Politics can be somewhat controversial so it’s been a topic I’ve avoided covering on The Workher but I feel now it is time to get over that and share my thoughts. I’ll keep personal political party choice out of this.
With a celebrity culture forming around our female Prime Minister in New Zealand, who happens to have a baby on the way, who’s responsibility is it to lead the conversation in the media?
We have Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at the helm of the country. Is it a big deal? We’ve had a female before – two in fact. But recently Ms Ardern announced she was pregnant. And she knew when she was trying to land that top job.
So she kept it quiet. Of course she kept it quiet – that part I totally get. That’s standard. Keep it quiet for the first three months in case something happens (arguably an old-fashioned rule of thumb, but that’s a conversation for another time.). She had a short window to try and fulfil her dreams of becoming Prime Minister, so she had to go for it #LeanIn.
Did she leverage her pregnancy when in negotiations with Mr Peters, vying for that top spot and to get her party in position? That, I’m afraid, we might never know the answer to.
A huge positive we can all take from this is the inspiration for women around the world. For all those working mums, and young women weighing up when to have a baby, how to juggle kids and a career, it’s clearly doable. And I love that.
Now that everyone’s slowly moving past the breaking news – the shock of a woman in a high power position being pregnant, my goodness! – will the baby conversation reduce? This is my worry. The media will be all consumed with the gender, the morning sickness, the nursery reveal and the baby clothes.
We’ve already seen it with Ms Ardern’s fashion choices. Ooh look she’s wearing this fancy designer dress but the vest was bought second-hand. What about the shoes?! Talk about a distraction from her actual job.
Whilst a lot of us might take guilty pleasure in diving into fashion articles and baby gossip, does it really need to be the central focus of political conversations and mainstream news? Yes a little might be okay (especially when it comes to baby chat that might be helping to break taboos and reduce gender inequality in the workplace) but what about the actual running of the country?
Finally we’re starting to see some other types of news articles surfacing, with Waitangi Day in particular. So let’s hope that’s where the focus stays – away from her personal life and instead holding her accountable for the success of New Zealand.
Some would argue this is out of the control of the Prime Minister, those decisions are up to the media. They choose what they print. And yes, part of it is that way, I get it, publishing companies need to sell their ad spaces and they’ll write what’s going to get them the most clicks and eye-balls. And that responsibility has got be partly on society for clicking through (seriously, people.).
However, those with PR experience or knowledge will know that the person or company, in this case our Prime Minister, has a choice in what they are giving to the media. They have a huge amount of power when it comes to delivering information to the press – whether it be through statements, media releases, interviews, social media. What they are dishing up is what’s being served. On a great big shiny plate of political power.
So the onus should be on Ms Ardern to bring the conversation back around to what should be the focus – running our country.
Further to this, we have this entire celebrity culture forming around Ms Ardern. Of course this comes with being Prime Minster (in any country in fact). But with New Zealand being so small, usually our attitude to celebrities is much different to others across the globe. We have such small degrees of separation, it almost doesn’t feel real here when we have local “celebs”. It’s on a totally different scale.
I feel the celebrity status for Ms Ardern is growing far more than it has for her predecessors. And in such a short space of time. She climbed that political ladder so quickly (which is admirable yes in so many respects, but also slightly worrying in terms of experience for such a high-pressure role.) But does this celebrity culture forming around her come down to Ms Ardern being a young and attractive female? Do we all deep down get caught up in this?
Perhaps it is because she’s a female that I think these things. If it was a male, such as when we had Sir John Key, I’m not sure if I thought twice about it? I really hope not but it is something I fear.
So Ms Ardern faces a long road ahead – leading the country, juggling a personal life, the media and the choices in what goes to the media. But she took that responsibility on when she ran in the race to lead the country. So we’ll judge on results and results alone.
I feel there are big things to come. Who knows how long Labour will be in power and what successes or damage any political party can make in their tenor. We’ve seen so many crazy (and scary) things happening the world over, particularly when it comes to politics.
I wish our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern all the best with the baby and her career.