As Hillary Clinton comes to the defence of the Finnish prime minister, our deputy digital editor explains why sexism and double standards are at the heart of the recent clubbing controversy
She’s under 40, she’s stylish, she dons a leather jacket and she likes to enjoy herself, god forbid. That probably sounds like any other young, 30-something woman you know, but where Sanna Marin differs is that she has been tasked with one of the most demanding jobs in the world – governing a nation. But as it turns out, she does it fairly well. She led Finland’s fight against Covid, shepherded her country’s bid for NATO membership, she has also vowed to protect the welfare state in an “environmentally sustainable way” and, perhaps most telling of all, her popularity is steady, with a 55% approval rating.
But things recently took a turn for the Finnish prime minister, landing her in a little bit of hot water when leaked footage of her partying with friends surfaced online, followed swiftly by another video of her at Helsinki’s Klubi nightclub dancing with a group of musicians and models (sounds quite fun actually) appearing. Marin – who when she was first elected as the country’s prime minister aged a rather tender 34-years-old was the world’s youngest elected leader – has since had to defend herself against critics calling for her resignation.
But there has been a flurry of supportive voices coming to her aid too, with many women in both Scandinavia, and the world over, posting similar videos of themselves kicking back and enjoying a tipple and hitting the dance floor under the hashtag #solidaritywithsanna. Now, female politicians are also following suit, with Hillary Clinton having recently posted her own photo of solidarity on Instagram.
Like Marin, Clinton is someone who has also experienced first-hand sexist critics attempting to thwart her and undermine her bid for power. We all remember the chilling calls of ‘Lock Her Up!’’ that echoed across the Republican National Convention, and beyond, in the lead up to America’s 2016 presidential election. Political double standards permeated the Trump vs Hillary election race and Clinton, like a number of female politicians, was often held to a higher standard than her male counterparts. Case in point: when she had to contend with her every communication and email being painfully raked over, while Donald 'You Can Do Anything' Trump seemingly sailed on through to the White House.
Here in Scandinavia, many male politicians have also shown themselves to be far from the shy and retiring types and more than capable of a political bumble, to no apparent effect, particularly when it comes to enjoying a drink or two. In fact, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, Denmark’s former prime minister, had his fair share of red-faced moments, which unsurprisingly didn’t seem to stop him from proceeding to the highest political rank in the country. Back in 2004, Løkke Rasmussen, then finance minister, along with Venstre's foreign affairs spokesman Søren Pind, reportedly drank an eye-watering 20 shots of schnapps and five beers together at a lunch ‘meeting’ at Cafe Petersborg, in Copenhagen.
The rather impressive liquid lunch came to a total of DKK 1,095, including DKK 781 for alcohol, and was paid for by none other than the Danish taxpayers. But what is perhaps the most grinding thing about this story is not only did Løkke Rasmussen face little to not reprimand, but he went on to have a glittering political career, holding office not once, but twice as Denmark’s top guy in 2009 to 2011 and later in 2015 to 2019.
Beyond the clear double standards at play here, isn’t it a little short-sighted to hold our political leaders to such extreme, unachievable standards? On the one hand we want those in office to be ‘just like us’, to reject the upper echelons of political elitism (no private school here thank you) and to understand the trials and tribulations of the common folk that they represent. But then on the other hand, there are those that are loudly criticising the 37-year-old for being irresponsible (read uncommitted) whilst in office, for failing to accept the confines of what a ‘real’ politician should look and act like. Marin, who has defended herself as being a "real person" and "an individual," was simply demonstrating that she has a healthy private life beyond the high-intensity world of Finnish politics.
And still, surely our representatives lives should echo ours, as far as this is possible – no, this doesn’t mean I want Marin to be spending her Saturday’s binge watching the Gilmore Girls and refreshing the Net-A-Porter sale, but it does mean that yes, her Friday nights should, like most young people who have spent a hectic week at their busy nine-to-whenever jobs, be spent with friends, letting off steam and batting away burnout like there’s no tomorrow (or Monday morning). I see no gain in having an unrelatable, distant prime minister who is inaccessible and detached from her young electorate. And as a tearful looking Marin pointed out, she too wants “for joy, light and fun amidst the dark clouds”. Isn’t that something we all need, and want, in order to live a happy and fulfilled life?
As Hillary says: ‘Keeping dancing, Sanna’ and we wholeheartedly have to agree.