Jacinda Ardern, the pregnant prime minister of New Zealand, has caught the world’s attention by wearing a traditional Maori cloak to Buckingham Palace.
During this week’s Commonwealth heads of government meeting, Ardern was swathed in a Kahu huruhuru, a Maori cloak studded with feathers.
Mark Sykes, guardian of Maori special collections at the national museum of New Zealand Te Papa, told the Guardian that traditionally, the piece is bestowed on chiefs and dignitaries to covey power, prestige and respect.
Which is why Ardern’s choice of clothing was a big moment for Maori people, and for women, around the world.
Praise of Ardern’s clothing has been circulating on Twitter as fans discuss why the moment is significant to them.
Head of government, pregnant, unmarried, wearing a Māori cloak of power, putting care for her people in the center of her message. #oldboysclub and warmongers your days are numbered. #respect @jacindaardern #womenleaders @jagodamarinic https://t.co/O4PwCDo6Yf
— judith bogner (@judithbogner) April 20, 2018
To a number of people, Ardern – who is heavily pregnant – wearing the piece signifies a changeup of gender roles as a female world leader wearing a cloak that symbolises power.
Who is Jacinda Ardern?
Ardern has been New Zealand’s prime minister since October 2017, the country’s youngest in 150 years as she was 37 when she took office.
She’s known for openly discussing mental health, including her own struggles with anxiety, and is a big supporter of women’s rights and LGBTQ issues.
For example, she’s strongly defended the right of New Zealand women to keep their plans to start a family from their employers.
Regardless of your politicial leanings, you've got to take a minute and appreciate everything this photo represents; Especially around all of us being free from toxic gender roles, and empowered to go with our hearts. pic.twitter.com/JM38tEWMaT
— Suzy Cate-O (@CateOwen) April 19, 2018
Shortly after being elected to lead the Labour party, Arden was asked repeatedly if she had plans to have children by local media.
When asked if it was okay for a prime minister to take maternity leave by Mark Richardson, a host of the AM Show, she replied that “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.”
Which, like her decision to wear a Kahu huruhuru yesterday, has gained her plenty of fans.
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