Knife-Sharpening Nasty Women

As with millions of people, I have been struggling to process the results of the US election. I wanted to write something about how I was feeling because writing can be healing for me. But my words kept running away from me, hiding somewhere I couldn’t reach them.

Then my 18-year-old niece Aline, who voted for the first time, posted the following on Facebook. I thought it was fiercer and more eloquent and hopeful than anything I could write. She gave me permission to reprint it here. —PCN


knifeI woke up this morning feeling unbelievably small, sore-throated, and unable to shake this Zora Neale Hurston line from my head: “No, I do not weep at the world—I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.” I think I skipped straight from numbness to knife-sharpening.

I recognize that I still come from a place of relative privilege and that this election doesn’t hold as many tangible risks for me as it does for others. Even as a daughter of immigrant and refugee parents, I’ve been lucky enough to have socioeconomic security and education.

But I know how alienating it feels to be a young woman. There’s something desperately lonely about being a teenage girl, especially a nonwhite one in largely white spaces, especially one who’s always wanted more for as long as she can remember.

It’s the kind of Otherness that you can feel anywhere, it’s that pang of fear while walking down a street alone at night, that silence when someone says something casually racist or sexist because you don’t want to be a bitch, that urge to dumb yourself down in conversations so you don’t seem unaccommodating.

It’s almost painful to watch how consummately civil Hillary Clinton’s been in the wake of these results—I’m not asking her to act otherwise, because I understand why she needs to be—but the injustice behind that rationale makes me upset.

I saw a Facebook comment about her in the wake of her concession speech calling her a “power-seeking bitch”—ostensibly for having the sheer nerve to campaign for president in the first place—and it made me think about all the names we have for women who dare to vocalize wanting. Nasty woman. Bitch. Cunt. Et cetera.

The fact that this election’s revealed the vitriolic hatred at America’s core makes me angrier than ever, but I’m glad I’m still feeling something. If fighting to make this country better means I’ll be the nasty, bitchy nightmare of a woman I always feared I’d become, I couldn’t be more excited.



  • Reply
    Jen Forbus
    November 10, 2016 at 9:17 am

    Brava Aline! Your words have inspired me today. I hope you never lose this drive and passion.

  • Reply
    Christine McCann
    November 10, 2016 at 9:54 am

    Both Brian and I were shocked and not a little despondent when the results came in. Fear was/is also running through my system. The one article in the Irish Times was titled, THE UNITED HATES of AMERICA. That’s what his election means to me. We will be doubling down on our support of organizations that fight the good fights like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. And, as logic, reason and human decency are in bigger trouble than I thought, I will be doubling down on my own attention/participation.

    One of the best tweets I saw yesterday was from @joeptone “Just saw the rabbi in the hall. ‘The good news is, he changes with the wind,’ the rabbi said. ‘Let’s be the wind.'”

    Well said, Aline! *high five* It reenforces the deep breath, metaphorical rolling up of my sleeves and thoughts of “Onward and upward!” this morning.

    • Reply
      November 10, 2016 at 3:04 pm

      I love that tweet, Christine.

  • Reply
    November 10, 2016 at 11:47 am

    That’s a very well spoken niece you have there.

  • Reply
    November 10, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    Well said.

  • Reply
    November 10, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    Aline puts pen to paper and never ceases to awe-inspire me.

  • Reply
    November 10, 2016 at 4:11 pm

    You have said so beautifully what so many of us feel. May our next election be a cause for cake, which we’re gonna need you to cut with that knife. ❤️

  • Reply
    Neliza Drew
    November 11, 2016 at 6:46 am

    Such eloquence.
    Never lose your sprit.

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