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Jacinda Ardern and Sanna Marin shut down a reporter's sexist question about their ages

Dave Rowland
Getty Images
Sanna Marin, prime minister of Finland, left, and New Zealand Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern pose at Government House in Auckland, New Zealand. Marin is in New Zealand for a three-day visit, which sparked international interest after a reporters asked questions about the leaders' ages and gender.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern fired back at a reporter's suggestion she met with Finland Prime Minister Sanna Marin "just because" of their similarities, such as age and gender.

The comments came at a joint press conference on Wednesday, which was held to highlight Marin's diplomatic visit to Auckland. The two leaders are expected to discuss trade relations and Ukraine support.

"A lot of people will be wondering, are you two meeting just because you're similar in age and, you know, got a lot of common stuff there," a reporter from a New Zealand outlet asked Ardern.

"Or can Kiwi's actually expect to see more deals down the line between the two countries—"

"My first question is I wonder whether or not anyone ever asked [former U.S. President] Barack Obama and [former New Zealand Prime Minister] John Key and if they met because they were of similar age," Ardern interjected with a smile, referencing the five-day age difference between the two leaders.

"We of course have a higher proportion of men in politics. It's reality. But because two women meet, it's not simply because of their gender."

She went on to describe her country's dependence on $199 million in Finnish imports and the economic potential behind increasing European exports.

When it was her turn to speak, Marin added simply, "We are meeting because we're prime ministers," before turning to Finland's desire to undo its economic dependence on authoritarian regimes.

"It's our job to further [our countries' economic opportunities], regardless of our gender," she concluded.

Reaction to the question was swift and critical on social media, with many labeling the reporter as sexist and misogynistic.

Dave Rowland / Getty Images
Getty Images
Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin, left, offered a simple rebuttal to a reporter's suggestion she was meeting with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern because of their ages. "We are meeting because we are prime ministers," she said.

"He was one sentence away from asking the prime ministers if they met to talk about boys and if their periods have synced up yet," one journalist tweeted.

Another Twitter user wrote it was "a shame some journalists spoke to [Ardern and Marin] like they are 1950s housewives organizing a coffee morning."

Neither Ardern, 42, nor Marin, 37, is a stranger to public attention on their ages.

Elected in 2019, Marin was the world's youngest serving head of government until 2021, when Gabriel Boric, age 35, won the Chilean presidency.

Marin has defended her maturity and competency since August, when videos of her dancing and singing with friends at a private party were published online.

"I have a family life, I have a work life and I have free time to spend with my friends. Pretty much the same as many people my age," she said after the news of the videos broke.

She echoed that sentiment again on Wednesday, when another New Zealand reporter pointed out that the title of "party prime minister" had followed her to Auckland.

"During our governmental period, there has been the global pandemic, there's war now in Europe, there's an energy crisis, perhaps an economic crisis in front of us. So there are many things on my plate that are more concerning than my free time," Marin said.

"You are free to discuss and write what you want, but I'm focusing on the issues that are in our program."

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Emily Olson
Emily Olson is on a three-month assignment as a news writer and live blog editor, helping shape NPR's digital breaking news strategy.