Pray for the poor Finnish people, whose society is being eroded by twin toxic menaces: dancing, and having a good time. These noxious influences have already overtaken the Prime Minister, Sanna Marin, who was seen in leaked video footage dancing and lip-syncing to a song at a private party. Earlier this week, another image was leaked of two of her friends, topless with a sign reading “Finland” over their breasts, from a party Ms. Marin hosted at the Prime Minister’s official residence in July. It is unclear whether the country’s reputation will ever recover. Indeed, if the Finnish people aren’t vigilant, these malignant activities – combined with the corrosive influence of rock music (the kind with swear words) – will catapult the country back to its primitive state, before the Northern Crusades.
Outside of political and puritanical circles, Ms. Marin was simply doing what many 36-year-old women do when they have spare time: let loose with friends, share some drinks, take pictures and videos (granted, most try to keep clothes on when the phones come out). Women who have children and/or important jobs are known to partake in these activities also, to the chagrin of those who might prefer ladies sip mocktails and share sleep training tips when they become of a certain age and status. Perhaps Ms. Marin didn’t get the memo. Or perhaps, to her greater credit, she does not accept that she has to abstain from perfectly normal, legal, inoffensive behaviours because she is a politician, and that politicians need not be catatonic chess pieces to be respected government leaders.
External forces are making that hard, however. Ms. Marin’s activities became news mostly because opposition leaders decided to make them so (Finns Party leader Riikka Purra called on her to take a drug test, which she did and passed) and they became controversial because she is a young, conventionally attractive female leader who doesn’t look like your typical politician. And as such, all it takes is a little slip – or lip sync – to make her look like even less of a politician.
An editorial published last week in Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat suggested that Ms. Marin’s partying itself was not necessarily the problem, but that her choice of friends was. “Marin has shown poor judgment in making her own reputation and the institution of Prime Minister dependent on people who should not be trusted,” it read, pointing out that Ms. Marin is one leak away from political disaster. It also noted that she had been caught partying before – back in late 2021, when she went clubbing despite a COVID-19 exposure (she said she left her work phone at home, thus missing a text message advising her to isolate). It’s worth noting, however, that these “leaks” that have the opposition in a frenzy were not of state secrets, or policy, or government affairs, but of thirtysomething women participating in perfectly normal, harmless activities.
It’s almost too obvious to point out the double standard at play here. Around the same time Ms. Marin’s dancing sent critics grasping for the smelling salts, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was feted for chugging a beer at a rock concert (granted, the Aussies have a much more laissez-faire attitude toward these activities compared with the Finns). Plenty of male leaders have behaved in ways that are far less befitting of a head of state, including U.S. president John F. Kennedy, who had his way with interns and celebrities while partying at the White House, Bill Clinton, who had an affair with a White House intern and lied about it, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who permitted and attended parties in contravention of his own government’s COVID-19 lockdown rules, and Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose infamous “bunga bunga” parties eventually led to his political downfall.
Ms. Marin’s behaviour doesn’t approach that level of debauchery: she merely danced in front of a camera. And she did so while pursuing membership in NATO, chaperoning her country through the COVID-19 pandemic comparatively well, signing ambitious new climate change targets and navigating a complex geopolitical situation with Russia amid the war in Ukraine. While many of her critics were doubtful, back in 2019, that she’d be able to handle such complex files when she was elected as the world’s youngest serving head of state, she has gone on to prove those critics wrong, all while attempting to maintain something of a work-life balance.
Ms. Marin’s only mistake, if she indeed has made one here, is apologizing for the “inappropriate” photo that was taken at her residence. Politicians should be permitted some harmless fun; rest assured, Finnish society will survive.
The Globe and Mail
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