But many women have taken to the dance floor and posted videos on social media tagged #SolidarityWithSanna to speak out against what they see as unfair and sexist treatment of Marin. They argue that the criticism she has faced has been unfairly distributed because she is a young woman in a sphere dominated by older men. And the clips have been viewed over 100,000 times on ICT Tac only.
When Rikke Dal Stottrup and her team at popular Danish women’s magazine Alt for Damerne heard the news, they had a feeling of deja vu.
They recalled that the tall, blonde Helle Thorning-Schmidt – Prime Minister of Denmark from 2011 to 2015 – was constantly stoned for what she wore when she was on duty.
“It seems like some people even today have a hard time understanding that you can be both a young woman…and a competent politician,” Stottrup said.
Amid last week’s controversy, employees of 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 Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin…we at Alt for Damerne have emptied the film roll for clips that should never have seen the light of day.”
“We wanted to highlight the fact that you can be a great prime minister, CEO, editor, nurse – insert job title – and also hit the dance floor on the weekends,” Stottrup said. “If we want to have more diversity … we have to broaden our vision of what a politician can look like. We have to accept the whole package and not just what we have historically 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 (DN.Y.) was reprimanded in 2019 when a video resurfaced from her dancing in college. (Ocasio-Cortez responded with a new video of her dancing in front of her desk.)
“Someone thought it might become a problem even though it’s clearly a storm in a teapot,” McAlister said of the viral Ocasio-Cortez clip. “The fact that she is a woman, the fact that she is young and … the fact that she is a minority positions her to have to be solidly upright to deserve or be seen to deserve her position as power.”
McAlister said that although critics demand a higher standard from young women and other people underrepresented in politics, Marin’s party is nothing out of the ordinary and is socially comparable to how older politicians play golf. As more young adults move into government positions, she said, voters will have to adjust to what the age group is doing outside of work.
“As long as [Marin] manages to keep calling it what it is, so good for her,” McAlister said. “She’s not letting him get more traction than he should have.”
The vitriol of Marin’s Finnish rivals may seem contrary to the reputation of the Scandinavian country, which has often been considered one of the best industrialized countries for gender equity, said Eiko Strader, a GWU sociologist and assistant professor. But country rankings don’t tell the whole story.
“Finland seems to be doing a lot better than other countries, but if you look at labor market indicators like earnings and executive representation, Finnish women still lag behind Finnish men because social and cultural norms that cannot be captured by standardized measurements shape our daily lives,” Strader said in an email.
Stottrup said that although sexist attacks on female politicians are likely to persist around the world, supporters will continue to rally.
As she said: “We probably still have a few decades ahead of us before we no longer see these cases, but the Sanna Marins of the world should know that we are right behind them. Dancing.”