It’s tough being a female politician in a man’s world.
It’s even tougher when the first lady of the United States makes the assumption that you couldn’t possibly be a nation’s foreign minister because you’re a woman.
That’s what the former foreign minister of Australia revealed today had happened to her when they met at the UN General Assembly Leaders’ week in 2017 according to a report in The Singapore Straits Times.
Julie Bishop was discussing the subordinate role that women play in conservative politics at a talk in Adelaide when she mentioned the incident as an example of the type of treatment that senior female politicians must endure.
Bishop and her partner David Patton were mingling at a reception of world leaders when President Trump decided to begin chatting with Bishop’s significant other.
“Melania, standing by, assumed David was the foreign minister and she said to me: ‘Julie, will you be coming to my ladies’ lunch tomorrow?,” the former foreign minister recounted.
“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.”
Bishop’s tenure as foreign minister ended in the political turmoil after the ouster of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull last year, but she has remained a member of Australia’s parliament as part of the right-leaning Liberal party, confusingly named to Americans who associate the Liberal label with more left of center politics.
The former head diplomat for the antipodean nation is planning on leaving parliament at the next election cycle and — as the only woman in the Australian Prime Minister’s cabinet while she served —decried the lack of women in right-wing political circles.
“This isn’t fine. This is not completely normal,” she said of the political situation facing women in her country.
Australia’s Liberal party was described by another female politician who has announced that she will not run for reelection as viewed as “homophobic, anti-women, climate-change deniers” by the country’s electorate.
Bishop did not mention whether Melania Trump apologized for her embarrassing gaffe of misassumption, but as gender roles in right-wing politics tend to stick to more traditionally restrictive norms, the former foreign minister’s experience isn’t likely to be the last time such a diplomatic snafu takes place.
Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.
Original reporting by The Singapore Straits Times.