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'How is this a relevant question?' The Jacinda Ardern exchange everyone's talking about.

Jacinda Ardern is no stranger to answering unwanted, irrelevant and often sexist questions.

The New Zealand Prime Minister is just as regularly asked about her personal life as she is her policies – and her latest interview with the BBC was no exception.

The 38-year-old is visiting the UK and Europe to discuss trade, Brexit and attend the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. It is very important stuff.

So, when Ardern visited the BBC for an interview, she probably didn’t expect to be quizzed on her marital status and feminism.

Following a few questions about Brexit and New Zealand’s hopes of a free trade deal with the UK, interviewer Victoria Derbyshire went in a totally unrelated direction.

She asked Ardern if she had plans to propose to her partner Clarke Gayford.

“I would not ask, no,” she replied.

“You’re a feminist?” Derbyshire queried.

“Oh absolutely, absolutely I’m a feminist,” Ardern responded. She looked taken back, but continued with humour.

“But I want to put him through the pain and torture of having to agonise about that question himself. No, that’s letting him off the hook. Absolutely not.”

Derbyshire concluded: “Okay, fair enough, we await that day.”

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In case you’re unfamiliar, the Kiwi PM was elected as New Zealand’s youngest leader in 150 years in a 2017 election. Just months later, she announced she was pregnant.

Ardern welcomed her daughter, Neve Te Aroha, in June 2018, becoming just the second world leader to give birth while in office. She took six weeks of maternity leave before returning to the country’s top job. Her partner – not husband – Gayford became a stay-at-home dad.

This should not be remarkable, but in a world where women – and especially mothers – are constantly scrutinised for their career and family choices, it was. Women all around the world have babies, go on maternity leave and juggle this with their careers. But this was a Prime Minister. It undeniably pushed boundaries.

Following her BBC interview, criticism of the journalist’s questions came swiftly.

The general consensus? This is an inappropriate question that a man would not have been asked.

Ardern’s marital status has absolutely zero impact on how well she is able to run a country. It is  irrelevant.

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Many also took issue with Ardern’s feminism being questioned.

Feminism is about equality. It is about choice. It is not about replacing one ‘rule’ – that men must propose – with another.

Derbyshire is far from the first interviewer to make headlines for asking Ardern inappropriate questions.

Before the 2017 election, Ardern was praised for her take down of a breakfast television presenter who asked about her plans for children.

“The question is: is it okay for a PM to take maternity leave while in office?” Richardson asked. “The public has a right to know,” was his justification.

The then-opposition leader’s response was brilliant: “I decided to talk about it, it was my choice, so that means I am happy to keep responding to these questions. But, you,” she said, turning to face Richardson. “It is totally unacceptable in 2017 to say that women should have to answer that question in the workplace, it is unacceptable, it is unacceptable.”

In February 2018, Australian reporter Charles Wooley was criticised for praising Ardern’s attractiveness in an interview with 60 Minutes.

“I’ve met a lot of prime ministers in my time, but none too young and not so many so smart, and never one so attractive”, Wooley said during his introduction on 60 Minutes. Gross.

Wooley also quizzed her over the due date of her baby and the time of conception.

Jacinda Ardern is an elected world leader.

Reporters could ask her about her passion for combating child poverty in New Zealand, about her desire to remove abortion from the Crimes Act or maybe even how she’s juggling a three-party coalition. These are all relevant to her job.

Her womb and whether she’s wearing a ring on her finger are not.

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