Back in the 90’s Genesis sang “I can’t dance.” I fear from the past week that there is once again a double standard being applied by the media to our leaders, as it seems this lyric only applies to women in politics. I am of course referring to the absurdity of the double standard being laid at the door of the Finnish Prime minister, Sanna Marin.
With too many examples to list, Boris Johnsons “party-gate”, David Cameron’s “Pig-gate’ and closer to home Don Harwin’s holiday home getaway, there are many examples of men breaking rules, and in some cases laws, with little more than slaps on the wrist and a 2-paragraph article on page 6, showing them up for their misdemeanours.
Yet, here is a woman who came from a broken home and was certainly not raised with the political or actual silver spoon in her mouth, yet she has not only successfully led her country through the COVID-19 pandemic but has navigated her way through a border with a country currently waging war on another. Many would play ostrich to this aggression from a neighbour, yet she has had the conviction to stand up for the same thing that landed the Ukraine in the gaze of Moscow, a NATO membership.
However, as the youngest head of state, she was elected at 34, one who is breaking the barriers of what is expected, attending music festivals and becoming a style icon and a mother, she is also balancing the tightrope of the Victorian era expectations of “how one should behave.” Regardless of how antiquated these opinions are, they have not disappeared, and the descendant, mainly male, voices are not missing an opportunity to shout down this young progressive leader.
Whatever your political leaning, you do not have to agree with her political views to surely agree, there is a significant double standard being waged here.
In a private moment, with supposed friends, she did not break the law, a point she is now taking a drugs test to prove, she did not endanger anyone with her actions, and she did not act in a way which would be seen to embarrass or lessen the position of Finland on the world stage. Yet, the nay-sayers are arguing, from their dusty robes and plaid studies, she is behaving inappropriately for a PM and wouldn’t be able to use sound judgement in the event of a sudden crisis. Yet this attitude from the crusty old relics in the corner does make me reflect on past leaders, no one questioned Churchill, who in an actual war would often be known for having wine with breakfast, whiskey for morning tea and Pol Roger champagne at lunch.
Maybe these nay-sayers should read a little Churchill as (to paraphrase) Yes, she was drunk, but you (and your opinions) are ugly. Tomorrow she will be sober, and you will still be ugly.
Fortunately for Churchill, and unfortunately for Marin, the world of social media is now too accessible. The “being in the know” or “having the skinny” no longer requires you to have been there but being on a friends Instagram account when they post a video of a private party and uploading that to a papers website. This lack of privacy is surely a wider point than a woman, enjoying a legal evening with friends in private?
To circle back to where we started Genesis also sang in their song “Gators getting close, hasn’t got me yet”. Unfortunately for women in the political sphere this is still the reality. Hopefully one day it will change, but for now I say, you can dance Sanna.