The hashtag #GiveHeraSeat started trending in Europe Tuesday after two European Union leaders of equal rank visited Turkey for talks—and only the male one was offered a chair. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was left standing awkwardly as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and EU Council President Charles Michel took the two chairs at the front of the room, the New York Times reports. After saying "Ehm" and raising her hand, she was offered a seat on a sofa several feet away opposite the lower-ranked Turkish foreign minister. Von der Leyen is the first female EC president, and her male predecessors were offered chairs during previous summits in Turkey, CNN reports.
It's not clear what caused the breach in protocol, but some observers saw it as a deliberate snub and noted that Turkey had withdrawn from the Istanbul Convention, a treaty to prevent violence against women, just days earlier. Women's rights were on the agenda at Tuesday's summit, and a von der Leyen spokesperson said Wednesday that the chair fiasco had "sharpened her focus" on the issue of equal rights, the Guardian reports. "The president expects that the institution that she represents to be treated with the required protocol," the spokesperson said. A spokesperson for Michel declined to answer questions on why he had taken the gilded chair without speaking out about the seating arrangement. (Read more Turkey stories.)