A personal opinion

(A Portuguese translation of this text will come soon)
A damn annoying thing about being a female foreigner in a country like Denmark is that sometimes it is difficult to judge if someone talks nonsense to you because you are a woman or because you are a migrant or simply because he (it is usually a “he”) is not a sensitive person.

Two days ago I attended a talk that was part of the programme of the “Social Media Week”, in Copenhagen.  The talk was fine and once it was finished, there was time for debate. Three or four men made questions to the speaker, most of them related to the social, legal and economic implications of the technology under discussion. I was the only woman and, I believe, the only foreigner to present questions  Since then I have been thinking about the way the speaker introduced his answer to me. After I finished my question, he said:

  • “Well, this is a very personal opinion and I respect this but …”

I heard his answer, which was quite reasonable and polite, but could not forget that short introduction.  Of course my question was based on a personal opinion, but it was also based on my professional experience and education background which, by the way, includes a Master’s degree at the same university where the speaker earned his Master’s degree.

The other questioners also expressed “personal opinions” but they deserved answers that did not include an introduction similar to the one I received.

I took for granted that opinions were respected in that sort of forum, therefore it was totally unnecessary to say that he respected mine.

Why did the speaker make that pointless remark? Was it rooted in prejudice against women speaking about technology? Or is it related to a negative disposition against a black female migrant speaking about technology?

Probably, the speaker did not intend to be offensive, but I felt annoyed. His introductory remark somehow disqualified my questions. If it was only a personal opinion, it was not qualified enough to deserve a careful consideration. As a result, his answer sounded like a demonstration of good will towards someone who had more a “personal opinion” than a qualified argument about the subject.

Conclusion: besides knowledge and smart slide presentations, sensitivity should be included in the list of requirements for a good speaker.

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