As an assessment of what it means to be a woman in 2017, post-Trump’s election and in this weird period in which dissenting voices claim feminism just isn’t necessary or relevant any more, Nasty Women is a crucial and compelling collection of essays by a diverse group of women, united by one thing: a determination to make their voices heard, and to raise up the voices of other women.
I read a lot of feminist-related books, and this is one of most vital and insistent that I’ve come across. Beginning strongly with a diatribe against Trump, Nasty Women takes in topics like sexual assault, racism, the restrictions placed on disabled people by society and contraception (Jen McGregor’s essay, Lament: Living With the Consequences of Contraception, covers ground I’ve not seen explored in other collections of this type, and I was shocked what she’s faced just to protect her body from pregnancy). My favourite essay in the collection was Love in a Time of Melancholia by Becca Inglis, in which she linked her hero-worship of Courtney Love to conventional attitudes towards women; Courtney Love is, surely, the ultimate ‘nasty woman,’ and an idol of mine too, so this essay really resonated with me.
There’s anger, frustration and exasperation aplenty here, but with many stories of empowerment too, with the various women writing in the collection finding their voices, their platform and a community that understands and supports them. There are many situations described here that will and should enrage the reader – the ‘othering’ of black women and possessive attitudes towards their bodies by both men and women, the treatment Belle Owen describes in her essay on ‘Attitudinal Barriers to Accessibility’ – and I hope Nasty Women serves to keep these issues in readers’ minds, encouraging us all to call out these situations and further the idea of female solidarity.
Overall, Nasty Women is an empowering and fascinating response to the state of women’s place in society in the 21st century. Its reflections on race, violence and mental health are vital. Reading as a kind of big sister to the excellent Here We Are, edited by Kelly Jensen, Nasty Women is essential reading for women and people who care about them.