At the London women’s march last Saturday there were hundreds (if not thousands) of signs that celebrated being a "nasty woman". Women and men wore T-shirts that said "The future is nasty!" and "Nasty women unite!"
Why did the phrase ‘nasty woman’ become so popular and widespread among those that oppose Trump? After all, it as only a one-time reference he made to Hilary Clinton during a presidential debate, and surely dwarfs some of the other misogynist statements he made before and during his campaign.
- A major Nasty Women art exhibition gets great coverage… on Fox News?
In order to understand why feminists have co-opted the phrase and are employing it in the aftermath of the election, we have to look beyond Trump and the broader implications of being ‘nasty’ and a woman. Nasty resides in the same lexical category as bitchy, cold, frigid, overbearing, and a popular one: bossy. All of these adjectives have been overly attached to one gender (female), and in specific instances (namely: when women assert volition or dominance). On a base level, it's petty name calling, but if we treat language as power that does something, then we understand that the suturing of negative adjectives to women in response to a threat to the gender order is a veiled attempt to subordinate and control. This works for race too; just think of the oft-touted ‘angry black woman’ phrase that aims to suppress women of colour.
Some feminists are now re-articulating Trump's sexist language (see also: “my pussy grabs back”) as a way to highlight the sexist overtones, and defiantly push back against a system of oppression. Will this re-articulation succeed? That is the more interesting question.