All the Flatulent Ladies: Farts Are the Great Equalizers


I will never forget 7th grade gym class, and the two girls whose names I will not use, who spent most of the beginning of every class period showing us all how to queef. The bell would ring, and before the teacher even left her office, they would roll onto their backs like breakdancers, pull their legs up to their chest and take turns letting them rip. The room erupted in embarrassed chuckles, but then the girls mostly fielded real questions from their peers: “Exactly how do you know you’re queefing and not actually farting?” “Because it comes from somewhere different.”

But the best part of the story is that these self-chosen queef queens were not misfits, weirdos, rejects, metalheads or anything close: They were two of the most popular, desired girls in the entire school. Of course, once queef class was over and we were back in the hallway, and more importantly, back around dudes, it was all fart-free giggles and twirls again, because they knew the rules as well as they knew how to queef: You don’t fart in front of dudes. It’s not ladylike. It just isn’t done.

Remember that one episode of Sex and the City where Carrie has like an existential crisis over letting one rip with Big? It’s mortifying, but not as mortifying as the fact that she felt that way as a fully grown adult farting woman in 1998. Nor is all this myth-perpetuation that women don’t fart or crap helping men come to terms with the horrifying fact that women have intestines, too.

Meanwhile, dudes, rulers of the free world (of farts), are practically out there swinging from trees propelled by their own farts. Right in front of our faces! And when they do it it’s funny, and maybe gross, but definitely not wrong. Which is why a new study that says, among other things, that women’s farts actually smell worse than men’s, should be hailed immediately as singular scientific proof that women are not, in fact, the more delicate creatures we pretend to be for the sake of all civilizations everywhere. We are just as foul as men, and we’ve finally got the farts to prove it. Stand up, ladies! Take a bow, and a round of farts. No really, you’ll literally feel better, not to mention less bloated.

Look, we’ve all heard and seen the depictions of women that show us as the softer, better-smelling, more delicate, body-function free specimens of the opposite sex. Even our period blood is a glowing, friendly blue liquid on TV — but, of course, regular blood can flow freely when it’s released in the service of traditional violence.

To not let women fart is to not let them be fully human. To be free to fart it up with the menfolk is a sign of acceptance, not disintegrating social norms. And the feeling that women need to hide their farts is all part of the intense, building pressure to wax, pamper, perfume, and mask the realities of our own humanness. It’s all part of a system that shames us into feeling, yet again, like how we actually are is never, ever, ever as sweet-smelling as it should be. It’s enough to shame the most bulletproof secure among us into holding in a lifetime’s worth of farts just to fit in.

Likewise, when it comes to winning the Garbage Pail Kid award for most bold display of bodily function, that has always been handed to adolescent boys, no questions asked: they, we are told, are the grand champions of farting, burping, nose-picking and all related bio-horrors, while girls are off knitting sweaters with built-in lavender-scented shoulder pads.

But any woman who knows women knows this isn’t really true. Oh sure, we let you believe it’s true, but women are just as foul as men, we just have to do it in secret, amongst ourselves, with an elaborate system of decoys and distractions to hide the evidence. And I’m not talking about periods, which are, conveniently, a historical reason for all manner of alienating women as different or suspect. (And according to a feminist scholar I asked, blood is the only body fluid anyone is typically interested in talking about concerning women historically, though she is told by colleagues that women’s farts are definitely joked about in Chaucer and Lysistrata). I’m talking about the universal stuff we all do.

Let her among us who is not a nose-picking, belching, farting, zit-popping, gleeking grossathon cast the first stone. Sure, some of us are more or less like that, just like men, more or less comfortable with it, just like men, and some of us are more or less embarrassed about it, just like men. Some of us are just downright more or less socialized. Over the course of a lifetime, a woman learns to repress and control these things so cleverly that in the end, she really is the more socialized one. But this only serves to reinforce the idea that this is natural or inborn, when it is anything but: Anyone who has been around babies and toddlers knows they fart with utter abandon, because they haven’t been socialized to feel shame for it.

Throughout history, it is women who’ve had to live up or against wildly varying depictions of what we are or are not like, and those depictions have typically ranged somewhere on the spectrum from the picture of modesty and spiritual superiority to your average, run-of-the-mill devil-whore. But even in our most evil whoring depictions, our inferiority was always rooted in lower intellect, not the lower intestine. What has gotten lost along the way on this journey to full womanhood seems to be our farts.

But now thanks to this study, we can reclaim them in all their off-putting glory. Let’s not lose the momentum! The study, which is actually about farting on planes, comes courtesy of a gastroenterologist who was inspired to research after spending a long time in what we all know is one helluva fart zone: an 11-hour flight from Copehagen to Tokyo, where the farts are no doubt a notoriously potent combination due to the sheer variety of cuisines potentially represented alone. To say nothing of the revenge farting up there we’ve all learned that we’ve been getting subjected to for ages.

What he found was both no-shit and oh-shit: Farts are inevitable, to the whistling tune of 10 times a day. Farts on a plane (new horror flick?) are even more frequent because of the cabin pressure changes. We’re all seduced by the idea of holding them in, but that causes real discomfort, like bloating, and dyspepsia. And the best thing for everyone is to just, for the love of God, let ’em out, out in the air, where they want to be with their friends.

This is great for passengers (except not at all), but there are real consequences for the pilot either way: Holding it in could “diminish his concentration” but letting it go could “affect” his co-pilot (they’re both dudes I guess?), reducing safety again. It’s a fart if you do, fart if you don’t kind of situation up there. (They recommend the use of charcoal in seats or in special underwear that can neutralize the odor.)

But none of that matters as much to us lil’ women as the aforementioned, little-publicized fact: Women’s farts smell worse. WORSE, I tell you. Thanks to the sulfur. (I think it’s all the SALADS.) If this doesn’t single-fartedly dismantle the notion of women as more delicate than men, then I don’t know what. Again, this not cause for alarm, it’s cause for celebration. Women should run to the nearest high point in their offices or environments right now and coordinate one giant fart for womankind. The kind that silences our detractors but good, and when the air clears, we’ll see who’s laughing. But look, if it’s really THAT bad, maybe we will just go back to hiding them, because underneath all the farts, we’re really sweet. (Giggle.)

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