Most of us have never seen an election year like this one. On the plus side, we have our first major party female presidential candidate. On the flip side, though, the leanings of the opposing party have cast a pall not only over this historic milestone for women, but also over the narrative surrounding women’s rights.
If there is a silver lining, though, it is that women are stepping up to claim the mantle of the “nasty women” in stride.
It was a term slung during the debates that was intended to hit its target as a pejorative — but that’s not what happened. Instead, women everywhere stood up in our feminine power and said, “If that’s what being a nasty woman looks like, count me in.”
I caught up with Jada Pinkett Smith in honor of her summer blockbuster Bad Moms being released on Blu-ray and DVD, and I suggested that she is what being a nasty women looks like: audacious, authentic and strong, she is the epitome of the expression.
Fortunately, she takes it for the compliment it is intended to be. She gets it. And more than that, she owns it. I want to know how she arrived at that place of self-love and understanding, and she’s game to explain how she came to embrace being the nasty woman we all know and love.
“I think for me, I understand that people have their own dreams and people have their own fears that we can’t allow them to put on us,” she said. “I don’t judge myself by the broken reflection in other people’s eyes because we all know everybody’s out here struggling and that everybody doesn’t have necessarily the most clear perspective — and that everybody’s operating out of fear.”
According to Pinkett Smith, it’s in making room for our own humanity that we come into the essence of our nasty womanhood.
“We just have to have the courage to be OK when we make mistakes. It’s not going to kill you. I’ve made tons of them. I fall, I get up, I brush myself off, I learn from them and I step forward. And I don’t step forward in thinking, ‘Oh, I’m not going to fall into another pit.’ I step forward going, ‘I just don’t want to fall into the same pit.’ It’ll be a different one,” Pinkett Smith said, laughing. “But if it is the same one, then I’ll keep falling into it until I learn not to do it anymore. We have got to just stop feeling as though we have to be perfect. We’re not!”
It was in shedding that affectation of perfection that Pinkett Smith says she began to realize people were going to think what they wanted to think about her and say what they wanted to say about her no matter what. Not because those things are true, but because they are a reflection of how those people feel. That’s for them to sort through, not you.
All it takes is courage, she underscores.
“We have to have the courage to be who we are. That’s it. I just got to the point where I was like, ‘hey, the other way is just too painful,'” she said. “I thought, ‘You know what? If I’m going to take the pain, I’m going to take the pain being who the hell I am.’ I’d rather have that pain any day. I’d rather sit there and cry over who I am versus sitting there and bawling over who I’m not. I’ll take the pain of being who I am. As soon as I started doing that, it just got less and less and less painful.”
The other major pitfall standing in the way of women embracing themselves and becoming the nasty women they were born to be is our need to be liked, Pinkett Smith points out.
“I know that’s a hard one,” she admitted. “But when you want to be liked, that’s a trap. That’ll get you trapped every time. Because here’s the thing people respect: when you have the courage to not need to be liked. People respect somebody who can live their truth. They might not like it, but they respect it.”