March 29, 2021
And that’s the tee… on how “Nasty Woman” became a rallying cry
Over the past few months, we’ve been spilling the tea on some of our favorite Feminista t-shirts and how they came to be, from Roe v. Wade and our reproductive rights tees to Audre Lorde and her historic Uses of Anger speech.
For this week’s edition of “And That’s the Tee,” we’re going way back in time… to 2016 (feels like ancient history, doesn’t it?) to talk about our “Nasty Woman” t-shirt, where the phrase comes from, and how it became a trendy feminist catchphrase.
This is a story about sexism in the workplace—albeit a very public, visible workplace—and what one woman’s campaign and her supporters did to fight back. Whether or not you’re a Hillary fan, there’s plenty to learn here and we promise, we’ll be brief :) So grab a mug and put on your Monday best, because it’s “tee” time, ladies.
“Such a nasty woman”: the origin story
You may or may not remember this moment from the third and final presidential debate in 2016, when Hillary Clinton was fielding a question about Social Security. In her response, she made a quick comment about Donald Trump’s unwillingness to share his tax returns with the American people. Ordinarily, an opponent would wait their turn to speak and respond on their own time, but as was custom for this candidate, he interrupted her, shook his head and said, “such a nasty woman.”
She pressed on, returning to substance rather than taking the bait, but of course the internet wasn’t so willing to move right along… In the following weeks, memes were made and the hashtag #NastyWoman was everywhere, as the Twitterverse and even the mainstream media fanned the flames and echoed that phrase in reference to her.
How feminists reclaimed the phrase
Thankfully, her supporters weren’t about to let that slide, and feminists everywhere rallied to reclaim the phrase, turning the pejorative into a badge of honor and essentially telling the world, “if Hillary’s a nasty woman, then so am I,” or as her campaign slogan put it, “I’m with her.”
It soon became an emblem in pop culture as well, with celebrities from Kristin Bell and Samantha Bee to Will Ferrell and Katy Perry wearing Nasty Woman t-shirts to Women’s Marches and other public events. Even SNL jumped in and Kerry Washington made news when a “nasty woman” line appeared in the show Scandal and she took that opportunity to show support for the candidate.
Eventually, the Clinton campaign decided to play along and reclaim it right alongside the feminists who started it. Our favorite “nasty woman” moment on the campaign trail? Senator Elizabeth Warren saying, “Nasty women are tough, nasty women are smart, and nasty women VOTE” at a rally in October 2016. (Check it out here.)
Sexism on the campaign trail & IRL
There is plenty of debate regarding the role of sexism in the outcome of the 2016 election, but when one candidate is caught on record bragging about inappropriately groping women during the campaign (and barely suffering any political consequences), we think it’s fair to say Hillary faced an unprecedented degree of misogyny on the part of her opponent.
Perhaps his most overtly sexist claim was that anytime she appeared to be beating him in the polls or making headway with her campaign, Trump would say it was just because she was playing the “woman card.” (Here’s a clip.) Eye rolls all around. Thankfully her response was clever as ever: "if fighting for women's health care and paid family leave and equal pay is playing the 'woman card,' then deal me in." Yes please.
Let's not forget the full-on articles from national publications about her outfits or her smile or what kind of a wife she is or was or ought to be either... When she focused seriously on policy, people said she was robotic. Unfeeling. When she expressed empathy, they said she was soft. When she highlighted her qualifications, she was bragging.
And let’s face it, this is not new or unfamiliar; it's a very public version of what sexism looks like at work and in everyday life—the way that strength can be misinterpreted or deemed as cold or calculating. The way intelligence can be reframed as sly or corrupt. Competence as elitism. Kindness as weakness. The list goes on and on.
The “nasty woman” legacy & what comes next
Before we wrap up, let’s level-set: Hillary Clinton is a controversial figure—always has been, always will be. She was not a perfect candidate, and you don’t have to be a sexist to be against her platform or even dislike her as a person. That’s up to you. But Hillary Clinton’s presidential run in 2016 (and honestly her whole career) has paved the way for future female candidates (ahem, please see Vice President Kamala Harris as evidence).
She kicked into high gear an important conversation (that is nowhere near over, by the way) about unconscious bias and the way women in power are portrayed in the media and the way we as American people are prone to react to and reflect that. By just stepping into the spotlight and taking the heat, she has normalized the idea of women in the highest positions of power and inspired a generation of girls who will have seen that as a possibility as they grow up and dream about their future (it’s female!).
Oh, and speaking of a brighter future: this Wednesday is National Trans Awareness Day! In light of the legislation being discussed in some states right now and the continued prejudice against trans people in general, we’d just like to take a moment and remind our followers why we use feminine pronouns (she/her/ladies/etc.) when addressing our audience. As a feminist clothing brand, it's our goal to correct the historically male imbalance perpetuated by most other media and publications.
It’s just our small way of making a statement, but we also want to be clear that everyone's welcome here at The Feminista and trans rights are undoubtedly human rights, so let’s listen up this Wednesday and make space for our trans allies. Because after all, there’s no wrong way to have a body ;)
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