During last Wednesday’s debate, Donald Trump muttered into his mic, “Such a nasty woman,” about Hillary Clinton.
The phrase was immediately claimed by feminists all over the Internet. You can buy t-shirts, you can post to hashtags, you can update your profile picture all declaring yourself as a nasty woman. It has become a bit of a way for women to speak with pride about their accomplishments. A way for women to own the things that may lead them to being labeled as nasty by a misogynistic and sexist society. And if you’re Janet Jackson, a little extra revenue bump.
I can understand the appeal. When you’re called bitch or cunt or nasty, it certainly feels better to appropriate that language into something that gives you power, rather than taking your power away. It’s better to take pride in language meant to cut and wound. Admitting that those words hurt is a sign of weakness, and any hint of fragility undermines your ability to have an impact on the world around you.
There was a time when I embraced the bitch moniker. I was opinionated. I was loud. I wasn’t quiet about my accomplishments. All the markers of a bitch. All the signs of a nasty woman. Might as well beat people to the punch if that’s what they were going to call me anyway.
The truth is, I’m not a bitch. Being loud and opinionated and proud aren’t automatically negative traits simply because I’m a woman. Calling myself a bitch just to beat someone to the punch didn’t elevate me, it just brought me down to the level that made it okay for others to think that it’s okay to call a woman a bitch because she’s not as feminine as she’s “supposed to be.” It might have kept women who aren’t naturally boisterous from speaking their mind lest they too be called nasty. It was a mask that made me think that maybe there was something just a little bit wrong with me for being my authentic self.
I don’t say that about myself any more. I don’t call myself and bitch, and I won’t say that I’m a nasty woman.
A woman isn’t nasty if she dreams of being president.
A woman isn’t a bitch if she leaves an abusive relationship.
A woman isn’t a cunt if she gets angry about misogyny.
A woman isn’t a prude because she isn’t interested in being hit on in public.
A woman isn’t a slut because she wore a bikini at the beach.
A woman isn’t a tease because she went on a date and didn’t have sex after.
A woman isn’t a whore if she did have sex after that date and doesn’t want a second date.
I don’t want to use Donald Trump’s pejorative as a way to describe myself or the women in my life. I’ll use words like courageous, bold, strong, powerful, honest, free. You may think those things make us nasty, but you’d be wrong.
And I’ll use all of my loud, opinionated, proud words to tell you.