Pulitzer Prize winning historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich once said, "
Well behaved women seldom make history." No matter the time, this statement is true because we (still) live in a deeply misogynistic world that, at times, truly and unapologetically hates women. Though, hardly just cis-women find themselves the center of society's inexplicable, deeply rooted, normalized hate. Being anything other than a cis, white man guarantees you some level of public scrutiny and suspicion, unless, and even sometimes still if, you're surrounded only by people who look and live like you. That being the case, it can be hard and dangerous to make bold choices, to do and say what you like. But nevertheless, marginalized people continue to stay, as people have been saying more and more, nasty.
The new administration doesn't want
nasty women or nasty POC or nasty queer people. They want those who are different from them to be docile and moldable so that neither their social nor cultural standings are threatened. Given the danger of being nasty, it can be exhausting and downright overwhelming to stay that way 24/7, to not find yourself playing the role you're expected or to play into stereotypes. But in real life, and in books, there are people we can look to for inspiration, people who can inspire us to stay nasty.
The real world examples, particularly among femme, women of color, are almost limitless. So, in this case, we'll only be looking at fictional examples, who, hopefully, will light a fire in you to, again, say and do whatever you want when you want without giving, or feeling the need to give, any apologies.
Rue from 'The Hunger Games'
Rue, though she exists in a fictional world, represents very much the real-life, black, female-identifying activists who have long put in the hard work to help others and who, ultimately, pay the price for their kindness. Rue doesn't come from an easy background. Everything was hard work. She was already at a major disadvantage, being so young in a game so violent, but she puts on a brave face and refuses to let anyone take her spirit.
She would've been totally justified to just watch out for herself, but instead, she risked her life, even knowing the hard realities of making alliances in the Hunger Games, and helps a fellow, lower-class, female competitor when things get rough. Rue is a figure the world should not be proud to see, because her character reminds us of the historically ignored suffering black women face in movements for justice. Maybe, more than anything, Rue should remind us to recognize the brave and nasty black and brown women who are fighting immense battles that we don't always take the time to recognize.
Lisbeth Salander from 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo'
Lisbeth might as well be the face of
nastiness. She does absolutely anything and everything that she wants. She dispenses her own vigilante justice on gross people in the world who often go unpunished. Many would read her as cold and cruel, but, really, she's just honest with herself about the world and understands that giving empathy or the benefit of the doubt to bad people — and there are bad people — is a waste of time as they rarely, if ever, give that to anyone else. Why ruminate on someone's potential guilt or why they may have been rude, when you can hack their computer and mess with their life?
Also, just look at her. Society disapproves of basically every single thing she does to her body and every single thing she chooses to wear. But she couldn't possibly care any less than she already does.
Hermoine Granger from the Harry Potter series
Knowledge is power, as they say. That being the case, Hermoine may be the most powerful character on this list. However, what that saying misses is that women have, in many cases, historically, been barred or restricted from seeking and obtaining it. Hogwarts may not have specifically been that way but Hermoine still remained bold and nasty by not apologizing to Ron and Harry, both whom she was far smarter and talented than for much of the series.
She never downplayed her talent, which is often expected of women in a world where men are sensitive to having their masculinity challenged. Hermoine was and is the brilliance in all of us, and she reminds us that we don't necessarily need to be "chosen" or "the one" in order to defeat our enemies.
Daenerys Targaryen from the A Song of Ice and Fire series
It probably doesn't come as a surprise to anyone that the Mother of Dragons would make this list. While it's getting harder to distinguish TV show Daenerys and book Daenerys from one another, many important facts remain the same.
One, she comes up from a misogynistic and oppressive environment, yet finds the strength in herself to claim the power that was always hers to begin with. Two, she doesn't butch it up to lead, reminding everyone that femme people can be just as commanding and intimidating. And three, her journey reminds us that, though society tries to convince us of this, that women are not the more deceptive of the sexes, as Daenerys has dismissed and slain significantly more deceptive, underhanded, and traitorous men than she has women.
Hiyori Iki from 'Noragami'
This list wouldn't be complete without at least one manga character. What makes
Noragami's Hiyori Iki so extraordinary is that she's surrounded by male deities, who have vastly more physical and magical strength than she does, and who think she needs to be protected from danger. Despite this, she never stops running straight into battles.
What she lacks in magical prowess, she makes up for with courage and commitment to doing the right thing. She inspires even the most glorious deities around her because she confronts evil, even when she should be afraid of it. Hiyori reminds us that we don't have to be rich or Internet famous or college-educated to make a difference in this world. Sometimes, all you have to do is try your best.
The women of 'Difficult Women' by Roxane Gay
What is there to say about
Difficult Women that hasn't already been said? The women in these stories are everything. They're bold and insecure, complex and relatable, brave and afraid, raw and reserved, red hot and ice cold, and beautiful and ugly. They're not all of these things at once because women are crazy; they're all of these things at once because humans are an honest mess, and women happen to be human.
Whether you relate to one, some, or all of them, they will, above all else, empower you to be your unapologetic self, to want and feel without shame, and to be complicated in a world that wants you to be simple and easy to deal with. Roxane Gay may not have called these characters nasty, but they certainly are, all in their own ways.