Six men and one woman sit around a large mahogany table at the Colombian Embassy in Brussels. At the head of the table, the Ambassador, a man in his early thirties, smoking and smiling with the other men. The woman looks down at her large belly, she will soon deliver a child. The men’s laughter continues. She looks down again, at the floor, and then out into the garden through the window. She wants to get away. From what? She can’t name it. The smoke, for sure. She’s pregnant, and the windows are shut.
Has she become invisible to them?
The staff has come together to plan the last details of their Chancellor’s official visit to the European Union. María Emma Mejía is the Chancellor’s name. She is one of only seven current Foreign Affairs women Ministers, in the world; an international gender champion, clever, strategic, committed. She will arrive tomorrow, and stay one day and one night before flying out to Madrid. She has a busy agenda, all has been professionally organised.
Yet, the men around the table are calling her María Hembra Mejía. The term “hembra,” female, is mostly used for female animals. Their boss, a role model to the pregnant woman, reduced to a beautiful female specimen in the men’s eyes. The men gossip about who she might spend the night with, perhaps the EU Commissioner, and the laughter continues.
She touches her belly and shuffles the papers in front of her.
Many years later, she has the words to name that feeling, when discrimination combines with male privilege:
Credit: Illustration by Stephanie F. Scholz (The New Yorker, 2018)