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Stormy Daniels’s response to Trump shows how she turns Twitter insults into power

Typical misogynist insults don’t work on Stormy Daniels. It’s fun to watch.

Stormy Daniels performs at a strip club in Florida in March 2018.
Stormy Daniels performs at a strip club in Florida in March 2018.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Emily Stewart covers business and economics for Vox and writes the newsletter The Big Squeeze, examining the ways ordinary people are being squeezed under capitalism. Before joining Vox, she worked for TheStreet.

Stormy Daniels, like many women, gets called a lot of names on the internet — including by the president of the United States.

But in a feat of Twitter jiujitsu, she manages to turn the insults around and make her tormentors look ridiculous.

The latest example came on Tuesday, when President Donald Trump called her “horseface” on Twitter. Daniels, a porn actress who says she had an affair with Trump in 2006, responded that he might have a “penchant for bestiality” then. “Game on, Tiny,” she added, giving the president a nickname of his own.

Trump and Daniels are mired in legal drama over a $130,000 payment that Trump’s lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen paid Daniels ahead of the 2016 election to keep her quiet about the affair she says she had with Trump. Cohen has pleaded guilty to eight federal crimes, including campaign finance violations related to the payout. He implicated Trump in his admissions in court. Trump denies the affair.

Daniels’s smackdown of Trump’s “horseface” remark isn’t the first time she’s lit up Twitter by taking down a foul-mouthed man. The slurs hurled at women to humiliate or belittle them don’t seem to work on Daniels. She disarms taunters, and they’re the ones who end up hurt. It can be fun to watch.

Take, for example, a series of Twitter exchanges from March. One user responded to one of Daniels’s tweets by calling her a “cunt.” She responded, “That’s Miss Cunt, to you!

The same user hit back, “You are a stupid porn whore. Nobody cares what you say.”

“Except you, apparently,” Daniels responded. “Hahaha! You seem quite concerned.”

Misogyny is rampant on the internet. A 2016 study found that women on Twitter were called a “whore” or “slut” by other users nearly 10,000 times a day, or six times a minute. Given Twitter’s user growth since then, that number has likely gone up.

And it’s not just online — misogyny is a basic feature of many women’s lives. When men sleep around, they’re often congratulated. When women have sex, they’re shamed. Men gain weight, they get a “dad bod.” Women give birth, they’re critiqued for baby weight. When men get angry, they’re viewed as assertive; when women do, they’re bitches.

Perhaps that’s why Daniels has attracted a following among women who admire her skillful put-downs.

Daniels’s response “makes me smile because she says things I couldn’t say,” one woman tweeted after the “That’s Miss ... to you” exchange.

Daniels gave a heartfelt reply: “Slut and whore are words used by people who feel threatened. I find power in them.”

Daniels responded to Trump’s “horseface” tweet with two tweets, one correcting his grammar. “She knows nothing about me, a total con!” Trump had written. Because of where the comma is placed, it looks like he’s referring to himself as the “total con,” not her.

“Can someone please teach Tiny about correct punctuation?” Daniels wrote.

Correcting spelling and grammar is a tactic she employs often — a “you’re” instead of a “your,” or, in one case, “skank” instead of “scank.”

She responded to one user criticizing an apparently “vulgar” word she’d used in public and saying it “proves she has no self respect” with a spelling correction too.

“If you’re attempting to offend me, please spell your insults correctly,” Daniels tweeted in 2011.

It’s a way of diffusing the attacks on her and making light of them. It’s also a way of asserting her intelligence and, perhaps, pointing out other aspects of her life — she’s also a screenwriter and director.

When people like Trump can’t use the usual insults against women, they often have nothing else to say

Trump has spent much of his career taking advantage of these double standards — and putting women down and attacking them.

On the campaign trail in 2016, he said the women accusing him of sexual misconduct were too ugly for him to have touched or attacked. “Believe me, she would not be my first choice,” he said of Jessica Leeds, who alleged he groped her on a flight in the 1980s.

The New York Times put out a brief overview of some of Trump’s many insults to women:

Mr. Trump has accused women of having “fat, ugly” faces and of repelling voters because of their looks. He called one woman a “crazed, crying lowlife” and said another was a “dog” who had the “face of a pig.” He said Hillary Clinton’s bathroom break during a 2015 presidential debate was “too disgusting” to talk about. He has repeatedly mocked women for being overweight.

Daniels recently told Olivia Nuzzi in an interview for the Cut that she doesn’t consider herself a feminist, and that her mission isn’t to boost women. “I don’t think I necessarily try to help women, I just try to help people,” she said.

But she is, in a way, the perfect nemesis to Trump and people like him. Instead of being ashamed when people demean her as a “slut,” she’s empowered.

Daniels is in a unique situation. She’s a porn actress and she’s clearly proud of it, and so she might have an easier time embracing and claiming a sexualized insult than many women in the public eye. If critics can’t call a woman the usual names, it turns out they might not have a lot to say. It seems Trump, who relies on basic insults for women, doesn’t.

“They’ll be like, ‘Whore.’ And I’m like, ‘Yes?’” Daniels told Nuzzi. “I mean, I guess I feel the most powerful when someone tries to take my power or belittle me or insult me and it doesn’t work. I’ve sort of taken all the power away from them.”

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