From the book Nasty Women Talk Back, artwork by Kate True

The Nasty Women Initiative for Feminist Activism By Joy Watson


After President Trump was elected to office, women across the globe took to the streets to challenge institutionalised patriarchy in anticipation of the fact that the Trump administration would work fast to institutionalise the values of white supremacy and misogyny.

The ‘Nasty Women’ concept emanated from a poem by Nina Donavan in which she used the fact that Donald Trump had referred to Hilary Clinton as being a ‘nasty woman’ in the final presidential debate. Her poem plays on the concept of ‘nastiness’ in women, arguing that there is a place for it in responding to sexism and its associated impact on the lives of women and girls. She argues that we need to be nasty, but “not as nasty as a swastika painted on a pride flag……not as nasty as racism, fraud, conflict of interests, homophobia, sexual assault, transphobia, white supremacy, misogyny, ignorance, white privilege…..’ but nasty like “the battles my grandmothers fought to get me into that voting booth.’

In the global political landscape, there appears to be a resurgence of conservative political values and ideals, which has had a concomitant negative impact on how governments address and respond to issues that negatively affect women’s lives.

President Trump is not alone in espousing sexist values, many men and women silently subscribe to them, but as a high profile public figure, he becomes the mouthpiece of an entrenched ideological stance of misogyny. He has the platform upon which he can amplify these views in ways that can see them germinate and grow. Of particular concern is the opportunity for translating them into public policy. In his first week in office, he reinstated the global ‘gag rule.’ The gag rule was instated by the Reagan administration in 1984 and sought to block federal international funding to NGOs that provide any sort of abortion counselling or service, even if these services are not directly funded by the US. The rule had a widespread impact on the lives and health of women and girls, particularly in the global south. It negatively impacted on a wide range of critical services provided to women such as those that address gender-based violence. The first week of the Trump administration has reinforced the reality that men will take life-altering decisions about women’s sexual and reproductive rights without any attempt to pretend to hold public consultations.

The World Health Organisation estimates that 1 in 3 women worldwide has experienced either physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. The World Economic Forum notes that the global gender gap across health, education, economic opportunity and politics has closed by just 4% over the course of the past 10 years, suggesting that it will take another 118 years to close the gap completely. Within this context, coupled with the fact that women constitute the majority of the poor in most countries, there is a need to sustain the energy generated by the global women’s march. While the global women’s marches emerged as a powerful site of widespread social mobilisation, much debate has been had about what should follow on from this historic moment in time and how we should localise campaigns aimed at pushing back public policy that has negative consequences for women and gender equity.

Activism through dialogue

The ‘Nasty Women’ initiative is  seeks to generate discussion on what we need to do and think about in taking forward the fight for women’s rights, gender equity and LGBTI rights. The idea is to kickstart a creative process of ideas and thoughts that stimulate discussion and social action. In keeping with the idea of international solidarity, we want to create dialogue between activists all over the world.

 The Nasty Women Website

The Nasty Women Website is your space to talk about your ideas on issues that affect women’s lives. We want to hear about your ideas for feminist activism, campaigns that you are involved in or your thoughts on anything at all that will get us thinking about how we live our lives as women who want to change the world for the better. We’re keen to talk about what intersectional feminism means to you. We want to focus particularly on the intersections between sex, race, sexual orientation, class, geographic location, body image and all the ways in which the issues of marginalised groups are silenced. So talk to us about diversity and the ways in which the dominant social heteronormative social norms create power relationships that colonise, destroy and render invisible the issues of those who do not fit the mould.


Disclaimer: Note that this site is powered by the contributions of volunteer writers. We seek to encourage a wide diversity of views that subscribe to the promotion of gender equity and women’s rights. The views expressed in the content of contributing posts are not necessarily those of the site administrators.