Jaya had a great question recently:
Jaya: It interests me because I think it brings up larger issues about privilege and who controls the conversation. Like, who gets to determine what is rude. Because if our cultures have different ideas of what is acceptable and what isn’t, no one has the right to tell the other one what they’re doing is wrong. As much as, to me, the notion of commenting on a woman’s perceived pregnancy is horrific.
Victoria: Yeah, and to someone else, its just normal small talk.
Jaya: Right. So I think it’s important to be understanding of that, especially if you’re traveling and in a place where your standards are not the norm. Like, don’t go to Japan and yell at everyone for how they don’t do business like you.
Victoria: Haha yeah, for sure.
Jaya: However, I also don’t think that means that you should just roll over and “relax” if someone insults you, even if they don’t see it as an insult.
Victoria: That’s true. But at the same time, what would your response be? Especially in a case with a waiter or someone who you likely won’t interact with again? (I think for friends and family you should make it clear that you don’t appreciate their comments and that you find it hurtful.)
Jaya: Right. I think it’s up to the person, but I also think that you are well within your rights to speak out. There are plenty of times I just don’t feel like engaging, and I brush something like that off, but that’s because it’s my choice, not because I feel like I shouldn’t.
Victoria: True. I guess, that for me, there’s not much point in engaging, especially when a person is likely to become very defensive. For me, I see it as, it’s up to me to manage my feelings on a situation and can be helpful to think to myself “this person has a different idea about what questions are okay and which are not and I will just choose to believe that they didn’t mean anything hurtful” or just “they’re rude and they suck.” But I guess it also depends greatly on the situation and exactly what was said. Or wait, scratch part of that- the “it’s not up to me to manage my feelings” part….more like….I’m in charge of my feelings and I can’t always choose what people will say or how they will act, but I can choose how to feel about it? Oh I don’t know, this is a hard one.
Jaya: That’s a huge part of it! Like, is it emotionally worth it for you to engage?
Victoria: Haha okay, good, I am making sense.
Jaya: Yes! There’s a lot to weigh.
Victoria: Oh! I thought of a better way to phrase it- the only thing in a situation you can control is your reaction to it.
Jaya: YES, which is not to say you need to “control yourself” and do nothing, but really, you do you.
Victoria: So you have to think- is this something that is very important to me? Is this someone I will have to see frequently? To what degree am I willing to escalate it? Yeah, and obviously, we have to point out one of the etiquette golden rules: it is never okay to counter rudeness with more rudeness.
Jaya: I break that rule all the time.
Victoria: Hahah, I mean, we’re all rude sometimes.
Jaya: HOT TAKE: sometimes it’s okay to counter rudeness with more rudeness.
Victoria: lol. I mean, its not OKAY, but sometimes we are people who lose control of ourselves. And that is forgivable.
Jaya: I think, at its worst, etiquette encourages a lot of people to just grin and bear it for the sake of comfort.
Victoria: Well, I mean, I think they are polite ways and rude ways to respond to something that isn’t just grin and bearing it.
Jaya: Oh totally.
Victoria: Like someone is being a racist jerk. You can punch them Which would be rude. Or you can gently but firmly point out that they are being racist and remove yourself from their presence.
Jaya: But yeah I think people use etiquette and politeness to be like, a blanket rule that any sort of response is rude.
Victoria: Well, they are wrong 😛
Jaya: Hahaha duh. Mainly all I want to say is let’s never make comments about anyone’s bodies or really comment on anything and then we can all live and quickly die in dignified silence.
Victoria: Hahah yeah, but sadly there are rude people out there always.
Jaya: Can’t we send them to the moon yet?
Jaya: Everyone fund NASA
Victoria: Someone should run for president on that platform
Jaya: You do it
Victoria: Victoria for president! (except not because it sounds like a really hard job!)
Jaya: Hahaha yeah. Etiquette counselor to the president.