Is it important that the new Danish PM is a woman?

Yesterday a local English language online magazine published an article with a headline saying the new Danish Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen is a woman. The headline has now been changed, which I think is a shame. There was a bit of backlash, from other women may I add, that her gender was irrelevant. One poster said you wouldn’t say the new PM was a man.  No there would not be a headline saying the new PM is a man as that is the norm for world leaders, sadly and not noteworthy. News has to be something that is different. A lot of people don’t really understand what constitute something newsworthy.

Also I think there is a level of complacency amongst Danish women, who were recently found to be the least feminist in Europe as Denmark is supposedly one of the best places in the world to be a woman {link} so there seems less to fight for.

So is it important that the new Danish PM is a woman? I would argue that it is very important. She is also the youngest PM ever at 41 years old and only the second female one. Both things are important. They mean that she can connect with more of the electorate on a personal level than a middle aged man. Her experiences are our experiences as women and younger people.

Just look at what is dubbed the ‘family photograph’ from 2018 G20 Summit in Argentina. Of the twenty, arguably most important, world leaders around this table were two women. So 10% of the participants, and women make up just over 50% of the world population. It is worth noting that both of these female world leaders have stood down now. There were eight participating  guests with one female in this group. Women are disproportionately affected by poverty, lack of education, poor work environments, and climate change, yet don’t have many seats at the tables of decision making. To say woman have equality now is to grossly misrepresent the reality for many women across the world, including Europe and the US.

The arguments on the Facebook discussion went around how we should look at her policies and not her gender. To me a PM’s policies should be looked at and scrutinised whatever gender they are, that is their job and yours as the electorate to look at whether a politician has the right policies for you. I have no doubt that it wasn’t only Frederiksen’s gender that garnered her votes and in many case it may have lost some.

It is more than politics. If girls see women in positions of power and influence then they see that this is something to strive for, not to just accept that politics and the boardroom is the realm of older men. If you don’t see yourself reflected in ambitious positions you won’t see this as achievable.

Equally it is important for boys to see women in these positions too. The PM before the last one here was a woman too and after she lost the election and Lars Løkke Rasmussen took over my then 6 year old son asked, in real innocence, if a man was allowed to be PM. I am sad to hear from today’s school children, here in Denmark and in the UK, that sexism is still rife.

Helle Thorning Schmidt was Denmark’s first female PM and she suffered a great deal of misogyny from her nickname ‘Gucci’ because of her love for designer clothes, because obviously male PMs are trotting around in cheap high street suits to the castigation of her taking a smiling selfie with Obama and Cameron at Mandela’s funeral. Neither men faced the same level of backlash despite behaving in the exact same way. This level of double standard is exactly why we need to acknowledge and celebrate a female PM for her gender because it’s still very much an issue for everyone.

We heard from various sections of the population in the US before the last presidential election that America isn’t ready for a female president. So I’m afraid that Mette Frederiksen’s gender is important. Women have not achieved equality in any real sense in many ways but notably in politics. So yes, let’s look at her policies, her track record and her future plans and actions, which I’m sure will be scrutinised even more due to her gender, but also lets celebrate the fact she is a woman, as if we don’t we do the next generation of potential female leaders, in whatever field, a real disservice.

 

 

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