Saturday, 22 January 2011

If you enter a bathroom where a woman is standing naked... how do you display true tact?

In his recent LRB article on Wikileaks, "Good Manners in the Age of WikiLeaks" (recommended), Slavoj Žižek (2011) answers:
In Baisers volés, Delphine Seyrig explains to her young lover the difference between politeness and tact: ‘Imagine you inadvertently enter a bathroom where a woman is standing naked under the shower. Politeness requires that you quickly close the door and say, “Pardon, Madame!”, whereas tact would be to quickly close the door and say: “Pardon, Monsieur!”’ It is only in the second case, by pretending not to have seen enough even to make out the sex of the person under the shower, that one displays true tact.


  1. I would be very impressed if a man thought to make the second comment, for tactful reasons, in a split-second moment of surprise.

    Although the times I have been surprised in the shower - it has been I who spoke/bellowed. "Get out!" Ha.

  2. In this case, politeness is far better than tact. For with tact, he denies her a comment of her beauty. With politeness, he is respectful yet acknowledges her beauty and sexuality.

  3. Irène made a similar point by asking the question "but would that make the woman in the shower feel bad for not looking distinctly attractive and feminine enough?!"


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