Why I Hate the Term “Nasty Woman”
In the course of my life, I have taken great pains to be both a respectful and respectable human. I hate the phrase “nasty woman” and would never cast myself as one. My world view has always been this: you’re either a nice person or you’re nasty.
Me, circa 1973. Nice enough girl, right?
But the moment the Republican nominee referred to HRC as “such a nasty woman” it really struck a chord with me. I was flooded with memories in which I had to couch my words; to pause and mentally re-script dialogue which would allow my listener to hear me rather than dismiss me; to ignore or laugh off both subtle and overtly misogynistic behavior. That exchange on the debate stage uprooted feelings in me as I’m certain it did within countless other women around the world. These exchanges happen all the time and within every household and office. The hidden biases are subtle but they run deep, and both men and women are purposefully and inadvertently complicit in perpetuating this behavior.
Need proof? Here’s a brief example of a conversation I had with my teenage son just this past summer. During soccer camp, a female coach substituted one day. On the drive home, my son complained about how much he disliked her; that she was so “bitchy”. I asked him what she did to give him that impression. He said it was the way she barked her commands. I asked him to imagine any of his male coaches giving the same commands. Would he have judged them the same? After a moment of silence he told me no, he would not. It was a powerful moment for both of us.
I want to live in a world in which I can speak my mind as freely as a man; to say what I mean; to utter the exact same words as men without being judged as “nasty”, “bitchy”, or “overly emotional”. To my dismay, this is not only not my current world, it’s not even felt in my very own forward-thinking household.
Here’s the thing: I come from a long line of out-spoken women who unapologetically speak their mind. I am a fairly educated woman. My dad and grandfathers never shut me down when I spoke. I have a supportive and progressive husband. And yet, somewhere along the line of my young adult life, I deliberately chose the path of politeness. I didn’t want to ruffle feathers, avoiding confrontation at all costs. It felt safe. But to what end?
I would not have chosen the word nasty to describe me. It was chosen for me.
I was going to stay off the political radar because it’s just not my style. But if I don’t speak up, my silence will be complicit in reversing the positive trajectory of my family’s and my global community’s future. I want to live in a world in which I can speak my mind in the respectful way modeled by HRC and not be called (or thought of as) nasty.
Perhaps if I and other brave women decide to take control of this word and re-brand it for what it represents now, my future daughters-in-law, grand-daughters and great-grand-daughters will live in a world in which they can live a life of grace, dignity and in the truest sense of authenticity.
If I can speak for the women who are the dutiful daughters and wives of men who don’t feel women should have the same rights as them to speak, so be it.
It’s clear that the support on both sides is “baked in” no matter what the facts are. If I can speak for the women who are the dutiful daughters and wives of men who don’t feel women should have the same rights as them to speak, so be it. Let my fellow nice, polite, compliant sisters see that we are all a work-in-progress. Let us all be aware that each of us have a voice, and the beauty of a democracy is no matter who we are inextricably tied to, we each have an independent choice in the matter of how we stand in this world. Let us all take control and re-brand for ourselves a new and improved nasty identity.