Friday, January 28, 2011

Thoughts on the naked woman in the shower

I wouldn't want to necessarily endorse anything else in this essay from Slavoj Žižek, but I quite liked this passage:

We are often told that privacy is disappearing, that the most intimate secrets are open to public probing. But the reality is the opposite: what is effectively disappearing is public space, with its attendant dignity. Cases abound in our daily lives in which not telling all is the proper thing to do. 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.

Politics here or there, that's a distinction I feel I can approve of.


cohu said...

This reminds me of a story that is told about an infamous former warden of Wadham College, Maurice Bowra - he was skinny-dipping with some other Oxford dons in the Cherwell when suddenly, a group of ladies showed up. Everyone covered their privates, except Bowra, who put his hands over his face instead. He later shrugged and said "I don't know about you, gentlemen, but in Oxford I, at least, am known by my face."

The Honourable Husband said...

So "pardon my erection" would be neither, then?

John Carter Wood said...

No. But it might be welcome nonetheless, depending on circumstances.

We're big believers in contingency here.