Chair Incident Was Signal of Enduring Sexism, E.U. Chief Says

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It was an ungainly diplomatic second.

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Union’s govt, was left standing throughout a go to to Turkey this month as her colleague, Charles Michel, president of the European Council, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey settled into two chairs.

Ms. von der Leyen, the primary girl to go the European Fee, weighed in on the scenario for the primary time on Monday, telling European lawmakers that she had concluded that the blunder occurred as a result of she is a girl.

“Would this have occurred if I had worn a swimsuit and a tie?” she requested, talking to the European Parliament on Monday night. “Within the footage of earlier conferences, I didn’t see any scarcity of chairs. However then once more, I didn’t see any girl in these footage, both.”

“I felt damage and left alone: As a girl and as a European,” she added, noting that the oversight was an indication of “how far we nonetheless should go earlier than girls are handled as equals.”

Video of the assembly held on the Turkish presidential palace this month confirmed Ms. von der Leyen’s clear shock as she let loose an “um” on the lack of applicable seating. She shortly settled on a settee a number of ft away as Mr. Michel, who ranks equally within the European Union’s hierarchy, and Mr. Erdogan sat positioned in entrance of the European Union and Turkish flags.

The pictures triggered a direct storm, with many commenting on the enduring sexism they noticed within the second, and clips spreading swiftly on-line. #GiveHerASeat was quickly trending on Twitter throughout Europe.

The assembly got here at a vital diplomatic second as Turkey makes an attempt to enhance a fraught relationship with the European Union and to revive the method of becoming a member of. It additionally got here as Turkey has taken strides away from rights initiatives supposed to empower girls, one thing that Ms. von der Leyen pointed to on Monday when she talked about Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Conference, a treaty that combats violence in opposition to girls.

She additionally made one other level: The diplomatic blunder solely made headlines as a result of there had been cameras within the room to seize the episode.

However, she added, “1000’s of comparable incidents, most of them much more severe, go unobserved.”

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