Seven hours into the job as the newly appointed leader of the New Zealand Labour Party, Jacinda Ardern was forced to defend her capacity to lead– given she, you know, has a womb.
Appearing on TV show ‘The Project’ Ardern was accosted by host Jesse Mulligan about her future plans to start a family.
“I’ve got a question and we’ve been discussing today whether or not I’m allowed to ask it” he said.
Already an ominous start.
“A lot of women in New Zealand feel like they have to make a choice between having babies and having a career or continuing their career. So, is that a decision you feel you have to make or that you feel you’ve already made?”
Ardern’s response was respectful but clear. “I have no problem with you asking me that question because I have been very open about discussing that dilemma because I think probably lots of women face it.”
She concluded that her situation was hardly different to any other women (or men for that matter) working long hours and managing a multitude of competing priorities and responsibilities.
The next day though, on breakfast radio, Ardern was subjected to an even less subtle line of questioning. Mark Richardson, the host of the AM show, demanded the new leader reveal her baby-making agenda under the bizarre, ignorant and just plain wrong, assertion that New Zealanders had a right to know whether their potential prime minister might take maternity leave.
Seething, Ardern turned her chair and pointed directly at Richardson, before saying, “It is totally unacceptable in 2017 to say that women should have to answer that question in the workplace, it is unacceptable, it is unacceptable.”
Richardson’s co-host Amanda Gillies applauded the new Labour leader as she continued: “It is a women’s decision about when they choose to have children and it should not predetermine whether or not they are given a job or have job opportunities.”
The exchange between Ardern and Richardson has been making the rounds on social media with commentators’ quick to point out the hypocrisy of the situation, given male politicians are seldom asked the same thing.
— WomenAotearoaNZ (@WeavingHouse) August 1, 2017
If you’re wondering why the reaction to Jacinda Ardern baby q, it’s b/c NZ women have been reminded they’re baby makers first and foremost
— Frances Cook (@FrancesCook) August 1, 2017
Equal employment opportunities commissioner, Dr Jackie Blue wrote a particularly scathing piece for the Spinoff website which summed our feelings up perfectly.
“Male hosts of two TV3 shows made it very clear to their audiences that they would desperately like to know what Jacinda’s intentions for her womb were,” she wrote.
“Quite frankly, whether a woman intends on having children or not, is none of their bloody business. Oh, and by the way, it’s illegal to ask those questions.”