We're laughing to keep from crying.
Not even senators, it turns about, can escape sexist assumptions.
In a speech at Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington, D.C., on Monday, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar touted her bipartisan overtures, made the economic case for saving the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and explained how women govern differently.
But her biggest applause line came as she recounted an experience that many women in the room could relate to—being mistaken for a powerful man’s wife.
Klobuchar, a Democrat, won her office in 2006, becoming the first woman elected to represent Minnesota in the U.S. Senate. Her decade-long tenure also makes her the state’s senior senator. Her junior counterpart is fellow Democrat Al Franken, the one-time comedian and Saturday Night Live performer, who won office in a 2008 election.
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Franken’s past career as a comedy writer and actor makes him one of the Senate’s most recognizable figures, so traveling with him—Klobuchar told the Summit—often means encountering enthusiastic fans who are unaware of Klobuchar’s own track record.
Klobuchar recalled the time, about a week after Franken took office, that a fan in an airport asked Klobuchar if she worked with Franken.
“I say, ‘Well, yes, I do,'” she told the MPW audience. “And they’re like, ‘Will you take my picture with him?’ So every time this happens, I want to take a picture of myself on selfie mode and say, ‘Here’s a great picture of a senator!’”
An especially memorable instance of mistaken identity occurred one night as Klobuchar and Franken boarded a Delta flight from Washington, D.C., to Minnesota.
“[T]he plane was filled with Minnesotans, but the flight crew was from Atlanta,” Klobuchar said on Monday. “[The] flight attendant was very exuberant, and she gets on the microphone and says, ‘Everyone, we have celebrities on the plane! Mr. and Mrs. Al Franken!’”
The plane erupted with laughter, Klobuchar said, as Franken told the flight attendant that Klobuchar was actually the other senator from Minnesota.
Klobuchar explains what happens next: “The flight attendant gets back on the microphone and says, ‘How cool is this, husband and wife senators!’”
“True story, that happened to me,” she told the MPW audience. “I’m sure you have similar stories, but not quite one like that.”