Culture

NZ’s New Labour Leader Spent Her First Day Clapping Back Against Crazy Sexism

"That is unacceptable in 2017."

Yesterday the leader of New Zealand’s Labour Party resigned, and deputy Jacinda Ardern took over the top job.

Naturally there were plenty of things for the media to talk about! Why, for example, had the Labour Party switched leaders just seven weeks out from an election? Also, how significant it is that her new deputy is the first Maori person to snag that job in Labour’s history.

Instead, it took less than 24 hours for pundits to start slinging around gossip about her love life, microaggressions about her appearance and experience, and reducing her to her reproductive system by asking whether she feels a need to choose between having babies and her career…

In Ardern’s first 24 hours on the job this question came up multiple times. After she initially fielded the question on NZ’s version of The Project, a couple of blokes on The AM Show felt like it was a-ok to have a yarn about whether it was an appropriate question to ask, while the women in the room visibly cringed.

Sports presenter Mark Richardson then offered the inspired argument that the people of New Zealand have the right to ask Ardern this stuff as her potential future employers (y’know, if she’s elected PM), because “if you’re an employer of a company, you need to know that kind of thing from the women that you’re employing, because legally you have to give them maternity leave”.

Never mind that doing that is workplace discrimination, and is the very reason that giving people maternity leave is legally required in the first place.

Undeterred by how garbage his take was, Richardson then went on to develop the next stage in the world’s worst expanding brain meme.

“So therefore the question is,” he said, speaking over the woman sitting next to him, “is it okay for a PM to take maternity leave while in office?”. No one was proposing this happen.

Ardern, to her credit, handled the questions incredibly well. She noted that given that she’s been open about the issue in past, she’s “happy to keep responding to those questions”.

She then turned to Richardson, pointed right at him, and ripped him a new one. “For other women, it is totally unacceptable in 2017 to say that women should have to answer that question in the workplace,” she said. “That is unacceptable in 2017. It is the woman’s decision about when they choose to have children.”

“It should not predetermine whether they are given a job.”

Richardson then got defensive and talked about bosses needing to make decisions, using a lot of male pronouns for this hypothetical boss.

“I love the way you’re saying [the boss] is a man,” Ardern interjected.

“I’m not saying ‘don’t employ that person’,” Richardson said, to which Ardern replied “then why ask?”

If you’d like to hear a tedious debate we should no longer be having play out with Kiwi accents, you can see the full thing in the video here. Ardern is, of course, far from the first woman in the politics — even NZ politics — to have to deal with this kind of thing. New Zealand’s long-serving Prime Minister Helen Clark was long criticised for her decision to not have children in the early 2000s.

It would be nice to think we’ve moved on at least a little bit since.