Sanna Marin Has Been Exposed As Human & It’s Good For Us All

Photo by Heikki Saukkomaa/Getty Images
What exactly constitutes a scandal in politics these days? Allegedly misleading parliament over what you were up to during the coronavirus lockdowns (Boris Johnson)? Being raided by the FBI once you leave office (Donald Trump)? 
Finland’s politics don’t usually make global headlines but this part of northern Europe has dominated this week's news agenda for all the wrong reasons. The country’s prime minister, Sanna Marin, was pictured dancing and having fun over the weekend. 
Marin who, at 36, is Finland's youngest ever leader, was forced by the opposition to take a drug test after a video surfaced of her dancing and drinking at a party with friends including influencers, models and popular musicians. 
The drug test has since come back negative. That she had to take it in the first place is a sexist double standard. 
Consider the treatment of Marin and contrast it with that of Britain’s outgoing prime minister, Boris Johnson. Because of the Gray report – an official internal investigation – we know that Johnson headed up a team which repeatedly broke coronavirus lockdown laws for events such as "bring your own booze" get-togethers.
Johnson held onto his job for months on end while cabinet ministers lined up to defend him, even though he was fined by the police for rule-breaking. Yet in the days that have followed Marin’s night out, she has been forced to apologise and prove that she did not take illegal drugs – all because she had a perfectly legal night off. 
Partying at the weekend is hardly a scandal and yet it has been spun as one. Marin has been hauled over the coals at home and internationally because she was photographed dancing and because of another image, described by The Sun as "raunchy", in which two of her friends appear to be kissing.
If you Google image search "witch-hunt" you’ll find pictures of Marin’s tearful apology in which she defends her night out and explains that she, like anyone else, needs to blow off steam because of the pandemic, the incoming economic clusterfuck of rising inflation (my words, not hers) and the war which rages on in Ukraine. 
"I am a human being," Marin said in front of an audience in Lahti, 60 miles northeast of Helsinki. "And sometimes, in the middle of these dark clouds, I miss joy, light and fun."
"In the midst of the crisis I have been thinking about Ukraine and about all of you."
For a world leader to acknowledge these inherent contradictions – that she can hold the world in her mind and still need a night off and a night out in order to do her job – is more profound than her critics, international media and perhaps even she realises.
The restorative power of a good night out with your mates is universally acknowledged. Dancing is recommended by doctors for a variety of ailments including stress, anxiety and depression. It’s also a favoured form of physical exercise for older people because it helps them to stay in shape as well as maintain "psychosocial function", according to studies
So whether you are a prime minister or not – but, perhaps, particularly if you are, given how much turbulence there is to contend with in the world right now – dancing is one of the best things you can do. 
Visibly upset, Marin told the audience in Lahti: "This has involved all kinds of photographs and videos that I personally wouldn’t want to see and I know you wouldn’t want to see. Yet they’ve been displayed to all of us."
"I haven’t missed a single day of work. I haven’t left a single task undone and I won’t leave this one [her premiership] in the middle of things either, because all of this will pass and we need to build a stronger country together ... I’m doing my job."

Nobody can be entirely serious all the time. Everyone needs to experience joy. It is a reminder of what is at stake in the face of war, disease and economic devastation.

That’s more justification than we’ve ever heard from the likes of Johnson or Trump, who seem to have taken their cues from the Kate Moss PR school of "never complain, never explain". 
Marin became prime minister at the age of 34 after a successful political career which saw her rise seamlessly to the top of Finland’s centre-left Social Democratic Party. This controversy should perhaps not come as a surprise. Ever since she took office in 2019, Marin has pushed the boundaries of what a leader should look like and how they ought to behave. She has shared selfies which show her breastfeeding and highly Instagrammable images of the flat she shared with her husband before moving into her official residence. She is an advocate for LGBTQ+ people and has openly discussed the fact that her mother has been in a same-sex relationship since separating from her father. 
Marin is a millennial woman on a world stage, surrounded by men in suits yet unafraid to challenge the status quo by speaking out on gay rights and climate change or by being a vehement critic of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 
A witch-hunt is, by definition, a campaign directed against a person or group of people considered to be unorthodox or a threat to society. According to the UN, just 13 countries globally have a woman head of government and, at the current rate, gender equality in the highest positions of power will not be reached for another 130 years. Marin’s age and gender make her an outlier in global politics. She is unorthodox simply by virtue of being a young woman in power. And because she dares to be powerful, progressive and have fun on the side, she is seen as a threat. 
That would always have been the case, whether or not she was seen partying. Marin was on thin ice before she even started. Women in powerful positions often find themselves on what sociologists call the "glass cliff". This is where women are appointed to leadership positions when there are difficult or impossible tasks to complete and, once there, are held to a higher standard than men. 
Marin undeniably faces a series of difficult circumstances as a world leader. The coming months and, perhaps, years are going to be bumpy. A global economic crisis is already here. Ordinary people are feeling it because their money doesn’t stretch as far due to inflation. There is a war in Europe which is not going anywhere. 
Not everyone wants to criticise Marin. German newspaper Bild has dubbed her "the world’s coolest politician". But such praise is as unhelpful as the reductive criticism being directed at her. 
What if Marin's partying is neither entirely good nor bad? Blowing off steam is necessary, it is human. Living is the experience of great joy and sadness, sometimes one after the other. It makes no sense. It cannot always be rationalised. Wars break out. People die. The world burns. We still laugh with our friends. We still fall in love. We still move our bodies cathartically on crowded dance floors.
Nobody can be entirely serious all the time. Everyone needs to experience joy. It is a reminder of what is at stake in the face of war, disease and economic devastation. That Marin has been exposed as human is good for us all.

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