Prime Minister Ardern speaking at Otago University / Facebook
If someone as accomplished and resilient as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern can be seriously referred to as a ‘poor wee thing’, then I suppose any woman can.
I say woman because, despite his tendency to ham it up, often on purpose, sometimes rather by accident, I can’t remember John Key being referred to in any way vaguely similar.
Ardern has long been a target for people’s condescension – it was years before she became Prime Minister that a prominent member of the then-government told her to ‘zip it, sweetie’. Just recently, the leader of the opposition called her ‘dear’, while three years ago she was a ‘pretty communist’.
Of course, during the Simon Bridges era (when? what?) she was a ‘Part-Time Prime Minister’ – a Trumpian moniker with sexist undertones – until she was ‘benefitting from wall-to-wall coverage’ as she led the nation through an unprecedented pandemic. (One wonders how she can be a part-timer, who also speaks in front of the nation every single day.)
The thing is, if I were of a different political persuasion, and was trying to take on Ardern, I would simply admit that she’s a strong, competent leader. It doesn’t take anything away from your argument to say, ‘Ardern has achieved some great results, but I would do things differently’.
A female National voter that I have spoken to at length has acknowledged that she can’t stand when people condescend to Jacinda Ardern – and that though she holds a different perspective to Ardern (mostly economically) she considers her to be a great role model for young girls.
I agree – I plan on giving my party vote to the NZ Greens, but you would never catch me patronising Ardern’s achievements (except in the general way that we should patronise all politicians).
Ardern is something of a lightning rod for this kind of behaviour but, naturally, it’s not exclusive to her. Greens MP Chloe Swarbrick was recently referred to as a ‘celebrity’ by her female opposition, despite being one of the most articulate young MPs of a generation and, over in the States, Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is constantly up against it (even by female members of her own party!).
In my view, the tendency to denigrate young, female high achievers is behaviour awash in sexism – and yes, even when it comes from another woman (as it often does). It can be easy (and often superficially beneficial) for women to act as agents of the patriarchy. When they put other (typically young) women down, they ostensibly boost their own status within the male-dominated power structure. But women cannot win within a system that works against them. They can only close the door behind them and narrow the path ahead.
I think the world is scared of young women. They are scared of our power, our intelligence, and our ability to mobilize. They are scared of us throwing open that door, toppling the current structure, calling more women in. Why else would they spend so much energy keeping us down? Why else would they tell us we’re dumb for wearing makeup but ugly if we don’t? That we’re flighty and flippant but also need to cheer up? That we need to get involved in serious issues, but no, not like that!
So no, I don’t think Jacinda Ardern has been a perfect leader (granted, she’s only had one term, has faced multiple crises, and has been held back by a coalition partner) but I would never denigrate her intelligence – only a blinkin’ idiot would do that.Support Villainesse