What’s the greatest crime powerful women can commit? Daring to enjoy themselves. Sanna Marin, the Finnish Prime Minister, is proof.
On 19 August, social media went into overdrive after leaked footage emerged of Marin daring to have a dance and a drink at a private party. The sight of this young, successful woman enjoying herself quickly turned into a political scandal, with political opponents labelling her “unfit for office” and “reckless.”
The intensity of the backlash against the Finnish PM led to her having to deny ever taking drugs and undergoing a drug test after unsubstantiated claims of drug use began spreading in the media.
In a subsequent interview, Sanna Marin said, “I am human … During these dark times, I too need some joy, light and fun.”
She added, “I haven’t missed a single day of work. I want to believe people will look at what we do at work rather than what we do in our spare time.” All this, simply because a woman had the audacity to behave like her male counterparts.
The obvious comparison here is UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a man who continuously lied about attending parties during lockdown. Who, when caught in his lies, shrugged it off and demanded the public “move on” after the Sue Gray report outlined every drunken detail.
If Johnson had been partying outside of a global pandemic, there would have been no news. The ire he faced was due to the gaslighting a whole nation endured as they learned of loved ones’ deaths, unable to attend lest they face lockdown fines.
Marin isn’t operating in that political climate. Although Covid-19 is still an ongoing issue, she’s breaking no rules – nor lying to her country – by enjoying a night out. But she’s been met with arguably greater criticism than Johnson ever faced.
When Tory MP, Michael Gove, was seen dancing the night away in an Aberdeen nightclub in 2021, the story was one of amusement. He became the face of numerous memes, with no word said about unacceptable behaviour. The club’s owner, Andrew Taylor, praised Gove for his “incredible energy and stamina”.
It’s a stark contrast, one that isn’t limited to dancefloors, but within the Houses of Parliament itself. Caught watching porn, the now ex-Tory MP, Neil Parish, got away with his misconduct relatively unscathed. Despite facing some backlash, what he faced pales in comparison to what Marin is facing now or what a UK female MP would have faced if the tables were turned.
Unfortunately, Marin’s treatment isn’t anything new. Despite it being 2022 – a time that claims to be more progressive than ever before – the tale of misogyny remains.
Women are held to higher standards and forced to conform to rules that don’t apply to men. But even when men break the rules, the consequences they face are lighter, and easily forgotten because society has been conditioned to accept men behaving badly. Although many of us begrudge the “boys will be boys” ideology, it’s still prevalent, especially in positions of power.
Back in 2001, when then Deputy Labour Leader John Prescott punched a protester, he not only refused to resign, he refused to apologise. He engaged in physical violence yet was allowed to maintain his position with little fallout. Even today, 21 years later, people still celebrate its “anniversary.”
As sad a truth as it is, we expect less of men. We anticipate their indiscretions and admire them doing the bare minimum. When we see women in a similar position, our expectations drastically shift – we demand perfection. An unrealistic stipulation that increases in severity the younger the woman is, as if to say that she hasn’t earned her right to be treated equally, that she must pay her dues.
Powerful women are seen as a threat, a danger that can’t quite be fathomed. They’re treated as enigmatic, almost unpredictable, in an archaic viewpoint that stems back to yesteryears when women were seen as “too hysterical” to be in politics. Society now recognises that myth, but the fear of women remains, shifting the focus from hysteria to recklessness; the ever-changing target is that women are always held accountable, even when we don’t need to be.
If some of the most powerful men in the world can admit to “grabbing women by the pussy” while successfully evading every resignation and impeachment demand, a female PM partying shouldn’t even register on our radars.