Can’t Silence These Voices: A Review of Nasty Women

This past year it’s difficult to not feel attacked unless you are a white, cis, hetro, able-bodied, Christian male. Well, editors Samhita Mukhopadhyay and Kate Harding are fighting back with their Nasty Women anthology. What makes the collection great is the attention to detail that Mukhopadhyay and Harding showed when cultivating the collection. The essays are not just about disliking (okay, hating Trump), they are direct responses to what Trump represents. Anger, bigotry, racism, sexism, and pure hatred of anyone that is different than himself. These are women who are writing about what’s most important to them, whether that’s racial equality, healthcare and disability rights, transgender rights, and so much more.

Sarah Michael Hollenbeck writes a heartbreaking essay about disability called “As Long as it’s Healthy.” In the essay, she writes about how everyone around her is having kids and whether she wants to pass her disability down to her potential child. Hollenbeck has Moebius syndrome, which cause her facial muscles to be underdeveloped. She describes her face as “masklike.” When she thinks about having a child she torn, on the one hand “I secretly wanted to use my body to shred the notion that only able, normative bodies are allowed to be pregnant,” but on the other hand, “But when I tried imagining my baby born, my fantasy hiccupped. I couldn’t imagine her face.” (37) Her urge to have a baby disappeared when “The Bully” was elected, her own privilege shielded her from how hateful people can be to those that are “not healthy.” She thinks of all the other vulnerable people, refugees, black and brown people, other people with disabilities, and wants to fight for them.

Katha Pollitt’s essay “Beyond Pussy Hats” breaks down how hard it is to have safe and accessible abortions from the 50s through now and offers readers action plans so they can help. She writes about how the Hyde Amendment blocks Medicaid funds and American Care Act (ACA) coverage to get proper and safe abortions. This means that if you live in a blue college state and have the money you can get an abortion. If you live in a poorer red state and don’t have the spare funds, you’re out of luck. Pollitt’s voice is a bit stern but not in a way that scolds the reader, instead it’s attention grabbing, telling the reader they need to pay attention to what she is saying. She’s telling the reader, you can donate money, donate your time, get involved in local politics, offer to be a driver to women who have no one. You are not helpless.

Kera Bolonik writes about raising a child in the era of Trump in “Is There Ever a Right Time to Talk to Your Children About Fascism?” Though the situation is a bit more complicated than that, Bolonik is a gay Jewish woman who adopted a black boy, Theo, with her wife. Theo, sees Trump as a “bad guy” in the simple way that kids see only good and bad. Bolonik wonders when she should talk to him about white privilege and how America is built on stolen land and slave labor. She tells her son not to go to a police officer for fear of him getting hurt like so many black men have. Bolonik’s voice is uncertain and searching, vulnerable in the way she talks about raising her son. By the end of the essay she has found a path, she slowly introduces the more difficult subjects to Theo and pairs it with the positivity of community. They go to marches together, or as Theo calls them “parades” and she can see the joy in his face surrounded by people who want to be the “good guys.”

Mary Kathryn Nagle is scalding with her essay “Nasty Native Women.” With a voice of calm fury, she writes: “And yet, for Native women, President Trump’s election is no different than the election of the forty-four presidents who led the United States since it first came into existence.” (157) She explains further about how the rights of Tribal Nation’s government have been stripped away by the US government. Native women have a history of being beaten and raped on reservations and their abusers get away with it because the US government protects them, and that it is still happening now.

In the era of Trump, the most powerful thing right now is our voice. Whether it’s as a nation protesting or as individuals calling our reps and reporting on wrongdoing. Voices tell stories, voices connect people, voices create empathy, and we desperately need empathy right now. The voices of Nasty Women are a beautiful contradiction. They are strong and vulnerable, hard but unsure, scared but fierce. They are voices that mirror our own. It’s best we listen to them.


Erynn Porter just graduated New Hampshire Institute of Art’s BFA program and is currently assistant editor and staff writer for Quail Bell Magazine. She has been published in Extract(s), The Mighty, and Quail Bell Magazine. She often jumps between her interests of writing fiction and nonfiction, short stories and children’s books.

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