The Jennifer Lawrence incident at the Golden Globes has a message for all cellphone and iPad owners as well as men and women everywhere.

The Golden Globes are a goofy kind of place where an honoree like Denzel Washington would show up without his speech and have nothing to say and where reporters might ask weird questions like “If you could have an extra body part, what would you choose?”

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association only has ninety-odd members, none of whom I currently know personally. The organization has managed to pull together awards 73 times. Last year, there was a hashtag campaign to #AskHerMore and a refusal to submit to the mani-cam. This year, the Twitter-verse has seemed adverse to Jennifer Lawrence’s comment to a foreign reporter.

The #AskHerMore campaign focused on asking substantive questions of the women nominated and the women winners, things beyond dress, hair, jewelry and designers. This year there was #SmartGirlsAsk and in the case of Jennifer Lawrence, she came back with smart replies that were criticized by some as rude.

It is worth asking the question if the exchange was only considered rude because an attractive white woman was saying it to a man. Would the same exchange be considered rude if Matthew McConaughey had made them to another man? Or if a black woman had made them to a white man or a black man? Although this didn’t happen, surely it is time to question sexist dynamics in language.

According to Peggy Post, being polite doesn’t mean you are a pushover, smiling and accepting whatever another may dish out. In an article for Good Housekeeping, she wrote that when faced with rude behavior:

  1. Stay calm.
  2. Give the offender the benefit of the doubt
  3. Offer empathy.
  4. Encourage a positive response.
  5. Use humor when you can.
  6. Take it to a higher level.

At the Golden Globes, Lawrence was asked a humorous question: “If you could have an extra body part what would it be?” She replied, “I really want to think about this one. I guess extra arms would come in handy. I am left-handed and what if I ask for an extra body part and I get a right hand? Well, that one is useless.”

This is when, the Spanish-speaking reporter (Juan Pablo Fernández-Feo) asked his question, “How did you see yourself…”

Lawrence responded using Peggy Post’s number five option, saying, “You can’t live your whole life behind your phone, bro. You got to live in the now.”

The reporter laughed and finished his question and got an equally humorous reply. In both cases, other reporters chuckled. There were no gasps of indignation or horror.

Emily Post Institute in its “The Etiquette Advantage in Business”  has a whole chapter called “The Smartphone” and notes:

“One of the ways we demonstrate our respect for others is by giving them our full attention. Divide your attention between people and a device—even for work-related reasons—and you run the risk of those around you perceiving that you have diminished your respect for them too.”

In another chapter, about “The Good Conversationalist,” the institute reminds us that “Looking into the other person’s eyes shows your interest in the conversation.”

That’s something we can all consider: Putting down on cellphones and having an experience instead of recording it. Being courteous in our cellphone and iPad/tablet usage. Conversations online make one wonder if the way one interprets an incident really has more to do with one’s perception of the world. Are you a kind person? Are you a meanie with often ill-intentioned actions looking to find fault with someone. How do you perceive the roles of men and women. If Jennifer had said the same thing and smiled, would it had been better or less effective? If she had apologized profusely for making the request, would that have been deemed politer or more womanly?

Posing the Matthew McConaughey scenario or even the imagining Viola Davis saying the same thing (and giving the hand signal for stop) can be a telling indication of how a person sees women and their role in society. From our House of Geek, Jennifer Lawrence’s comment didn’t raise an eyebrow (Spocks or Lady Mary Crawley’s).

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