If you pay any attention to politics whatsoever, you’ll know the ever popular term “nasty woman”, which was used by Donald Trump during the final presidential debate when he interjected Hillary’s speech to blatantly disrespect her and all-in-all demonstrate his penchant for playing by preschool rules. This has been such a popular phrase that it got rebranded by feminists everywhere as a positive term. Samantha Bee, of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, even started a t-shirt campaign with Omaze to raise money for Planned Parenthood, just to screw with Trump’s agenda even more. And yes, I definitely bought a t-shirt.
A few weeks into Trump’s reign, I had begun to lose my Nasty Woman spirit, until something happened: my house began to fall apart. Literally, my house. Suffice it to say, I’m moving houses in the middle of Dead Week. But first, let me tell you how my house falling apart got me feelin nasty, in both a good and bad way.
Holes broke open in my roommates’ ceilings and began to leak when it first snowed this year and the outlets in the kitchen stopped working. By the end of January, my roommates and I had been telling our landlords for weeks that we wanted the roof and the outlets fixed, with absolutely no cooperation on their side. I had a friend in the other side of my duplex and I asked him if he was dealing with a similar issue. He said their roof was leaking but they’d had no issue with the landlords getting it fixed. Then my roommate, Ilene*, had her father call and he had absolutely no pushback from them.
Here’s where it gets even more problematic. We all decided to be a united front and tell our landlords that we would not be paying rent until they had either fixed the problems or given us proof that the problems would soon be fixed. I called the vice president of the company and got his voicemail.
Hi, my name is Jillian of 123 Main Street*. I’m calling you specifically because you’ve been somewhat helpful in communicating with my other roommate, Ruth*. But, I’m just calling to let you know that none of us in the house will be paying rent this month until you fix the roof and the outlets in the kitchen. Thank you for your time.
One of the assistants calls Ilene back. She says that since we’re all calling and emailing and submitting maintenance reports, we’ll need to consolidate to one spokesperson for them to communicate. It’s important that she mentions that it cannot be Jillian because, quite frankly, she has a bad attitude. A. BAD. ATTITUDE.
#1: They could not stop me from being the spokesperson even if they tried, and they did. As far as I could tell, there were no legal issues prohibiting me from representing my house.
#2: That is one of the most unprofessional things that they could possibly have said.
#3: The reason they said I had a bad attitude can be almost completely attributed to the fact that I sounded angry on the phone, and I’m a woman. And damn straight was I angry. I had every right to be angry. As a house of four girls, we faced insurmountable amounts of pushback when it had been fully demonstrated to us that they had no problem communicating with Ilene’s father and my male friend. And what became unforgivable to us: they promised us a livable home and that was taken away from us.
Finally, the outlets got fixed, but the leaks in Ilene and Ruth’s rooms worsened to the point of Ilene effectively having a swimming pool in half of her room and Ruth’s ceiling leak being fixed with an ACE bucket in the middle of the room with all of her stuff being relocated to the living room.
Now, Ilene has moved to a studio apartment with her cats, Ruth is staying with her boyfriend and his three roommates, and my third roommate Crystal* and I are moving into a two-bedroom apartment sometime this week (DEAD WEEK, mind you). All because our landlords wouldn’t communicate with us to get the roof fixed before it started raining.
In (and I shudder to use this term) “Trump’s America”, women have been presented with some of the most extreme pushback I’ve ever experienced. I am a privileged, middle class white woman who has faced little to no adversity in my life due to my gender. But even now I’m noticing gender-based microaggressions everywhere. Men not moving out of the way on the street though they’re taking up more room than I am. Men believing they are entitled to my time just because I am nice and polite.
A friend of mine, Ella*, was willing to sit down with me and talked about her experience with microaggressions and pushback in her time as a tutor:
“Well, there’s a certain kind of depth you can go into, you still have to give them legitimate control over whatever they’re working on. I don’t want to be really vague about it. Like, I just can’t tell you what you can do and I can’t just review it. Like, it has to be your work…
“Just kind of like, they resist. And I’ve talked to my boss about it, and I’ve had meetings with my [coworkers]. And it always turns out that whoever gets the most pushback is just girls. And usually younger girls. And that’s really annoying. It doesn’t happen to the guys. Just kind of ever. So that’s the main form of pushback. They don’t listen, even though I’m technically an authoritative source.
“But other than that, it feels like they just try to kind of manipulate your time and make you do the work, but I mean, this can happen with anyone.”
Ella made it clear to me that she doesn’t hate the people who disrespect her, but that it’s hard not to feel upset when faced with contempt like this.
I’m a retail worker in a small store with all-female coworkers. Most of our client basis is female but occasionally men come in. I am usually treated very politely and respectfully and face little to no issues when it comes to that. But occasionally I face people who make my introverted self want to cower in my shell. Recently, a man shopping with his wife tried to argue about the caveats of a certain coupon while checking out. I had explained the specifics of that very coupon to them the moment they walked in. It escalated to the point that my coworker came to the front of the store to make sure that the man wasn’t getting aggressive with me.
Reflecting now, I am not sure what he could possibly have done to me in public but as I am terrible with confrontation and argumentation, I was terrified in the moment. This man showed me flagrant disrespect and the confrontation left me quaking in both fear and rage.
Being a female in “Trump’s America” has revealed to me the disturbing underbelly of privilege in American culture. And honestly, I’m terrified to my very core. But if I’m going to survive the next four to eight years, if anyone is going to survive the next four to eight years, I will be damned if I won’t be a Nasty Woman every step of the way.
*All names and locations (save for my own) have been changed for the privacy of the individuals involved.