Is it OK for female leaders to look sexy? As Finnish PM poses in a blazer with nothing underneath

Melanie McDonagh, pictured, argues ‘overtly sexual’ shot distracts from what she is saying


by Melanie McDonagh 

By now, an awful lot of people have seen what Sanna Marin, the Finnish Prime Minister, looks like without a bra.

Yes, she wore a low-cut blazer, but still we can see that she’s an attractive woman with lovely breasts.

Should I be saying that? Well, it’s hard not to, given the nature of the photograph (above), which featured in a fashion magazine.

The odd thing is, she told the magazine that she wanted people to ‘concentrate on policies, not [her] appearance’. So why, then, did she wear nothing under her jacket?

Of course, we all know why not. Every politician makes the most of themselves, and most of them aren’t as easy on the eye as Sanna, 34.

Her admirers in Finland say she can dress how she likes as a young woman, which doesn’t mean wearing the equivalent of a suit and tie. They have even tried to deflect the criticism by posting images of themselves in the same kit on Facebook. The results have been tragic in some cases… not everyone can carry off the look as well as Sanna.

And they’re wrong, because a female politician posing for an overtly sexual shot is wilfully distracting attention from what she’s saying. You can play the foxy vamp or you can put yourself across as a serious politician, but you can’t do both — not really.

It suggests her chief assets are her boobs 

If you’re asking people to see you as a serious thinker rather than just a pretty girl — and, until lately, Sanna was Europe’s youngest head of government — then for goodness’ sake dress soberly, not like you’re out to pull. Male politicians can’t do it either. Boris isn’t quite the Adonis he was in his prime, but even if he were, we’d just laugh if he posed in a white tie and tails, with the shirt open suggestively to show his manly chest. It would make him lose what little gravitas he possesses.

The same goes for young women leaders, only more so, because they are more interesting to look at. You want voters to think about your take on Covid or migrancy issues? Then don’t present yourself as someone whose chief assets are her boobs.

Precisely because she’s so young, Sanna needs to accentuate the dignity of her office, not focus attention on her figure. She’s put Finland — once best known for Moomins and reindeer — on the map for the wrong reason.

This is not about a woman’s ability to break free of the male template of how to be a politician; it’s about the fact that any head of government has a responsibility to dress for the job, not for themselves.

Right now, there’s a pandemic under way, and she needs to look like she’s in charge. Button up, Sanna.

Libby Purves, pictured, says its 'just too easy to slap a woman down for their appearance'

Libby Purves, pictured, says its ‘just too easy to slap a woman down for their appearance’


by Libby Purves 

Cover up, ladies! Finnish PM Sanna Marin has left male and female critics alike fanning themselves in outrage.

Clearly impervious to the cold, she posed by a lake in a blazer cut to a deep V with — pass the smelling salts — no camisole or bra underneath. And, yes, (where’s the magnifying glass, Rodney?) if you study the photo with care, the shadows suggest this minx has actual breasts.

The photo must be at least a few weeks old; we know she also owns a warm red coat, as we have seen pictures of her heading home from an EU meeting wearing it.

But it’s the blazer that has set her critics ablaze. They’re as overexcited as they were in 1980 when young Diana Spencer inadvertently stood with the sun behind her thin skirt and revealed her fabulous legs. Sanna has been lambasted as ‘tasteless’ and accused of eroding her credibility.

She’s even smiling! How dare she! You’d think she’d streaked through the Parliament Chamber or mooned a conservative Christian democrat delegate. Not just stood by a chilly lake wearing something that shows off a favourite necklace.

Some online comments suggest she was sending a radical message about the nature of being a woman in power, by wearing a dark, masculine blazer with sharp shoulders while admitting to the ownership of breasts.

It’s too easy to slap women down for their appearance 

Political deconstruction of clothes is common: some point to Vladimir Putin whipping his shirt off, Tony Blair and David Cameron sucking in their tummies in swimming trunks, or Theresa May posing in leather trousers. Maybe some of these moves were deliberate, maybe not.

Certainly Boris Johnson’s ‘I don’t have time to do cuff buttons up’ has an edge of defiance in it, as does Dominic Cummings’s carefully curated slob-couture. But Ms Marin looks just fine to me; she’s a cheerful young mum showing nothing that should frighten anybody.

Some will make the feminist point that it isn’t fair when beautiful women dress so well, as it disadvantages their older, less alluring sisters. But in that case we should also be protesting against the expensive tailored elegance of Rishi Sunak’s suits, shouldn’t we? How is crumply Mr Gove going to compete with that, in the next leadership bloodbath?

It’s just too easy to slap down women for their appearance when they’re making a perfectly good job of their actual job. Whatever we do, someone will say ‘too tarty’, ‘too frumpy’, ‘too expensive’, ‘too dated’. Or, like the Victoria Wood line: ‘See the news last night? Nasty blouse!’

All a girl can do is shrug. Ideally without shifting that V-neck.

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