September 18th, 2020

The Nation

Every time Trump uses this word to disparage a woman, we have a debate. It's time to settle it

Aaron Blake

By Aaron Blake The Washington Post

Published August 22, 2019

President Donald Trump has accused yet another female politician, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, of being "nasty." And yet again, debate has turned to whether this is gendered or even reflective of misogyny on Trump's part.

The president, after all, called his 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, "a nasty woman." He has called his top female political foil, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, nasty, too. He has called both of his two most likely female 2020 opponents - Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren - nasty. He has called San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz and Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, nasty. Even the American-born Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, was too "nasty" toward Trump.

Here's what we can say after a thorough review of Trump's public remarks, media reports and social media accounts: He has applied this label to many of his female opponents, but he has applied it to lots of men, too. Slightly more, actually. It's a phrase he very often reaches for in response to obvious or just perceived slights.

Here's a list of women who have drawn the label since Trump launched his 2016 campaign:

1. Frederiksen

2. Clinton

3. Pelosi

4. Harris

5. Warren

6. Mayor Cruz

7. Hirono

8. Markle

9. Omarosa Manigault Newman

10. Reporter April Ryan

11. GM CEO Mary Barra

12. An unnamed Jeb Bush staffer

13. Former business associate Barbara Res

14. Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland (reportedly)

The number of women on this list is actually less than the number of men Trump has applied the label to. On that list are (surprise) many of his top 2016 GOP primary opponents:

1. Marco Rubio

2. Ted Cruz

3. Bush

4. Lindsey Graham

5. Mitt Romney

6. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

7. Former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta

8. London Mayor Sadiq Khan

9. Fox News pundit Juan Williams

10. Evangelical leader Russell Moore

11. New York Times columnist Tom Friedman

12. CNN's David Gregory

13. MSNBC's Donny Deutsch

14. The late conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer

15. New York City union leader John Cody

16. Former business associate Jack O'Donnell

17. An unnamed male TV columnist who gave "The Apprentice" a poor review

18. Osama bin Laden

(Not that anybody would begrudge that last one.)

There have been a couple of other times when Trump has used the words "nasty" in reference to men, but in a positive way. These include while reminiscing about the 2016 campaign with foes-turned-allies such as Rick Perry and Scott Walker. Trump has also called the late general George Patton, national security adviser John Bolton and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker "nasty," but done so admiringly.

So what's the takeaway here? There are obviously slightly more men than women, so you could argue Trump is an equal-opportunity "nasty" labeler. He seems to have few qualms about attaching the label to basically anybody he's pitted against, and the fact that it is used so frequently against his campaign opponents is telling.

Clinton made "nasty woman" a rallying cry when Trump said it in a debate late in the campaign, but Trump actually used the word even more often while talking about some of his GOP primary opponents - wielding it multiple times against some of them, including Rubio and Cruz.

Trump has a well-documented habit of using degrading language to describe women in gendered and degrading ways (here's one lengthy compilation of ways he's done that both before and since his political career began). That context is important to understanding why there is typically more outrage when he uses "nasty" to defend himself against perceived slights by women.

Politics is still a business that is dominated by men. Congress is more than three-quarters male - similar to the breakdown of all politicians worldwide - and more than 60 percent of all world leaders are male. As president of the United States, Trump is coming into contact with many more men than women, and yet the numbers are similar. That could be sheer coincidence and circumstance, or it could say something about how much more Trump is taken aback when women say things he doesn't like.

Trump also has an almost-insatiable desire to provoke, and using "nasty" on women has proven a great way to ruffle feathers.

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