By Julia Bohan
LOS ANGELES — Earlier this month, videos were leaked of Finnish Prime Minister, 36-year-old Sanna Marin, partying with friends, calling into question her stability and ability to lead effectively.
The video in question was filmed at a private residence and posted on a private Instagram account. It features Marin dancing and singing for her friends. Although Marin knew that her friends were recording her, she expected those videos to remain private.
The backlash from the publicized videos led Marin to take a drug test to assure critics of her sobriety, with the results returning as negative. She said at a press conference, “I have not used drugs myself, or anything other than alcohol. I’ve danced, sung and partied and done perfectly legal things.”
The prime minister, an otherwise a respectable leader, has polarized the Finnish population, leading them to debate if her actions call for her dismissal from politics or praise for demonstrating humility.
In addition to questioning her sobriety, opponents of the Prime Minister doubted how seriously she takes her job as a national leader. Marin came under fire for partying before; in December 2021, she stayed the night at a nightclub. Marin apologized after coming in close contact with a person who was positive for COVID-19 and missing a text instructing her to self-isolate.
With the most recent partying scandal, critics argue that Marin’s “boisterous” actions were in poor taste, considering Finland’s rising energy prices and a pending NATO admittance amid the Russia-Ukraine crisis. Marin told the Finnish media that, despite her actions, “[…] I want to believe that people look at the work we do, not what we do in our free time.”
Indeed, the leaked videos of the Prime Minister have introduced conversations regarding Marin’s abilities and broader narratives on the perceptions of young female leaders.
Marin’s scandal made me reflect on my identity as a 20-year-old female college student and how my actions and those of my peers may harm our professional careers. While being young is about having fun, being wary of potentially damaging videos and pictures are necessary to secure a coveted position.
The idea of a leaked private video drastically changing a person’s professional life is not novel. However, Marin’s situation is distinct, as she made a reputation for herself built around professionalism, in which a video of her drinking and partying acts as a contradiction.
Marin’s experience is similar to when the daughter of former U.S President Barack Obama, Malia Obama, was filmed using marijuana at Lollapalooza in 2016 at the age of 18. Like Marin, Obama was young, but had a professional reputation to uphold as the first daughter and a Harvard University student.
The difference between Marin and Obama is that their scandals took place in separate spheres of private versus public spaces.
At college, no student is genuinely safe from participating in wild partying behavior without running the risk of such actions becoming public on social media. Whether a student drinks at a bar, a fraternity house or a friend’s apartment, anything can become public with the press of a button.
With social media remaining an omnipresent force in young people’s lives, it is a constant reminder that any seemingly innocent video may become public and hold devastating consequences in the future.
I believe that the Finnish Prime Minister is admirable in her ability to have a work-life balance and acts as a brilliant example for aspiring leaders globally.
However, college students may learn from Marin’s scandal that by gaining the respect of some, one may lose the respect of others. In a perfect world, college students would not have to err on the side of caution regarding concealing their private life to protect their public image, as long as they conduct their job efficiently.
Marin exemplifies how professionalism and partying coexist, but society has a long way to go to accept this concept.