What was meant to be an insult took less than a minute to become a battle cry.
As she explained parts of her tax plan during the third and final presidential debate Wednesday night, Hillary Clinton dinged opponent Donald Trump for his apparent failure to pay federal taxes in recent years. “Such a nasty woman,” Trump responded, as Clinton continued to speak.
And social media exploded.
In an election season where Trump’s trouble with women has taken center stage, it took just seconds for his dig to blossom into an empowering feminist slogan.
“RT if you're a nasty woman and it's made your life a freakin' pleasure,” Lena Dunham wrote on Twitter; she was retweeted more 3,100 times.
“Guess I'm a bigly puppet and a lepo, but I want a nasty woman for president. #debatenight @HillaryClinton,” “Portalandia’s” Carrie Brownstein tweeted.
Trump’s predatory comments caught on the now infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, followed by almost daily allegations from women who claim he sexually assaulted them, set the stage for “nasty woman” to become the best accidental slogan of Clinton’s campaign so far.
If he’d just kept it to “nasty” — just one example of Trump’s strangely schoolmarmish vocabulary, “disgusting” and “rude” being other favorites — it might have gone unnoticed.
But as many post-debate commentators noted, the addition of “woman” sealed his fate. The phrase seemed to indicate that there is such a thing as a “nasty woman,” an identifiable subset, that should never be in the White House.
The term also quickly found a soundtrack in Janet Jackson’s song “Nasty.”
Fittingly enough, the 1986 hit was Jackson’s response to men who exhibited rude behavior toward women, and it came off the not-ironically titled album “Control.”
“No my first name ain't baby,” sang Jackson. “It's Janet. Miss Jackson if you're nasty.”
According to Spotify, streams of Jackson’s hit went up 250% after the debate, and the music video decorated thousands of tweets.
There she was, dancing with her black-clad crew in a militaristic formation, years before Beyoncé stormed the Super Bowl. It was as if Jackson knew this moment were coming; she was simply preparing her troops.
A multitude, including actress Jessica Chastain, fell in line. “’No my firt name ain't baby, its Hillary, Madame President if youre nasty.' #imwither @HillaryClinton,” the “Zero Dark Thirty” star tweeted.
Within hours, “Nasty Woman” T-shirts had popped up on retail sites such as Redbubble, and at least one site advertised that half the proceeds from the $25 shirts were going to Planned Parenthood (possibly in response to a heated exchange Trump and Clinton had during the debate over abortion.)
And for those who don’t want a shirt, “Make America Nasty Again” ball caps are now available on Etsy.
The comment that started it all came, strangely enough, while Clinton was laying out her stance on entitlements.
“I am on record as saying that we need to put more money into the Social Security trust fund,” Clinton said. “That is 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.”
That’s when Trump interjected: “Such a nasty woman.”
It’s too late to change “I’m With Her” to “Elect a Nasty Woman,” but for many women and girls, it doesn’t matter.
They’ve taken an insult and turned it into a badge of honor.