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
Origin and Development of a Suffragette
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.