Women are busting out their moves on social media to show support for Finland’s prime minister, Sanna Marin — and to remind the world that politicians are people, too.
But many women have rushed to the dance floor and posted videos on social media tagged with #SolidarityWithSanna to call out what they see as unfair, sexist treatment of Marin. They argue that the criticism she’s faced has been unjustifiably doled out because she’s a young woman in a sphere dominated by older men. And the clips have been viewed more than 100,000 times on TikTok alone.
When Rikke Dal Stottrup and her staff at the popular Danish women’s magazine Alt for Damerne heard the news, they had a sense of deja vu.
They recalled that tall, blond Helle Thorning-Schmidt — Denmark’s prime minister from 2011 to 2015 — was constantly bashed for what she wore when she held office.
“It seems like certain people still today have a hard time comprehending the fact that you can be both a young woman ... and a competent politician at the same time,” Stottrup said.
Amid last week’s controversy, employees at Alt for Damerne, which translates to “Everything for the ladies,” scoured their devices for their own dance clips. Then, they posted the videos on the magazine’s official account, with a caption that translates to “In solidarity with Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin ... we at Alt for Damerne editorial office emptied the camera roll for clips that never ... should have seen the light of day.”
“We wanted to emphasize the fact that you can be a great prime minister, CEO, editor, nurse — insert job title — and hit the dance floor on weekends, too,” Stottrup said. “If we want to have more diversity ... we have to expand our view on what a politician can look like. We have to accept the whole package and not just what we historically have been used to.”
Melani McAlister, a professor of American studies and international affairs at George Washington University, said the backlash against Marin reminded her of how Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) was chided in 2019 when a video resurfaced of her dancing in college. (Ocasio-Cortez responded with a new video of her dancing in front of her office.)
“Someone thought that this could become an issue even though it’s clearly a tempest in a teapot,” McAlister said of Ocasio-Cortez’s viral clip. “The fact that she’s female, the fact that she’s young, and ... the fact that she’s a minority positions her to have to be securely upright to deserve or to be seen to deserve her position of power.”
McAlister said that although critics demand a higher standard from young women and others who are underrepresented in politics, Marin’s partying isn’t anything out of the ordinary and is socially comparable to how older male politicians golf. As more young adults take up government positions, she said, constituents will have to adapt to what the age group does outside of work.
“As long as [Marin] manages to continue to call this out for what it is, then good for her,” McAlister said. “She’s not letting it get more traction than it should have.”
Vitriol from Finnish rivals of Marin may seem contrary to the reputation of the Nordic country, which has often been considered one of the top industrialized nations for gender equity, said Eiko Strader, a GWU sociologist and assistant professor. But country rankings do not tell the whole story.
“Finland seems to be doing much better than other countries, but if you look at labor market indicators like earnings and managerial representation, Finnish women still lag behind Finnish men, because social and cultural norms that cannot be captured through standardized measures shape our everyday lives,” Strader said in an email.
Stottrup said that although sexist attacks lobbed at female politicians are likely to persist around the world, supporters will continue to band together.
As she put it: “We probably still have some decades ahead before we won’t see any more of these cases, but the Sanna Marins of the world should know that we’re right behind them. Dancing.”