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Jacinda Ardern and Sanna Marin asked if they met because of their age

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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin hit back after a male reporter suggested they meet only because they were the same age – a question that quickly sparked accusations of “casual sexism” against young people in the media. , called female world leaders. .

The two held one news conference in Auckland, New Zealand, on Wednesday after their first face-to-face meeting – which Ardern described as a “historic occasion” that marked the country’s history first visit of a Finnish Prime Minister.

The two said they had discussed their country’s responses to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and their concerns about the crackdown on demonstrators in Iran. They emphasized their countries’ shared values, including “multilateralism and a rules-based international order,” Ardern said, while Marin noted that “Finland and New Zealand are among the oldest democracies in the world.”

But one reporter zoomed in on what he felt was the most important thing that 42-year-old Ardern and 37-year-old Marin had in common. “A lot of people will ask, ‘Are you guys just going to meet because you’re similar in age and have a lot of things in common there — when you guys got into politics and stuff — or can Kiwis actually expect more deals between our two countries down the line? ?” asked the reporter from New Zealand radio station Newstalk ZB.

Ardern replied, somewhat incredulously, “I wonder if anyone ever asked Barack Obama and John Key if they met because they were the same age,” referring to the former New Zealand Prime Minister who died five days after the former U.S. president was born. .

“Of course we have a larger share of men in politics, that is the reality. Because two women meet, it’s not just because of their gender,” Ardern said. Shen went on to describe trade relations and economic opportunities between the two countries, adding, “It is our job to promote them, regardless of our gender.”

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Meanwhile, Marin said with a laugh: “Of course we meet because we are prime ministers…we have a lot of things in common, but also a lot of things where we can do a lot more together.” She added that she particularly wanted to reduce her country’s dependence on “authoritarian countries” when it came to technology and natural resources.

The age and gender question drew criticism in local media, where it was described as “not so subtle sexism” and “casual sexism.” The protectormeanwhile soon made a video titled, “The many times Jacinda Ardern has faced sexist questions from reporters.”

Both leaders have faced an inordinate amount of questions targeting their age and gender in the past.

When Ardern became prime minister in 2017, reporters focused their questions on whether she planned to have children or take maternity leave. After her pregnancy was announced in 2018, a reporter also focused on her appearance and asked when her baby was conceived — a series of questioning viewers criticized as “creepy”.

Women dance in solidarity with Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin

Meanwhile, Marin was heavily criticized by political opponents after videos emerged of the Finnish leader partying with her friends at a private event. Critics described her as unprofessional – even as others rallied to support her, likening it to older male politicians playing golf.

Women remain under-represented in politics, with only 28 countries represented by elected women leaders, according to UN Women figures from September. “At the current pace, gender equality in the highest positions of power will not be achieved for another 130 years,” the UN agency added.

In what could be a sign of the rarity of seeing two female world leaders together on stage, many of the questions asked by the other reporters at Wednesday’s press conference also focused on Ardern and Marin’s gender.

Reporters asked if they’d considered how to be role models for other women, if young women leaders should work harder to avoid criticism of their personal lives, and how Marin felt about being described in the New Zealand press as the “party prime minister” from Finland. .

“It’s very good that we have free media, that we can look critically at politicians,” Marin said. However, she added: ‘I also want to show an example, that different kinds of people can be politicians. … I think it is very important that we can also show the youngest generations that you can be yourself and still be political.”

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