women leaders

BBC under fire over now-corrected ‘sexist’ Jacinda Ardern headline

Russell Ku
BBC under fire over now-corrected ‘sexist’ Jacinda Ardern headline

Fiona Goodall/Pool via Reuters

Social media users say that the BBC headline should have ‘not been approved in the first place’ and compare it to the British broadcaster’s coverage of Boris Johnson’s resignation

MANILA, Philippines – Social media users slammed the British Broadcasting Corporation over a “sexist” and “tone-deaf” headline on the resignation of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Thursday, January 19. 

The initial headline of the news article read “Jacinda Ardern resigns: Can women really have it all?” It has since been changed to “Jacinda Ardern resigns: Departure reveals unique pressures on PM” as of Friday, January 20. 

A tweet from the BBC News (World) account sharing the original headline was also deleted. 

Psychiatry doctor Kate Womersley of UK’s National Health Service was among the first to slam the headline, saying it was a “disgrace” in her now-viral tweet.

Human Rights Watch associate women’s rights director Heather Barr also reacted to the original title, saying, “The 1950s came by and picked up their headline.”

Ardern announced her shocking resignation on Thursday, saying she had “no more left in the tank” and would step down no later than early February. She will also not seek reelection in the upcoming general election on October 14.

Ardern was thrown into the international spotlight as she became the world’s youngest female head of government at age 37 and was praised for her empathetic leadership style and her country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

International Center for Journalists Global Director of Research Julie Posetti questioned how the culture in the BBC allowed the headline to be produced and published despite the later correction.

Other users said that the headline showed “absurd misogyny” from the BBC which should have “not been approved in the first place.”

American human rights lawyer and author Qasim Rashid compared the headline to BBC’s coverage of former British prime minister Boris Johnson’s resignation following a series of scandals. 

During her more than five years as New Zealand prime minister, Ardern has been thrown sexist comments and questions over her leadership and her raising a child while in office. 

Ardern went viral for dismissing suggestions that she met with Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Martin due to them being of similar age and other “common stuff” during a joint press conference in November. 

“I wonder whether or not anyone ever asked Barack Obama and John Key if they met because they were of similar age,” she said at the time.

Ardern said during her resignation speech that becoming prime minister has the “responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead, and also, when you are not.”

“I hope in return I leave behind a belief that you can be kind, but strong. Empathetic, but decisive. Optimistic, but focused,” she added. – Rappler.com

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Russell Ku

Russell Ku is a digital communications specialist at Rappler, believing in the power of stories to build an empathic society. Outside of work, he dives deep into pop culture, especially the world of K-Pop.