Jacinda Ardern’s resignation: why the BBC is facing a backlash over its coverage

Key points:
  • A headline used by the BBC in its coverage of Jacinda Ardern’s resignation has drawn criticism online.
  • It comes as world leaders including Prime Minister Anthony Albanese paid tribute to Ms Ardern.
  • While Ms Ardern’s popularity soared internationally, she has faced political headwinds at home.
The BBC faces criticism for a headline used in its coverage which has been described as “astounding sexism”.
Ms Ardern on Thursday, he said he spent the summer thinking about his future and concluded he no longer has “enough in the tank” to seek re-election.
“I hope to leave New Zealanders with the belief that you can be kind but strong, empathetic but decisive, optimistic but focused,” Ardern said.

“And that you can be your own kind of leader, one who knows when it’s time to go.”

Alongside its main coverage, BBC World News ran a story originally headlined: “Jacinda Ardern resigns: Can women really have it all?”
The story begins by talking about Ms Ardern’s widespread popularity, with many of her fans being women who have followed her journey from new prime minister to working mother and seen her as a role model.
It explores the challenges she faced as a leader, her falling approval ratings in New Zealand despite being celebrated internationally and the public scrutiny she faced.

The article’s headline drew criticism on social media.

Katherine O’Brien, associate director of a British reproductive health charity, called it “staggering sexism”.
“Can’t believe @BBCWorld published this headline in 2023. Amazing sexism,” she wrote on Twitter.
Sangita Myska, a British TV presenter, said she was “saddened to see such a reductive, sexist and inaccurate headline from BBC World”.
“It should read: ‘Jacinda Ardern resigns: World leader showing courage by breaking taboo on talking about emotional and mental well-being’.”
Dr Kate Womersley, a PhD in psychiatry who writes on medicine, gender and women’s health, called it “shameful”.
“Jacinda Ardern has been a long-standing leader and an international hero. Thanks to her, many more women have greater aspirations and will enjoy greater achievements,” she wrote.

“She did it all.”

The BBC World News account later said the original tweet “has been deleted as the headline has been updated”.

The headline now reads: Jacinda Ardern resigns: Exit reveals unique pressures on PM.”

It comes as world leaders paid tribute to Ms Ardern, who will step down as soon as Labor chooses a successor.

Jacinda Ardern was “deeply humbled” by their support

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese wrote an op-ed in the Nine newspapers, crediting him with writing a new rulebook for leadership.
“Through the sheer power of her example, Jacinda Ardern has reminded us all that kindness and strength are not mutually exclusive. Even more importantly, she has shown that a true leader has both,” he wrote.
Ms Ardern kept her decision under wraps until lunchtime on Thursday, but offered Mr Albanese a warning ahead of her announcement.
“I sent him a message before I made the announcement and that’s because he’s one of the leaders I have a close relationship with,” he said.
“I deeply valued the work we did together and the time we had.

“He became a friend and I respect him so much. So I sent him a message. We had a quick chat yesterday and he just had roots of kindness and support.”

US President Joe Biden credited Ardern with the growing ties between the two countries.
“The US-New Zealand partnership is stronger than ever thanks in large part to your leadership,” he said.
“Your intent to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific was crucial.”
Ms Ardern said she was surprised by the volume and depth of support she had received.
“I’m actually deeply humbled,” she said.

“Having these messages of thanks has been really touching for me and my family.”

A woman smiles next to a flag.

While Ms Ardern’s popularity soared internationally, she has faced political headwinds at home Source: Getty / Phil Walter/Getty Images

International popularity, but growing political headwinds at home

Ms Ardern has faced a remarkable set of trials and tragedies.
She led Labor to power after becoming leader just seven weeks before election day in 2017, a campaign marked by “Jacindamania”.
In 2019, he consoled New Zealanders through the his compassionate response won worldwide praise.
Another tragedy followed in December when while tourists were exploring its crater, killing 22, including 14 Australians.
Ms Ardern made global headlines in 2020, with more than half of its members being women and the highest number of indigenous Māori politicians.
When COVID-19 hit, it was one of the first leaders to close borders and follow a zero-tolerance strategy, keeping death rates well below those of other advanced nations.
But not everyone was happy with his “go hard, go soon” approach, which included a nationwide lockdown over a single infection.
While Ms Ardern’s popularity soared internationally, she has faced political headwinds at home, struggling to show that her leadership extended beyond crisis management and kindness.

Its ratings have fallen in recent months due to the worsening housing crisis, rising cost of living and mortgage rates and growing concerns about crime. However, it remains more popular than its rivals.

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