementations of policies such as banning semi automatics will have made lifelong differences in New Zealand. However, her tenure highlights how sexism is still rife in the media. The disparities between the way that men and women are portrayed are abominable and things need to change. Women can be successful as well as having a young family. Women can have it all.
“Jacinda Ardern August 2022 (cropped)” by New Zealand Government, Office of the Governor-General is licensed under CC BY 4.0.