HELSINKI (BLOOMBERG) - Professional women are taking the motto "work hard, play hard" to new heights in support of Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin after video footage of the political leader dancing and partying with friends caused blowback from critics and local media.
In posts on LinkedIn with the hashtag #SolidarityWithSanna, women are posting pictures of themselves dancing and hanging out with friends. The trend on the social platform that's mostly geared toward professional networking follows similar posts on Twitter and other platforms that tagged Ms Marin.
"If letting off steam at a party is the worst thing your prime minister has done, then you're a pretty lucky country," Ms Fiona Patten, an Australian politician, said on Twitter. She paired her post with a photo of her dancing in the street.
On Monday (Aug 22), the government in Helsinki said a drug test taken by the 36-year-old prime minister was negative.
Local media in Finland have faced criticism for alleging, without evidence, that drugs were used at the party where the videos were filmed.
The scandal has led to no serious calls for Ms Marin to resign and the ruling Social Democrats back their prime minister.
"I have never used drugs in my life, not even in my younger years," Ms Marin, who confirmed the authenticity of the leaked videos, told reporters last week. "I wish we lived in a society where my word could be trusted. But when suspicions like this are raised here, that's why I took these tests."
Ms Dayenne Meijer, a psychologist in Amsterdam who was among those taking to social media in support of Ms Marin, pushed back on the idea that dancing is incompatible with professionalism. "It is my opinion nobody should have to give up having fun because they've got a certain position or job," she said in a direct message. "I believe that as long as you're off the clock, you should be allowed to enjoy yourself and be your own person (within the boundaries of the law)."
Social standards of what's deemed proper behaviour for women have contributed to holding them back from seeking higher office, studies show. A March 2013 report from researchers at American University's School of Public Affairs found that women were 50 per cent more likely than their male counterparts to doubt whether they were qualified to run for office, despite their professional success.
Women who work in the private sector experience similar doubts when applying to jobs, a Harvard Business Review survey from 2014 found. And a 2016 study by researchers at Vanderbilt University's Owen Graduate School of Management found that women who violate ethical standards are subjected to harsher punishment than men, precisely because people tend to view them as more ethical to begin with.
In 2019, a critic surfaced a dance video of US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, filmed while she was a student at Boston University. She responded by uploading a new video of her dancing.
"I hear the GOP thinks women dancing are scandalous," she tweeted at the time. "Wait till they find out Congresswomen dance too!" "Unfortunately for women in politics, the lane of what is acceptable behaviour is narrower," said Ms Debbie Walsh, the director of the Centre for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.
Ms Walsh said that while she doesn't believe Ms Marin erred, the blowback by critics could have a chilling effect on other young women thinking about running for office.
"If it weren't so serious, it would be funny," Ms Walsh said. "Here's somebody who, on her own private time, is at a party, is dancing. And suddenly that seems to become international news, as though what she did has an impact on her ability to govern. It's denying her any sort of personal life whatsoever."
For Ms Isabel Zhang, a general manager at the communications firm Bastion Agency Australia, a love of attending raves doesn't negate her business acumen, she said. She made a LinkedIn post featuring four pictures of her dancing coupled with the comment "I am ALWAYS serious about what I do professionally. And I have a life."
"I'm a serious business woman, and I worked hard to be where I am professionally," she said in an interview. "I also want to live my life."