Australia’s former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who is a vocal critic of what she sees is the subordinate role of women in conservative politics in her country, recently referred to a previous encounter she had with U.S. first lady Melania Trump as an example of blatant sexism in the field.
In her latest argument for her case, she recounted a 2017 encounter she had with President Donald Trump and the first lady during that year’s U.N. General Assembly Leaders’ Week when Melania Trump assumed Bishop’s partner, David Panton, was actually the foreign minister instead of Bishop, according to News.com.au.
Bishop, who boasts a political career spanning 21 years, served as the Liberal Party’s deputy leader for 11 years before moving on to serve as Australia’s foreign minister under prime ministers Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull, the report points out. Speaking in Adelaide over the weekend, Bishop said Melania Trump asked if she would be joining the first lady for her ladies’ lunch during an event.
“Melania, standing by, assumed David was the foreign minister and she said to me: ‘Julie, will you be coming to my ladies’ lunch tomorrow?’” Bishop said of the encounter, as quoted in the report. “And I said ‘No, David’s going to the partners’ lunch.’ She thought about that for a while, thinking: ‘Why would Australia’s foreign minister come to the partners’ lunch?’ So this went on for a while until the president explained that I was the foreign minister.”
According to the report, President Trump also previously assumed Panton was the foreign minister during an encounter in which she asked the man to give his opinion about the speech Trump had just given, instead of asking for Bishop’s take on it.
Since she stepped down after the ouster of Turnbull last year, Bishop has been vocal about the treatment of senior female politicians, often using the example of being the only woman in the room, Yahoo! News reported. As the report points out, Bishop was the only woman among 18 men in the cabinet after Turnbull’s predecessor Tony Abbott won the national election in 2013, a situation that she said often made her very uncomfortable.
“This isn’t fine. This is not completely normal,” she said of the situation.
Australia’s divided minority government has been accused of having a “women problem,” a criticism that has prompted Prime Minister Scott Morrison to recently increase the number of female politicians in his cabinet to counter the negative view, the report points out.