Judging a Person by her Cover

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of speaking about journalism ethics at the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island. The topic of my presentation was “The Changing Face of News: Where Have All the Journalists Gone?” (When I decided on the topic, I had no idea that journalism and journalism standards would be such a hot topic in the news this week: The events in Ferguson, Missouri. The chokehold death of Eric Garner in Staten Island. The Rolling Stone article about the young woman who had been reportedly raped at the University of Virginia—and the sudden backing away of Rolling Stone from the article.)

I had never been to the Ethical Humanist Society before, and I felt so at home there — such nice people and such a nice feeling of community. I was introduced to many people before I was asked to come to the podium and was struck by how learned and accomplished the crowd was (no pressure, Dina!). As I spoke, I thought things were going pretty well. I glanced around the room and thought attendees seemed to be enjoying the discussion and were engaged and interested.

Afterwards, several people approached me to tell me how much they enjoyed my presentation, which is always nice, but I particularly remember one woman, a tiny little thing, maybe in her sixties, who excused her way up to the front of the room to tell me:

“I truly enjoyed your presentation.”

“Thank you,” I said.

It looked like she had more on her mind. “I have to say,” she continued, “when I met you earlier…”

She struggled for the words, but I had a feeling I knew what she was going to say, because I had heard it many times before.

“…when I met you, I thought you were so sweet and…well, I have to say your youthful appearance and manner truly belies the mature, well-spoken, and accomplished woman you are with many years of experience.” She saw me smile. “You’ve heard this before, haven’t you?”

“Yes,” I said. “Many times.”

Have YOU ever been under-estimated? How did it make you feel?


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