Trump has spent most of the election reminding us just how difficult it can be for a woman to run for president in a world still steeped in patriarchy. First there was that debate when Trump manterrupted Clinton three times more than she interrupted him. And then we kicked things up a notch, when we all watched him justify bragging about sexual assault. (You know, right before he threatened to put her in jail.)
During the third debate, Trump fired off his most respectful attack when he leaned into his mic and blurted out that Clinton was “such a nasty woman.” Well, he did say no one respects women more than him.
And that’s when Donald gifted women everywhere the “binders full of women” of 2016, prompting many to take to social media to reclaim an insult Trump lobbed at Clinton and, unknowingly to him, at all of them too. The hashtag #ImANastyWoman spread like feminist wildfire, launching a conversation about the way successful women are often treated differently than their male counterparts.
In that moment, Trump did for Clinton what she hasn’t been able to do with female voters: He made her relatable. Nearly every woman sitting at home has experienced a version of the nasty woman moment, though probably not on national television. Whether it was being called nasty by an ex-boyfriend or bossy at work, women immediately picked up on the insult, and knew exactly what it was like to be in Clinton’s shoes. Although much of the sexism against Clinton has been slightly implicit, her opponent, for whom subtlety is an entirely foreign concept, has made his gendered condescension toward her crystal clear.
How can being the target of a sexist attack help Clinton? It effectively chips away at her likability issue. Many women say they felt lukewarm about her, but last night they had sympathy. It’s really hard not to like someone when you empathize with them.
And the beauty of Trump’s comment is that it was so blatant that it requires absolutely no response — Clinton didn’t even seem rattled by it. She continued to explain her plan for Social Security, demonstrating her strength as a leader.
The truth is it’s become undeniable that Donald Trump has no idea how to respect women. Even before this moment of misogyny, when he defended the offensive way he talks about women and uttered his classic “nobody has more respect for women than I do,” the audience legitimately burst out laughing. He has become a symbol, in fact a parody, of the kind of man that many women despise. For young women especially, for whom the label “nasty woman” seems like vintage sexism, almost archaic, the insult has become a badge of honor.