A woman named Berthe wrote a letter to her aunt, Madame de Z, expressing her frustration with the lack of manners and politeness among men, particularly at the seaside resort of Étretat. She complained about their vulgar language, lack of consideration for women, and general coarseness. Berthe also mentioned her encounter with a man named Sully Prudhomme, who seemed to be an exception to the rule, as he was gentle and refined.
Men today have so little consideration and breeding that one must be strict.
In response, Madame de Z wrote a letter to Berthe, acknowledging her niece's observations but arguing that women were often just as impolite and inconsiderate as men. She provided examples of women's rude behavior in public spaces and suggested that men would become more polite if women set a better example.
In a society where all the women were really gentlewomen, all the men would become gentlemen.
Madame de Z also reminisced about her own experiences at Étretat thirty years prior, when the atmosphere was more friendly and carefree.
Madame de Z advised Berthe not to insist on formal dress for the upcoming hunting season, as it would spoil the fun for their friends. She encouraged her niece to be more understanding and accepting of others, rather than focusing on their flaws and shortcomings.