Girls who aren't nasty rarely make history.
I want my daughter to grow up to be a nasty woman.
That was my big parenting take-away from the 2016 Presidential debates — that I want to raise a daughter who isn't afraid to be "nasty", as Donald Trump defines the term.
Maybe Trump didn’t know what he was doing when he called Hillary Clinton “such a nasty woman” at the final Presidential debate. Maybe he just thought it was a top-shelf zinger. Something that would shame Hillary into submission. Like people would say “OMG, she is nasty,” and all at once change their votes.
Instead, the exact opposite happened. Women around the world went “Wait a minute, who are you calling ‘nasty,' Donald?” and they completely embraced the term.
Even before Trump gave us the word to rally around, I’ve unwittingly been trying to raise my daughter to be as “nasty” as possible. Because, when you have a daughter, you quickly become aware of all of the subtle, yet loaded ways that people try to marginalize girls due to their gender.
Gendered words get thrown at girls all the time — girly, demure, tomboy, nasty, bitch — and it’s my job, as a parent, to teach my daughter to run over those terms with a steamroller and never look back.
In a world where those words are still being thrown at women, even if they might be the next President of the United States, here are four lessons that I’m trying to teach my daughter to make sure that she’s as nasty as possible:
1. A nasty woman doesn’t care what he just said
Maybe my favorite part of Trump’s “Such a nasty woman” comment is how it didn’t even faze Hillary. It wasn’t even a speed bump. A rich, powerful man called her a sleazy representation of her gender in front of the entire world and she could not have cared less. I want that for my daughter.
When my daughter was in second grade, some boy in her class was anonymously writing the word “bitch” on all of the girls’ lockers. So I had to have a talk with her about that word — about the ugliness behind it, about what men mean when they say it.
And my overriding message to her was — you should not care about this AT ALL. Granted, that’s hard to do in practice, but, when people throw around words like that, they’re effectively saying “I’ve opted out of rational humanity. I am nothing more than a pest now.”
Their words are meaningless. They’re meant to turn girls’ deepest anxieties against themselves. More than anything, young girls need to recognize those words for what they are. NOISE. They’re NOTHING. And it doesn’t matter if a six-year-old boy says them or a Presidential candidate. Those words completely invalidate whatever the speaker is saying and need to be aggressively ignored.
2. A nasty woman isn’t afraid to speak her mind
All too often, there is a tendency for young girls to defer to boys, largely because boys are used to having their opinions valued more than girls. (There’s actual scientific evidence to back that up.) So it can be hard for young women to feel confident about speaking their minds in public settings.
This is why I loved letting my daughter watch Hillary in the debates. Hillary NEVER demurred. She never stepped back. She was not going to waste her time on stage trying to act like a perfect, polite lady. She had things she needed to say.
I try to remind my daughter of this all the time. If you have something to say, you need to take responsibility and grab people’s attention, because they’re not going to give it to you for free, particularly when you’re a woman. To paraphrase my daughter’s favorite musical, “She is not throwing away her shot.”
I want her to stand by her convictions and never, ever worry about how she’s being perceived just because she’s speaking her mind. I want her to be unafraid to say what she thinks, zingers be damned.
3. A nasty woman will not apologize
This is a difficult one. As a society, we teach women to constantly apologize. They need to apologize for their opinions, for interrupting, for existing.
I can’t tell you how many times a month I have to tell my daughter not to say “I’m sorry.” Yes, she should 100% apologize when the situation (and/or empathy) requires it — when she’s legitimately done something wrong. But she shouldn’t say “I’m sorry” when she raises her hand in class or when someone tells her that she can’t sit at their lunch table or when I point out that she needs to make a correction on her homework.
Women don’t need to apologize for existing or having opinion. And I love that Hillary took that “nasty woman” comment, which might’ve caused someone else to try to apologize or justify for what inspired the remark, and she turned it into a website, merchandise, and an empowering new slogan.
4. A nasty woman gets shit done
In the last election, when Hillary was running against Obama, the word “bitch” was thrown around a lot, which is infuriating, because, as a society, we have all of these terms to marginalize women because of their gender, but we don’t really have any for men.
Speaking as a father, I take particular offense at that because NO ONE gets to ever suggest that my kid is somehow lesser because of her gender. My daughter is amazing and her gender is just one of the many AMAZING things about her.
Fortunately, Tina Fey completely deflated the use of the word “bitch” to describe Hillary in 2008 during an epic guest rant on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update. She said that Hillary is a bitch, and "Bitches get stuff done.”
Yes, they do. And, as the website URL Hillary’s campaign purchased after the debate also affirms, Nasty Women Get Shit Done too.
That’s been hard to get across to my daughter. If someone calls you a bitch, own it. If they call you “nasty,” own it. There must be a REASON they’re calling you those words.
And it’s not a negative reason. My wife and I have been able to show my daughter SO many examples of women who were brutalized by words and violence throughout history — Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, Malala Yousafzai — and the overriding message is that those women attracted such abuse because they were getting shit done. They were changing the world and people don’t always like change.
So, as a parent, I’ve tried to let my daughter know that being labeled as a troublemaker or a bitch isn’t always a bad thing. It means they’re afraid of you. It means that you’re accomplishing something.
These aren’t easy lessons to teach a kid in elementary school.
They hear words like “nasty” and, of course, they sound negative. Who wants to be nasty?
But, thanks to the example that Hillary set during the Presidential debates, I was able to show her that video to my daughter and ask her if she wanted to be “nasty woman.”
And she smiled — a glorious, vicious, “don’t mess with me, world” smile — and she said “OH YEAH.”
No matter what else happens in this crazy election, if it helps inspire my daughter to grow up nasty, that almost makes everything else worth it.