ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.



October 2015



From Clueless to Class Act by Jodi R. R. Smith

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Two Stars

When I searched on Amazon to provide a link, I learned that this book was updated in 2015; whereas the version I read was published nine years ago. So I’m going to *hope* that the updated version is better than this one. It’d be pretty challenging for it to be worse.

This is a pretty sexist book. I think the author has this idea that teaching etiquette is the same thing as teaching women how to fit into every stereotype about what a woman should be. Now, I love etiquette books. I’ve read loads of them, including some hilariously ridiculous ones from the 19th century. This one isn’t AS bad as those when it comes to some areas, but given that it was only written nine years ago, I’m kind of flummoxed as to why it feels so very outdated.

The first, and most glaringly obvious point, is that the book is completely heteronormative. There’s no entertaining the possibility that the ‘lady’ to which we should aspire to be could be a lesbian, or bisexual, or exhibit any range of gender identity. In the dating section (which is particularly mediocre), it’s all about how to interact with men. Not good.

Any etiquette book runs the risk of seeming classist, and this one definitely falls into that trap, especially when it comes to the section on “image.” This idea that we should all just accept that people will judge us based on our looks is silly. I’m not interested in a book that panders to all the things that are wrong in society because that’s how a lot of people act; there are ways to talk about things like personal grooming (ugh, that word) without implying that only people in neatly pressed skirts are worthy of respect.

Now, I’m a bit biased when it comes to advice on interacting with pregnant people and new parents (since I’m writing a book on the topic), but seriously, some of her advice in that area is just straight up bad.

This book is not awful – there is some pretty straightforward advice in the realm of, say, how to eat lobster without getting shell and meat all over the place – but it is not one I can recommend. If you’re interested in etiquette, you can find much better books.

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