Like queers, suffragettes and impressionist painters have shown us, using an insult as a way to identify yourself and the group you belong to can diminish the power of the pejorative. This is exactly what happened to the term ‘Nasty Women’, proudly reclaimed by women all over the US and the rest of the world after Trump used it to refer to Hillary Clinton. This collection of essays celebrates women standing up to Trump, the far-right, sexism, and racism, but mainly just standing up for themselves.
The twenty essays show the sheer diversity of women’s experiences today. Honest, heart-breaking, powerful and relatable, these stories are incredibly important. Covering topics from anti-conception, the punk scene, creating online platforms for writers of colour, and foraging as a modern version of witchcraft, to personal narratives about sexual violence, immigration, being fat, disabled or black in a world where your space is not a given. I feel privileged simply reading the words of these women.
There are endless sections in Nasty Women to quote – sentences to write on your wall or paste on notebooks, to look at for comfort or strength. I’d like to end with one of these, by Laura Waddel. “How many artists and writers have we never known, how many songs never sung, locked out by societal inequality? How many contributions by women have never been seen? How poorer are we all for that? In a strange and shifting global political climate, when clouds of austerity and xenophobia threaten to regress the tide of access to arts and literature, it is more important than ever before to keep rowing, hard as it may be, singing our own and varied songs, pushing against the stream.” If anything, Nasty Women is a very important reminder that your story is worth being told by you, to keep telling it, and to keep listening.
Okay, one more treat to leave you with, taken from Joelle A. Owusu’s essay: “The world is a dangerous place right now, but not as dangerous as a nasty women with a pen in her hand and a story to tell. These voices telling our truths cannot be shaken and they certainly will not be drowned out any more. Why fear us when you can join us?”