From this week’s advice column round-up:
Dear Miss Manners:
Is it wrong to point out someone’s stretch marks and to tell them to use cocoa butter on them in the room with two other people?
SRSLY? SRSLY? That’s got to be the most no-brainer Miss Manners question ever.
The Sharper family—well, one side of it, anyway—has its fair share of ladies devoted to this kind of
concern trolling offering advice, frequently in front of other family members. One of my relatives even went so far as to send copies of a clothes catalog to her brother because she deemed his wife insufficiently fashionable and wanted to “help.” (The response was perhaps not what she’d hoped for).
So, yeah, I’ve certainly been on the receiving end of people “pointing out” my flaws and suggesting fixes, which is why this letter to Miss Manners resonated with me. In my experience, this kind of “helpful” advice—slap some cocoa butter on those stretch marks, sister!—is neither helpful, nor is it advice.
I just recently wrote about how talking about our bodies is important, particularly from a feminist perspective, and how a moratorium on body talk would be harmful. But I’d gladly propose a moratorium on women talking about other women’s bodies, or “pointing out” someone’s flaws. Maude knows, we have the media to do it for us—there’s no end of articles on the newsstands and internet about who’s too fat, who’s too thin, who’s had bad plastic surgery. We don’t need to perpetuate that shit with girl-on-girl nit-picking, which is inevitably one of two things: a passive-aggressive putdown or an attempt by the “helper” to work out some issue she has with her own body by projecting it onto the person she’s trying to help.
Miss Manners’s succinct answer:
No doubt there are those who would congratulate themselves on being helpful if they drew attention to what they perceive as a defect in someone and proposed an antidote that is hardly unknown. If you were the victim of this, Miss Manners commiserates; if you were the perpetrator, please cut it out.
Now, if someone noticed that, say, I had a mole that looked cancerous, I’d appreciate them pointing it out. Otherwise…no. Hell no. My body is not up for commentary. I do not need anyone’s “advice” on my hair, my clothes, my weight, my stretch marks or any other part of my physical being—not in private and definitely not in front of others. And yes, that goes for “compliments” like “I wish I was as thin as Becky! I’d have to quit eating completely!” (Note to the women who pay those “compliments”: I know what your deal is. I do not like it.)
I’d love to start some kind of national campaign against female busybodies who can’t STFU about other women’s bodies. I don’t care if it produces an angry, awkward silence or an understanding respectful silence…it would be worth it just for silence on this issue.