Of Nasty Women and Halloween

I wore a nasty woman t-shirt for Halloween. A few people asked me for more context, which inspired me to write about it.

It is, of course, a reference to a comment during the 3rd Presidential debate (yes, I know that’s not the real debate…). Although I don’t recall that this particular expression has been thrown at me, I have been called quite a few names by men who claimed to love me. One of them, my ex-husband, was also fond of threatening me with jail time for imaginary crimes I had not committed – something else that resonates from this crazy election cycle.

The words also have a sexual subtext. This, too, is a familiar narrative that seems to limit us to either a loose woman (the nasty one) or a virgin (the prude). We are not allowed to express ourselves. We are being confined to the scripts of men.

What resonated most, and why I picked this as my Halloween costume, was that competent, strong women appear scary to (mostly) white men. We seem to be so scary that we have to be insulted regularly to be kept down. The ensuing reaction of so many women was very gratifying: Instead of recoiling in horror at the words, we claimed them. Go ahead, call us nasty! It is not going to stop us!

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