Although President Nicos Anastasiades’ offhand remark that “always there is a woman involved”, that came complete with a full-sized smirk even as Tuesday’s hijacking scare at Larnaca airport was unfolding, was possibly intended to light-heartedly reassure that a mountain was being made out of a molehill, the internet found it an inappropriate faux pas.
Within hours, a host of Twitter users diagnosed sexism, misogynism, ignorance, and “Mediterranean patriarchy” in Anastasiades’ remark, though it did cause European Parliament President Martin Schulz, who had been standing next to the president when he said it, to join him in laughter.
“When asked if a woman was involved, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said ‘There is always a woman involved.’ #Slowclap for casual sexism,” deputy editor at Huffington Post India Rituparna Chaterjee tweeted.
Karen Ingala Smith, CEO of a London-based charity working to end violence against women, wrote on her Twitter profile “your sexist ignorance is showing”, referring to Anastasiades’ comment.
“Mediterranean patriarchy at its best,” user Claire Gunter wrote.
Meanwhile, international media picked up on the president’s ill-advised attempt at humour – both the BBC and The Telegraph reported on the remark on their websites under the headline “EgyptAir hijack: Cyprus president laughs off hijacking”.
But when it was all over, the globally reported incident turned out to be not without its ridiculous aspects, perhaps vindicating Anastasiades’ choice to laugh off a seemingly grave situation.
One such aspect was a ‘selfie’ taken by a British passenger with hijacker Seif Eldin Mustafa during the five-hour standoff, which found its way to the press soon thereafter.
Technically not a selfie as someone else took the photo, it shows passenger Ben Innes from Leeds smiling next to the hapeless-looking hijacker, who is seen sporting his makeshift ‘belt bomb’ – which later turned out to consist of phone covers.
“I figured if his bomb was real I’d nothing to lose anyway, so I took a chance to get a closer look at it,” Innes told The Sun.
“I got one of the cabin crew to translate for me and asked him if I could do a selfie with him. He just shrugged OK so I stood by him and smiled for the camera while a stewardess did the snap. It has to be the best selfie ever.”
Adding to the surreal goings-on during the crisis, Innes’ mother had already made headlines when, asked to comment on her son’s photo before he was released by the hijacker, she chose to focus on the definition of ‘selfie’.
“All we can say is that the picture is clearly not a selfie, as everyone has been describing it,” she said.
“You can clearly see that it is not Ben who is taking the picture. He is in it, but he is not taking it.”