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A Begrudging Acceptance of Sweating

A Begrudging Acceptance of Sweating


Written by Mat McDermott

Look, I don’t like sweating anymore than the next person. Perhaps I don’t mind as much as some people, but it’s not at though I like having a damp brow, dewy limbs and a trickle of perspiration running down my spine into my nether regions, sometimes soaking the waistband of my pants. It’s not like I seek it out for its own sake.

But, you know what, for the sake our ourselves, our society and our planet we need to seriously get past worrying about sweating in public.

Despite advertising trying to convince us that sweating is unnatural, unstylish, and nearly anti-social, the fact of the matter is that sweating is an essential biological part of the human experience. When it’s 90°F+ out it’s all but inevitable with the slightest exertion. And we shouldn’t care about that, either personally or in others.

While acclimatization to heat, our clothing habits, and daily routine all certainly play a factor in how we perceive heat, these only go so far. Just travel to places where it’s routinely really hot—say, India, someplace I’ve spent a decent amount of time, in May or June. You’ll encounter all sorts of people (including yourself) sweating, sometimes profusely, in public. All the time. And, usually, no one much cares. It’s as much an unthought-of fact of life as someone coughing or sneezing or laughing. Humans sweat. When it’s 105°F and sunny, humans sweat a lot. In fact, from the standpoint of health it’s likely a bigger problem if we’re not sweating.

Worrying about this, having any sort of social stigma, personal social discomfort with this is just manufactured nonsense of the highest order—manufactured by advertising linking sweat to lack of control and, at a deeper level, by ingrained hierarchy (sweating is laboring and laboring is a lower rung on the social ladder than being able to pay or order people to labor for you; cool people don’t labor).

Admittedly I’m going way out on a sociological limb here, but to my way of thinking, sweat-phobia is also a byproduct of dysfunctional human relationship with the natural world, made all the worse by increasing dependence on air-conditioning by people and in situations which the human body is perfectly capable of adapting.

The more we expect that we should be able to control our physical environment in all situations—and air conditioning allows us to do this with temperature and humidity, albeit at a high environmental and social cost, as authors like Stan Cox have repeatedly demonstrated—the more we psychologically need that level of control. And, not incidentally, the more our bodies become less capable at self-regulation and adapting to temperature variations unconsciously.

This attempt at total control of temperature, keeping that temperature a constant cool temperature (that of a pleasant late spring day in northern Europe), is just further attempted separation of humanity from all of biological existence. In a different way an extension of the thinking that places humans above all other animals and indeed outside of ecology.

Digress for a moment for a counterfactual, but still within the realm of humans separated from nature and attempting to have totalitarian control over temperature:

What if instead of European and North American powers being the first to rise to the top of the Industrial Anthropocene age, taking with them patterns of dress and notions of what constitutes a comfortable temperature, ignoring the historical details, what if the nations of South-East Asia were the seat of economic power? Would we be trying to always have our building interiors at 85°F instead of 68°F? Would that be the temperature consider normal? Either one is perfectly comfortable when you’re used to it—you don’t instantaneously perspire with activity at either.

In any case, sweating is a good thing, just the body regulating temperature, a small or sometimes not-so-small reminder that we humans are too alive and not entirely dissimilar from other animal species, not disconnected from natural cycles, something everyone does so why should we care if we ourselves are doing it or others around us are, something which if we simply accepted perhaps we’d not feel the need to constantly manipulate interior temperatures, expending inordinate and unfair amounts of energy (and carbon emissions) to do so, all so that we don’t let other people see us, eee gads, doing what we’re meant to do as biological beings.

Come on people, it’s a small thing, even somewhat intangible compared to other ways to beat the heat, but I think it’s very much psychologically and socially important: Let’s embrace sweating, if only begrudgingly.

This post was originally published by TreeHugger.


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8:24AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

Baking soda is far better than a lot of the chemical antiperspirants used.
Will use air conditioning as it can be more than 25 degrees higher inside than outside on a hot and humid day and the cat that owns me would turf me off the balcony for not keeping her cooler.

A hot cup of tea is supposed to be more cooling for the body on a hot day than cold drinks of water.

5:28AM PDT on Jul 21, 2012

I don't mind to be sweating in public at all.. it's normal! Well, as long as you applied a proper deodorant though so that you won't be smelling bad afterwards. ^_^

8:47AM PDT on Jul 20, 2012


4:40PM PDT on Jul 18, 2012

Sweating is healthy as it cleans your pores and helps removes impurities from the skin and muscle. It also helps regulate the core body temp of humans. Sadly, there are people who cannot sweat and there for must avoid anything that could cause sweating because their core body temp raises too great and they basically cook from the inside out.

I prefer cooler temps, between 60 and 72, I can handle 73-76 degrees but any more then that and it get too much, but I do put myself in situation that causes me to sweat so my pores get clean and impurities (toxins) are removed from my body. I take a nice long bath afterwards, or I even go swimming in a nice cool lake (lakes that do NOT allow motorboats in them, there are a few around my family cabin when I go up for the summer) if it is a nice day out.

12:38PM PDT on Jul 18, 2012

I've never been a fan of summer and the heat and humidity that come with it and this year is no different. Actually, this year my lack of love for summer has worsened as my capacity for sweating seems to know no bounds!! All I can hope for is an early fall and an even earlier winter (like THAT's going to happen).

7:58PM PDT on Jul 17, 2012

I hate summer. I hate the heat. And I hate sweating. If ladies are supposed to 'glow', then I'm glowing like a thousand watt bulb. :(

My sympathies to you Neil. I live in Southern Ontario as well and it's been wickedly hot, with high humidity. No rain at all in the last few weeks. The river is drying up and the trees look like they are on their last legs.

Oh, to lay naked in a snow bank.

7:16PM PDT on Jul 17, 2012

I absolutely hate sweating ,especially in public . It.s awkward and embarrassing ,you feel everyone is looking at you.

10:13AM PDT on Jul 17, 2012

Anyway you describe it ** I hate to sweat** I to have a 97.6 body temp. Plus the fact I have some illiness and medications that cause me to sweat even more, Somedays you could be sitting there talking to me and all of a sudden you can see the sweat pouring out, its embarrassing. One time I went to a job interview, and the interviewer must have wondered what is going on with this lady is she going through de-tees or something. The A/C was on and it was cool, but when this happens to me not even A/C helps me.
I have told my doctors about it, no one seems concerned and its happened in front of them. And I point it out to them incase they are blind.
So sweating is a problem with many people.

4:29AM PDT on Jul 17, 2012

Noted and thanks

1:08AM PDT on Jul 17, 2012


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