Fact Check

Is This BBC Headline About Jacinda Ardern and Women Having It All Real?

The headline was pilloried by many, who called it sexist.

Published Jan. 20, 2023

British news outlet BBC published a headline about resigning New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern that read, "Jacinda Ardern resigns: Can women really have it all?"

The news division of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) was facing backlash over a Jan. 19, 2023, headline about New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's decision to resign — a headline that many criticized for being sexist.

The headline has since been altered, but it originally read, "Jacinda Ardern resigns: Can women really have it all?" when the story was first published. That version can be viewed in an archived version of the story. After an outcry, the headline was updated and now reads, "Jacinda Ardern resigns: Departure reveals unique pressures on PM."

Ardern's surprise resignation came with commentary about the level of abuse, vitriol, and threats she had faced as a world leader. Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, co-leader of the Maori party, said in a statement:

It is a sad day for politics where an outstanding leader has been driven from office for constant personalisation and vilification. Her whanau have withstood the ugliest attacks over the last two years with what we believe to be the most demeaning form of politics we have ever seen.

Ardern announced on Jan. 19, 2023, that she was stepping down, citing burnout. "I know what this job takes, and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It is that simple," she said in her announcement.

News reports about her resignation also cited escalating threats and violent, anti-vaccine protests.

The trope about women "having it all" is, at its basic level, a dated catch-all that portrays female success as pitting successful careers against raising families. Beth Prescott, a researcher for The Centre for Social Justice, a U.K.-based think tank, told Yahoo News, "Whatever your views on Jacinda Ardern, this was a shocking and archaic headline from the BBC."


"BBC Faces Backlash over 'staggeringly' Sexist Jacinda Ardern Headline." Yahoo News, 19 Jan. 2023, https://news.yahoo.com/bbc-faces-backlash-over-staggeringly-sexist-jacinda-ardern-headline-160541842.html.

"Jacinda Ardern Resigns: Departure Reveals Unique Pressures on PM." BBC News, 19 Jan. 2023. www.bbc.com, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-64330859.

McClure, Tess. "Jacinda Ardern: Political Figures Believe Abuse and Threats Contributed to PM's Resignation." The Guardian, 20 Jan. 2023. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jan/20/jacinda-ardern-speculation-that-abuse-and-threats-contributed-to-resignation.

"New Zealand's Jacinda Ardern, an Icon to Many, to Step Down." AP NEWS, 19 Jan. 2023, https://apnews.com/article/politics-new-zealand-government-covid-jacinda-ardern-0e6d8eedd96f94aab07eeb0c37164591.

"Reaction to NZ PM Jacinda Ardern's Shock Resignation Announcement." Reuters, 19 Jan. 2023. www.reuters.com, https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/reaction-jacinda-arderns-shock-resignation-announcement-2023-01-19/.

Bethania Palma is a journalist from the Los Angeles area who has been working in the news industry since 2006.

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