It was as if Donald Trump could not help himself.
Less than an hour after telling American voters that no one has more respect for women than he does, Trump let loose a dig that seemed to suggest otherwise. The Republican presidential nominee found his opponent's sharing of her ideas about Social Security funding — ideas that contradict his own and came with a biting tax-related aside — simply “nasty.” To quote him fully: “Such a nasty woman.”
And so it was that a single Trump interjection became a meme, the inspiration for Clinton-fan merch and a living, evolving memorial of one way that he has interacted with women who question or challenge him in public.
For anyone who didn't see it, this was the exchange:
DEBATE MODERATOR CHRIS WALLACE: And, Secretary Clinton, same question, because at this point, Social Security and Medicare are going to run out, the trust funds are going to run out of money. Will you as president entertain — will you consider a grand bargain, a deal that includes both tax increases and benefit cuts to try to save both programs?
CLINTON: Well, Chris, I am on record as saying that we need to put more money into the Social Security Trust Fund. That's 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. But what we want to do is to replenish the Social Security Trust Fund . ..
TRUMP: Such a nasty woman.
CLINTON: . . . by making sure that we have sufficient resources, and that will come from either raising the cap and/or finding other ways to get more money into it. I will not cut benefits. I want to enhance benefits for low-income workers and for women who have been disadvantaged by the current Social Security system . ..
The Fix gave pride of place to that BuzzFeed mash-up for a reason. “Nasty,” Janet Jackson's hit 1986 theme song for women contending with disrespectful men everywhere, seemed in more ways than one to capture the heart of the problem with Trump's “nasty woman” aside.
— YoureGonnaHearUsRoar (@DBAnderson1) October 20, 2016
— Caroline Praderio (@c_praderio) October 20, 2016
As is often the case, Twitter had other jokes.
Nasty Woman seeks Bad Hombre to share long walks on the beach, leisurely afternoons reading, and trading off who is the real puppet.
— Jill Filipovic (@JillFilipovic) October 20, 2016
Be a bad hombre in the streets and a nasty woman in the sheets.
— Ronan Farrow (@RonanFarrow) October 20, 2016
I like to think that Trump tried out the “NASTY WOMAN” line on Christie when Christie was playing Clinton in debate prep.
— Matt Katz (@mattkatz00) October 20, 2016
Nasty Woman: the latest fragrance coming to a debate near you pic.twitter.com/1MWQ5D1Imn
— Vox (@voxdotcom) October 20, 2016
Eff that S on my chest. Vanna, give me an N for #NastyWoman!
— Brittney Cooper (@ProfessorCrunk) October 20, 2016
— Emily Cotter (@ECoWV) October 20, 2016
In fact, there were many telling Twitter responses and GIFs that we can't or won't include here. And there was instant Internet art that bore hints of the thoughts and personal action that Trump’s “nasty woman” comment inspired.
The Deplorables vs. The Nasty Women sounds like a roller derby bout I'd pay good money to see. #NastyWomanVoter
— deltaNASTYWOMANdawn (@PineCurtainGal) October 20, 2016
— E (@esheikh_) October 20, 2016
— Sunil (@mirpuris) October 20, 2016
— Murked Bernardin (@marcbernardin) October 20, 2016
— Alanna Vagianos (@lannadelgrey) October 20, 2016
There also were the serious and seriously sarcastic takes that highlighted why “nasty woman” was more than a throwaway phrase. Politically, it was the moment when Trump seemed to accidentally illuminate precisely why Clinton has a strong lead with female voters. It shined a light on Trump's notion of what it means to demonstrate respect for women. Let’s put it this way: When Clinton said, “Donald thinks belittling women makes him bigger. He goes after their dignity, their self-worth, and I don't think there is a woman anywhere who doesn't know what that feels like. So we now know what Donald thinks and what he says and how he acts toward women,” a lot of people seem to have agreed.
— Teresa Villaran (@Teresav4) October 20, 2016
#NastyWomanVoter Uh, Donald...do you really think smart, strong women are "nasty"?
— Jayne Green (@CarasGma) October 20, 2016
— cheerio grrrl (@cheeriogrrrl) October 20, 2016
— Madam President (@Madam_President) October 20, 2016
— Kris Pride (@PandoraStarlet) October 20, 2016
— Bird Girl (@SavannahChik) October 20, 2016
— ILAH17 (@ilah17) October 20, 2016
“Nasty woman" becomes the feminist rallying cry Hillary Clinton needed https://t.co/I1xM3ldYLB
— Oliver Willis (@owillis) October 20, 2016
— RebeccaJ (@pinklady060990) October 20, 2016
"Perhaps [Trump] will label me as another nasty woman." - newest Trump accuser Karena Virginia just now
— Erin Gloria Ryan (@morninggloria) October 20, 2016
— The New York Times (@nytimes) October 20, 2016
The amazing thing about that "such a nasty woman" comment is that Clinton was not rattled by it. Just kept answering the question
— Michael Cohen (@speechboy71) October 20, 2016
— 👻🎃Baby Bat🎃👻 (@LunalaDoll) October 20, 2016
— Briana Finelli (@brianafinelli) October 20, 2016
Then, there was the merch Trump’s comment inspired that is likely to keep the “nasty woman” reminders out there.
Where can I but my "Nasty Woman" t-shirt & tote bag combo?
— Eileen O'Farrell (@ofarrelltalent) October 20, 2016
I need to buy a #nastywoman mug/tshirt/tote bag IMMEDIATELY. Internet make this happen
— Tina (@tina_waz) October 20, 2016
The tweeps had answers:
— The Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) October 20, 2016
— NastyWoman (@iamNastyWoman) October 20, 2016
Just ordered my Such A Nasty Woman t-shirts (No Trump) https://t.co/zcASWaJjUN
— ActivistAnnie (@AnarchistAnnie) October 20, 2016
— Rebecca Chalif (@rebeccachalif) October 20, 2016
good news you can buy this https://t.co/QLzAdU0znc
— Alissa Scheller (@alissascheller) October 20, 2016
— Jen Talley (@jenunexpected) October 20, 2016
And, really, this wasn’t the first set of T-shirts that Trump’s comments about women have inspired. Again, we must refer you out. But if laughter is your aim, you would be wise to click here.
Here’s the thing. We all know that America has jokes and, online, a significant cruel streak. But during the final presidential debate of the 2016 race, Trump’s inability to resist lobbing a gendered insult at his opponent created a moment in which pop culture showed off its rapid-fire ability to digest, direct and, by way of almost collective alchemy, construct political gold for the Clinton campaign.