Huffington Post: Whose Sweat Doesn’t Stink?

sweaty-skin

In the September issue of the Condé Nast Traveler, Deputy Editor Kevin Doyle writes an insightful narrative about the nine days he spent traveling with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Over the course of four pages, Doyle paints an astute portrait of Clinton based on personal observations and conversations he had with the Secretary during their travels. Doyle begins his piece with a slight yet meaningful anecdote, writing that, “Hillary Clinton…does not sweat.” He swiftly transforms this little-known fact about Clinton into a metaphor for the insurmountable energy, patience and composure that are integral to Clinton’s character and to her success as America’s chief diplomat.

Yet, an article in The Huffington Post insisted that the key point of Doyle’s article was that “Hillz” doesn’t sweat. “Say what? Is Hillary Clinton seriously a non-glistening goddess?,” questioned Emma Gray, Associate Editor for HuffPost Women. Instead of commenting on Doyle’s substantive account of Clinton’s “life…of perpetual motion,” the Huffington Post honed in on the least significant detail of the article, insinuating that Clinton is better suited for a deodorant commercial than a peace summit.

Luckily, The Huffington Post’s glorified ode to Hillary Clinton’s pores provides Name It. Change It. readers with a glowing example of how NOT to write about a female politician or diplomat. If we pair this post with the Condé Nast Traveler’s article, we can outline the do’s and don’ts of writing an article about female leaders. 

The Huffington Post’s primary fault was focusing on Hillary Clinton’s admirable “feminine” traits instead of her actual achievements. Although the article does write that “Hillary has proven herself a badass too many times to count” (also notice that the article only uses her first name), the Huffington Post’s reason why she is badass has nothing to do with her career accomplishments. Gray’s article implies that Clinton’s most astounding trait is that she physically does not sweat, even while confronting the challenges of international diplomacy—how ladylike! 

Meanwhile, the focal point of the Condé Nast Traveler’s piece is Kevin Doyle’s emergent admiration for Clinton as he struggles to keep up with her rigorous travel itinerary and observes the “trademark sangfroid” with which she handles each situation. Thus, Doyle employs the metaphor about sweat (or lack thereof) to conclude that Hillary Clinton quite literally remains cool and collected in situations where any other person would be drenched in sweat.

Using sweat as a metaphor for composure is a sound strategy in a profile piece. However, writing an entire article about how a female diplomat never sweats, and proceeding to call her a “non-glistening goddess” is just plain sexist. Hillary Clinton’s perspiration is not news (and neither is her hair or makeup). Name It. Change It. strongly urges The Huffington Post to write about something besides Hillary Clinton’s appearance—though we’d be concerned that doing so would cause their reporters to, well, break a sweat.

Published by Hannah Sullivan on 08/17/2012

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