On Wednesday, October 19th, during the third and final presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump, a new political hashtag took the internet by storm. Amid the many interruptions, crass remarks, and short tempers, one declaration pushed viewers to respond.  

“We need to put more money into the Social Security trust fund,” said Clinton. “That’s part of my commitment to raise taxes on the wealthy. My Social Security payroll contribution will go up, as will Donald’s, assuming he can’t figure out how to get out of it.”

“Such a nasty woman.” responded Trump.

Moments later, trending on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, #Nastywoman, #Nastywomengetshitdone, and #Nastywomenvote among a myriad of similar phrases flooded feeds and quickly became the battle cry of many Hillary supporters.

The hashtag’s impact quickly surpassed the bounds of social media. Within moments, merchandise sporting nasty women slogans popped up all over the web. You can now buy nasty women bags, hats, and even lip balm in support of the female presidential nominee. Thousands of products were produced for both women and men within a few days. Even when you go to nastywomengetshitdone.com you are immediately directed to Clinton’s campaign site.

That one derogatory declaration instantly solidified a subculture of feminist Hillary supporters. These supporters want people to know that “Nasty Women” are powerful, driven, and not afraid of being persecuted for their cause.

Elizabeth Neiman, an associate professor of English and Women’s Gender, and Sexuality Studies, identifies as a “nasty woman”. “I work really hard and I have a profound sense of career that really motivates me. Being open to other women’s choices is important to me, even if they differ from my own.” Many female politicians such as the Massachusetts Senator and former Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, State Representative Stacey Newman, and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi have embraced this title as well. “Get this, Donald. Nasty women are tough. Nasty women are smart. And nasty women vote,” said Warren, in support of Clinton at a rally in New Hampshire on October 24th.  

However, this wasn’t Trump’s first sexist remark towards women, or even toward Clinton herself. “Fat pigs.”” Dogs.”” Bimbos.” “Slobs”.” Disgusting animals.” These are all  pejoratives Trump has called women, but it is unusual to run into  someone wearing a shirt that reads “Fat Pigs Get Shit Done.” It isn’t common to see   a person drinking coffee out of a mug that says “Disgusting Animals for Hillary”. So why has “Nasty Women” become synonymous with empowered Hillary supporters?

“That moment really summarized the mess that’s been thrown during this election. It was easy to recognize that as sexism. Reclaiming is a taking back; it was women around the nation saying, ‘you can’t do anything to us with these words,.’” said Sam Saucier, a junior at the University of Maine and president of the Student Alliance for Sexual Health on campus.

Calling something “nasty” in our culture implies that it is dirty, vulgar, distasteful, and undesirable. It is  a term that’s  meaning is hard to misinterpret.  The word’s demeaning and shaming intent makes it alarming to hear used by any man toward a woman. When said live on national television by a presidential candidate, it shook people to their core.

“The use of nasty is connected with the idea of dirty. It resonates for them because of how many women have experienced that, being bullied and put down because of their sexuality or their appearance.” said Dr. Jennie Woodard, a professor of History, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and a preceptor in the Honors College at the University of Maine.

Clinton has been ridiculed for her smile, her clothes, and her femininity or lack thereof. It seems the American people double as her staunchest supporters and her loudest persecutors. A Vocativ analysis looked at 25,000 tweets directed at Clinton and found that the most frequently tweeted demeaning term was “bitch”, closely followed by “cunt” and “slut”. These comments clearly have nothing to do with Clinton’s track record as a politician but are personal in nature. They do not reflect a thoughtful criticism of her policies or procedures, but are meant to harm. They are critical in nature, but do not show critical thinking.

“People can judge me for what I’ve done. And I think when somebody’s out in the public eye, that’s what they do. So I’m fully comfortable with who I am, what I stand for, and what I’ve always stood for,” said Hillary in an interview with PBS NewsHour in 2014.

The road of politics is often the road less traveled for women in our country. Whether this is the product of inequality, gender roles, or weakness is hard to say, considering how berated and scrutinized powerful women are by their peers and the media, it isn’t that hard to comprehend why women would opt out.

The United States census bureau reported in its most recent survey that women make up 51% of the population. In 2016, the Inter-Parliamentary Union looked at the percent of women in each national parliament. It set the percent of women in the United States government at 27%. For a country that waves a flag which represents freedom, liberty, and equality for all, is there room for such a large gap between the female population and its representation in government?

In our country’s history, 240 years of freedom and independence, 43 men have governed our nation as president. 43 men. The 2016 presidential election is the first in our history to have a woman nominee representing the democrat or republican party.

“You can’t be what you can’t see.” said Dr. Woodard “[Clinton] will inspire, and show women that this government is for us.”

If elected, Hillary Clinton will be the first female president to serve our nation. In addition to becoming a role model for girls across the nation, Clinton proves that despite sexism and gender-roles that attempt to suppress strong women in our nation, it is possible for a woman to be anything she wants to be.

If elected, Hillary Clinton will become the first #Nastypresident.