An interview with New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has highlighted the sexist nature in which women in power are treated by the media. Australian journalist Charles Wooley has been accused of being ‘creepy’ and ‘repugnant’ after asking her questions about the conception of her unborn child and repeatedly referring to her level of attractiveness.
After introducing her with the statement ‘I’ve met a lot of prime ministers in my time, but none so young, not too many so smart, and never one so attractive’, Wooley continued his uncomfortably inappropriate tone by describing her as ‘young, honest and pregnant’ before describing himself as ‘smitten’ with her.
Many viewers picked up on the strange use of adjectives to describe a prime minister, with social media users highlighting the misogynistic and inappropriate tone of the interview. It became decidedly more uncomfortable when Wooley began referring to the conception of her child, asking her:
‘One really important political question that I want to ask you. And that is, what exactly is the date that the baby’s due?’
When she replied that her and partner Clarke Gayford were expecting on the 17th of June, he responded
‘It’s interesting how many people have been counting back to the conception ... as it were,’
‘Having produced six children it doesn’t amaze me that people can have children; why shouldn’t a child be conceived during an election campaign?’
Ardern, quite clearly uncomfortable, laughed off the strange question while rolling her eyes and stating, ‘the election was done. Not that we need to get into those details.’
The overly personal questions continued throughout the entire interview, with Wooley failing to ask her any questions about her policies, his most political question being:
‘How did a nice person like you get into the sordid world of politics?’
To which Ardern responded, ‘nice people go into politics’.
While she has since stated she didn’t find the interview offensive, although admits being taken aback by the conception question, viewers have taken on the offense for her.
Wooley has defended his interview in a typically ignorant fashion, stating he did not find his line of questioning off colour, and that the Australian audience wouldn’t be interested in questions about Ardern’s domestic policies. He said:
‘If you say somebody is attractive, my thesaurus defines it as 50 choices from good looking to gorgeous to likable, there is so many different meanings,
‘On 60 Minutes, they want to see this wonderful couple. I just loved being with them, I thought they were so much fun, such a breath of fresh air, you know it was just terrific to be with them.’
Regardless of the lack of interest in domestic policies, it is quite clear his treatment and use of language around the PM was gendered. The is little doubt that he wouldn’t use similar adjectives to describe a male prime minister or ask about the conception of their children.
It serves as further proof that education and change is still necessary in the way we talk about women in the media and in general life, especially those in power, as the implications of our language change the way the public perceive a person’s capability in their job. Treating someone differently on the basis of gender only perpetuates the archaic ideals that women and men can’t fulfil the same responsibilities to the same level of success. Clearly, 60 Minutes Australia is yet to learn this lesson.
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