January 15, 2018

Review: Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump's America

Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump's America Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump's America by Samhita Mukhopadhyay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book has twenty-three fierce, feminist essays about resistance to the 45th President. Its title is taken from the last presidential debate, wherein Donald Trump called Hillary Clinton a "nasty woman." With all the horrid things he's said and done since then, that sounds positively quaint. This book has a nice cross section of white women/women of color responding to the reality of the Trump presidency and how it has affected them.

My favorite essays include "Beyond the Pussy Hats," Katha Pollitt's treatise on how reproductive rights are threatened under this administration, and the things we can do to counter that (for example, I've set up a monthly donation to the National Network of Abortion Funds); "Country Crock," Samantha Irby's funny/horrifying tale of moving from a blue state to a conservative area; "Dispatches from a Texas Militarized Zone," Melissa Arjona's report on border checkpoints in South Texas; and "A Nation Groomed and Battered," Rebecca Solnit's dissection of the undertones of domestic abuse that underlined both Donald Trump's candidacy and the people who voted for him.

But the most harrowing essays are the personal stories of the election and its aftermath. These include "Advice to Grace in Ghana: Trump, the Global Gag Rule, and the Terror of Misinformation," by Jill Filipovic, about the damage Trump's reinstating and expanding the Global Gag Rule is doing right now, today, to women in Ghana and across the globe.

One of the first things Donald Trump did in office was reinstate and then expand the global gag rule, an executive memorandum that pulls U.S. funding from any foreign organization abroad that provides abortions with non-U.S. money, refers women for safe abortion services, advocates for abortion rights, or even tells women their legal options. Previous iterations of the gag rule under Republican presidents have limited it to USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) family-planning funding; Trump's version expands it to include all foreign-aid funding, even money allocated for HIV/AIDS, malaria treatment, Ebola, and childhood vaccinations. Organizations abroad are slated to lose millions of dollars, none of which are going to abortion but towards modern contraception, HIV treatment, vaccines, and other basic health care. Contraception will be hit especially hard. And without contraception, women get pregnant when they don't want to be. When women get pregnant when they don't want to be, some of them have abortions--legal or not, safe or not. The overwhelming majority of women in sub-Saharan Africa live firmly in this "or not."

This is disgusting. I hope someday after Trump is thrown out of the Oval Office there is a study to determine how many African people died because of this.

Mary Katherine Nagle's "Nasty Native Women" is a barn-burning essay that traces the United States' shameful treatment of Native Americans, from George Washington down to the present day. She discusses the refusal of various courts and previous Presidents (Andrew Jackson in particular, who defied a Supreme Court ruling) to allow tribal nations to prosecute non-tribal members for crimes committed on tribal land. This doesn't focus on Trump so much, except to ask if he will continue the government's tradition of dehumanizing Native peoples. (Based on his insistence on calling Senator Elizabeth Warren "Pocahontas," the answer seems to be yes.)

Finally, the closing essay in the book, Nicole Chung's "All American," tackles the daunting prospect of "how to talk to your Republican, Trump-voting family." She's a child born of Korean immigrants, adopted by a white family. Her essay lays bare what a task she's taken on, trying to convince the parents who voted for Trump to take the side of her and her children, and realize what a disaster he will be for immigrants, women, and people of color. Frankly, I don't know if I could preserve the familial relationship under those circumstances, but Chung is determined to try.

This book is both a dissection of the election and a call to action. It's essential reading for these unprecedented times.

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