Nasty Woman? Eh, Women Have Heard it Before.

It was one of the most talked about moments of the 2016 Third Presidential Debate, when Donald Trump looked over from his lecturn and said that Democratic Nominee Hillary Clinton was “Such a Nasty Woman.”

Immediately the internet reacted:

You can buy a “Nasty Woman” t-shirt, created by a designer in New Orleans. (They’re currently backordered, so you might have to wait a while.) Even Katy Perry donned the Nasty Woman shirt at a Nevada Hillary Clinton rally.

For some, the Nasty Woman comment just represents all they already dislike about the Republican nominee. I asked some women in my life how they felt about it:

“Makes me uncomfortable.”

“His audacity to interject whenever he pleases irks me.”

“I have no words.”

“Just another example of what kind of person he is.”

Obviously, they weren’t fans either.  Neither was Elizabeth Warren, Democratic U.S. Senator from Massachusetts and attack-dog Clinton surrogate. She directly addressed Donald Trump at a New Hampshire Hillary Clinton rally five days after the debate.

“Get this, Donald. Nasty women are tough. Nasty women are smart. And nasty women vote… on November 8, we nasty women are going to march our nasty feet to cast our nasty votes to get you out of our lives forever.”

But here we are, nine days away from election day and Hillary Clinton has a lead in the polls, which is even wider among women. It seems that instead of highlighting Clinton’s downfalls, the phrase, “Nasty Woman” has become a rallying cry for women who support her.

Here’s my idea, Donald Trump’s “Nasty Women” comment is not a surprise. Us women, well, we’re used to hearing these sorts of things. It’s been happening throughout history, women have been met with pushback, specifically in the form of insults about our demeanor or appearance, not necessarily our ideas or views. Let’s take, for instance, the largest women’s movement in United States history – Women’s Suffrage.

The women’s suffrage movement in the United States is a prime example of how the “Nasty Woman” rhetoric has been used before, as an attack against women and their political gains. Suffragists were ridiculed and vilified, seen as making a fool of themselves all in an attempt to be like a man and earn the right to vote – something they were seen as undeserving of. More than that, they were often portrayed in propaganda as ugly and plain women, who were not pretty enough to attract a husband, rallying behind the cause of suffrage because they were not occupied by a traditional woman’s role.

suffragette plain things

Suffragette Plain Things

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Origin and Development of a Suffragette

a procession of suffragists

A Procession of Suffragettes

Talk about cruel, talk about nasty. All of these propaganda postcards paint the women as ugly and wholeheartedly anti-men, a threat to the status quo. And the Nastiest Woman of all the suffragettes? That had to have been – Elizabeth Cady Stanton. A quick Google search of Stanton’s names and you’ll find adjectives such as “brash” “uncompromising” “fiercely intelligent.” With a extensive education, more than most women of her day, Stanton was a pioneer for the Suffrage movement and a true Nasty Woman, a stance confirmed by her writing of the Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions. The rhetoric directly addresses the women’s role in society at the time, stating that “the same amount of virtue, delicacy, and refinement of behavior that is required of woman in the social state, should also be required of man, and the same transgressions should be visited with equal severity on both man and woman” (250). Stanton is bold here, asserting that if she, as a women, is required to put on a face and be seen as a refined character, then men should as well. Further than that though, she states that men should be subjected to the same consequences – the name calling, the harassment, the stripping of their rights – if they do not maintain this behavior and act as Nasty Men.

Stanton doesn’t end there, though, she continues stating “the objection of indelicacy and impropriety, which is so often brought against woman when she addresses a public audience, comes with a very ill-grace from those who encourage, by their attendance, her appearance on the stage, in the concert, or in the fears of the circus” (250). To me, this seems as if Stanton addresses the same problem that lead to Hillary Clinton being called a Nasty Woman a hundred years later in the third presidential debate. Women, when they break the status quo, when they assert themselves and are seen as a threat, particularily in politics, will experience pushback against them and their personality.

Is it fair? No. Does it happen? Absolutely. Just ask Hillary Clinton.

However, I believe that Donald Trump and his Nasty Woman comment has done something for Hillary Clinton that she might not have been able to accomplish on her own. It’s united women across the country, ones that have heard similar comments or felt they were similarily attacked for being assertive.

I think that almost every woman has felt they were a Nasty Woman. But, if being a Nasty Woman means being, as Jenny Hollander states, “tough, powerful, dynamic and unafraid to call out bullshit,” I think the women of the world could stand to be a bit more Nasty.

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6 Responses to Nasty Woman? Eh, Women Have Heard it Before.

  1. morgandick says:

    First of all props to you for including Janet Jackson’s smash hit Nasty, it made my day. In all seriousness I was interested in your post because of the historical approach you took. Women have certainly had the shorter end of the stick for well, a long time (forever?) and comments like Trump’s are a painful reminder to women that equality and respect are still out of reach from some people. I like that you brought up Elizabeth Warren and her relationship with the Clinton camp. Warren has arguably been the most effective elected official to campaign for Clinton and has proved that she is instrumental in rallying voters, volunteers, and other elected officials to support the Clinton/Kaine ticket. Warren has branded herself as the “nasty woman” of the U.S Senate. It will certainly be interesting to see how Warren, Clinton and other supports use this comment in the last week of the campaign. I do wonder why the “bad hombres” comment that was also muttered within minutes of the “nasty woman” comment did not receive the same attention or backfire. While I do understand your historical significance argument, I wonder what your thoughts are?

