Too stupid to merit a link so the paper can get some eyeballs.
Why I was sweat-shamed as I waited for my coffee at Starbucks
The stigmas surrounding women’s bodies are powerful, but they’re no match for how powerful I feel after running
I was ordering coffee when I noticed a well-dressed woman staring at me.
“You look like you just did a class,” she said, giving me the once-over. I had no idea what she meant so I said nothing.
“Or swimming?” she offered, with a tight smile.
Oh, that. I’d just run 12 miles and the hair sticking out from under my hat was wet. It took me a moment to formulate an answer.
“Um, running,” I mumbled finally. “I just … sweat a lot.”
I took the paper cup of drip coffee and hustled past the condiment bar. Screw the half-and-half; I’d drink it black.
Once safely inside my car, I threw off my damp running cap and flipped up the hood of my sweatshirt in embarrassment. I wanted to dive deep into that Lululemon Scuba and never come back up for air.
Eventually the caffeine kicked in and it hit me: I’d been sweat-shamed. Sweat-shaming is when someone points out your sweatiness as a way to signal disapproval. Like its counterparts, slut-shaming and fat-shaming, sweat-shaming is aimed mainly at women, who are actually not supposed to sweat at all.
Horses sweat, men perspire, and women glow, as the saying goes.
I glow like a nuclear reactor. My body cools itself exactly as I need it to. After long, hard runs my fair, fine hair sometimes ends up dripping wet. I bring dry clothes to throw on afterward and try to forget about it.
Until somebody reminds me. Strong may be the new sexy and fit may be the new skinny but sweaty is as gross as ever. To “sweat like a pig” is to be fat, dirty, uncivilized. Nobody wants to fall into this category, so we attempt to conceal our perspiration – something I’d tried but failed to do at Starbucks.
Rather than challenge sweat-shaming, I played right into it, conceding that I “sweat a lot.”
But do I, really? We have been hiding this natural bodily function so long we have no idea how much a “normal” woman sweats – if there is such a thing – much the same way many men have no idea how much make-up it takes to produce “natural” beauty. (Cue the Amy Schumer if you doubt me.)
Now, instead of just concealing sweat, we may opt to stop it entirely. A flurry of recent “trend” articles describe how some women are getting Botox injected into in their scalps to keep their heads from sweating, thus preserving their blow-outs through intense SoulCycle sessions.
Pharmaceuticals may one day liberate us from perspiration. But what if instead we chose to be liberated by it?
In her book, The Female Grotesque, feminist theorist Mary Russo explains how throughout literature, the image of the “open, protruding, secreting body,” stands in contrast to archetypal female beauty and might offer a way to subvert it.
Open, protruding, secreting; this sounds a lot like the body of a woman running. Literature’s crones and bearded ladies may have been on to something, but it would be nice if women could exercise their freedoms without being regarded as freaks.
Ten things feminism has ruined for me
If I were to re-imagine the sweat-shaming incident as a music video, it would play out like this: a spotlight comes down, and maybe a disco ball. Baristas dance back-up around me.
“I don’t think you’re ready for this sweaty,” I belt out, to the tune of Bootylicious.
It’s just a fantasy, but it helps me see how I might react differently. I’ve got another long run this weekend and afterward, I’m going to sit down with my coffee, all sweaty and transgressive.
The stigmas surrounding women’s bodies are powerful, but they’re no match for how powerful I feel after running.