Jacinda Ardern’s used to the sexist shit that slaps her in the face on any given day.
That’s why she’s reportedly “unfazed” by a recent Australian interview with 60 Minutes’ Charles Wooley. Despite the fact, the entire segment revolved around her appearance, charm, likability and, (I’m not lying here) the conception date of her unborn child.
Perhaps we should have anticipated what was coming, when the interview began with Wooley’s hard-hitting question of how a “nice person” like Ardern could find herself in politics. It’s hard to imagine a male global leader being faced with the same banal probe.
But Wooley’s questions regarding Ardern’s pregnancy and the couple’s aptitude to manage impending family life, were by far the most tactless and cringeworthy.
“There is one really important political question I want to ask you and that is, what exactly is the date the baby’s due?” Wooley said.
“It’s interesting how much people have been counting back to the conception, as it were.”
Sensing the couple’s uneasiness, Wooley added, “Why shouldn’t a child be conceived during an election campaign?”
“The election was done” said a visibly baffled Ardern, “and the baby was due on June 17. Not that we need to get into those details.”
But that’s okay really, because after Wooley’s creepy grilling– which saw Ardern and her partner palpably uncomfortable– he conceded that he was “somewhat smitten” with the NZ PM.
Not so much.
The internet blew up. Angry Kiwis (yes, there is such a thing) condemned the interview for its sexist and outdated skew. They dismissed Wooley’s personal line of questioning as misogynistic, while others labelled his tactics as “repugnant” and “painful.”
I assumed #60mins would have a second half of the Jacinda interview after the break that talked about her policies and political achievements. But… nothing. All we got was sexist comments about her looks and baby talk. Ugh. Absolutely shitful journalism… *changes channel* 🙄
— Priscilla Sutton (@trisgilla) February 25, 2018
Wooley’s response didn’t help his cause. “If you say somebody is attractive, my thesaurus defines it as 50 choices from good looking to gorgeous to likeable, there is so many different meanings,” Wooley told Newstalk ZB in New Zealand. He added that the segment had rated well, despite his wife accusing him of “gushing” over Ardern.
Defending the approach, Wooley said he hadn’t questioned Ardern about domestic policies such as housing or tertiary education because those topics wouldn’t interest an Australian audience.
But what about all those issues that directly affect Australia? The Paris Climate Accord for instance? Or New Zealand’s offer to take in Manus Island refugees? Or, what about that embarrassing episode where Julie Bishop threatened a prospective NZ Labour Government saying it would be “very difficult to build trust” if Ardern’s team had shared confidential information with the ALP.
There’s much to explore that an Australian audience would engage with.
The backlash to Wooley’s dinosaur interview proves that viewers aren’t buying old-school, cheap reporting anymore. We want more. A female Prime Minister having a baby in 2018 isn’t shocking. We accept that she’ll be able to juggle priorities successfully, given we see hardworking women doing this every day. Jacinda Ardern is not an anomaly.
Similarly, the way she looks is inconsequential. The fact she is young is only important when assessing how her youth may affect her leadership style. Could she be more progressive than past leaders? More innovative? More tech savvy? These are the things we’re interested in.
60 Minutes is soft journalism and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s true that viewers expect a more ‘human approach’ when they tune into these interviews. They want to be told a story. But this can be achieved without obvious gender biases, stereotyping and icky, creepy interviewing designed only to achieve ratings.
We’re better than that, and incidently, so is Jacinda Ardern.