  2. kassandracarol says:

    This post reminded me of a situation that occurred this weekend. I was asked “why I have a women and gender studies minor and if it was simply because I hate men.” I do not hate men, I hate that gender affects my life and career goals so deeply just like that of Hillary Clinton. Hillary has a fought a unique campaign, she has to include her femininity in her campaign and ensure that she does not come off as too smart or too capable. What is wrong with either of those two things? Hillary is fighting a status quo of women in power, and getting major push back. This could be her recent scandal but it is also in part due to her gender. Being a nasty woman is not the same as a nasty man apparently. A nasty woman, is a leader, supports her beliefs, and stands up to those who try to undermine her. I agree, we need more nasty woman if this is what it means to be nasty.

  3. mnjacks1 says:

    When a man pushes back at society, he is deemed heroic and strong for standing up for what he believes in. When a woman does it, she is seen as unattractive and, well, “nasty” by others. Donald Trump’s comment towards Hilary Clinton during the Presidential Debate highlighted the double standard that women have been dealing with for decades. You made a great connection being a “nasty woman” with being a suffragist. Women have become so use to being torn down through their appearance and demeanor. Like you said, “Is it fair? No. Does it happen? Absolutely”. Like the suffragists, Clinton has been portrayed as too plain, too masculine, too loud. Instead of criticizing her based on merit, she is judged for how she carries herself. It’s amazing that women are able to come together and stand proud against an otherwise derogatory name. If being a “nasty woman” is standing up for what you believe in, then more women should be proud to be considered one.

  4. filj says:

    What shocked me most about the comment Trump made was, as you pointed out, it was muttered and he must have believed it wouldn’t get this much attention. It was a nonchalant jab, which he probably thought would fly under the radar. Since I was of working age I was urged to go to do so, my parents simply stated if I wanted a car, clothes etc it would have to come from my wages. I had prided myself on my ability to work hard, save up and buy myself whatever my little heart desired. As an 18 year old I was working part time and attending school full time, and like some females (some not all, if you’re anti makeup that’s cool too!) I took great pride in my appearance. I worked wherever I could, mostly sales, and was good at my job. I wore a uniform just like everyone else, and the same tennis shoes as everyone else. I will never forget the demeaning comments not only customers, but also coworkers got away with saying to me. One day, our Loss prevention specialist pulled me aside and said “if sexual assault was okay for one day….you can only imagine the things I’d do to you” obviously I was appalled. The LP specialist had pegged me all along as a daddy’s girl, working for fun. He assumed I would keep quiet and take it as a compliment. I’m not proud of this, and this is mostly why this comment that was made sticks out to me so much today, but I did keep quiet. I was afraid of the repercussions that would be made if I had spoken up to HR. Jobs would be lost, and my coworkers would despise me! I couldn’t do that! Besides, I didn’t even feel that threatened. Here I am, three years later, physically unharmed, but unwary of physical appearance. “You can look good, but don’t look too good. There are creepy people out there you never know.” Or my favorite awkward college mistake so far of “He walked me to class and then asked for my number, I didn’t want to give it to him but I gave it to him because I didn’t want him to think I was mean.” Seriously???? It’s 2016 and I’m afraid of looking to nice or acting friendly not to upset anyone? I think it’s time a nasty woman takes office. I personally could use a few lessons, and I look forward to a president that teaches people it is NOT okay to verbally assault, or even kid about it with their “locker room talk”.

  5. mschonbe says:

    I love all of the images you included in this post, especially the suffragette propaganda and of course the Janet Jackson video. Trump’s misogynistic comments have always come back to bite him but this comment created a huge plot twist that I’m sure he did not see coming. To openly disrespect women over and over again in the way he has is first and foremost disgusting but also strange since he is trying to earn votes and seems to forget that half the population is women and millennial women are a huge part of this election. It is still a bleak reality that though women have made leaps and bounds in gaining positions of leadership in a variety of fields including politics, they are still subject to these types of comments. Women in politics are still not given the same respect as men and I think it will be a long time until there will be equal gender disparity in the political realm. It is a huge problem in a variety of different fields and the problem is coming to light within this election. There is power in spinning a derogatory term, so it is great that “Nasty Woman” has become a chant for Hillary supporters and a reminder that gender bias and inequality is still a very real problem in our world today.

  6. prestonmarshall says:

    Here we are, 5 days away from the election cycle, and the polls have tightened dramatically. Ammo from each side isn’t running out, but becoming a surplus for each candidate. Yes, Trump called Hillary Clinton a nasty woman, but I don’t see this as an attack on women as a whole, rather, Clinton. This also isn’t to say Hillary Clinton is a “nasty” woman, but rightfully so, she could have easily retorted with, “Trump, you’re an even nastier man.” And yes, the nasty woman comment has become a golden title for Clinton supporters, much like how Trump fanatics claim to be deplorable(s). I think the real lesson here is that, regardless of age or gender, mudslinging will always exist in politics, and verbal abuse will always exist in human-kind. I suppose if you wanted to change this, you’d have to change the entire political process itself, perhaps even the constitution. That being said, I’ll have deplorable(s) and nasty woman any day over the possibility of not being able to call anyone anything rude at all.

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