JOANNA ELM, Author, Journalist, Attorney

News Squib#6 -In Praise of Nasty Women


Extra News TodayIt’s Squib Saturday. Time to share the best, most interesting (or most entertaining, or most outrageous) tidbit of information I’ve gleaned from all the stuff I’ve read this week. Today: Donald “I-have-all-the-best-words” Trump finds himself at a loss for them.  


You just knew, watching Donald Trump in Las Vegas, that he was building up to saying something really bad as the final presidential debate rolled into its final half-hour. The interruption came when Hillary addressing the subject of entitlements and tax increases said that, yes, “my social security payroll contribution will go up, as will Donald’s — assuming he can’t figure out how to get out of it. ”  Donald leaned into his mic, and said: “Such a bitch.”

Bitch? Nasty Woman? Whatev…

Candidate Donald Trump speaks at press conferenceNo. Wait. He didn’t use the b-word. Instead, he said : “Such a nasty woman.” But, he may as well have said “bitch” because most women know that’s the phrase (“such a bitch”) that automatically springs to mind, and very often to the lips of men who can’t think swiftly or sharply enough to rebut a woman’s argument. It’s not a label that hurts so much any more. And, “nasty woman” is Bitch-Lite.

Feminist-fueled Wave

New York Magazine called the interruption, “one of the most bizarre interjections from Trump.”  But, within minutes of the utterance, women all over America “collectively burst out laughing  and brilliantly repurposed the phrase.” The hashtag “#nastywoman” erupted on Twitter as the “great big feminist-fueled wave that Clinton has been waiting for.”   People Magazine immediately chronicled the name-calling under the headline, “Thousands Turn Trump’s ‘Nasty’ Debate Diss of Hillary Clinton into a Battle Cry.”  In the U.K., Claire Cohen of The Daily Telegraph commented, “If you’re being called a nasty woman, you’re doing something right.”  A Hillary supporter reportedly purchased the domain name “” which now redirects to Clinton’s campaign website.

Badge of Honor

3ec2fa3b-7d4d-4fa1-a433-b898f1de8845In New York Times Magazine, Susan Dominus wrote about “The Nickname Hillary Clinton has been Waiting For.” She said: “The public has sensed the effort that goes into [Clinton’s] appearances  [because of her] fear of appearing witchy or harsh or emasculating. And, yet in trying to punish her for her more overt displays of hostility, with one interruption, Trump instantly turned harshness — and fierceness– into a celebrated badge of honor.

Dominus added: “To describe yourself ,with glee, as a nasty woman is a powerful unleashing, a refutation of all that girls are brought up to be: subservient, silent and accommodating.”

I’m sure that Hillary does not lose any sleep over being called a “nasty woman” — or a bitch. In 2008, when she was running to be the Democratic Party presidential nominee, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler pointed out, in an SNL skit, that some people were calling Hillary a bitch. The skit was titled: Bitches Get Stuff Done.

In Good Company

imagesIn any event, Hillary is in illustrious company. Margaret Thatcher, the first woman Prime Minister of Great Britain was nicknamed The Iron Lady by those who admired her. Yet, as Patrick Vallely of The Independent pointed out,  “she liberated the repressed misogyny among male, [Labour] members of parliament who chanted  “ditch the bitch” when she entered the House of Commons.”  More recently, Theresa May, who became the second woman prime minister of Great Britain was described as “a bloody difficult woman.”

Decades ago, back in the late 70s, when I first landed in America, I purchased a best-selling paperback, Success. In it, author Michael Korda wrote separate chapters specifically for women. “Nobody wants you to succeed except you,” he wrote. “Learn to challenge. When someone makes a mistake, point it out! When you’re not satisfied, say so! When you’ve got a point to make, make it! The world will not come to an end if you make a scene.”

Desperate Donald

Women who came of age, and entered the workplace at the same time as Hillary knew that the more successful they became, the harsher the epithets that might be used against them. (Yes, Virginia, worse names have been flung at strong, assertive, unapologetic women.) But, as The Daily Telegraph’s Cohen concluded: “name-calling is the last, desperate preserve of those who don’t have any real ammunition.”




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