Jacinda Ardern was elected leader of New Zealand’s Labour party on Tuesday. Already, she’s been grilled twice about her plans to become a mother and says the questions are “totally unacceptable” for other professional women to be asked in 2017.
The drama started on Tuesday night when Arden, 37, was being interviewed on the television show "The Project." “I’ve got a question and we’ve been discussing whether or not I’m allowed to ask it,” began co-host Jesse Mulligan. “A lot of women in New Zealand feel like they have to make a choice between having babies and having a career ... Is that a choice that you feel you have to make or already made?”
Ardern said she had no problem with the question because it’s an issue many women face. “My position is no different to the woman who works three jobs, or might be in a position where they are juggling lots of responsibilities.”
But when pushed on the subject again the next day on "The A.M. Show," the lawmaker took a stronger stance. The heated exchange began when co-host Mark Richardson argued people had a right to know if she planned to take a maternity leave because Ardern could one day become prime minister.
“If you are the employer of a company you need to know that type of thing from the woman you are employing ... The question is, is it okay for a PM to take maternity leave while in office?” Richardson asked.
“I elected to talk about it, it was my choice... ” responded Arden. Then, visibly angry, she turned to Richardson and said, “For other women, it is totally unacceptable in 2017 to say that women should have to answer that question in the work place.”
“It is a woman’s decision about when they choose to have children and should not predetermine whether or not they are given a job or have opportunities," she continued.
Ardern became the youngest Labour leader in the country this week after Andrew Little stepped down from the position. She’ll face a tough general election in September.
Meanwhile, the questions aimed at Ardern about motherhood have sparked outrage on the internet.
“If you're wondering why the reaction to Jacinda Ardern baby q, it's b/c NZ women have been reminded they're baby makers first and foremost,” tweeted New Zealand journalist Frances Cook.
In an opinion piece for New Zealand's Stuff, Michelle Duff wrote such questioning was “sexist, stupid and irrelevant to how well she can do the job.”